18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took tie chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
Staff - Charges - Installations
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether his department is experiencing difficulty in obtaining staff for telephone exchange work? What is the weekly wage paid to telephonists and how does it compare with the wages paid to women in other industries who have the ability to act as telephonists? Further, can he say how the amenities provided and the conditions of employment in telephone exchanges compare withthose enjoyed by women in other industries?
– The department has experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining the services of young women to act as telephonists. Since the controls were lifted, between500 and 600 girls have left the department and have had to be replaced. I am not in a position to say offhand what rates are paid to telephonists, but I shall make inquiries and supply the information to the honorable senator as soon as possible. My view is that the conditions under which men and women work should be made as attractive as possible, and consistently with the powers which I possess as Minister, that will be done. In the new programme of the department provision has been made for improved amenities, but the Government has inherited many post offices throughout the Commonwealth where the amenities are inadequate. They will be improved as opportunity offers.
– In view of the substantial profit shown by the Postmaster-General’s Department, will the Postmaster-General give favorable consideration to a reduction of telephone charges, both in regard to rental and the cost of installation? Does the Postmaster-General realize the vital necessity for the provision of adequate telephonic communication in country dis tricts? Will he make any promise of a reduction of the charges I have mentioned?
– I assure the honorable senator that whatever profits may be made by the department during the next few years much more money will be expended by it. As I have explained previously, the Government has decided to expend at least £30,000,000 during the next three years to bring postal and telephone services up to date. Rentals and guarantee charges are constantly under review, and as opportunity offers the rates will be reduced. So long as the department has to pay high prices for materials I do not hold out much hope of reduction, but as costs fall favorable consideration will bo given to the honorable senator’s request.
– I have received the following telegram from Tasmania: - .
Strongly urge you do all you can to arrange for Commonwealth-owned Dalby now discharging cargo Launceston to lift for Sydney potatoes which have been awaiting shipment nearly three weeks.
As the growers have been working almost continuously to produce potatoes, and are disheartened to find their produce left on the wharfs, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping take steps to remedy the position ?
– This matter is constantly being brought to the notice of the Government by honorable senators from Tasmania. As I have previously indicated to honorable senators, it is acknowledged that there are shipping difficulties on the Australian coast. These difficulties are not confined to the Australian coast but are world-wide in their incidence. The Director of Shipping endeavours to allot the tonnage at his disposal as equitably as possible and recognizes that Tasmania is solely dependent on sea transport. In consequence, Tasmanian shipping problems receive constant special consideration by the Australian Shipping Board. Proof of this lies in the fact that of the 135 vessels which the Australian Shipping Board is at present operating on the
Australian coast, 34 are regularly utilized in the Tasmanian trade and additional vessels are allotted to the trade as opportunity offers and berthing facilities become available. The movement of potatoes from Tasmania is arranged by the Commonwealth Potato Controller with whom the Director of Shipping works very closely. The Director of Shipping endeavours with the vessels at his disposal to lift potatoes as required by the Commonwealth Potato Controller and movements during the current season have been on a considerable scale. Timber cargoes are handled as expeditiously as possible by the Australian Shipping Board, having in mind the demand for space for other important cargoes such as cement, paper and mining products. The Australian Shipping Board, in providing the Tasmanian shipping service is, of course, limited by the total tonnage at its disposal and by the facilities available to the board in Tasmanian ports. The board has, however, lifted large quantities of cargo from Tasmania in recent months and at the present time it is understood that there is no serious accumulation of cargo in any Tasmanian port. I also inform the honorable senator that Dalby is committed to a full cargo of timber. If I made a request that that vessel should remove potatoes instead of timber, I should be besieged by people who were urgently requiring the timber.
– The potatoes will rot.
– But people are waiting urgently for houses. The Australian Shipping Board is arranging a special voyage for Koorala immediately to take 15,000 bags of potatoes from Beauty Point to Newcastle.
Rentals - Hotal Canberra
– Is the Minister for Trade and Commerce aware of the extensive black marketing in hotel rentals going on at present? If not, will he indicate which department has charge of this matter in order that I may supply information with respect to it?
– I am not aware of black marketing conditions with respect to hotel rentals. However, this matter will be dealt with by the Prices Commissioner. I shall have inquiries made into the honorable senator’s allegation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
– On the 20th
March, Senator Collett asked, upon notice, a question relating to the increasing cost of house construction. The Minister for Munitions replied on the 26th March that the position had been discussed with the Minister for Trade and Customs and a statement would be prepared by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner setting out the charges in costs of important building materials since the outbreak of war,with a short summary of the reason for the increases. The Prices Commissioner has now supplied the following information : -
The following figures represent the average movement in the prices of the main building materials in the metropolitan areas in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland: -
The increases shown in this table arise from the following principal causes: -
Hardwoods: increased labour costs and extended zones of supplies.
Cypress : as for hardwood but to a lesser extent since sales are confined to New South Wales.
Oregon: this timber is imported from the United States and prices vary with world parity.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware of a lengthy request made by the Premier of Western Australia, the Honorable Ross McClarty, M.L.A., to the Prime Minister in connexion with the proposed new Federal Aid Roads Agree ment? Will the Minister consult with the Minister for Transport with a view to incorporating in the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Bill the improvements suggested by the Premier of Western Australia, when it reaches this chamber?
– I am afraid the honorable senator is somewhat late in making his request. The bill will be presented to this chamber to-day, and I shall not have an opportunity to make the representations to the Prime Minister that he desires. We can assume, however, that any representations madeby the Premier of Western Australia were given due consideration, and that any action on my part at this juncture would be of little value.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping read a statement in the press that Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited proposes to reduce considerably its output of steel because of the shortage of coal? Is the Minister aware that there is already a substantial lag in the production of steel both for local and overseas orders? Is there anything that the Minister can do to ensure that adequate supplies shall be made available in the interests of those requiring it urgently for construction purposes, and of the economy of this country ?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable senator refers. I regret that this situation should exist in Australia. The Government is endeavouring to rectify it. I do not attempt to condone the industrial disputes which are taking place to-day. In fact, I could not justify many of them, and I would not try to do so.
– Why not enforce the law?
– In answer to the Leader of the Opposition, who mumbles about enforcing the law, I say that when he was a member of another government he was very inactive in regard to enforcing the law, although disturbances of greater magnitude than those which are taking place to-day were then occurring on the northern coal-fields. Ten thousand miners were on strike for ten weeks, but the only action taken by the ‘Government was to send the then Prime Minister to the coal-fields to plead with the men to return to work. I repeat that I do not attempt to justify some of the stoppages which have occurred, particularly in connexion with the pits of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I notice that one stoppage occurred yesterday because of a condition attached to the holiday privileges recently granted to the men. The workers at one mine, the John Darling, determined not to return to work unless this condition was removed. The condition is that men must attend for work on the working day preceding a holiday and on the working day immediately following a holiday. That condition has been accepted by miners at other pits without dispute. The fact that the men of only one mine have objected to it shows that the union leaders have insufficient control over their organizations. I consider that action will have to be taken by the authority which has been appointed by the Government if the unions will not enforce strict discipline on their members so as to ensure uniform action in maintaining continuity of production. I am sure that the Joint Coal Board will take such action if necessary.
Demand - Employees in Mines - Dust.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply and Shipping which may be of special interest to the public. What are the industrial and domestic demands for coal to-day as compared with immediate pre-war days, and how many employees are there in New South Wales coal mines to-day as compared with immediate pre-war days?
– I am not able to state exact figures offhand, hut I assure the Senate that the demand for coal has increased enormously since pre-war days. This is the result of great industrial expansion in Australia. I have no figures showing the number of employees in the industry to-day, but I know that 2,000 men have left it since the end of the war. As most honorable senators know, coal mining is not a popular occupation and not many men seek to enter it. It is only while there are numbers of men unemployed and experiencing economic pressure that men enter the coal-mining industry.
Sentator McLeay. - Why not give them better conditions than they now enjoy?
– I shall enjoy much better conditions shortly, because the people have ordered the Leader of the Opposition to leave the Senate in a week or two, and I shall probably be able to speak in peace then. Because of the conditions generally in coal mines, and the fact that there is ample .employment elsewhere, men will not enter the industry. Hitherto it ha 3 been a tradition amongst miners that sons should follow their fathers’ occupation, but that tradition does not obtain now. Men are deterred from entering the industry, not only by reason of the unattractive conditions of employment, but also because of the threat of the dust menace to their health, and even their lives. In mines on the south coast of New South Wales production has been reduced because men have had to be withdrawn from the coal face to perform work formerly carried out by boys in the industry. I shall obtain the figures requested by the honorable senator.
– In view of the statement of the Minister that parents are persuading their sons not to work in coal-mines because of the danger of contracting the dreadful ailment known as dusting, will the Minister indicate what steps the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales have taken during the last six years to improve conditions in coalmines ?
– The only steps ever taken to improve conditions in Australian coal-mines have been taken by the present Commonwealth Government, the Government of New South Wales and to a smaller degree, the Government of Western Australia. I remind the honorable senator that during most of the period to which he refers Australia was fighting for its very existence, but even during the war years steps were taken to relieve the dust nuisance. In a mine on the south coast of New South Wales, experiments were undertaken by experts associated with the Coal Commission and the New SouthWales Government. So successful were those experiments that similar preventive measures have been taken in some coal-mines in England and Wales. The honorable senator will appreciate that some time must elapse before results can be tabulated. The investigations are being continued with the object of diminishing, and if possible eliminating, the dust nuisance.
– Is it not a fact that the Government has brought to Australia an eminent mining authority, Professor Jones, to advise it as to the best means of eliminating dust from coal mines?
– The honorable senator’s statement is correct. The Commonwealth Government has brought Professor Jones from the United Kingdom to advise it and the Joint Coal Board with respect to the elimination of dust. Professor Jones has been in Australia for some time and has already visited the coal-fields in the various States. I am confident that much good will result from his investigation.
Australians in Japan - Uniforms for Naval Ratings.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform me whether officers of the Department of the Postwar Reconstruction recently made an extensive tour of areas occupied by Australian units in Japan? If so, did these officers discover that occupation troops generally were completely unaware of their entitlements under reestablishment legislation? Will the Minister take immediate steps to set up a reestablishment section in Japan to meet the needs of these troops?
– I am not aware of the expedition to Japan mentioned by the honorable senator, but I should be surprised if the facts were as indicated by him. However, if that should prove to be the position I am sure the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will take prompt steps to remedy it.
– As the Minister for the Army has issued instructions that soldiers are to be provided with a walkingout dress, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy urge upon him the importance of making similar provision for naval ratings?
– I am sure that the Minister for the Navy is aware of the sartorial appeal which must be maintained by members of the Royal Australian Navy. I shall invite his attention to the request of the honorable senator so that the Navy shall not be outdone by the Army.
– As it has come to my notice that ex-servicemen are experiencing difficulty in obtaining priorities to purchase new motor vehicles, because professional people and others are given priority, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping say under what act or regulation are the State authorities which issue permits for new cars working? Are they working under a Commonwealth regulation, a State act of parliament or a State regulation?
– In this matter the States act for the Commonwealth Government. I am not familiar with the formula under which they operate, but I understand that priorities are determined on the basis of essential needs. In some respects priorities are decided by bodies other than the State transport authority. For instance, should a number of new cars arrive in Australia, the State authorities may allot a certain percentage of them to the British Medical Association which would then determine the individual users to whom they should be allocated. The basis of that procedure is that the British Medical Association, or other body, would know best the individual needs of its members. Every effort is made to allocate new vehicles as fairly as possible. Generally, it can be said that the authorities work to a formula which is based on the service to which the vehicle will be put. I understand that the percentage of vehicles allocated to primary producers is greater than to other sections of the community.
– Is it correct that nearly 50 per cent, of the new cars arriving in Australia are allotted to Commonwealth and State Government departments, leaving the balance to be allocated among members of the public?
– I cannot say whether the allegation of the honorable senator is, or is not, well founded in respect of new cars, but I understand that Commonwealth and State Governments have priority over other applicants. That is so in respect of second-hand vehicles, particularly those under the control of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, but whether a similar system operates in respect of new cars I am unable to say. I shall get the information for the honorable senator and supply it to him.
-Which Minister controls the transport authority operating on behalf of the Commonwealth in the States?
– The State Minister for Transport is the authority in the State.
– On the 9th May, Senator Finlay asked a question without notice concerning the shortage of paper bags in South Australia. In my reply on that occasion I mentioned that inquiries were being made by the Import Licensing Branch of my department and as a result I am now able to inform the honorable senator that, as the control of the distribution of paper by the Department of Trade and Customs was relinquishedmany months ago, distribution arrangements are now determined between the local manufacturer of the paper and the user or the merchant who sells it to the user. The Department of Trade and Customs has made provision for the issue of import licences with the object of relieving any deficiencies in the local supply of paper for bagmaking. Most paper bag manufacturers have been allotted a quota against which paper of types suitable for the manufacture of bags may be imported.
Arrivals by “ Misr “ - Jews.
– On the 30th
April, I addressed a series of questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration with respect to the draft of immigrants who arrived on Misr. The Minister for Munitions stated in an interim reply that he would ask for a de tailed reply to those questions. The matter was again mentioned in the Senate,but no reply has yet been received. In view of the fact that the Minister for Immigration will shortly join other Ministers on tour overseas, can the Senate be informed as to when it may expect a reply to those questions?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Immigration.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether it is a fact, as reported in the press, that a representative of the Australian Government proceeded to Shanghai to investigate the position there of a large number of Jewish people, many of whom are desirous of migrating to Australia ? If so, who was the Government representative, and what was the purport of the report he made to the Government on that matter ?
– I have not read the report to which the honorable senator refers. I shall bring his question to the notice of the Minister for Immigration.
– In view of the diffi culty which Australia is experiencing in obtaining dollar requirements for the importation of petrol and lubricating oil, which has made it necessary for the Minister towarn the people against expecting any increase of petrol supplies, is the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that a previous government brought two experts from the United States of America, who reported favorably upon the possibility of . obtaining lubricating oil, if not petrol, from the Lakes Entrance field? Is the Minister also aware that a considerable sum of money was expended by that Government in the development of that field? Has that work been abandoned, or is the present Government still interested in doing everything possible for the purpose of obtaining oil on the Lakes Entrance field ?
– I am aware of the visit made by the American experts mentioned by the honorable member, and of the report which they made on the Lakes
Entrance oil-field. I am also aware that a previous government, in conjunction with a private company, expended a considerable sum of money in the search for oil on that field. When the grants made for that purpose were exhausted the Government decided that it was not wise to continue the search, and it has completely abandoned any hope of discovering oil in that area.
Fiji Mining Dividends
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he is aware that large sums of Australian capital are invested in Fiji in the development of mining projects, and the payment of dividends from Fijian companies in Australia is being held up because of double income tax? In view of the fact that arrangements have been made between Great Britain and Australia to abolish double taxation in respect of incomes, will the Minister say whether there is any likelihood of a similar arrangement being made with Fiji in order that Australian shareholders in Fijian companies may receive the treatment to which they are entitled ?
– I am not aware that the payment of dividends in respect of Australian investments in Fijian companies is being held up because of double taxation. In any case, I fail to see any connexion between this matter and the abolition of the double tax system under the arrangements made by the Government with the United Kingdom. However, I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Treasurer.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
SenatorFOLL asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Referring to the statement made by the Attorney-General that he has definite evidence that a foreign power is responsible for an attempt to sabotage work on the rocket range, will the Minister advise whether the AttorneyGeneral is suggesting this sabotage has been inspired by the government of a foreign country?
If so, is this foreign government represented by a legation in Australia, and does the Minister suggest such sabotage has been inspired by members of the legation?
What action is the Government taking to deal with this matter?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : - 1, 2 and 3. No such statement was made by the Attorney-General who, as clearly stated by him in the House of Representatives, made the point that the intention to boycott the project was evident from propaganda published in certain Communist party newspapers and a pamphlet issued by the South Australian branch of that party. The Attorney-General also quoted passages from the propaganda indicating that it was issued in the interest of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, though there was no evidence that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had itself been responsible for the propaganda.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Armstrong) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to seek provision for certain grants to the States for the construction and maintenance of roads. Provision is also sought for the maintenance of certain strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth properties, and under a further heading, for the promotion of road safety principles and practices throughout Australia. It is proposed that grants to the States shall be for a period of three years from the 1st July this year, when the existing Federal Aid Roads and Works Agreement expires, and be subject to the condition that the money is to be spent on the basis of a road construction policy agreed to by the Commonwealth Minister for Transport, after consultation with the Australian Transport Advisory Council, on which the States are represented by their Ministers for Transport. The broad object of this condition, of which I shall say more later, is to secure the coordination of road-construction policies throughout the Commonwealth on a national basis, and to integrate road construction with the development of other forms of transport.
Briefly, grants to the States will take two forms. One will continue the payment, as under the current agreement, of an amount equal to 3d. a gallon of customs duty and 2d. a gallon of excise duty on petrol and certain petroleum products and coal tar distillates entered for consumption. In calculating this amount, however, petrol to he used for civil aviation will be excluded. This is not done at present, because when the 1937 agreement was framed, petrol used in civil flying was an insignificant part of the total. Since then, however, it has grown to considerable proportions and is increasing rapidly, and, because the Commonwealth is now committed to very large expenditures for civil aviation development, particularly the construction of aerodromes, it is considered that the full amount of duties collected in respect of such petrol should be retained for Commonwealth purposes. On current consumption of petrol, the amount paid to the States under this grant will be about £4,500,000 a year, and will, of course, increase as consumption of petrol increases. Payments to the States will be on the basis of the same formula as is contained in the existing agreement, which provides that5 per cent, of the total shall be paid to Tasmania and the remaining 95 per cent, distributed between the other States in the proportions of two-fifths as to areas, and three-fifths as to their respective populations as recorded at the census to be taken in June this year. It will be permissible for States to spend an amount not greater than one-sixth of the total amount of this grant on works connected with transport other than roads. Provision is thus made for the development of facilities such as country aerodromes, .boat havens and jetties for fishermen and the like. It is proposed that the States shall be required to submit to the Commonwealth Minister for Transport each year a statement on a broad basis of proposed allocations of expenditure on road construction works for the following financial year, and that these statements shall be referred to the Australian Transport Advisory Council for its information.
In addition to the payments based upon gallonage for general roads purposes, it is proposed to make available to the States an amount of £1,000,000 a year for the special purpose of building and maintaining roads through sparsely settled areas, timbered country, and rural areas for which other transport facilities are not available. It will be prescribed that, in general, such roads shall not include State highways, main roads and trunk roads, and it is intended that special regard shall be paid to areas not served by railways. In deciding to make this special grant the Government has been impressed with the need to make provision for relatively undeveloped districts and areas “ off the main track “ so to speak.
During the last’ twenty years very notable progress has been made in the development of main roads systems throughout the States and this work must go on. But for various reasons the development of secondary roads in many regions has not kept pace. Generally, such roads are the responsibility of local boards or councils whose finances are limited, and, because they run through thinly populated country of low rateable value, these roads tend to be neglected. By providing money specially for the construction and upkeep of such roads, the Commonwealth Government aims to promote the opening-up of undeveloped regions. This should also afford some relief to the finances of local authorities. It is also provided in the bill that money paid under this grant may be expended, if the State thinks fit, upon the purchase of modern road-making plant for use in areas where this is beyond the resources of local authorities. The State govern- ments will be required to undertake that the roads authorities of their respective States shall be responsible for adequate maintenance of developmental roads constructed from such moneys. Distribution of this special grant between the States will be on the same basis as -the other and larger grant. Here also it is proposed that States shall be required to submit to the Commonwealth Minister for Transport each year a general statement of proposed expenditure on road construction and maintenance and the purchase of plant from moneys received under this grant, and that these proposals shall be considered by the Transport Advisory Council.
The Government attaches very great importance to the objective of national transport co-ordination. On the one hand, we have the errors of the past to warn us of what failure to plan forward and to integrate the transport systems of the several States, and the various forms of transport within the States, can mean in terms of hindrances to movement and transportation, especially in time of war, and of loss of time and effort and capital for the whole community. On the other hand, as we enter what I believe will be a highly dynamic stage of our national growth, transport itself is undergoing fundamental changes. Road vehicles with higher speeds and greater load capacity compete increasingly with the railways, while air transportation of both passengers and freight presents a rapidly strengthening challenge to both. Without clear and forward-looking guidance, the whole situation would quickly become chaotic, and it is to afford such guidance that the Commonwealth and States have been endeavouring, within the limits imposed by the Constitution, to develop machinery and give effect to plans for transport co-ordination. We have had particularly in mind the lessons taught by the war as to the need for flexibility in our transport system as a whole and for decentralized industries to meet the exigencies of war. Hence the bringing of road construction within the scope of the general co-ordination plan is an obvious, yet vitally important measure.
It is further proposed in this bill to provide an amount of £500,000 a year for the maintenance of certain strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth properties. During the war, a great mileage of roads was built in various parts of the Commonwealth for strategic defence purposes. The cost was high, but the roads represent a great national asset, because, apart from peace-time transport uses, they constitute a vital element in the permanent defence organization of Australia. Some of these roads have passed into the general roads systems of the States, and it is not intended that any part of the £500,000 shall be spent on such roads, except where the Commonwealth Government requires a higher standard of maintenance than would be justified by the volume of ordinary traffic. Strategic roads, as such, will be denned by the Commonwealth; some are in the States and some are in Commonwealth territories. Expenditure from the £500,000 will be controlled by the Commonwealth and the work will be carried out by the Commonwealth or the State authorities as arranged.
Finally it is proposed to set aside a sum of £100,000 for expenditure on measures to be approved by the Commonwealth Minister for Transport for the promotion of road safety principles and practices. This step was recommended by the Australian Transport Advisory Council, and the Government intends it to be a contribution to the efforts already being made to reduce the grave toll of deaths and injuries caused every year by road accidents, and to bring about safer conditions of road travelling. On the basis of the present consumption of petrol, the Commonwealth will be making available approximately £6,000,000 a year for road works. This may be compared with an average of £3,800,000 in the three years immediately preceding the war and an average of £2,900,000 a year in the ten-year period from 1930 to 1940. In making increased provision for road finance, the Government has recognized that costs of building and maintaining roads and bridges have increased materially since the pre-war years, and it has also foreseen the greater demand for road services which must come with increasing motor traffic and the progressive industrialization of our economy. Because of uncertainty as to trends in public finances as well as in costs, the amount of petrol consumption, and other factors affecting transport, it has been considered advisable to limit the term of the grants to three years. At the end of that period, the matter can again be reviewed in the light of prevailing circumstances.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Armstrong) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is designed to serve two purposes : First, to ensure that we shall have some knowledge of the aliens in our midst; secondly, to provide for an analysis of Australia’s alien population, so that the Government may implement its immigration policy on sound and scientific lines. Provision for the registration of aliens in Australia was first made in 1916 as a war-time measure. This waa allowed to lapse after the end of World War I., but, the need for some measure of control over aliens being clearly recognized, an Aliens Registration Act was passed in 1920. This act provided for the registration to be carried out by the State Police Departments, but it did not come into operation and was repealed in 1934. Between 1922 and 1927 there was scarcely any check on aliens beyond the collection of their passports. An attempt was accordingly made in 1927 to remedy this position by amending the Immigration Act to the extent of making it necessary for all aliens entering the Commonwealth to complete a form embodying personal particulars. However, this innovation was not altogether satisfactory, since no provision was made to ascertain the subsequent movements of aliens, and no check of those already living in Australia was undertaken. In June, 1939, a new Aliens Registration Act was passed. This provided for nothing more than a register of aliens to be compiled in every electoral subdivision ofthe Commonwealth, with an index for each State. Before it could be implemented, this act was superseded by the Aliens Control Regulations of the National Security Act. A large organization had to be set up throughout Australia during the war years to trace and control aliens, and it was only by the expenditure of much time and money that the Government obtained anything like an adequate knowledge of either their numbers or their nationalities.
When the Security Service closed down at the end of 1945, responsibility for the administration of the National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations was transferred to the Department of Immigration. At the end of last year certain regulations made under the National Security Act were repealed, while others were continued in the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act, to which assent was given on the 14th December, 1946. The Government feels that some of the regulations still in force can now be repealed, hut that a few basic controls, which are included in this bill, must be maintained in the public interest. This was the unanimous opinion of the Aliens Classification and Advisory Committee which functioned during the war years. In its report to the Attorney-General, who was at that time responsible for the administration of the Aliens Control Regulations, the committee recommended that some measure of control would undoubtedly be beneficial to the community in peace-time.
I feel sure that honorable senators will agree that because of the changes in conditions which have taken place since the end of the war, the Government cannot permit or regulate the entry of aliens into Australia without some form of basic control. Registration is required so that there will be in existence reliable information as to - (a) the growth of foreign population within the Commonwealth; (b) the particular industrial groups in which aliens are classified; (c) the prevention of undesirable concentrations either in industries or localities; (d) the devising and imposing, if necessary, of a quota system ; (e) the promotion of industrial expansion; (f) the absorption of aliens into the Australian community. Such information, scientifically arranged, is essential, if not vital, if the Government is to deal properly with migration. Moreover, it is considered that there should be effective centralized control of aliens, because only by the compilation of comprehensive records in peace-time can security measures be implemented in the event of any future war.
Under the provisions of this bill all aliens will be required to register, and to notify the Department of Immigration in the event of changing their address or employment. In addition, an alien must obtain ministerial consent before he will be permitted to change his surname. The bill will not inconvenience aliens who desire to make their homes in Australia and to contribute to their own well-being and to the national good. In fact, it requires of them little more than is already required of Australians, who are obliged to register for electoral and other purposes.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 21st May (vide page 2648), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That thebill be now read a second time.
SenatorJAMES McLACHLAN (South Australia) [4.9]. - This is a consolidation measure and honorable senators have previously had opportunity to discuss the provisions of the various acts which are incorporated in this bill. Any amendments which may be proposed to the original acts are of a minor character. Generally speaking, those amendments consist of proposals for an increase of the payments to recipients of various social service benefits to bring those payments into alinement with the increased cost of living. It is only fair and just that old-age and invalid pensions and child endowment payments should be increased so as to he commensurate with the higher cost of living to-day. So far as the provision of social services generally is concerned, I have very little fault to find with the measure. However, I think that a word of warning should be sounded, because of the huge financial commitments involved in these schemes.
When calls are made on private citizens to assist deserving charities and other worthy causes, it is usual for individuals to consult their heads rather than their hearts in determining the response they shall make and to have regard to the length of their purses. The public purse is similar to a private purse, because expenditure can only reach certain lengths if it is to be maintained. We have had experience of the public purse being exhausted and of pensions having to be curtailed in consequence. A Labour government in 1930 was impelled, by force of circumstances, to reduce old-age pensions and pensions to ex-servicemen, although it was loath to do so. Of course, some people say, “ Things like the depression are not going to occur again”, and, indeed, some honorable senators supporting, the Government say that there will never he another depression. I think that the occurrence of a depression is quite possible, and we should make provision for it by curtailing public expenditure now, so that if it comes there will not be any necessity to reduce social service payments. At the present time these payments are costing the Government approximately £75,000,000 a year, but when the present Government took office, some years ago, social services were costing considerably less than now. During the period this Government has been in office social service commitments have been increased ‘by £55,000,000, or, in other words, expenditure has increased at the rate of £9,000,000 a year. Some honorable senators in this chamber will recall the first year when the budget totalled £100,000,000. We thought that that was an immense sum, and I can well remember some of the remarks passed by supporters of the present Government when that budget was debated. Yet, now, these gentlemen ask us to provide an expenditure of £75,000,000 a year for social services, which is three-quarters of the entire expenditure of the budget I have mentioned.
Senator JAMES MCLACHLAN.That may occur, and if it does I am sure that, in the light of future developments, they will give me credit for what I am saying now.
During the course of this debate a great deal has been said of the obligation of the State to its citizens. We all recognize that fact, and the Government must do the fair thing by the citizens; hut there is another side to the picture, and that is that citizens must do the fair thing by the State. If people will not do that there is no chance of this nation ever enjoying real prosperity. Senator Finlay mentioned some interesting figures when he calculated the amount of money which a person would require to invest in the course of his working life toentitle him to a return equal to oldagepension payments under the proposed! legislation. In my opinion, that is not a good basis. I believe in low rates of interest, but I also believe that they can be too low. If money is to have no value, all incentive to save money will be destroyed. During the war, loans were raised at low rates of interest. That was all right then, ‘because people were prepared to accept low returns in order to help the country in a time of crisis, but we are fast approaching the stage, if, indeed, we have not already reached it, when all incentive to save will disappear.
I compliment the Minister (Senator McKenna) on the introduction of this measure, and I am especially glad that it has been initiated in this chamber. All too often the Senate has to consider measures which have already been fully discussed in the House of Representatives. In his second-reading speech, the Minister made some statements which, in my opinion, . were anomalous. For instance, when speaking of the benefits of social services he said -
My view is that the proper outlook of a government is to be concerned with the plight of individuals, not with the cause of their plight.
I do not agree with that statement nor do I think that it squares with the facts. Let us consider the case of a man who is injured in an accident and makes a claim on an insurance company. Has first obligation is to prove that his injury did, in fact, result from an accident, because, as honorable senators know, men sometimes injure themselves with a view to getting the benefits of insurance. It may be said that the Minister meant that those who will have the duty of assessing damages in future will not take into account the causes of a person’s plight, but will confine their attentions to assessing the degree of damage.
– Under the legislation providing for unemployment insurance a man who is out of work has the right to collect a certain amount of money each week without explaining why he is out of work. On the Minister’s own figures, about £1,000,000 a year is being paid as unemployment relief ; but as there is far more work offering than there are men to perform it, there is no need for any man in this country to be unemployed, and, therefore, no need to pay out sums of money as unemployment relief. Why are men unemployed at a time when there is sufficient work to give every man a job? The reason is that men engaged in some industries have dislocated the industrial life of the nation by engaging in a strike, thereby throwing other men out of work and forcing them to apply for unemployment relief. The Government should not tolerate such a state of affairs; it should not allow one body of men to so disrupt the life of the nation that the taxpayers are called upon to provide for those who are thrown out of work. The Government should take action to prevent holdups in industry. I rather admire the astuteness of Ministers when asked questions from time to time. Their ability to side-step awkward questions is amazing. For instance, the Minister for Supply and Shipping was asked a question a day or two ago relating to the hold-up of Dutch ships. In reply, he gave a most interesting account of the events which led up to the present position. He told the Senate that, in the first place, the Dutch ships were loaded with some cargo which ought not to have been put on board. That may or may not be so, but the point is that the Government, not the waterside workers, should have decided whether that cargo should be loaded.
Another paragraph in the Minister’s second-reading speech reads -
These alterations to-day permit a married couple, both of pensionable age and otherwise eligible, to have a private income of £5 and to still receive a pension of 2s.6d. each a week. In view of the increase of 5s. a week in the pension rate to operate from the 3rd July, it will be possible after that date for such persons to have between them a private income of £5 10s. and stillreceive a pension at the rate of 2s.6d. each a week.
That means that an aged couple will be entitled to draw £5 15s. a week. How does that compare with the position of a man on the basic wage who works eight hours a day and has a wife and three children? I am not complaining that the pensioner and his wife receive over £5 a week, but I maintain that a working man who has a wife and children to maintain is at least entitled to a similar sum. The Minister also said-
It will be apparent to the Senate that what is taking place amounts, in effect, to a redistribution of the national income. The benefit has been spread over all classes in the community, but its incidence is greater in relation to the person with dependants and it increases progressively with the number of dependants.
I do hot know whether the Minister meant his words to convey that the means test is to be abolished, but at the present time his statement is not correct. What is being done is not a redistribution of the national income spread over all classes of the people. This is class legislation. I do not object to class legislation, because I believe that it is the duty of the Government to legislate for all classes of the community.
I was struck with the self-satisfaction of Government supporters during the debate, especially when they claimed for the Labour party all the credit for the social services legislation on the statute-book. It is true that some supporters of the Government admitted that a non-Labour government had introduced legislation to provide for child endowment,but they went on to say that that action was taken in order to avoid raising the basic wage.
– That is true.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN It is not. Honorable senators opposite ought to have been willing to give credit where credit is due. The opposition of the Labour party to the extension of child endowment to -the first child is based on the fear that such action would affect the basic wage.
Senator Arnold said that, even during the war, when Australia was fighting for a better and brighter world, a conference had been called to formulate plans for greater social service benefits. That is so much “ bally-hoo “. Australia was fighting not for a better and brighter world, but for its very existence and the retention of that freedom which Australians as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations had enjoyed and desired to retain. From time to time we hear in this chamber condemnation of capitalists. There may be capitalists in other countries, but there are none in Australia. The people who laid the foundation of Australia’s present prosperity came here as immigrants. What they received from the country was the result of their own hard work and thrifty habits. I am in favour of class legislation, but I am not in favour of class hatreds. However, in this country certain people who wield an influence far out of proportion to their numbers are working to spread class hatreds with the object of dividing our people. That must be stopped. Honorable senators opposite have said that Australia leads the world in social service legislation. I cannot confirm the truth of that statement, but 1 hope that it is correct. However, should we allow class hatreds to spread in this country we shall destroy ourselves. As an Australian, I want Australia not only to lead the world in social legislation but also to remain as it is, the best country in the world in which to live.
.- I did not feel disposed to speak on this measure at all, because it is merely a consolidation of various acts which have been thoroughly thrashed out previously in this chamber. On (hose occasions we came to certain conclusions, sometimes against the advice of the Opposition parties. At the outset, I pay a tribute to the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) for the immense amount of work he has put into the preparation of this measure. He has informed us that it completely repeals 42 acts and repeals portions of seven other acts, the 49 acts involved being listed in the schedule :o the bill. He also told us that the bill consolidates the law in relation to social service benefits. This was an immense job for any Minister to undertake, and, although he has paid a tribute to other Ministers and to departmental officers who assisted him in this work, I believe that the great burden of this consolidation fell upon his own shoulders. In that respect I pay him the greatest possible compliment. I have read the bill. My first impression was that its arrangement enables any one to see at a glance the social benefits provided for. Should this happen to be the last measure which the Minister will be in charge of in this chamber before he transfers to another and a lower chamber, a rumour which is being freely circulated, I should like to say that in the short time that he has been a member of the Senate he has certainly given evidence of his capacity; and I pay him the compliment of saying that this legislation will always stand as something the Minister has accomplished during his first years of membership of the Parliament.
The Minister in his second-reading speech said that the bill consolidates the law in relation to social service benefits, which fall broadly under five wellknown headings - invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, maternity allowances, child endowment, and unemployment and sickness benefits. Senator J James McLachlan, who has just resumed his seat, was amazed that no tribute had been paid by any government supporter to members of the Opposition, or to past governments, for initiating most of these benefits which this measure now proposes to liberalize. I emphasize that most of these benefits were established by non-Labour governments; and we must admit that it is their establishment that counts most. Once the public realize that these benefits are the law of the land and become used to them they are inclined to say, “ This is something which should be there “ ; and, consequently, there is not the same objection to the liberalization of these benefits as there would be to their initiation. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, made this remark about the alteration of the Constitution -
The alteration of the Constitution not only confirmed the Commonwealth power to provide social service benefits of a type already in existence, but also gave it almost unlimited power in new and important fields of social services.
The Minister almost licked his lips over that sentence. One would think that he, or the Government, was responsible for the enactment of the legislation which placed these social services on a solid and sound foundation entirely free from doubt as to their constitutional validity; but any one who is not absolutely biased politically will admit that the Opposition parties supported the Government’s proposal at the last referendum for the alteration of the Constitution to give full power to the Commonwealth in respect of health and social services. Thus, the Minister is only just; he is not very generous. In his second-reading speech he said, “ This is a matter of finance “ - of course, it is a matter of finance - and for any matter of finance the Government must take full responsibility.. I agree entirely with that view. As I have said, the principles of these social services have been thoroughly thrashed out on previous occasions in this chamber,’ and no good purpose will be served by washing them up again. However, the Minister went on to say that these proposals represent a redistribution of the national income. I do not agree with that statement. I emphasize that the money which will be used to pay these benefits has been earned by certain individuals. “When it is given to somebody else, can we say that is merely distributing the national income? I question such a statement^ it amounts to taxing one particular section of the community to make payments to another particular section. However necessary that may be, the statement by the Minister that this is a redistribution of the national income leaves me cold. If the Minister’s statement be correct, it means that it is a redistribution of money from those who have earned it to those who have not earned it. One cannot help but notice the cry that issues from Labour supporters in this Parliament and on election platforms, about the right of the great pioneers of this country to the old-age pension. Such statements must be made in complete ignorance, or at least casually, and without any real knowledge of the history of this country. Like various other members of this chamber, I have reached an age at which I might fairly be called an old pioneer; but I do not make any such claim. My father and mother and my grandparents were pioneers, but they died long ago, as did all the other old pioneers that honorable senators opposite seek to take to their bosoms. They did great work in this country, but they lived many years ago, and none of them is living on the old-age pension to-day. So, let us leave them out of our calculations.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there are no pioneers in Australia to-day?
– Comparatively few. The Minister for Social Services has taken the opportunity presented by the framing of this measure to increase certain benefits, and to introduce certain innovations. For instance, in the definition of a “ widow “ appears a completely new classification, namely, a woman whose husband has been imprisoned following upon his conviction for an offence, and has been so imprisoned for not less than six months. I question the wisdom of that provision, and I cannot help wondering why six months was chosen as the qualifying period. Perhaps the Minister thought that in the average case it would take six months for the wife of a person who had been sentenced to imprisonment for theft to use up what remained of his ill-gotten gains. Hard cases make bad laws; in a few instances, there may be need for a provision such as this, but to say to all prospective criminals, “ You may commit a crime with perfect freedom, because if you are caught, we shall ensure that your wife and children shall be cared for while you are in prison” is preposterous.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the dependants of a person serving a gaol sentence should b« allowed to starve?
– I should say that the man who is responsible for their maintenance should make provision for them.
– Perhaps he may be no more worthy than the honorable senator’s suppositions.
– Apparently the honorable senators opposite are quite willing to extend to convicted criminals privileges that are not enjoyed by lawabiding members of the community. This is a new conception of social justice.
– Is a wife and family to starve while the breadwinner is serving his sentence?
– What have the dependants of criminals done in the past? They have not starved. The point that I wish to make is this : If a husband has been stealing, it is logica] to assume that the wife has participated in the proceeds of his crimes.
– In many cases individuals are caught committing their first crime.
– It is not likely that a first offender would receive a sentence of more than six months imprisonment, so, under this legislation, a wife would not benefit in any case. I repeat that the wife of a criminal who has been robbing his fellow citizens has probably participated in the proceeds. It is unlikely that the thief would spend all the money on himself. He would share it with his family. Stealing may be his only means of livelihood. Therefore, I very much question the wisdom of this provision. It is “ over the odds “ to f encourage people to go to gaol.
– What a “ beaut “ !
– The honorable senator may laugh ; but it is very evident that if a man knows that should he be caught committing a crime his wife will be looked after by the State whatever doubts he may have entertained about the wisdom of engaging in a life of crime may bo removed.
– All convictions are not for theft.
– As I have said, hard cases make bad laws. In some instances the provision of assistance to the wife of a criminal may be desirable; but to make a law that the wives of all criminals serving sentences of more than six months shall become charges on the State at the end of that period seems to me to be most unsound.
– Would the honorable senator put the wives in gaol as well?
– If they have participated in the proceeds of the crimes, yes.
– A wife who had participated in the proceeds of a crime would be put in gaol in any case.
– I take it that honorable senators opposite believe that the State has a duty, first, to catch a criminal and put him in gaol, and then to encourage the continuance of his unlawful acts by assuring him that should he be caught his wife would be cared for.
– The honorable senator would make the wife a criminal, too. She would be left without support, and would he driven to crime.
- Mr. Deputy President, you have a reputation for a wonderful memory. Some day, perhaps, I shall ask you to recall to me some of the interjections that have been made by Senator Grant, and to repeat them with the honorable senator’s own intonations.
– An interpreter would be needed, of course.
– I think I could work them out. One of the greatest disadvantages that Senator Grant will suffer after the end of next month is that I, practically the only man in the Senate who is able to interpret and understand his interjections, will not be here any longer. I wonder in whose speeches he will make interjections. Obviously, if he does not interject he will burst. If he interjects while senators are speaking he will be disciplined, because the Whip is a very stern Whip. However, I do not propose to say more than these few words.
– We should like to hear a new record anyway.
– The Senate hears a different record every time I speak.
– Well, this one is not much good.
– Senator Large, I am afraid, does not have a record of his own. He only has the one that is used by every other honorable senator on his side of the chamber. It is becoming very worn, and sometimes the needle gets stuck. It is the same old record of the same old speech.
Honorable senators opposite obviously regard this measure as a glorification of the Labour party’s part in framing the social legislation of this country. Probba b]y, in every election campaign for many years honorable senators opposite and their successors will claim that the whole of the social security legislation of this Commonwealth is the work of the Labour party.
– I shall say that now.
– -I was sure that the honorable senator would. Apparently he, and I have no doubt most of his colleagues, are prepared to ignore history, records, and Ilansard. If any doubt be cast on the veracity of the claims that the Labour party will make in the years to come in regard to its social services achievements, its supporters will produce the McKenna Bill and say, “You cannot get away from that “. However, I wish to say now that I have learned to respect the ability of the Minister for Social Services since he has come into this Parliament. If, at some future date, he is transferred to a lower sphere, he will carry with him my warm regards and my best wishes for his future career. I can imagine the waving arms and the virtuous chest expansion of platform orators when they proclaim the virtues of the “ McKenna Bill “ and ignore altogether the fact that, in the Minister’s own words, this is merely a consolidation, however well done, of legislation that has already been enacted.
– “Will the honorable senator concede that the Government has popularized social legislation?
– No. The people who initiated social services, in whatever small degree, are entitled to the credit. Their enactments made the people accustomed to the idea of receiving social benefits. “When the people realized that legislation of this kind was natural and proper, it was easy for the Government to liberalize social services. I recall the storm of opposition from the Labour party when we introduced most of the measures which are consolidated in this bill. The governments which implemented those laws showed a fair amount of political courage in defying that opposition. Even when we wanted to extend the child endowment scheme at the last election campaign, the Labour party opposed the proposal. The Minister has prophesied that £72,000,000 will be expended on social services in 1947-48. “We must consider the means by which this expenditure will have to be financed. I recall with amazement, and a measure of disgust, that when we proposed certain reductions of taxes at the elections we were accused of attempting to swindle the people.
– No !
– Yes! The Prime Minister said that the promise was a “swindle” and that it could not be carried out. However, with the passage of time, everything that we promised has come to pass. The tax reduction that we advocated has been made.
– The situation has changed.
– Of course it has changed. The honorable senator and his colleagues lacked the foresight to realize that this would happen. They could not see ahead even for a few months.
– The electors were looking ahead when they returned Labour to office.
– I am afraid that they were looking back. In spite of the fact that it described the Opposition’s tax reduction proposal as a swindle, the Government is now not only reducing taxes but also increasing expenditure in every possible- way.
– Does the honorable, senator object to the tax reduction?
– Of course not, but I object to the election “ squib “ that such reductions would not be possible. Unfortunately, the electors believed the Prime Minister when he said that reductions could not be made. Now they have learned that the Opposition was right, and the Government has been obliged to make reductions under immense pressure not only from the Opposition but also from some of its supporters, who, a few months ago, lacked the foresight to realize that such action would be essential to the economic security and welfare of the people of Australia.
I again compliment the Minister upon the magnificent work of consolidation that is represented in this hill. I warn the Government and its supporters who proclaim from the house-tops that our social legislation has been brought about by the Labour party, that they should not imagine that the electors are such nitwits as to have forgotten that almost every one of the social measures dealt with in the bill was introduced by antiLabour governments. The facts are on record in Hansard and elsewhere, and they are constantly before the people.
– in reply - I express my appreciation of the reception accorded to this measure by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), and other honorable senators who have made kindly references to the part, however small it may have been, that I played in the preparation of the hill. As Senator Sheehan said, the bill is really the corner-stone of a broad structure of social welfare. I do not pretend that it is a perfect measure, but it will be of great convenience to the many people who will have to use it from time to time.
It is impossible to legislate for all eventualities, and, from the debate that has occurred, it is apparent that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have in mind cases that will not be covered by the bill. However, a perusal of the measure in the amended form will show that an effort has been made to give discretionary power to the officers who will administer it so that when a case does not fall within the four walls of a particular benefit something may be done to alleviate hardship. I draw particular attention to clause 124, which deals with special benefits. A special benefit will be available when no other specific type of benefit can be invoked. This provision has not been used extensively in the past, although I have been responsible in some measure for its more frequent use in recent times. In the limited time available to me I do not propose to review all of the matters dis cussed by honorable senators. A better opportunity to do so will present itself at the . committee stage. However, I shall refer to a few of the points that have been raised.
The Leader of the Opposition and Senator James McLachlan referring to superannuated persons, pointed out that a married couple could, with their private incomes, and what would be available to them by way of pension, receive £5 las. a week from the 1st July, when the bill will become operative. There was a very strong demand from superannuated persons for the abolition of the means test. That has been quietened to a considerable degree by the ameliorations which were introduced in August last. In reply to Senator James McLachlan, I point out that the amount of £5 15s. a week, to which a married couple, both of whom are of pensionable age, will be entitled, will represent only £3 15s. from the Government’s coffers. The remaining £2 may be derived as income from investments that they may have, or it may be earned by their personal exertion. The Government recognizes that while there is a means test there will he anomalies and difficulties. It also recognizes that whenever the means test has been ameliorated, either in relation to income or in relation to property, a new set of anomalies has occurred and new demands have arisen. As I said in my introductory speech, the Government is now examining the possibility of eliminating the means test altogether, at any rate in relation to the retiring allowance. Naturally, this examination will take some time. The Leader of the Opposition and some of his colleagues urged that child endowment should be made applicable to the first child in every family. Several honorable senators on this side of the chamber answered the arguments adduced in support of that case, and explained the Government’s attitude towards it. I also did so last August in this chamber, in fairly considerable detail. I do not propose to traverse the subject again, especially as this matter was an issue before the electors in September last.
Several honorable senators opposite mentioned the new provision for the payment of what is called a widow’s pension ip the wived of men who are in prison. Th& Leader of the Opposition suggested that the provision “ opened the gates too wide “. Senator Leckie, whom I am delighted to welcome hack to’ the Seriate’,particularly as he is in his usual virile and inimitable form, claimed that this was a new conception. I shall deal with both of those statements. I point out first that, as far as invalid, old-age and widows’ pensions are concerned, no person can be the recipient of such benefits unless he or she is of good character and unless he or she is deserving. These requirements involve a consideration of all circumstances: For the purpose of the new provision, ari applicant must possess either of two qualifications in order to be eligible for the benefits; Either there must be children in the family who need a mother’s care and attention, or; like a B-class widow,- the woman must be over 50 years of. age. That disposes of the contention that the provision will open the gates too wide. Let us now consider whether it is a new conception or not. For the information of Senator Leckie, I point out that Victoria, the State which he represents, is the only ohe in the Commonwealth which does not make provision for women of this class. Every other State makes provision of some sort in varying ways. This bill will provide for women whose husbands are in prison for six months or more, and will have the effect of establishing uniformity throughout the Commonwealth. The provision may even have the effect of relieving State budgets to some degree.
All States make some provision for the children of men who are iri prison. Therefore, this is not an innovation Except insofar as this Parliament is concerned. It has been a feature of the soci.il service’s of Australia, through ‘the State’s, fbr many year’s. It may be suggested that something should be done in proper cases for the wiVes of men who are in prison for periods of less than six months. The reason why that period was selected i’s that, in the provision for women who have been ‘deserted by their husbands, the desertion must continue for a period of six months before benefit becomes payable. From the viewpoint of this legislature, it would have been indefensible to deny a position fo a deserted wife until a period of six months had elapsed,- but to grant an allowance’ to * woman whose’ husband had just previously gone tfr prison.- Lest honorable senators may fear that hardship will be imposed on a woman whose husband is in prison for less than six months’, I refer them to the provisions of clause 124. Here again, the provision for special benefits comes to the rescue. This provision may be applied in ‘ any cases in which the circumstances warrant its invocation.
Senator Aylett referred to the plight of persons who, having left their homes for some good reason, are not able to obtain them back, and, accordingly, must have the rent, as well as the value of their property, held.against them in the assessment of their eligibility for invalid or old-age pensions. That is in the category of the cases 1 mentioned earlier, and there are few. der tain provisions will enable mli department to overcome the difficulty. In the case of a mail and his wife, one of whom is in receipt of a pension, the Director -General o’f Social Services has power to disregard income and property iri determining eligibility. The exercise of that discretionary power overcomes most pf the cases 6f real hardship. It is also departmental practice that where ari invalid pensioner leaves his home to reside els’ewhere fbr” health reasons, the value of the property which he has sold is not to be taken into consideration foi’ some months afterwards. I know of people who have been given the benefit of this concession for periods of three to six months ‘Since 1908, legislative provision of an exceedingly generous Character has prescribed that the home in which a pensioner lives arid the quantity arid value qf the furniture iri his home is not to be held against his eligibility for pension. When I point out that the house and furniture may be of unlimited value the extraordinary nature of this ‘concession ban be realized. There are possibilities that this concession may be abused when peri si oners vacate their homes, arid some precaution has to be taken against ‘such abuse. Where a pension taught accrue in the class of cases mentioned by the honorable senator: the position is covered by the grant of a special benefit payment.
Senator Finlay iri the course of his very interesting remarks, raised several important points. He painted out that there are many men in the community over 65 years of age who still desire to work hut who may suffer financially if they apply for an old-age pension. Whilst the legislation has deliberately limited the application of unemployment benefits to persons between the ages of 16 and 65 years, the regular policy of the department for some months past has been to concede to persons over 65 years of . age a special benefit equal to the amount paid ‘by way of unemployment benefit. I can assure honorable senators that any person over the statutory age limit for eligibility - which is 60 years for women and 65 years for nien - who is temporarily unemployed, but is willing to continue working, will receive a special benefit on the same basis as the unemployment benefit. Cases have occurred where applicants would have been better off to accept an invalid or old-age pension, but I can assure the honorable senator that there is no doubt of the department’s willingness to concede the payment of special benefits in these cases. Senator Finlay presented a very interesting statement to the Senate, and I congratulate him on the research involved in its preparation. He calculated that to produce an annual income equal to the aggregate amount for the payment of social services at present rates, the Government would have to invest the sum of £2,000,000,000 at 3£ per cent. That is very interesting, and conveys some conception of the magnitude of the total sum required foi1 social benefits on the scale that they are being made available to the people of this country. The honorable senator was also concerned regarding the position of members of approved and nort-approved friendly societies, in regard to the payment of sickness benefits. That position has been met by alterations to the present legislation. Where income is received from a friendly society the position of an individual has not been altered. Such income to the amount of £1 is disregarded in calculating the amount of permissible income. The legislation which is being repealed did not provide for the deduction from sickness benefit of any payment received from a friendly society in respect of the disability for which sickness benefit was claimed. That provision has not been changed, but this measure provides that in the case of members of what might be termed “ near “ or unapproved friendly societies, the payments which they receive from those societies are included in their income but will not be a direct deduction from the benefit. The fact that they are contributory payments will entitle them to have such payments not deducted from these benefits. This is a distinct improvement on the previous position, and- I should like to express my indebtedness to Senators Finlay and O’Flaherty of South Australia for their work in that aspect of the hill and the value of their discussions with me on that point.
Senator Tangney was good enough to refer to the courtesy and efficiency of the officers of the Social Services Department, and I express their thanks for the compliment. On assuming control of that department, I found that the traditions of efficiency and courtesy were well established and I assure the Senate that I have encouraged the continuance of those traditions.
Senator Allan MacDonald was concerned about the position of spinsters who have no one to’ provide for them, and he suggested that the eligible age for pension should be reduced from 60 to 55 years in their case. I do not ‘ agree with his contention. If the Government had introduced unemployment and sickness ‘benefits before it introduced the widows’ pensions scheme I doubt whether such provision would have been made in the case of women who have no dependent children. The plight of these women can be met in either of two ways under present legislation. If a woman is prepared to work but cannot find work she is entitled to unemployment benefit. If there are special circumstances impelling women to stay at home to care for their relatives they are eligible to receive a special benefit at the same rate. In view of that provision, I do not think there is any reason to make special provision for spinsters or to alter the eligible age.
– Is that provided for in the social services scheme?
– That is provided for by clause 124. I know that in a number of cases, in the last six months, benefits have been paid under that provision. Senator Aylett referred to the plight of limbless civilians, particularly those in Western Australia, . and I agree that something must be done for them. It has been suggested that it would be more equitable to pay them an invalid pension and allow them to earn £1 a week, but I suggest that the best way to assist them is to rehabilitate them so that they can resume their former occupations. The Government is concentrating on the development of a community plan for displaced persons and those suffering from disabilities. I adverted to that in the course of my second-reading speech, and the Senate must have been impressed by the figures which I quoted. I pointed out that some 500 persons had been taken off the pension list and given special training, at a cost of £6,000, which resulted in an annual saving of £40,000. That has resulted in a total saving in respect of those 500 people of £600,000, and it is intended to increase expenditure by providing further training facilities. Ex-servicemen who suffer from disabilities not caused by their war service are being similarly treated. . Excellent results are being obtained, and it is proposed, before the end of the financial year, to examine a plan to implement a similar scheme for the benefit of all disabled persons in the community, irrespective of their age or the cause of their disability.
Senator Brand referred to the position of war pensioners in relation to unemployment and sickness benefits. Full consideration was given to such ‘ cases in drafting this measure. The honorable senator was concerned that a war pensioner receiving, say, 10s. a week would be liable to have that amount calculated against him in assessing his eligibility for sickness or unemployment benefits. I point out, however, that war pensioners are in the same position as persons in receipt of what might he called “shortterm “ benefits. Unemployment and sickness payments are of an entirely different nature from long-term allowances, such as old-age, invalid and widows’ pensions. The average period of unemployment is only three weeks, and of sickness benefits approximately six weeks. I think the Senate will agree with the proposition that there should be some incentive to beneficiaries in these two categories to return to work, and, therefore, the same generous treatment cannot be extended to persons in receipt of unemployment and sickness benefits. The point is that income up to £1 is completely disregarded for the purpose of calculating income for unemployment and sickness benefits. As I say, an exemption of £1 is provided; but is it not a fact that ex-servicemen who become ill are immediately eligible for higher war pension?
– Not necessarily; the disability must have been caused by war service.
– However, 1 think that honorable senators will find that in many cases where war pensioners become ill they are immediately eligible for higher pensions in respect of their war disabilities. Therefore, generally speaking, they are better off than if they received unemployment benefits. One further reason for withholding special concessions in the case of war pensioners in relation to unemployment and sickness benefits is that if they were conceded it would he unjustifiable to withhold them from invalids and widows.
– Is it conceded that it would be unjustifiable to withhold the concession from such people ?
– That is not conceded. If a person receives an income by way of war pension of £2 10s. a week, the amount of £1 is regarded as permissible income, and only £1 10s. is taken into calculation. Under the present scheme, providing for a weekly pension of £1 2s. 6d., he would be entitled to an old-age pension of 2s. 6d. and will be entitled to 7s. 6d. after 1st July next.
– Does the Minister think that he is worthy of special treatment?
– The Government has already recognized that he is entitled to special treatment. An exserviceman who is totally and permanently incapacitated receives £4 16s. a week, plus £1 2s. for his wife and 9s.- for each child. If those amounts were disregarded for pension purposes under the law relating to old-age pensions, the various payments would be : War pension for the man, £4 16s.; for his wife, £1 2s.; old-age pensions for man and wife, £3 Ids. (from 1st July next). In addition to these, they would have a total permissible income of £2 a week. In short, there would be a payment of £9 13s. direct from Government sources, or a total possible income of £11 13s.
– What would be the position of a man who receives 30s. a week as a war disability pension ?
– He is entitled to an invalid pension or an old-age pension.
– Less 10s.
– Yes. He would be entitled to a pension of £1 7s. 6d. on that count. Let us consider the position of a war widow. She is in a better position than an A class widow, quite apart from the number of children either may have. The A class widow will get £2 2s. 6d. a week from the 1st July next, regardless of the number of her children, whereas the war widow will get £2 15s. for herself, 17s. 6d. for the first child and 12s. 6d. for each of her other children.
– What is her position if she is working?
– That is not counted against her. There is no means test held against a war widow in respect of her war pension. ‘She is entitled to earn whatever income she can make. The Government has given full consideration to the position of a war pension in its application to these social service benefits and has decided against their exclusion from income.
– A war widow and a person suffering from a war disability are not parallel cases.
– I agree. A person with a war disability and a war widow are in different categories, but they are both, in a more favored position than are other members of the community. It is only proper that that should.be so.
– I agree.’’
– No; that versed all the matters raised by honorable senators but in committee I shall explain any further points which may require explanation. I express my pleasure at the reception accorded this measure by the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Director-General of Social Services).
– 1 understand that the new title of the officer in charge of this important department is to be Director-General of Social Services. In my second-reading speech I said that a man in charge of such an important department should be given special consideration in the matter of increased remuneration. Has anything been done in that direction or is he barred from attaining increases of salary by the wagepegging regulations? It is difficult to maintain contentment among officers of the Public Service when they find that men like Mr. A. W. Coles, who has had no Public Service administrative experience, is paid a salary far greater than that of trained permanent officers in senior positions. Such anomalies do not encourage the best men to remain in the Commonwealth Public Service. It is not right that outsiders should be appointed to positions at salaries far in excess ofthose paid to tried and proved public servants.
– The title is not new; the position of Director of Social Services has appeared in a number of recent acts. I have before me the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act, section 5 of which provides that the Director-General of Social Services shall have the general administration of that legislation.
– Does the title apply to the officer now administering invalid and old-age pensions?
– ~No ; that legislation is administered by a commissioner, but in all recent social service legislation, such as that dealing with widows’ pensions, the title has been Director-General of Social Services. That has been the position for about three years. The offices of Commissioner of Pensions and Deputy Commissioner of Pensions will be abolished. and new offices with the titles of Director-General and Deputy-Director will be created.
It is necessary to submit any proposal for an increase of the emoluments of these officers to the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That has been done recently in relation to substantial increases of salary granted to officers junior to Mr. Howe, the present Director-General. The Government is fully alive to the possibility of losing valuable and senior officers because of the greater attractions offered by outside employers, and it has recently reviewed the position in respect of various classes of officers in the Public Service, first, those with salaries up to £450 per annum, and later those with salaries up to £850 per annum. The difficulty associated with doing something substantial for the nest group arises from the fact that the salaries of heads of departments are fixed and rigid. However, the position in regard to them will he reviewed in the near future, and consideration will also be given to the superannuation scheme applying to Commonwealth Public Servants. I am hopeful that it will be possible to take steps which will ensure that important and valuable officers of the Commonwealth Public Service shall not be lost to the service.
.- The Department of Social Services and the Department of Health have functions that are somewhat similar, but each has its Director-General. In view of the fact that a hospitalization scheme and a free medicine and medical services scheme are to he entrusted to the .Social Services Department, it would seem proper to appoint an officer with the title of Director-Genera.1 of Health and Social Services. At least it may be advisable to make provision for that to be done. As ‘ it would appear that the Department of Health will be deprived of much of its present work, it may be thought advisable, if that department is to be maintained as a separate department, to give to its head a title different from Director-General. I fear that otherwise there will be confusion on the part of the public. I hope that the two departments mentioned will be merged into one, particularly as much of the work now done by the Department of Health will eventually be undertaken by the Department of Social Services. In future the Health Department will be restricted practically to the control of quarantine. I make this suggestion with a view to avoiding confusion.
.- The difficulty foreshadowed by Senator Foll has not yet arisen, but I remind him that in my second-reading speech I indicated that the Government intended to institute a national medical service and provide pharmaceutical benefits and possibly also an extension of hospital benefits. At this stage I do not desire to disturb the present set-up on the medical side. As I indicated when moving the second-reading, the existing legislation dealing with health and medicine will be consolidated along the lines of this measure, and I also foreshadowed the possibility of the ultimate amalgamation of the two departments in a Department of National Welfare such as exists in Canada and other countries. Those are matters of high policy for which we are not yet ready. I thank the honorable senator for his suggestion, and assure him that the Government has that possible development in mind.
Clause agreed to.
Cla-uses S and 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Registrars).
– This clause reads - (1.) The Director-General may, for the purposes of this act, appoint Registrars of Social Services and Registrars of Unemployment and Sickness Benefits.
I suggest to the Minister that at all post offices notices be displayed notifying the public of the situation of the offices in which the registrars will be situated. Such information would be most helpful to the public, particularly in such places as the scattered gold-field districts of Western Australia. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that the Director-General will cause the addresses of such regional officers to be displayed at local post offices.
– I should like to know whether it is intended to establish offices in country towns to facilitate the handling of applications and to obviate the necessity for applicants to journey long distances to the capital cities or larger towns.
– That is the intention. We have not yet developed to that stage; hut we were looking ahead when drawing up this measure, and visualized the need for what the honorable senator has mentioned, namely, the establishment in country areas of regional offices, where decisions can be made for the respective localities. I assure Senator Allan MacDonald that the various post offices will be asked to display prominently the address of the regional officer to whom applicants may refer locally.
– Does that mean that a regional officer will be stationed in country districts, and will be able, for instance, in respect of an application for old-age or invalid pension, to determine the application? Will that officer have power to decide the matter on the spot?
– Tes, the regional officer can have that power.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Appeal to DirectorGeneral).
– With respect to this provision I have received a communication from the Australian Pensioners League in Western Australia which raises some doubt as to the appeal from the lesser to the greater Caesar. The league, in effect, requests an assurance from the Minister that a person affected by any decision given under this clause shall, with the consent of the DirectorGeneral, have his case examined by a committee consisting of a representative of the applicant, a representative of the
Director-General and a chairman acceptable to both those representatives. The request is dictated by conditions in sparsely-populated and isolated areas in Western Australia, again with special reference to the gold-fields. I was hoping that with the establishment of regional offices many of the disabilities arising from isolation would be overcome; but I gather from the Minister’s earlier remarks that some time may elapse before such offices can be set up. I ask the Minister to examine the request which I submit on behalf of the Pensioners League in Western Australia to see if it is possible, instead of a departmental decision by the Director-General, to provide some other means for reviewing decisions given under this clause.
– I do not think that it would be possible for me to do as the honorable senator requests, because the administration of these benefits must remain at the departmental level. I point out that although regional offices are not established at many places at. present they have been established in quite a number of centres. For instance, one already exists at Canberra.. Under clause 12, the Director-General can delegate his powers to any officer, and those powers would be delegated to a regional officer. Although the whole matter is dealt with depart-mentally, there are appeals from regional officers to the deputy directors in the States, and from them to the Director-General. I also point out that the Minister is never exempt from appeals. The whole measure is subject to direction by the Minister, and what is provided for in this clause does not exclude the Minister exercising jurisdiction over what is done by any officer. There is an appeal, therefore, not only from little to hig Caesar, but also to the bigger Caesar. The honorable senator need not fear that the matter will be dealt with on rigid lines in the department. It may reach the political level where there is full responsibility for direction and control.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Definitions).
– I should like the Minister to clarify the definition of “income” which reads - “ income “, in relation to a person, means any personal earnings, moneys, valuable consideration or profits earned, derived or received by that person for his own use or benefit by any means from any source whatsoever, within or outside -Australia, and includes any periodical payment or benefit by way of gift or allowance from a person other than the father, mother, son or daughter of the first mentioned person, but does not include - (;) a service pension under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1U20-1047 received by the spouse of a claimant or pensioner, where that claimant or pensioner is not in receipt of a service pension under that Act and the spouse is not in receipt of a pension under this Part; or . . .
I am not quite sure whether I understand that provision correctly. Is the service pension excluded from consideration as income, or is a service pension, or portion of a service pension, received by a wife, excluded from income?
– The honorable senator has probably hit upon the most difficult clause to follow in the whole bill. This provision does not refer to the pension, or war service pension, of a claimant for a benefit. What is referred to here is the service pension of the spouse of either a claimant or a pensioner for one of these benefits. As the honorable senator will realize, when a person claims a benefit under any provision of this bill, not only is his own income taken into account but also that of his spouse. This is a case where the income of a spouse of that particular type in relation to a service pension is disregarded.
– The share of a spouse in a war service pension of an entitled person is disregarded?
– Yes, for the purpose of this benefit. It is in relation to the wife’s service pension where she is not the claimant for a benefit under the bill.
– Does the definition of “ income “ exclude life insurance, or any other like benefit?
– -Regard must be had to the opening words of the clause- - “ In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears “. A subsequent clause provides for the exclusion of the surrender value of life insurance policies up to an amount of £200. Thus, a contrary intention appears. Paragraph (a) of the definition of “ income “ excludes a payment by way of benefit from a friendly society. Life insurance is dealt with under the heading “ Kate of pension “.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 (Aliens and aboriginal natives).
– Sub-clause 1 reads -
An age pension or an invalid pension shall not be granted to an alien, not being a woman who, prior to her marriage, was a British subject.
I take it that a woman of British nationality who marries an alien would be eligible, on reaching the requisite age, for an age pension. But what would be the position of such a woman who leaves the country and later returns? For how long would she have to reside in the country after her return before she would become entitled to a pension?
– The woman’s status would not be altered by the fact of her departure from Australia. If she married an alien in this country she would still be regarded as a British subject in Australia even though she might leave Australia and later return. As to residential qualification, a woman who resided in Australia for five years would be entitled to an invalid pension, and if she resided here for twenty years she would be entitled to an age pension. This involves, with certain exceptions set out in the bill, twenty years’ continuous residence. She is allowed occasional absences totalling not more than one-tenth of the total period of her residence. Otherwise, periods of absence abroad would not be held against her. However, whilst absence from Australia might be very important in respect of that calculation, her status as a British subject in Australia would not be affected so far as these benefits are concerned by such absence.
Clause agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 20 and 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 (Conditions of grant of age pension) .
– I should like some information in regard to this clause. It provides that a pension shall not be granted to a husband who has deserted his wife without just cause, provided that the desertion has continued during the period of six months immediately preceding the date of his claim for a pension, or to a wife who has deserted her husband in similar circumstances or has deserted any of her children under the age of sixteen years. I should like to know who will decide whether or not a claimant was justified in deserting his or her spouse. Most people who are getting up in years resent going to court to air their grievances or domestic affairs. It may be that a man had just cause for deserting his wife, or that a wife had just cause for deserting her husband, but, without provision for a court hearing, how is this matter to be determined ? Some men are intolerable to live with, and the same may be said of some women. I know of an age pensioner who married for the second time. He married a widow, and subsequently deserted her. He had no income and was unable to earn a living. He did not want to go to the court. Knowing the case, I would say that it was impossible for any man to live with that woman. How could such a claimant convince the authorities that he had just cause for deserting his wife? Similarly, a woman might have just cause for deserting any of her children under the age of sixteen years. It is unlikely, of course, that a woman of 65 years of age would have children under sixteen years. There are a few cases in this country, such as that of which I read recently, where a child was born to a woman 72 years of age and a man 83 years of age. However, it may happen that a woman has been forced to desert her home because of her husband, but has been unable to take her child with her. Has the DirectorGeneral of Social Services power to investigate and deal with such cases?
– This clause replaces one of much greater stringency. The existing law provides that a claimant shall be debarred from receiving a pension if, for a period of twelve months during the five years preceding his application, he had deserted his spouse. That, of course, created the extraordinary position that a man who, at the beginning of the five-yearperiod had deserted his spouse for twelve months, but had lived with her, subsequently for four years, was debarred from receiving a pension. That anomaly has been corrected. The provision to which the honorable senator has drawn attention is a liberalization of the existing provisions. In practice, it rests with the Department of Social Services to resolve whether or not there was justification for a desertion. The department has trained social workers in its employ who are skilled in investigating these matters, and I can assure the honorable senator that the benefit of any doubt that may exist is given to the applicant.
– This clause provides that an age pension should not be granted to a person if the value of his or her property, determined in accordance with clause 30, exceeds £650. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to consider increasing this limit to £900, in view of the greatly increased values of property. Even with price controls, real estate values have risen considerably and are continuing to rise, and I have no doubt that within the next year or two, when controls are abandoned as they must be, values will increase substantially and quickly. Representations have been made to me from Western Australia to urge that serious consideration be given to the liberalization of this provision to the degree that I have mentioned.
– The question of liberalizing the property test was under consideration in this chamber in August of last year, when the limit was raised from £400 to £650. The Government then intimated that from time to time it would review the position in the light of changing financial circumstances. Of course, an applicant may also own the house in which he lives. That is quite apart from the property test. Any accretion that may take place in the value of a pensioner’s home will not affect the bar of £650 stipulated in this measure. We have found, after investigation, that every time the bar is moved a fresh crop of anomalies is created, and it is for that reason that the Government is examining the whole question of a national superannuation scheme. I can assure the honorable senator that the Government has the question of liberalizing the means test constantly under review. After full consideration, and having regard to the recent concession made, the Government is not prepared to make a further alteration at this stage.
– Representations have been made to me in regard to what seems to be an anomaly created by war conditions. I have had brought to my notice the case of an elderly lady who is in receipt of the age pension. She had been saving throughout her life to buy a cottage in which to live in her years of retirement. She saved £300 which, as honorable senators will appreciate, would have been sufficient in pre-war days to purchase a small cottage suitable for her requirements. During the war she became a pensioner,but by then her £300 was not enough to purchase a home of the type for which she had hoped. As the result, she has had to pay 12s. 6d. a week for accommodation. She endeavoured to keep her £300 intact for the purpose for which she had saved it; but, because of this capital, her pension is reduced to £1 2s. 10½d. After paying 12s. 6d. a week for accommodation, she is left with 10s. 4½d. on which to live. This means that she is obliged to encroach upon her capital. I appreciate that there must be some limit to the capital that a person may possess without being rendered ineligible for a pension. I suggest, however, that the Director-General of Social Services might consider cases such as that to which I have drawn attention on their merits in view of the difficulty of purchasing homes at present, and regard capital saved for the purchase of a home as frozen capital until the housing position has eased. In this case, and I have no doubt in many hundreds of similar cases, real hardship exists, and I see no reason why a full pension should notbe payable.
I ask the Minister to examine this matter.
– The honorable senator will appreciate that it is difficult to look into a person’s mind and determine whether or not the statement that he or she proposes to buy a home is bona fide. Consideration was given to this matter, but it was decided not to take any action at this stage. There is, where there are two people, a possibility of meeting cases such as that to which the honorable senator has referred. Under clause 30, if the lady had a husband and the halving principle were involved, there is power for the Director-General to disregard any property, whether real estate or cash. I refer the honorable senator to sub-clause 2 of clause 30, which states -
For the purposes of this Part, the value of the property of a husband or wife shall -
except where they are living apart in pursuance of a separation agreement in writing or of a decree, judgment or order of a court; or
unless, for any special reason, in any particular case, the DirectorGeneral otherwise determines, be deemed to be half the sum of the valueof the property of the husband and the value of the property of the wife .
Thus, if there are two parties to the transaction - a woman and her husband - the halving principle is applied, and the Director-General has discretion to disregard property. Altogether apart from that, if he is satisfied that there is a bona fide intention to provide a home as soon as possible, he exercises discretion in not taking the cash into account while the claimant, or pensioner, makes a reasonable effort to secure a home. There are not many cases of this nature, and I remind the committee that exceptional cases are provided for in clause 124. I assure the honorable senator that, in cases which the department considers to he genuine, discretion is exercised.
– I regret that the Minister (Senator McKenna) cannot see his way clear at present to liberalize the property bar as I have suggested. I have had personal contact with a case which is an example of the situation I have in mind. A widow struggled to pay off the mortgage on a small poultry farm, and succeeded in doing so. However, the residue of the estate precluded her from obtaining a pension under the Treasury’s valuation of the farm at the 1941 level. A liberalization of the property bar from £650 to £900 would have helped that woman considerably.
– Is the lady living on the property?
– Yes. Apart from the house, the value of the property, the poultry, outbuildings, fencing and other adjuncts were taken into consideration. To my knowledge, the woman was receiving not more than 10s. a week from the sale of eggs. Had the limit been increased from £650 to £900, she would have been able to obtain a partial pension. There must be hundreds of similar cases in Australia. I ask the Minister to consider my representations when this matter next comes up for revision.
– I undertake to do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 (Interpretation).
– In this clause, which deals with invalid pensions, I suggest that, after the word “ work “ secondoccurring, the following words should be inserted - “ in his previous trade or employment “. The clause would then read as follows : -
For the purposes of this Division and of Division 5 of this Part, a person shall be deemed to be permanently incapacitated for work if the degree of his permanent incapacity for work in his previous trade or employment is not less than eighty-five per centum.
I make this suggestion because of my knowledge of the circumstances of an invalid pensioner with a tubercular hip, who was classified by doctors as permanently and totally incapacitated for his previous employment. The department argued, of course, that he might be able to obtain employment as a lift conductor or in some other light occupation. T tried my best to secure work of that nature for him, but it was impossible to do so because of his condition. After a long struggle, he was eventually granted an invalid pension. I consider that the terms of this clause are a little too wide. That is why I suggest that it be amended. In most cases, it is hopeless for seriously handicapped invalids to try to find light employment in competition with healthy persons. I hope that the Minister will agree to qualify the clause by inserting the words, which I have mentioned.
.- The addition of the words suggested by the honorable senator would establish an entirely new principle. In assessing a man’s incapacity for the purposes of workers’ compensation, consideration is given to his general ability to work, not to his specialized ability in a particular job. The proposal would create a principle of assessment altogether foreign to the principles that are now applied. For instance, assume that a man engaged in mechanical work which requires the use of two hands should lose one hand. Under the honorable senator’s proposal, he would have to be assessed foi1 that .particular job alone, although ‘Le might be able to render completely efficient service as a clerk or in some manual occupation in which only one hand was required. That would narrow the field, in assessing incapacity, to an extraordinary degree, and I consider that 1 could not establish such a principle.
– Is any discretionary power vested in deputy commissioners of pensions in the various States to enable them to decide whether a person is only slightly more than 15 per cent, incapacitated? Is the decision as to whether an applicant is eligible or ineligible for a pension entirely a matter of medical opinion ?
– An applicant is given every opportunity to demonstrate his incapacity. If he is not satisfied with one medical inspection, he is given another one. I have even ordered a third inspection when necessary. If there be any doubt, the decision always favours the applicant. I assure the honorable senator that a great deal of latitude is allowed by the department. I am sure that nobody is ever debarred from benefit as the result of too strict an interpretation of this provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Conditions of grant of invalid pension).
SenatorFINLAY (South Australia) [8.24]. - I should like the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to impart some information regarding the responsibilities of parents of invalid children between the ages of sixteen years and 21 years. I appreciate the fact that, when there is more than one child in a family under the age of sixteen years, child endowment takes care of the position, and that, when an invalid child attains the age of 21 years, the income of the parents is not taken into account in assessing the pension payable to him. Can the Minister state what factors are taken into account in assessing the ability of parents, severally or collectively, to maintain an invalid child between the ages of sixteen years and 21 years ?
– I draw the attention of the Minister to cases somewhat similar to those mentioned by Senator Finlay. I refer to sub-normal children who, after reaching theage of sixteen years, are placed in institutions because the parents, for various reasons, are not able to care for them at home. Are the States responsible for such children, or can assistance be given under this bill ?
– I, too, am concerned about the cases mentioned by Senator Herbert Hays. Does invalidity cover sub- normality not requiring institutional treatment as well as physical disabilities ?
.- I shall deal first with the question asked by Senator Finlay. In determining the ability of parents to maintain a child, an income of £2 10s. a week is allowed for each adult member of the family, and £1 5s. a week is allowed for each member under the age of sixteen years. I shall deal with the hypothetical case of a man, his wife, a child under the age of sixteen years, and’ an applicant for invalid pension over the age of sixteen years, but under 21 years. Before the applicant would he completely excluded from benefit, the family income would have to exceed the sum of the following amounts : £2 10s. for the father; £2 10s. for the mother; £2 10s. for the applicant child ; £1 5s. for the child under sixteen years of age.
– Does that include child endowment?
– No. Child endowment is completely disregarded for the purposes of such an application. The. family income would be £8 15s. before he would be completely excluded. That is not so much a matter of departmental arrangement as the result of a Cabinet decision made some years ago and liberalized by this Government in order to set as high a standard as possible. I think that is quite a generous allowance and does not cause any undue hardship. The honorable senator will notice the difference between the wording of clause 26, and paragraph g of sub-clause 1 of clause 25, which states -
An invalid pension shall not he granted to a person -
if, in the case of a person under the age of twenty-one years, his parents either severally or collectively adequately maintain him.
There is provision in clause 26 for his maintenance if his parents are unable to maintain him. If a child between the ages of sixteen and 21 years is not in fact living with his parents, or his parents are not maintaining him, he is regarded as being independent of them. The reason for the insertion of sub-clause 2 in clause 25 is that the Government considered that there should be some family responsibility for the maintenance of a child who has not attained his majority. At first sight that aspect may appear to require clarification, hut honorable senators will realize that there is a generous allowance in respect of family incomes. Senator Herbert Hays adverted to the case of a child placed in an institution.
– I referred to the case of a sub-normal child who is placed in a mental institution.
– The practice of former Commonwealth governments has been to fix all responsibility for maintaining such people on the State governments, but this Government is facing up to its new responsibilities in the field of nationalization of medical services. At a meeting with State Ministers for Health early this week, I asked them to furnish particulars of amounts collected from, or on behalf of mental patients, for the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1946. I sought that information for the purpose- of evolving a hospital agreement along the lines of the present Hospital Benefits Agreement with the State governments, or, in other words, to suggest to the State governments that they should no longer collect fees from, or on behalf of, those people in consideration of a payment by the Commonwealth Government to bo based on a selected year. I cannot promise the committee that the scheme will be implemented, but my intention is to recommend similar provision to the Government. Naturally, my recommendation will depend on the information supplied by the State governments. Senator Tangney inquired whether subnormality is a ground for eligibility for invalid pensions, and the answer is that it is so unless the person is in a mental asylum.
– I want to raise another point .in connexion with paragraph ti of clause 25, which states -
An invalid pension shall not be granted to a person -
if he has an enforceable claim against any person, under any law or contract, for adequate compensation in respect of his permanent incapacity or permanent blindness.
I want to deal particularly with the case of people permanently incapacitated. If such a man is unemployed he becomes eligible for sickness benefits, but only for a limited period. He then has to applyfor an invalid pension by reason of his incapacity. Because of that, a claimant who has an enforceable claim for a large amount may have to wait months before he becomes eligible. These claims often take a long time to determine, and depend on the result of litigation. If there is a lapse of time of, say, twelve to eighteen months, what provision is made under the national social security scheme to provide adequate maintenance during the time he is waiting?
– I visualize the case of a worker who has suffered an accident, perhaps through the negligence of a motorist, and is incapacitated for a considerable period, and who, thereby, loses wages. But if a man suffers loss of income, sickness benefit will accrue to him.
– For how long?
– For an inde- finite period, although it is contemplated that it should- be a short-term benefit. The only case in which it would not be a short-term benefit would be where a man is permanently incapacitated.
– That is the case to which I was referring.
– I presume the honorable senator is referring to the case of a man who is awaiting the result of litigation for damages, say, against a motorist. Cases of that kind are covered by clause 124.
– Some pensioners may not wish to pursue their claim by litigation.
– That is so, hut, on the other hand, in Tasmania many solicitors find these cases worth pursuing financially, even if the plaintiff has not sufficient means to ensure ‘payment of their fees. There are very few cases where a person without means is unable to prosecute an action. In most States there are legal aid bodies, and the various law organizations usually require their members to take such cases gratuituously
– It would be a singular happening to-day, but not in former days.
– Therefore, I feel that there is little danger that a man with an enforceable claim will not, in due course, secure his verdict. In the interim, clause 124 gives such an exceedingly wide discretion to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services that in a proper case he may grant such a person reasonable assistance.
– Is the means test applied to a lump sum compensation award for persons injured in accidents, or can such persons become eligible for benefits immediately?
– If he receives a lump-sum payment that is regarded as property, but there is provision whereby that income may be spread over a period for the purposes of calculating his income in. relation to sickness benefit. However, that does not apply in the case of old-age pensions.
– Is there any .provision in the bill to cover the case of parents who have to maintain an invalid child, and is there any provision for increased payments because of the higher cost of living? The permissible income determined by Cabinet to enable a family to comply with this clause may, in a short time, become inadequate because of increased costs of living and lowered purchasing power of wages. Must wo wait for a benevolent government or a sympathetic Minister to alter the amount of permissible income? Is there any way in which the position could be rectified without waiting for years?
– I answered a similar question by Senator Finlay a little .while r.go. A permissible income of £2 10s. is provided for adult persons and £1 5s. for children under the age of sixteen years.
– That may be all right at present, but in six months it might be quite inadequate.
– The honorable senator can rest assured that I am very sympathetic, and this Government will probably be in office for ti long time to come. The Cabinet may review the allowance at any time, and, in fact, it has been increased in the last two years.
– Was that accomplished by legislation or by administration ?
– By administration. Legislation is not required because the Director-General is empowered to set his own standards. In this instance a very high standard of permissible income has been fixed by Cabinet.
– In regard to paragraph g, is the total income of a family or of a pensioner to be affected by the fact that the pension may be able to work temporarily? I have in mind the case of a young girl of eighteen years who is occasionally able to do a little needlework and is then incapacitated for several months. Is the amount which she earns occasionally to be taken into account as annual income for the purpose of paragraph 9 ?
– Intermittent earnings of that nature would be averaged over the yearly period.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 (Maintenance by parents to be taken into account).
– This clause deals with the rate to be determined by the Director-General after a pension has been granted. Cases of invalid children under the age of 21 years of which we hear are invariably the children of poor parents. We seldom hear of children of wealthy parents, because their parents are able to provide for them. The support of an invalid child of a working man is a terrific strain on the family resources, not only with regard to the provision of money for surgical and medical treatment, but because of the necessity to provide special clothing and appliances such as wheel chairs. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that in determining the financial condition of the parents, either severally or collectively, proper regard will be had to the limited resources of working-class people. It may be that the remarks of the Minister in reply to Senator Finlay in connexion with the preceding clause will apply to this clause also.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia [8.46]. - Do the words, “In determining the rate of an invalid pension’’ mean that there are degrees of invalid pensions? Will attention be paid to the degree of invalidity when fixing pensions in the future?
– Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the medical and surgical expenses incurred by a parent in respect of a child between the ages of sixteen and 21 years. I hope that all difficulty in respect of that matter will be removed by the introduction of a national health and medical scheme in the near future. In determining whether a family is in a position to maintain adequately a child between the ages of sixteen and 21 years, the whole family position will be taken into consideration on the basis of £2 10s. for each individual. That is to say, in a family unit of four, with one child under sixteen and one over sixteen years of age, the family would have a total income of £8 15s. before the invalid child would be denied any portion of a pension.
In reply to Senator Tangney, who inquired whether degrees of invalidity would be taken into account, I draw attention to clause 28, which provides that the rate of an age or invalid pension shall be determined by the DirectorGenera] “ as being reasonable and sufficient, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, but shall not exceed the rate of £97 10s. per annum “. That does not mean that the pension will be a fixed amount of £97 10s. a year, or £1 17s. 6d. a week, but that it will be in the discretion of the Director-General, who may go to that maximum, or may fix some less amount. It may be that clause 26 is redundant in respect of a child between sixteen and 21 years of age to the extent to which the parents are able to maintain him.
– It does not apply to pensioners generally?
– No, it has a restrictive effect. Prior to August last the department studied the family position. Until then, we had the extraordinary position that a man of 54 years was deemed to have been adequately maintained by his mother because she had an income of £273 per annum. Cabinet thought that that was unreasonable, and the position has been altered in respect of persons over 21 years of age.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 (Bate of pension).
– I ask the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to consider some liberalization of the provision relating to property the value of which exceeds £50 but does not exceed £400. Under sub-clause 2 (b) the annual rate at which an age or invalid pension is determined shall be reduced - . . by One pound for every complete Ten pounds of that portion of the value of the property of the claimant or pensioner which exceeds Fifty pounds but does not exceed Four hundred pounds, and by Two pounds for every complete Ten pounds of the remainder (if any) of the value of that property.
I suggest that instead of £50 the amount should be £100, and that instead of £400 the amount should be £900, and that the remaining words in paragraph & be left out. That would liberalize the rate of the pension by increasing the value of the property of the claimant or pensioner to £900. I hope that the Minister will give favorable consideration to this proposal.
– Like Senator Allan MacDonald, I should like to see the amounts increased, but the Government had made up its mind not to ameliorate the means test any further until it has decided its policy in respect of means-test-free pensions.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 29 (Computation of income).
– This clause provides that in the computation of income for the purposes of this Part the value of board or lodging, or of board and lodging shall not exceed £32 10s. per annum. Does that mean that if a man is in receipt of full board and lodgings and is allowed £1 a week plus pension, the value of board and lodgings for the year will be only £32 10s. and not £52?
– That is so.
– Paragraph b of clause 29 deals with the dependent child of a pensioner and provides that the income of the pensioner shall be reduced by 10s. a week because of the necessity to maintain that child. Supposing the pensioner is allowed £1 a week plus a full pension, would he be allowed only 10s. a week ?
– He can earn another 10s. a week without affecting the pension. In his case the permissible income is increased.
– I thank the Minister (Senator McKenna) for that information; but I submit that 10s. a week is not sufficient to maintain a child. Even when child endowment is taken into account, the amount would be only 17s. 6d. a week. I suggest that the principle of £2 10s. per unit up to the age of sixteen years, and 25s. for each child be applied.
– If I could do so I should like to do what the honorable senator suggests; but I repeat that when this bill was under consideration the Government gave consideration to many proposals and decided that it could not do more than is contained in the bill. In providing for an increase of 10s. a week in a permissible income the Government has gone as far as it can go at this stage. I agree that if the means test could he abolished there would be no need to argue about the adequacy of any allowance. The Government has considered that point and has decided that this is the greatest amelioration which can be granted at this stage.
– I am sorry that the Minister (Senator McKenna) cannot accept the suggestion put to him and that the upkeep of a dependent child is to be regarded as costing only 10s. a week, or £26 per annum. The amount should be doubled. If the Minister had to rear children in Canberra, as I did in one period, he would know that 10s. a week is totally inadequate for the upkeep of a child, especially one between fourteen and sixteen years of age. Probably what is true of Canberra is true of many other centres throughout Australia. The Minister is adopting a rather parsimonious attitude in fixing such a low figure for the upkeep of a child.
– Until the present Government came into office the permissible income of a claimant, irrespective of his pension and the number of his dependants, was 12s. 6d. a week. I invite the honorable senator to consider the progress that has been made since then. The permissible income has been raised from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week;, there is a new permissible income of 10s. a week in respect of a child; child endowment has been increased by 2s. 6d. a week; a wife’s allowance of 15s. a week has been provided. There is a child allowance of 5s. and the allowance to a wife is to be increased by a further 5s. I ask the honorable senator to consider how many of those steps were taken in the period before the war when finance was easier than it is to-day.
– I question that.
– I am speaking from a governmental point of view. If the honorable senator will bear those figures in mind, he will appreciate more the progress that has been made since the present Government came into office. I sympathize with his desire to go further, hut I regret that I cannot do so at this stage.
– Sub-clause 2 reads -
For the purposes of this Part, the income of a husband or wife shall -
except where they are living apart in pursuance of a separation agreement in writing or of a decree, judgment or order of a court. be deemed to be half the total income of both. 1 should like to see added to paragraph a the words “ or shall have lived apart for a continuous period of five years immediately preceding “. All honorable senators will agree that in such cases a judicial separation of married couples is the proper basis. However, we also know that, in fact, throughout Australia to-day there is a large number of married persons living apart who have no court order, or decree. They are living apart by mutual arrangement. In. many cases where the people are poor they do not wish to incur the legal expense of obtaining a judgment, or decree. Therefore, it would be desirable to add the words I suggest in order to cover this class of person should they apply for benefits under this measure.
– I agree that the class of persons mentioned by the honorable senator should be provided for. [ have had them in mind in the preparation of the measure, and I assure him that provision has been made in all cases. The amendment he suggests is not necessary, because sub-clause 2 (b) provides -
One reason for that provision was to cover the very kind of case the honorable senator has mentioned. By virtue of that sub-clause, the Director-General has complete power to disregard income, and, under clause 30, to disregard property, in the case of persons living apart but not separated judicially or pursuant to any order of a court. Therefore, the clause is sufficient to cover the case cited by the honorable senator.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 30 (Computation of value of property).
– I bring to the attention of the Minister (Senator McKenna) the case of an old-age pensioner who has £150 in the bank, that sum having come to him through his wife’s estate. At the same time, he owes £250 in respect of a mortgage on his home. I should like to know whether that pensioner would be eligible to receive the full rate of pension; or will the sum of 8s. still be de ducted from his weekly pension, as is done at present, simply because he has that amount standing to his credit in the bank? ‘ This pensioner, like many other old people, desires to have some money behind him. Certainly, he could ‘pay £150 of his mortgage, and so become entitled to the full rate of pension, but he prefers to leave the money in the bank rather than be absolutely penniless and completely dependent upon the pension.
– There would be no need to pay the mortgage off the house property, because house property is not taken into account in determining the rate of pension. However, if the pensioner has £150 in the bank, regard must he paid to that sum in applying the property test. He can reduce his indebtedness, and qualify for the full pension. The particular pensioner mentioned by the honorable senator could reduce the mortgage, retain £59 and qualify for the full rate of pension.
– Many old-age pensioners, either a husband or a wife, or both, are not able to live in their own homes; therefore, live with members of their families. At the same time, either for sentimental reasons, or because they may wish to return to their homes, they do not desire to sell them. The Director-General has discretion in those cases in determining the rate of pension, provided no income is drawn from the home. I have found the Director-General most helpful in cases of that kind. Indeed, generally, I find him to be the most helpful of departmental heads. However, I should like the Minister (Senator McKenna) to clarify the position in respect of a case of the kind I have mentioned.
– Should a pensioner, or his wife, or both, need to leave their ordinary residence because of special circumstances, and the property is not let as an income-earning basis - I have known the period in some cases to be as long as twelve months - the retention of ownership of such a home is not held against the pensioner in determining the rate of pension. Where both are obliged to go away, and there are very special circumstances, a discretionary power vests in the Director-General under sub-clause 2, in relation to property.
– In my secondreading speech I requested that investments in Commonwealth loans, or war savings certificates, up to an amount of £200, and the income therefrom, be disregarded in the computation of value of property. As the Minister (Senator McKenna) did not reply to my remarks in that respect, I repeat my request. I am glad to note that the surrender value of any life insurance policy, or policies, not exceeding £200 in the aggregate, is to be excluded from the computation of the value of property. We know that, in the past, many applicants really dissipated small insurance policies in order to become eligible for the old-age pension. I suggest that the case for the exemption of investments in Commonwealth loans and war savings certificates is equally strong. Previously, I cited the case of a pensioner in Western Australia who received a legacy of £200, and immediately invested that amount in a Commonwealth loan, but when he received interest amounting to £6 5s. in respect of the first twelve months he was obliged to refund £20 of the amount of pension he had received in that period. Thus, he was penalized for his patriotism in subscribing to the Commonwealth loan in response to the Government’s appeal for war finance. Having regard to the fact that the surrender value of insurance policies up to £200 is disregarded in the computation of value of property, I submit that there is equal ground for exempting investments in Commonwealth loans or war savings certificates up to a similar amount.
– I regret that I cannot accept the honorable senator’s suggestion. There is no particular reason to stimulate investment in war bonds, or war savings certificates, at the moment. The honorable senator knows that our loans are over-subscribed.
– The day may come when that position will be reversed.
– We could then deal with that problem. However, I cannot draw a distinction between cash in hand and money which is invested in war bonds, or war savings certificates, as the latter can be cashed.
– So can insurance policies.
– I agree that insurance policies can be cashed. The provision in respect of the surrender value of life insurance policies was made only in August last, and it offers a perfect example of what I said a moment ago, namely, that each time something is done to ameliorate the means test it gives rise to other and wider demands. The honorable senator will appreciate that social service benefits generally have been greatly liberalized under this measure. I regret that I cannot agree to his suggestion.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 31 (Definitions).
– In my secondreading speech I referred also to a case in respect of this provision, and, as the Minister (Senator McKenna) omitted to reply to my representations, I again ask for an assurance that provision shall be made in respect of the daughter of an invalid pensioner whose wife has died, and the duty of looking after the invalid father devolves upon the daughter. The wife, during her lifetime, received an allowance of 15s. a week. I am glad to note that that allowance is to be increased under the measure to £1 a week. But, after the wife dies the daughter, who may have to give up her employment in order to care for her invalid father, receives no allowance under this clause. I suggest that the daughter should be paid an allowance equal to that payable in respect of her mother.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services [9.11]. - The provision for which the honorable senator asks is now in operation under section 36 of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act which gives to the Director-General the discretion now contained in clause 124 of this measure. Therefore, there is no need to make that provision under this clause. The case mentioned by the honorable senator is fully provided for under clause 124.
– Clause 124 provides -
The Director-General may, in his discretion, grant a special benefit under this division to a person -
with respect to whom the DirectorGeneral is satisfied that, by reason of age, physical or mental disability, or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, that person is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants (if any).
I am at a loss to know why the masculine gender is used if the provision is to apply to a female.
– The Acts Interpretation Act provides that wherever the masculine gender is used it imports also the feminine gender, unless the contrary is intended. It would be really an excrescence if the words “ he or she “ or “ his or her” had to be applied all the way through acts of parliament. The Acts Interpretation Act makes the provision I have indicated in order to make for simplicity in drafting.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 32 to 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 (Provisions with respect to aboriginal natives).
– I should like to know the reason for the wording of this clause, and also whether the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) has found it necessary to enlist the assistance of the State or territorial authorities referred to in this clause for the payment of pensions to members of the aboriginal race? I have in mind the aborigines that we so often see along the transAustralian railway. As most honorable senators are aware, they are not a very good advertisement for this country, and I should like to know the conditions under which benefits are paid to them. The same applies to natives in the leprosarium in the north-west portion of Western Australia, near Derby.
– As the honorable senator is aware, there is no prohibition on members of the aboriginal race receiving any of the benefits under this measure; but payment is confined to those who would be able adequately to look after themselves. The test for that is whether the State aboriginal authority concerned considers them to be sufficiently developed, mentally, physically and socially, to go out into the world under what is called a certificate of exemption. The terms and conditions attaching to a certificate of exemption in all States except Western Australia are fairly liberal ; but in Western Australia a certificate of exemption requires that the native shall cut himself off altogether from his aboriginal associates. He is supposed to take up life according to our style and ideals. There is a tendency for aborigines to decline certificates of exemption because acceptance would mean that they would be cut off from their fellows and prevented even from visiting their relatives and friends. I hope that the States responsible for that provision will review it. This clause applies in a case in which a certificate of exemption is given where a State law applies, or, if a State law does not apply, the Director-General himself is of the opinion that the social development of the native warrants the payment of the benefit.
– That is on the report of a State authority such as the police?
– Where a State authority is available, yes. The DirectorGeneral will use any sources that are available to him for information.
– It is not proposed to enlist the services of the department’s own inspectors for that purpose?
SenatorMcKENNA. - If the honorable senator will refer to clause 14 he will find that it is typical of a provision that runs right through the bill. If there is a law of a State dealing with this matter. then an aborigine’s eligibility will depend on his holding a certificate of exemption ; but if he resides in a State like Victoria, where there is no law providing for certificates of exemption, or in a territory of the Commonwealth, it is for the Director-General to be satisfied that by reason of the character and standard of intelligence and social development of the native it is desirable that a pension should be granted to him. This clause simply enables the Director-General, where he thinks it is proper, and a certificate of exemption has been given, or he has decided that an aboriginal native is a suitable person to receive a benefit, to decide that it would be better if the benefit were paid to somebody on behalf of the aborigine. The Director-General merely has the right to interpose some form of responsible trustee between himself as the donor of the benefit and the aboriginal native as the recipient. I am sure the honorable senator will agree that that is a wise provision. It is not new. It appears in section 44 (a) of the existing law. It is designed merely to protect the interests of aborigines.
– There is another aspect of this clause that I omitted to mention to the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna). The Minister seems to be a little too much concerned with the mental condition of the natives, or their adaptability to a system under which they may receive pension payments. I should like him to place more emphasis on the domestic habits and conditions of the aborigines. I am concerned mainly with the future of aboriginal children. We cannot do very much with the older tribesmen, or even the middle-aged tribesmen; our only hope of doing something for the race is to improve the environment of the children. Before a pension is paid to parents, regard should be had to the degree of domesticity prevailing, especially in regard to housing, sanitation, and other forms of hygiene which would give the children a chance to make something of their lives. If provision were made for a regular inspection of housing conditions, &c, either by a Commonwealth or State authority, we could hope for speedier advancement of the aboriginal race.
– I agree with what Senator Allan MacDonald has said, and I draw attention to the words “ social development “ of the natives. These words have been used throughout the bill - in fact, the word “ social “ was inserted at my own behest - and they really encompass the thought that the honorable senator has in mind. I agree with the honorable senator’s views. I may not have expressed myself accurately when 1 referred to mental development, although I think I said “ mental, physical and social development”, and the idea of domesticity, of course, is inherent in social development.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 48 to 57 agreed to.
Clause 58 (Payment not to be made to certain persons).
– Under this clause a payment cannot be made to a person administering a funeral benefit fund. I should like to know what will happen to a person who is administering such a fund, and whose estate is liable for his funeral expenses. I cannot imagine that anyperson would not be a member of his own funeral fund; but, apparently, there is some doubt in regard to this matter, and I should like the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to furnish this information.
– As the honorable senator apparently does not see the reason for his question, I am afraid that I cannot come to his aid.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 59 (Definitions).
– This clause provides that the term “ widow “ shall include a woman whose husband is imprisoned following upon his conviction for an offence, and has been so imprisoned for not less than six months. I realize that this is not a popular subject with the Opposition; but I should like to have an assurance from the Minister (Senator McKenna) that such a case can be met under clause124, and that provision can be made for children.
– It can.
.- Honorable senators will recall that I had something to say about this new definition of a. “ widow “ in my second-reading speech. The Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) has proclaimed that the great virtue of this measure is that it will bring about a redistribution of the national income. I can visualize a man, accused of theft, indignantly denying that he had been stealing, and asserting that he had merely been making a redistribution of the national income. The tendency of the Government is to encourage criminality. I have a legal question for the Minister and, as he is the only legal expert in the Senate, I want him to be careful in making his answer. The title of the bill states that it is “ To amend and consolidate the law relating to the payment of age pensions, invalid pensions, widows’ pensions, maternity allowances, child endowment, unemployment benefits and sickness benefits, and for other purposes “. I imagine that the words “ for other purposes “ would not be interpreted to mean :’ any other purposes “. I imagine that the High Court would rule that they mean “ other purposes not distinctly antagonistic to the remaining provisions of the bill “. I ask the Minister to ensure that he is on sound legal ground in relation to this clause. If he has any doubts on this point, I advise him to alter the title of the bill to read, “ To amend and consolidate the law relating to the payment of age pensions, invalid, pensions, widows’ pensions, maternity allowances, child endowment, unemployment benefits and sickness benefits, benefits for the criminal classes, and for other purposes “. This would cover the provision for the payment of benefit to a woman whose husband is in gaol. I ask the Minister to take care to safeguard the legality of this pet clause, which is so loudly applauded by his supporters. My suggestion is not in any way facetious. This is a new provision, and I ask the Minister to consider it very carefully before he starts a process which may give rise to results other than those which he envisages. If he has faith in this clause, for which he has a special fondness - why I do not know - he should make sure that there is no chance of it being declared invalid.
– Earlier to-day Senator Leckie said that the unfortunate wives of men serving prison sentences condoned the crimes committed by their husband?. That was a grave and dastardly charge to make against innocent women. I refer the honorable gentleman to a case in point. A man was alleged by the prices authorities to have asked for more than the pegged price for a motor car. His wife had nothing to do with the proposed transaction. The man was sentenced to imprisonment for three months because of the allegation of the prices officials.
– The husband must, be in gaol for six months before a wife becomes eligible for a pension.
– The Minister ha* stated that provision is made in clause 124 for the payment of special benefits, and that that provision might be used to secure an allowance for a woman whose husband is imprisoned for only three months. My principal object in speaking at this stage is to refute the unwarranted charge made by the honorable senator against the wives of criminals. He said that they were as bad as their husbands.
– Senator Leckie advised me to be very careful about my reply to his remarks. I shall be very careful. At first I thought that the honorable senator intended to raise tho point that it would be very difficult to regard the wife of a man serving a prison sentence as a widow. Had that been the point of his argument I might have had some misgivings. From a purely constitutional viewpoint, I consider that this provision falls under the heading’ of “ family allowances “, which was placed in the Constitution as the result of the recent referendum. As to my alleged fondness for this clause, I do not know how the honorable senator determined that I was fond of making provision for women whose husbands are in prison. I confess that I have been doing the honorable senator a grave injustice ever since I have been a member of the Senate. I had thought from time to time, despite his humour, that he was rather hardhearted. I have learned to-night that.
I have done him & wrong. He urges me to make provision for the payment of benefits to members of the criminal classes, a thought which had never occurred to me or to the Government. In selecting criminals for particular attention, the honorable senator failed to intimate what type of benefit he would provide for them. Would he set the benefit at the level of the “ A ‘’ class widows’ pension or the invalid pension? T am delighted to learn that he has a soft heart for those who leave the straight and narrow path and stray into serfdom in the gaols. I assume that the honorable senator was being somewhat facetious in suggesting that there should be benefits for the criminal classes. If I am wrong in that, as I have been wrong regarding his soft heart, will he please correct me and indicate the exact type of benefit that he would provide for criminals? I ask him to define criminals, sort them out into various categories, and intimate whether he would give the one class of benefit to all of them. How would he identify the criminal classes? Would he impose the duty of identification upon the Director-General of Social Services, or would he leave that to the judge of some august tribunal? If the honorable senator will elaborate his humane thesis on behalf of erring humanity I shall be pleased to give it full consideration.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) has succeeded in twisting both my meaning and my words. I did not advocate anything of the sort that he has suggested. I merely said that this clause was an encouragement to the criminal classes, and that all that a thief would have to claim in future would be that he was making a redistribution of the national income. I said that if the Minister was as fond of this clause as I thought,, he should ensure that it was placed on a sound legal basis. I only gave good fatherly advice to a lawyer to make sure that his law was right and that what is proposed in this clause can, in fact, be done. I am very mild and meek, and I approached the honorable gentleman with all the respect that a lay man has for a legal opponent. I suggested that there might be a loophole in this prt clause and that, therefore, he should add some words to the title in order to safeguard the provision.
– I cannot resist the temptation to say a few more words in reply to Senator Leckie. Obviously, from what he has just said, he does not desire the words “ benefits for criminal classes” to be inserted in the title of the bill. In these circumstances, in case he should be under a misapprehension that the bill provides for the criminal classes in any way, I shall repeat what I said earlier. The benefit provided for in this clause will be available for the wife of a man who has been in prison for at least six months. She must be a woman of good character. Also, she must either have children under the age of sixteen years who are dependent upon her, or be over the age of 50 years. Any degree of criminality on her part will unquestionably debar her from benefit. Therefore, the honorable senator need not fear that this clause will open the door to social benefits for people who are not worthy of them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 60 to 63 agreed to.
Clause 64 (Computation of income).
– It would appear that the further we progress into the bill the more hard-hearted the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) becomes. The allowance to he made, in the computation of income under this clause, for a child under the age of sixteen years has descended to the very small amount of £13 per annum. We thought the Minister was rather hard-hearted when he supported the inclusion of a previous clause reducing the amount of permissible income from £52 to £26 per annum, hut under this clause it is further reduced, to £13. Clause 29 provides for the reduction of the permissible income from £52 to £26; Surely, this must be a misprint, because the mere fact of a child’s mother being a widow does not mean that that child does not cost as much to maintain as any other child.
– I invite the honorable senator to consider paragraphs b and c together, and I point out that they both represent a substantial concession to an A class widow. Paragraph b applies only when there is a dependent child under the age of sixteen years. The allowance of £13 per annum means a weekly amount of 5s. The reason for this concession is that if the widow is receiving an allowance in respect of a dependent child her rate of pension is already 5s. more than a B class widow’s pension. The additional 5s. a week provided for in paragraph b is additional income, bringing the total allowance in respect of a child to 10s. a week. With regard to a second child this clause states -
In the computation of income for the purposes of this Part -
It will be seen, therefore, that an A class widow’s pension is at present 5s. more than that of any other class. This clause provides for, a further permissible income of 10s. a week in respect of the second child, less child endowment. These two paragraphs constitute a further amelioration of the means test applicable to an A class widow.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 65 to 76 agreed to.
Clause 77 (Suspension of pension while recipient in hospital for the insane).
. -What is the position of the wife of a man who is a patient in a hospital for the insane? The woman is not a widow, and if she has no children she cannot receive any benefits under this bill, because she may not be so ill as to come within the provisions of the invalid pension scheme. Is there any provision under which she can receive assistance?
– Clause 59 states -
In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears - “ widow “ includes -
a woman whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane.
If she has a dependent child she is regarded as an A class widow; if she is fifty years of age, although she has not the custody, care and control of a child, she is entitled to a B class pension. If she does not come within either of those categories and. is willing to work she is entitled to unemployment benefits. In other cases resort can be had to clause 124, which provides -
The Director-General may, in his discretion, grant a special benefit under this Division to a person -
with respect to whom the DirectorGeneral is satisfied that, by reason of age, physical or mental disability or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, that person is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependant (if any).
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 78 to 82 agreed to.
Clause 83 (Application of insurance moneys).
– This confers on a pensioner the right to claim exemption of permissible income in respect of moneys expended where his home has been destroyed by fire or some other cause. Is the pensioner to be penalized by having obtained payment of his insurance policy in cases where the amount obtained is not sufficient to rebuild or repair his home and he is obliged to rent other premises? Would his pension be reduced or withheld altogether because he has more than the prescribed amount of cash?
– The whole purpose of clause 83 is to enable the DirectorGeneral to disregard completely insurance moneys received in the case of either total or partial destruction of a pensioner’s home.
– But that exemption obtains only for a limited time.
– “ Limited time “ in this case means “ reasonable time “.
– What provision is -made if a pensioner is unable to rebuild because of lack of sufficient money, or for any other cause ?
– That would be a circumstance which the DirectorGeneral would not hold against him. But if a pensioner decided that he would not rebuild or repair his domicile, undoubtedly the Director-General would regard the money as capital in determining his application for assistance. If the honorable senator will refer to the earlier provisions of this bill he will find that this clause has greatly liberalized the provision for pensioners whose homes have been destroyed. This clause covers destruction, not only by fire, but also by any other happening. It also applies to the property of the spouse of a pensioner where he resides with his spouse.
– ‘But the pensioner may not be able to obtain materials or labour to rebuild his home.
– The clause reads -
The honorable senator can be assured that this provision will be administered with discretion.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 84 to 107 agreed to.
Clause 108 (Sickness benefit).
– I should like an explanation of this clause. Sub-clause 1 (c) refers to a person who “ satisfies the Director-General that he is temporarily incapacitated for work by reason of sickness or accident and has thereby suffered a loss of salary, wages or other income “. Sub-clause 2 provides that he may be compensated for any loss of income equal to the amount, paid by him to some other person who acts as his substitute during any period of incapacity. It has been the practice of the department not to grant benefits under this heading unless the man who is incapacitated has actually employed some one to take his place. Let us consider the case of a contractor or primary producer whose income is not greater than that of a salaried man who is entitled to receive benefits under this provision. Although he pays into the fund, he derives no benefit from it in the event of sickness or accident unless he can prove that he has paid some one to take his place. It is not always possible for a contractor or a primary producer to obtain a suitable substitute, in which event he is denied the benefits for which he has paid. I ask the Minister to rectify this anomaly.
– Sub-clause 2 deals with a person who pays another person to act as his substitute during a period of incapacity. Where such a payment is justified it is regarded as a loss of income. That is not the only circumstance in which loss of income may occur. .1 draw attention to the words “ or other income” in sub-clause 1 (c). That provision is wide enough to cover the case of a man who can demonstrate that he has suffered a loss, even though he may not have engaged some one to take his place. It covers . the case of a contractor or farmer to which Senator Aylett has referred. At certain periods of the year, a farmer earns no income. Should he then become incapacitated he does not need to engage a substitute and therefore there would be no loss. In such an event he is no more entitled to compensation than is a person who has paid a fire insurance premium and has not suffered loss through fire.
– This is a sickness benefit, not an unemployment benefit.
– That is so.
– I refer only to losses incurred through sickness or accident.
– Those are the cases covered by the clause. I have no knowledge of how this provision is administered by the department. If the honorable senator knows of instances in which the administration appears harsh, 1 shall he glad if he will let me have particulars.
– It has been the practice of the department not to grant sickness benefits unless the claimant is in receipt of a weekly wage or salary. A contractor or primary producer cannot obtain sickness benefits unless he produces evidence that he has employed some one to take his place during his period of incapacity. The Minister (Senator McKenna) said that there are periods when a farmer does not earn anything, but I submit that a man who works on his farm for 200 days in a year is likely to gain better returns th an if he works only 100 days a year. The case of a lorry-driver working for himself is similar to that of a farmer. He, too, pays into the fund, and should be entitled to sickness benefits, even if he cannot obtain some one to take his place.
– I have already said that there is provision to meet such cases.
– It is anomalous that a person who contributes to the scheme should be denied the right to participate in the benefits for which he has contributed unless he can prove that he has incurred losses. I have had some experience of cases of this kind, and I regret that the definition is not more explicit. At times, there is difficulty in convincing a national service officer that a loss has been incurred. Should a farmer become ill and :be unable to employ a substitute, it is probable that his property will deteriorate through lack of his supervision. The illness may occur at a time when his expert services are called for, but the resultant loss may not become evident until some time later in the year. For in stance, through lack of attention, a horse or cow may become sick and die. Men living in remote areas, if left to their own resources, with no one to present their claims to the department, have little chance of receiving the benefits provided by this legislation, notwithstanding that they are contributors to the fund. The Minister (Senator McKenna) has said that the cases referred to by Senator Aylett are covered by this clause, but these matters arise in administration. A great deal is left to the national service officer. He may decide that a case does not call for compensation, and it would appear that, in most instances, that is the end of the matter. I should like the position made more definite.
– I cannot add to what I have already said in reply to Senator Aylett. According to paragraph c of sub-clause 1, it is necessary to prove that there has been a loss of income. Should a claimant not be satisfied with the decision of a national service officer, he can appeal to the Director-General or to the Minister. It is a question of fact, which must he investigated. I know what the clause means, and how it should operate, but I do not know how it has been administered.
– The department claims that what a man never had he cannot lose.
– If honorable senators will bring to my notice cases which they consider have not been dealt with in accordance with the views that 1 have expressed, I shall be glad to know of them, so that I may determine whether the departmental instructions require clarification. I shall attend to the cases that they bring to my notice. Sub-clause 2 deals with the special case of a man who pays some one else to do his work. That is treated as a loss of income. It may well he that, instead of being a loss of income, the person he pays may earn a lot more for him than he was able to earn himself. However, I admit that it can cut either way. It may be that a revision of departmental instruction in this matter is desirable. I shall have a further look at it. But the principle in the bill itself is exceedingly clear, -namely, that the claimant shall demonstrate that he has suffered a loss of income. That provision is simple and clear; it is only a question of interpretation. I shall have a further look at the matter. “Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) [10.16]. - Should a man meet with an accident, or become ill, while ploughing a paddock for a crop, how will he be able to convince the national service officer that he has suffered the loss of a definite amount over the period, which may extend up to two months? As the result of accident, or illness, during that period he may lose the whole of his crop. In any event, he will suffer some loss. It will be very difficult for him to convince a national service officer of his loss seeing that he had no cash coming in. At present the national service officer will not recognize any loss unless the claimant has engaged a man in his place while he was off sick, or recovering from injury due to accident, and actually paid wages to his substitute. .Another point is that at present it is impossible in nine cases out of ten for a farmer to obtain labour under such conditions. A man contracting for himself with a lorry may find himself in a similar position. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to endeavour to make this provision clearer, or, alternatively, to issue instructions that a claimant must not be compelled to engage a man under the conditions I have mentioned in order to he able to verify loss of income. As these claimants will be contributing towards this benefit, they are entitled to receive it under the conditions I have indicated.
– I have agreed to look further into the matter and to ascertain how this provision is administered. However, I do not think that there can be many cases of the kind mentioned by. the honorable senator, because generally such cases filter through to me.
– Quite a number have been brought to my notice. .
– They have not come through to me. Generally, it is a fair indication to me that something is wrong when I find a volume of correspondence on a particular point. On the other hand, the absence of correspondence rather inclines me to the view that in most cases of the kind mentioned the person concerned usually finds someone to substitute for him. However, there may be cases where a man suffers loss without being able to show his loss in terms of hard cash. That presents a difficulty. I shall again look into the matter to see whether any special instruction need be issued to national service officers for the handling of such cases.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 109 to 113 agreed to.
Clause 114 (Moans test).
– I should like the Minister to clarify some of the provisions of this clause, which ties up unemployment benefit with sickness benefit. The permissible amount of income in respect of unemployment benefit in the case of a male is fixed at £1 a week; and in respect of sickness benefit provision is made for £1 a week in the aggregate from a friendly society, or other benefit society. With respect to unemployment benefit, it is provided that the income of the spouse, with the exception of £1 a week, which may be ex-service benefit, shall be regarded as income in assessing the total amount of unemployment benefit which the husband is entitled to receive. I wish to know whether in respect of sickness benefit an adult male is entitled to have disregarded as income the amount of £1 a week plus the sum of £1 a. week which he may receive from a friendly society, or other similar benefit society, making his total permissible income £2 a week.
– Further, will a person not having an income of £1 a week be able to draw £2 a week from a benefit society, and will this be disregarded as income and thus permit him to receive the full sickness benefit?
– Yes, if there is no other income.
– In respect of the income of the spouse, her income, except in respect of £1 a week war service pension, is regarded as income for the purpose of determining the amount of unemployment benefit payable to the husband. Does the same provision apply in respect of sickness benefit?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s last question is in the negative. The wife’s income is taken into account, if the parties are living together, for the purpose of determining unemployment benefit only. That is dealt with in subclause 3. There is no similar provision in relation to sickness benefit. The wife’s income is not taken into account at all so far as sickness benefit is concerned except for the purpose of calculating whether a. man is entitled to an additional benefit of £1 in respect of his wife. It would be looked at in that case.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 115 and 116 agreed to.
Clause 117 (Medical certificate to be furnished).
– I wish to know whether, in respect of sickness benefit, a claimant must continue to provide medical certificates, and if so, whether any provision is made to reimburse him for the cost of such cerficates? When this benefit was first introduced, the national service officers were very strict in their insistence upon the production of medical certificates. Until the free medical scheme is introduced, can any provision be made to save the claimants for sickness benefit the expense of obtaining medical certificates?
– A claimant for sickness benefit should not be asked to provide certificate after certificate.
– For how long does the one certificate last?
– Normally the medical certificate will indicate the whole of the period of expected incapacity, and one certificate will suffice because the doctor will indicate the period for which the man’s illness is likely to last. The claimant is not required to obtain a special certificate every week. Only in circumstances in which it appeared to the department that a man was malingering, as some men do, would he be required to obtain additional certificates.
– At one time a claimant for sickness benefit was required to produce a. fresh certificate fortnightly.
– That, of course, would have the effect of depriving: the pensioner of much of the benefit. To what degree medical officers attached to the department examine claimants without cost to claimants I am unable to say at the moment. However, as the honorable senator has said, the speedy development of a national medical service will obviate the need for payment in respect of medical certificates.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 118 and 119 agreed to.
Clause 120 (Postponement or cancellation of unemployment benefit in certain cases).
– When employment is not available near the locality in which a man resides, he should be prepared to proceed to any place where employment can be found for him within reasonable distance of his home. However, it will be impossible in all cases to find employment in districts not far removed from the locality in which a man lives. Probably, some national service officers may be inclined to take a lenient view of individual circumstances, and may not compel a married man to accept employment at a place too far removed from the locality in which he and his family live. Is that to be the official attitude in this matter, or will a man be compelled to accept employment wherever it may be found for him, whether it is near, or a long distance from, the locality in which he lives ?
I should also like some information in regard to the provision relating to intermittent workers. What is an intermittent worker? Is a shearer who may earn £10 a week during the shearing season, and then be unemployed for some months, classified as an intermittent worker? Will he be entitled to the unemployment benefit if he cannot be found a job at his own trade ? Surely to deprive him of this benefit would be to take a mean advantage of him. In determining whether or not the unemployment benefit should be paid to a so-called intermittent worker, will his bank account, be investigated, or must he disclose his previous weekly or monthly earnings?
.- Dealing with the first point raised by the honorable senator, I know he agrees that it is essential that an applicant for the unemployment benefit should be subjected to a work test. The work that he is to be offered must be work which, in the opinion of the Director-General, is suitable to his qualifications. Honorable ‘ senators have already noted that the benefit may be postponed if a person has refused or failed, without good and sufficient reason, to accept an offer of employment which the Director-General considers to be suitable. I can imagine many circumstances which would amount to good and sufficient reason why a man should not want to go a long way from his home, and Senator Aylett, I am sure, will have no difficulty in thinking of many situations in which it would be most, desirable for domestic reasons that a husband should remain with his family. I see no difficulty in connexion with that clause because obviously it is necessary that a man seeking the unemployment benefit should be prepared to take himself off that benefit when suitable work is available. The clause merely empowers the Director-General to postpone a benefit where a man is not willing to submit to a reasonable work test.
Senator Aylett has also sought information in regard to intermittent workers. An intermittent or seasonal worker, in the view of the department, is one whose work is not regular and who because of that fact is paid much more than the ordinary rates applicable to the industry. The distinction drawn in the waterside workers award between the regular and casual employees is a case in point. It is notorious that men employed intermittently or seasonally are paid higher hourly rates, lt is thought that as they are paid on a basis that is expected to give them sufficient funds to carry them over a slack period, when they apply for the unemployment benefit their position should be examined to ascertain whether or not in the period immediately preceding their application they received sufficient money to tide them over a normal period of unemployment. I imagine that sugar workers in Queensland who receive much higher wages than ordinary workers because their employment is seasonal, would be regarded as intermittent workers for the purposes of this legislation.
– What about shearers ?
– Shearers too would probably fall within that class, although I have not had any experience of them. To give an idea of how the department works, I point out that £4 a week is allowed for a single man, £5 for a married man with a wife but no children, £5 5s. for a married man with a wife and one child, £5 10s. for a married man with a wife and two children. £5 15s. for a married man with a wife and three children, and £6 for a married man with a wife and four children. When an application for the unemployment benefit is made, the department examine? the earnings of the person concerned, and if after allowing for a weekly wage at these rates, it finds that he should have a surplus, it may postpone the payment of the benefit for a period of weeks equivalent to that surplus at these rates. I believe that the provision to be reasonable. I discussed this matter with representatives of all unions in Melbourne in January last, and they did make a request that the earnings be averaged over a period of six months. However I was able to demonstrate that it would be better from the viewpoint of the men themselves if a base period of six weeks were chosen. They then abandoned their claim for the six months period.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 121 to 136 agreed to.
Clause 137 (Reciprocal agreements).
– This clause confers very wide powers. Perhaps the Minister (Senator McKenna) will explain in what circumstances the power conferred by this clause would be applied.
– Regulations made under this bill have to be tabled in the Parliament, and are subject to review and disallowance by either House. In the case of reciprocal arrangements between two countries the practice is the more restrictive provision applying in either country shall, for the purpose of the reciprocal - arrangement apply in both. For instance, in regard to pensions, there may he a three-years residential qualification in New Zealand, whereas in Australia the period may be five years. In that case the more restrictive provision, namely, five years, would operate. That illustrates how the act may be modified or adapted. It might be that the more restrictive provision would be in Now Zealand, which might prescribe a period of seven years. In that case a seven year period would apply between 1be (two countries.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 138 to 140 agreed to.
Clause 141 (Information as to pensioners, &c).
– This clause provides that any person is liable on demand by the Attorney-General, and by other certified officers, to supply a confidential report about a person who is applying for a pension, or who is enjoying a pension. T believe that the clause is much too wide in its application to be allowed to pass without some comment. I know- that it is sometimes difficult in a sparsely populated district to obtain confidential reports about applicants wanting to draw pensions. However, I should think that compulsory requirements of this clause might apply only to Commonwealth or State public servants. It is an unfortunate fact that the information in confidential reports sometimes leaks out. It is also true that requests for information are often made to the local doctor, the priest or the parson, who may be loathe to supply the information. Such persons may consider, with some degree of right, that it is the duty of Government officials to supply information of the kind. Sometimes, very sticky cases crop up, and ordinary civilians are not anxious to give information about them. It may be that an ex-Senator would be asked to give a confidential report on one of his neighbours. I do not think it is right that the provision in the act should be so broad as to compel me to supply a confidential report about a person concerning whom I felt doubtful.
.- This provision has been in the act since 1908, and has been taken into the consolidated measure without alteration. No difficulties have arisen under it. I believe that it is essential that departmental officers should le free to approach solicitors and executors. When I was practising as a solicitor in Hobart, I was . frequently approached by the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in that city. I do not think that the honorable senator need have any misgivings about this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 142 to 148 agreed to.
Clause 149 (Regulations).
– This clause provides that the Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with the act, prescribing all matters which are required or permitted to he prescribed, and so forth. I intended to speak at an earlier stage on a motion of which I gave notice in this chamber yesterday, namely -
That the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances presented to the Senate on the 30th April, 1947, be adopted.
As this clause deals with regulations, may I deal with the subject of the motion now?
– No. The honorable senator would not be in order in doing so.
– I have previously drawn attention to the practice of governing by regulation. I am aware that this is a convenient way of dealing with matters of administration. However, I stress the danger of the practice. This clause empowers the Governor-General to make regulations which will enable the DirectorGeneral of Social Services to do certain things under the terms of the bill. The validity of such regulations depends upon whether they are tabled in the Parliament within a certain prescribed period. On some occasions, regulations have not been tabled within the stipulated time, and this has led the Government to do certain things which were strictly not in accordance with law. I realize that the council provides that regulations must not be inconsistent with the terms of the bill; but, in the event of regulations not being tabled within the proper time, action taken in accordance with them would be illegal. This could lead to lengthy and costly litigation. I impress upon the Minister the danger inherent in governing by regulation instead of making the original legislation more specific. This is an important matter. The Governor-General may issue regulations giving great powers to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services, and any doubt regarding their validity could have serious consequences.
– I concede the importance of the point raised by the honorable senator. It is important that regulations, when they are made pursuant to an enabling power such as this bill, should be promptly tabled in the Parliament. Section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act requires that they be tabled within a specified time, and, if that requirement is not observed, the regulations must lapse. I understand that the tabling of regulations has. been overlooked on one or two occasions, although, as far as I am aware, this has not happened in connexion with the Department of Social Services. Nevertheless, there is a danger that officers may proceed to act under the regulations in the mistaken belief that they have been duly tabled, thus making their actions illegal. I am informed that the Attorney-General’s Department takes every precaution to ensure that regulations are tabled in time. I am not aware of the matter which Senator Nash wished to discuss on this clause; but I assume that he is concerned about the point which has been raised by Senator Herbert Hays.
– That is so.
– Wide powers will be given by this bill with regard to the use of regulations..
– Not very much of this legislation has been left to regulations. Obviously all of the principles involved are dealt with in a measure containing 149 clauses. I admit that many machinery provisions must be implemented by means of regulations, and no doubt the regulations now in existence will need to be overhauled in view of the many alterations of the law that will be effected by the bill. I thank Senator Herbert Hays for drawingmy attention to the need for care.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) regarding a letter which I received from him to-day in connexion with an application for a licence to import sausage casings from the United States of America. The Minister indicated in the letter that the department based its distribution of import licences on the year 1938-39, and that all future importations should be allocated on a pro rata basis to traders who were importers during that base year. Has the Minister overlooked the claims of other importers who obtained their supplies from other countries before the war but who are now unable to do so because supplies from those countries are no longer available? The letter refers to one man who served in the forces during the war who will now be refused a licence to import these goods from the United States of America on the ground that he was not an importer from that country during the base years 1938-39. This decision will exclude certain importers who, I believe, are entitled to the fullest consideration. Even if they did not import their goods . from the United States of America during the base year, they imported them from other countries and as they are now unable to do so their businesses are in danger of being suspended.
– The matter raised by Senator Allan MacDonald is one to which I have given earnest consideration. Representations have been made to me by a number of firms and people asking that consideration be given to the review of the regulations governing the importation of hog casings. The Tariff Board is conducting a full inquiry into the matter and also into the question of what quotas may be allotted to people desirous of engaging in this business. When the board’s report is received the results of its investigations will be conveyed to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (79).
Senate adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470522_senate_18_192/>.