18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the f ollowing bills reported : -
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1947.
Income Tax Bill 1947.
Social Services Contribution Bill 1947.
Gift Duty Assessment Bill 1947.
Gift Duty Bill 1947.
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1947.
Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Bill 1947.
Effect of Increase on Commodity Prices.
– Onthe 7th May, Senator Aylett asked me to supply a list of basic wage regimen commodities, increased prices for which had been permitted directly as the result of the increase of the basic wage last December.
I now inform him that the increase of the basic wage has not yet reached the retail prices of all commodities likely to be affected, but it has been an important element in increased costs of the following commodities, which are included in the “ C “ series index : -
Plum jam, canned peaches, canned pears, all clothing items in sections E to J of the regimen, blankets D.B., blankets S.B., towels, pudding basina(enamel), kettle, (enamel), kettle (aluminium), saucepan (aluminium), bucket (galvanized), dipper (galvanized), electric iron.
– In view of the fact that Postal Department revenue for the eleven months ended the 31st May was £1,185,145 higher than for the corresponding period of 1945-46, will the PostmasterGeneral abolish the1/2d. war levy charged on all letters within the Commonwealth, and institute a flat rate of 2d. for ordinary letters?
– The question raises a matter of government policy. It will be answered in due course.
– Mr. N. H. Oldfield, of North-terrace, Adelaide, had a pair of Huson binoculars which were acquired on behalf of the Government during the war. He has now been offered a substitute pair or an amount of £2 5s. compensation, neither of which he wants. He wants his own binoculars because of their special suitability for night vision. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping why the department cannot return to Mr. Oldfield the binoculars that were acquired from him ?
– There was a scarcity of binoculars during the war and the Government, through the Department of Supply and Shipping, impressed large numbers of them. Owners were paid for those which were impressed, but other owners surrendered their binoculars voluntarily when they learned that the armed forces werebadly in need of them, and they received no compensation. The Department of Supply and Shipping has endeavoured to provide a pair of binoculars for every person who voluntarily loaned a pair to the services during the war. However, it has been impossible to return the original sets to their owners, because many thousands of pairs were lost during the war. After examining the position, the department decided that it could only provide binoculars similar to those surrendered. This work has been carried on under the advice of an expert committee. I shall inquire into the particular case mentioned by Senator O’Flaherty, but I believe that it will not be possible to return to Mr. Oldfield the pair which he surrendered.
Ban on Dutch Ships - Formation of Trading Company.
-WilltheMinister forSupplyandShippinginformthe secretaryoftheWatersideWorkers Federation,visitedCanberrato-day?If so, did Mr. Healy confer with the Minister or with any other member of the Cabinet? Has the Minister had any discussion with Mr. Healy regarding the federation’s stand on Dutch ships? Will the Minister inform the Senate what action, if any, the Government intends to take to secure the removal of this ban, which is having a detrimental effect upon Australian trade and our friendly relations with the Dutch?
– I inform the Leader of the Opposition that my time has been fully occupied in dealing with other matters than finding out whether Mr. Healy is in Canberra or not. I am not in a position to advise him whether Mr. Healy is here or not. I have not had any discussions with him to-day. I am not able to say whether he has had any discussions with other members of the Government ; but,as far as I know, he has not done so. I am sure that every honorable senator knows the reason for the ban on Dutch ships, because I have frequently explained it in this chamber. Members of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Seamen’s Union belong to international organizations, and the ban was imposed in the first place in consequence of action taken by Indonesian seamen. The Dutch endeavoured to overcome this ban by the employment of Indian seamen on their vessels, but when the Indian seamen were informed of the dispute which existed they refused to man the vessels. The ban on Dutch ships still exists to-day. In addition, there was considerable dispute between the Dutch and Indonesian authorities as to the distribution between them of goods received from abroad, and until such time as they can agree on the distribution of cargoes exported to them the Government does not feel justified in intervening.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– I invite the honorable senator’s attention to the reply given .by the Attorney-General to questions asked by the honorable member for “Wentworth in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the 21st May, and on Thursday, the 22nd May, on this subject. The honorable senator may be assured that Australia’s trading interests and its national reputation will be adequately protected by the Commonwealth Government.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate as to the total tonnage of galvanized and sheet iron, piping and steel used for industrial purposes, despatched from Newcastle and Port Kembla to Victoria during May? What tonnage is awaiting despatch from Newcastle and Port Kembla to Victoria? Has any iron or steel been exported to other countries, and, if so, how much? In view of the serious shortage of copper in Victoria, can anything be done to expedite deliveries to that State?
– I am not aware of the quantities of iron or steel that have been sent to Victoria in recent weeks, but I can assure the honorable senator that there is no back-lag of cargo in Newcastle at present. This is the first occasion for some months that arrears have been overtaken, and it is a most satisfactory state of affairs. If the honorable senator will place the other questions on the notice-paper I shall obtain the information he desires.
Retirement of Senators - Leader of the Opposition.
- by leave - In view of my retirement on the 30th June, I tender my resignation as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate as from the close of business on the 31st May. I desire to report that at a meeting of Opposition senators Senator Cooper was elected Leader of the Opposition to serve from the 1st June.
I wish to pay a tribute of thanks to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) for the many courtesies he has extended to me and to members of the Opposition. Under the leadership of Senator Ashley, the Senate has functioned more smoothly than during any other period in which I have been a senator. I thank you, Mr. President, for the manner in which you have discharged the important duties of your high office. I desire to express my appreciation of the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Edwards, the Clerk Assistant, Mr. Loof, and all members of the Senate staff, for the able and courteous service they have given to me in the twelve years during which I have been a member of this chamber. I assure my colleague, Senator Cooper, and members of the Opposition, that I shall listen to the broadcast of their speeches, and I wish Senator Cooper every success in his new appointment.
. - by leave - I congratulate Senator Cooper on his elevation to the office of Leader of the Opposition. Honorable senators supporting the Government realize that he has been set a high standard by the retired Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), but I am sure that the unfailing courtesy which he has exhibited over the years will enable him to lead the Opposition with ability and capacity. I congratulate him and wish him a successful term of office.
I also express my appreciation of the assistance which Senator McLeay has rendered to me during my term as Leader of the Senate. In course of debate friction has sometimes developed between us, but once we leave the chamber that is forgotten. I am sure that the relationship existing between members of the Opposition and Senators supporting the Government is all that could be desired.
I should like also to make brief reference to the services rendered by the retiring members of the Opposition. It is noteworthy that every one of them has occupied office, either in this Parliament or in a State parliament, and rendered signal service. Mentioning them in order of length of parliamentary service, I point out that Senator Herbert Hays has served the people of Australia for 35 years - eleven, years in the Tasmanian Parliament and 24 years in the Commonwealth Parliament. He held office as a Minister of the Crown in the Tasmanian Parliament, and he occupied the position of Chairman of Committees in the Senate. Senator J. B. Hayes was formerly Premier of Tasmania and occupied the portfolios of Lands, “Works and Agriculture, and in the Commonwealth Parliament occupied the position which you, Mr. President, so worthily occupy to-day. Senator Foll has served for 30 years in the Commonwealth Parliament, and has held the portfolios of Repatriation War Service Homes, Health, Interior and Information. In addition, he was a member of the War Cabinet. Senator Crawford, too, served in the Commonwealth Parliament for 30 years, and from 1923 to 1928 was an honorary Minister. Senator Gibson’s service in the Commonwealth sphere totals 26 years, and for portions of that time, he was Postmaster-General and Minister for Works and Railways. Senator James McLachlan served in the State legislature for twelve years, and has been a member of the Senate for a similar period. For some years, he was Chairman of Committees in this ‘ chamber. Senator Sampson has been a member of this chamber for eighteen years, and he too held the office of Chairman of Committees. Senator Leckie, whose total service in the Victorian Parliament and in the Commonwealth Parliament is seventeen and a quarter years, of which fourteen years have been spent in the Senate, was Minister for Aircraft Production in the early days of the war. Senator Collett has been a member of this chamber for fourteen and a half years and has held’ the offices of Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for War Service Homes, Minister for Repatriation and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Senator Allan- MacDonald has been a member of the Senate for twelve and a quarter years and has held the office of Minister for Commerce. Senator McLeay’s service in this chamber totals twelve years, and in that time he has been Vice-President of the Executive
Council, Minister for Commerce, Minister for Trade and Customs, Minister for Repatriation, Minister for Supply and Development, Postmaster-General, Leader of the Senate, Leader of the Opposition and a member of the War Cabinet. Senator Brand has been a member of the Senate for twelve years and has served as Chairman of the Public Works Committee. That list speaks for itself. The retiring senators have served their country well and on behalf of the Government I hope that in the years for which they will be spared, they will enjoy rest and peace. Again I express my deep appreciation of the assistance that has been rendered to me by Senator McLeay. When he leaves this .chamber, I shall be losing a good friend. In conclusion, I can only wish him and his colleagues who are leaving the Parliament, all that they would wish themselves. I assure them that I shall be only too pleased to be of assistance to them should they require my help at any time in the future.
– by leave - I appreciate the honour that my colleagues have conferred upon me by electing me Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I am fully aware of the responsibility of my office, and I shall do my best at all times to give to the legislation that is brought before this Senate the criticism that it merits, having regard to the effect that it will have on the welfare of all sections of the Australian people.
I take this opportunity also to say au revoir to my colleagues who will retire from the Senate at the end of this month. Some of them, I have no doubt, will return to this chamber or to the House of Representatives. Others, I hope, will find time to visit Canberra and the Parliament which has been the scene of their labours for so many years past. Never before in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament has such a large number of distinguished senators retired at the same time. Their experience and practical knowledge of politics will be sadly missed in this chamber, and their departure will be a distinct loss to the country. As the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) has pointed out, every one of the retiring senators has held responsible office at some time or other in the Parliament, and I join with the Minister in paying a tribute to their distinguished service to this country over the years. Senator McLeay, who was Leader of the Senate when the parties now in Opposition occupied the treasury bench, brought energy and outstanding ability to the office of Leader of the Opposition. He has had the confidence and trust of all members of the Opposition parties. There have been differences of opinion amongst individuals - these are inevitable in all bodies of men, particularly in legislatures - but under the able leadership of Senator McLeay, we have always presented a united front on the floor of this chamber. The record of the retiring senators read by the Leader of the Senate is one of which we all may be justly proud. I conclude as I began .by saying au revoir to my friends and colleagues who are retiring from the Parliament and wishing them all many years of good health and prosperity. I trust that we shall all meet again at some future date.
– I cannot forbear from saying a few words on this occasion. I have the highest regard for Senator McLeay, both as a man and as a parliamentarian. He has rendered great service to his country and also to members of this chamber. At the risk of making an invidious distinction, I should like to say a few words in regard to my good friend Senator Leckie particularly. Honorable senators will appreciate that it is often somewhat difficult for the President of this chamber to refrain from taking part in debates. In the years when I was a member of this chamber before assuming the office of President, I was active in debate and naturally there are times when I feel rather keenly the loss of the freedom that I once enjoyed. However, my interest in the proceedings of this chamber has always been enlivened by Senator Leckie’s speeches. When he has something to say, he says it in an incisive way. Very often he gets under the skin of members of my party, and even under my own skin. We have enjoyed listening to his speeches. There is no doubt about his ability, and he has been an interesting and colorful member of the Senate.
Senator J. B. Hayes is one of nature’s gentlemen who has honoured the Senate by his presence. He has rendered valuable service to his country and has never taken an unfair advantage of his opponents. His colleague, Senator Herbert Hays, also will be leaving us. On occasions when I have been anxious to vacate the Chair, the honorable senator has continued speaking when I expected him to stop. The honorable senator has great ability in that direction. He has been a diligent senator and has put the case forcibly on behalf of the interests that he represents. Other honorable senators who will be leaving us include Senator James McLachlan, a dour Scot, who takes his politics seriously. We shall miss him. He smote us with an oratorial mallet, and reminded us forcibly that there were other parties besides the Labour party. Senator Sampson, better known to many of us as “ Sammy “, will also be missed. I cannot forbear to mention Senator Sampson’s insistence on the need to defend Australia. Even when his arguments were unpopular, he stuck to them. I- have a great regard for his persistence. Senator Foll is not with us to-day, but, like his colleague from Queensland, Senator Crawford, who also has spent 30 years in the Senate, he has almost a record for length of service. I hope that I shall be able to break his record.
We have already said farewell to Senator Gibson. Senator Collett is an old soldier whose speeches always read well. The honorable senator is a quiet gentleman, but whenever he has spoken he has had something of importance to say. I have always listened to him with great interest. Senator Allan MacDonald has already left for Western Australia. I wish him well. I regret that my old friend Senator Brand is not in the chamber at the moment. I know that he was greatly astonished when he was defeated, but defeat as well as victory is the lot of those who engage in politics. All of us in our turn will be defeated, if not by the electors, then by “ Father Time”. Senator Brand did not make long speeches, and occasionally he read them. Although that was contrary to the Standing Orders, I never intervened because he always had something worth while to say.
It has been very interesting to me to reflect that, after many years, there has been a turn of the wheel of fate. When I entered the Senate in 1932 there were only three Labour members here - Senator Joseph Silver Collings, Senator J. V. MacDonald and myself. We were known as “ The Three Musketeers “. There was never any argument among us because each held an office; Senator Collings was Leader of the Opposition, I was its Deputy Leader, and Senator J. V. MacDonald was the Whip. That reminds me that at an earlier period there was only one Labour senator who was Leader, Deputy Leader, Whip, Secretary and rank and file of the Labour party. The wheel has turned, and after the 30th June there will be 33 Labour senators and only three Opposition members. If those three Opposition senators follow the example of Senator Collings the Senate will not be short of Opposition speeches. I wish well all who are leaving us. I hope that they will listen occasionally to the speeches made in the Senate, and that they will live long to enjoy their retirement.
- by leave - I thank you, Mr. President, the Leader of the Government, in this chamber (Senator Ashley) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) for the kind things that have been said about the retiring senators. I take this opportunity to congratulate Senator Cooper on his elevation to the position of Leader of the Opposition. From my knowledge of his capacity, I am sure that he will fill the office with distinction. I wish him well.
It would be wrong for me to say that I do not leave the Senate with some regret. It is impossible, without regret, to break associations with men for whom one has a high regard, and who have been firm, friends for many years, but the kind words that have been spoken to-day will, in some measure, compensate me. During my long term as a parliamentarian I have formed a high opinion of members of parliament. My friends are not all on one side of the chamber. Senators are a cross-section of the people, and I believe that all of them honestly and industriously - I use those words advisedly - are doing their best in the interests of the people whom they more particularly represent, and of the country as a whole. I often wish that the services of members of parliament were more appreciated by the people whom they represent. I know that they work hard in the interests of their constituents.
Although I have some personal regrets at leaving the Parliament, the knowledge that I have been allowed to serve in the National Parliament of this great country for nearly a quarter of a century is in itself more than a reward for anything that I have done. I appreciate, to the full the goodwill of honorable senators, and I reciprocate heartily their good wishes. I hope at some future time to come tO’ Canberra and listen to the debates in the Senate. In the meantime I wish you, Mr. President, and every honorable senator the best of good luck.
– by leave - It does not fall to the lot of many men to serve in three legislative chambers, but it has been my good fortune to serve in the State Parliament of Victoria, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. There are now only three others who have been members of the parliament longer than I; they are the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I came to the National Parliament in 1917 as a member of the House of Representatives, and I leave it with regret. I have enjoyed my period of service here. I have seen the flash of fire in many eyes, including yours, Mr. President, when I have got under the skin of honorable senators. I pay a tribute to honorable senators on the other side of the chamber who so assiduously have assisted me by making interjections. They have been a great help to me, and I appreciate their friendliness in that way. I shall leave the Senate with’ regret. I do not suppose that I shall again become a member of this chamber; but I believe that in the three legislatures of which I have been a member I have accomplished something worthwhile. If I be mistaken in that view the reason would be, perhaps, the natural failing of a man to over-estimate the services he renders. I thank you, Mr. President, and also the ex-Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for the courtesies both of you extended to me during the time I was Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. In saying farewell on this occasion I wish all honorable senators “Good luck”.
– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to act as Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories during the absence abroad of Mr. Ward as from the 4th June, for the period of Mr. Ward’s absence.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon- notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
It is assumed that if Mr. Finnan knows of specific cases supporting his allegations concerning officers of the Prices Commission, he will bring them under the notice of the proper authority. ‘
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The. Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Land Valuers of Mortgage Bank Department
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What qualifications are required in order to become a land valuer employed by the Rural Mortgage Branch of the Commonwealth Bank?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
At the commencement of operations of the Mortgage Bank Department, chief valuers were appointed in the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. They were selected from outside the bank’s services for their wide knowledge and practical experience in matters of land valuation. In other States the duties are carried out by specially trained officers of the bank.
Where practicable, valuations in the first instance are made by the manager of the bank in the district. In order to facilitate the work however, arrangements exist whereby the services of recognized governmental valuation authorities are availed of. In all cases the valuations are subject to the confirmation of the chief valuers and, where deemed desirable, check valuations are effected by them.
Cadet valuers are also appointed and vacancies are advertised as they arise. Adult cadet valuers must be under 30 years of age and hold a degree in agricultural science of an Australian university or equivalent qualifications. Junior cadet valuers must be under 21 years of age and hold a diploma of an approved agricultural college or equivalent qualifications. Appointments are subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, and of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– This matter is receiving attention, and an answer will be furnished at the earliest possible date.
– On the 8th May, Senator Herbert Hays asked whether I could inform the Senate as to the progress made in repairing the damage to the phosphatic rock loading equipment at Nauru Island.
I have had inquiries made, and I now supply the following information: -
The Australian Phosphate Commissioner, Mr. W. M. Webster, who has visited Nauru and Ocean Island recently, reports that excellent progress is being made in restoring the plant and equipment there, and also in providing suitable accommodation for the staff and labourers. Phosphate production and shipments are proceeding concurrently and more than 200,000 tons will be despatched by the 30th June next. Shipments for the following twelve months are expected to reach 600,000 tons and further substantial increase of output is expected in the following years. The cantilever loading plant at Nauru is being reconstructed and will be in use again about April-May, 1948.
– Last week, Senator Allan MacDonald asked whether it was 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 were 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.
The Minister for Immigration has now supplied the following answer : -
No representative has been sent by the Commonwealth Government to Shanghai for the purpose indicated by Senator Allan MacDonald’s question.
Bill presented by Senator McKenna, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1944, by which it was intended to make pharmaceutical benefits available to the public, was, in the latter part of 1945, held to be invalid by the High Court as a result of certain proceedings instituted in that court. As a result of the referendum held last year, additional constitutional power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government -of the Commonwealth with respect to the provision of pharmaceutical benefits was vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. The Government now proposes to proceed with the provision of pharmaceutical benefits for the people of Australia, and accordingly presents this bill to the Parliament.
It has been considered expedient to repeal the acts of 1944 and 1945 and to incorporate most of the provisions of those acts in this bill. At the same time, the opportunity has been taken to make certain alterations in order to define the Government’s intention more fully. Most of the alterations to sections of the acts of 1944 and 1945 are of a minor character or of a procedural nature. I do not propose to deal with them at this stage. Whilst the bill does not vary the general policy previously enunciated by the Government, I draw attention to some of its clauses. First, the term “ pharmaceutical benefits “ used throughout the bill has, in general, application only to those pharmaceutical benefits which are to be prescribed by the regulations as being available to the. recipients without charge. Secondly, the bill excludes from the right to participate in benefits thereunder, persons who are patients in public wards of public hospitals, as defined in the regulations. The reason for this exclusion is that pharmaceutical benefits required in the treatment of such persons are already supplied without charge under the Hospital Benefits Act 1945.
Next, clause 9 provides that the DirectorGeneral shall, on application by a pharmaceutical chemist - which term is deemed to include a friendly society dispensary - who is willing to supply pharmaceutical benefits on demand at any premises, approve that pharmaceutical chemist for the purpose of supplying pharmaceutical benefits at or from those premises. In the case of friendly society dispensaries, the number in each of two classes of premises in respect of which approval may be granted by the DirectorGeneral, in accordance with the provisions of clause 10, is governed by the number of such dispensaries which were carrying on business on the 1st August, 1945. Such dispensaries up to the number operating on that date will be granted approval to supply Commonwealth pharmaceutical benefits to persons generally. Dispensaries of that type which commence or have commenced to carry on business at a later date will be granted a limited approval to supply pharmaceutical benefits to their members and to the spouses and children of those members only. In view of the Commonwealth’s new powers, these provisions will operate uniformly through Australia despite the law of any State. However, it will not be obligatory on the Director-General to grant approval in respect of premises at which a pharmaceutical chemist or friendly society dispensary is not permitted under the law of the State or territory concerned to carry on the business of a pharmaceutical chemist. At a later time, the Government will bring down legislation for the taxation, on a basis yet to be determined, of the income of such dispensaries. Hitherto, they have been exempt from such taxation. Taxation will be designed to ensure that, as far as possible, such dispensaries shall not have an unfair- advantage in competition with pharmaceutical chemists.
The Government has aimed at ensuring the availability, for the convenience of the public, of the maximum number of points of distribution of pharmaceutical benefits, and, “whilst providing facilities for numbers of friendly societies dispensaries to deal in Commonwealth pharmaceutical benefits with the public generally in States where at the moment that is not possible, it seeks to prevent them having an undue trading advantage over private chemists. The next clause to which I refer is clause 20, which provides for the enlargement of the formulary committee from six to seven members and for an increase of the representation of the medical profession. Section 22 of the 1944-45 act relating to unnecessary prescribing has been omitted from the bill. The circumstances in which a medical practitioner may prescribe with or without personal examination of a patient will be dealt with by the regulations. This matter is at present the subject of discussion between the Government and the medical profession through the federal council of the British Medical Association in Australia. The Government will have regard to the views of the medical profession before promulgating regulations on this point. Pharmaceutical benefits to be included in the Commonwealth pharmaceutical formulary will be determined on the conclusion of discussions which are also taking place with the federal council of the British Medical Association. Certain clauses of the bill will not come into operation until they have been proclaimed. There will be a lapse of a few months before the scheme will be in force. In the meantime, administrative machinery will be set up and the drafting of regulations will be completed.
It is difficult to estimate the cost of the scheme until the contents of the formulary are determined, but it is thought that the cost will be about £2,000,000 per annum. Under this bill there will be no compulsion on medical practitioners or pharmaceutical chemists to take part in the scheme. But, by reason of tha fact that the scheme is designed to lessen the economic barrier between the patient and efficient treatment for his illness or incapacity, the Government believes that the members of both professions will cooperate fully in giving effect to iia intentions. The Government has every confidence that members of the medical profession who under the scheme will largely control the distribution of pharmaceutical benefits, will have regard, not only to the best interests of their patients, but also to -the need for economic expenditure of a large amount of public money.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Bill returned’ from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cameron) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill proposes to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in various respects, principally in consequence of the Government’s decision to increase the pensions of certain classes of members of the forces, and widows of members who have died as the result of war service. The increase will be, in each case, 5s. a week, which is similar to the amount of the increase granted to old-age and invalid pensioners and that which is to be paid to widows under the provisions of the bill to consolidate social service legislation. All members in receipt of service pensions will participate in the increase. Service pensions actually provide age and invalid pensions for members of tha forces. The provisions of this measure are more liberal, in certain respects, than those of the scheme which provides for civilians, but, in general, the provisions of both measures must conform with each other. The provisions of the Repatriation Act relating to service pensions contain both direct and indirect references to -the. Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That act is to be repealed and replaced by suitable provisions in Part III. of the Social Services Consolidation Bill, and therefore, apart from the matter of the increase of service pensions, it is necessary to effect other amendments to the Repatriation Act to bring the references into conformity with the new legislation relating to age and invalid pensions.
The increases will apply, of course, to the same classes of pensioners of World War I. and World War II., because the pension provisions are common to both wars, including the material alterations which were made by the amending act of 1943. Except for the amendment made last August, whereby modifications were made of the provisions relating to permissible income and property of service pensioners, the act has not been before Parliament since the general revision in 1943. Now that demobilization of the forces is practically completed, it will be fitting to give honorable senators a resume of the .activities of the department arising out of World War II. My purpose is to show what has been done for those enlisted since 1939, but I would ask honorable senators to keep in mind that at all times the welfare of members and dependants of members of the forces engaged in World War I., has been attended to by the Repatriation Commission with only minor dislocation. At the same time the commission has had to discharge the responsibilities assigned to it in respect of World War II., by the payments of pensions and the provision of reestablishment facilities, medical treatment, and other measures for the welfare of members and their dependants. The act was amended in 1940 to extend the pension provisions and existing benefits to members of the forces engaged in World War II., and in 1941 regulations were made to assist members to secure employment in civil life. The promulgation of those regulations was the first direct provision for re-establishment. They provided for the payment of unemployment sustenance, the granting of tools of trade and payment of fares to ex-servicemen. In 1942, a joint parliamentary committee considered exhaustively the existing repatriation legislation and suggestions as to further measures to be adopted by the Government and the commission to promote re-establishment of ex-servicemen. As a result of that committee’s report, the act was. substantially revised, and the regulations were completely re-written in order to include new benefits and to effect improvements to existing provisions. The main alterations effected to the act were a general increase in all classes of pensions; a widening of the grounds of eligibility for pension; a generous interpretation of the provisions in the case of doubt as to entitlement; the inclusion, as pension, of certain allowances previously payable under regulations; and modification of conditions attaching to pensions.
The benefits provided by the regulations were as follows: (1) Loans were made of amounts up to £250 to enable certain, classes of members, including widows of ex-servicemen with children, to establish themselves in business; (2) gifts were made to married ex-servicemen who were totally and permanently incapacitated, or blinded, and to widows with children, of £75 for the purchase of furniture; (3) medical treatment was extended to certain classes of exservicemen to cover disabilities which were not due to war service; (4) free passages to Australia were provided for wives, widows, and children of members who married abroad ;
Plans for a general scheme of reestablishment were formulated about this time, and were later embodied in the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945. Under the provisions of that act, the commission was charged with administering the grant of business loans, re-employment allowances, and the provision of allowances to apprentices during apprenticeship. All these matters were previously covered by the repatriation regulations. The provision of loans fo] ex-servicemen seeking agricultural settlement was administered by the commission until the Director of War Service Land Settlement was empowered by legislation to undertake this function.
The following figures show the extent of the commission’s activities in respect of . re-establishment of ex-servicemen engaged in World War II. and their dependants. The figures which I quote are only approximate and relate to the position as at the end of April, 1947.
The ordinary work of the department has continued steadily, as the following figures which relate to ex-servicemen of World War II., and their dependants, show : -
As at the end of March, 1947 -
Number of claims (members and depen dants) - 422,200;
Number of grants (members and dependants ) -242,830 ;
Number in force (‘members and dependants ) -224,580.
ANALYSIS OF PENSIONS IN FORCE AS AT 30th JUNE, 1940.
To cope with the additional work, the staff of the department has been increased considerably. At the end of March, 1939, the total staff was 1,748. At the end of March, 1947, the number had increased to 8,578, including 3,270 officers performing administrative work, and 4,308 employed at the institutions controlled by the department. Further increases are being made as the department assumes control of military hospitals in each State. The transfer of military hospitals, which represents a stage in the transition from war to peace, is a most interesting phase, and despite considerable difficulties the consequent re-arrangements are proceeding smoothly. All military hospitals have been formally transferred but many details involved will require attention by the departments concerned for some time yet. The transfer of military hospitals has made available to the department 3,580 additional beds.
To provide accommodation for the large number of ex-servicemen requiring medical treatment after discharge from the services new institutions have been established, and existing institutions extended and reconstructed. By this means the number of beds available was increased during the war from 1,890 to 2,914. This number, added to the 3,580 beds in the military hospitals taken over by the department, provides a total bed strength of 6,494.
Honorable senators probably have personal knowledge of some, if not all, of the excellent hospitals taken over from the Department of the Army.
The former military hospitals at Greenslopes in Queensland, Concord in New South Wales, Heidelberg in Victoria, Springbank in South Australia, and Hollywood in Western Australia are familiar to ex-servicemen and the community. The department is now in a better position than ever before to provide medical treatment of a high degree. It will be realized, therefore, that the department is confronted with a big task. Although I have not mentioned some of the services provided for war pensioners, and their dependants, some idea of the magnitude of the task may be gained from the fact that the present annual liability for war pensions is £15,000,000. The increases of pensions provided by the bill now under consideration will increase that liability by approximately £460,500. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
.- There is very little in this bill that calls for lengthy comment. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, has given an interesting resume of the approach to the present status and functions of the commission. Every honorable senator will appreciate what the commission has done and understand its fears for the future. But I have some fears for the future because of the import of certain movements and the knowledge of certain Government tendencies. I may appropriately quote from the first and second reports of the committee of senators and members of the House of Representatives appointed to inquire into, and report on, the Australian .Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. That report was presented to the Parliament on the 28th January, 1943. On page 10 will be found this paragraph -
The committee heard evidence on many matters by representatives of the federal bodies of returned soldiers’ organizations. The representatives expressed their approval of the act as n satisfactory instrument for the conveyance of the wishes of Parliament, and were satisfied that it was being administered sympathetically. They were definitely opposed to any change in the present form of administration, i.e., by a commission. The committee concurs in the views expressed by the representatives.
The commission has amply justified its creation and continued existence, and I do hope that there will not be any interference with its activities. The terms of the bill are intended, in the main, we have been told, to bring the existing legislation into line with the Social Services Consolidation Act, and involve slight increases of the pension rates prescribed in the first, second and fourth schedules to the parent act. There is also a liberalization of the definition of “Income”. I notice that a payment in respect of illness, infirmity, or old age, from friendly society and/or trade union sources is not to be so regarded, despite the fact that the Government refuses to exempt similarly any benefits received from the Canteens Fund Trust. A liberalization is effected, too, in respect of the net capital value of accumulated property. For both these concessions I commend the. Government.
I take this opportunity to speak also about the position of war widows. Our experience over the last 30 years would seem to indicate that some change in policy is necessary if those who are the hardest hit by war’s casualties are to receive equitable treatment. I am indebted to my colleague, Senator Brand, for some figures illustrating what has been done towards easing the plight of widows. Under the original Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act of 1914, the pension of war widows was 20s. a week. In 1916 it was increased to 30s. a week, and in 1920 the rates ranged from 23s. 6d. a week to 60s. a week, according to the rate of pay of the husband, with provision to the effect that where the rate was less than 42s. it could be made up to that amount in the case of a widow with children, or a widow without children where circumstances of the widow justified the increase. This obtained until 1943. The present rates agreed upon in 1943 range from 50s. to 68s. according to the soldier’s pay - virtually the same as in 1920. My view, at the moment, is that there should be a basic pension for all widows - £2 15s. a week, if you like - but beyond that every case should be considered on its merits as to real need for extra allowance. That would be, in effect, a “ means test “, but I would prefer to designate it a “needs test”. Take the case of the young, healthy widow without children. At £2 15s. a week she is moderately well provided for, and it is probable that she will engage in gainful employment, even if she does not marry again; but the widow with young children is in different circumstances. Even with £2 15s. a week, and allowances for the children, she will find it almost impossible to meet the charges incumbent upon the maintenance of a comfortable home, against the high costs of rent, food and clothing. “We should not drive her out to work but, rather encourage her to make the family her first and constant care so that both the children and the nation may benefit.
Then there is the widow approaching middle age and, perhaps, of doubtful health. She has lost her life’s companion and support, and should command our fullest sympathy and practical consideration on that score alone. What ease and solace can she secure on £2 15s. per week? I would go even further and enter a plea for the widow who, before she lost her husband, was brought up and maintained in a degree of comfort and free from financial anxiety. In a democratic service, such as the Defence Forces of Australia, her late husband might well have been without rank. Why, then, reduce her to marginless resources and a condition of constant anxiety which must entail severe mental repercussions and sap normal health? I could go on and cite other situations where the pressure of circumstances would be severe, hut I think I have said enough - at least I hope so - to rouse the Minister’s interest. Therefore, I ask him to ensure that my representations, which will be supported by other honorable senators, shall be conveyed to the right quarter.
In his second-reading speech the Minister, quite rightly, made some reference to the increased hospital accommodation that is now available to the commission. This is most welcome. I am glad to have had a share in the selection of the site, and the erection of the hospital at Hollywood, Western Australia. This ‘building has 700 or SOO beds and a first-class service. I trust that the good work of the commission in looking after its charges in indifferent circumstances will be continued.
Neither I nor any other member of the Opposition has any desire to delay the passage of this bill.
.- I again draw attention to tV-e inadequacy of the pension received by the majority of war widows - a better word would be “ allotment “, for it is the continuation of the soldier’s allotment to hi3 wife and dependants. Consider the case of a serving soldier with a wife and two children: The amount coming into the home then was £5 2s. a week, made up of an allotment of 3s. 6d. a day from the soldier’s pay, a dependant’s allotment of 4s. 6d. a day for his wife, 3s. a day for the first child, plus 7s. 6d. a week child endowment and 2s. 6d. a day for the other child. When the wife became a widow the amount paid was £4 7s. 6d. a week, made up of her pension of £2 10s. a week, her 17s. 6d. a week for the first child, plus 7s. 6d. child endowment and 12s. 6d. for the other child. On the 1st July next an additional 5s. a week will be received - the same as for civil widows and old-age and invalid pensioners - thus bringing the total weekly payment to £4 12s. 6d. as against £5 2s. 6d. when the husband was on active service. It may be argued that with £4 12s. 6d. a week a widow with two children can manage just as well as she did on £5 2s. before her husband was killed. But what a comparison to make when a woman has lost her helpmate and breadwinner - a man who gave his life for the protection and future of the country ! Of course, she struggled along cheerfully while her husband was away. She looked forward to easier times when the war was over and the head of the family was earning much more than her wartime allotments. But what is her position? To supplement her pension and child allotments she can take up some kind of work. At present she receives 16s. less than a .basic wage family. The lack of a father is a terrible hardship. There is no one to advise and control the young children. In addition, she has to do or leave undone many necessary things about the house that her husband would have done. It is wrong that a widow with children should have to go out working at all. The correct upbringing of the children is most important. Denied a father’s guiding hand they tend to drift into undesirable ways of life. In granting a war widow’s pension there is no means test. It is just a flat rate of £2 10s. a week. An increase of 8s. was granted in 1943. In this period of 23 years the basic wage increased ‘by £2 5s. a week, while the war widow’s pension increased by 8s. a week.
I hold no brief for the young widow without children. She can supplement her pension considerably in many walks of life. She probably lives with her parents and she can marry again. Her pension, of course, would then cease. I have no brief either for the widow who is in comfortable circumstances. It is the 60 or 65 per cent, of other war widows with whom I am concerned. How can they be assisted? Would it be better to increase the allowance for the children or increase the widow’s pension? The consensus of opinion of people with whom 1 have discussed this question is that the pension should be increased, either by an amendment of the act or by an administrative instruction. An increase of up to £1 a week over and above the basic war widow’s rate should be granted to those widows in the greatest need. They should be treated as special cases and dealt with sympathetically on their merits. I suggest to the Minister that the advice of the Legacy Club in each State might be sought. Legacy clubs are doing a magnificent work in connexion with the children of deceased soldiers.
– Does the honorable senator suggest an increase of only 5s. a week?
– I suggest £1 a week over and above the £2 15s. a week to bc paid from the 1st July for special cases which have been investigated with the help of Legacy clubs. The Legacy club3 have a confidential register showing each widow’s economic position and the success or otherwise of her control over the children. The problem cases are those where the mother has not sufficient time and energy after a day’s work to devote to their well-being. I ask that this matter be brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), so that something may be done before the end of the present financial year. 1 have continually urged that relief should be granted in cases of hardship associated with the pension granted to bereaved dependent parents of an exserviceman who gave his life in World War II. The number involved is not great. In the committee stage I shall move an amendment with the object of removing the means test.
.- The secondreading speech of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) contains a summary of a report on the work of the Repatriation Commission in the post-war period. The report shows what preparations have been made for the care and welfare of sick ex-service men and women of both world wars. The bill provides for an increase of 5s. a week to service pensioners, war widows, war-blinded persons, totally and permanently incapacitated members of the forces, and certain amputation cases.
I shall deal first with service pensions. At present, such pensions are paid on the same basis as invalid and old-age pensions. This bill brings the rate of pension into conformity with the rate payable to age and invalid pensioners from the 1st July next under legislation recently passed by the Senate. Nevertheless, a service pension will be very little greater than “an age or invalid pension, excepting that an ex-member of the forces may obtain a pension on reaching the age of 60 years, or if he is permanently unemployable, or is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Many of the men of the first Australian Imperial Force, especially those who served in France during the severe winter of 1916-17, have had their lives considerably shortened by their dreadful . experiences at that time; yet they are unable to get a service pension. Men in this category are now between 50 and 60 years of age. I ask the Government to give special consideration to men in this age group, and to take into consideration their experiences from 1916 up to the time of the signing of the Armistice in 1918.
– Men who suffered from malaria in the Jordan Valley campaign should also be included.
– I agree. At that time, the treatment of malaria was not nearly so effective as it was during the war of 1939-45.
The bill provides for an increase of the pension paid to war widows from £2 10s. to £2 15s. a week. Considering the increased cost of living, that is not over-generous, nor does it meet special cases, particularly as no increase is proposed for dependent children. It is realized that the abolition of the means test for war widows in 1943 enabled many widows to accept employment, but we must have regard to the older women who became widows as the result of the 1914-18 war, many of whom have reached an age which precludes them from accepting employment. I urge that special consideration be given to widows in this category and that they be granted more favorable conditions.
The fifth schedule to the principal act relates to certain types of war incapacity. The increase of 5s. per week is to apply to certain cases in this schedule only; viz., the first eight items. The act precludes from the increase ex-servicemen who have had a leg amputated above or below the knee or an arm amputated above or below the elbow. In his reply I hope that the Minister will explain why cases which previously were eligible for a higher rate of pension are not to be covered in regard to this increase. I fail to understand why the increase should apply to some persons and be denied to others.
In his second-reading speech the Minister was at some pains to commend the administration of repatriation legislation. In my opinion, the officers of the department have always done their best to interpret the legislation sympathetically, [t will be remembered that in 1942 a Joint Parliamentary Committee, consisting of ex-service members of the Parliament, was set up to examine the provisions of the then existing legislation. As a result of that committee’s recommendations, the act was amended, with considerable benefit to ex-service men and women. Since the last meeting of the committee in 1942 a number of changes has been effected in relation to the treatment and care of ex-service men and women, and with respect to the administration of repatriation benefits generally, particularly benefits in respect of war neurosis and kindred ailments. After World War I., although many returned men suffered from war neurosis, knowledge of the complaint was not then nearly so complete as it is to-day. That affliction is now treated effectively. The administration of benefits could be speeded up in many respects, and the Government should endeavour to streamline it. I refer particularly to the prolonged delays which occur in the hearing of appeals by tribunals against decisions of the Commission. These delays are very irksome, and add to the difficulties of ex-service men and women affected. It is not proper that appellants should be obliged to wait for periods up to six months, or more, in order to have their appeals heard. However, such delays are still occurring. Under existing legislation, when an application for war pension and medical benefits is disallowed by a State Repatriation Board, the claimant is obliged to appeal to the Repatriation Department’s head-quarters. This system is quite unjustified, and is the main cause of delays in the hearing of appeals by the Entitlement Tribunal. I should like the Minister in charge of the bill, when he is replying to the debate, to indicate whether anything can be done to obviate such delays. In addition, appeals from decisions from State Repatriation Boards are invariably disallowed by departmental head-quarters. The State Repatriation Boards are virtually branches of the Repatriation Department, and should stand or fall by their decisions without in any way being enabled to fall back upon head-quarters. Appeals from decisions of State boards should be made direct to the Entitlement Tribunals. I ask the Government to apply the method applying with respect to assessments to appeals to Entitlement Tribunals. In that way many delays would he obviated.
– I entirely endorse what Senator Collett has said, with the exception that I disagree with him in respect of the fixation of the war widows’ pensions on a flat rate. I have always maintained that in respect of war widows each case should be dealt with on its merits. Under the flat-rate system all kinds of anomalies arise, and, in addition, the flat-rate system very often is not just, or equitable. It is time that the Government approached the assessment of war widows’ pensions in a far more generous spirit than is evident in this bill. Honorable senators will recall that some time ago we discussed a proposal to bring the whole of the staffs of the Repatriation Commission under the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
I opposed that proposal, and I have no reason to change the opinion I then expressed. I have been associated with the commission for the last 27 years, both as president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Tasmania for a considerable portion of that period, and as a foundation member of the Remembrance Club which has since become known as Legacy. We are extremely fortunate that members of the Repatriation Commission have proved to be men of outstanding calibre. I sincerely hope that the commission will continue to uphold the traditions already established, and that its staffs will consist exclusively of ex-service personnel who are best able to understand the problems of ex-service personnel. I take this opportunity to refer to the grave loss sustained recently by the commission in the untimely death of my very great friend the late Mr. John Webster, C.M.G. His record as a member of the commission in his dealings with pensioners generally under our repatriation legislation was outstanding. He was only 55 years of age. He lost an arm in action in World War I. and recently suffered from ill-health. He was an extraordinarily fine man, and proved to be a splendid servant of all governments to hold office since he became a member of the commission.
The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), in his second-reading speech, briefly outlined the activities of the commission. I am glad to note that the commission, has now taken over our great military hospitals, including those at Heidelberg and Concord, as well as similar institutions in all States. The commission will thus be enabled to provide the very best medical service it is possible to give to ex-service personnel. Those hospitals are magnificent institutions and are managed on splendid lines. T repeat that I am opposed to the flat rate pension, because I believe that each case should be dealt with on its merits and on the basis of individual need.
.- So far the debate on this bill has not been very inspiring; but how could anybody be inspired by a proposal to increase the war widows’ pension by the meagre amount of 5s. when the cost of all the things recipients are obliged to purchase has risen by over 200 per cent.? From the silence of honorable senators opposite, I conclude that they are perfectly satisfied with the bill, and that they have already agreed that this is the best the Government can do for the widows of men who gave their lives in defence of this country. I am disappointed in that respect. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), in his second-reading speech, summed up the Government’s intentions in his opening remarks, the remainder of his speech being merely a recital of events. He made it clear that the Government’s view is that no differentiation at all should be made between the treatment of ex-service personnel and civilians in the provision of widows’ pensions. The Government is doing its best to place war service pensions and civilian pensions on the same level. No advantage is to be given to widows, or dependants, of men who gave their lives for this country. These matters are to be brought to a dead level. The widow of a man who gave his life for his country is not to enjoy any advantage in comparison with the widow of a civilian who did not serve in the defence forces. It is apparent from the Minister’s speech that the increase in respect of the two classes of widows is to be 5s. That is the amount of the increase made in age and invalid pensions and pensions to widows coming within the scope of the Commonwealth scheme for widows under the bill to consolidate the social services legislation. The Minister said that generally the provisions in respect of both the service and civilian schemes must necessarily conform with each other. He added that apart from the matter of the increase of service pensions, it is necessary to effect other amendments to the Repatriation Act to bring the references into conformity with the new legislation relating to age and invalid pensions. The Government intends to bring all these pensions into conformity with each other. A civilian widow is to receive as liberal treatment, and in some cases more liberal treatment, than a widow of a man who gave his life for his country. I do not believe in that sort of thing. The widows of servicemen are entitled to something more than this meagre increase of 5s. a week to pay for goods, the prices of which have risen over 200 per cent. Listening to the Minister’s speech one might be led to believe that the proposed increase of 5s. was a special grant to meet increases of prices generally which have been caused mainly by the Government policy; but this proposal is the meanest thing I have heard for some time. I rose principally to say that, when dealing with repatriation pensions, the first requisite is a sympathetic approach to the problems of those who require assistance. I join with Senator Sampson in paying a tribute to the late Mr. Webster who, notably, exhibited a sympathetic approach to the problems of those obliged to seek assistance under our repatriation legislation.
There is room for great improvement in the provisions relating to elderly men who served in World War I. and to the widows and children of men who died in World War II. Some of the causes of invalidity in men who fought in World War I. were neglected. We did not understand at first that the experiences of these men might have a delayed action. Consequently, I fear that men whose applications for pension were rejected while they still had young blood in their veins, will not receive sympathetic consideration in respect of war disabilities that become apparent only late in their lives.
I assume from the silence of Government supporters that either they approve of this measure and the pension increase which it provides or they are thoroughly ashamed of it and support it only because they have been dragooned into doing so by caucus. In my view, the bringing of disabled ex-servicemen and the widows of servicemen into line with ordinary civilians who have never made sacrifices for their country is a disgrace to us. The widows and the children of men who died fighting for their country are entitled to something more from the people of Australia than is doled out to all and sundry. I am thoroughly ashamed of the bill. I do not wonder that Government supporters sit dumb during this debate.
– Is the honorable senator disappointed ?
– I am more than disappointed ; I am disgusted. _ If the honorable senator defended the increase of service pensions by a mere 5s. a week, then he would not be honest. That is why he has not spoken in this debate, I have intervened only because of the evident fact that the Government has laid down a policy that everybody is to be treated alike in the matter of pensions. I disagree with that policy, and I shall never do otherwise. The people who made great sacrifices for their country are entitled to greater benefits than are provided for others. This increase of 5s. a week at a time when the prices of vegetables, fruit, groceries, and meat are soaring is beggarly. I protest against the injustice that is being done by this Govern ment to people who deserve the best that can be given to them by their country.
– in reply - First, I remind honorable senators that the act which will be amended by this bill is based upon the recommendations of a parliamentary committee which represented the Opposition as well as the Government. Therefore, if any odium attaches to the measure, as Senator Leckie would have us believe, then he himself and those with whom he is privileged to be associated must accept their share of it. The Government’s approach to this measure was on non-party lines. It said to the Parliament, in effect, “ We realize that you wish to do the best in the interests of ex-servicemen and the widows and children of deceased servicemen. Therefore, in order that we may pool all our ideas and do the best that we can, consistent with the resources at our disposal, a committee shall be appointed and we shall accept the recommendations of the committee.” Whatever commendation there may be of the act and of thi? bill is duo to members of the Opposition as well as to the Government and. i’.s supporters. I assure Senators Cooper, Collett, Brand, and Sampson, who spoke of war widows, that the last word has not been said on that subject. Recently, the Minis’.er for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) gave this assurance -
It will be seen that the war widow who has only one or two dependent children is at a considerable disadvantage with the war widow with three or four dependent children, i have in mind particularly the need to provide further assistance in respect of children, say for example, from the viewpoint of education. I hope to be able to recommend to Cabinet the granting of additional assistance along those lines.
That is an assurance from the Government that the last word has not been said on this subject. I assure Senator Collett and his colleagues that what they have said will be brought directly to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation so that he will keep it in mind when he proposes to give effect to his undertaking. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the position of service pensioners included in the age group appear to me to be worthy of further consideration, and I shall direct the Minister’s attention to them.
The Leader of the Opposition complained of delays and said that the commission should be “ speeded up “. I am assured that the delay in connexion with appeals to tribunals is mainly in respect of the assessment of pensions. An additional assessment appeal tribunal is being appointed, and it should be able to overtake the arrears of work. The request that entitlement appeals should go direct to the tribunals from the Repatriation Board, instead of going to the commission first raises an important principle. The Commission is an appellate body and must, under the Act, deal with appeals in respect to entitlement to pension. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to persons covered by the Fifth Schedule in clause 17 of the bill. The Fifth Schedule provides for the increases to be granted to certain pensioners who have suffered amputation or loss of an eye. There are fifteen items in the schedule, and the increase of 5s. a week will apply to persons covered by the first eight items. In 1935, representations were made on behalf of persons in receipt of special rate pensions under the Second Schedule - for example, those who were totally and permanently incapacitated, blinded, or suffering from tuberculosis. It was requested that when such persons died from causes other than war disability, their dependants should be pensioned as though death had been due to war service. The Limbless Soldiers Association asked that the concession be extended to persons covered by the first eight items of the Fifth Schedule. The request was approved, and the policy since then has been to include all persons in the first eight items in any pension variation or concession granted to persons covered by the Second Schedule.
Senator Sampson referred to the late Mr. John Webster. I join with him in paying tribute to the memory of that gentleman and to the sterling work which he did in the position that he occupied. I was privileged to be associated with him for some time, and I was impressed by his capable and conscientious approach to the problems of exservicemen. I agree with Senator Sampson that returned soldiers have lost a valuable friend, whose services will be difficult to replace. I am very sorry indeed that Mr. Webster is no longer with us. Senator Leckie, who referred to what he termed “equality of treatment”, should realize that service pensions are more liberal than age or invalid pensions. The age of eligibility for age pension is 60 years for ex-servicemen and 55 years for exservice women. The pension paid to permanently unemployable ex-servicemen and those suffering from tuberculosis is augmented, in respect of wives, at a minimum rate of 22s. a week, and also in respect of children up to the number of four. The allowance made for the first child is 5s. a week, and for the other children it is 2s. 6d. each. Therefore, it is not true to say that service pensions will be reduced to a level of uniformity with other pensions. The Minister for Repatriation made a very close study of the act before introducing this bill. He investigated all of these alleged disabilities very closely, with the result that the bill provides for the maximum benefit possible. As I have said, the last word has not been said on the subject of repatriation benefits. I agree with honorable senators opposite that the Government is bound to do everything possible for incapacitated ex-servicemen and for the widows and children of servicemen, and it will do so. It recognizes its obligation and will do its utmost to honour that obligation in the name of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
New clause 2a.
.- I move -
That, after clause 2, the following new clause be inserted : - “2a. After section fifty-four of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 54a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act,or any other Act affecting this Act, a pension may be granted to a parent of a deceased member of the Forces who was dependent upon the member at any time during the twelve months prior to his enlistment, or during his service, irrespective of whether the parent has adequate means of support.’.”
The purpose of the proposed amendment is to abolish the means test. I have attended meetings of the Bereaved Parents and Dependants’ Association in Victoria, and I was greatly impressed by the stories of hardship its members recounted. Whilst it is true thatby the adoption of this proposal approximately 5 per cent. of dependants who already have sufficient means would benefit, the fact remains that the other 95 per cent. would be relieved of some of the hardship they are at present suffering.
– If the means test were abolished, what does the honorable senator suggest should be the grounds of eligibility for a pension? All parents of ex-servicemen would be eligible, irrespective of their financial position. If children were dependent on an exserviceman prior to his enlistment or during his service, should they be granted a pension irrespective of their present state of dependence? In granting pensions we must take into consideration the actual needs of dependants. If a parent is in receipt of an income which is adequate for his needs, should he receive a pension in addition to his income? I suggest to Senator Brand that these circumstances must be taken into consideration. However, I assure him that there will be no lack of sympathetic consideration of the needs of applicants.
.- I have seen the printed form which applicants have to complete, and, although I admit that the officials administering the act are usually quite reasonable, they have to inquire into every detail of an applicant’s financial position, including such personal matters as the number of times he attends a picture show. If my proposal is adopted, however, the rectification of an injustice suffered by so many will more than offset the payment of pensions to a small minority who do not require the money. Although the department does administer the act sympathetically, I contend that the only fair thing to do is to abolish the means test, and I press my proposed amendment.
Question put -
That the proposed new clause (Senator Brand’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. M. Nioholls.
Majority . . … 11
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Clauses 3 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 -
The Fifth Scheduleto the Principal Actis amended by omitting the figures “ 92 “ (wherever occurring), “70” and “45” (first occurring) and inserting in their stead the figures “102”, “80” and “55” respectively.
– I move -
That, after the figures “70”, the figures “ 45 “, “ 20 “, “ 18 “ and “ 9 “, be inserted and afterthe figures “80”, the figures “55”, “30”. “28” and “19” be inserted.
The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Cameron) in his reply to the secondreading debate, stated that the extra 5s. a week would apply to persons covered by the first eight items in the fifth schedule. This increase is being granted to meet the increased cost of living. There is nothing in this measure to suggest that the increase is being allowed because of the acceptance of death as being due to war causes. The increase is purely a cost of living allowance and I maintain that these other categories have been included in the schedule because they consist of members who have suffered the loss of a limb. They are being given this extra payment in the same way as it was granted originally to men in other categories. I have moved this amendment in order that these men may be eligible for the additional 5s. a week, thus bringing them into line with the other eight categories in the fifth schedule. This request is reasonable because the men whom I seek to cover by amendment are suffering a severe disability. They have either lost an arm above or below the elbow or a leg above or below the knee and they need this extra payment. Admittedly, more severe disabilities are suffered by some ex-servicemen, but they are getting a greater pension.. I ask the Minister to judge this matter in the light of the evidence I have advanced in favour of the increase being granted in respect of those covered by the whole of the fifth schedule instead of only part of it.
– This matter was dealt with in accordance with principles put forward by representatives of the Limbless Soldiers’ Association. It was decided that any member in receipt of a payment under any of the first eight items of the fifth schedule should receive any pension concessions granted to members under the Second Schedule. The most practical way in this concession is to increase the amount payable under the schedule, and that is what this amending clause does.
– Can the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) say whether in the discussions with the Limbless Soldiers’ Association it was made clear that a member suffering an amputation above the knee or above the elbow would not necessarily receive an extra benefit?
– I was not present at the discussions and I am not in a position to speak on the matter of my own knowledge, but I understand that the Minister was represented at the conferences, and that as a result of the principles I have mentioned, it was agreed to amend the fifth schedule as is proposed in this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to seek amendment of the Superannuation Act 1922-46, designed to bring the Commonwealth superannuation scheme into line with modern practice and, by so doing, improve the scale of benefits available to members of the Public Service. It will, I believe, be common ground amongst honorable senators that the Commonwealth should have a public service of the highest competence and reliability. Problems of government are daily widening and becoming more complex, and these trends are accentuated by the unstable conditions of present times. Sudden and extreme calls for national effort, as in the recent war, the obscure outlook for the world, the inevitable deepening of Australia’s concern with international affairs, all combine to emphasize the need for an administration staffed by men and women of high capacity, trained to serve the nation in varied and changing fields. Successive governments have a trust to maintain the standards of the Public Service, and if this is to be done conditions of service must be kept good enough to attract and retain the best type of personnel and to build up their efficiency. There are three phases to this responsibility. One is to recruit suitable people into the Service. The second is to retain those people in the Service, and the third is to preserve contentment and a high pitch of morale.
Recruitment is not only a matter of youth entry. A considerable number of people enter the Service from higher age groups, either as returned soldiers oras specialists and professional people. It is of the highest importance that the Service should be able to select from the best available fields. Experience has shown, however, that superannuation provisions, which are examined intensely by applicants, are often regarded as not good enough in comparison with terms of employment offering elsewhere. Retention of officers in the Service is bound up with the same factors. In its pension provisions the present Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme lags behind the equivalent schemes of big private enterprises, and it has often happened that when private industry is bidding for the services of a public servant it can offer not only more salary but far better retirement provisions. Similarly, the morale and efficiency of those who make careers within the Service are intimately related to the provisions upon which their welfare depends at the close of their active careers. Difficulty has been found in recruiting suitable officers to the Service. There has also been a most disturbing tendency for men of long training and proven capacity to leave the Service for other occupations, and the fact that better provision for retirement is offered elsewhere has been an influential factor contributing to this tendency.
The present superannuation scheme was established in 1922, and I cannot better describe its purposes than by quoting from the second-reading speech of the Minister who introduced the bill in the House of Representatives. It was a measure, he said - . . to provide payments for those who have given a life-long service to the State, so that when they reach the age limit for retirement they will not find themselves in a position of pecuniary embarrassment. Moreover, should they become permanently incapacitated, they will not altogether he without means of support, neither will their widows or dependants, should death overtake thebreadwinners . . . The Commonwealth should have an efficient, capable and contented Public Service, and should be able to retain in its ranks the best men obtainable. . . . Experience has shown that the Commonwealth Public Service is not sufficiently attractive always to retain the best men. Therefore, it must be our object to provide our officers with a reasonable remuneration and a certain’ income upon retirement.
But the scheme which was regarded then as a somewhat tentative measure has not since been overhauled, and the result hasbeen that its provisions are by now gravely inadequate. Many factors have changed since then. For one thing, the cost of living has risen considerably. But pensions payable under the scheme have not been adjusted in keeping with these rises. Moreover, the great extension of social services over the intervening years has created some most serious anomalies. It is, for example, a fact that, taking into account the old-age pensions for which a man and his wife are eligible, an officer who has been taking ten units of superannuation will have on retirement no greater income than the officer who has been taking only four units of superannuation. It is in view of these considerations that the Government has made a thorough review of the superannuation scheme and now brings this measure before the Parliament.
In framing its proposals the Government has been actuated by the principle that, as a good employer, it should provide for its employees an adequate scale of retiring benefits, which compares favorably with schemes provided by other authorities and organizations. The Commonwealth Parliament itself has encouraged the establishment of superannuation schemes by allowing income tax concessions on amounts up to £100 a year contributed to such schemes by the employer and the employee. Broadly, the proposals put forward by the Government in this bill are these -
The main immediate benefits under these proposals will accrue to existing pensioners and recipients of payments from the Provident Account - people who have completed their term Of service in government employment.
The present cost of these proposals would be approximately £250,000 per annum, less an offset of at least £100,000 per annum in respect of reduced social service payments. The cost in future years would show an upward movement, mainly as a result of the expected increase of the number of persons on the superannuation payroll. The additional cost in five years’ time would, it is estimated, be about £125,000 per annum.
I shall now explain certain aspects of a number of the major proposals which I have just outlined. The provision for an increase of the monetary value of the pension unit in existing pensions, and in payments to Provident Account contributors by 25 per cent. is intended to compensate for the rise of the cost of living which, as I have already said, has taken place since the present scheme was established in 1922. Originally the pension unit was fixed at 10s. a week, and this has not been changed since. The Government now proposes to increase the amount to 12s. 6d. a week. Persons now receiving pensions of £2 a week will therefore receive £2 10s., persons receiv ing £3 a week will receive £3 15s., and those receiving £4 a week will be paid £5. Since the cost of this increase will be met by the Government without any change in the scale of contributions by officers, it means that 60 per cent. of the cost of future pensions will be provided by the Government and 40 per cent. will come from the employees’ contributions, as against 50 per cent. each under the scheme as it stands.
It is proposed that the maximum number of units for which officers may contribute - assuming salary eligibility - shall be increased from 16 to 26. The object of this proposal is to give to senior officers an opportunity to contribute for a better pension which will be more in proportion to the higher salaries now attainable and to their continuing obligations on retirement. There will be no immediate cost to the Government in thus raising the number of units of officers now serving. The degree to which the Commonwealth may later be financially concerned in this variation will depend upon the degree to which officers elect to contribute for the additional units. In the case of the officers at present eligible - numbering fewer than 800 - the cost of contributing for additional units would be relatively heavy and this will bear on the degree to which the new scale will be availed of.
It is proposed that a subsidy be paid to the Superannuation Fund on an annual basis in respect of the amount by which the average interest yield of the fund’s investments falls below 33/4 per cent. per annum, subject to the condition that any profit disclosed as a result of each fiveyearly valuation of the fund be offset against the subsidy. The necessity for this provision arises from the fact that, whereas when the Superannuation Act commenced in 1922 it was assumed that the rate of interest to be earned would be 4 per cent., interest rates have, under the policy of the Government, been falling over a number of years. This fall has been most pronounced in war loans in which during the last seven years the superannuation contributions have been almost exclusively invested. To-day, in consequence, the average rate received by the Superannuation Fund is £3 15s. 9d. per cent. Contributions by employees were increased in 1942, mainly to compensate for the reduced rate of interest received by the fund, and the Government believes that some action on its part should now be taken to stabilize the fund. The bill, therefore, provides that if the amount of interest received by the fund in any year is less than it would have received on a 3$ per cent, basis the difference shall, with the approval of the Treasurer, be made up by the Commonwealth by way of a subsidy to the fund. It is not expected that this arrangement will involve the Commonwealth in any liability at present. By 1950-51, however, the Commonwealth’s annual contribution may be about £50,000.
In view of the special conditions relating to service in the Forces, lower retiring ages, more rigorous standards of medical fitness, and so on, the Government is giving consideration to the introduction of a plan for retiring benefits which will replace the present system of lump payments on retirement to Navy and Air Force officers and the present pension scheme for Army officers. Detailed proposals in this connexion will be announced as soon as possible. In the meantime, members of the Defence Forces who are covered by the existing superannuation scheme will be eligible for the benefits provided under this bill.
It is proposed that provision for increased pensions shall take effect in respect of the first fortnightly payment of pension made after the date of commencement of the act and in respect of all subsequent payments. I commend this bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collett) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended up to and including Friday, the 6th June next, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 3302).
– At the outset I protest, on behalf of the Opposition, against the conditions under which honorable senators are asked to consider this legislation. The measure was introduced only a few hours ago, and we are now required to proceed with our consideration of it. I make no reflection upon the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) because he has, in the circumstances, facilitated my examination of the bill. The Government should not ask the Senate to consider within the space of a few hours legislation of this kind which is of far-reaching importance to the community as a whole. Under such conditions we are given no opportunity to give proper consideration to the bill. I admit that a pharmaceutical benefits bill was passed by the Parliament in 1944. That measure was not implemented because of a decision by the High Court that it was ultra vires the Constitution. It may be said that the main principles of that measure are embodied in the bill now before us. However, this is a new bill which the Government now introduces consequent upon the alteration of the Constitution agreed to at the referendum in September last year giving the Commonwealth full power to legislate in respect of health and social services. Having regard to the date of that referendum, I fail to see why the Government could not have introduced this measure during the last session of the Parliament, or at least during the early stages of the present session. Furthermore, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated that some months will elapse before this legislation can be implemented. On be.half of the Opposition I again protest against the introduction of such important legislation in the dying hours of the session. I move -
That all words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the further consideration of thebill be postponed until the next session of the Parliament “.
In the limited time at my disposal, I have glanced through the measure and” also perused the Minister’s second-reading speech. The first question that comes to my mind is: Has the scheme embodied in this measure been inquired into by any parliamentary committee, or has any investigation at all been made with a view to ascertaining the best method of establishing benefits of this type? I know that this matter was not referred to the Social Security Committee even before the 1944 bill was introduced, although it has been customary for the Government to refer matters of this kind to that committee which has functioned for several years for that very purpose. When introducing the Social Services Consolidation Bill, the Minister paid a tribute to the valuable help given to the Government by that committee in reporting upon social services generally. In those circumstances, one would have thought that the Government would have referred to that committee for inquiry the benefits embodied in this measure. I have no knowledge of any inquiry having been held on this matter by any other authoritative body. I should like the Minister, when he is replying to the debate, to say whether such an inquiry has been held.
The Minister has informed us that the benefits embodied in this measure are estimated to cost £2,000,000 per annum. However, he has not given any indication of the basis on which that estimate has been made. When the measure passed in 1944 was under consideration, the view was generally expressed that the cost of a scheme of this kind would exceed that amount. In 1943, the Medical Survey Committee estimated that in the financial year 1942-43, approximately 20,000,000 prescriptions were dispensed in Australia. Estimating the average cost of each prescription at 4s., and assuming that approximately 20,000,000 prescriptions will be, dispensed under this scheme, the total cost of these benefits would be approximately £4,000,000 per annum. I should like further information from the Minister with respect to their cost.
It appears that the provision of these benefits is part and parcel of the Government’s general social services scheme, the greater part of which is set out in the Social Services Consolidation Bill. The cost of that scheme as a whole is to be financed by a social service contribution, or social security tax. I notice that these benefits are to be administered by the Director-General of Health and not by the Director-General of Social Services, who is to be charged with the administration of all benefits provided under the Social Services Consolidation Bill. Consequently, the functions of the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health will, to some degree, overlap. Perhaps the Minister will be able to give a satisfactory reason for this provision.
I understand that under this bill a tax is to be imposed upon the incomes of friendly societies’ dispensaries in order that those dispensaries will not enjoy an unfair advantage over private pharmacists. I do not know whether these societies oppose the bill or whether there has been an amicable arrangement between them and the Minister, but such an arrangement is essential. The Government must have the goodwill and assistance of these organizations, which have operated throughout Australia for many years. The drugs and medicines to be included in the Commonwealth pharmaceutical formulary have yet to be determined in discussions with the British Medical Association. For this reason alone, further consideration of this measure could well be postponed until the Parliament meets again. It is of vital importance for the British Medical Association to work in full co-operation with the Government in this scheme, and sufficient information is not yet available regarding the probable attitude of the association. I urge the Minister to secure that information and submit it to the Senate before asking us to pass the measure. As a member of the Social Security Committee, I know that very delicate negotiations took place with members of the British Medical Association regarding the proposal for a free medical service. The committee had to win the confidence of doctors gradually in order to dissipate the fear that their profession might be damaged. The Minister still has to have further conferences with representatives of the British Medical Association and of the friendly societies, whose co-operation will be of the greatest importance to the smooth operation of the measure. I have not been able to discuss the bill clause by clause in the time at my disposal, as I should like to have done. The measure requires the most careful consideration, and therefore I ask the Minister to postpone further consideration of it until honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have had a full opportunity to discuss its provisions with members of the public, who will be most closely affected by it, and with, the doctors and friendly societies.
– I wish to discuss the probable effect of this measure on the friendly society movement, which will need to be closely associated with the scheme if it is to function successfully. Certain sections of the community claim that the friendly societies, which have linked themselves together and established their own dispensaries, may be placed at a disadvantage under the terms of the bill. However, after very careful consideration of it, I am convinced that the friendly societies’ dispensaries have everything to gain and very little to lose. In fact, the balance is very much in their favour. The bill is designed to bring about uniformity of conditions for the dispensing of free medicine in all States. South Australia has probably made greater advances in relation to the dispensing of medicine to the general public through the friendly societies than any other State, because it has been in the happy position of having its own State law granting power for this purpose. Other States have not been so fortunately placed in this respect. The bill provides that friendly society branches which have been established since the 1st August, 1945, may sell to the general public all medicines except those prescribed in scrip which carries the Commonwealth seal.
I believe that the number of prescriptions bearing the Commonwealth seal will be small, because the bill provides that such scrip must bear the signature of a medical practitioner. Any person who wishes to obtain free medicine must first submit to an examination by a doctor and obtain from him a prescription bearing the Commonwealth seal. My experience as a friendly society worker for many years convinces me that a person will not incur the expense of a medical examination merely for the sake of obtaining free medicine, unless he is genuinely ill. In all probability, most people will continue to buy stock lines of medicine from chemists and from friendly societies’ dispensaries because of the inconvenience and expense of having medical examinations.
– For which they would have to pay.
– Exactly ! Furthermore, the bill provides that a person must provide a fresh prescription for each bottle of medicine issued under the medical scheme. This means that it would be necessary to visit a doctor a second time in order to obtain a second bottle of free medicine, which would involve payment of another fee to the doctor, unless the person concerned was a member of a friendly society. Members of friendly societies, of course, are entitled to free medical treatment by virtue of their contributions to friendly society funds.
For the reasons which I have stated, dispensaries which have been established by the friendly societies since the 1st August, 1945, will not be badly hit by the bill. The measure provides that they may dispense medicine to members of friendly societies and their families and to members of the general public who probably will continue to purchase proprietary lines of medicine for minor ailments such as colds. The friendly societies are keenly interested in this scheme, and those in South Australia are afraid that the bill will injure them. I consider that it will do them very little harm, because they will be liberally treated in regard to the amounts paid to them for issuing free medicine under the scheme and, in addition, will be able to sell proprietary lines of medicine, cosmetics, and other commodities from branches which are already established. The Senate can give its blessing to the bill in the knowledge that it will do a good service to the Pharmaceutical Guild, which also wil! be unrestricted in the dispensing of medicine, and to the friendly societies. This bill will be of special benefit to friendly societies in States whose laws do not permit them to deal with the general public, because it will enable them to do so in future. I refer particularly t» friendly societies in Victoria, which will be much better off under this legislation than they have been previously.
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) protested against the “ hurried manner” in which this bill was introduced. In making his comments, he anticipated a part of the answer that he realized would supply. I point out to the Senate that the basic principles which underlay the Pharmaceutical Benefits Acts of 1944 and 1945 have not been changed in this measure. The free pharmaceutical benefits concept was before this House on two occasions - in 1944, and again in 1945. The attention of the Parliament was also focussed on it during the contest in the High Court in the latter portion of 1945. The scheme had very great publicity, and, as the two acts which I have mentioned were very brief, I assume that it would be a matter of little difficulty for experienced parliamentarians, as we all are in this chamber, to encompass this new measure in a very short time. I also remind the Leader of the Opposition that this was an issue at the last election campaign. It was the subject of a very detailed discussion in connexion with the referendum, and, at the elections, the people not only gave the Government a mandate to proceed with the scheme, but also conferred upon the Parliament the necessary power to implement it. The Government feels that it is under an obligation of good faith to the people of this country to fulfil its promise and to implement the pharmaceutical benefits scheme as early as possible. The scheme is merely a modification of the original one and its comprehension should not present any great difficulty to honorable senators. There have been discussions with the three interested bodies, the Federal Council of the Pharmaceutical Services Guild, the Federal Council of the Friendly Societies Dispensaries of Australia and the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. There has been a good deal of publicity given to the interests of each of those bodies, and I do not think that there is a member of this Parliament who has not received a flood of propaganda from friendly societies’ dispensaries, on the one hand, or pharmaceutical chemists on the other. The Leader of the Opposition, in support of his proposal that the operation of the bill be postponed, referred to the fact that the formulary, which will list the benefits that are to be made available, has not yet been settled. However, that is purely a matter of administration, and is only an incidental detail. He must realize that it will be necessary to make regulations, to appoint staff, and to have a lot of printing done. Those things will take a considerable time. In the interim, discussions will be concluded with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association regarding the formulary. Following discussions with that body, one point still remains outstanding, and that is the items which should be embraced in the formulary. Wo decision will be reached upon that matter until, those discussions have been concluded.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that this measure has not been examined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Security. I point out, however, that the present act was declared invalid in 1945, and that constitutional power for this Parliament to provide pharmaceutical benefits was not available until the 19tb December last, which was the earliest date on which the Royal assent could be given to the social services bill. I remind the honorable gentleman that the Social Security Committee has not operated from that date because members of the Opposition have not nominated representatives to the committee to enable it to function.
– I was really referring to the 1944 act.
– I was not a member of the Senate at that time, and I do not know what happened then. However, there has been ample time for the parliamentary committee to pronounce on the measure, because the committee’s terms of reference were not limited. The Government has had discussions with medical practitioners, pharmaceutical chemists and friendly societies’ dispensaries, bodies which have had extensive experience in this field, and it believes that it was not necessary to go outsidethose expert bodies for advice.
The Leader of the Opposition inquired how the cost of the proposed scheme had been determined. I pointed out in my second-reading speech that the cost was very difficult to determine until a decision had been made as to the items to be included in the formulary. The estimate furnished is based on work done by pharmaceutical chemists of this country at the request of the Government. The pharmaceutical chemists co-operated readily with the Government, and many of them complied ‘with its request that they maintain records of the sale of certain drugs and the dispensing of prescriptions, and furnish returns supplying certain information. Because of reliable information so obtained, it wa3 possible for the Government to prepare an estimate of the cost of the scheme which it made in 1944. Prescriptions were classified in various categories, and this assisted greatly in arriving at the estimate made of approximately £2,000,000. I repeat that it is impossible to forecast, with any degree of accuracy, what the costs are to be until a decision is reached as to what items are to be included in the formulary. However, I assure the Leader of the Opposition that there will be discussions with all interested parties before an estimate of the cost is prepared. Discussions have been proceeding between medical and professional representatives of the Government and medical practitioners’ representatives, and no fina] estimate of costs will be reached until discussion has been completed on each item in the formulary.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that the proposed scheme is to be administered- by the Department of Health, rather than by the Department of Social Services. I agree that a very nice decision had to be made as to which of those departments was to administer this scheme. Since implementation of the proposals involves the disbursement of money and detailed checking of returns, the suggestion was made that the scheme should be administered hy the Department of Social Services. That department possesses a qualified personnel experienced in dealing with large numbers of people, and the accounting procedure involved in the handling of large sums of money. I point out, however, that the benefits proposed to be conferred under this bill are in a different category from the five classes of benefits embodied in the recent social service legislation. The operation of this scheme will involve continuous contact with professional people, medical practitioners, pharmacists and hospital administrators, and in this field the Department of Health has had considerably more experience than the Department of Social Services. The Government contemplates the introduction of a national medical scheme, and it realizes that it will need the maximum co-operation of medical practitioners if that scheme is to function effectively. Furthermore, the Government believes that the operation of the scheme proposed by this bill might be prejudiced if its administration were entrusted to a department staffed by laymen, rather than to a department controlled by professional men. Accordingly, the decision as to which department is to administer this scheme has not been finally determined, and will not be made until arrangements are finalized for the operation of the larger plan.
The Leader of the Opposition inquired as to the respective attitudes of the friendly societies’ dispensaries organization and the pharmaceutical chemists’ guild. Those bodies have diverging interests in the same fields, and each wants something which the other is not prepared to concede. Accordingly, I am convinced that neither this Government nor any other could resolve this matter to the complete satisfaction of both parties. However, the Government has been concerned to do substantial justice to both bodies, having regard, first, to the benefits it aims to confer upon the community. Clause 10 of the bill governs the operation of the scheme so that friendly societies shall function on an even basis in all States. When the bill becomes operative friendly societies’ dispensaries that were in operation on the 1st August, 1945, will be able to dispense Commonwealth benefits for the public without restriction, whereas they are restricted in several States at present to dispensing prescriptions for their own members. Under this measure dispensaries established after the 1st August, 1945, will be given a limited approval, which will enable them to dispense Commonwealth benefits, not only for their own members, but for the spouses of those members and their children. Because of the provisions of State laws, the operation of the proposed scheme will not produce a perfectly equal position in all States in regard to the activities of friendly societies’ dispensaries. In Queensland and South Australia, State laws permit friendly society dispensaries to deal with the public at large, and State legislation in New South Wales and Tasmania provides that when this bill becomes operative friendly societies’ dispensaries shall be permitted to engage in a limited amount of trade with the public. In Victoria and Western Australia State laws prohibit friendly societies’ dispensaries from dealing with the general public. When the bill becomes operative in South Australia - and I think this was the case Senator Finlay had in mind - friendly societies’ dispensaries established after the 1st August, 1945, will be able to deal directly with the public in respect of any item not included in the formulary. That will also apply in regard to such dispensaries in Queensland, but it will not apply in States where that freedom is not already accorded.
Senator Finlay also referred to the provision requiring, medical examination of patients. Honorable senators will remember that the original bill, introduced in 1944, provided that a medical practitioner could not prescribe for a patient without making a personal examination. It was realized that that provision was too restrictive, and might impose hardship,, and in 1945 it was amended to provide that the medical examination might be made in some other satisfactory manner. That amended provision also has its disadvantages - some of which I have foreseen - and that particular section has been eliminated from the present bill. Authority is provided by clause 23 of the bill, the regulationmaking clause, to- cover matters connected with the writing of prescriptions. As the result of discussions now taking place, and ‘ which have reached a satisfactory stage, regulations will be drafted which will authorize prescriptions to be furnished by medical practitioners- without previous examination of- a patient.
Provision will also be made to cover the case of patients in remote areas, and other cases which require immediate action. It is not correct to suggest that, under this bill, before a person is entitled to receive a pharmaceutical benefit, he must subject himself to personal examination by a medical practitioner. That will not be necessary in all cases, nor will it be necessary to go back to a doctor for a “ repeat “ of a prescription. The formulary when determined, unquestionably will provide for a certain number of “ repeats “ to be obtained on the one prescription. Machinery will be set up to enable that provision to function efficiently with the chemists. Also, the formulary will provide that chronics may be given supplies for up to thirteen weeks on one prescription. These are practical difficulties that have been visualized and will be met.
I do not pretent to the Senate that the embarkation by the Government on a completely new field will be without flaws. It may even be that some injustices will become apparent as the scheme develops. I assure the Senate, however, that these things will be watched very carefully, and if any need for rectification arises, the Government will be very quick- to make whatever alterations are necessary. If, on the administrative side, it is found that the regulations are defective, they too will be amended. I appreciate the fact that the Senate has not embarked on a long debate on this measure, the provisions of which are well known to all honorable senators. However, I feel that I cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Cooper, which would have the effect of postponing the legal sanction by this Parliament of the free medicine scheme until September. .Some months would elapse after that date before the machinery could be put into motion. That, I feel, would not be keeping faith with the people, having regard to what was put before them at the general elections in September last when they armed the Parliament with the power to proceed with this proposal. An accusation of lack of faith on the part of the Government would be justifiable if it did not proceed to get this scheme under way. Accordingly, I oppose the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cooper’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- In his reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) left me with the impression that the position of friendly societies would vary in the different States because of the variation in existing state legislation. I should like to know whether the Minister intended to convey that impression.
.- That is the impression that I did create, and it will be a fact in certain particulars, but not so far as the Commonwealth pharmaceutical benefits are concerned. Friendly societies, whether established before or after the 1st August, 1945, will be dealt with on a uniform basis in each class in relation to Commonwealth pharmaceutical benefits. There can be no question about that, but State laws in fields apart from our benefits vary. As I have indicated, in Queensland and South Australia friendly society dispensaries are permitted to deal with the general public, whereas the laws of Victoria and Western Australia do hot permit that freedom. What we are doing now is opening the way for friendly society dispensaries to deal with the general public if they were established prior to the 1st August, 1945, and to deal in these benefits with their own members if they were established after that date. I hope that makes the position clear to the honorable senator.
.- It is regrettable, in view of the powers conferred upon the Commonwealth at the last referendum, that uniform legislation has not been introduced to cover the whole field.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th May (vide page 3199), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The object of this bill is to provide hospital benefits for Australian residents who are temporarily absent from Australia. The Opposition does not intend to oppose the measure because it is necessary. The bill covers Australian residents temporarily abroad who are liable for the payment of Commonwealth income tax, Commonwealth and State employees, and members of Australian defence forces and their dependants. I should like the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to inform the Senate what is meant by the word “ temporarily “. Some Commonwealth officers, particularly in Australia House, London, have been overseas for many years. Are such officers deemed to be “temporarily” absent overseas?
– In reply - I appreciate the support of the Opposition for this measure. In reply to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), I refer him to clause 92 of the Social Services Consolidation Bill, which was before this chamber recently. There, in relation to the provision of maternity allowances for Australians temporarily absent abroad, the position is dealt with in extenso. Commonwealth and State employees who are sent abroad temporarily - and that may mean for a very long period - will enjoy the benefits provided for in this measure. That, of course, is conditional upon their not receiving similar benefits under the laws of the country in which they are stationed. In actual fact, these officers remain subject to Commonwealth income taxation, and, therefore, will qualify under two heads, first as persons who are deemed to be residents of Australia by reason of their liability to the Commonwealth income tax, and secondly as Commonwealth or State employees temporarily abroad. The honorable senator need not have any fear that officers stationed abroad, even though their duty may detain them overseas for many years, may not be entitled to these benefits. The amount involved is not great; ex gratia payments made this year on the lines contemplated by the bill have amounted to less than £200. Apparently, we are sending abroad healthy specimens of Australian manhood.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– When a similar measure was before the Senate on a previous occasion I objected to the inclusion of private hospitals because I believed that every hospital should have a resident qualified medical practitioner. I have had twenty years’ experience of hospital administration, and I know of three oases of patients dying because there was not a fully qualified medical practitioner on the premises. Hospitals which are so situated that it is almost impossible for a qualified medical man to be in attendance within half an hour should not participate in the benefits of this scheme.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 3316).
– This is a bill which opens up a wide field of discussion in respect of the privileges and status of Commonwealth public servants, but this is not an appropriate time for its exploitation. There is nothing contentious in the measure, but I desire to refer briefly to a few of its provisions. Overall, the bill will improve the status of Commonwealth public servants considerably. It gives attention to the position of public servants who have contributed the minimum number of units towards a pension on their retirement. This new provision is long overdue. This matter was discussed in the Senate about two years ago, and although the Government did not then see its way to remedy the position I am glad that it is being met in this measure. It was anomalous that a public servant who had contributed towards superannuation payments for a number of years should, on retirement, be paid less than he would receive as an old-age pensioner who had made no contribution towards his pension.
Officers in all salary ranges who are subscribing for a number of units on retirement will receive a 25 per cent. increase of their superannuation pension. An officer who is now entitled to a maximum pension of £416 per annum will in future receive £520 from the fund. That will, in some measure, remedy the previous rather unsatisfactory position. Any doubt as to the actuarial soundness of the fund will be removed by the provision that the Government shall guarantee greater contributions.
In the Minister’s second-reading speech he paid a tribute to public servants generally, and I desire to endorse what he then said. I have had the privilege of fairly close association with some portions of the Commonwealth Public Service since it was established. The high standard set by the first departmental heads has been maintained and, I believe, improved. Commonwealth .public servants rendered distinct service to the community. There are many capable officers in the Service. I am glad to see in the bill not only provisions which will attract young men to the Service, but -also other provisions which will benefit officers of many years’ standing.
A feature of the Commonwealth Public Service which is worth mentioning is the loyalty of officers to their ministerial heads. Any honorable senator who has had the responsibility of a portfolio must appreciate the loyalty -of his officers, the unfailing fund of information which they possess, and the contribution which they make to successful administration. I am glad that their worth is recognized by this bill, which will make their declining years more comfortable. T hope that the bill will have a-speedy passage through the Senate.
– As one who for ‘a number of years was associated with a large section of government employees who were covered by Slate superannuation legislation, I am greatly interested in this bill, which contains a number of provisions that should meet with general acceptance. It is the duty of a government to endeavour to provide a retiring scheme for its officers which will attract young men to the Service and induce them to remain in it until they reach the retiring age. To a young man leaving school, employment in the Commonwealth Public Service appears rather attractive. He passes the necessary examinations and enters the Service. Eventually, ‘he may attain a high degree of skill and make some progress in the Service, only to realize later that -outside employment has greater attractions. He may fear that his rate of progress in the Public Service will be retarded because
Others who entered it before him will be promoted before him. Uncertainty as to his future may cause him to seek .and obtain other “employment. Many bright young men have left the Commonwealth Public Service for that reason, and unless conditions are made more attractive that process will continue. Superannuation benefits have not increased to meet the needs of the times, and therefore the Government is to be complimented on the proposals contained in this measure.
Possibly the most important proposal is that which enables contributors to the fund to make contributions towards reserve units. A young man who joins the Public Service naturally hopes that eventually he will be promoted to a position in the higher salaried group. In that event be will be eligible for a greater number of units, but may not be able to contribute towards them at the rate applicable to his age, whereas in his earlier years of service he may be able to contribute for those additional .units on the basis of his age at the time. This phase of the bill should encourage young men to make provision for the time when they will receive higher salaries. I should have liked to see a similar provision in the Victorian superannuation .scheme .many years ago, because I know that men have refrained from taking additional units because they could not afford to pay for them. I have in mind a man now nearly 90 years of age, who retired from the Victorian railway service on a pension of £3 a week. At the time of his retirement that sum was sufficient for his needs, but the decreased purchasing power of his pension has caused ‘him to consider seriously applying for an old-age pension. This provision should have most beneficial results.
The bill also provides for increased payments under certain conditions to those who have retired under the provident scheme which operates in respect of men who, because of some infirmity due, perhaps, to war service or accident, cannot fulfil the medical requirements of the superannuation scheme. On their retirement they may -draw a lump sum. I am pleased that the bill provides if ot increased payments to those people, and to those who have entered upon their retirement and are already ^drawing superannuation benefit. That is a wise provision. I also .hope that many who retired from the service during the ‘depression .-years after which it was found .necessary ‘to reduce the amount of superannuation payable to them are still living and will be able to participate in this increased benefit. I know that the reduction of the benefit at that time caused much discontent among those persons. They found that after they had contributed to the superannuation fund for many years their benefit was reduced to an amount considerably below that for which they had contributed. I am pleased that the Government has decided to subsidize the superannuation fund to the amount which the fund might have earned had the interest rate remained at 3f per cent. Frequently, as the result of quinquennial investigations into the fund, it has been found necessary to increase the rate of contribution for each unit; and that, of course, is not well received by contributors. In the future it may be necessary for some reason, such as an abnormal demand on the fund in respect of invalidity, to increase the rate of contribution for each unit. However, the fact that the Government will subsidize any loss in respect of a reduction of the interest rate affecting the earning power of the fund should go a long way to obviate the necessity to increase the rate of contribution for each unit. This position is further safeguarded by the fact that provision is made that surpluses can be invested only in certain directions. That is a wise provision, because, otherwise, the Superannuation Board might be tempted to invest a proportion of the fund in directions which may appear to be very attractive for the time being, but may later turn out to be not so profitable as was expected. It is evident from the bill that the Government has gone thoroughly into this matter, and has considerably improved the conditions in respect of contributions and benefits. These reforms should play no small part in retaining the services of efficient officers in the Public Service. This is desirable in view of the increasing expansion of Commonwealth activities.
Only in recent months several highlyplaced public servants have resigned to accept positions with private enterprise. If these reforms tend to retain the services of officers who, otherwise, might be tempted to seek better prospects outside the Service, this measure will be fully justified.
– I am pleased to note that provision is made to place the Superannuation Fund on an actuarial basis. I also welcome the provision to increase by 25 per cent, the value of the benefit. That also is necessary. I take this opportunity to draw attention to what I believe to be a present anomaly. Most youths and young girls who have only recently joined the Public Service must now pay social service contribution. I am aware that an investigation is being made into the possibility of abolishing the means test in respect of persons who pay contributions to superannuation funds and also social service contributions. What I believe to be an anomaly arises in certain circumstances in the case of an officer who, having contributed to the superannuation fund for four units, qualifies to receive £104 per annum. If that officer be a married man he and his wife combined will receive age pension at the rate of £3 15s. upon his retirement, making their total combined income £5 15s. a week. That is practically equal to the amount of income of an ex-member of the Public Service who had been subscribing to the Superannuation Fund for practically the whole of his life for ten units. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) whether something cannot be done to remedy such a glaring anomaly. A member of the Public Service who contributes to the Superannuation Fund for ten units will, upon retirement, be able to draw benefit only equivalent to all benefits that can be drawn by another ex-member of the Public Service who contributed to the Superannuation Fund for only four units. I support the bill.
.- I commend the Government upon the introduction of this measure. During the week-end I discussed these proposals with a large number of public servants, all of whom welcomed the bill. I should like the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna), when replying to the debate, to inform me what percentage of the total contributions to the Superannuation Fund is made by the Government.
.- When Senator Sheehan rose in his place and squared his shoulders, I thought that the flood-gates had broken open and that he was, at last, freed from his selfimposed ban against criticizing the Government, which had possibly given him mental indigestion for so long. I thought that he was really about to criticize the Government. However, his speech degenerated into a paean of praise of the Government. On what did he base that praise? He based it on the assumption that the provision to increase superannuation benefit from £416 to £500 a year would dissuade highly paid public servants from seeking better opportunities in the employ of private enterprise. Could anything be more ridiculous? In effect, the honorable senator contended that public servants in receipt of a salary of from £1,500 to £2,000 a year would be dissuaded on this account from leaving the Public Service, even should better opportunities offer in private employment. The honorable senator’s confidence in the measure is misplaced.
The bill again reveals the fact that the Government cannot do anything fairly for anybody without being unfair to many people. For many years, members of the Public Service contribute towards the Superannuation Fund on a compulsory basis for a number of units commensurate with their salary. While they are contributing to the Superannuation Fund, and suffering the deduction of those contributions from their salary, they are obliged to pay income tax at a rate applicable to their total salary including those contributions. Yet, when they retire and draw superannuation benefit for which they have subscribed for so many years, they are obliged to pay income tax again on the income they receive in the form of superannuation benefit. Thus, they are double-taxed. I thought that the Government would have remedied that anomaly. I have not had time to peruse each clause of the bill carefully. The case cited by Senator Cooper, who pointed out that a man who contributes to the Superannuation Fund for four units is, upon retirement, placed upon the same footing as the man who contributed for ten units, is a serious anomaly. It is time that that anomaly was remedied. This measure is another example of the Government’s craze for uniformity. I have not the slightest doubt that the bill is the forerunner of legislation which will be introduced, possibly this year, or next year, to provide superannuation benefit for every one on the same level. If that prophecy be correct, then the claim made by the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) and Senator Sheehan, that these provisions will induce highly paid public servants to remain in the Public Service, goes by the board. I know that it is useless for me to labour a matter of this kind, because the Government, having the necessary numbers, is sure that the bill will be passed. However, I also know that many grave injustices which exist at present will not be remedied by this measure. How the measure will readjust the benefits being received by persons who retired from the Public Service three, or five, years ago, I do not know. That question is not answered by anything contained in the bill. I ask the Minister to enlighten me on that point. I repeat that it is unjust to levy income tax on superannuation benefit for which persons, while members of the PublicService, contributed for many years, and during that time paid income tax at a rate applicable to their total salary including their contributions. I consider that there will be many sore hearts amongst retired public servants who contributed to the fund for many years, because they will not be one penny better off than men who have not contributed to any scheme and who will draw old-age and invalid pensions and benefits of that sort. Public servants will say, “ I contributed to the Superannuation Fund from the time when I joined the Service as a boy, but I might as well have spent that money “. A man drawing a pension of four units can reasonably complain, “ I am drawing £104 a year ; I could get as much from the old-age pension”.
– in reply - I am glad that this measure has the almost unanimous support of the Senate. Senator Collett referred to the maximum pension that will be available under the bill. Reference to clause 9 will show him that 26 units may be drawn by a person whose salary exceeds £1,664 per annum. This will provide a pension of £845 per annum.
I am very glad that the Government has made this provision. Apart from giving a measure of justice to public servants, it will provide a strong inducement to persons who may contemplate entering the national medical services by offering excellent superannuation rights.
– What will be the annual payments for that pension?
– They will depend upon the age and salary, and also upon the number of units taken up by the officer concerned. Whereas the limit that can be drawn under the existing act is only sixteen units, or £416 per annum, the maximum pension under this bill will be 26 units, or £845 per annum. The difference is considerable. This provision will enable public servants who wish to contribute to the limit permitted by law to make a very generous provision for their retirement.
– How much would four units a week cost?
– That would depend upon the age of the officer. One would have to consult a table in order to answer a question of detail of that nature.
– But they all join the service at the age of sixteen years !
– I point out to Senator Leckie that officers who will be appointed for the purposes of the national medical scheme will have advanced far beyond the age of sixteen years. We hope to attract men of experience between the ages of 35 years and 55 years.
– But they will represent only a small percentage of the number of officers who are supposed to benefit under the scheme.
– Unquestionably. I point out that medical men will be appointed to the national medical service on the higher grades of salaries. They will riot start at the bottom rung of the ladder like ordinary Commonwealth public servants. They will be advanced in years, and their emoluments are likely to be at a high level. A limit of £416 per annum on their retiring allowances would not be attractive to them.
This revision of the superannuation scheme by the Government was long overdue. Such a revision is necessary in order to retain the best men in the Service and to assure them of some degree of security when their work is finished. The Government will in future contribute 60 per cent, of the pension instead of 50 per cent, as previously, the unit value of the pension will be increased from 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week, and officers will be permitted to transfer insurance policies to the Superannuation Board, which will continue to pay the premiums and will reimburse itself when the policies mature. All of these provisions will enable the Commonwealth Public Service to compete on less unfavorable terms with private enterprise. In private enterprise to-day, large companies and institutions can outbid the Commonwealth almost invariably in terms of superannuation benefits. This bill will do something to rectify that anomaly. I am pleased that Senator Collett referred to the high standard of the Public Service and paid tribute to the loyalty of officers who support their Ministers. I have taken every reasonable opportunity to endorse those sentiments in the Senate. The Public Service has excellent traditions. The bill will stimulate the high standard of the Service, and also the loyalty of officers, if that be possible. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) referred to the anomaly that a person drawing four units of superannuation, which under present conditions represent £104 per annum, would, if he and his wife were of pensionable age and able to draw a pension of £3 15s. a week, be in a better position than a person drawing ten or eleven units, who would be. required to pay income tax. There is only one cure for that anomaly. That is the elimination of the means test in relation to the old-age pension. A3 Senator Leckie also drew attention to that anomaly, I assume that he is in favour of the cure, which must be applied some day. This Government hopes to be able to apply it. A scheme of national superannuation is at present being investigated, as I have told the Senate on several recent occasions.
Senator Leckie was very concerned about the plight of retired public servants. Their interests will be safeguarded under this bill, which will increase their pensions by 25 per cent. A retired public servant drawing four units of pension, namely, £2 a week, will receive £2 10s. a week in future. Whether or not he is required to pay income tax depends on a number of factors. He may have a wife or other dependants, or he may have other income. I cannot accept the proposition that a person receiving £2 10s. a week necessarily pays income tax. Senator Leckie referred to the basis of salary upon which a public servant is entitled to draw a certain number of units of superannuation. The figure that is taken into account is the actual salary of the person concerned, not the salary less contributions to the superannuation fund.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 27 - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Clause 28- (1.) Schedules I., III., V. and VII. to the Principal Act are amended by omitting the words “First £52 Pension to Member; £26 to Widow” (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ First £65 Pension to Member; £32 10s.0d. to Widow’.
Amendment (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the word “First”, wherever occurring, be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 29 to 33 - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) undertook to supply me with some information regarding the cost of the Commonwealth superannuation scheme during consideration of the Superannuation Bill. He overlooked the matter, and I now ask him to supply the information to me.
– I tender my apology to the honorable senator for having overlooked the matter in my reply to the second-reading debate on the Superannuation Bill. I understood the honorable senator to be concerned as to the quantum of contribution made by the Commonwealth to the Superannuation Fund as against the amount contributed by the public servants themselves. To date the Government has been contributing 50 per cent., and contributors have been paying the balance. Under this proposal the Government will contribute 60 per cent. and contributors will pay 40 per cent. In addition, the Government guarantees the fund that it will earn’ 33/4 per cent. interest on its fund, and to ensure this the Government will exercise certain supervision over the investment of the fund.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
No. 46 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 47 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 48 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 49 - Non-official Postmasters’ Association.
No. 50 - Federated Clerks Union of Australia.
Banking Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos.63, 65.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No.60.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - C. A. J. Lum.
External Territories - E. D. Jordan.
Supply and Shipping - E. J. Pearse.
Darwin Lands Acquisition Act, Lands Acquisition Act, and Lands Acquisition Ordinance of the Northern Territory - Land acquired for purposes of re-planning and development, and institution of system of leasehold tenure - Darwin, Northern Territory.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Service munitions (Carriage by road Victoria).
National Security (Minerals) Regulations - Order - Mica.
National Security (Rationing) RegulationsOrder - No. 142.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 58.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Ascot, Western Australia
Lang Lang, Victoria. .
Port Wakefield, South Australia.
Northern Territory - Report on Administra tion for year 1945-46.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern. Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1947 - No. 1 - Matrimonial Causes.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 64.
Senate adjourned at 9.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 June 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470604_senate_18_192/>.