19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair st 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that, in the past, honorable senators have been misrepresented both in the Parliament, and in the press, can you inform the Senate, Mr. President, what steps an honorable senator may take to protect himself from such misrepresentation, while, at the same time; complying with standing orders to avoid suspension from the Senate ?
– Honorable senators have ample protection. I do not think that any, honorable senator has been suspended since I myself Buffered that fate years ago. Under my presidency, any honorable senator who has been maligned or attacked by the press, by other members of this Parliament or by any one outside the Parliament will receive the utmost protection. The Senate will give him a good hearing and, if he behaves himself, he will be in no danger of suspension.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs say whether, at a world Communist conference at Peiping recently, a decision was made, amongst others, to intensify Communist aggression in Australia? Has the press reported that, at that conference, Russia issued direct and precise orders to its agents to increase communist activities throughout SouthEast Asia and Australia? Did some person claiming to represent Australia at the conference say that Australian ports where action could bo taken were Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in that order, and that Communists would begin their activities at Brisbane because Communist transport workers there had a strong revolutionary minority that was likely to become a majority this year? Did a high Soviet official tell the conference that, by the summer of 1950, imperialist war plans would be far developed, and that port and transport workers in communist states, including Australia, must tie up war convoys in the Pacific? Was a passport issued to any person to represent Australia at that conference? If so, to whom and by what government was the passport issued?
– I have seen press statements on the lines of those mentioned’ by the honorable senator in his question. I do not know whether they are correct or not. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall obtain an answer for him _ from the Minister for External Affairs.
– Can you say, Mr. President, how many female workers are employed in Parliament House, particularly while the Parliament is in session? What provision, if any, is made for a rest room, lunch room, or other amenities for these women? If no such provision is made, will you investigate the possibility of providing a rest room as is the custom in most industrial concerns?
– I cannot say offhand how many women are employed in Parliament House. I understand that there is a rest room, but I assure the honorable senator that I shall make the fullest inquiries into, the matter. If there is discontent about the accommodation provided I shall see that something is done. Since I have been President of the Senate - and in this matter I speak for the present Speaker of the House of Representatives and his immediate predecessor - the greatest difficulty that nas confronted the Presiding Officers has been to provide rooms for those who need them. After long experience in the industrial movement I realize that in the Parliament we should do the greatest possible good for the workers, but we have encountered considerable difficulty in making facilities available for members of the Parliament and staff because the space that should be available in Parliament House has been occupied and the building has been turned into a secretariat. That has made the position of the Presiding Officers, who endeavour to do the right thing by members of the Parliament and those who work in Parliament House, very difficult.
– Oan the Minister representing the Minister for National Development say what action the Government has taken in connexion with tenders received from firms overseas for the supply of prefabricated houses? I point out that the preparation of those tenders has involved many firms in considerable expense. Why has the Government not accepted some of those tenders, instead of sending an expensive delegation overseas to seek information that should already be available to the Government?
– When the Minister is replying to the honorable senator’s question will he say whether it is a fact that the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes); who was until recently a member of the Victorian Government, has been overseas investigating this matter? Will the Minister also explain why the information acquired by that honorable gentleman has not been made available to the Government?
– I know that the information concerning prefabricated houses which was available when the Government assumed office was carefully examined by the Minister for National Development, and that following that examination the right honorable gentleman thought that better results would be obtained by sending a small delegation overseas.
– Wasting public money !
– I think that the amount of public money involved is negligible in comparison with the importance of the housing problem. If any method exists to overcome the shortage of houses then we should examine it thoroughly. However, I do not want my remarks to be regarded as a complete answer to the honorable senator’s question, and I should like it to be placed on the notice-paper so that it can be answered fully. While honorable senators on opposite sides of the chamber may disagree on the methods to be adopted to overcome our housing difficulties I know that we all agree on the need to do the best we possibly can in this matter, and I should not like any honorable senator to feel that that is not being done.
– Because of the neglect of previous governments to develop remote States with small populations, and in view of the present Government’s undertaking to implement a policy of decentralization, will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development say whether the Government will consider, in the interests of the nation, the following matters: - (1) The need to help free enterprise to establish rolling mills and steel works in Western Australia; (2) The desirability of embarking upon large conservation projects in Western Australia to enable that State to support a much greater population; (3) The necessity for undertaking the construction of an all-weather road from Geraldton to Wyndham, to link all north-western ports in Western Australia?
– I have no doubt that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber will agree that as the result of the change of government the matters to which the honorable senator has referred will be dealt with more expeditiously in the future than they have been dealt with in the past. I ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper.
– That will delay things n bit, as usual.
– The Leader of the Opposition is not justified in making that remark. It must be obvious that Ministers in this chamber cannot be expected to answer offhand questions involving considerable detail that relate to departments administered by Ministers in another place. This question involves considerable detail. However, a complete answer to criticism of the kind implied by the interjection made by the Leader of the Opposition is the fact that no question relating to matters administered by the Minister for National Development remains unanswered on the notice-paper.
– As the Minister has stated that the Government intends to proceed expeditiously with the development of the Kimberleys in Western Australia, notwithstanding that he said earlier that it was a matter of Government policy, 1 now ask him whether he will make a statement to the Senate at an early date explaining the policy of the Government regarding the development of the cattle country in the Kimberleys and the construction of roads there?
– I cannot recall answering a question involving Government policy this morning. I asked the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper. I shall ask the Minister for National Development whether he would be agreeable to my making a statement in the Senate about the. matter. However, in view of its importance, I incline to the opinion that any statement that the Minister cared to make about it would be presented in the House of Representatives. I shall bring the question to the notice of my colleague.
– In view of the tremendous damage that has been caused by recent floods throughout Australia. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government intends to make any special advances available to the States to be used in repairing such damage ?
– I do not know the particular damage which the honorable senator has in mind, but I have no doubt that the Government will follow the practice adopted by previous governments in dealing with applications for assistance to sufferers from floods, and will invariably give such applications serious and sympathetic consideration.
– In view of the fact that the Communist de facto government is in control of China from Manchuria to Canton and from Shanghai to Chungking, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs why the Government has so far refused to recognize the Communist regime in China?
– The honorable senator’s question involves government policy, and, as he is aware, it is not the practice to deal with matters of policy in answers to questions.
– In view of the Government’s expressions of goodwill towards East Asian peoples, does it not think that the continued recognition of Chiang Kai-shek, who has no real backing in China, is unjustified, particularly as the Communist de facto government has been recognized by several countries and has the backing of the hundreds of millions of Chinese? How does the Government hope to promote goodwill by continuing to recognize Chiang Kai-shek who has no backing at all from the hundreds of millions of Chinese?
– To that question I repeat the answer that I gave to the previous question asked by the honorable senator.
– Previously. I addressed a question to the AttorneyGeneral relating to the re-employment of Commonwealth superannuated employees during the war period. I understand that the Government intends to appoint a committee to examine the claims of those ex-employees. I now ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether that committee has yet been appointed? If so, will any progress report by it be made available to the Senate?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague and supply him with an answer Inter.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport two questions about restrictive petrol quotas. The Minister answered the first question but ignored the second one. Whether or not he did so wilfully, I do not know. I now ask bini how the Government, in view of the fact that it was elected on a policy of free enterprise, justifies the continuation of restrictive petrol quotas?
– The reason is that the Government desires to conserve dollars.
– Will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport inform the Senate of the quantities of sterling and dollar petrol that arrived in Australia from overseas in October, November and December, 1949, and in January and February of this year?
– To obtain the information for which the honorable sena.tor has asked would involve considerable work. My staff is already overworked. However, if the honorable senator desires the information, I shall obtain it for him if he puts his question on the notice-paper.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation, by directing attention to paragraph 308 of the report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission that was presented to the Parliament on the 25th August, 1944. It reads as follows : -
This Commission is also of the opinion that the only satisfactory method of dealing with the problem of land use and land values is for the land to be nationalized and held thereafter as a leasehold. We feel, however, that the lease should bc one in perpetuity, with periodic re-appraisements of capital” value.
I ask the Minister whether he will investigate the degree to which that recommendation for complete land nationalization influenced the Chifley Government in the adoption of a perpetual leasehold basis for the war service land settlement scheme and other schemes?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the appropriate Minister.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is the intention of the Government to liberalize the means test so that superannuated persons may be able to live in a modicum of comfort?
– The Government will give every consideration to alleviating the effects of the high cost of living, particularly upon persons whoare in penurious circumstances. The question of the measures that will he adopted is one of government policy. Every aspect of the problem will be considered.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health say whether, in the improved scale of allowances for persons undergoing treatment for tuberculosis that has been announced by the Government, provision is made for persons who are suffering from tubercular infections other than pulmonary tuberculosis?
– I understand that a new scale of allowances for persons suffering from tuberculosis is being prepared. I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister for Health. The honorable senator will be supplied with an answer to it as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development say what good purpose is being served -by the recurring statements that the present Government has decided to waive duty on prefabricated homes imported into Australia? That policy was followed by the previous Government for a considerable period, as is well known to the State governments.
– I do not think that the Minister for National Development holds the view that everything that was done by the previous Government was bad, but rather that occasionally it did things that were good.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate when it is expected that a report in connexion with the claims of ex-servicemen for an increase of the base pension will be furnished by the Cabinet sub-committee that was appointed to investigate this matter? Has the sub-committee conferred with representatives ofthe Returned Servicemen’s League throughout Australia? If so, will he also say what was the maximum rate of pension sought by them?
– In reply to the first question, I repeat what I have said in this chamber before, that it is hoped that legislation will be brought down during the present session. That depends largely upon the way in which the business is completed in this chamber and in another place. In regard to the second question, the representations made in writing by the various soldiers’ organizations were considered by the subcommittee that was elected by the Cabinet to go into these matters. I personally met the federal officers of various soldiers’ organizations throughout Australia and also the President of the War Widows Craft Guild, Mrs. G. A. Vasey. In regard to the third question, the amount asked for by the majority of the organizations in Australia, but not by all of them, was £7 a fortnight or £3 10s. a week.
– I prefacea question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by explaining that on Sunday the political correspondent of the Sunday Herald stated in that newspaper -
There will be norevaluation of the Australian £1 - either partial or to full parity to sterling - as part of the Menzies Government plans to check inflation.
The next day in the News of the World. London, this statement appeared -
Revaluation of Australia’s currency into parity with that of Britain was likely to take place very soon.
In view of the conflicting statements that are spread through the newspapers and the community every day will the
Government make an early statement on its intentions in regard to this matter?
– I have not seen the newspaper reports to which the honorable senator has referred.
– Apparently the honorable senator did not hear me. I did not ask him if he had seen any reports in the press. I asked him whether he would make a statement in order that conflicting reports that have appeared in the press for a considerable time regarding the revaluation of the Australian £1 might be ended by a statement of Government policy on this matter.
– I did hear the honorable senator’s question. As a former Minister he should know very well that it is not customary to discuss government policy in questions and answers.
SenatorArmstrong. - All I want is a statement. The Minister has deliberately not answered my question.
– Can the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport hold out any hope for an increase of the number of ships to call at the outports of Western Australia from the eastern States, more especially at the port of Albany, so that the cargo for Albany shall not be taken to Fremantle and railed back to Albany and other nearby towns ?
– The Government has been giving attention to this matter in response to requests from the honorable senator and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) and I have arranged for my shipping adviser, Mr. C. N. Dewey, to visit that port next Tuesday week and to see if anything can be done to improve conditions there.
asked the Minister for Repatriation upon notice -
What steps are being taken to implement the policy of providing separate accommodation and attention for war neurosis cases as distinct from those detained in civil institutions?
– The steps taken are adequate inasmuch as there are modern sections at the Repatriation General Hospitals for indoor care of patients, and outdoor clinics in all States. Patients on the lists of private practitioners living near their homes may receive treatment from them. In addition, suitable patients are admitted at the expense ofthe Repatriation Commission to the Australian Red Cross homes.
SenatorCRITCHLEY asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
If the honorable senator is referring to those few cases accepted as being due to war service but which are not housed in the separate Repatriation’ Blocks at the State mental institutions, I would inform him that most of them need restraint and, therefore, are housed in their present locations because of the nature of their disabilities. A few patients are housed in civilian mental hospitals, even though they arc eligible for admission to the Repatriation Blocks, because their relatives desire them to be within easy reach so that they may visit them. 2.If the honorable senator is referring to the Repatriation cases needing restraint, I would say that the State mental laws have to be invoked to permit them to he held.
In the larger States most of the restrained patients are in the Repatriation Blocks, but in the smallerStates the numbers are insufficient to warrant the building of separate blocks for the segregation of the homicidal and suicidal patients, therefore they are housed in special State accommodation.
Should their mental condition improve they willbe transferred to the Repatriation Blocks, or even to the Repatriation General Hospital.
The housing and treatment of all cases of neurosis not accepted as due to war service is the responsibility of the State governments andthe Repatriation Commission has no say in or control of their treatment, therefore it is not proposed that the Federal Government should secure temporary premises for their housing and treatment.
Debate resumed from 29th March (vide page 1290), on motion by SenatorSpooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) in his second-reading speech, particularly emphasized that the Government would not do anything that would be likely to influence the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on the basic wage case. We can all agree with the necessity for such a precaution, but I remind honorable senators that there is more than one way of killing a cat. The Minister was at great pains to convince the Senate that the Government would not take any steps that might influence the Arbitration Court, but the Governments of Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia, all Liberal administrations, have already intervened in the basic wage hearing. Each of those Governments has requested the court to take into consideration the social services benefits that are available to the people to whom the new basic wage will apply. Apparently, therefore, the Minister for Social Services was speaking with his tongue in his cheek when he assured the Senate that the Government had no intention to influence the Arbitration Court. There is no need for the Government to influence the Arbitration Court, because, as I have pointed out, influence is already being exerted by three State governments, apart from the representations that are being made to the court by the employers’ representatives. Therefore, there must be some reason for the Minister’s remarks. There must be some expectation that the basis on which the basic wage is calculated will be altered. The Minister also pointed out that statements made by Labour candidates during the recent election campaign indicated the fear that we feel that the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child will be followed by a reduction of the basic wage. During that campaign Labour candidates pointed out, as they have always done, that child endowment is essentially related to the basic wage, and that if benefits made available to the families of married workers are to be taken into consideration by the court there will be a real danger that the court may choose to regard the family unit as consisting only of a man and his wife, or a man, his wife and one child. The Minister endeavoured to offset that criticism by stating that child endowment is a matter for the Parliament, whereas the determination of the basic wage is solely a matter within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. However, if the provision of child endowment is solely a matter for the Parliament, and I believe that it is, I can see no reason why the Government should have any objection to accepting the amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition. The effect of that amendment will he that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will be instructed by the Parliament not to take into consideration payment of child endowment in respect of the first child of a family when determining the basic wage. The policy of the Government parties concerning this matter as stated by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he appeared before the electors as Leader of the Opposition during the recent election campaign differed from the interpretations that have since been placed upon it ‘by the Minister for Social Services when he said -
Child endowment is within the control of Parliament; the amount of the basic wage, falls for the determination of the Arbitration Court.
It seems to me that during the election campaign the present Prime Minister held a different view. I believe that the right honorable gentleman considered then, and still considers, that there is a possibility that the payment of child endowment will have some effect on the determination of the basic wage, and that is why, in my opinion, he mentioned the alternative of making a payment of 10s. per week for the first child. My interpretation of the statement that he made at that time was that regardless of whether the court awarded an increased basic wage, 5s. a week would be paid in respect of the first child; but if the court decided to alter the basis on which it determines the living wage, perhaps, by altering the size of the family unit, the Government would them make a payment of 10s. a week in respect of the first child. Furthermore, the speech made by the Minister for Social Services when he introduced the bill confirms my impression. The Minister said that if the basic wage is altered and its amount is calculated by referring to the needs of a. married couple without children, provision will be made to raise endowment from 5s. to 10s. per week for the first child. I submit, therefore, that the Minister for Social Services and his colleagues feel in their hearts that the,le is a possibility that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration will, as the result of the passage of legislation now before us, alter the present method of determining the basic wage.
Whilst I do not profess to have the legal knowledge possessed by some honorable senators opposite, I understand that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not contain any formula to guide the court in fixing the basic wage, which is left almost entirely to the discretion of the court. That act provides that the court may hear and determine all matters relating to payments, wages, hours and conditions of work, privileges and rights or duties of employers and employees. The court is given almost carte blanche authority to do anything that it may consider necessary for the settlement of industrial disputes. Because of its powers the court can determine the basic wage only as the result of an industrial dispute. Because of the “ common rule “ adopted by the court in making awards, a determination by the court in respect of one industry may be made to apply to other industries, which strengthens the suggestion that the court might feel itself obliged, in fixing the basic wage, to take into account the fact that child endowment is paid in respect of each child. In the State of Western Australia, which I represent, 90 per cent, of the trade unions are registered under the State arbitration court, so that the great majority of the workers of that State are covered by Western Australian awards. Almost the only workers whose conditions are determined by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are members of Federal unions, and many of these unions are also registered with the State arbitration court. The Parliament of Western Australia passed an amending act, number -50 of 1925, which provides that -
Before the 14th day of June in every year the court, of its own motion, will determine and declare the basic wage to be paid to male and female workers.
It was declared that the wage must take effect from the 1st July in each year. That amending legislation defined the basic wage as -
A sum sufficient to enable the average worker to whom it applies to live in reasonable comfort, having regard to any domestic obligations to which such average worker would be ordinarily subject.
That is the basis on which the State Arbitration Court in Western Australia determines its basic wage. I emphasize the reference to domestic obligations of the average worker. What are domestic obligations? In the main, they involve the rearing of a family. Under the provision that I have just read the State Arbitration Court, in determining its basic wage, must take cognizance of the domestic responsibilities of employees to whom its wage will apply. I recall that the late Mr. Justice Dwyer, when he was president of the State Arbitration Court of Western Australia, stated that the average family unit in that State was not ti man, wife and two children, but a man, wife, one child and a fraction of one. The State Arbitration Court of Western Australia has always determined its basic wage on a family unit of one man., wife and one child. That point must bo carefully considered, ‘because should the State Government desire that social services benefits be taken into consideration in the determination of the Western Australian State basic wage, the endowment of the first child in a family fi t the rate of 5s. or 10s. a week proposed under this legislation would affect the determination of the State Arbitration Court of Western Australia. I assume that the same observation would apply, to determinations of the basic wage by State arbitration courts in other States as well as to that of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
The Minister for Social Services went to great pains to tell the Senate that child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1941. We are well aware of that fact. However, the succeeding Labour Government had to implement that legislation and meet the financial commitments involved under it from the first payment onwards. The.. Labour party has never claimed that it. introduced child endowment.
– But the Menzies Government had already made provision; for the financing of child endowment pro~vided under its legislation.
– What I am saying is that the Labour party never claimed credit for the introduction of child endowment in 1941, but it had to implement the legislation that was introduced by the Menzies Government in that year. I make that clear because it has been implied that the Labour party had endeavoured to gain some popularity based on legislation that had been introduced by another government. However, what the Minister did not tell us was the reason for the complete change of mind of the present non-Labour Government compared with that of the Menzies Government when it introduced child endowment in 1941. He did not tell us that the measure introduced by the Menzies Government excluded the first child from endowment and that that Government was opposed to the endowment of the first child in a family. That is as important as it is illuminating. What is the reason for that change of mind on the part of the non-Labour parties? They changed their minds out of the consideration of political expediency at the recent general election. It is remarkable that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who held that portfolio in 1941 when he introduced the Child Endowment Bill, gave various reasons to the Parliament why child endowment should not be provided in respect of the first child in a family. Yet, Government supporters at the last election promised to endow the first child, and they did so .in the belief that that promise would contribute substantially to the defeat of the Chifley Government. The Minister for Labour and National Service in his second-reading speech, when introducing the Child Endowment Bill in 1941, said -
The fear has been expressed that the introduction of child endowment at the present time may lead to a reduction of some basic wage rates, whilst criticism has been coming from other quarters that we propose to endow children who are already provided for in the basic wage.
That statement is inconsistent with the statements that Government spokesmen have made in connexion with this measure. Why the sudden change ?
– The Minister did not: accept that criticism.
– He made the statement that I have read. Honorable senators opposite become hot under the collar when the truth is placed before them. For the benefit of Senator Gorton I shall read the passage again. It is as follows: -
The fear has been expressed that the introduction of child endowment at the present time may lead to a reduction of some basic wage rates, whilst criticism has been coming from other quarters that we propose to endow children who are already provided for in the basic wage.
– The Minister did not agree with the fear that had been expressed.
– I cannot understand the interjection of the honorable senator. I do not think he knows anything about the matter. The statement that was made by a responsible Minister in 1941, when child endowment was introduced, is diametrically opposed to the statements that Government spokesmen have made in this chamber on this measure.
At page 339 of the same volume of * Hansard,* the Minister is reported to have said, referring to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court -
In the court’s most recent judgment . . . the view was expressed by the Chief Judge that, considered on the basis of needs only, the present basic wage is adequate for a family unit of three, but offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four.
It would be interesting to listen to honorable senators opposite explaining their change of front in relation to this matter.
The statement that I have just read indicates that, prior to the introduction of child endowment, the Arbitration Court, in determining the basic wage, adopted a family unit of three as a basis. The chief judge pointed out that, considered on the basis of needs only, the basic wage offered only a meagre existence for a family of four. We have always believed that the basic wage should be sufficient to provide a reasonable standard of living for a man, wife and one child and that assistance should be given to parents who have more than one child. I suggest that that is a reasonable approach to child endowment. I have not the slightest doubt that if the whole of the family is endowed, the Arbitration Court will proceed to fix the basic wage on the basis of the needs of a man and wife only. What would be the position in this country if differential wage rates were fixed for single men, men with wives only, and men with wives and children? History has proved that the average employer desires to obtain labour as cheaply as possible. If there were differential rates, which class of person would employers engage ?
– The most efficient.
– They would engage the cheapest labour. If a married man had to be paid more than a single man, most employers would engage the single man. They would be concerned, not with efficiency but with obtaining labour as cheaply as possible. At page 340 of Hansard, volume 166, the Minister is reported to have said -
The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of endowment in respect of the first child. While it approached the question sympathetically, it has decided that payment in respect of the first child is not warranted. On the Commonwealth court’s own recent finding, the present basie wage is adequate for a man, wife and one child. Since most married people have at least one dependent child - at the census of KI.13 this applied to CiO per cent, of married male? - the presence of one child in the household does not put it at a serious disadvantage compared with the living standards of its neighbours.
That statement revealed an attitude of mind entirely different from that which is revealed by the measure that we are now considering. It contained an admission that the basic wage was determined on the basis of the needs of a man, wife and one child. There is no evidence that that basis of determination has been altered since then. The Minister went on to say -
Studies of malnutrition and ill-health among children, both in Australia and abroad, show that these appear seriously only in large families and that first children are clearly m a superior position.
I leave that for honorable senators opposite to digest. As reported in the same volume of Hansard, at page 340, the Minister also said -
Existing schemes elsewhere exclude the first child and sometimes more children fi-om benefit. The Huw South Wales scheme pays 5s. a week to dependent children in excess of one in certain low wages families. The New Zealand social security legislation gave a family benefit of 4s. per week to dependent children in excess of two. That, I understand, was also the extent of the legislation recommended in the minority report of the Royal Commission on Child .Endowment in 1928. The 11)40 report of the Victorian select committee proposed that the payment should begin at 4s. a week for the fourth child. The many European schemes existing before the present war either did not endow the first child or else paid it at a lower rate. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the Senate for its indulgence. I did not intend to speak for so long. However, this legislation is so important that honorable senators should give full expression to their views. It is quite evident from the Minister’s words that there was no intention by the Government of 1941 to make child endowment available in respect of the first child., Why have the anti-Labour political parties changed their opinion on this matter? During his second-reading speech on this measure the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) said, .inter alia - . . endowment of children provides practical encouragement and aid for those who have the responsibility and privilege of caring for families … lt is, in effect, a redistribution of the national income to achieve that end . . . the expense of roaring a family to maturity .should not bo borne entirely by tho parents.
That is a proposition with which the Opposition agrees. T do not think that anybody would dispute it. As I have mentioned before, thousands of married couples in Australia reared families before child endowment or bonuses were paid. But now there is a new school of thought. Whether it is called socialism or not is immaterial. Many members of all political parties in this country believe that the less fortunately situated members of the community, from a financial point of view, should be assisted. The funds required to finance the proposals contained in this legislation should be provided by the people most able to pay. When child endowment legislation was first introduced in the federal sphere the intention was that the scheme should be financed from the proceeds of the Pay-roll Tax. However, the yield from that source was insufficient to meet the total commitment, and, of necessity, it had to be supplemented by an appropriation from the National Welfare Fund, which is a trust fund established by the Parliament to finance the payment of social services. Is not this an illustration of socialism
– No. ‘
– As I see it - and my view is shared by thousands of Labour supporters in thi3 country - the fact that something was done by the Government and by semi-governmental authorities to obtain the wherewithal to provide social services benefits in an equitable manner, v an example of socialism.
– That is Liberalism.
– The members of the Liberal party have learnt, something from Labour’s policy. A.t the risk of offending some honorable senators opposite I repeat that the only reason why the anti-Labour political parties promised to endow the first child was that more than 1,000,000 families in this country who would benefit as a result of the proposed legislation would be induced to vote for the election of the Government now in office. Of that number, 450,000 families would each receive 5s. a week endowment for first children up to the age of sixteen yeaTS-
I regret that the Government has decided not to pay the additional endowment until the 20th June. In view of the statements made by anti-Labour candidates during the election campaign many people in this country expected that payment of the proposed endowment would be made quickly. Admittedly this is the first legislation to be introduced by the present Government, and for that action the Government is to be commended. But the fact remains that seven months will have elapsed before the promises made in November wall be honoured. The Government should have arranged for payments to commence immediately following the enactment of this legislation. The Minister has estimated that an additional expenditure of £15,000,000 will be involved to endow the first -child up to sixteen years of age in each family during the financial year J 950-51, thus raising the estimated total cost of child endowment to £46,250,000 for that financial year. It was estimated that £31,000,000 would be required during the financial year 1945-50 to meet child endowment commitments in respect of children in excess of the first child under the age of sixteen years. In 194S-49 £24,323,413 was expended on child endowment. In that year the pay-roll tax yielded only £19,802,924 thereby necessitating . a contribution of £4,520,489 from the National Welfare Fund. That proves my assertion that the pay-roll tax will not provide sufficient revenue to meet the cost of implementing this legislation. It is now estimated that the additional annual cost will be £15,000,000, bringing the total .to £46,250,000 as I have indicated. I mention these figures to support my contention that after all this is socialism in practice. Something is being taken from the common wealth of the community to provide assistance to people who for very legitimate and good reasons are entitled to it.
Senator MeKenna has indicated to the chamber that it is proposed to insert two amendments in the bill. One is to give a direction to the Arbitration Court that child endowment shall not be taken into consideration when determining the basic wage. I recollect that either the Minister for Social Services who introduced the bill or the Attorney-General interjected that that proposed amendment could only be regarded as pious and would be of no effect. They are both estimable gentlemen and one at least is a lawyer. I do not know whether the Minister for Social Services is a legal man.
– Not guilty!
– That may be fortunate. I have not had the benefit of a legal training but I have had a lot of training in common, sense and I believe that this Parliament has complete power in respect of child endowment. It has complete power to see that the recipients of child endowment shall be the people entitled to receive it, and nobody else. There is something to think about in that observation. The power of this Parliament to make laws is limited by a written Constitution. Because there was some legal doubt as to whether the constitutional power of this Parliament was being exceeded in the payment of child endowment and other social services benefits a referendum was held. The people were asked to give the Commonwealth Parliament complete authority in respect of certain social service payments, one of which was child endowment. The people, as a result of that referendum, have written into the constitutional powers of this Parliament, power to make any laws at all in respect to that matter. The Parliament also has the power to direct any persons anywhere, in whatever authority or jurisdiction, as to how they shall deal with this payment to assist parents in respect of their dependent children under sixteen years. So it does not appear to me that the statement that the proposed amendment is pious is correct. I feel that in dealing with this legislation relating to child endowment the Parliament has a right to tell any arbitration authority in this country that when it is determining the basic wage it shall not take into consideration the benefits that are provided under this measure. I believe that that is a correct analysis of the powers of this Parliament. However, I just make that observation in passing. It will possibly be analysed further in the committee stages.
The other point to which I wish to refer is the proposal of the Opposition to insert an amendment to increase the payment from 5s. to 10s. a week. I ask honorable senators opposite what justification is there to discriminate between the first, second and subsequent children in respect of child endowment payments? What reason do honorable senators advance? Is it a. financial reason or some other? In its present form the bill provides for an increased appropriation of approximately £15,000,000 a year: Therefore, to make available a uniform 10s. rate to all children under sixteen years would cost £30,000,000 extra a year. Full coffers have been left to this Government, and I believe that it is expected that there will be a credit balance of £121,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund. In view of that position why should there be any differentiation between the first child and the second, third, fourth or fifth child of a family? It may he, as said earlier, that the Prime Minister anticipated some action being taken in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when he provided for the 5s-. and the alternative 10s. rate of child endowment. So when the Minister for Social Services states that family expenses rise steeply with the birth of each child, that is a further reason why favorable consideration should be given to making the payment 10s. for all children. As the result of m.y personal experience, I believe that as additional children come into the family, so the rate of child endowment should be increased progressively. By that I mean that there should be a sliding scale. Payments could probably be 10s. for the first child, 12s. 6d. for the next child and so on. In that way some definite reward would he given to the people of this country who are prepared to stand up to the national requirements to increase this country’s population and make it more safe for democracy.
– I rise to support this measure.. Despite all that has been said by honorable senators opposite, I am proud of the fact that it was a government led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) which introduced child endowment in the- Commonwealth sphere. It is flitting, therefore, that one of the first acts of the present Menzies Administration, should, be to extend this form of financial help to mothers who are rearing families in this country. I give credit to the Labour Government for halving, on two occasions, increased child endowment, payments by 2s. 6d. a week. However, in the- light of Senator Nash’s ahl.e speech to-day, I am amazed that, as he has been thinking; on the* same lines for the past eight years, he- has not sought before now the introduction of a graduated scale of payments such as he now proposes. During Labour’s term of office, the coffers of this country were full to overflowing, and. surely there was a responsibility on whatever government occupied the treasury bench to ensure that the children of this country should be given every possible care. The present Government could easily have decided to grant a further increase of 2s. 6d. a week to the 640,000 families already receiving child endowment, but instead it has chosen to distribute the wealth of this country more evenly by bringing the 450,000 Australian families in which there is only one child within the child endowment scheme. In addition, of course, this 5s. a week will be paid in respect of the first child in families that are already in receipt of child endowment. The proposal that there should be a graduated scale of child endowment is in line with leading thought on this subject. Eleanor Rathbone, a famous member of the House of Commons, was the first to put in print ,’i scale of family allowances. The proposal to add 5s. a week to the payments already being made to Australian families, and to make a similar payment to families with only one child is a fine gesture on the part of this Government. The fact that the Government parties, after a period of years, have changed their minds on the question of endowing the first child, should give Senator Nash some cause for hope. The attitude adopted by the first Menzies Government on this matter was dictated by the interests of nationa.1 economy. If we are a more enlightened party to-day, as we have shown by our decision to endow families with only one child, surely that is a matter for satisfaction to all honorable senators.
The Opposition, in its attack upon this measure, sought to relate child endowment to the determination of wages bv the Arbitration Court. Senator Nash mentioned the Western Australian Arbitration Court. I may be wrong, but I do not think that the honorable senator can cite any case in which family allowances were taken into consideration by that court in assessing wages. Whilst Senator’ Nash was speaking, I endeavoured to recall- any such case,, but I was not able to do so-. So far as I am aware, child endowment has not been mentioned in the Western Australian Arbitration Court.
– All I said was that the Western Australian Arbitration Court fixes the basic wage on the basis of the needs of a man, wife and one child.
– I should like the honorable senator to cite a specific ease in support of his argument. Child endowment is not class legislation. It is social legislation, benefiting all families irrespective of class. When I hear so many honorable senators opposite claiming this legislation to be against the welfare of the workers, I am distressed at such loose thinking.
I repudiate personally the accusation made by Senator Nash that anti-Labour candidates at the last general election used the proposal to endow the first child of each family as a bait to the electors. At every one of my meetings, I said that I stood behind my leader, Mr. Menzies, who had expounded the platform of the Liberal party. I made no reference whatever to the promises that were made by the present Government parties. Throughout the election campaign, I refrained from making derogatory personal references. I made it quite plain to my listeners that the issue on which I was fighting was the continuance of the democratic way of life or the introduction of socialism, which, according to all the lessons of history, could only end in communism.I shall continue to fight on that issue. I made no bribes to the electors and, as honorable senators are aware, my record at the poll was good.
I was astounded that, over the years, the Labour Government made no move to extend child endowment to the first child. I am a member of several women’s organizations in Western Australia, and I know that one of the foremost items on their programmes has been the need to urge upon the Commonwealth Government the necessity to endow the first fluid of each family. I was happy to hear Senator Nash plead the case of age pensioners. However, again I remind him that although the Government of which he was a supporter had ample funds at its disposal it did not do much to improve the lot of invalid and age pensioners, nor did it extend endowment to the first child. This Government, in accordance with its election promise, is reviewing all pensions. It has already increased the allowances payable to tuberculosis patients and their dependants. Admittedly these allowances are not. yet sufficient, but at least there is an upward trend. The Department of Social Services is at present reviewing all pensions with a view to bringing them more into line with present day living costs. I am pleased indeed to have an opportunity to support this measure.
– Why not support endowment of 10s. a week for the first child ?
– I am supporting a payment of 5s. in the interests of the economy of this country. Australian housewives have become very conscions of national finance. During my trip to Western Australia last week to help in a State election campaign, mainly in centres containing large numbers of trade unionists, I frequently heard the Menzies Government congratulated upon the introduction of this measure and upon its promised review of all pensions. Many women told rae also that they were most concerned about the position of aged people in the community. They said that whilst they welcomed the extension of child endowment, they would have preferred to see their fathers and mothers receiving more adequate support from the Treasury. 1 support wholeheartedly the proposal contained in this measure.
– In view of the misrepresentation indulged in by the anti-Labour forces during the general election campaign, and, to some degree, during this debate, I preface my speech on this measure by saying clearly, and I trust convincingly, that the objective of the Labour party is to establish complete economic security for the working classes so far as that is physically and financially possible. I have always regarded child endowment not as an end in itself, but as a means towards Labour’s objective.I have been asked frequently what stands in the way of the implementation of Labour’s policy. My answer is that the greatest obstacle is the readiness with which the great bulk of the workers are prepared to acquiesce in their own subjection. In 1911 I had to appear before the State Arbitration Court of Western Australia on behalf of the plumbers union. We were claiming 13s. a clay as a minimum wage instead of the11s. ruling at that time. I was very careful to say to the judge: “Your Honour, I tender a full and complete apology to the court for the modesty of our claims “, If the workers of this country realized the extent to which they are entitled to share in the fruits of their labour, they would be receiving much more than they are getting to-day.
I regard this Government’s willingness to support child endowment as merely making a virtue of a necessity. Throughout the years, the Labour movement has pioneered social services reform. It has continuously drawn attention to what the workers are entitled to. One of the results of this campaign was that, years ago, we succeeeded in convincing the workers of the need for their own representation in Parliament. Constant pressure by Labour forces has been responsible for every social reform that we enjoy to-day. Had it not been for that struggle the workers would not be any better off to-day than they were 100 years ago. Indeed, in thinking of the lot of the species homo sapiens the slogan I always keep in mind is : “ All things yield to pressure; where there is no pressure there can be no results “. The Labour movement has had to bring pressure to bear even on the workers themselves to point out to them what they should be receiving and what their obligations to their families are. When I see the workers readily acquiesce in the treatment meted out to them to-day, as so many of them do, I am more than ever convinced of the need for action to protect them. We have only to look at the willingness of so many of the workers to-day to accept a paltry 5s. a week to realize how easily they can be “pushed around “. I particularly invite the ladies amongst the honorable senators opposite to consider what earthly benefit a paltry 5s. a week can confer on the workers at a time when the cost of living is so exorbitant. The prices charged for the necessaries of life are so high that they amount to systematic robbery, and when the workers realize that fact I know that the membership of the Parliament will be very different from its present composition. The workers will not in futurebe misled so easily by the representations, subtle and otherwise, of those who exploit them. Labour has tried to tell the people what it has done for them in the past. We have recalled the struggle that wewaged for the payment of a living wage.. The basis for the living wage was first fixed by the late Mr. Justice Higgins in 1907, when he decided that that wageshould be based on the needs of a man, wife and three children. Many years later, in 1941, when it was brought home to an auti-Labour administration that something would have to be done to increase the income of the workers, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then the head of the Administration, decided that rather than permit the basic wage to be increased by Ss. or 9s. a week he would provide child endowment. If we pass this measure, which provides for the payment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child of a family, we have no assurance that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will not take that amount into consideration as income when it fixes the new basic wage. After all, the members of that court are handicapped by their training. They are the slaves of precedent, and are more afflicted by inhibitions than are ordinary persons like myself. Indeed, their training renders them almost incapable of indulging in original thought. When perfectly unsophisticated persons, like you, Mr. President, and I submit to them a proposition that is new they instinctively declare that it cannot be accepted.
– Does the honorable senator include the deputy leader of his party in his observation ?
– No. There ave exceptions to every rule, which is the saving quality of the situation. If the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) were also an exception to the general rule he would be by my side now instead of sitting opposite me. The legal mind hates to depart from established precedent, and in my wildest dreams I could not imagine the members of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court depart from precedent. Their stockintrade is, “ The act says so-and-so “, and they cannot get beyond that. I can quite imagine that they would want to lower the basic wage by reducing the size of the family unit, more so if prices fall overseas with the possibility of the recurrence of an economic depression in this country. They would readily seize upon such an argument to say, “ We cannot afford to pay these high wages “.
I turn now to consideration of some observations made by the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) when he moved the second reading of the bill. For instance, the Minister said that a bread-winner’s income is based not so much upon his needs as upon the economic value of the work on which he is engaged. That, of course, is quite wrong. If the workers were paid the full economic value of their work there would be no profit left for distribution amongst the proprietors and investors. The workers are merely paid a wage to enable them to subsist, and that wage is based upon the cost of living figures. The major portion of the wealth produced by the workers is appropriated, or expropriated, by their employers. The workers are certainly not paid their economic value. Of course,, they are becoming more and more conscious that they receive only a pittance, and many of them realize that if they were prepared to accept less their present low wages would be still further reduced. However, because the workers are organized to protect themselves, and because they elect people like myself to the Parliament, they receive a little more consideration than they would do otherwise. But I emphasize that if the workers were not prepared to fight to defend their conditions they would probably not be any better off to-da.y than are the workers in China, India, and other backward countries. There is very little altruism in this world ; most of the protestations of idealism, are pure affectation. When I hear, and read, that members of antiLabour administrations have the welfare of the workers at heart, I am disgusted ‘because I know that all the time they are seeking to perpetrate the most infamous practices. There is no real altruism in them ; they are merely indulging in affectation and playing on the credulity of persons who do not know better. As an example, the Minister for Social Services, in the course of his second-reading speech, said: “It is, in effect, a re-distribution of the national income to achieve that end “. I have yet to learn that there is such a thing as “ national income “. There is, of course, a totality of private incomes, but the nation, as a nation, receives no income at all. The average, worker receives his wages, and that is all he gets. The wheat-growers and wool-growers and many other prosperous sections of the community receive a great deal more than mere wages; but the workers do not receive a single Id. beyond their wages.
Although the Minister, when he used the term “’ our national income “, was very careless in his choice of a collective pro- noun, he . should realize that there are a few workers who realize, as I do, that the term is very restrictive, because the incomes of most members of the community are very small. In reality, no redistribution of income will take place; all that will happen if this measure is passed is that there will be a re-distribution of the money allocated to the workers so- that the workers will receive a little less as wages and a little more as endowment. The reason why the employers are prepared to make this seeming concession to the workers is that they realize that they cannot get anywhere without a labour force that is prepared to work for them. When the conditions of that labour force become so poor that the workers do not want to offer their services it becomes necessary to offer them some concession to encourage them. That is why »anti-Labour administrations are prepared to prescribe that a minimum wage is to be paid and that the workers are to receive child endowment and other concessions. All the time the employers and their representatives in the Parliament have in mind capitalizing the labour power of the workers. They know also that they must make provision for the future because the workers of the present generation cannot work much longer. The whole theory of the state of society known as capitalism is to exploit the labour power of the workers, which means conscripting children born into the world and preparing them to be exploited and impoverished, as their parents have been.
That is done in the name of democracy and freedom, and that is all a part of our national life to-day. The Minister also said, and I noted how he emphasized the words -
This Government stands for the highest possible standards of living in Australia.
Nothing of the kind ! Supporters of the Government have never stood for the workers ; they stand only for the interests they represent. Proof of that statement was provided by our experience during the depression. At that time, when we had a plethora of land, machinery, labour power and everything else required to establish and maintain the highest standard of living for our people, non-Labour governments reduced the workers to the level of the dole. I well remember how, in 1938, my colleagues and I in the Opposition in this chamber pleaded with the government to provide something for unemployed workers for Christmas. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) was then leader of the government in the Senate. At that time mountains of wheat were being eaten by weevils and factories throughout the land were idle. We merely asked the government to provide relief for unemployed workers for Christmas; but we might as well have appealed to a wooden god, because the government did not make one penny available for that purpose. It adopted a cold and callous attitude, and merely said that it could not accede to that request. In those d,a vs hundreds of thousands of workers were left unprovided for; they were dispensable. However, after the recent war broke out the workers became indispensable almost overnight, and unlimited money was found to enable them to be fed, clothed and housed. They received much better consideration in time of war than they received in pre-war days. That statement is not an exaggeration. I have described exactly what took place; and the same thing will take place again if the workers of this country are foolish enough to continue to elect non-Labour governments.
As I said earlier, I approach this problem in the cold light of plain facts. I am suspicious of the Government because this measure makes no provision to stabilize the purchasing power of the sum that it now proposes to make available as endowment for the first child in a family. Just as the purchasing power of every increase of the basic wage has been reduced by subsequent increases of prices, it is quite possible that the purchasing power of this benefit will be reduced immediately after it has been made available. Whilst supporters of the Government are adamant that the price of labour power shall be fixed by competent tribunals, they are equally adamant that the prices of commodities shall he left to the determination of company directors, bankers, and other commercial interests, to whom they give a free hand to charge whatever prices they like. I suggest that that is the reason why this bill contains no provision to maintain the purchasing power of thi? benefit. What can one purchase with 5s. to-day? I invite Senator Robertson when she is again in Melbourne to visit the Victoria Markets in order to learn for herself about the high prices that are being charged for foodstuffs required by children. Pensioners and workers on the lowest wages wait till the bell rings at the markets because vendors then practically give away any produce still left on their hands rather than go to the trouble of removing it. But for that fact hundreds of people, particularly those who have healthy families to provide for, would not be able to obtain fruit and vegetables at all, because they cannot afford to pay the ruling prices.
I repeat that the bill makes no provision Io maintain the purchasing power of this benefit of os. In effect, the Government proposes to throw the first child in the family to the wolves. Unless the Government is prepared to take a strong stand in respect of the control of prices, it cannot complain if the Opposition views all its actions with suspicion. Recently, in order to meet the present situation I suggested to the Prime Minister that the Government should declare a state of emergency in order to prevent the people from being robbed as the result of the increasing of prices. I had in mind pensioners and workers in the lower ranges of income. I was told that that could not be done. However, something along these lines can, and must, be done. I suggest that if the - Government wishes to protect the workers’ children and aged pensioners about whom we hear so much, from being robbed to the degree that they are being robbed - and the more helpless people are the more they are robbed by their own kind - it should introduce a system of prices control. It should take other steps also. There must be rigid control of banking as well as rigid control of prices because we know that enormous and everincreasing capital charges which have never been incurred are included in and collected through prices. As we are not, now at war, the Government should ako abolish all indirect taxes because pensioners and persons in the lower ranges of income pay as much in indirect taxes as do honorable senators who are in receipt of a salary of £1,500 a year.
– The Government that the honorable senator supported had plenty of time to do that.
– As the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) was not present in the chamber when I commenced my speech, he has heard only half of my story. Earlier, I said that if I were asked what stands between the workers and the attainment of the Labour movement’s objective of full and complete economic security to the degree that it is physically and financially possible, I should reply, as I have always believed, and shall continue to believe, that it is the readiness of the workers themselves to acquiesce in their own subjection. That is the whole difficulty. When the workers realize the degree to which they are kept in subjection, as, probably, they will when we become properly civilized - we are still only semi-civilized - that objective will he attained. Why should not those who produce our food and clothing have the same freedom of access to the means by which they live as honorable senators have? I am certain that when these issues are weighed on the scales on the Day of Judgment, the utility value of honorable senators opposite will not be found to be as great as that of the workers who produce the necessaries of life.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I was replying to the interjection made by the AttorneyGeneral. I shall only add that, if the Government did all that I wanted it to do, honorable senators opposite would be obliged to do something else for their living than sit in this chamber. I made two points. In order to protect children from the ever-increasing prices the Government must assume control of banking and prices and abolish indirect taxes. Perhaps, it could go further and strike a capital levy. However, I should not imagine that I would receive support from honorable senators opposite for that suggestion. Those are the requisites for the establishment of a balanced economy based on principles of equity.
– A lot of capitalists on the honorable senator’s side would object to that.
– The Labour movement is a majority movement that gives effect to majority policy. The more intelligent the workers become and the more they insist that they shall receive a greater measure of justice than they are receiving to-day, the nearer we shall get to that objective. The fact that I am a member of the Senate after proclaiming that principle for over 60 years i.° proof that that fact is gradually sinking into the minds of the workers. However. I have never met people so difficult to convince -as honorable senators opposite are. When we know, as Senator Nash pointed out, that a non-Labour government which introduced child endowment in 1941. decided not to endow the first child in a family because it said it was not necessary to do so, and we now find after a lapse of nine years a government of the same political colour introducing legislation to endow the first child in a family, all I can say is that it has taken a long time to knock that intelligent idea into the -heads of our opponents. The Attorney-General said that the Parliament has no power to issue a directive to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I join issue with him on that statement. Whilst the court may say that the Parliament has no such power, the fact remains that the Parliament is the supreme governing authority in the country and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is subordinate to it, and, therefore, must take directions from it.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
– The AttorneyGeneral said, in effect that the Parliament has no power to give a direction to the Arbitration Court. I believe that we have power to do so. I go further, and insist that we have that power. The authority of all courts is an authority that has been delegated to them by a parliament. The Attorney-General’s statement that this Parliament has no power to give a direction to the Arbitration Court is contrary to the facts. The Parliament could, for instance, amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide that weekly hours of work should not exceed 40 and that the minimum rate of pay should be £10 a week. The court would have to accept that direction. In my judgment, ir would be a very good thing if we took that course, because an enormous amount of time and money would be saved if such a direction were given to the court. Instead, the oouvt has been occupied for months in examining the evidence that has been tendered to it, although that evidence is in fact only statements of the impressions that have been formed by witnesses of all kinds as a result of the experiences through which they have passed. As we know, no two persons view a proposition in the same light. The evidence that is tendered to the court is more subjective than objective. A statistician, for instance, may give evidence of what, in his judgment, constitutes the national income, but his evidence is based upon assumptions that have never been tested. The court may, and generally does, accept such evidence as ex cathedra evidence as do many persons who do not know the facts. If the approach to the case were made on the principle of inductive reasoning, that is, by questioning premises and assumptions as they should be tested, the evidence would be very different from what it in fact is, coming from highly paid statisticians. If the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) expects persons like myself to believe that what he has said is correct, he will eventually be disillusioned.
The legal mind is handicapped to a much greater degree than is the ordinary mind. It is a great handicap to accept the law too literally. The history of the law proves, if it proves anything, that the magnitude of a breach of the law is always lessened by the magnitude of the individual who commits the breach. Consider the criminal law, for instance. The magnitude of a breach of the criminal law is lessened by the magnitude of the individual, until the point is reached at which the King or his representative can do no wrong. When an approach to these problems is made in the Arbitration Court, it is made, in the main, bypersons who have no practical experience of industry or of the various branches of production. Tha t is why I am so sparing in my criticism of them. The French philosopher Rousseau said that man is born free but is everywhere chained. Actually the reverse is the case. Man is born in the chains of heredity and environment, which includes custom and law, but everywhere man has tried to break those bonds. If I were asked to say what is the cause of the trouble in the legal world, I should say that it is the ego trying to break through the inhibitions, and not making a very good joh of it.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
The passage of this legislation will in no way interfere with the freedom of the Arbitration Court to determine the basic wage upon whatever standard it may think proper, having regard to the evidence submitted to it. This Parliament does not, and cannot, assume any power to deal with that problem.
I say that the Parliament can do so. What is the use of trying to mislead people who expect a lead from their elected representatives in the Senate? I could give the Government a few hints on how to present its case in better and more convincing language than it has done. It is obviously incorrect to say that the Parliament does not and cannot assume any power to deal with this problem. The Minister also said -
It was in 1934, after an emergency wage reduction in . 1931, that the Court adopted the procedure of computing the basic wage on the formula of determining the highest amount which industry could afford to pay.
That statement was, to say the least, obviously incorrect. The court has never determined the basic wage on the basis of the highest amount that industry could afford to pay. The aCt would not allow it to do so. There was a time when that was done. As far back as 1911, when I was secretary of the Plumbers Union, I had to prove to an arbitration court in Western Australia that the plumbing industry could pay the minimum wage of 13s. a day that we were claiming. I succeeded in proving it so successfully that the employers consented to pay 13s. a day. I proved my case by collecting over a considerable period a number of plumbers’ bills, which, in many respects, are like doctors’ and lawyers’ bills. I proved that the industry could pay more than 13s. a day. But since then the basis of assessment has changed, and now the basic wage is based upon the least amount that the workers will accept to render the services that they are supposed to render and to rear children to take their places when they are dead and gone. The statement that the Minister made was misleading, although possibly it was not his intention to mislead. In his secondreading speech he also said -
The object of the court is to ascertain the highest basic wage that can be sustained by industry. But there is no clear means of measuring the capacity of industry.
That was obviously misleading.
– How can we determine the highest possible wage if we do not know the capacity of industry?
– That is the position. I am pointing to the fallacies in the reasoning of the Minister, whose statements we are supposed to accept as being beyond question. The court does not try to ascertain the highest basic wage that can he sustained by industry. If it adopted that procedure, the workers of this country would now be receiving a much higher wage than they are in fact getting, in terms both of money and of the commodities that can be purchased with the wage.
– That was the statement of the court. It was not my statement.
– We have been told that the determination of the basic wage is left entirely to the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Court consists of men who have had a legal training and have been appointed by the Government to their present positions. They are just as susceptible to the pressure of public opinion and to what other pressure can be brought to bear upon them as is any person who is not a member of the court. All legal men and laymen are, to some degree, the creatures of their prejudices and phobias. When men areappointed to high positions in the Arbitration Court they carry with them to their new positions the prejudices and phobias with which they have been indoctrinated from infancy to adolescence. They are just as susceptible to opposition, pressure and changes of circumstances as is anybody else. That has been proved clearly. An examination of the judgments that the court has delivered will show that, not only have the judges disagreed with one another, hut also that they have, to some degree, yielded to the pressure of the people, who have become more enlightened and critical, less docile and not so readily prepared to accept what the court decides. Although many references have been made to the court being free and untrammelled, the Government itself suspects the court. That is borne out by this statement in the Minister’s secondreading speech -
In this regard, however, the Government will carry out its pre-election promise that, if the foundation of the basic wage is altered and its amount calculated by reference to the needs of a married couple without children, then provision will be made for raising the endowment for the first or only child under sixteen years from as. to 10s. a week.
It is therefore clear that the Government suspects that the court will reduce the basic wage after this proposed legislation becomes law. Let us consider what would be the position if, after that happened, the court further reduced the basic wage. What would the Government do? By implication the Government has made it clear that people who are responsible for increasing prices unnecessarily will be able to continue to raise prices to the limit that the people will tolerate. One could be pardoned for inferring from the statements that have been made on this matter by honorable senators opposite that there is an implied instruction to the court to reduce the basic wage. If the Government were sincere in its desire to protect the interests of the first child in every family it would accept the proposed amendment. In his secondreading speech the Minister also said -
After allowing for natural increase and for migrants, it is estimated that the cost of -endowing the first child will be approximately £15,000,000 for the financial year 1950-51, and this will bring the estimated total cost of child endowment for that year up to £40,250,000.
As I have said previously, the money cost is not so important as the economic cost. In effect, what the Government contends is that the children should have a little more to eat. The cost is merely incidental to the main issue. I point out that, metaphorically speaking, the men and women employed in essential production and services carry the whole of society on their backs. They likewise “ carry “ the people engaged in the production of luxury goods. My remarks apply equally to members of Parliament, the legal fraternity, the Church, and all sections of our community that are not actively and continuously employed in essential production and services. When emphasis is placed on cost, all that i3 being said, in effect, is that a little more is to be taken from employees in essential production and services, because they provide the cost of everything. Therefore, the workers in essential production pay ‘ for child endowment. Taxes are paid by people employed in non-essential production in proportion to the extent to which workers in essential production are taxed directly and indirectly, particularly the degree to which they are taxed indirectly. If age pensioners were not subject to indirect taxation their pensions would be worth considerably more than at present, and probably there would not he continual agitation for increases. Whenever an increase of the rate of age pension has been granted, rents and the prices of commodities that they purchase have risen. I emphasize that the workers themselves will pay the additional 5s. a week or 10s. a week endowment, as the case may be.
Senator Robertson has said that women are becoming more conscious of financial matters. A number of trade unions consist mainly of women. It has been my experience that in many instances they do not distinguish between finance and economics. If women were so advanced in relation to financial matters as the honorable senator has claimed, there would be a greater number of women members of the National Parliament. I contend that the women of this country, in the main, have been imposed upon to such a degree that they are now far from being financially conscious. When this measure becomes law the women will realize that they will be paying a little more for tea, sugar, bread, and, perhaps, lamb chops, the cost of which is now 2s. 9d. per lb. However, they are not conscious of the extent to which they have” been misled deliberately by bankers, lawyers and anti-Labour politicians. If what the honorable senator said was true there would be no necessity to compel the women of this country to record their votes at the ballot-boxes. They would not be able to get there quickly enough to record their votes for candidates for th, Parliament who would protect their interests. I know that the honorable senator has had a lot of experienc in domesticmatters. She is just as capable of appreciating what has happened as is anybody else. I was therefore astounded t” learn that she was proud to be associated with the Government’s proposal to endow the first child in each family under th<* age of sixteen years by 5s. a week. When concluding his second-reading speech on this measure, the Minister said -
This is the first major piece of legislation to be introduced in this reconstructed Senate, and I feel proud that I am associated with the Government which sponsors it. I believe that the passing of the legislation and the receipt of the endowment moneys is eagerly awaited by the 1,110,000 families who will benefit. It will be a practical contribution towards easing the burden of family responsibilities and thus will be another step forward towards increasing the standard of living with resulting greater contentment and happiness in this fair land of Australia.
I do not consider that this is a major piece of legislation. In my opinion it is a very minor and paltry piece of legislation.
– Anything dealing with the home is not paltry.
– Government senators have claimed that the carrying of the amendment would kill the bill. 1 hope it does. This bill should never have been born. The best thing that could’ have happened would have been for it to die at birth. I am not convinced that the passage of this bill will result in greater contentment and happiness among the workers, as has been claimed by honorable senators opposite. Under existing conditions I consider that the reverse will be the case. As I have already pointed out the enactment of this legislation will be followed immediately by an increase of the prices of commodities required for children. There is nothing in this proposed legislation to prevent that from happening. It is - well within the possibilities of practical politics to protect children from being exploited and impoverished as at present. But this Government does not attempt to protect them.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has stated that the acceptance of the amendment would signify the end of the bill. I emphasize that the workers would not thereby lose anything. In the ultimate analysis, what they receive in the form of money wages, commodity wages and conditions of employment, depends entirely on their intelligence and their organized strength. And if they are prepared to bring greater pressure to bear against those who are responsible for deliberately faking and loading prices they will get a lot more consideration than if they tamely submit to what is being done. I am not at all impressed by all the pretence that is associated with parliamentary procedure. There is such a thing as extraparliamentary power. [Extension of time granted.”] In the last analysis, what really counts in politics and social life is the exercise of that extra-parliamentary power. It means the power that is inherent in the workers themselves, the power and weight of organized numbers fortified by their intelligence to the degree that they are intelligent and informed. The Attorney-General made reference to the possibility of this bill being killed as though it was an individual who was in danger of being killed. If the bill were killed, to use the honorable senator’s phrase, it would not make much difference provided that that power was exercised and conditions of living and employment were improved. It follows that the conditions under which the children of the people lived would be improved also. 1 believe that the age should be raised in this and other legislation which affect children. This bill provides for a child up to sixteen years of age. As the father of four big healthy boys, I consider 1 should have been able to keep them at school and provide for them at least until they were eighteen years of age.
– That will only place more burden on the worker, according to the honorable senator.
– I did not catch what the honorable senator said, but I do not suppose that it was anything very intelligent anyhow. At sixteen years, children are just beginning to learn, if the Government is really sincere about endowment, it should raise the age to eighteen years. It is necessary to have a better system of education. “We must raise the intellectual and cultural level of the growing generation if we expect a state of society better than that in which we are living. When honorable senators are dealing with children, they are dealing with boys and girls who look to them for guidance. Children cannot speak for themselves, and it is a moral obligation on all parents to speak for them. When I look round in Australia and other part? of the world and see the conditions into which children are born, and realize the helplessness of many of their parents, 1 think there is a moral obligation on me, and on others occupying a similar position, to ensure that every tiling possible is done for the children. To say that th, children would receive the treatment to which they are entitled simply because Parliament would be pleased to pass a paltry 5s. a week is to say something which in my judgment is not true. Children are entitled to receive much better treatment than they are receiving, particularly the children of parents in the lower income groups, the children who are born and reared in the slums, and are forced into the factories at sixteen years of age and under, and whom the nation may want to conscript for military training.
I feel particularly bitter when I look back and realize how difficult life was made for me, deliberately and maliciously, so that I would be prevented from providing for my children as I should have provided for them. I remember the number of times I have been denied the privilege of “ earning a livelihood, and when I was blacklisted and maligned. Such action meant a direct blow at my children. If a miracle could be performed, there is nothing better that T would ask than that I should live my life over again with the same knowledge as I have now of the extent to which children are denied the opportunities and essentials of life to which they are entitled. As they grow into men and women they are legislated against in many ways in institutions like this chamber. During the ‘thirties they were deliberately starved. I am thinking of the children of the men who had to work for the dole in that dark period. In this very chamber an appeal was made to honorable senators to do something for the children, but nothing was done. The price is now being paid. Most of thu so-called criminals of to-day were children deprived of a chance in life. They were reared in a vicious environment and society is punishing crimes for which it paved the way. As I read in the press of young men and women who are gaoled for various terms, I try to imagine the background of their experience. I can see the slums, the malnutrition and the way in which they have been educated and generally misled. I see them as the victims of criminal conditions. They suffer for the sins of legislators and of the boards of directors controlling monopolies who are continually increasing prices and imposing conditions which make it most difficult to rear children and treat them as they should be treated. It is going on to-day in every part of this country and to speak here of “greater contentment and happiness in this great land of Australia “ is deliberately to add insult to injury. Therefore I believe that I am justified in speaking in the terms that I am using.
I emphasize how necessary it is to reconsider the whole position of the children consistent with whatever powers we have. The Labour movement to which I belong has done that ever since it was formed, but simply because of sustained opposition it has not been able to accomplish what it desired. Years ago the Labour movement advocated free milk for school children. The proposition was laughed at. People became indignant on the public platform and asked, “ Why should we be taxed to give free milk to somebody else’s children ? “ I remember them saying that the idea was preposterous and that it was robbery; yet to-day it is done. The Labour movement advocated free lunches for children of poor parents who were unable to provide or pay for them. The same arguments were used, yet during the war when the parents were indispensable and could not be ignored to the extent that they had ‘been ignored previously, and when the nation could not afford to overlook the fact that it was under an obligation to provide for the children, free lunches were provided for the children in many places throughout the world, particularly in England. I can remember the time when such an idea was considered Utopian and it was said that it was not financially possible. I remind honorable senators that in the thirties there were 13,000 young men in. Melbourne alone who left school and were unable to obtain employment. Fifty per cent, of them were being provided for by their parents or relatives. The other 50 per cent, were receiving the dole. They formed community homes in COSdemned houses, living on scraps. When the bells were rung at the close of business in the markets, they picked up piece? that were left over, or paid a few shillings for meat. These were some of the young men upon whom Australia depended to defend the nation. When I urged in this chamber that the Government should put these young fellows into technical schools, pay them the basic wage, and train them to be craftsmen, I was told that that would be financially impossible, and that, in any case, the matter was the responsibility not of the Commonwealth but of the States. I pointed out that in the event of war this country would have to rely upon its trained young men and women. When I was appointed Minister for Aircraft Production, one of the Government’s first moves was to establish classes to train operatives in the manufacture of aircraft components. These people were paid the basic wage while undergoing training.
– I ask the honorable senator to relate his remarks to the bill now before the Senate.
– I was merely pointing out, Mr. President, that there is a need to do much more than to pay a paltry 5s. a week in child endowment. I was emphasizing my point by mentioning some personal experiences in the 1930’s and in the war years. As the result of the action of the Labour Government in time of war, we have to-day thousands of healthy well trained men and women who, but for the war, would not have had an opportunity to acquire technical training. The ramifications of child endowment are wide. There is much more involved than the mere payment of an additional 5s. a week in respect of the first child of each family. Five shillings a week is not even pocket money in these days of high prices. Even 10s. is little enough. Again I urge the Senate to accept the amendment that the Opposition will move at the committee stage - that a direction should be given to the Arbitration Court to disregard child endowment payments in fixing the new basic wage. If the Arbitration Court failed to heed such a direction, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act could be amended to compel the court to comply with the wishes of the Parliament.
– I do not intend to make a long speech on this measure. When I saw the second-reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) blazoned in the daily papers, I thought that perhaps the measure would make a real contribution to the emancipation of working-class families, but it should be clear to every one that 5s. a week is totally inadequate. As Senator Cameron has pointed out, if the Commonwealth Government in 1930 or 1931 had contributed an additional 5s. towards family income, material assistance would have been given. One would think that a measure dealing with child endowment would be one of the most important bills that could come before this Parliament, but this measure is of no great significance. If. the Government were serious in its professions of sympathy for working-class families, it would first endeavour to give effect to some of its election promises. Our most urgent need to-day, I should think, is to put value back into the £1. That was one of the promises on which the present Government was elected. By appreciating the value of our currency, the Government would be rendering a greater service to the children of this country than it is by introducing this measure. There is another major disability that is interfering with the welfare of not only the first child in each family, but of all children. I refer to industrial dislocation. Prior to the elections we were told by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) through the press that, if he were elected to office, he would bring peace back into industry. If that objective were achieved it would mean much more to Australian families than the payment of 5s. a week for the first child.
– There is peace in Brisbane.
– I sincerely hope that peace will he preserved on the Brisbane waterfront, and if the present Government can succeed where its predecessor failed, we on this side of the chamber shall be only tod pleased to give credit where credit is due; but I warn the Government not to count its chickens before they are hatched.
– What is the Labour party hatching now ?
– If the Government fulfils its election promises to deal with subversive elements in this country, I shall be waving good-bye to Senator Wright when he leaves for his homeland, Russia. I have been fighting communism for 25 years. I was fighting it when Senator Wright was still at school. I was speaking of peace in industry, but of course Senator Wright does not know what industry means. He should have a talk with his brother. who has had something to do with industry.
– Is he a Labour man ?
– My word he is. By securing peace in industry the Government would do much to restore the purchasing power of the fi, and thus would do more for the children of this country than it will achieve by passing this legislation. We all know that the promise to endow the first child of each family was made as election bait, but supporters of the trade union movement which is ‘affiliated with the great Australian Labour party, were not misled. They have a thorough knowledge of the working of the Arbitration Court.
When the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and other honorable senators opposite tell us that this measure will not influence the Arbitration Court’s finding in the basic wage case, we know that that is merely a personal opinion. I remind the Minister that State tory governments are supporting the employers’ case against an increase of the basic wage.
– This Government has not intervened.
– Representatives of this Government are present as observers, but there are different kinds of observers. I have no doubt that the court will take into consideration the effect of this legislation when making its determination. T remind honorable senators that when the Prime Minister announced his child endowment plans in Ids policy speech, the Arbitration Court immediately suspended the hearing of the basic wage claim. We asked Senator Wright yesterday, by way of interjection, “ Why did the Arbitration Court suspend the hearing?” He did not even venture an opinion in reply. My own opinion is that the members of the court took cognizance of what was said by the antiLabour parties during the election campaign and realized that if those parties won the election they would increase the payment for child endowment. For that reason the court decided to adjourn the hearing of the case. For Senator Wright’s information I can tell him that the basic wage is determined on the needs of a man, wife, and one child, and it does not provide for a family with more than one child. It is evident, therefore, that the court must take into consideration any financial benefit conferred on the workers by the Parliament, and that is why the court adjourned the hearing of the case before the election.
– Then why is the court not still adjourned?
– The Government is trying to keep peace in industry and is trying to avoid antagonizing the trade unions, which have loyally abided by arbitration. We, on this side of the chamber, who have amongst us some of the leaders of the unions, realize that if the hearing of the basic wage case was suspended any further by the court there would be serious trouble, not with the Communists but with the ordinary peaceful, law-abiding unionists. Because of the spiralling cost of living it is extremely hard to maintain industrial peace even amongst those unions which have proved themselves to be loyal, democratic and fair-minded. It is because of the plight of the members of those unions that the court decided to resume the hearing of the basic wage claim. Of course, I can quite understand that supporters of the Government, who know nothing about industry except that many nf them derive considerable profits from it-
– If the honorable senator wants to make a speech, why does he not prepare his material so that he knows something about the matter?
– I think that I know sufficient about the Arbitration Court to debate it with the Minister for Social Services at any time and in any place. I am merely stating facts. All that the Minister knows of the Arbitration Court is that periodically the court awards a certain wage to the workers in a particular industry, and that later, he reaps the reward of the labours of the workers in that industry. I know that the Minister realizes in his own heart that the payment of the proposed increased rate of child endowment may adversely affect a married man with a wife and one child. Because he is reasonably decent he is concerned about that, and that is why he cannot sit still while I am stating the facts. The gun which the Government is presenting to the Arbitration Court is loaded in both barrels. The Government has already intimated to the Court that if it takes into consideration the payment of 5s. a week child endowment the Government will offset any reduction of the basic wage which the court may order in consequence by increasing child endowment to 10s. a week. Members of the Arbitration Court might, therefore, easily come to the conclusion that since the Government has apparently determined that the workers are to receive an additional 10s. a week by way of endowment they should take that sum into consideration in determining the new basic wage.
– Would the honorable senator himself do that if he werea member of the Arbitration Court?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - Order ! The Minister forSocial Services must permit SenatorHendrickson to make his speech in hisown way.
– The formula that is used to determine the basicwage takes account of any loading of the wage hy such concessions as child endowment, and the judges of the Arbitration Court, if they are to be fair, must takeinto account any such loading. That is why I say that the judges of that court will inevitably credit the workers withhaving received an additional amount by way of income unless they are specifically instructed by the Government that the proposed increase has nothing whatever to do with the determination of the basic wage and is merely something in the nature of a social gratuity from a bounteous treasury. If such an instruction is given to them they will probably take the view that the additional payment of child endowment is nothing more than a small windfall for the workers, and they will disregard it in determining the basie wage. Married men with one child may then receive some small benefit from the Government’s proposal.
When I heard Senator Wright and Senator Robertson say, in the course of this debate, how proud they were that it was a previous Menzies administration which conferred child endowment on the people of Australia, I could not help feeling that if I had been a supporter^ of a political party that was in power during the depression, when children in this country starved and suffered from malnutrition at a time when there was overflowing production, and that administration had done nothing to endow the first child, 1. would hold my- head in shame. Honorable senators opposite have asked why did not Labour introduce endowment when it was in office? 1 remind them that after 1916 Labour did not again attain real political power until 1941. Incidentally, from my observation of the tactics adopted by Senator Wright and other honorable senators opposite, and from the whispers which we receive from time to time of the counsels of honorable senators opposite, I do not think that it will be long before Labour again occupies the treasury bench.
– So the honorable senator hopes.
– In the interests of the children of Australia particularly, and in the interests of the nation generally, I hope that it will not be long before the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) will again be in charge of the destinies of this country. In fact, the people will undoubtedly return Labour, which has given them as much social security as is possible under capitalism, to office before very long.
I believe that when the Government decided to increase the payment for child endowment it was actuated by a sinister motive. If the basic wage is to be calculated on the needs of a man, his wife and one child, industry is going to be relieved of quite a large amount of money, and we all remember that it was “ big business “ which subscribed so generously to enable the anti-Labour parties to put forth a spate of Fascist, Nazi, and even Com.munist, propaganda during the five weeks that preceded the last election. Naturally, “ hig business “ expects some dividends on its investment. After all, it fathered the child that was born on the 10th December last. There is not one honorable senator sitting opposite who did not publicly oppose the implementation of the previous Government’s free medicine scheme during the recent election campaign. If honorable senators opposite were sincere in their concern for even the children of this country they would have compelled the British Medical Association to abide by the legislation that was enacted by the Parliament in the interest? f>f the children of Australia .particularly, and of the working men and women in general. But they were not sincere. They opposed the introduction of free medicine, and to-day the workers of Australia, although they are paying for free medicine, are still not receiving it. The propaganda used to defeat the Government’s proposals for the introduction of pharmaceutical benefits was appalling. As an example I shall quote the experience of a wife of a constituent of mine. The family have a boy ten years old, and they told me that until the recent elections they had never discussed politics with any one. During the election campaign the wife of my constituent had occasion to visit their local doctor, and she took the opportunity to ask him whether, if Labour were returned to office, and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme was implemented, she would still be able to consult him. The doctor replied : “ No, my dear woman; you will have to go where the Government directs you, and you will be standing in a queue for hours and hours “. That is typical of the propaganda indulged in by members of the British Medical Association, and this is one reason why some of the w omen of Australia voted against Labour. I suppose that even under Hitler’s Nazi regime no more scurrillous propaganda was disseminated. Now, that the antiLabour parties have been returned to power they are anxious to appear to be fulfilling the promises that they made before the election. However, I repeat that if they were sincere, even in their protestations of concern for the children of this country, they would attempt to do something of real benefit for them. We of the Labour party want to do something for the children.- We tried to do so when we were in power, but we failed because the people of Australia would not give us the constitutional power to control prices. Members of the political parties opposite told the electors during the recent election campaign that they could do many things. Now we, as members of the Opposition,, look forward to the Government honouring its promises. If the Government can put value back in the £1, which ha.3 depreciated to almost onethird of its old value, then they will be doing a great act of justice to the women and children of Australia, who may not need the child endowment that the Government proposes to confer on them.
Senator McKenna pointed out that twocourses are open to the Parliament in dealing with this legislation. The first is that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court be directed that the payment, of additional child endowment isnot to be taken into consideration in fixing the new basic wage. I say quite frankly that the members of the court would probably not resent such action by the Parliament as an interference with the discharge of their duty but would probably regard it as an attempt by the Parliament to clarify the formula on which the court determines the basic wage. The other course suggested by the honorable senator is to increase the proposed payment for the first child from 5s. to 10s. a week. As one who has reared four children I cannot say that any one of my children cost twice as much to rear as any other child of the family. All children in any family should receive the same rate of endowment.
In the course of his speech Senator Wright mentioned that prior to 1941 Labour was out of power for ten years, and he quoted certain statements concerning the basic wage made by our late leader. Mr. John Curtin, in 1941. I remind the honorable senator that when Mr. Curtin made those statements he was not trying to woo the electors of Australia. The elections had been held the previous year, and Labour had been defeated at those elections, so that Mr. Curtin was not electioneering hut was merely putting forward a case which he believed was right and was proposing something that was in the interests of the children of this country.
– In other words the late Mr. Curtin held the same view as that expressed by the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) in the House a few days ago.
– When the late Mr. Curtin discussed this matter in 1941 we had not had an opportunity to introduce child endowment, but as a party and as a component of the great trade union movement we had at all times urged the Government of the day to provide some gratuity, endowment or other form of social services benefit to help families, both large and small. Official statistics show that Australian families, instead of increasing are decreasing. That is because parents rare not prepared to bring into the world children to whom they have no hope of giving economic security. Some people may say that the average young man, or young woman, to-day does not possess the pioneering spirit of the early Australian settlers. That is beside the point, because the opportunities available to young people to-day are not the same as those that were available to young people prior to the outbreak of World War I.
– That is the result of eight years of Labour rule.
– No. The explanation is that years ago our young people were forced to go to the bush with their picks, shovels and drays; and many of them died by the way-side. To-day, however, after eight years of Labour administration, our young people are living under much more congenial conditions. Senator Wright also said that the basic wage should be computed on the basis of what industry can afford to pay. I ask him on what basis would he fix the wages of soldiers during the recent war when they produced nothing, but only destroyed?
– They guaranteed our freedom.
– That is so: but they did not produce anything material that could be evaluated in monetary terms. Certainly, industry shall continue to produce; but if honorable senators opposite believe that the Arbitration Court should compute the basic wage on the basis of what industry can afford to pay, members of our armed forces would not have been paid anything during the recent war, because they were not engaged in industry. War is not an industry.
– By the same token, the honorable senator should ask his colleague, Senator McKenna, on what basis he would fix the wages of lawyers.
– With all respect to my colleague, I liken lawyers to barnacles on a ship - when they are scraped off the vessel is enabled to travel faster. However, if the Arbitration Court were to fix the basic wage on what industry could afford to pay to-day, it would have to fix a wage of approximately £20 a week. But we must be realistic. We cannot have the Arbitration Court fixing the basic wage unless the Parliament, which created the court, assists it by setting up some organization to regulate prices in the same way as it has set up the court itself to regulate the basic wage. The Government has the opportunity to do something that will be of immediate and substantial benefit to the children of this country by appointing , an organization of that kind. I shall support any such proposal regardless of the political colour of the government that introduces it. I repeat that an organization must be set up to control prices in the same way as the Arbitration Court has been set up to control the basic wage.
– And an organization to control profits, too.
– Yes. However, I shall not support the establishment of any organization that will delay the hearing of claims before the Arbitration Court. To-day, the court is hearing a claim for a basic wage of £10 a week. I put this to honorable senators opposite: If they were workers in industry and contributors to union funds, and, after their union had waited for two years for the Arbitration Court to hear their claim for an increase of wages, and in the meantime costs had spiralled as they have spiralled in the last two years, they were told by their organizing secretary that arbitration was the only way out of their troubles, would they not be very dissatisfied ?
– In those circumstances I would advise unionists to sack their officials and appoint new ones.
– The unionists have endeavoured by every possible constitutional means to get the Arbitration Court to hear their claims without delay.
– On every occasion that the basic wage is increased, prices subsequently rise higher still.
– Of course; it is a case of the dog chasing its tail.
– In Great Britain, the Government is considering freezing wages.
– That has nothing to do with the people of Australia. Fortunately, we can leave the welfare of the British people in the hands of the great leader whose government has just been re-elected in that country. We cannot do anything of real benefit to the children of this nation under proposals of the kind embodied in this measure. This bill is sheer humbug. What canone buy with 5s., when apples cost 9d. each and lamb costs 2s. 9d. per lb.? We do not want to go back to the conditions to which the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) referred when, in 1931, she said that a family could exi on meals prepared from shins of beef. Fancy 5s. !
– On the same basis, endowment at the rate of 10s. is not much better.
– If Senator Hannaford is prepared to move an amendment to increase the proposed endowment for the first child to 10s. a week, I shall not object to moving a further amendment that it be increased to £1 a week. I want the Government to understand that members of the Opposition did not come down in the last poli tical shower. We know just as well as our opponents do that there is as much chancethat the Government will seek a double dissolution on this measure as there is that I shall become Emperor of China. We must try to work out a solution that will give some relief to the children of Australia who are suffering because of the present high cost of living. I believe that all honorable senators are sincere in their approach to this matter.
– Let us make a start by passing the bill.
– What is the use of building a house except upon soundfoundations ? In this instance, the Government is putting on the roof firstIt should make a start by laying the f oundations just as the Chifley Government proposed to make a start by establishing medical and pharmaceutical benefits. We must start where the trouble begins, and provide for children at their birth. Probably, they will be our next soldiers and unemployed, just as our children have been in the past. Wemust give the children a decent standardof living and a reasonable chance of existing in comfort. If honorable senators opposite are sincere they will heed Senator McKenna’s suggestion that the government of the day should intimate to the Arbitration Court that it does not want the court to take into consideration the provision of this endowment for the first child when it is determining the basic wage. The Government should do that whether the rate of endowment be 5s. or 10s. a week. I believe that it will be 10s. a week, because I think that honorable senators opposite have as much sympathy for our children’s welfare as honorable senators on this side have, and, therefore, will agree eventually to increase the rate of .endowment to 10s. We can see further than the profits of big business. Labour governments that preceeded the present Government foresaw what would happen in this country after the recent war had ended. Consequently, the Chifley Government asked the people to give to the National Parliament in peace-time power to control prices on a nation-wide basis. It is a great tribute to that Government that during the war prices rossless in Australia than in any other country. That was due to the magnificent job that was done by the Prices Branch, which, incidentally, was set up by the Menzies Government at the outbreak of the war with Professor Copland at its head. That gentleman did a gigantic job in that position. Later, he relinquished that position.
– Because the people refused to give power to this Parliament to continue to control prices on a nation-wide basis in peace-time, Professor Copland relinquished his position as Prices Commissioner after he had trained his assistant in the Prices Branch, Mr. McCarthy, a senior officer in the Public Service, to take his place. The Chifley Government acknowledged his great qualities and offered him the opportunity to work in the wider sphere of research in building up this nation, and he accepted that opportunity. If the Government is not prepared to set up some tribunal to control the cost of living and profits, it will be useless for the Arbitration Court to increase the basic wage or for the Government to provide endowment for the first child. That will only continue the vicious circle. For the benefit of those honorable senators who are not aware of the procedure “that is followed by the Arbitration Court in fixing the basic wage, I point out that unions are not allowed to apply foi increases until the cost of living index shows that the cost of living has increased. At present, unions that are not Communistcontrolled, but are affiliated with the Labour party, have been waiting for two years for the court to hear their claim for an increase of the basic wage.
– Is not the basic wage adjusted every quarter in accordance with changes in the cost of living?
– That adjustment is made on the basis of an index that covers only a few items. That index does not cover prices of such commodities as lamb, fruit and vegetables or rent. Items of that kind must be taken into consideration when a new claim is made to the Arbitration Court. We are not opposed to giving some benefit to the children. Indeed, we are 100 per cent, in favour of that being done, and we shall give tangible proof of that fact. However, we say that the Government should approach this matter in a proper way. If it is sincere it will acknowledge the logic of our argument that it should set up some organization to control prices. By doing so it will honour its election promise to put value back into the £1. The Minister for Social Services, in his second-reading, speech, also said -
Each time progress is suggested there are to be found some reactionaries who express the view that the nation cannot afford the expense involved.
Coming from a Minister of a government like the present Government, that is a fine statement ! I trust that the Minister was sincere when he made it, because if the Government has changed its front and is now prepared to fall into line with the Labour party, it will enjoy a harmonious term of office. However, on every occasion in the past when the Labour party proposed that some progressive action be taken, the interests represented by the present Government opposed it. I have heard honorable senators opposite talk about “good trade unions “. To-day, they claim that the Australian Workers Union is a “good trade union “, but I remember when its organizers were beaten up by gangs employed by station owners because they dared to ask for a reasonable wage for shearers. I also remember when the present right honorable member for Bradfield, Mr. William Morris Hughes, was responsible for one of the greatest debacles ever to occur on the cane-fields of Queensland.
– The honorable senator must be an old man.
– I enlisted in the forces when I was sixteen years old and fought in World War I. I am 52 years of age now. I have taken an active interest in industrial matters since I enlisted.. When the right honorable member for Bradfield was Prime Minister of this country, he organized a strike on the sugar cane-fields of Queensland. He hired Communist orators to go to the cane-fields and urge the men to strike. Those men were never seen on the cane-fields again. The workers beat them up.
– The children of those days will not be eligible for child endowment under this measure.
– The people of Australia must be told the truth. Some of them have, like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), been asleep for a long time, and they must be awakened. The Minister for Social Services stated in his secondreading speech that each time progress is suggested there are to be found some reactionaries who oppose it. Those are the people who are represented by the liberal party. If the Government were to introduce a bill designed to benefit the workers of Australia, it would not be opposed by honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
– Then why is the honorable senator opposing this measure ?
– All that we are trying to do is to show that the proposed payment of 5s. a week will do nothing to alleviate the distress of men who have wives and families and are receiving only the basic wage, and that it would be reasonable to increase the payment to 10s. a week, and to request the Arbitration Court not to take it into consideration in the fixation of the basie wage. The Arbitration Court was established by this Parliament.
– By the Liberal party;
– That is true. Senator McCallum was taking an active interest in the Labour party at about the time that it was done. I do not know why he left.
– It is a little awkward for honorable senators opposite when we have some one on our side who knows their tricks.
– What about William Morris Hughes? The Liberal party has had him for a long time. The interests that are using honorable senators opposite to-day once used “Billy” Hughes. When they had finished’ with him, they dumped him, in the same way as they dumped every “ rat “ that left this party. They have used such persons as a means to an end, and when they have finished with them, they have “ diced “ them. The late “Joe” Lyons and the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
– By implication, the expression “rat” is applicable to the persons that the honorable senator named after using the word. I ask that it be withdrawn, on the ground that it is unparliamentary.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Senator Hendrickson was speaking generally. He was not reflecting on any one in the Parliament.
– I remind you, Mr. Deputy President, that the honorable senator said that certain persons had “ diced “ every “ rat “ who left the Labour party, as they did with “Billy” Hughes and the present Chief Justice of the High Court. The honorable senator did not refer to them generally; he specified them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Senator Wright has taken exception to a remark made by Senator Hendrickson. It is the practice in the Senate, if one honorable senator takes exception to a remark made by another honorable senator, to withdraw the remark to which exception is taken. I ask Senator Hendrickson to withdraw the remark that he made.
– With great respect to you, Mr. Deputy President, I cannot allow Senator Wright to put words into my mouth. I did not refer to the Chief Justice of the High Court as a. “ rat “.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - ‘That explanation should be accepted. I ask Senator Hendrickson to continue with his speech.
– When the late “ J oe “ Lyons left this party, he was used. Sir John Latham, who was then the Leader of the Liberal party in this Parliament, refused to serve under Mr. Lyons, and he was then appointed to the High Court Bench.
– That is entirely untrue and unworthy of the honorable senator.
– If we found a traitor in our ranks in World War I. we shot him. I think that the same thing should be done to all political “ rats “.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I am wholeheartedly in favour of the Arbitration Court as a body to deal with the claims of the workers in industry, but I am very much concerned over the length of time that it takes to decide the cases that come before it. I wish to make it clear that I am not suggesting that the judges of the court do not work hard, because I know that they do. But the Parliament must realize that the affairs of the workers of this country are growing in magnitude all the time. We must assist the court to deal expeditiously with the claims that come before it. I appeal to the Government to urge the court not to take child endowment into consideration when determining the -basic wage. I believe that the judges of the court will not be offended by such a request and that they will be prepared to accede to it. If the Government does that, and also establishes an organization to control prices, it will have gone some way towards honouring the pledge that it made to the people of Australia during the last general election campaign to increase the purchasing power of the £1. If these things are not done, the children of this country will derive no benefit from the proposed weekly payment of 5s., which we suggest should be increased to 10s. I do not oppose this hill, because, as I have said, I am prepared to support any legislation that will benefit the workers, but the Government should, I suggest, give some consideration to the views that have been expressed by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, because we represent almost 50 per cent, of the people qf Australia. If the Government accedes to our suggestions, it will have done something to improve the welfare of the people.
Instead of concentrating its efforts upon putting value back into the £1, the Government has introduced this bill for the payment of a miserable 5s. a week in child endowment and has invoked the Crimes Act. We have asked on numerous occasions how the operation of that act will affect the trade unions that are represented by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. We represent those unions that are affiliated with the Australian Labour party. We also represent some waterside workers., seamen and coal-miners, but we do not represent executives of their unions. We desire to know in what way the Crimes Act will affect the trade unions that we represent, because there are occasions when it is necessary for the workers to protest against the bosses paying too little for the only thing that they have to sell, and that is their labour. Every man in this great free country of ours should have the right to decide to whom he shall sell his labour. When we have asked questions of responsible Ministers, we have been given irresponsible answers. I say that the action of the Government will breed discontent among the members of the unions that are affiliated with the Australian Labour party and thus bring misery to the children who are dependent upon them.
We shall doubtless have an opportunity in committee to deal in detail with some of the provisions of this bill. I appeal to the Government to consider favorably the amendment in respect to the increase of the endowment that Senator McKenna has foreshadowed. When the Labour party was in office, we could not see our way clear to making money available to endow first children, but I am happy to know that this Government can find the money for that purpose. The cost of endowing the first child in a family will be £15,000,000 a year, making our total annual expenditure on social services approximately £115,000,000. If the Government is able to do that, it should be able to view with favour our suggestion that the endowment be increased to 10s. a week and also that it be suggested to the judges of the Arbitration Court that that payment should not be taken into consideration when the basic wage is determined.
– It would have to be a direction and not a suggestion.
– The judges of the Arbitration Court are very learned men. They are also very impartial. I believe that they desire to do whatever they can do in the interest of both employers and employees. I have no hesitation in saying that I would prefer to be a senator rather than a judge of the Arbitration Court. The judges have a gigantic task, and we are not assisting them as much as we could do. We have asked them to fix the basic wage, but while they are hearing evidence prices are steadily increasing. That is not fair to the judges. Those judges are faced with a gigantic task. Both employer and employee organizations place reams of evidence before them. We should give them a lead by establishing a tribunal to fix wages and profits in order to enable the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to make its decisions more quickly and thus help to preserve peace in industry. I hope that at the committee stage of this measure honorable senators will have a further opportunity to discuss the various aspects of this matter. Before that stage is reached, however, I hope that the Government will have recognized the wisdom of the submissions of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and increased the amount of endowment proposed to be paid in respect of the first child in each family under the age of sixteen years to 10s. a week. I hope, also, that the Government will see fit to inform the judges that extension of child endowment should not be considered by them when determining the basic wage, and that it is merely a gratuity from the Parliament.
– I support this bill. It seeks to extend child endowment by the payment of 5s. a week for the first or only child under sixteen years of age in every family. This is merely an extension of the system of child endowment that became law in 1941. I believe that that was a great step forward in our social advancement. It was introduced by the Menzies Government of the day, to which I give credit., I give credit, also, to the then Opposition, which acclaimed the measure as a step forward in our national way of life. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) presented a very clear and concise statement of the Government’s intentions to the Senate. I sincerely regret that the matter of the basic wage has intruded into this debate, because I regard the basic wage as a national matter. Not one honorable senator opposite, in referring to the basic wage, cited one instance of the court even suggesting that it had taken any notice whatsoever of child endowment when assessing the basic wage. I was constrained to look up some of our industrial laws to discover what the term “basic wage” means. It is not defined by any judgment. We could say that perhaps it is the lowest wage that could be legally paid to an employee in a particular geographical area. However, we must not confuse the basic wage with the minimum wage. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 clearly sets out that the minimum wage is the wage payable to employees in a particular industry. As has been said by many other honorable senators, perhaps what we now loosely call the basic wage originated in 1907. Most honorable senators have paid tribute to that very great Australian, Mr. Justice Higgins. He had no legislative provisions to guide him in determining the Harvester award of 1907. He was a pioneer in this field, and more or less had to “ take a shot in the dark “. He considered that the specification “ fair and reasonable” in regard to a wage claim meant the normal needs of the average employee living in a civilized community.
From the evidence placed before him he considered that £2 2s. represented the necessary average weekly expenditure in r. labourer’s home of about five persons. I ask honorable senators to note particularly that there was nothing specific in that opinion. It was not based on a detailed and comprehensive investigation. That judgment, which raised the workers’ standard of living by about 27 per cent., may be regarded as the basis of the computation of the Australian basic wage. Since then, as honorable senators know, there have been additions, and on one occasion, a subtraction. It has always been the aim of the court, and employers generally, to improve the standard of living of the workers. It hurts me to hear statements that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are not concerned with the interests of employees in industry. We are just as concerned about their welfare as are those honorable senators opposite who have contended that employers are interested only in making profits. How can honorable senators opposite reconcile that contention with their broadcast assertion that the Government wants to see men unemployed? There is nothing wrong with the making of a fair and legitimate profit. Employers want men to be engaged in industry. Obviously, if men are out of work the employers cannot make profits. That is a complete answer to the humbug that has been resorted to by honorable senators opposite.
Perhaps most members of this chamber are more conversant than I am with the industrial laws of Australia. However, I have endeavoured to keep abreast of the times in that respect. The index numbers “A”, “B”, and “ C “ were introduced, each designed to improve the method of arriving at a fair basic wage. In 1919 Mr. A. A. Piddington, K.C., was chairman of a royal commission appointed to inquire into the actual cost of living of a man, his wife, and three children under fourteen years of age. One or two remarkable facts were elicited by that commission. It was found that the average family of children under fourteen years of age was only 1.65. In its wisdom the court refused to adopt the Piddington royal commission’s finding as the basis of wage fixation, because the findings were based not on the needs of the unskilled worker, but on the needs of all employees, both skilled and unskilled. It also held that industry could not afford to adopt that basis. It is interesting to note that Mr. Piddington suggested in his report that a basic wage should be fixed for a man and his wife only, and that a bonus should be paid for each child of the worker. A great boom period followed the termination of World War I. What was commonly called the “ Powers 3s. “ was introduced. Australia then passed through bad years, which every one regrets occurred. We should profit by the experiences of those years. The history of the past is only useful if we can build something better as a result. Although that was a terrible period for every section of our community, it should act as a spur to us to see that the conditions of those days shall not recur if it is humanly possible for us to avert them. I was very pleased to hear some honorable senators say that they would devote all of their efforts to prevent a recurrence of those dark days. In 1931 the basic wage was reduced by 10 per cent., and in 1933 it became evident that the wage rate had decreased by more than 10 per cent, in terms of purchasing power. That was adjusted by adopting the Commonwealth Statistician’s “ allitems “ index. I mention these things to show that down the years attempts have been made to improve the method of computing the basic wage. As some honorable senators have mentioned, a fresh start was made in 1934 to try to devise a system by which the workers, and industry generally, would be contented. In 1943 the Arbitration Court, consisting of Chief Judge Dethridge, Judge Drake-Brockman, and Judge Beeby, fixed a wage of £3 4s. for Melbourne, with variations for the other States. Judge Beeby considered that £3 5s. 6d. should be the amount. It is interesting to note that margins for skill were restored at that time. In 1937 a prosperity loading was granted. That was fixed at 6s. for New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, and 4s. for South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. There is no hard and fast rule to establish the principle upon which the basic wage is calculated. It is not fixed solely in relation to productivity. I stall mention some of the pertinent judicial comments that were made. Judge Beeby said -
Deliberate re-arrangement of the division of national income amongst the different factors of production is beyond the power and capacity of the court.
Chief Judge Dethridge expressed the opinion that the real determinant of wage rates should be the productivity of labour, whilst Mr; Justice Piper said -
An erroneous impression is abroad that the guiding principle on which the basic wage is fixed is that it is a family wage, that is, a minimum amount required to provide for an unskilled labourer, his wife, and family - the family being believed to be three children. Statistics show that the average family is not five. The highest average number of dependent children under sixteen years of married male wage and salary earners at any period of their life being a little over two. . . . Fixation of a basic wage as the living wage of a family unit is impracticable.
Judge O’Mara said -
A more logical system would be to grade the basic wage according to family responsibility.
No such claim has been made by employers or employees.
On the 8th November, 1941, the Australian scheme of child endowment was introduced, and I believe the people of Australia acclaimed it as having very great virtue. It has become part and parcel of the national life. That child endowment scheme was to be financed partly from Consolidated Revenue, but chiefly from the pay-roll tax. It is interesting to note that pay-roll tax actually collected in 1948-49 was £19,801,526. Again in 1946, Acting Chief Judge Drake-Brockman inquired into the basic wage, and on the 13th December, 1946, he gave an interim judgment. No mention of child endowment was made in fixing the basic wage in that judgment. In South Australia the Board of Industry, in its report declaring the living wage to be paid to adult wage employees in the metropolitan area, said, in effect, that although a family may receive child endowment, it would be wrong to deduct that amount from the basic wage and proclaim the answer as the living wage. It also said -
The board has, however, unanimously come to the conclusion that such a method of approach is impossible.
It is believed that 75 per cent, of wageearners receive no child endowment and therefore they would suffer a fall in their standard of living if child endowment were taken into consideration.
It is interesting to note that of those 75 per cent, of wage and salary earners, 16 per cent, are men with one dependent child. I am firmly of the opinion that the Arbitration Court desires to protect the standard of living. If honorable senators would study the speeches made when child endowment was introduced in 1941, they would find that it was most noteworthy that practically every member who spoke on the bill, and, incidentally, on the pay-roll tax, said that it would be something paid to better the standards enjoyed by basic wage-earners with two or more dependent children. Those honorable members in 1941 believed that, and it has been proved since by the higher standard of living of the children. I quote also this statement from the Board of Industry in South Australia -
The hoard has decided that while it regards the payment of child endowment as a reality which should not be ignored, the board should not make any reduction in the living wage by reason only of the payment of those amounts. The board considers that child endowment should be accepted by it as a raising of the standard of living for the benefit of the children in all families where there are two or more children.
That point of view is interesting, and it is the way that honorable senators on this side of the Senate look at it. Child endowment raises the standard of living of our children and as the Minister for Social Services said clearly and concisely in his second-reading speech, it is the great desire of the Government to raise the children’s standard of living. This Government extends the benefit of child endowment to the first child at the rate of 5s. a week and that will be a welcome addition to the budgets of mothers. In practice, child endowment is paid to the mother, not to the father. I stress that point because I recall that my wife first received child endowment when I was away from Australia in 1941. I recall that she accepted it as something she could spend for the direct benefit of our six children. Chaos would occur if a single man were paid a certain wage and a married man were paid a similar wage plus an amount for each child.
Every person who has been an employer will recognize how impossible such an arrangement would be. The man for whom the employer would look in that event would be a single man, provided he could do the job. I do not suppose that any honorable senator opposite would act any differently if he had a gardener or some other employee.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber desire to help the family life that is so dear to most Australians. The strength of our Empire lies in our homes. Honorable senators know that family expenses rise with the birth of each child, but the breadwinner’s income is not solely based on the needs of his family. If his family increases, his wage does not rise - and that is where child endowment is of great value - because it is mainly based on the economic value of the worker in the employment in which he is engaged. Child endowment assists to supply some of the needs of the increasing family. Such a payment has a psychological effect, too, which cannot be disregarded. It gives some measure of security to the mother who is the keystone of the family. The very fact that she receives a regular amount of money, varying according to the number of children, relieves her of much anxiety. This tends to increase the happiness of the family. Happiness in the home makes the future outlook of our citizens brighter and better. I believe that the payment of child endowment has been a great contributory factor towards raising the standard of living of our children. Let us regard child endowment for a moment from the narrow viewpoint of an investment. I doubt if any other national investment will return such good interest and ensure such a repayment or dividend as will child endowment because it will mean happier and healthier children. If strong and healthy children are given a good start in life, they will develop into men and women sound in body and mind. A good start for them will certainly reduce the nation’s sickness bill and relieve rauch of the suffering that exists among aged people.
I believe that every party is greatly concerned with the adequate care and attention of our sick, whether as infants or in adult life. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of preventive measures. Much has been said about the doctors. As a family man I should like to pay a tribute to them, particularly to the country doctors. It ill-becomes anybody to suggest that the doctors are on strike. I have yet to learn of a doctor refusing to attend the sick or suffering. Doctors are not limited to eight hours a day. If they were and had some honorable senators to wait until 9 o’clock next morning it would perhaps make them realize how unselfish are the men of the medical fraternity. No one suggests that 5s. a week is sufficient to maintain a child but it is at least a welcome contribution. The mothers of Australia will certainly use it wisely, to give the best value to the child. It is because of this wise spending on the part of the mothers that the Government is pleased to help to bring happiness to the home. I support this bill and believe that the sooner it is brought into operation the better it will be for the people of Australia.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber agree entirely with the principle of child endowment of any description. We agree with the principle of first child endowment but it has been made clear from this side of the chamber that there are too many dangers in the Government’s proposal. I go so far as to say that there is a motive behind this proposal to endow the first child. Further, I repeat what I have said before in other places that it is a concealed attack on the basic wage by the representatives of big business. There is no question about it. In every newspaper recently and in every speech heard from anti-Labour politicians, whether they belong to the now Liberal party or the Australian Country party, the cry is that wages are the main cost in industry and that the enormously high wages paid at present are almost wholly responsible for the high prices of all commodities. The anti-Labour people believe that. We hear from every direction that wages are far too high. I repeat that this measure to pay 5s. for the first child in every family is definitely a concealed attack on the basic wage. Because of that, honorable senators on this side of the chamber are apprehensive about the proposal. In closing his speech Senator Mattner made a very stirring appeal on behalf of the mothers of families. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber agree with that sentiment, but if the Government is sincere why docs it not accept the foreshadowed amendment and make the payment 10s. instead of 5s.? For honorable senators on the Government side to rise in this chamber and express concern for the family unit and the children and then to refuse to accept an amendment proposing to double the amount of the endowment for the first child indicates insincerity. Honorable senators opposite who argue that this measure will not influence the Arbitration Court’s determination of the basic wage are consistent only in their inconsistency. They say that the Government has no power or desire to influence the Arbitration Court, bur again I remind them that three State governments of the same political colour as this Administration have actually intervened in the basic wage hearing in an effort to influence the court to take into consideration social service payments in fixing the basic wage. Therefore the attitude of honorable senators opposite to this bill is hypocritical. After Senator McKenna had spoken on this measure, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) immediately said that the Government did not have authority to instruct the Arbitration Court not to take child endowment into consideration in determining the. basic wage; but apparently the three governments to which I have referred consider that they have ample authority to endeavour to induce the court to take that very matter into consideration. The Government cannot have it both ways. If it is improper for the Commonwealth Government to endeavour to influence the Arbitration Court, then it is improper for State governments to take such action. It is apparent to any reasonable person that this Government is not sincere in introducing this measure. Honorable senators opposite represent big business which, of course, is out to reduce the basic wage.
Much has been said about the importance of the family unit. We all realize that the family unit is the corner-stone of the community, but even the Minister for Social Services himself admitted in his second-reading speech that this measure would benefit a little more than 1,000,000 families. I have before rae the latest figures showing the number of wage and salary earners in the Commonwealth, excluding rural workers, household and domestic workers, and members of the defence forces. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there are roughly 75,000 rural workers in the Commonwealth. [ base that estimate on the last census. Some thousands of men are in the defence forces, and, of course, a. substantial number of women are engaged in household and domestic duties. My figures show that, excluding those categories, at December, 1949, there were 1,816,200 male and 6SO,S00 female salary and wage earners, making a grand total of approximately 2,500,000. It is clear, therefore, that if this measure is to benefit only 1,000,000 families, approximately 1,500,000 wage and salary earners, excluding- the categories that I have mentioned, will be prejudiced if the court takes the proposed payment of 5s. a week for the first child into consideration in computing the basic wage. In other words, the wages of these peoplewill be reduced, relatively speaking. On the Government’s own admission, it fears that this may happen; yet the Attorney-General has said that the Government has no power and no desire to influence or direct the Arbitration Court to disregard the effects of this measure in determining the basic wage. Clearly, the Government intends to leave the matter entirely to the court. At present the basic wage is computed on the basis of the needs of a family unit of a man, wife and one child.
– I devoted about one-third of my second-reading speech to pointing out that that is not so.
– In the other two-thirds the Minister endeavoured to justify the Government’s refusal to approach the Arbitration Court with a proposal that child endowment should be disregarded in fixing the basic wage. I shall quote some of the Minister’s remarks at a later stage. The interests that the Government represents obviously consider that the wages to-day are too high.
– We represent the majority of the electors of Australia.
– Honorable senators opposite used a lot of half-truths and even untruths during the election campaign, and I suggest that they should not repeat them in this chamber.
– If we did not represent a majority of the electors, we should not be in power.
– This Government is not in power; it is in office. I have to keep reminding honorable senators opposite of that.
– We shall soon show the Opposition whether we are in power or not.
– Apparently the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has just awakened. I thought that he was asleep, dreaming about dingoes in Queensland. He certainly has a few political ones round him at present.
– From 1929 to 1932, the Scullin Labour Government was in the position that we are in to-day.
– The Minister should not have to remind me of that because I shall have to remind him again of how he voted on a certain measure at that time. He professes much concern for the welfare of the family unit to-day, but, as a member of this chamber during the Scullin Government’s term of office, he voted against a proposal to make £18,000,000 available to feed, clothe and house men, women and children in this country.
– We shall show the Opposition that we have sufficient courage to go to the country in defence of our principles.
– Probably the only matter on which the Minister and I would agree, is that the Government would be most reluctant to go to the country. I remind him that the people cannot be fooled all the time. Honorable senators opposite fooled them at the last general election but they will not do it again.
– The Labour Government, fooled them for eight years.
– If we fooled the people for eight years, at least in so doing we raised the economy of this country to a hitherto undreamed of level of prosperity.
– Order! I ask Senator Sandford to return to the bill.
– All that I have said is relevant, I submit and, apart from that, of course, I have to answer interjections.
– Interjections are disorderly and there is no need for any honorable senator to answer them.
– It may not be necessary for honorable senators to answer interjections, but sometimes it is quite pleasurable to do so. However, perhaps I had better leave what I was going to say. The question that I have not yet heard answered in this chamber is why the anti-Labour government - I think it was called the United Australia party Government, meaning, of course, “Unemployment and Poverty” Government - did not introduce child endowment for the (first child in 1941. That question has been asked several times but, so far, it has not been answered. Even now I hear roars of silence from honorable senators opposite! To-day they claim deep concern for the welfare of the family unit, but in 1941 they definitely opposed the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child. The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who at that time was the Minister for Social Services, said, according to Hansard, that endowment for the first child was not necessary.
– He was a bachelor then. He has come to his senses since that time.
– The reason for the Minister’s opposition at that time was that provision for the first child was made in the basic wage. When child, endowment was first introduced in 1941, there existed in this country a state of affairs similar to that existing in December last. A claim was being heard by the Arbitration Court for an increase of the basic wage. The indications were that the basic wage would be increased and the anti-Labour Government, representing big business interests, thought that if it introduced a child endowment scheme, the Arbitration Court would be influenced either not to increase the basic wage at all, or to grant a smaller increase than it would otherwisehave determined.
– That is why the Labour party supported the bill, perhaps ?
– We are supporting this bill with, of course, the amendments we have in mind. We are not miserable enough to go to a mother and say to her: “Here is 5s. a week to keep your first child “. Apart from that, however, we do want some definite assurance that the payment of the additional endowment will not have the overall effect of reducing the basic wage, which is, I suggest, the motive behind the bill. If honorable senators will bear with me I shall endeavour to prove that that is the motive of the Government. I listened attentively to the speech delivered by the Minister, and about two-thirds of his time was taken up in trying to convince the Senate that theGovernment is concerned with the welfare of the people. For instance, he said -
After allowing for natural increase and for migrants, it is estimated that the cost of endowing the first child will be approximately £15,000,000 for the financial year 1950-51 and this will bring the estimated total cost of child endowment for that year up to £46,250,000. This is asubstantial amount in relation to the total governmental expenditure. It is an amount which is received by a large proportion nf Australian families. It is, therefore, the desire of the Government that it should be received by those who are entitled to it with the minimum of inconvenience and that it shouldbepaid by the Government as economically as is possible.
However, honorable senators opposite should notforget that during the recent election campaign they also promised to reduce taxes. The payment of additional child endowment totalling £15,000,000 willincrease the expenditure on social servicesto approximately £120,000,000, so that it isdifficult to understand how the Government can carry out its promise toreduce taxes. Where is their consistency?
– They are certainly not going to take money off the rich to give it to the poor.
– I know how they will do it. They will probably re-impose taxation on some of the lowerpaid workers who were exempted by the previous Labour Administration. It has always been a fetish of members of the anti-Labour parties to speak of “ equality of sacrifice “ and the “ obligations of all “. Indeed, the present Leader of the Liberal party, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), speaking in Auckland, New Zealand, after he had returned from overseas in 1938, and in the course of his remarks, he said -
There is nothing wrong with poverty provided it is shared equally.
Can you imagine the right honorable gentleman wearing bowyangs and waiting his turn in a soup kitchen for a meal? The whole thing is absolutely ludicrous. TheGovernment’s idea of achieving “ equality of sacrifice “ is to re-impose income tax on every income earner. Indeed, members of the Government have repeatedly said that every one should pay income tax, and previous anti-Labour administrations have imposed taxation on all workers. It is obvious that the only way that the Government can carry out its promise to reduce taxes to persons with large incomes is to re-impose taxation on persons with small incomes. Honorable senators opposite cannot deny that their political parties speak with two voices. In this Parliament they have said that they have no constitutional power even to influence the Arbitration Court, but anti-Labour governments in the States of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have intervened in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to oppose any increase of the basic wage. After the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), during the recent election campaign, had stated his intention to increase child endowment payments - it was nothing more than a piece of election bait - the Commonwealth Arbitration Court promptly adjourned the hearing of the hasic wage case. Why did it do so? It gave as its principal reason that child endowment had become a political issue. Theactionof the judges in adjourning the hearing of the case, whichis a most important one andhas dragged on since 1948, for two months was typical of the delays which the courts place in the way of the workers when they seek an improvement of their conditions. Then honorable senators opposite wonder why the workers become restive-
SenatorSpicer. - Is the honorable senator aware that since 1948 the court has heard nothing but the workers’ case?
SenatorSANDFORD. - If I were to ask the Attorney-General a question about the period of time lost in the hearing of the case clue to the adjournment of the court, law vacations and other avoidable delays I know that he would not answer the question but would ask me to place it on the notice-paper. We all know that the submission of the case for the employees has taken a long time, but questions of law are involved and we all know how slow lawyers can be in such matters. I propose now to read another portion of the Minister’s speech to indicate the insincerity of the Government in this matter. The Minister said -
All these great national reforms need to be approached with courage. “Courage” is a marvellous word. If there is any courage in. the approach of the Government to the matter under consideration, then I should like to see it.
SenatorSpooner. - If there is any sincerity in the approach of the. Opposition to this matter they would accept the proposal to pay mothers 5s. a. week endowment for their first child.
SenatorS ANDFORD. - If there were any sincerity in the Government’s proposal it would instruct the Arbitration Court not to take into account the increased child endowment in determining the new basic wage.
SenatorSpooner. - There is not one iota of sincerity in the honorable senator’s case from beginning to end.
– The only courage that the Minister has ever possessed is “Dutch courage “. However, let me continue with the remarks that he made in his speech. He went on to say -
Each time that progress is suggested there are to be found some reactionaries who express the view that the nation cannot afford the expense involved.
That is what we expect and what we always get from the anti-Labour parties. We had plenty of experience of that attitude during the many years that they were in power in this country. Australians never suffered such degradation, starvationand misery as they did under anti-Labour administrations that were in office almost continuously for 25 years until 1941.
SenatorSpicer. - That is nonsense. The Scullin Administration was in power during the depression.
– The Scullin Administration was not in power; it was merely in office.
Sitting suspended from4.55 to8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I had emphasized the inconsistency and insincerity of the Government in introducing this measure. Ostensibly, the object of the bill is to grant relief to families by endowing the first child. My colleagues have pointed out that if the Government is sincere in its desire to achieve that objective it should at least make a substantial contribution for that purpose; but under this measure the Government proposes to endow the first child in the family at the rate of only5s. a week. Previous speakers have also pointed out that as the result of rising costs, particularly since the 10th December last, the purchasing power of the £1 has been reduced by half during recent months. That fact has been stated on the authority of the Prime Minister himself. With that courage to whichI referred earlier, the right honorable gentleman made the very brave statement in his policy speech at the recent general election that the non-Labour parties if returned to office would take definite steps to put value back into the £1. However, although numerous questions have been asked in this chamber and in the House of Representatives on this matter, Ministers have consistently refused to give any indication whatever of the action that the Government proposes to take in that direction. At all events, if the Prime Minister’s statement that within recent months the purchasing power of the £1 has been halved is correct, surely Government supporters, in view of their professions of concern for the welfare of families, if not in the name of justice, should be prepared to accept the amendment that has been foreshadowed by the Opposition to increase the rate of endowment under this measure to 10s. a week. The Government proposes to provide 5s. a week in order to enable parents to keep their first child. I can only describe such a proposal as a mockery. Honorable senators opposite do not like to be reminded of what happened in this country during the depression years.
– When Mr. Scullin was Prime Minister.
– That is so ; but I remind the honorable senator that supporters of the non-Labour parties absolutely refused to make money available to the government of that day for the purpose of relieving distress among the unemployed. The honorable senator himself, as a senior military officer, will no doubt recall that a large proportion of volunteers at the outbreak of the recent war were found to be medically unfit for military service. That was because during the depression years the youth upon whom we were to depend for our safety and freedom were inadequately fed, clothed and housed. I know that the truth hurts honorable senators opposite: but that fact cannot be denied.
The Attorney-General, when he was replying to Senator McKenna, quoted extracts from Hansard reports to show, in effect, that in 1941 Senator Aylett and Senator Keane were in favour of endowment being provided in respect of all children in a family. I and my colleagues are still wholeheartedly in favour of that being done, but only if the Government gives the assurance that the endowment of the first child will not be permitted to affect the present basic wage. The Government has not given that assurance and, apparently, it does not intend to do so. I do not wish to delve into history, but honorable senators opposite who profess so much loyalty to the Prime Minister, know that “ Bob “ was discredited in 1941. That was the year the first child endowment bill was introduced in this Parliament. And in 1947, when a State election was being held in New South Wales, “ Bob “ was warned off the course by the directing body of the
Liberal party, or whatever it was then called; and I presume that the Minister for Social Services was a member of that body.
– Who is “Bob”?
– “Bob” Menzies.
– I rise to order. Is it not proper parliamentary practice to refer to the Prime Minister as “ the right honorable gentleman?”
– In deference to the honorable senator - the Blair Athol coal-miner - I shall say “the right honorable gentleman “.
– Order! The honorable senator must address another honorable senator as “ honorable senator “, not as “ coal-miner “.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President, although sometimes, perhaps, the term “ honorable “ may be misplaced. At all events, in 1947, when supporters of the present Government were expressing such loyalty to the present Prime Minister during a State eletien in New South Wales, the right honorable gentleman, as the Minister for Social Services will vividly recall, was warned off the course.
– We can come closer; in 1950 the honorable senator’s own leader said in the House of Representatives that he would support this measure, yet the honorable senator is now turning upon him.
– As I said earlier, we support the proposition that endowment should be provided for all children in a family, but with the proviso that the Government give the definite assurance that the provision of such endowment will not be permitted to be the real effect of reducing the rate of the basic wage. The’ Government has not given us that assurance. It cannot, and will not, do so because this measure, in reality, is a concealed attack ,upon the basic wage. In support of that contention, I shall refer to certain statements that the Prime Minister made during the recent general election campaign. In addition, the Minister for Social Services, throughout his second-reading speech, expressed what he. would call doubts, but. what. I suspect were really his hopes, that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would take the provision of this endowment into consideration when it was computing the basic wage. The AttorneyGeneral said that the Government had not the power, or the desire, to ask the Court not to take this benefit into consideration when it was computing the basic wage. The attitude of those Ministers indicates that the Government in introducing this measure desires to bring about an overall reduction of the basic wage. They cannot get away from that fact. The Prime Minister, who, as I said earlier, has never faced an enemy and has never successfully faced an issue-
– Repetition of a statement is not proof of its truth.
– The honorable senator has lost a lot of intelligence since he left the Labour party.
– The Prime Minister faced one enemy on the 10th December, and caused great disaster to that enemy.
– During the recent general election campaign the Prime Minister in his policy speech made certain statements on behalf of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party with respect to child endowment. Incidentally I could say quite a lot about the unity that is supposed to exist between the Liberal party and the Country party, particularly in Victoria.
– Tell us about the unity in the McGirr party in New South SouthWales.
– The honorable senator who has just interjected was lucky to make the grade, having regard to the split between the two parties in Victoria.
– We had such rotten opponents.
– It depends upon the honorable senator’s interpretation of the term “ rotten “.
– Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– The Prime Minister in his policy speech at the last general election said -
Child endowment was first introduced for the Commonwealth by the Menzies Government in 1941.
I have already dealt with the background of that event. At that time, an application was before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for an increase in the basic wage. In order faithfully to serve the interests that they represent in this Parliament, the non-Labour parties introduced child endowment so that they could minimize or prevent altogether an increase of the basic wage. I am sure that Senator George Rankin does not wish me to state the position again.
– No, the record is scratched.
– The honorable senator has scratched it with his own inane interjections. Mr. Menzies said, in the policy speech that he delivered on behalf of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party -
Child endowment was first instituted for the Commonwealth by the Menzies Government in 1941. Its problems are closely associated with the amount-
I ask honorable senators opposite to listen to what follows. They have tried to deny it, but without much effect.
– This is our policy speeeh.
– I know it is. I am pointing out the loopholes in it and showing its stupidity. I am trying to show the insincerity of the Government parties. I am trying to impress upon a very dull mind that their only consistency is their inconsistency.
– What about the humanity of it?
– I should say that Senator Robertson is probably the only honorable senator opposite who has exhibited, in speeches at any rate> any pretence to humanity. I give her credit for that.
Senator Wright interjecting.
– What did “ Billy Boy “ say ? Mr. Menzies said -
Child endowment was first instituted for the Commonwealth by the Menzies Government in 1941.
Its problems are closely associated with the amount and structure of the basic wage. That wage is at this moment under complete reexamination by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
I should like the Minister to take a special note of that passage and of what follows. If necessary, I shall repeat it.
– That is a threat.
– I know the Minister does not like it because it is the truth. He does not want the truth to be repeated, because he cannot stand it more than once.
– It is the truth this time, because it is from our policy speech.
– The Minister would not know the truth. I should like him to take a verbatim note of the next passage which I shall read, in case he has not a copy of the speech. Mr. Menzies said -
We cannot anticipate and have no desire to influence . . .
Where do we go from there ? I am asking the Minister that. The members of the Government have told us that they have no power to approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. At the risk of repetition I say again that the Liberal party in this country speaks with two voices. There is no supposition or theory about what I shall say now. It is a fact that the Liberal governments of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria have made an approach to the court with the express intention of endeavouring to force it to take social services in general into consideration in the computation of the basic wage. If honorable senators on this side of the chamber are given an adequate guarantee that endowment for the first child will not be taken into consideration in computing the basic wage, then we shall be with the Government, except that we want the payment to be 10s. a week and not 5s. a week. Is is cheaper to maintain an only child or a first child than it is to maintain other children ? From the practical viewpoint, it is more costly to maintain the first child or an only child. We desire a guarantee that child endowment will not be taken into consideration .by the court. That is the critical point of our objection to this measure. The
Liberal party is an Australia-wide organization, yet the Liberal governments of South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria have approached the court and are using every endeavour and every method of persuasion within their power to make it take child endowment into consideration, with the express intention of reducing the overall basic wage. Honorable senators opposite cannot deny that. It is a fact. The AttorneyGeneral has just entered the chamber. I shall repeat, for his benefit, a part of what I have said, because it will bear repetition. It is very good from our point of view. We have the ridiculous position-
– I can see it from here.
– I know that, because there is a mirror in front of the Minister. He can see himself. We have the ridiculous position that the Liberal governments of three States have approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and are using every endeavour and every method of persuasion in their power to make the court take social services into consideration in determining the basic wage. Notwithstanding that, the AttorneyGeneral had the colossal effrontery to stand up in this chamber and say, as his leader said, that the Government has neither the power nor the desire to influence the court in its decision on this matter. For the benefit of the AttorneyGeneral, I shall read again what Mr. Menzies said about child endowment in his policy speech. He said -
Child endowment was first instituted for the Commonwealth by the Menzies Government in 1941.
– That is correct, anyway.
– I assume the Minister has sufficient intelligence to know the reasons for the introduction of child endowment. I have already stated them, and I do not propose to do so again. Mr. Menzies went on to say -
Its problems are closely associated with the amount and structure of the basic wage. That wage is at this moment under complete reexamination by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
I want the Attorney-General to listen to the next part. I should really like him to take a verbatim note of it. It is what was said by his own leader, the Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies, the man who fooled sufficient people to enable him to climb to the treasury bench. His Government is in office but not in power. We know that the Liberal governments of three States are approaching the Arbitration Court. This is what “ Bob “ said-
– I rise to order. I may be old-fashioned, hut I like the practices and traditions of the Parliament to be observed. I have heard Senator Sandford refer to the Prime Minister as “ Bob “ and to Senator “Wright as “Billy Boy”. He also referred to me as a “ coal-miner from Blair Athol “. I do not think that that i3 in accordance with the dignity and procedure of the Parliament, and I ask that the honorable senator be instructed accordingly.
– I directed the attention of Senator Sandford to the fact that he must not refer to honorable senators as “ miners “. I thought that he would deduce from that that he must not refer to them as “ Billy Boy “. However, occasionally honorable senators, in the exuberance - I will not say of their own verbosity - of the moment, refer to one another, mostly jokingly, in terms that are not strictly in accordance with parliamentary procedure. I ask Senator Sandford to refer to the Prime Minister as the Prime Minister and not as “ Bob “. Many of us refer to the right honorable gentleman as “ Bob “ outside this chamber, but when we are speaking in the chamber we should conform to the parliamentary decencies and refer to him as the Prime Minister. I do not think that Senator Sandford will lose anything by doing that. I hope that in the remainder of his speech he will do so.
– I have the highest regard personally for the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies.
– He will be glad to know that.
– I know that he will. Perhaps the Minister will pass the word on. I do not want to cast any reflection on the miners or on “ Billy Boys “, but if honorable senators interject they must expect a reply.
– We are often disappointed.
– Order ! Interjections are disorderly. If honorable senators will refrain from interjecting it will be possible for us to listen to the remarks and follow the argument of the honorable senator who has the floor. Personally, I want to do so, because I am very interested. I hope that he will now be allowed to make his speech free from interruption.
A Government senator interjecting,
– Name him, Mr. President.
– Bring Mr. Archie Cameron here.
– Order ! Do not let us get down to imbecilities.
– I have been quoting from the policy speech of the Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies, the Leader of the Liberal party. I understand that there is an alliance between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, despite the prolific use of daggers some time ago. I believe the right honorable gentleman delivered the policy speech on behalf of those two parties. I want to emphasize the point that I am trying to make. It cannot be stated too often. Repetition is sometimes boring, but on occasions it is very effective.
– I point out to Senator Sandford that it is against the Standing Orders to indulge in tedious repetition.
– It certainly is boring.
– It is to the Minister, because it is the truth. The vital factor in our opposition to this bill is the lack of guarantee by the Government that endowment for the first child will not be taken into consideration in determining the basic wage. If the Government will give us a definite guarantee that it will not be taken into consideration, we shall urge that the endowment be increased from 5s. a week to 10s. a week. The present rate of endowment for children other than the first child is 10s. a week. How can the Government resist our claim in view of the astronomical increase of prices that has occurred since it assumed office on the 10th December, 1949, and which has been caused mainly by the vociferous, united and consistent advocacy by the non-Labour parties of a “ No “ vote at the referendum on prices control ? However, that is beside the point. If the Government is sincere in its expressions of concern for the welfare of the children of this country, let it exhibit some evidence of its sincerity. Let us have a guarantee that it will represent to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that child endowment should not be taken into consideration in the determination of the basic wage. We fear that it will be taken into consideration. Our fears have been strengthened by the statements of the Prime Minister and by the speech of the Minister for Social Services on the motion for the second reading of this bill. The inference can be drawn from the Minister’s speech that child endowment will be taken into consideration by the court. We on this side of the chamber are intelligent people.
– The honorable senator conceals it well.
– Honorable senators opposite now have the colossal effrontery to suggest-
– Be fair.
– Unfortunately the Minister for Trade and Customs is still in the political kindergarten, although I entertain hopes that he will one day graduate into the university of politics, the Australian Labour party.
SenatorO’Sullivan. - Thatis the graveyard of good hopes.
– If the Government is sincere in this matter it will notify the court of its intention. Every man, woman, and child in this country should have access to thu necessaries of life. The present Government appears to be helpless in this matter.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are not growling.
– The Minister and his colleagues will be growling when they have to go to the country very soon.
– What about the Gallup poll
– If I cared to digress there is a great deal that I could say about the Gallup poll. The present Prime Minister’s prognostications on the occasion of the American presidential election are still fresh in the minds of the people. [Extension of time granted.] I shall now deal with some of the contentions of Government senators. I almost said “ the Opposition “. I should have been just a few months early. Senator Wright said that child endowment was a noble acceptance of the principle that families with children should be helped. That was a courageous statement. However, I remind the Senate that the honorable senator was not a supporter of an antiLabour political party during the depression period, when tens of thousands of children in this country were suffering from what was termed malnutrition. The fact was that they were suffering from starvation.
– The worst report that I have read in that connexion was made in the year before last.
– Apparently Senator Wright does not know anything about the conditions that existed in this country during the depression.
– That is obvious. However, he can accept my word that a medical report that was published in the’thirties claimed that 42 per cent. of the children of Australia were suffering in varying degrees from the effects of malnutrition.
SenatorO’Sullivan.- When a Labour government was in office?
– Although the Scullin Government was in office it was not in power as the anti-Labour parties had a majority in this chamber. Does the Minister want me to remind the Senate of the events of those days, such as when the Minister for Repatriation voted against a proposal that the Government should make food available for the starving children of this country? In those days the Liberal party was known as the United Australia party.. The anti-Labour majority in the Senate refused the Scullin
Government a few pounds to feed our starving women and children at that time.
– The Scullin Government refused to go to the people on .that issue.
– As I mentioned this afternoon, I know that the Minister for Repatriation sadly reflects on the time that he voted against the proposal that I have mentioned. The memory of it haunts him. If I were in hia position now I should hang my head in shame.
– The Scullin Govern^ ment - -
– Order! This persistent cross-firing must cease. The Minister knows that interjections are disorderly. He should know better than to continue interjecting.. Senator Sandford should continue with his speech, and treat any further interjections with contempt.
– The AttorneyGeneral has stated that the Government has no power to intervene in a matter that is before the court, or to instruct the court about the Government’s intentions in connexion with child endowment. At least the Government could make it3 intentions known to the court. The Attorney-General also said that if the Opposition insisted on the acceptance of the proposed amendments child endowment would he killed.
– I said that acceptance of the proposed amendments would kill the bill.
– Killing child endowment for the first child and killing the bill are synonymous terms. This is the Government’s method of “ getting out from under “. Obviously the promise that the anti-Labour candidates made during the election campaign was merely for the purpose of gaining votes. They had no intention of honouring it, and now seek to escape the consequences of it. Surely some Government senators realize that very few commodities for children can be bough’t with 5s. a week. At least the position would be a little better if the amount were increased to 10s. a week.
– Why did not Labour think of that during its eight years in office?
– The honorable senator who has just interjected is a newcomer to the Senate. From the point of view of this chamber he is an embryo. When other honorable senators opposite have made inane interjections - -
– I did not make an inane interjection.
– If Senator Maher were to be hanged for intelligent interjections he would die- innocent.
– It is all very well-
– Order ! Honorable senators are interjecting far too much. Senator Sandford is very capable and I am interested in many of the points that he is stressing. His speech would he far more effective if he were to ignore interjections.
– I shall do my best, with the assistance of honorable senators-
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are assisting as much as possible.
– The AttorneyGeneral gave one the impression that he was sincere and emphatic in his statement
– Does the honorable senator understand what sincerity is?
– If I had the same line as the Attorney-General I should plead guilty of not knowing what sincerity is. He made an ostensibly sensible statement that, when this bil! was enacted, it would add 5s. to the basic wage. I have already mentioned the inherent dangers in that connexion. In my opinion the Government’s motive behind this measure is to effect an overall reduction of the basic wage.
– Of course it is.
– Yet the honorable senator wants the proposed extension of child endowment increased from 5s. a week to 10s. a week.
– An instruction should he issued to the court to the effect that ‘the -extension of child endowment should not affect the basic wage computation. That is the crucial point.
The Opposition contends that the amount should be increased to 10s. a week, provided the Government guarantees suitably to instruct the court. However, the Attorney-General is not prepared to give that undertaking. He has said that the Government has no power to intervene in the matter. Honorable senators opposite are well aware that supporters of anti-Labour political parties in various States have made representations to the court to take tie amount of child endowment into consideration in the fixation of the basic wage. The Government cannot have it both ways.
– In which State was that done?
– Applications along those lines were made in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, where Liberal governments are in office.
– What was the answer?
– I thought that the honorable senator knew where he was. The case before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was adjourned because the present Prime Minister made endowment for the first child a political issue.
– The Labour party did that.
– Senator Sandford should be honest in this matter.
– The result in that case is known to the Senate. I mentioned it this afternoon.
– What was it?
– Order ! These interjections must cease. There comes a time when common decency and ordinary courtesy from one honorable senator to another demands that interjections, which arc disorderly, should cease. 1 ask Senator Sandford to disregard any further interjections, and continue his speech.
– The manner in which this bill’ was presented was laughable and ‘ludicrous. I submit that right-‘thinking people will agree with my contention. Apparently in all sincerity the Minister stated .that if the court took the 5s. a week endowment into account in fixing the basic wage, the Government would increase the amount of endowment to 10s. I submit that if the court took the endowment of 5s. a week into account in fixing the basic wage, and the Government then increased the amount to 10s. a week, in accordance with the Minister’s statement, the court would then have to take the second 5s. into account. Under such conditions the overall basic wage could be reduced by 10s. or more a week. That is an example of the munificence of this Government, which professes so much concern for the family unit and the starving thousands for whom its associates in the Senate in the 30’s would not grant a penny. This Government has stated that, in certain circumstances, instead of making endowment of the first child 5s. it will make it 10s. Is that not to-day’s funny story ? Quite obviously, the court in the next computation of the basic wage would take the 10s. into account. If the Government is so concerned for the family unit and if its professions of concern for the children of the country are sincere, why will it not make the endowment £1 a week? The Government is spending millions of pounds on immigration, and rightly so, but the best immigrants this country can have are Australian-born children. If there was any sincerity in the Government, it would accept an amendment to make endowment for the first child 10s. instead of 5s. a week. The Government might say that it cannot afford it. What utter stupidity, when relative values of money are considered and when it is remembered that in 1930 or about that time the government of the day could not wring from an antiLabour majority in the Senate permission to provide £18,000,000 to provide work so that starving children could be fed. On the outbreak of war in 1939, £18,000,000 was spent in a day, and for destruction. There was no problem of money then or through the whole six years ;of the war. Yet the Government turns round now and says that it is going to give 5s. endowment for the first child when, as honorable senators on this side have pointed out, 5s. at present, and particularly since the .10th December, 1949, would not buy a decent feed .for a child.
The Attorney-General, replying to Senator McKenna, said that if honorable senators on this side persisted in a proposal to submit an amendment to make the endowment payment for the first child 10s. a week they would kill the bill. “Will the people of Australia believe that? I guarantee that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who has been interjecting, has paid 5s. a head for the dingoes which are his main concern in Queensland. At every opportunity while he was Leader of the Opposition in this chamber he spoke about the dingoes in Queensland. I reminded the Minister earlier, and remind him again, that he is surrounded by political dingoes now, so he should be careful. I shall give another illustration in justification of the fears in the minds of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and I emphasize again that we are mainly concerned with the motive behind the Government’s action. That motive is definitely an overall reduction of the basic wage. I say that emphatically.
– I rise to order. I ask for a ruling whether the honorable senator, in dealing with this matter again, comes within the rule relating to tedious repetition, or whether he is just tedious.
– Order ! An honorable senator, in speaking, must repeat himself continually to the extent of becoming tedious before he can be said to come within the rule. Senator Sandford has repeated certain matters on several occasions. He has not been exactly tedious. He has been rather entertaining. Nevertheless there comes a time when an honorable senator should cease repeating arguments. I should not say, in giving my decision, that he has been guilty of tedious repetition ; but he has repeated several arguments in order, I suppose, to emphasize them.
– The point is that some honorable senators have entered the chamber since I began my speech and have not heard what I have said previously.
– They had to walk out for a spell.
– I did not catch that remark.
– We have to have a rest!
– Senator Cooper has been making interjections on matters that I have spoken about earlier, which indicates either that he has been asleep or has not been taking any notice of what I have said, so I shall not go further. I could do so, of course.
– I hope the honorable senator will not do so.
– I shall not, Mr. President. To give further proof of the justification of our fears I shall quote statements made by the Minister for Social Services when he introduced tEe bill. I cannot be ruled out of order Tor doing that. The honorable senator said -
The passage of this legislation will in no way interfere with the freedom of the Arbitration Court to determine the basie wage upon whatever standard it may think proper, having regard to the evidence submitted to it. This Parliament does not and cannot assume any power to deal with that problem.
I do not want to labour that point. The Minister went on to say -
The assessment of the basic wage is a great national matter which affects nearly every citizen of Australia.
A little later the honorable senator said -
It is a matter of history that the system of child endowment introduced in 1941 took account of this view of the basic wage as then determined. It must also be borne in mind that the views expressed and the principles then laid down still stand as the judgment of the court. The Government’s pre-election promise to endow the first child, therefore, fits perfectly into the present picture.
Far be it from me to digress, but honorable senators know that there are certain debts owing to the vested interests which helped this Government to climb into office. The Minister continued -
The determination of the basic wage is left entirely to the Arbitration Court. There is no appeal against its findings. It is not bound by its own precedents. ‘ There is no certainty upon what the court will reach its determination. On each hearing those interested - employers, employees and governments - express their views upon the method upon which they submit the basic wage should be computed, and the amounts that they submit should be awarded. The court is practically untrammelled in its approach to the matter. It hears the views of those who arc interested and reaches its decision.
I have told honorable senators about the Governments of South Australia, “Western Australia and Victoria. If honorable senators are interested parties they should be interested in the terms of the Minister’s speech. The Minister admitted in his speech that the court should hear the views of those who are interested in the decision it will reach. I issue a direct challege to the Government. In order to show its sincerity it should, without delay, issue an instruction to the court on this subject. It should make it absolutely clear to the court that it does not intend this first child endowment to be taken into consideration in the computation of the basic wage. If there is any sincerity in the Government in relation to this bill, it will accept my suggestion without delay, because even the Minister said of the court -
It hears the views of those who are interested and reaches a decision.
Here is another extract from the Minister’s speech -
Those who dogmatically state that endowment of the first child will actually reduce the basic wage do so either in ignorance of the procedure or the deliberate intention to falsify the Government’s intentions.
– Hear, hear
– If that is the Minister’s intention, let the Government do what I suggest. Let the Government make known to the court what the Attorney-General himself has said in this chamber. The honorable gentleman cannot deny that he has made the statement.
– I do not wish to deny it.
– Well, that shows the honorable gentleman’s inconsistency and insincerity, because the Minister, in introducing the bill, stated that the court would hear the views of any who were interested in its decision.
– Quite right.
– Is not the Government interested? The motive of the bill 19 to effect an overall reduction in the basic wage, and honorable senators opposite cannot deny it. They will make some effort to do so, but they are strangers to the truth. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, also said -
If it should happen that the Arbitration Court-
– That is good.
– I know that the Attorney-General is not capable of concentration, but he has not been in the chamber very long. The Minister for Social Services in his speech, stated -
If it should happen that the Arbitration Court in its judgment announces that a new basic wage award has been computed on the needs of a man and his wife only, then the Government has made its intention quite clear.
That lets the cat out of the bag. The Minister for Social Services has said in this chamber that the Government has no intention or desire to approach the court in respect to this matter; yet he also stated that the Government had made its intention quite clear. Clear to whom?
– To the people.
– The people do not realize that, and the Attorney-General knows as well as I do that the man in the street has no direct knowledge of the working of the court. The AttorneyGeneral knows that it is absolute insincerity and hypocrisy for him or any of his colleagues to stand in their place in this chamber and say that it is the Government’s intention to endow the first child, when the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, has said that the Government had no intention and no desire to approach the court. My case is proved beyond reasonable doubt. I use legal phraseology for the benefit of the Attorney-General, and say that the accused is guilty, and that the accused is the Government. It is guilty of misrepresentation and of being an accomplice aforethought.
– The honorable senator is a bit mixed.
– I concede that the Minister gave every indication of sincerity when making his speech. He went on to say -
I emphasize that this Government holds firmly to the view that the peace, contentment and happiness of the Australian nation depends upon all sections of the community making their just contribution to higher standards of living.
That gives point to what I said earlier, namely that if the Government can get away with it, there will be a reimposition of income tax on the lower income groups from which the liability to tax was removed by the Labour Government. The Minister continued -
I say, therefore, to those reactionaries, or those who are timid and fearful, to accept the proposal with courage.
Perhaps I have said enough. No doubt some honorable senators will say that I have said too much.
– The honorable senator has not said anything yet.
– Honorable senators opposite do not like to hear the truth. The more they hear of it, the more they dislike it, but the common sense of the people will prevail.
– It did on the 10th December.
– Honorable senators opposite secured their election through misrepresentation. They are in office, but fortunately not in power. I have no doubt about what will happen to them when the people have had sufficient time to realize their mistake. The Minister further said in his secondreading speech -
After allowing for natural increase and for migrants, it is estimated that the cost of endowing the first child will be approximately £15,000,000 for the financial year 1950-51 and this will bring the estimated total cost of child endowment for that year up to £46,250,000.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s extended time has expired.
– I should not have entered this debate but for the trend that it has taken. I believe that this measure represents a dishonest attempt by the Government to interfere with the standard of living of the Australian people. The proposal is, in effect, to add 5s. a week to the income of approximately 1,000,000 families in Australia, but in fact, those families, together with everybody else in the community, will actually have their standard of living lowered if this measure becomes law. The Minister knows quite well that the passage of this bill would mean that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would take child endowment for the first. child into consideration in computing the basic wage. The Government has shown complete disregard for the court. On the 1st March, in this chamber, I asked the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) the following questions -
The Attorney-General completely disregarded my questions. His reply was -
As stated by the Prime Minister in another place, matters which arise in relation to the proposed extension of child endowment may be most satisfactorily debated when the legislation foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech comes before the Parliament, rather than by way of question and answer in advance. I commend that view to the honorable senator.
In effect, the Attorney-General said that when the measure came before the Parliament the matter to which I had referred would be explained. The Minister explained it in his second-reading speech by saying that if in fixing the basic wage, the court took into consideration the endowment payment of 5s., proposed in thi9 bill, the Government would increase the amount to 10s. That is the Government’s explanation, but apparently the AttorneyGeneral regarded his duty so lightly that he did not consider the matter worth explaining when I asked him several questions about it. He treated the Senate with contempt by refusing to give a direct answer. Whether or not my subsequent questions involved matters of policy, the first question was really simple enough to warrant a direct answer. I merely asked whether the Attorney-General’s Department had made a certain investigation. Apparently it had not done so.
This measure will affect the welfare of 3,000,000 workers in Australia, and may have a profound influence on the Australian economy. If the court takes child endowment for the first child into consideration when fixing the basic wage, single men and women in industry, married men and women with no children, or with children over sixteen years of age, will lose, I consider, 12s. a week in the basic wage. If the Government were to accept the Opposition’s proposed amendment that the endowment be increased to 10s., people with families would at least be cushioned to some degree against the inevitable reduction of the basic wage. This measure will reduce the standard of living of the people generally. The amendment that has been foreshadowed by the Opposition is not out of line with the general principles of the bill. After Senator McKenna had spoken on this measure, the Attorney-General rose immediately and said that if the Opposition pursued its proposal to make the endowment payment under this bill 10s., instead of 5s. the bill would be dropped and the people would be the losers. What authority did the Attorney-General have to make that statement ? He had not had time to discuss the matter with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) or with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). How did the Senate act when the Scullin Government was in office? It reviewed and interfered with the Scullin Government’s legislation. I remind honorable senators that when the first Curtin Government took office, one of its first pieces of legislation was an amendment of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. When that bill came before the Senate which, at that time, had an antiLabour majority, it was amended. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) was a member of the Senate at that time. He was then, of course, in opposition. Although the bill was purely a repatriation measure, Senator Brand moved for the inclusion of a clause providing for preference to ex-servicemen. That had nothing to do with the bill. However, the Curtin Government was forced to accept the amendment. It did not squeal or say that it would drop the legislation. I believe that the present Attorney-General was also a member of the Senate at that time. If so, he will recall that the anti-Labour parties supported Senator Brand’s amendment, although it had no relation to the legislation then under consideration. There fore, I cannot understand how the AttorneyGeneral had the effrontery to say, in his speech on this measure, that if the Opposition persisted with its proposed amendment, the bill would be dropped.
We have been told often that the true function of the Senate is to be a House of review. Very well; we shall review very carefully all the legislation that is brought before us. The Attorney-General’s statement that the legislation would be withdrawn if amended by the Senate, was supported by the Prime Minister some days later. Any government that adopts such an attitude is obviously hoping that it will not have to proceed with certain legislation. I do not think that honorable senators opposite are very much concerned about endowing the first child., otherwise they would be prepared to make the payment of 10s. to keep it in line with the existing legislation. We do not want half price payments in this country. We are well able to pay “ full fare “ for all the children. If the Government considers that endowment of the first child is desirable, it should not hesitate to agree to a payment of 10s., but I am afraid that honorable senators opposite are more concerned with the interests of their supporters who paid the fares of the honorable gentlemen into this Parliament. At election time, huge advertisements were inserted in the newspapers by organizations such as the Chamber of Manufactures. The only way those people can be repaid is by reducing the basic wage, and this measure is part of a conspiracy to do that. It is significant that the proposal to extend child endowment has been brought forward while a basic wage hearing is in progress. If this legislation were passed by the Senate to-night, and by the House of Representatives to-morrow, it would not become effective until the 20th June. Why has the 20th June been selected ? Clearly the bill has been introduced at this stage in a calculated effort to interfere with the deliberations of the Arbitration Court. In conclusion, I say that although the Government proposes to pay 5s. a week to 1,000,000 people, it will take from those people, and from 2,000,000 more people, 2s. 6d. a week, and reduce the standard of living.
– I have been very interested during the debate to listen to the speeches made by Government supporters concerning important pronouncements on social services, and I have been more than interested to read in the daily press the allegations that Labour senators have performed acrobatic somersaults in their attitude towards this proposal. However, I do not think that I can fairly be accused of having done that. I do not think that there is anything in the attitude manifested by the Australian Labour party towards this measure that is incompatible with what we have always stood for. At no time has the Labour movement pronounced against child endowment. In reply to the remarks made by Senator Robertson may I inform the honorable senator that Labour administrations were responsible for most of the social security legislation enacted since federation. After the honorable senator referred to the issues before the people at the last election as a contest between free enterprise and socialism I was rather amazed to hear her wholeheartedly support the bill now before the Senate, which is essentially a socialist measure. That bill proposes to make a better distribution of the national income so that those who need it most, that is the mothers of families, may receive a little more. Members of the Australian Labour party have always stood for child endowment, and we supported it long before child endowment was introduced in 1941. In 1927 a royal commission was1 appointed to inquire into the desirability of introducing child endowment in Australia. That commission consisted of five members, and the Australian Labour party was represented by Mrs. Muscio and the late Mr. John Curtin. In the light of the debate that has taken place on this bill it is interesting to notice some of the conclusions arrived at by the members of the royal commission, which are expressed in reports of the majority and the minority of the members of the commission. In the majority report it was stated that of. the trade unionists who gave evidence before the royal commission both as individuals and as representatives of their unions, all representatives advocated the introduction of child endowment payments for children up to the age of sixteen years. The rate of payment suggested was 10s. a week. I emphasize that that recommendation was made in 1927, more particularly hecause we hear a great deal now about putting value back in the £1. It is obvious that if honorable senators opposite were consistent they would advocate payment of child endowment of at least £1 a week.
Members of the Opposition have been accused of opposing payment of child endowment for the first child of a family when this matter was previously before the Parliament. Let me repeat now what I said then, which is that no one is more agreeable than I am to the payment of child endowment, provided that the basis of payment remains unaltered.
– That is the basis on which we propose to pay this 5s. a week.
– Some assurances have been given by the Government in that respect; but members of the Opposition say : “ “Why make it only 5s. a week? Why differentiate between the members of a family? Why not make it 10s. a week ? “ Of course there is a snag in this proposal, and supporters of the Government realize its existence, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that if child endowment were to receive cognizance in the determination of the basic wage the Government would consider increasing the child endowment payments. And that is where we beg to differ from the Government, because never yet in Australia has any court of arbitration excluded such a payment from its calculations in determining the basic wage; nor has any portion of the basic wage been specifically set aside for a man, his wife or the members of his family. Every .State has adopted a different system of calculating the needs of a family. In some States the needs assessment has been based on a family unit of a man, wife and one, two or three children; but in no State has that assessment received legislative effect. I do not think that any State government yet has the courage to say that the wage should be fixed for a man, his wife and any specified number of children. In 1914 or 1915. the late
Mr. Justice Higgins, who was then President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court said -
The standard of remuneration of a worker should be the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilized community.
I do not know whether the term “ civilized community “ has much bearing to-day. His Honour continued -
The wage should be sufficient to provide food, shelterand clothing and a condition of frugal comfort estimated by current human standards.
In that statement there is no mention of the number of individuals whom the basic wage should cover. We know, however, that it has been the practice in various State awards to stipulate that the basic wage should cover the needs of a man, his wife and so many children, mythical or otherwise. The Australian Labour party, however, says that the standard of payment should be payment for the work that is done. If the calculation is to be based on what industry can afford to pay the rate paid to-day would be considerably in excess of actual wages paid in any industry.
When supporters of the Government claim all the credit for the introduction of child endowment it is interesting to inform ourselves of the history of child endowment legislation in Australia. Child endowment is not a new thought. In the days of the younger Pitt child endowment and family allowances were being discussed. In the Napoleonic era payment of family allowances was introduced in Prance as a normal part of an employee’s remuneration. In the early twenties after World War 1. two countries in war-torn Europe which had been particularly ravaged by war introduced payment of child allowances. Those countries were Belgium and Germany. Australia, which we imagine has always taken the lend in social services, did not rise to the height of those countries until 1941. True it is that a royal commission was appointed to consider child endowment in 1927, and, as I remarked earlier, in the light of all that has been said in this debate it is interesting to note now that the Government of that time was willing to abide by the majority decisions of the royal commission, and, therefore, did nothing about child endowment. In other words, it did not take any action along the lines proposed by the minority, which comprised the late Mr. Curtin and Mrs. Muscio.. The minority report of the royal commission recommended that industry should bear the cost of child endowment, and asserted that it was the function of the nation to give as much help to the family man in rearing his children as possible. That report also emphasized that it was just as much the duty of industry to bear the cost of providing endowment as it was of the Government. Mr. Curtin and Mrs. Muscio submitted a very lucid report, but unfortunately that report was pigeon-holed and was not unearthed until 1941, when, in the dying days of an anti-Labour administration, action was taken to implement their recommendations. A measure to provide for child endowment was introduced by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), and it received the blessing of the Labour members of the Parliament. I would ask those members of the Government who have not yet done so to peruse the report of the debate which ensued in the House of Representatives, and subsequently in this chamber, nine years ago. Members of the political parties that now support the Government subjected the administration of that time to a great deal of criticism, and it is significant that many of those who criticized the principle of child endowment at that time now occupy high places in the present GovernmentHad they been quite truthful at that time many of them would have said that they were totally opposed to granting child endowment. An examination of the Hansard reports of 1941 discloses that not one Labour voice was raised against child endowment. The late Senator Keane, who then led the Labour party in the Senate, advocated the very thing that I now advocate, which is, that child endowment should be paid in respect of all children. Furthermore, he urged that the rate of payment then proposed should be increased. However, members of the Labour party were compelled to accept the little leaven offered by the government of that time; but they promised that if Labour were returned to office, child endowment would be liberalized. I am happy to say that Labour subsequently fulfilled its promise. When Labour assumed office one of its first tasks was to increase child endowment, first to 7s. 6d., and subsequently to 10s. a week. I ‘am not trying to detract I2. any respect from the good intentions of the present ‘Government in this matter. I welcome the bill, but, for the edification of those members of the Senate who have not been members of this chamber for very long, I must say that it has been a very hard task at times for Labour to pass much of its social legislation. For instance, let me recall to honorable senators that when* the Fisher Government introduced legislation for tne payment of maternity allowances one member of the Parliament who opposed the proposal said that the payment of maternity allowances would be “ a sop to proflicacy”. That was a deliberate insult to the womanhood of Australia.
– He is not here now.
S-anator TANGNEY.- The mothers of Australia made sure that he is not here -now. That was one piece -of legislation that was introduced by a Labour administration. Let me also remind honorable senators that when the Curtin Government assumed office .in the darkest days of the war, and at a time when the government had to assume responsibility for the preservation of all of us, it took that occasion to keep faith with the people of Australia. Let me also remind honorable senators that it was a Labour administration which introduced widows’ pensions, and I am quite sure that Senator Robertson, whom I knew when she was a widow battling to support three small children^ must appreciate that. The honorable senator, like many other fine women in this country, had to work hard to support her children because in those days no assistance was provided for the widows of ihis country. .It was also a Labour administration which introduced maternity allowances. I know something of the circumstances surrounding that measure because I was a member of the special services committee that recommended the introduction of nraternity allowances. It was decided to pay mothers a small allowance of £15 to cover the medical expenses of confinement and leave a little money for the mothers. What happened then ? I shall repeat now what was told to me by eminent nurses and church authorities in various States. At that time the ordinary medical charge for confinements was £5, and 90 per cent, of the births in public and private hospitals were normal births where the mothers did not require the attendance of specialists. Rut as soon as the maternity allowance was increased to £15, what happened? Immediately, mothers had to have specialist treatment, and the specialist charge, invariably, was £15. Therefore, they were no better off than they were previously. This matter was brought to my attention by the matron of the largest maternity hospital in Western Australia, Matron Walsh, and various church representatives in the different parts of Australia. The Government then decided to do something to ensure that the legislation that it had enacted in the interests of the mothers of this country should not be nullified by the selfish attitude of persons like those who .have defied Labour’s efforts to .establish medical and pharmaceutical benefits. The ‘Chifley Government made it possible for mothers to collect “the maternity allowance at the rate of 2.5s. a week, commencing a month before the due date of confinement. Let us see what happened then. The effect was amazing; immediately arrangements were made for mothers to collect their maternity allowance at the rate of 25s. a week instead of being obliged to accept it in a lump .sum of £15, the health of that section of the community improved to an amazing degree’! No longer did 90 per cent, of mothers need specialist care; the proportion who did so immediately decreased to the normal 10 per cent. We want more and more legislation of that kind that ‘has had such beneficial effects upon the community.
I mention “these facts in the debate on this bill, because this morning we were told that the non-Labour parties had done this and that for the people, and the question was asked why Labour had not done more during its eight years of office. No Government anywhere ‘has a record in “the social services field comparable with that, of the: Curtin, and Chifley Labour Governments. Furthermore, while those Governments were passing such splendid social service legislation for the betterment of every section of the community, they were fighting a war; and the wareffort of the people of Australia during the five years of Labour- administration and two preceding years of non-Labour administration compared more than favorably with that of any other country, ally or foe. We have heard praise from the highest quarters of what Australia accomplished during- the war; That work was not just done by the Government; it was done because every man and woman in the community realized that it was his, or her, job to- do all that was possible in our war effort. But side by side with that effort and the fact that we had to find enormous sums of money for the prosecution of the war, we were also able to put a wide range of social services legislation upon the statute-book.
The Labour Government instituted widows’ pensions.. I know what that benefit meant to recipients. Before I was elected to the Senate I was employed as a teacher at a school for backward and so-called delinquent children. At that time I worked in conjunction with the Children’s Court. I saw children brought before the court who were described as delinquents, but they were not delinquents; society was delinquent. Those children were the product of divided homes or homes in which the breadwinner had died and the mother was obliged to do menial tasks such as washing and scrubbing offices, with the result that she was able to spend very little time with her children after school hours. Realizing the need that existed for the provision for such assistance and what a comfort it would prove to widowed mothers, I was very pleased indeed when the Labour Government instituted widows’ pensions. Those pensions are not as high as we should like them to be, but they are provided, and the rates were doubled by the Labour Government that instituted them.
With the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) and certain honorable members of the House of Representatives,
I was a member of. a committee that investigated the hospital situation throughout Australia. Our inquiries convinced us that the two greatest causes of anxiety on the part of the average Australian were the fear of unemployment and the fear of sickness. We learned how vastly uneconomic it was to do nothing for our sick people, particularly for the sick breadwinner who remained at his job until the time had passed when medical, help could be of real benefit to him, because his cry - and all of us have heard it - was, “How can I go to hospital? Who is going to look after my wife and children ? “. Many a man has been lost to the economic life of this country because his family lacked the requisite finance to enable him to obtain medical attention when he was most in. need of it. Sitting in the Senate some years ago, when the Chifley Labour Government introduced legislation to provide unemployment benefits, I heard an honorable senator, who has since died, say that the Government was thereby giving sops to idlers and was encouraging idlers in the community. I said then, and I repeat it now, that that was an unjustified attack on the Australian worker, because I have yet to meet a decent Australian citizen who would prefer that his wife and children should be kept by government grant, no matter how willingly it might be given, rather than work himself in order to keep his family in comfort. The amount of unemployment benefit was not great but, such as it was, it kept a roof over the unemployed man’s wife and children while he received medical attention. That was not class legislation. The Chifley Government also provided hospital benefit at the rate of 8s. a day, and I am only one of many who have reason to be thankful for that assistance. Therefore, the Chifley Government was not remiss in looking after the needs of those in the community who are most in need of help. The object of that legislation, of course, has been to provide social security to the people and to render assistance to all sections of the community by imposing the heaviest taxes on those best able to bear the burden.
I have mentioned these facts to show that the Labour party is not opposed to the provision of endowment for the first child in a family, particularly when we now have the Government’s assurance that this benefit will not in any way interfere with the Arbitration Court in its determination of the basic wage. That is the only interpretation that I can place upon the introduction of this legislation. That being so, we on this side contend that the Government should not differentiate between the members of a family and, therefore, should endow all children in a family, including the first, at the rate of 10s. a week. A Labour Government in New Zealand did so over five years ago. Therefore, there is no justification for the accusation published in various newspapers that the Labour party has turned a somersault in respect of child endowment. I was not built to be an acrobat, either in mind or body. Our attitude is in line with what Labour governments have done in the social services field since 1941. We have a record of which we can be proud because, in addition to introducing so much new legislation, Labour governments also reviewed existing legislation in this field. They doubled the age and invalid pension. Although I do not think that even now that pension is sufficient we took every opportunity to increase it in order to bring it more into line with our economic prosperity.
I hope that the Government, which has inherited overflowing coffers, will give some of the overflow to the sick and unfortunate members of the community who are just as much entitled to such help from it as the inhabitants of Burma are. The Labour movement has always stood for child endowment. A Labour Government in New South Wales introduced child endowment for the first time in any State in 1927. In Australia, to-day, we have the spectacle of 4½ per cent. of the population of the country possessing 22½ per cent. of the nation’s wealth. That is why we say that this measure is welcome, and why we shall propose that the rate of endowment under it be increased to 10s. a week. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure to endow all children in a family, and I trust that it will earn the gratitudeof the mothers of Australia still further by accepting the amendment that the Opposition has foreshadowed to increase the endowment to 10s. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister will not find that the Arbitration Court will take this matter into consideration when it considers the basic wage. All of us know what happened in December last; but I shall not dilate upon that subject. However, I know also that when the royal commission on child endowment or family allowances was appointed 23 years ago it at once found itself up against the question of how the various wage-fixing tribunals would view the provision of child endowment. The National Parliament should have power over industrial tribunals to ensure that child endowment shall not be offset by a corresponding reduction of the basic wage. I support this proposal to provide endowment for the first child, because I know that it will be of immense benefit to people throughout Australia. I know also that the people will not be satisfied with half a loaf, seeing that when the non-Labour parties, at the last general election, promised to introduce child endowment for the first child, they were quite certain that it would be equal to that provided in respect of other children. I am confident that it was in that belief that so many people supported the nonLabour parties on that occasion. I sincerely hope that their confidence has not been misplaced. Therefore, I support the provision of endowment at the rate of 10s. a week for every child in a family.
. - I congratulate the Government upon its introduction of this measure, the object of which is to provide endowment for the first child in every family at the rate of 5s. a week. This assistance will be of great help to the housewives of Australia. I am pleased that the Government is now honouring the promise that its supporters made in this respect at the recent general election. Our partiesput a certain policy to the people on that occasion, and it included the proposal embodied in this measure. Let us look at the policies that were submitted by the opposing parties at the recent general election. Supporters of the Labour party said, in effect, “We shall stand on our record ; we have done a marvellous job “.
– Quite correct.
– However, a majority of the people of Australia did not believe that. I congratulate Senator Tangney upon her secondreading speech on this bill. It is the only real constructive speech on it which has been delivered by a member of the Opposition. I say that in all sincerity.
I propose now to deal with the claim of the Labour party that it has improved the conditions of Australian mothers since 1941. In that year, child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government. Payment was made at the rate of 5s. for every child other than the first child. Senator Sandford said that the Labour party increased the endowment by 2s. 6d. in 1945 and again by 2s. 6d. in 1948, but almost in the next breath he said that since 1941 the value of the £1 has depreciated from 20s. to 10s. In those circumstances, the Labour party cannot honestly claim that it benefited one child or one mother in Australia by the increases of child endowment for which it was responsible. We have promised the Australian people that we shall put value back into the £1. Before that can be done, industrial peace must be established. I congratulate the Government upon ite efforts to achieve that objective, in the course of which it has done some things that the Labour party had not the courage to do. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are sincere when they say that they desire industrial peace to be established in this country. We believe that only by increased production can value he put back into the £1, and production cannot be increased without industrial peace.
In 1941 the Liberal party and the Australian Country partyintroduced a measure which provided for the payment of an endowment of 5s. a week for every child other than the first child in every family. We have now introduced another measure, providing that an endowment of 5s. a week shall be paid in respect of the first child. The Labour party, which made no promises about child endowment during the election campaign, now urges that the endowment should be 10s. a week for every eligible child, and also that the Government should instruct the Arbitration Court that the payment shall not be taken into consideration in the determination of the basic wage. I hope that the Government will never approach the Arbitration Court on any matter of policy affecting the determination of the basic wage. It should be the policy of all parties that the Arbitration Court shall be allowed to function as a free institution, in the interests of the welfare of the people of Australia. If it were to be subjected to interference by political parties, its value would be considerably decreased.
Senator O’Flaherty said in a speech that he delivered in this chamber recently that he was a socialist and that he went through Australia telling the people that he believed in socialism. I congratulate the honorable senator upon having the courage of his convictions. He is honest and straightforward, and tells the people what he believes. I like a man of that kind. At the declaration of the poll in Perth, Senator Nash said, “ There are many persons running around Western Australia telling the electors that I am a socialist. I am not a socialist. All I am is a member of the Australian Labour party”.
– I ask Senator Scott to withdraw that statement. It is inaccurate. I did not use those words. I challenge the honorable senator to prove that I did use them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I ask Senator Scott to withdraw the statement to which Senator Nash has taken exception.
-I withdraw the statement. I cannot prove the truth of it to-night because I have not anything with me in writing.
– The honorable senator could not prove it.
– I can prove it, because there were other persons there when the statement was made.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I ask Senator Scott to confine his remarks to the bill.
– This measure, if it is passed, will benefit 1,110,000 Australian families. I have always believed that some machinery should be devised by which the whole of the Australian people could help those Australians who are rearing families. By means of this measure, the Government proposes to make approximately £15,000,000 a year available for the assistance of family men in this country. It is confident that the measure will receive the support of the Australian people. The present Government parties promised the electors that it would be introduced, and that promise has now been honoured. The attitude of the Labour party to the bill is insincere. During the general election campaign the payment of endowment in respect of the first child did not form part of its policy, but now, three months after the election, it is demanding that the endowment be 10s., not 5s. a week. If honorable senators opposite are sincere in their demand, why did not they say during the election campaign that, if returned to office, they would do what they now say should be done ? We believe that the economy of this country is sufficiently strong to enable the Government to expend £15,000,000 a year for this purpose. Let us begin by paying the endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week. It can easily be increased later if it is found that our economy is strong enough to enable the additional expenditure to be incurred, but no government would have sufficient courage to reduce it. If sufficient funds are available later, the endowment, not only in respect of the first child, but also in respect of subsequent children, can be increased.
The Labour party claims that it represents the workers of Australia. If honorable senators opposite really believe that, they should cross to this side of the chamber. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party are now looking after, not only the workers of Australia, but also the whole of the people of Australia. They are the only parties that can look after all sections of the community. The Labour party looks after only a small section of the community, and I doubt if the workers are included in that section. I commend this bill to honorable senators, and I am confident that the Opposition will vote unanimously for its passage in its present form.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Presentation to the GovernorGeneral.
– I desire to inform the Senate that this day, accompanied by honorable senators, I waited on the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the First Session of the Nineteenth Parliament, agreed to on the 23rd March, 1950. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
I desire to thank you for your Addressin.Reply. which you have just presented to me.
It will afford me much pleasure to convey to His Most Gracious Majesty The King the message of loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia to which the Address gives expression.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 19th April, at 3 p.m.
War Neurosis Cases - Sittings of the Senate - Flood Relief.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In doing so I take the opportunity te wish you, Mr. President, and all honorable senators, a very happy, contented, and peaceful Easter.
– I take this opportunity to direct the attention of the Senate to the plight of ex-servicemen in this country who are suffering from war neurosis. I refer, specifically, to a ministerial reply that I have received to-day in answer to questions that I placed on the noticepaper several weeks ago. On more than one occasion since I have been a member of this chamber I have brought to the notice of successive Ministers for Repatriation the sordid picture of our ex-service personnel who are incarcerated in civilian mental asylums. In my opinion the reply that I received to-day from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) docs not meet the circumstances adequately. Nor does it hold out any great hope of relief for these unfortunate people. It i3 couched in language similar to that which has always been the bulwark of repatriation administration. Although many years have passed since the termination of World War I., the onus to prove that their injury resulted from war service still rests on the patients themselves. Many of our ex-service personnel are in mental institutions throughout Australia to-day because successive governments have made no practical attempt to provide them with suitable quarters in surroundings that would at least give them a faint hope of recovery. They should be quartered in a more congenial environment, perhaps with other ex-service personnel whose disabilities are not so great as their own. In his lengthy reply the Minister stated -
The cases which the honorable senator has in mind are apparently those whose neurosis is not accepted as being due to war service. Such cases are the responsibility of authorities other than the Repatriation Commission which. I might add, takes a very sympathetic view of the relationship of any disability to war service.
I contend that that is merely burking the issue. If the treatment of these cases is not the responsibility of the Repatriation Commission - which I do not doubt, because this is a hardy annual - it is the responsibility of the Australian Government, irrespective of its political kidney. I refuse to be side-tracked by replies such as this. The Government should arrange for suitable quarters to be erected in the many military hospitals in this country for repatriation cases needing restraint. In this connexion the Minister’s reply reads -
In the larger States most of the restrained patients are in the repatriation blocks, but in the smaller States the numbers are insufficient to warrant the building of separate blocks for the segregation of the -homicidal and suicidal patients, therefore they are housed in special State accommodation.
The greatest criminal of this country, even if he is a violent prisoner, receives better treatment than do our ex-service personnel who, through enemy action, are to-day suffering from neurosis. It is a condemnation, hard and stark, of the inactivity of the various governments, that these men are to-day being treated in such a manner. The concluding paragraph of the Minister’s reply reads -
The housing and treatment of all cases of neurosis not accepted as due to war service is the responsibility of the State governments, and the Repatriation Commission has no say in or control of their treatment, therefore it is not proposed that the Federal Government should secure temporary premises for their housing aud treatment.
What an amazing statement! I believe that no section of the Australian people ever dreamed that they would live to see the day when the men who volunteered to defend this country with their lives would be incarcerated in mental hospitals. It is a shocking condemnation of the various governments in this country. I call on all honorable senators to urge the Commonwealth or State Governments, wherever the responsibility lies, to remedy this scandal, and to no longer permit these sordid circumstances to continue.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) to the fact that, until he submitted a motion a few minutes ago to the effect that the Senate should resume after the Easter recess on the 19th April, honorable senators were unaware of the proposed date of the resumption of sittings. Is anything gained by keeping secret the date on which the Senate will resume? Honorable senators, particularly those who represent distant States, must make their arrangements in advance. The withholding of this information until almost the last minute hinders them considerably. I suggest to the Minister that at a reasonable time prior to special adjournments of this kind in the future, he should confer with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) about the proposed date of resumption. It could be arranged that if certain forward business is carried out the Senate could resume on a given day, and that if other business had to he held over this chamber could resume on another day. I trust that in future the Minister will be able to notify honorable senators some time before the formal motion for a special adjournment is moved, of the intended date of resumption, in order to facilitate their travelling and other arrangements.
– People in widely-separated parts of New South Wales have recently suffered considerable loss through the most disastrous floods that have occurred in this country for years past. Last week practically every house in Wagga Wagga was inundated, and even at the present time people at Darlington Point and Hay are awaiting the full weight of flood waters. When I directed a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister in this chamber recently in connexion with the alleviation of flood distress, he suggested that as I knew a lot about the matter, I should tell him something about it, and he would then be pleased to consider what could be done. This was a matter in which the Government should have moved. Two days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) intimated that he intended to inform the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, that the Australian Government would expend £1 for £1 with the New South Wales Government in connexion with the alleviation of flood distress. I point out that the Flood Belief Committee is required to furnish certificates in connexion with its expenditure. To comply with the requirements of the Auditor-General, the sum that the Government proposed to allocate for a specific purpose must be stated. The Government should not enter willy nilly into a £1 for £1 expenditure arrangement. I remind the Senate that I represented the Commonwealth on the Flood Belief Committee from 1945 until the 10th December last. In connexion with the floods at Kempsey and Maitland last year the Australian and the State governments each made £40,000 available in the first place for relief purposes. The Flood Belief Committee had to pay for all items used in connexion with the floods. Although Royal Australian Air Force personnel dropped blankets over the flooded areas, the Flood Relief Committee was required to pay for the use of the aircraft, and had to reimburse either the Royal Australian Air Force or the Army for the cost of the blankets. In addition, it was required to meet the cost of food, fodder, the wages or Army personnel operating the Army ducks, freight, and clothing. It also had to pay the State departments and instrumentalities that arranged for the cleaning up of the debris. How can the Flood Relief Committee function efficiently unless a stated amount is allocated to it to expend? Later we asked the Prime Minister and the Premier of the State for further assistance in connexion with the Kempsey flood and they made another £40,000 available. Yet the committee was criticized. The newspapers were glad to accept any criticism regarding the “ cheapness “ of the Chifley and McGirr Governments. Members of Parliament now in the Ministry wanted us to hand out money willingly to local committees so that they could spend it. The secretary of the committee on one occasion explained that the committee could not hand out money in that way, as the expenditure had to be certified by the Auditor-General. The committee dealt with the claims as they arose with the knowledge that it had £80,000 to spend. In some instances it went back and reviewed the early claims. It is impossible to work effectively without a definite amount being made available. Floods have occurred recently in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Extensive areas in the north coast district of New South Wales, from the Queensland border down to Maitland, in the south coast district as far as Nowra, and in the Murrumbidgee area are being flooded. The New South Wales Government is not a taxing authority. It has only certain sources from which it can derive funds and if it has to continue to provide funds for every flood that occurs - and they have been occurring since 1945 - it will not be able to stand the strain. Then the Commonwealth Government will find the New South Wales Government applying to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for further assistance. It is up to the Commonwealth to see that these places are restored to their former state of cleanliness, that the people are able to get back into their homes and that some relief is granted to people, not as compensation but to cushion the feelings of those who suffered very badly. I make this appeal in all sincerity.
I say to the Government that some statement should bo made early as to the amount of money available : it’ should not be on the £1 for £1 basic. On that basis, if the New South Wales Government determines that it will expend only £10,000 on flood relief from its fund the Commonwealth will make a similar sum available. But if £10,000 is to be the amount the Government should tell us. Let us know definitely what the amount is to be. The committee should know just what amount is meant by the £1 for £1 arrangement. The statement should be made early to enable the committee to render a service. Its members work early and and late. Their one anxiety is to assist the people in distress. If they live in a home; the committee wants to give them some comfort by way of a cheque to restore their furniture, clothing or linen. If the sufferer is a farmer, the committee wants to help him to get back into production. Matters such as these are the only concern of the committee, which should be given every encouragement. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) knows, as an accountant, that it is a very bad principle to spend money and to discover afterwards what amount was available. The amount should be stated first, and everything should be done in a proper and orderly manner in the best interests of this Parliament and whatever State Parliament is concerned in the flood damage relief.
– in reply - If Senator O’Flaherty has been put to any inconvenience by not having knowledge of the term of the adjournment I regret it very much. If the honorable senator’s remarks are intended by way of censure, I reject them.
– No, I am simply asking.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) is not in the chamber, but I have discussed the matter with him and also with the Opposition “Whip. I was not in a position to make an announcement earlier, because I did not know how long the Opposition was going to continue the debate. Honorable senators on this side are ready to vote on the bill now before the chamber at any time. When the Senate would adjourn and for how long was entirely in the hands of honorable senators on the Opposition side. I have not meant any discourtesy, as I think the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Whip will agree. It was only yesterday, when I saw the way that the debate was going, that we were able to determine when the Senate would resume its sittings. I was hoping that the Senate would be able to adjourn until the end of April, but with the business to be transacted it has been found necessary to meet earlier. I assure Senator O’Flaherty and all honorable senators that it is my wish to reciprocate the courtesy that I have received from their Leader, and as soon as I am able to pass information on, I shall be. glad to do so.
Replying to Senator Amour, I point out that it has been traditional with all governments, whether Labour or Liberal, not to attempt to make political capital out of national disasters and personal tragedy. As I understand it, the practice has been to leave the immediate attention and alleviation of suffering in the proper hands, that is in the hands of the State government, because it has control of transport, the police force, and the machinery necessary to extend relief immediately where it is most urgently required, and then to share the expense incurred on a £l-for-£l basis. The Commonwealth has not that machinery. I am not stating that dogmatically, but that is the position as I know it. If 1 am wrong, I should like the honorable senator to give me particulars. I was inearnest, and am still in earnest, in asking him to give me details; but I am hesitant about committing the’ Commonwealth Government to intrude into a matter which is peculiarly the duty of the State. I do not think the Commonwealth Government can do more than say, “ You do the work and we will bear half the expense “. The Commonwealth Government is not in a position to know whether £5,000 or £50,000 is a proper amount to give.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Trade and Customs - R. R. Bull, N. F. Walker.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules1950, No. 11.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs ( 3 ) .
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1950 - No. 1 (Leases Ordinance ) .
Senate adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19500330_senate_19_206/>.