23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the
Minister for National Development the following questions: Has he noted the charge made in the Hobart “ Mercury “ of 1 6th April by the former Treasurer of Tasmania that the State Labour Government proposed to make a loan to the Clarence municipality of £300,000 from the funds of the Housing Department in Tasmania for municipal development work? Has he noted in this statement that more than 100 fewer houses would be built in Tasmania owing to this diversion of housing money to other purposes? Does the Federal Government provide funds for the State Housing Department in Tasmania? Would any part of this sum of £300,000 be supplied from federal housing funds? Will the Minister take steps to ascertain whether any federal housing loan funds have been used to make previous loans to the municipality of Clarence? Will he make sure that all federal funds available to Tasmania for the building of homes are used for home building only?
– The honorable senator was good enough to let me know that he contemplated asking a question along those lines, so I obtained some information on the matters he has raised. I have seen the report in the Hobart “ Mercury “ in which it was stated that the former Treasurer and Minister for Health in Tasmania, Dr. Turnbull, had raised the question of a “ further loan “ to the Clarence municipality of more than £300,000 from the funds of the Housing Department. It was stated that this was not the first loan to this municipality and that Dr. Turnbull claimed that the Treasury had not even been consulted, that no such loans had been made to municipalities in northern Tasmania, and that the use of funds in this way meant that 100 fewer houses would be built in the year.
The Commonwealth Government provides funds under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to Tasmania. In the present financial year, the allocation is £2,200,000, of which 70 per cent, or £1,540,000 is to be used for the erection of dwellings by the State. The Housing Department is the authority responsible for the erection of these dwellings. Under clause 12 of the housing agreement, the State is to ensure that advances made by the Commonwealth are not used, without the approval of the Commonwealth Minister, for works such as the construction of drainage systems or mains for sewerage, water, electricity or other services which are normally the financial responsibility of local government or public utility authorities.
No request has ever been made to me by the Minister for Housing in Tasmania for concurrence in any proposal to make housing agreement funds available for these purposes. I would be reluctant to agree to any use of Commonwealth funds which meant a reduction in the housing programme of the State. As there has been no approach by the State, I assume that Commonwealth funds have not been used for the purposes referred to above and that any loan promised to the Clarence municipality is from State and not Commonwealth funds. I shall have further inquiries made into the matter.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, by saying that the severe virus epidemic in Australia at the present time has resulted in a heavy cost to commerce and industry and to the nation generally, owing to the high percentage of employees who have been absent from work because of this illness. Tn addition, in Western Australia, several deaths have occurred as the result of other complications which have set in during the period of illness. Will the Minister consider issuing a warning to the general public regarding the precautions to be taken to avoid contracting this disease, with particular emphasis on advice to school teachers and school children, in view of the fact that four of those who have died in Western Australia have been children?
– I have noted press reports to the effect that this virus influenza epidemic is sweeping through Australia. I have also noted that the people of Western Australia are suffering, as we are in Tasmania, particularly our school children. I shall convey the honorable senator’s suggestion to the Minister for Health and ask him to consider the matter.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. May I say that, in the “ West Australian “ of yesterday’s date, it was reported that at a luncheon given by the Australian National Travel Association to businessmen in Perth, the Premier of Western Australia had stated that, for the first time in the history of the State, a portfolio of tourism had been established and that he held it. At the luncheon, a Mr. Bates, representing the Australian National Travel Association, stated that there was a wonderful source of overseas revenue waiting to be tapped by the Australian tourist industry. He went on to say that the finances of the association were woefully inadequate. In view of the fact that the Premier of Western Australia has stated that he is prepared to appoint a tourist committee, to consist of business people, representatives of private industry, and government appointees, will the Minister assure me that the Commonwealth will afford the utmost co-operation to the Premier of that State and of other States to encourage tourism in Australia? Will the Minister ascertain the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to this matter, and the help that it can give to the States in tapping this source of funds that are so urgently required in Australia at present?
– I am sure that whatever the new Premier of Western Australia does, he will do it well, and the action he has taken is what I would expect Mr. Brand to take in a matter like this. So far, on the Commonwealth level we have felt that activities in relation to the encouragement of the tourist trade in Australia can best be handled by the States, because they have their individual scenic tours and they have individual arrangements which they make to attract visitors from overseas. What the Commonwealth has done has been to subsidize, or financially assist, an association which aims at encouraging the tourist trade. I should think that that is the association to which Senator Scott has referred, because I recognize the name of Mr. Bates. I think it was only last year that we very substantially increased the Commonwealth grant to that association.
– On a £l-for-£l basis?
– 1 am not sure whether it is on a £l-for-£l basis.
– Up to £50,000?
– Oh, no. I have a figure in my mind, but I do not care to trust my memory in case it is the wrong figure. The Commonwealth is very interested to see the States succeed in their activities to attract and encourage tourist trade to Australia and, for my part, I am quite certain that the Government will welcome the additional activities of the Western Australian Government. I shall ensure that what is being done in the west is brought to the attention of the Prime Minister so that he can consider what steps to take to co-operate with the Western Australian Government.
– Does the Leader of the Government recollect that £2,500,000 was allocated to Western Australia for the development of the northern part of that State, and that that amount was later supplemented by a similar amount, the condition being that the State would seek the approval of the Commonwealth Government before the projects were proceeded with? Can the Minister inform the Senate what submissions have been made by the Western Australian Government for the approval of the Commonwealth Government? Can he furnish details of them, and has he any idea when they will be proceeded with?
– The Commonwealth, of course, brought down legislation which covers the first £2,500,000. The second amount of £2,500,000 was, I think from memory, mentioned in our policy speech at the last election. After our return to office, the Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of Western Australia saying that we now stood ready and prepared to give effect to our policy speech. We had from him the list of works that he proposed would be covered by the first amount of £2,500,000, and we invited him to make whatever suggestions he desired in relation to the second amount of £2,500,000. The Commonwealth’s approach to the matter was that it was making the money available to the Western Australian Government, and that that government should nominate the works it wanted to carry out.
The only reservation the Commonwealth made was that the £5,000,000 Commonwealth grant was to be over and above the amount which the Western Australian Government normally appropriated to the north-west area. The Western Australian Government wrote back in reply to that letter making certain suggestions about the Ord River scheme. There has been an exchange of correspondence on that point, and there has also been a change in the Government of Western Australia since that correspondence first commenced. Therefore, finality has not yet been reached, but I can tell Senator Cooke that the matter is at the moment under consideration by each government. In other words, we wantto be sure that the incoming government in Western Australia concurs in the views of the outgoing government before we decide whether or not we are prepared to meet those views. I should think that the arrangements will be completed within a comparatively short period of time.
– Is the Leader of the Government able to inform me whether the new Academy of Science building in Canberra has been erected entirely by private firms and private bodies, or has the Commonwealth Government made any contribution towards the cost by way of a grant, subsidy, or other form of assistance?
– I know that the Academy of Science has been very fortunate in attracting substantial contributions to its work, but whether or not it is financially self-sufficient I do not know. If the honorable senator will place the question on the notice-paper I shall make inquiries and furnish him with a reply in due course.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the text of a statement made during the broadcast of the “ Labour hour “ in Melbourne on Sunday last in which it was claimed, first, that the Government had invited the Russian Government to re-open its embassy in Canberra, and secondly, that for the purposes of trade the Government would soon announce Australia’s recognition of red China? In view of the forthright denial of the Minister yesterday that Australia would soon announce its recognition of red China, will the Minister also correct the statement that Russia will re-open its embassy in Canberra at the invitation of the Australian Government? Unfortunately this statement already has received wide circulation in Victoria.
– All I can say is that, like most propaganda of the Australian Labour Party, the statements to which the honorable senator has referred are entirely incorrect. I have stated previously in the Senate that when Russia withdrew her representation from Canberra - and caused us to withdraw our representation from Moscow - there were no major diplomatic relations between our two countries. The proposed renewal of representation in both countries has come in the normal way as a result of discussions, and such representations will be upon the terms and conditions that have been announced by the Minister for External Affairs. In no circumstances can the renewal of representation be interpreted as indicating that the Australian Government approves or supports the policies and ideologies of the Russian Government. The plain fact is that the renewal of representation will be to the advantage of Australia because we will be able, through our diplomatic and trade posts in Russia, to keep up to date with occurrences there, and so improve our own material position.
As to red China, as the honorable senator has stated, the Minister for External Affairs yesterday made it quite plain that the renewal of diplomatic relations with Russia, and recognition of red China, are entirely independent of each other, and the renewal of representation cannot in any way be regarded as indicating any change in Australia’s attitude to red China.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the damage which was caused to the eyesight of a large number of children during the recent partial eclipse of the sun, will the Minister give consideration to producing a pamphlet for distribution to Australian school children showing, in pictorial as well as in explanatory form, the permanent damage that can result to the eyes of persons who gaze directly at the sun?
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
The subject of damage to the eyesight of children caused by the recent partial eclipse of the sun will be discussed at the next meeting of the Public Health Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council to be held within the next few weeks.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following replies: -
– by leave - I desire to make a statement regarding the Government’s policy on international charter flights to and from this country. The reason I want to say something about this now is that recently quite a number of applications for charter flights have been refused because they failed to meet the requirements for such charters. I believe that this may have given rise to some misunderstanding of the Government’s policy in the matter. I therefore want to make the position quite clear to all who may be interested so that there will be no possibility in the future of groups of people proceeding perhaps unnecessarily to make arrangements for charter nights in the mistaken belief that approval for their operation will be automatically given.
It is this Government’s firm policy, as it is that of other overseas governments with whom we have aviation agreements, to foster the development of regular international air services between countries adequate to meet the needs of the travelling public and the requirements of commerce and industry. The Government has solidly supported financially and in every other way the development of a strong Australian international airline. Qantas has been built into an airline of high reputation and standing amongst the world’s airlines. This is a fact of which the people of this country can be justly proud.
The rights which Qantas exercises in overseas countries on its world-wide network are dependent upon agreements which the Government has negotiated with these countries. Many foreign airlines have taken advantage of the reciprocal rights in Australia granted under these agreements, so that to-day the Australian public has the choice of nine services a week to North America, sixteen services a week to Europe, seven a week to New Zealand and four a week to the Far East. These services perform an essential function, and their retention in a satisfactory form is considered vital to the public interest.
On the other hand, charter operations are by nature only supplementary to regular services, and the development of a policy towards them must be based on this fact. In some respects, charter operations have unfair advantages over regular services. The charter operator has no obligation to perform a flight unless it is commercially attractive, whereas the regular operator is obliged to fulfil his advertised schedules whether individual flights are profitable or not. Moreover, the tariffs of the regular operators are at fixed levels whereas the charter operator aims to set his tariffs well below those which the regular operator is obliged to charge by international agreement.
It can be seen, therefore, that any extensive intrusion of the charter operator into the legitimate business of the operators of regular services can be most injurious to the maintenance of those services in a healthy economic condition and is therefore not in the public interest. To protect this interest, the Government’s policy .’is to ensure that the regular operators, both Australian and foreign, who are in healthy competition with each other in catering for the needs of the general travelling public, are not subjected also to unfair or uneconomic competition from charter operators for the carriage of this traffic.
In accordance with this policy, the primary test as to whether approval should be granted or refused for an international charter flight is whether or not the proposed charter party could reasonably be considered to constitute part of the general travelling public and thus reserved for carriage by the regular operators at regular fares.
In examining this question, it is possible to distinguish two broad classes of charter parties. The first is what is called the “ single entity “ or “ own use “ charter. This is the case where the party undertaking the charter bears the entire cost of the charter and none of the cost, either directly or indirectly, is paid by individuals forming part of the group proposing to travel. An example of this might be a shipping company which charters an aircraft at its own expense to transport a ship’s crew from one place to another. Normally such a charter party would be regarded as not constituting part of the general travelling public.
The other class of charter party is the “ contributory group “ charter party in which the individual members of the party are contributing wholly or in part, directly or indirectly towards the cost of the charter. In other words, each indivdual is paying a fare. This fact, in itself, can usually be regarded as prima facie evidence that the group is drawn from the general travelling public. Such a charter would not qualify for approval except in exceptional circumstances where the party was able to demonstrate beyond doubt that its membership was so effectively closed to the general public that individual members could not be considered as constituting part of the general travelling public. Examples of such a “ closed group “ party might be a selected athletic team travelling to an international athletic competition such as the Empire Games, migrants travelling on a flight chartered by the international committee for European migration - many charter flights of this nature have been approved - or the permanent committee of some established and properly constituted association travelling for purposes directly connected with the functions of that organization and not for travel in the sense of tourism.
I think I should emphasize that in reaching a judgment in the case of proposed “ contributory group “ charters, the fact, on its own, that members of a proposed charter group have some common characteristics such as profession, occupation, political beliefs, religion, geographical location, the pursuit of an aim or aims such as international goodwill, social betterment or the pursuit of a common hobby would not be regarded as setting the group apart from the general travelling public.
I think I should also say that any groups which are interested in making a charter flight are welcome to call upon the Department of Civil Aviation for an opinion as to whether the flight they contemplate would qualify for approval. They should do this at a very early stage and before making commitments of any sort. I say this because it has been our experience that some aircraft operators are inclined to carry arrangements with prospective charterers to an advanced stage before the proposal comes before the department for consideration. If the proposed flight is rejected, hardship may occur which could have been avoided if the interested party had made early inquiries with the Department of Civil Aviation.
In conclusion, I should tell the Senate that, in the administration of this policy, my department takes into account rules established by aviation countries overseas with whom we have agreements. Every endeavour is made to see that the policy applied to international charter flights in this country is in line with the policy followed abroad.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Walter Cooper) read a first time.
[3.30]. - I move -
That (he bill be now read a second time.
The bill is similar to the Northern Territory Representation Bill. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act 1948-1949, in order to give increased voting powers to the member of the House of Representatives for the Australian Capital Territory. Of course there are many, both residents of the Australian Capital Territory and non-residents, who contend that the member for the Australian Capital Territory should have full voting rights in the House. The present honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is reported recently to have stated that he demands full voting rights. However, as honorable senators will know, representation in the House is decided upon a population basis. The present population of the Australian Capital Territory is 43,000 and the number of electors 22,000. As this figure is much less than that of the numerically smallest electorate in Australia excluding, of course, the Northern Territory, it follows that the member for the Australian Capital Territory is not entitled to voting rights equal to those cf other members.
Further, I would direct attention to the fact that the Australian Capital Territory differs in many respects from other electorates. The development and advancement of the Territory is very largely dependent on the contribution made by the Federal Government - much more so than in any other area of the Commonwealth. It is of interest to note that Washington, the seat of the United States Federal Government, is not self-ruled but is governed by the Federal Congress through three commissioners, all appointed by the President with the concurrence of the Senate. The Federal Congress legislates for the district. Residents of the District of Washington exercise no vote. They have no representative in Congress.
It may be argued that having departed from the precedent which exists in Washington to the extent of allowing this National Capital to elect a member to Parliament, we should go the whole way and give him full voting powers. In the first place there is the numerical objection I referred to. The voters enrolled number approximately half of the number enrolled in the average federal electorate. I know that all kinds of figures have been quoted to show that at other times in our history electorates have had representation on smaller numbers. I regard such arguments as entirely irrelevant to the present situation. The simple fact is that, mathematically, the citizen of the Australian Capital Territory would exercise twice as much voting authority as that of any other elector, and the whole spirit of our Constitution, so far as representation of the States in the House of Representatives is concerned, is to make every vote of equal value. The electorate of Kalgoorlie, which is the smallest numerically, of all federal electorates, covers an area extending from the north coast of Australia to the Bight and from the west coast to the South Australian border - almost 1,000,000 square miles of territory - and even there the numbers of electors enrolled are considerably more than in the Australian Capital Territory.
There is another way of looking at this matter: Under the Constitution, a population quota is calculated by dividing twice the number of Senate seats into the total population. The number of seats in each State is then determined by the quota arrived at being divided into the total population of each State. The present quota would be 80,000 people, and Canberra will not achieve a population of that order for many years. If it is merely a question of numbers, then the member for the Australian Capital Territory is clearly not entitled to full voting rights at present. When the population increases substantially, as it inevitably will increase, the voting rights of the member for the Australian Capital Territory may well come up for consideration by a future government.
There are, of course, other difficulties in the way. The Australian Capital Territory has been created by the States .as part of the machinery of federation. As a centre of administration it is largely financed by the contributions of taxpayers all over Australia. Whether it is justifiable to have the fate of a government responsible for national policy possibly at the mercy of a representative largely elected by the civil servants at the heart of the administrative machine is at least open to argument. 1 want to assure the present honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory that I do not express that view merely because, at the present time, he happens to represent a political party in opposition to the present Government. A glance at the party numbers in the House of Representatives should be a convincing re-assurance to him on that score. Indeed - and I do not know whether the honorable member can take this as a compliment or otherwise - it has been represented to me quite strongly that while the member for the Australian Capital Territory has no vote in the House and therefore does not directly influence the fate of a government, residents in the Australian Capital Territory make the best of both worlds by electing a representative of the opposite political persuasion to that of the government in office. I concede that, at times, that kind of view demands some pretty accurate political forecasting.
I mention that argument only to emphasize that this Government is not actuated by party politics or personalities in its present views. Another argument sometimes used to justify the withholding of full voting rights is the extent to which the Commonwealth Government is obliged, as part of its function of developing a national capital, to spend on the provision of amenities here large sums of money that are quite out of proportion to the taxation contributed by the electors resident in the
Australian Capital Territory. I do not rely on that as a very powerful argument except to say that there is no ground for supposing, on the present expenditures on Canberra, that the citizens are not receiving a very fair share of Government consideration.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has made some extravagant claims about the per capita amounts of income paid in the Australian Capital Territory by virtue of the relatively high average incomes enjoyed here. Particularly from the traditional Labour point of view, it seems somewhat illogical to use this as the basis of a demand for special consideration. But, by and large, the simple reason for limiting the voting rights of the member for the Australian Capital Territory, as in the case of the member for the Northern Territory, at the present time, is the question of numbers. The Constitution takes detailed and careful steps to ensure an equality of voting power within fairly narrow margins. At this time no strong case exists for departure from the spirit of the Constitution.
The bill offers a substantial addition to the present powers of the member for the Australian Capital Territory. It will enable the member for the Australian Capital Territory to vote on any proposed law which relates solely to that Territory. Decisions on the interpretation of this matter in particular cases are to be made by the Speaker or Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, subject to a provision that, if there is dissent from the ruling of the Speaker or the Chairman, the ruling of the House or the committee is to prevail. The bill will also allow the member to vote on a motion for the disallowance of a regulation made under an Australian Capital Territory ordinance. This is a logical extension of the present voting power.
Finally, the bill gives the member power to vote on a motion for the disallowance of a modification or variation of the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra. Just as this bill extends to a worth-while degree the voting powers first conferred only in 1948 in a very narrow field, so the Senate may be assured that this Government will have regard, in the future, to the reasonable requirements of traditional democratic development so far as parliamentary representation for the Australian Capital Territory is concerned. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In order to refresh the minds of honorable senators upon the legislation, I have prepared a short second-reading speech which refers to some of the main provisions of the bill. The purpose of this bill is to give effect to sections M and N of Part II. of the report of the committee of inquiry into the salaries and allowances of members of the Commonwealth Parliament. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has already announced, the Government has decided not to proceed on this occasion with the recommendations contained in section O for retiring allowances for Ministers and Opposition leaders. The question of some suitable contributory scheme quite distinct from the members’ fund will be examined by the Government.
The present act provides pensions of £12 per week from age 45 to members on involuntary retirement after eight years’ service or service in three Parliaments, or on voluntary retirement after twelve years’ service. This pension is increased by an additional £3 per week to £1 5 per week after the age of 65. A widow’s pension of £.10 per week is now provided.
On involuntary retirement before completing the qualifying period of eight years’ service or service in three Parliaments, a refund of contributions plus Commonwealth supplement of one and a half times those contributions is paid in respect of a maximum of eight years’ contributions.
Members now pay a contribution of £4 1 0s. per week. This contribution pays for 40 per cent, of the cost of the basic pensions of £12 per week, and £10 per week to the widow. The Commonwealth meets the remaining 60 per cent, of the cost of these pensions and the whole of the additional £3 per week payable after age 65. The Commonwealth has already paid into the fund £170,958 towards its share of the cost of pensions. The balance in the fund at 31st December, 1958, was £312,000, which represents the accumulation at interest of the balance of the members’ contributions towards the future liability on the fund for their pensions. Honorable senators will appreciate that, to retain the solvency of such a fund it must be accumulated. Thus, honorable senators will realize that each of them is entitled in the future to a benefit from the fund and that their contributions must be reserved for that purpose. The act provides for actuarial investigations of the members’ fund every seven years. The last investigation, which was made as at 30th June, 1956, showed a surplus of £33,000.
The bill now before the Senate gives effect to the recommendation of the Richardson committee that the basic pensions be increased to £18 per week for members and £15 per week for widows. The contribution rate is also to be increased to £5 per week. The other major modifications proposed include -
The bill provides that the increased rates of pension should apply only to existing pensioners. However, the Treasurer has indicated that the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust will be asked to undertake the task of examining the implications of the extension of the new rates of benefit to existing pensioners. When this has been done an opportunity will be provided to leaders of the parties in each House to discuss the matter. The trust will also look into the point raised by Senator McKenna yesterday, relating to the rate of pension payable to widows of contributors who would have reached the age of 65 had they lived. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
– I rise to address myself briefly to the motion now before the Senate. I have taken the opportunity on two occasions to put the viewpoint of the Opposition in relation to this measure. I indicate again that the Opposition supports the bill. It does that despite the fact that it will seek an amendment of one clause and will voice an objection, by vote, to another provision of the bill. I have already particularized those matters and I reserve them for appropriate comment at a more relevant time, namely, when the Senate goes into committee.
Yesterday, I put an argument in favour of increasing the wife’s pension where there was an increase of £3 in favour of the husband on his attaining 65 years of age. 1 am obliged to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for accepting the suggestion which I made yesterday that this matter be discussed with the Treasurer and the Government, and I welcome the assurance he has given that the trust will be asked to look at the matter and to bring back recommendations that ultimately may come before the Parliament.
During the days on which the Richardson committee’s report and the legislation stemming from it have been debated, the debate has ranged, on each occasion, over the three bills. They are interrelated in that they deal with the conditions of parliamentarians, and they derive from the one report. I propose to preserve the tenor of debate of the last two sitting days for the sake of dealing with one matter in particular. There have been comments from a number of honorable senators on the part played by the Opposition in relation to the Ministers of State Bill. Senator McManus expressed his disappointment that some Labour senators were not present, wheel chairs and all, as I think he put it. Senator Wright said that, for some reason which was probably known to the leaders of the parties, that bill was pressed to a division in the early hours of Friday. It was left to Senator Wood to make the direct statement that the Labour Opposition had made a sham fight in relation to that bill.
I wish to comment on those three utterances. The one comment will, I think, cover all of them. I merely want to state the facts and then to let the facts speak for themselves. I return to last Thursday. I inform the Senate that early on that morning I was told by my own supporters that, in their view, the Government would proceed with a debate on two of the measures and would leave the third measure, not then before the Senate, to take its place at some later stage; the debate, in the meantime, would range over the whole of the three matters. The moment I heard that, 1 waited upon the Leader of the Government and protested. I was relieved to be told that the Government had no such thing in contemplation and that there was no need for me to voice the very active protest that I had made, for quite obvious reasons. As the third bill was not available from the House of Representatives until after dinner on that occasion, the Senate did not debate the bill on Thursday morning or Thursday afternoon, but proceeded to it only after dinner on Thursday evening.
I think that it will be fresh in the minds of the Senate that when Senator Spooner suggested a modus operandi for dealing with the three bills on one motion, I was alerted, by a reference in his statement, to the possibility that the Senate would be debarred from adequate debate on the second and third bills if I consented to the exact terms of what he proposed. I made it clear that we wanted the fullest debate. Senator Spooner readily responded and said that that was his intention too, and the debate proceeded on the clear understanding that there should be the fullest opportunity for discussion. From the Opposition viewpoint, that has been sought without deviation from the beginning. I think it is fair to say that, from my observation of the matter, the Government has taken exactly the same attitude, and that there has been no haste in disposing of the matters.
I say at once that I. was personally relieved to have the first bill out of the way on Thursday, even though it had meant sitting somewhat later than usual, for the very obvious reason that influenza is raging in this place, as elsewhere in Australia. I record the fact that neither the Whip nor 1 would have been available for the ensuing lour days had we been compelled to go on. We were both put to bed for four days to recover from the ‘flu that affected us on that day. It was obvious that many of the senators i in the chamber at the time were similarly affected. Two of them, Senators O’Byrne and Poke, have gone down quite seriously ill with the ‘flu in the interim, and Senator Nicholls is another who has been affected. I can say without hesitation that yesterday we had in the Senate and its precincts several senators who, if they had given proper consideration to their health, would not have been here at all..
Those are the facts in relation to allegations that we were stifling debate, seeking to avoid debate, or rushing the matters to a conclusion. My view is that both bills have had the most leisurely debate, with Government supporters in particular taking the fullest advantage of the opportunities available to them. They have availed themselves of the opportunity for debate even more freely than have members of the Opposition, for reasons that are not unconnected with the illness of many of the senators who sit behind me.
I want to refer to the divisions that took place on Thursday evening, as they are relevant to a particular matter. There were five senators who were ill and absent from Canberra. They were completely unable to be present. I want to refer to Senator Fraser, first of all, who made his adieu to this Parliament before Easter. Everybody knew that he had to face a very serious operation. The Whip and I, I should like to inform the Senate - either one or the other of us and sometimes both of us - contacted every senator who was not present in Canberra to see whether his presence could be arranged, and in the five cases I have mentioned we were met with a complete prohibition on the part of a doctor against the travelling of the senator concerned.
Senator Fraser is one; he is about to undergo a very serious operation. Senator Critchley is one who did undergo a veryserious operation, and it is known to everybody who has had the slightest contact with him that he is completely unable to travel. Senator Sheehan was faced with a most serious operation and was prohibited by his doctor from travelling. Senator Amour was not present. Now Senator Amour is one to whom, on one of the valedictory occasions recently in this Parliament 1 felt impelled to pay a tribute for the courage which always had him in his place in this chamber despite inconvenience and pan. There has been no more regular attendant in divisions down the years than Senator Amour, under the gravest difficulties. But this time he was completely immobilized with a most virulent attack of influenza, and even if his doctor had permitted him to travel, he certainly was immobilized and would not have been able to reach this place. Honorable senators saw him here yesterday, and one only had to look at him to see what his state of health must have been last Thursday. Senator Tangney was in Canberra. She was stricken ill at the Hotel Kurrajong, and it is to the knowledge of every one who goes to that place just how serious her malaise was.
That accounts for five of the seven we were down. I say this: I shall never be prepared to insist upon the attendance of a Senator in this place when medical advice is that he should not travel and should not be moved. There have been notable cases in which we have brought sick men to this Senate but in each case - I am thinking of Senator Arnold and Senator Grant - we had assurances that with extreme medical precautions they could be moved with safety. They were moved, and those extreme precautions were taken. Of course, risks were run, and thank goodness they were survived by the two men who were concerned; but at least there was no medical prohibition in either case. I want to make it perfectly plain that of the five senators whom I have named not one of them was free or able to be present in the Senate on that occasion. It is fair to them, in the light of what has been said, that we record those facts.
There were two other senators who were not present in the divisions of that evening and in the small hours of the morning. Their absence or presence made no difference whatever to the result, because the division that they missed was 29 in favour of the Government and 23 in favour of the Opposition. So that their presence here or elsewhere had no effect whatever on the result. I wanted just to record those facts in answer to what had been put to the Senate. It is fair to the individual senators that we do that; it is fair also to the party I represent that those facts should be known. I just want to say this: The Opposition in recent weeks has been particularly unfortunate in. the wave of illness that has affected its members. The Government, as far as I know, has been much more lightly influenced, and I think that the Government took the same proper view in relation to one of its senators when the medical advice was that he should not be moved, either, in relation to that matter. I merely say to those who object to what has happened: Let them beware that the balance of luck where illness strikes can change very easily. We on this side wish no Government member any harm, but I think it is fair that they look right in the face of the plight of the senators affected in this situation before making, comments that tend to reflect upon them.
I merely wish to make one other comment, because, I repeat, I have addressed myself to this matter before. I do not know whether a statement which I hold in my hand and which deals with the position of parliamentary retiring allowances has been circulated to- all honorable senators. It refers to transactions in the fund from the time of its inception in 1949 up to 31st December, 1958, and gives the total. It is not marked in any official way, but I verified its accuracy to-day with the Treasury. It is a very useful bit of research and it will save no end of research on the part of those who are interested to get a bird’s eye view of the fund.
– Have you had it circulated?
– No, I did not prepare it. It is not identified by any mark or date; and it was sent to my room. I verified with the Treasury to-day that it is an accurate statement which is of benefit to those who are interested in the state of the fund. On the assurance that I have Treasury confirmation of its accuracy, and with the leave of the Senate, I incorporate the statement in “ Hansard “. It is as follows: -
I may say that I have checked the statement with the only other source of recent date, namely, the Auditor-General’s report for the period ended June, 1958. and as far as it goes-
– Up to what date does the statement refer?
– The statement covers transactions from the inception of the fund in L949 up till 31st December, 1958. 1 summarize the position in this way: Over the period from the inception o£ the fund to the end of December, 1958, members have paid contributoins that total £326,446. Members have repaid pensions or moneys that have been paid to them on their re-entry into the Parliament, totalling £3,986. Government contributions from the Consolidated Revenue Fund have totalled £152,177. That is something less than half the total amount contributed by members. The fund has earned over the period in interest on investments the amount of £49,897, making a total of £532,506 receipts in the fund over the period. The disbursements amounted to £148,512 on account of pension payments, £67,329 in lump sum payments, and refunds of contributions amounting to £4,2 1 9, making a total expenditure over the period of £220,060. and leaving a balance to the credit of the fund at 31st December. 1958, of £312,446 - a really extraordinary figure, and comprising no portion of Government contributions, but wholly the balance of contributions made by members.
– That is not right. There is a Government supplement in that.
– It does not appear from the figures.
– I beg your pardon.
– If the honorable senator has the same document at which 1 am looking, he will find contributions from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, to which I have already referred amongst the receipts, in two figures - £107,958 and £44,219, totalling the figure I announced to the Senate of £152,177.
– That is right.
– How is that reconciled with the amount of £170,951, which the Minister said the Commonwealth had paid into the fund?
– T can only guess at that. My explanation would be that the figures in the statement have been brought up to date.
– Since 31st December, 1958?
– My figures purport to be up to 31st December, 1958, and I should imagine that the figures quoted by the Minister cover the intervening few months. If that is not the explanation, 1 shall have to await an explanation from the Minister.
– There might have been a payment at the start.
– As I did not make the statement, I am not in a position to answer that question. I leave the matter to the Minister. From the figures, it is obvious that a vast amount of money has been accumulated in the fund.
– I think the figure of £170,000 is a typographical error. I: should be £107,000.
– That could be the answer. Apparently the figures have been transposed. I thought that perhaps the figures had been brought right up to date.
– The document that 1 have shows £107,958, plus a lump sum payment of £44,219 and interest amounting to £49,897 on investments, making a total of £202,074.
– The figure that concerns us is the amount of contributions. The interest on investments stands alone. We do not seem to be at cross purposes about the figures, and the healthy condition of the fund. As I have stated, the table to be incorporated in “ Hansard “ will show the year-by-year transactions of the fund and the one document will indicate iis financial position.
[4.81. - The few remarks that I wish to make on this series of bills must commence with tribute to the members of the committee that was appointed to review the salaries and allowances of members of Parliament. Instead of receiving the applause and commendation to which they are justly entitled for the manner in which they did their job, they have received a great deal of criticism. When I consider the members of the committee, I wonder whether some of their critics are really sincere in their remarks as to, first, the method by which the members came to their conclusions, and secondly, the conclusions at which they arrived.
I learned yesterday for the first time that the day after the committee was appointed
Senator Wright was critical of the fact that a committee had been set up and that a reference had been made to it. He is the only one of 181 members of the Parliament who, to my knowledge, criticized the committee at the time of its appointment. In itself, that is not very surprising. The appointment of the committee followed the pattern which now has a pretty firm precedent - the pattern set in 1951 and 1953. I honestly believe that, with the sole exception of Senator Wright, every member of both houses of the Parliament, when giving any thought to a revision of salaries and allowances, would have taken it for granted that such a revision would follow the appointment of the committee and the reference of this matter to it. I repeat - 1 pay tribute to the members of the committee for the job they have done.
It has been said - somewhat churlishly, to my mind - that Sir Frank Richardson, a Melbourne merchant, had no special qualifications of judgment to bring to a consideration of the salaries and allowances of members of Parliament. I should have thought that the fact that he was a member of the first committee that reviewed this matter and that he was chairman of the second committee would have made him better equipped than any of his critics to undertake this particular job. Sir Frank Richardson is a first-class Australian - a man who has reached his present position, not by virtue of any special advantages, but by virtue of his own ability, pluck and tenacity. He has made a success of his own business, and is a shining example to many Australians. As I have said, he is a merchant - a successful merchant. I find no fault with that. During the war years, he did a splendid job for Australia in an honorary capacity. I can think of no man better fitted to head a committee such as the one that was appointed by the Government. Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Cowper, the other members of the committee, are both prominent men in their own professions, and men against whom and against whose judgment f have never heard uttered one syllable of criticism - that is, until they became associated with this committee.
Strange as it may seem, I have not heard any criticism of the principles followed by the committee in coming to its conclusions. Indeed, if the principles are considered in isolation, at least 95 per cent, of the Australian people would support them. Paragraph 30 of the report of the committee is in these terms -
The salary of a member should be fixed at an amount which is not so low as to deter a man of good attainments and abilities who has no private income from entering or remaining in Parliament . . .
That statement, regarded as a basis for consideration of the matter, is, no doubt, accepted and applauded by the vast majority of the Australian people. Paragraph 33, which repeats the same thought as that contained in paragraph 30, but in rather more emphatic terms, states -
Our anxiety is to ensure that the salary and allowances are not so low as to make it virtually impossible for a man of good quality and prospects, with any sense of responsibility for the welfare of his family, to offer himself for or to remain in politics.
As I have said, those statements, regarded as bases for consideration of the matter, would receive the approval of the vast majority of the Australian people who do not look with favour upon the possibility of being governed by a parliament consisting of men attracted to it merely because of some advantage that might flow to them, and because they might be unable to secure for themselves a well paid position outside Parliament, on the one hand; or a parliament consisting of those more fortunate men who enjoy a private income, on the other hand. In other words, the committee was set up to formulate a wage scale which it considered would attract- to the national Parliament a representative cross-section of the Australian people. I am in complete agreement with the findings of the committee. That is written into those passages of the report to which I have referred, and others. !i one accepts those passages as bases, one then proceeds to an examination of the actual monetary emoluments suggested. I have stated publicly before, and I repeat now, that not by any standard of comparison can I regard a salary of £2,750 for a member of Parliament as being in any way excessive or extravagant at this time in the history of the country.
I come from a State which is not noted for the fact that its industry or commerce pays high salaries to either junior or senior executives. Yet, in that State, a salary of £2,750 would be regarded as nothing more than normal for a man who is in charge of a department in a large ‘Store or a man who manages a branch of a business. I have heard the salaries paid by the English Parliament compared with those paid by the Australian Parliament. My personal view is that you cannot successfully make any comparison as between one country and another. Each country has its own particular problems, and, to compare the English Parliament with the Australian Parliament seems to me to go to the extreme of the ridiculous because, in England, there is a Parliament of something over 600 members. The average attendance in the House of Commons is somewhere about 300 members. They go to vote because they know the actual time when a vote on an important issue will be taken. At other times, many of them, in the political and commercial traditions of their country, spend a great deal of their time looking after the private businesses which they conduct. Their electorates are mere pocket-handkerchief electorates - one could walk around them in a couple of hours - and the demands made upon members by their electors do not come within coo-ee of the demands made upon. Australian members of Parliament.
– What is the average number of electors?
– I could not say. In the brief period during which I was in England last year, I devoted a little time to a study of this question, and I say categorically, and with no disrespect to the English member of Parliament, who lives in a different atmosphere and in different traditions, that the way in which an English member of Parliament treats his constituency and his constituents in many aspects would not be tolerated by an Australian community.
I pass from that to the question of the electorate allowance. Here, the committee has made certain recommendations and stated its reasons for them. Here, too, we move into a field which cannot be contentious in the same way as salaries can, because an allowance, as its title implies, is recompense for expenses incurred; in other words, it is an allowance for expenses incurred. Senator Wright smiles at me.
– I was only connecting that with the term used in the Constitution.
– The electorate allowance referred to by this committee is an allowance for electorate expenses.
– I understand what you mean when you define it.
– I am defining it in the sense in which the Richardson committee addressed itself to the point. It is an allowance for electorate expenses. No one disputes that.
– Quite so.
– As a representative of a State the size of Western Australia, I say categorically, that the increased allowances recommended by the committee do not cover the legitimate expenses of any senator from Western Australia who is doing his job properly. It is absolutely beyond me to understand the criticism which is directed .at the amount of this allowance. I believe that when the committee fixed these allowances it had in mind the very point made by Senator Wood last night - that there might be, in the performance of a man’s electorate duties, an element of propaganda - and, for that reason, the full amount was not allowed. But I say that the amount of £800 just laughs at the actual cost of electorate expenses for a senator in Western Australia. Unfortunately, since I have been a Minister, I have not been able to spend the same amount of time in my State as I did formerly, but I go on record now as saying that over the last three years I have never travelled less than 14,000 miles a year in my own car. If one goes to the south, if one goes to the eastern goldfields, and to the south-east;, not to mention the far north-west, to which one can get only once in twelve or fifteen months, the allowance of £800 simply laughs at the expenses which one quite legitimately incurs.
– But would you say that a senator should be allowed more for expenses than a member of the House of Representatives?
– I answer that question by pointing out that senators in this chamber, whom we know and whom we all respect, have stated to the committee that their allowance is sufficient to meet their legitimate needs. When the committee is faced with that sort of evidence, and the other evidence to which is refers - the case of a senator who undertook travel to the extent of 31,000 miles a year - when there is a conflict or a difference between the amount of travel necessary in some States as compared with that necessary in other States, I can only believe that the committee took such factors into consideration in fixing the allowances for senators. If Senator Wood asks me a general question as to whether a senator spends more in his State than a member of the House of Representatives would spend in his electorate, my sure and very quick answer is “ Yes “.
I want to refer to only one or two other aspects. One is the economic aspect. It has been suggested that these allowances, which will increase the salary bill by £190,000, may have some effect on the economy of this country. With the greatest respect in the world for those who offer that criticism, I can only repeat the argument advanced last night by my colleague, Senator Gorton, who pointed out that an increase of those proportions could have no economic effect.
– You know that your answer is not addressed to the argument.
– I say that the sum of £190,000, however related to any aspect of the economy - whether national product, wages or anything else - can have no general effect.
– Of course not.
– If the honorable senator who interjects is so positive that it will have an effect-
– I agreed that it would have no effect, but you are perverting the argument.
– Lest the honorable senator should misunderstand me, let me say that I am contesting the proposition that the proposed, rise will have a disadvantageous effect upon the economy of Australia.
– By reason of its amount?
– By reason of its amount.
– What I said was that it has an effect by reason of- its. significance.
– Let me take that a little further also, because perhaps the honorable senator is one of those who believe that the rises may be used in the Arbitration Court to convince the judges that there should be a rise in wage levels generally. To that suggestion I give the answer that 1 do not for one moment think that the judges of the Arbitration Court would be so convinced. I have been intrigued by the attitude of the Labour Party in this matter. I take leave to express my amazement. I honestly believe, that the parliamentary Labour party tried to emerge from this with all the kudos and none of the criticism that might accrue to it if it supported the recommendations in toto. It adopted a plan of action which meant, in effect, that it would agree to take increases in emoluments proposed for back-benchers and would, oppose almost all of the other recommendations..
– No, a fair percentage.
– I said that it intended to oppose almost all of the other recommendations. Apparently that met some opposition within the party. It produced, a remarkable series of actions on the part of members of the organization, as distinct from members of the parliamentary Labour Party. Not the least remarkable effect has been the surprising action taken by Labour’s federal president, Mr. Chamberlain,, who has tendered his resignation from- that office in the party.
In watching this position unfold and develop, I cannot escape the conclusion that the salaries issue has been used merely as a facade behind which the real storm was brewing in any case; that the salaries issue is as remote from the impending storm within the Labour- Party as are the poles from: the. equator. It has been suggested that the skids were under Mr.. Chamberlain anyway. There is good reason to believe that. His presidency has not been a successful one. We have- seen the Labour numbers in the House of Representatives dwindle from a figure which was within six of the Governments to a figure which was so low as to give the Liberal-Country Party Government a record majority. We have- seen Labour lose control of the Senate. State Labour governments have gone in Queensland and in Western Australia. Mr. Chamberlain’s own State, so it. is quite easy te accept the view that the skids were under Mr. Chamberlain and that this affair offered him a brilliant opportunity to effect something of a comeback - to turn a disadvantageous position to his own advantage.
It is interesting, if this be the case - as 1 think it is - to reflect on this man Chamberlain, and see how much in character it all is. 1 can remember him over a period of years. I can remember when, as a comparatively new migrant to this country, he received the endorsement of the Australian Labour Party for the State seat of Sussex. I can remember the concern that was then felt in the Australian Labour Party by honoured Labour men like Collier, McCallum and Troy, and by Miss Holman, who moved at the conference of the party next held in Perth, that this man’s endorsement be withdrawn because of practices in which he was indulging and policies which he was advocating, which were regarded as detrimental to the then party. Miss May Holman, the then member for Forrest in the State Parliament, proposed the motion and it was seconded by Mr. Courtnay, who is now the member for Darebin in the House of Representatives. Western Australians who sit in this chamber will recall the deep and increasing concern that was felt within the Australian Labour Party at that time. The story that had great currency within the Labour Party, if nowhere else, was that he was known in some circles not as Chamberlain, but as Mr. Joe Zanni, and that that name was associated with a party which had no affiliation at the time with the Western Australian Labour Party. Honorable senators may also recall his fight within the party, during which he exercised his remarkable skill and capacity as a trade union secretary of the Tramways Union in Perth to get the secretaryship of the party in Western Australia, and ultimately to the Australian presidency - nurturing all the time, a desire for parliamentary membership and a desire to play a prominent role as a leader of the Labour Party. I repeat, this story, as it unfolds, is the reason for Labour’s actions now, rather than any question of salaries. Salaries are purely a front, purely a facade. This is just another one of the Labour Party’s ever-recurring disturbances about to break out. Knowing, as I do, something of the history of Mr. Chamberlain, and knowing the Labour Party under its present leadership - which 1 have never failed to criticize - I think that the present leadership is preferable to the prospective leadership of Mr. Chamberlain.
All this has come from the salaries issue - an issue which, 1 believe, has been fairly judged and fairly concluded. 1 end my comments as I began them, by paying a public tribute to Sir Frank Richardson and his colleagues, who undertook a very difficult task, and for their efforts, have received much criticism.
– The measure we are discussing has reference to parliamentary retiring allowances. It was agreed early in the debate that as all the measures arose from th Richardson report, the debate on the initial measure introduced - the Ministers of State Bill - could range over all the subjects involved in the three measures. It was further agreed that the debate on any of the three measures would not be stultified, although the major portion of the debate would take place on the first measure.
I think it is well that we should bear in mind that the framers of the Australian Constitution envisaged that the salaries of Ministers and the allowances of members of the Parliament would be reviewed from time to time. The framers of the Constitution left no doubt as to where the responsibility for that review should lie. They placed it on the Government and the Parliament of the day. In this instance, unfair propaganda emanating from the press, from members of the Government and, to a degree, from members of the Opposition has seriously confused the issue and has had the effect of detracting from the standing which the Parliament justly deserves. We can all be proud of our Commonwealth Parliament and its record through the years, not only during periods of war. but also during other periods, when it has helped to develop the country. We can be. proud of the manner in which it has carried out its task, lt ill behoves any decent Australian to attack an institution which has such a proud record.
I think there is an objective to this campaign of vilification. It was not directed at Sir Frank Richardson or his associates on the committee, lt has been directed against the policy of Parliament fixing the salaries of Ministers and other members of Parliament. The object of the press campaign of vilification and stirring up discontent in the community has been to remove pressure from the Government and to place on the Opposition responsibility for what is entirely and exclusively an action of the Government, One of the worst features of this matter is that the press and some members of the Government have suggested that no previous notice was given that salaries and allowances were to be increased. That is entirely wrong. Before the last general elections, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made the statement that preparations were being put in hand tor a review and later the Government - not the Parliament, nor the Opposition - called upon Sir Frank Richardson and his colleagues to make a report to the Government on these diverse matters. The Government was not obliged to accept the report, or any portion of it. It could have rejected any portion of the report or accepted any portion of it. The committee was merely advising the Government.
In that capacity, the committee took evidence from members of Parliament and sifted that evidence. I say quite frankly that it was agreed by both the Labour Party and the Government parties that the fullest possible information should be put before the Richardson committee. Members were encouraged to put individual cases. The leaders of the parties, with the full permission and endorsement of their members, went before the committee and put before it the evidence which it required. Then the committee brought down its determination.
From then on, the press raised the question: What is the Labour Party going to do about the report? The newspapers knew full well that the Labour Party could do nothing about it. It had no majority in the Parliament. Even with the people who acted as stooges for the press and played the traitor to their parties, we could not make our numbers sufficient to do anything about the matter in any circumstances. What a lot of haywire thinking there has been on this question- If the issue had been put to the Parliament and the Opposition had opposed it, the Government, even allowing for deserters, would have succeeded. We could not have challenged the legislation successfully at all, but the facts have been cleverly twisted by the press to make it appear that, the Labour Party is responsible for its passage. That is entirely wrong.
Another aspect of the matter is the sob story about pensions. If the policy of the Labour Party in regard to the National Welfare Fund had been adopted by this Government, age pensioners, widow pensioners and other pensioners would now be in receipt, as of right, of payments equated to the cost of living, just as the Richardson committee has done in regard to the salaries of members of Parliament. My contention is that the adoption of the Richardson report will, or should, make some difference in the economic circumstances of other people in Australia. If it is right for members of Parliament to be granted increases in accordance with the increases in the cost of living, it is just and right for’ every worker, public servant, pensioner and person on a fixed income to get an increase based on the increase in the cost of living and the inflated costs of today. The Labour Party promised to do that, and if it had been returned to power it would have been obliged to carry out its promise. If the Labour Party gets the opportunity at any stage, it will carry out that promise. I make no apology for saying that if the report of the Richardson committee were quoted in a court of arbitration in support of a claim for increased wages, or if it were quoted in support of a claim for an increase for pensioners, who are living under sub-standard conditions, it should be taken cognizance of. I hope it will be.
I come now to another point. Senator Paltridge made an extraordinary submission. I think the meanest kind of person is one who makes himself a stooge for propaganda purposes, whether that propaganda is propagated by the press or somebody else. I think it was definitely wrong that the Dress should have published photographs of people doing certain things before the parties concerned knew anything about them. Equally vicious things have been done to Government members. However, those matters are not relevant to this particular debate. The point is that the Labour Party did not have the numbers. It was not responsible for seeking the report, and it could not have rejected or accepted it. Nevertheless, it agreed in principle with the action of the Government in appointing the committee and sent its leaders to give evidence. That evidence was assessed by the committee which, in general terms, was of the opinion that parliamentarians, in common with other sections of the community, should obtain relief from inflated costs. 1 am in the unfortunate position of having submitted only one point. That was that, during the period I was absent from the Senate, I earned more in six months than 1 am now being offered in terms of the committee’s recommendation. During ;that period 1 was in private employment I got stamps, I had a car for which the people for whom I worked paid cash, which sum I paid back without interest, and I had a telephone and other amenities. On one side of my taxation return I was able to show an income of £2,070 for seven months, and on the other side £698 as payment as a senator for the remainder of the year.
– You are wasting your time here.
– That may be true, but it is wrong to imply that a person who is elected to the Senate and applies himself to his duties comes here for a cash benefit. He certainly desires to live. When I left, I terminated any association I had with the firm for which I worked and handed over my papers to another man who had to earn his living in that area. I did not retain that association, even though I was offered the opportunity to do so. And many other members of the Senate are in the same position.
That part of the committee’s report which deals with parliamentary retiring allowances is one which it is not incumbent upon the Government to concede to the committee, because there is nothing in the terms of reference to the effect that the committee was to report on retiring allowances. Just as it did in relation to other subjects, the committee offered advice to the Government on this matter. Although its examination of the matter was fairly extensive, as a trustee of the fund I did not know that that examination was in progress. But in November, 1957, as a trustee, I submitted recommendations which follow very closely the recommendations of the Richardson committee. The then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, and other trustees thought it was time that the fund should be reviewed with a view to providing for some better payment to ex-members of the Parliament.
The document that my leader had in his hand was obtained by me as a trustee following a request to the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury. At the time, my leader was suffering from influenza, .ind I left the document on his table together with a note. It was an official document obtained by proper methods, and I repeat that I was responsible for it being in the hands of my leader. Apparently he did not know its source. That document shows that the fund is in credit to the extent of £312,446, that sum being contributed entirely by members of the Parliament. Another fact to be borne in mind is that members contribute 10 per cent, of their salaries to the fund, and that percentage is not to be altered following the proposed increase of salaries and allowances. Although moneys are paid from Consolidated Revenue when the pension becomes payable, balances in the fund are accumulated only from the contributions of members.
There are certain aspects of the proposed legislation to which attention should be given, and I ask the Government to accord them that attention. Ex-members of the Federal Parliament who qualified for pensions under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1952-1956 will not receive any increase of pension under the proposed legislation, nor will certain exmembers of the House of Representatives who were defeated at the election of November last. If this bill is agreed to, it should apply equally as much to those who ceased to be members at the last election as to those who, constitutionally, did not cease to be members at the last election but whose membership will cease on 30th June next. Ex-members of the House of Representatives will be pensionable at the lower rate whereas ex-members of the Senate, who in effect were defeated at the same election, wi’l be pensionable at the higher rate. I feel that clause 13 of this bill is not justifiable, lt should not have been included in the legislation. I ask the Government to consider that point.
Since its inception in 1949, the fund has accumulated reserves which are £133,000 in excess of actuarial requirements. Retired members have a beneficial interest in the fund.
– They have an equity.
– They have an equity in those reserves. When the Richardson committee investigated the question of retiring allowances, it found that the social service pensions and the permissible income of a married couple together were higher than the amount paid to ex-members of the Parliament. Leaving aside the permissible income, the pension payable from this fund for the superannuated ex-member is only £3 15s. a week higher than the social service pension, and for this the member has contributed £4 10s. a week plus normal taxation. Of course, there is the great advantage that recipients of the parliamentary allowance would not be subject to the means test. It is the policy of the Government parties and the Labour Party that the means test for the ordinary pensioner should be abolished. The sooner it is abolished the better. But in regard to parliamentary pensions, members have contributed for a pension and the fund is well able to provide the increase to all exmembers.
On the occasion of previous adjustments on account of inflation, the Government has made good the difference for retired members of more than 65 years of age. I plead with the Government to do the same on this occasion and, because of inflation and the higher cost of living, to allow ex-members to enjoy an increase of pension, otherwise the point will ultimately be reached where they will have contributed to a fund that provides a pension which is not in line with the ordinary social service pension. I again remind the Senate that we as parliamentarians contribute 10 per cent, of our salaries to the retiring allowance fund.
I come now to the position of the wives of ex-members of the Parliament. I think the committee has recommended that, upon the death of an ex-member, his widow should receive at least five-sixths of the pension that was paid to him. If that can be adopted actuarily, the Government should see that it is adopted.
Another fact which is lost sight of by the public and very often by the Parliament is that many members paid fairly substantial contributions to a superannuation fund before they came here. They had to wind up their association with those funds and very often lost the whole of their benefits. Some of those funds provided that the employer would pay a pension after service of so many years, without contribution by the employee. Only rarely was a contribution of more than 5 per cent, asked for. Most contributions ranged from 2i per cent, to 3i per cent. The member lost that protection on entering Parliament. I consider that the parliamentary retiring allowances fund could be adjusted to improve its provisions in relation to cases of that kind. It must always be borne in mind that members of Parliament make a very substantial contribution to the fund to obtain benefits. In comparison with other funds, such as superannuation funds, parliamentarians contribute at very high rates for the pension privileges that they enjoy.
There is another matter that 1 think should be considered. Quite a number of members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives were members of State Parliaments before they entered the Federal Parliament and had contributed for many years to State superannuation funds. Had they stayed in State politics, in due course, having contributed to those funds, they would have qualified for a pension under the State act. On entering the Federal Parliament, such a member contributes to the retiring allowances fund of this Parliament and has no claim on the State fund. Such a position would not be tolerated outside parliamentary circles. There would be an arrangement of some kind or other, so that the member concerned would not be penalized by sacrificing all the payments that he had made and the privileges to which he was entitled merely because he had changed from service in one parliament to that in another. That is an aspect of parliamentary retiring allowances which is not usually considered.
Under this fund, the person who is sufficiently fortunate to stay in Parliament for many years probably will receive a pension for only a short time. Of course, that is so with every pension fund. Nevertheless, let us ask the Government to take a broad view and to accept the good with the bad. The Government should see to it that when a member retires, the pension that he receives is kept in line with the inflated costs that obtain at that time, just as we argue that age pensions, widows’ pensions and other pensions should be assessed. 1 find that we cannot remove clause 13 of the bill. The Senate is not able to do more than make requests in matters of this kind. The question of the payment of pensions to Prime Ministers who have been out of office for more than 25 years will be dealt with in committee.
On this matter of parliamentary retiring allowances the people have been badly confused by the newspapers. They have no idea that the fund is virtually selfsupporting. If honorable senators examine the schedule that I have given to my deputy leader, they will find that at no time have the payments out been more than the total contributions of members. A fairly substantial reserve has been accumulated. As a matter of fact, both the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have said that the fund is very substantial and could stand examination with a view to improving pension provisions. 1 suggest that if such an examination were made, the recommendations contained in the Richardson committee’s report should also be examined and considered. All members of the Parliament have an interest in this matter. We all contribute to the fund and are, in a way, shareholders in it. Efforts should be made, in consultation with the trustees of the fund, to provide the best possible conditions, that the Government can give and that we are prepared to pay for. Although the Government has passed on payments to recipients of pensions under the fund, the ratio of contributions by the Government has not been generous in comparison with other superannuation funds. However, comparisons always are odious.
If honorable senators were to select the New South Wales superannuation fund for purposes of comparison, they would find that, for a contribution of £3 a week, retired members are entitled to a straightout pension of £18 a week. However, there are conditions attached to that fund which ,are different from those of the Commonwealth trust fund. We must consider this fund in isolation, remembering that contributions have been made solely by members of Parliament. The Parliament is now considering a proposal to increo.se pension rates for members. I suggest that one member of Parliament should not have to retire on .a pension that is inadequate, while another member, by virtue of his good fortune in being able to remain in Parliament for a longer period, retires on a pension that is better able to meet ‘rising costs of living. I was here when this act was introduced, and I can say that it was then the intention of the founders of the scheme to put an end to the position where members of Parliament retired from public life only to face really bad financial conditions, or where widows of deceased members had to depend on cx gratia payments.
We should adhere to the original intention to provide for retired members of Parliament pensions that are worthy of their service to the nation and which will be a reasonable return for the contributions they have made to the trust fund. I should be very sad indeed to see members of Parliament retiring on lower rates of pension than the founders of the scheme declared that all contributors who qualified should be entitled to receive. Therefore, I ask the Government to consider the provisions of the act and to keep in mind the principles on which and the purposes for which the fund was established originally.
.- I have .already addressed myself to the Senate on the Ministers of State Bill and the Parliamentary Allowances Bill. The Senate is now dealing with a bill to vote retiring allowances for senators and members of the House of Representatives. It was a little unfortunate that the debate should have taken the form, to which the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) gave emphasis this afternoon, of going back to a complete revision of what the Richardson committee had said in relation to the subject-matter of the other two bills. It is because of the Minister’s impressive remarks that I pronose to take the opportunity, for a few brief minutes, to make some comment on his statements.
The Minister began and ended his speech this afternoon by paying a tribute to the Richardson committee. T pointed out in the previous debates that there is one significant part of this committee’s production as to which there is no suggestion that any evidence was offered, namely, its recommendation for non-contributory pensions of quite large amounts for Ministers. Although Senator Paltridge is a member of the Ministry which adopted that recommendation, the recommendation has now been dropped. 1 think that that very fact, a simple fact of history, is enough to dispel, in this matter, complete confidence in the judgment either of Sir Frank Richardson or of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. So far as the chairman of the committee is concerned, the aspect of his experience advanced by Senator Paltridge to recommend him to us was that he had been a member of the Nicholas committee of 1952 and had chaired the first Richardson committee in 1955. But the surprising thing that gives rise to a want of confidence in this committee’s judgment, is that despite that fact and also the fact that the committees of 1952 and 1955 brought parliamentary remuneration generally up to current levels of salaries, this Richardson committee, when confronted with the fact that the basic wage adjustment between 1956 and 1959 was insignificant, that there had been a stability of the cost of living, and that a large and important section of our national income, namely, agricultural income, was critically declining, pulled a rabbit out of the hat and said, “ We will not content ourselves with adjusting parliamentary salaries in accordance with other salaries in the community. We think the time is opportune for an entire revision of the principles upon which they should be assessed.”
Then the Minister for Shipping and Transport criticized the House of Commons as compared with the Australian Parliament, and advanced the view that therefore the members of the House of Commons should be paid less by way of salary. It is significant that not one word of argument fell from the Minister’s lips to fortify or support the great discrepancy between ministerial salaries in England and ministerial salaries in Australia. Ministerial salaries in England were running at about £5.000 a year in 1957, and as a matter of judgment the then British Government declined to permit them to h° increased.
Tt is a very elementary - indeed primitive - trick of advocacy that ‘s adopted by th. os’ who have not reached the higher levels of advocacy, to put up a cock-shy in the form of their opponent’s argument, and then knock it down. My friend and colleague the Minister waxed eloquent and said that those opposing these measures adopted the view that the £ 170,000-odd was insignificant as to the amount in the Commonwealth Budget. 1 have been careful to say all through that as a matter of amount it is insignificant but that as to its quality and character it is of the greatest significance.
Then the Minister advanced into the realm of the Arbitration Court - I know not whether by reason of special experience. I venture to suggest that nobody would advance as an argument in the Arbitration Court for an increase of the basic wage the fact that parliamentarians had helped themselves, or increased their salaries; because they are not limited by an assessment of the capacity of the country to pay. He is a very credulous soul, one who should not survive 50 years’ baneful experience in this common world, who believes that the significance of these increases, bearing the imprimatur of the government of the country, can be avoided by the tribunals whose duty it is to adjust the basic wage, the Public Service salaries and superannuation, conditions in the airways industry, and to effect other salary and wage adjustments. So much for the Minister’s speech.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has now made something like a factual statement concerning some of the provisions of this bill and their application to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. It is a matter, Mr. President, of very great regret that the decision to introduce this legislation was not preceded by actuarial advice on the effect of the Richardson committee proposals. That, I believe, amounts to definite irresponsibility. All that was said when the measures were introduced into the House of Representatives was that the outstanding feature of the pension fund was that members paid into it an unusually high percentage of their salaries, that a contribution of 10 per cent, of salaries is excessive when related to percentage contributions made by wages and salary earners to other superannuation funds. But the statement omitted the fact that if effect is given to these proposals the percentage of contribution to benefit will undergo a material change, as I shall point out more fully at the committee stage.
Originally, provision was made for a 40 per cent, contribution by the member and a 60 per cent, contribution by the Commonwealth; that ratio was basic to the original fund, and it has been maintained up till this date. When the pension was adjusted from £8 a week to £12 a week in 1956, the contribution payable by the member was advanced from £3 to £4 10s. a week. But the proposal now is - and nobody has supported it by any reason or actuarial information - that by a mere increment of 10s. a week in the member’s contribution there will be an increase of 50 per cent, in the benefit - an increase in the benefit from £12 a week to £18 a week by reason of an increase in the contribution from £4 10s. to £5 a week. The Commonwealth will contribute more, and the relationship between the member’s contribution and the Commonwealth’s contribution will change from a 40-60 ratio to a 2/7ths-5/7ths ratio.
– That is quite wrong.
– Is it said in the report?
– No, it is not said in the report, but it is a matter of clear judgment. Senator Gorton interjected that what I said was quite wrong, but if he takes the advice that is available to him in Canberra he will see that if you increase the contribution merely from £4 10s. to £5 a week and at the same time give a benefit increase from £12 to £18-
– Not till age 45.
– Not at all. The ratio of 40-60 upon which the fund was built - 40 per cent, contribution by the member and 60 per cent, contribution by the Commonwealth - will be translated into a ratio of 2/7ths-5/7ths - 2/7ths contribution by the member and 5/7ths contribution by the Commonwealth.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority for his statement regard ing the change in the ratio?
– T have consulted high public officers in financial circles in Canberra. I have referred to the advisers who are available to the Government. My .statement can be supported by a fairly superficial knowledge of arithmetic, but I do not regard my judgment as sufficient in such intricate matters. I rely upon the highest specialized advice available.
– Of course, the Commonwealth Actuary has stated that he cannot give us the figures at such short notice.
– The fact is that the Commonwealth Actuary will not commit himself to an opinion without considering the matter for two months. That fact underlines the statement that I made before Senator Spooner returned to the chamber to the effect that the introduction of this legislation, at a time when the actuarial position regarding the fund is unknown to the Government, indicates the Government’s complete irresponsibility. This fund was submitted to actuarial review in 1956, and as a result the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that the fund was “ unusually solvent “ - I think that is the phrase he used. Statements have been bandied about that the Commonwealth has contributed nothing towards the amounts that have been paid as pensions to members. Senator Scott seems to entertain that idea. The document which Senator McKenna has had incorporated in “Hansard “, and which has been in circulation among honorable senators for the last seven days as an authentic Treasury statement, shows quite clearly that the balance in the fund is £312,000. However, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), and Senator Cooke, have stated, it is quite false to say that the amount of pension payments to date have not included Commonwealth moneys. In fact, the document to which I have referred shows amounts of £107,958 for pension payments and £44,219 as lump sum payments, as contributions from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Commonwealth Actuary, in his report dated 24th June, 1957, has stated -
The normal procedure in an investigation of this nature is to make an actuarial valuation of the liabilities against which provision is being made and, by a comparison of the value of those liabilities with the amount of the Fund in hand and the value of future contributions payable by existing members, to determine whether a surplus or deficiency exists.
In the evaluation of a superannuation fund, it is a most elementary mistake for any person to look only to the figures of present investments. Obviously, one must assess the future liabilities that the fund will have to discharge, the value of contributions that the fund probably will receive in the future and, as against that, the contingent future liabilities that the fund will have to meet.
– ls it really possible to do that?
– It may not be possible for Senator Scott, but it is possible for an expert actuary as a matter of ordinary, everyday business. Any honorable senator who studies the report of the Commonwealth Actuary will see that reference is made to the actuarial valuation of liabilities - £134,600, the present value of future benefits, including refund of contributions to existing members - £388,800, the present value of future contributions at £4 10s. a week - £349,000, and the amount of the fund - £207,000. Those figures indicate the insignificant and weak surplus of £33,000 - insignificant and weak when one considers it in relation to the load that the fund must carry. With a surplus of only £33,000. the fund is very nee: the c!r.n;>er mark.
– By what process of logic does the honorable senator arrive at the conclusion that any surplus is a weak surplus. I have never heard such nonsense.
– The Minister has said that he has never heard such nonsense. Only to-day, he referred to the surplus of £33,000. He has stated that the Commonwealth Actuary has advised him that it is impossible to make a proper valuation of the fund within two months. If the Commonwealth Actuary is not in a pos:tion to make a valuation of the fund, it would be very risky for any of us to say whether, on an actuarial valuation, the fund would S-OW any surplus at all - provided of course tha* the Commonwealth Actuary had supplied his report prior to this legislation co-ing b-fore t us.
– Despite the fact that the Commonwealth Actuary cannot make a valuation, the honorable senator has the presumption to do so.
– I express mv judgment of the position, and tha* judgment can be discussed much more intelligently when the Minister places before us the report of the Commonwealth Actuary - perhaps in two months’ time, perhaps in twelve months’ time. We shall then be in a position to decide whose judgment is correct. If honorable senators are unable to form a judgment, the irresponsibility of the Government in putting forward a financial proposal of this nature for decision by Parliament - a proposal unsupported by actuarial advise - is demonstrated more clearly than ever. The amount of pension payments in 1950 was £2,576, whereas by 1958 the figures had risen to £27,495. When one considers that no political landslide took place in that period-
– A landslide did take place.
– That is not so. When the Labour Government was displaced from office in 1949, it was displaced at a time when the membership in the Parliament had increased considerably and the ordinary rate of political casualties was insignificant. If we experience a political landslide and then, as in the period from 1929 to 1931, we experience a double landslide which results in an excessive number of members of Parliament drawing on the fund, the weakness of the fund will be demonstrated to those honorable senators who have interjected.
– I wish to ask a question, without heat. Is all this based on the assumption that the contributions will remain stable at only £4 10s. or £5 a week?
– The contribution by each member will be £5 a week in future.
– But they can rise.
– Parliament can increase the contributions that members will be required to pay. T should have thought that would have been obvious.
– Will you quote that part of the Commonwealth Actuary’s report in which he says that £4 10s. is more than enough to meet the fund’s requirements?
– I have pleasure in reading the following two paragraphs of the report -
It will be seen that the valuation discloses a surplus of £33,500. This result is mainly due to the fact that if future interest earnings are at the rate of 3) per cent, per annum, instead of 3 per cent, per annum, as assumed in the original estimates, the statutory contribution of £4 10s. per. week is more than sufficient, with the fund in hand, to provide the benefits payable to present pensioners and members.
I emphasize “ present pensioners ‘ind members “. So that the matter will be completely presented, let me read the following -
I would draw your attention to the tact thai section 12 (5.) of the Act, provides for a special payment by the Commonwealth to the Fund following the second actuarial investigation to be made in 1963. This provision was included in the Act to protect the Fund against the probability of a deficiency occurring as a result of members being permitted to count non-contributory service prior to 1948 as portion of their period of qualifying service for pension. Present indications arc that no such payment will be required in 1963.
– What was the Commonwealth’s contribution up to that time?
– The total Commonwealth contribution up to that time was £170,000-odd.
– That does not say it will be paid.
– The Commonwealth Treasurer is not so stupid as to pay the money before it is required for pensions, but there is a huge accrued liability there by reason of the expectancy of life of these pensioners and the risk of political casualties. The present value of future benefits, including the refund of contributions to existing members constituted a liability of £388,800 at the time when the Actuary reported in 1957. That, together with the actual payment of £107,000 by the Commonwealth must properly be charged against the Commonwealth because the items to which those figures relate are liabilities actually accrued and accruing.
There are several matters of detail relating to the bill which would be better discussed in committee, and I therefore content myself with those general propositions. I conclude by indicating that I propose to move in committee that the act shall not be proclaimed to come into operation until an actuarial report has been obtained from the Commonwealth Actuary and submitted to both Houses of the Parliament. That is in conformity with the general basis upon which the scheme was conceived originally, when it was anticipated that every seven “years the solvency of the fund would be assessed by an actuary and a revision of contributions by both the Commonwealth and members would be made so that the fund upon which members are expected to rely could be kept prudently solvent.
[5.31J. - First, let me say that the Australian Democratic Labour Party considers that the question of parliamentary retiring allowances should not have been submitted to the Richardson committee for investigation. 1 think the Government itself recognizes this because the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has indicated that the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust will be asked to undertake the task of examining the implications of the new rates of benefit to existing pensioners. That statement is a clear indication that the Government recognizes that the investigation should have been made by the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust and a report submitted to us by that trust so that we might arrive at a just rate.
For the same reasons that we adduced when dealing with the two preceding measures, Senator McManus and I will oppose this bill and any amendments that might be submitted. That is the policy we have followed right through. At least we are consistent in our objection, and we shall register our objection by voting against the measure.
– We are really debating only one bill - the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill; but some general statements have been made, particularly by Senator Wright, who referred to what had been said by my colleague, Senator Paltridge. I should like to advert to them before dealing with the bill in detail. I should not like it to be thought - because it is not true - that Senator Paltridge at any time drew an invidious comparison between the House of Commons and the Australian Parliament. He did say that, because the membership of the House of Commons was large, because electorates were very small in area and because of the long and enduring position of that institution, members of the House of Commons did not have to spend, either in their electorates or on electorate work, onetenth of the time members of this Parliament had to spend in that way. That is completely true, and it is certainly not by any means an invidious comparison between the House of Commons and this House. 1 come now to a consideration of the bill before us, and 1 should like first to consider the present position. Senator Wright told us this afternoon that if the bill is passed in its present form there will be an alteration in that in future the fund will not contribute 40 per cent, of the pensions payable and the Commonwealth will bs required to pay more than its present proportion of 60 per cent, of the pensions payable. This arises from a complete misconception, a complete muddling, of the way in which pensions are paid from the fund. Under section 14 of the original act, as amended in 1955, all pensions paid to retired members of Parliament are paid, as to 40 per cent., from the fund and, as to 60 per cent., by way of Commonwealth contribution. There is no question of payments from members into the fund being matched by a Commonwealth contribution into the fund. The limitation is purely on payments out of the fund, by way of pension. The requirement that pensions are to be paid, as to 40 per cent., from members’ contributions has never been altered, and it is not proposed in this bill that it should be altered. Therefore, it is quite wrong to suggest that there is any alteration of the 40 per cent, liability upon the fund towards members’ pensions.
– That is why you are making a continuing provision for deficiency, upon the certificate of the Treasurer?
– That is why I say that there is a legal requirement existing - and not altered - for the fund to pay 40 per cent, of all pensions. That is simply a fact of life; it is true. This fund has been in existence for some 10 yeaTS. We have already heard that members’ contributions at £4 10s. a week, and before that at £3 10s. or £3 a week, together with the interest earned thereon, have come in all to £370,000. This means that members’ contributions, with the interest earned thereon, have amounted to £150,000 mors than the fund has been called upon to provide for pensions. The total payments out of the fund for pensions, for lump sum drawings, for calls of all kinds, have amounted to £220,000. The payments to date by the Commonwealth have totalled £152,000. In short, payments to exmembers of Parliament, in all categories, have totalled £372,000. I repeat, during the period in question, members’ contributions at varying rates, together with the interest thereon, have amounted to some £370,000, so that they would have been just short of sufficient to meet, to the extent of 100 per cent., all payments to members by way of pension or lump sum - without any Commonwealth contribution at all being made.
– The fund has stood on ils own feet?
– It would have fallen just short of such a requirement. In the middle of 1957, at the time of the presentation of the actuarial report which was quoted by Senator Wright, this fund, which had been built up very considerably in terms of cash in hand, was due to pay in pensions, in pensions’ in suspense, and in other contingencies, a total of about £10,000 a year. The fund was due to receive from members, by way of contribution, a total of about £42,000 a year, or roughly four times what at that stage it had to pay out. Also, the fund was due to receive interest at 4 per cent., the rate which the actuarial report of 24th June, 1957, states the fund was then earning. On £207,000, that would amount to a further £8,000. So the fund was then due to pay out £10,000, and receive by way of contribution and interest, £50,000. This lends point to, and gives the reasons for, the statement by the actuary who investigated the fund. I shall take leave to read his comment again -
If future interest earnings are, at the rate of 3J per cent. . . .
And he had said that they were then running at the rate of 4 per cent. -
Such members were, of course, the pensioners of the future. Since that time, consonant with the healthy state disclosed by that report, the fund has grown, as regards cash in hand, from £207,000, bearing interest, to £312,000, bearing interest, at the end of 1958. That means that the figures which I have quoted should be revised in the light of the fact that more interest will be coming into the fund.
Since there have been reflections upon the state of the fund, and suggestions that it is in some danger, I want to look at this in one other way. If, in the period under review, pensions had been at the rate of £18 a week, as is proposed in this legislation, instead of at the rate of £12 a week, and if all other benefits had been 50 per cent, higher than they were, payments from the fund would have been £330,000, and members’ contributions would have been £330,432. That calculation leaves out the matter of interest. Probably members’ contributions at the present rate would have been sufficient to pay calls on the fund for retiring benefits 50 per cent, higher than they were, and equivalent to what is now proposed. That calculation refers to the ten-year period which has just passed. It is a practical and pragmatic approach to the subject, and makes no pretence of being an actuarial approach, because no one who is not an actuary should undertake such an approach.
– Even an actuary would find it hard to fault in those circumstances.
– In the circumstances, it would indeed be hard.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting we were discussing alterations of the parliamentary retiring allowance. The parliamentary retiring allowance, which is often inaccurately referred to as the parliamentary pension, is not, in fact, a pension in the true sense of the word. It is a superannuation payment to retired or defeated members of the Federal Parliament. In a way, the arrangements for the payment of this superannuation are sui generis. The scheme is, and must be, different from superannuation schemes in either the Commonwealth Public Service or private industry, because no one can foretell the length of service which a member of Parliament will put in before he is defeated, retires or dies. Consequently, it is most difficult actuarially to arrange for contributions which would be the equivalent of those paid in a life-time of service in private industry or the Commonwealth Public Service and which would entitle a member to a known superannuation payment.
The way in which this scheme has been operating is that superannuation payments are made, as to 40 per cent, from a fund built up from members’ contributions from their salaries, together with interest earned, on those contributions and as to 60 per cent, from contributions by the Commonwealth. That is in some ways remarkable. It is remarkable, for instance, that the payments from the fund, which make up 40 per cent, of the total payments, are financed by a levy of 10 per cent, on the salaries of all members of Parliament. That is a higher rate than is levied in any private industrial superannuation scheme that I know of, or than is levied on members of the Commonwealth Public Service or State Public Services. It is remarkable, perhaps, also for the fact that the Commonwealth contribution to the superannuation payments - that is, 60 per cent. - is much less than the Commonwealth contribution to payments under the Commonwealth Public Service scheme. In that scheme, the average contribution by the Commonwealth amounts to 70 per cent, or 71 per cent, of the total payment.
As I said before,, the reason why the contributions by members of Parliament is so high in relation to those made by other members of the community, and the reason why the contribution of the Commonwealth is so low in relation to what it pays to former servants in other fields, is that the length of service of members of Parliament cannot be determined, as length of service can be determined in the case of Commonwealth public servants. So this scheme was worked out, some ten years ago, on the basis of a high contribution being made by members of Parliament and a relatively low contribution being made by the Commonwealth. As I attempted to show before the suspension of the sitting, so far the scheme has worked extremely well. The last actuarial examination of the fund showed that it had in hand a cash balance of £270,000, and that after considering all pensions which were then payable and which might be payable in the future, there was still, on the most careful actuarial calculations, enough in the fund to meet present liabilities and possible future liabilities and leave a surplus of about £30.000. That led the actuary who examined the fund to say that our present statutory contribution of £4 1 0s. a week - or about 10 per cent, of our salaries - was more than sufficient to provide all the benefits payable under the fund, not only to the present pensioners, but also to present members who may become pensioners.
That is the state of the fund at the present dme. It is in a very healthy position indeed. J want to stress something, not by way of actuarial argument - because it is not an actuarial argument - but because there is a widespread belief that members of Parliament are given a pension or a hand-out when they retire from the Parliament or are defeated. I want to stress what 1 said before the suspension, namely, that the total payments from the fund built up by members’ contributions amount, from the inception of the scheme to the present time, to £220.000 and that the total payments made by the Commonwealth amount to £152.000, making a total of £372,000 The contribution, by members from their salaries, plus interest earned on the fund, amount to £370,000, which means that, on a purely arithmetical basis, the contributions that have been paid in have been enough to pay the pensions so far paid, without any Commonwealth contribution at all. That, of course, does not mean that the contributions in total are large enough to take care of future claims which may be made by those who are at present in the Parliament, but it does bring into high relief the fact that those who say that parliamentary retiring allowances are some sort of hand-out, something which is not contributed to by members of Parliament in a very substantial way, are completely wrong.
I pointed out previously that even if the allowance which is now prognosticated - JE18 a week - had been paid over the las’, ten years, we would still have been able, from members’ contributions and from contributions by the Commonwealth to pensions payable - the Commonwealth contributions are made only to pensions payable - to pay those pensions. The report which the actuary made in 1956, although it would not necessarily take into account all possible future claims that might be made, is incontrovertible in relation to the ten years that have already passed. What the future will hold when it is necessary to pay a pension of £18 instead of one of £12, and when it is necessary for us to pay from our salaries £5 a week instead of £4 10s., is actuarially most difficult to say. But on; thing which is quite clear is that all pensions payable to ex-members will be paid, as to 40 per cent, from the fund and as to 60 per cent, by the Commonwealth. If as some fear - I do not fear it - that will deplete the fund in the future, that situation can very easily be overcome by a greater contribution from the salaries ot members of the Parliament.
The actuarial calculations which have been made on this matter so far are, in my opinion, not very solidly based.
– Are you criticizing the actuary?
– I am criticizing the actuarial calculations in detail, as I propose to demonstrate. The actuary has decided to use in his calculations an exit rate for the Senate of 17 per cent, every 5.2 years, which means roughly 9 per cent, every 2i years. That no doubt was a very proper actuarial calculation when proportional representation for election to the Senate was not in force and when half of the members of the Senate could go out and quite easily not come back. But some doubt exists as to whether, under the present system of proportional representation for the Senate, that is a reasonable method of calculation for the future. The future will tell for sure. I raise that point only as being one which can be questioned at the moment.
The calculation indicates that there will be a change of 17 per cent, every 2.6 years for the House of Representatives. That again, I think, could well have been a reasonable calculation when there were 60 or so members in the House of Representatives, when the seats which those members held embraced, for the most part, larger areas and larger and more diversified populations than do the present seats, and when a swing of any significance in voting could lead to a landslide of great percentage proportions in that House. I think most members of the Parliament will agree that, since the enlargement of the House of Representatives, there are now many fewer seats of that kind and that a great number of the seats are either so solidly Labour that no landslide we could imagine would take those seats from the sitting Labour members or so solidly anti-Labour that no such landslide would take them from the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party.
Both those things have occurred, not since this paper was printed, but since the actuarial thought on this matter reached the stage of inception.
The average age of members of the Parliament, which 1 am happy to be able to say is now probably lower than it has been for many years, must also be taken into consideration. But even if these calculations, which 1 have stated are based on facts that 1 think are too conservative, are completely right, it remains true that what we are paying now is more than enough to meet the pensions that the fund is now likely to pay. But we are proposing to increase what we are now paying, which, as I have indicated, is more than enough to increase the pensions or superannuation allowances which are now likely and which will be likely to be drawn from the fund. 1 feel, Mr. President, that before I resume my seat 1 should say that the moneys which are drawn from the fund are not pensions, but are superannuation benefits which have been paid for at a high rate and contributed to by the Commonwealth at a low rate.
– They are referred to as pensions in the act.
– 1 am told, Mr. President, that the payments are referred to in the act as being pensions, but I reiterate that what we are dealing with are not pensions in the sense in which the majority of people in Australia regard a pensions. What we are referring to, irrespective of the words in the act, are what most people in this country regard as being superannuation payments from a fund to which part of one’s salary is contributed. They are quite different from pensions in the terms of the ordinary people and it is in their terms that I am speaking. It does not matter in which way one looks at the fund, it is true, without any possibility of contradiction, that it is entirely solvent and more than solvent. It is my belief that it will remain solvent and b<.* able to meet what is required from if when this legislation is. as T hope, passed.
– I rise to support this bill which, like the other two measures that flowed from the Richardson report, lias been under fire both inside and outside the Parliament.
It was most interesting and heartening to sit in one’s place for the last fifteen minutes and hear the reply that was given by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) to the rambling statements made by Senator Wright this afternoon. Statements such as those made by Senator Wright were made even before the retiring allowances scheme came into operation. The question was then posed: Can you get a scheme that will be actuarially sound? The argument that was advanced at the time delayed the scheme for very many months. Those to whom Senator Wright has been for advice were also approached by the government of the day, so the arguments he has advanced were considered in the party room.
If members had not then taken the initiative, we would still have been waiting for that actuarially sound scheme to which the honorable senator refers. We were not prepared to wait. We adopted the scheme that we have been considering to-day. Although that scheme has been criticized from time to time, and although draws have been made on the fund, the relevant documents reveal that, from a layman’s viewpoint, the fund is in a very sound position. It commenced with nothing, but it is now in credit to the extent of £312,446 - money that has been paid in by members of the Parliament. If the 60 per cent, contribution of the Commonwealth had been paid in when members’ contributions were paid in instead of being paid to exmembers as required, the balance now in the fund would have been approximately £750,000.
This is the scheme which Senator Wright, this afternoon, tried to convince us was not sound, after nearly ten years of operations. The honorable senator wants to move an amendment for the purpose of shelving the proposed increases until such time as somebody can guarantee that the scheme is sound. I know how lawyers will base a case on a hopeless proposition. I know, too, that it would be useless to try to put to Senator Wright an argument to convince him that the scheme is sound. We do not intend to try to perform an impossible task, since we know that it would be impossible to convince him when he does not want to be convinced.
If this scheme went bankrupt. I should think that there would not be many superannuation schemes in the States that remained solvent. In Tasmania, there is a scheme in operation whereby, for a contribution of about £3 a week, a member on retirement, whether compulsory or otherwise, receives the equivalent of the basic wage, or approximately £14 a week. If members of this Parliament were entitled to benefit on the same basis they would receive about £22 a week. I understand that the Victorian scheme has similar provisions to the Tasmanian one. I suggest that both those schemes are likely to be bankrupt much earlier than is the Commonwealth scheme. If those State schemes are sound, then our scheme must be doubly sound. Having regard to the contributions that we make to it, I think that the fund could well afford the increases proposed by the Richardson report.
I am of the opinion, Mr. President, that this aspect of parliamentary allowances should never have been referred to the Richardson committee. We have our own trustees to govern the scheme, and there is a committee which is composed of representatives of all major parties in the Parliament to control it. I claim that that committee is just as capable of deciding whether or not the scheme would provide increased payments as is the Richardson committee or any other committee. The trustees have operated the fund during the last ten years, and so far as I know they will continue to do so.
The Richardson committee has found that the fund is sound and has recommended certain increases. In view of the fact that age pensioners and war pensioners receive, on the basis of comparative contributions, considerably more than members of Parliament who retire on £12 a week, I am not going to be one to turn this scheme down or to vote against the increases. I am of the opinion that the increases proposed by the Richardson committee are very mild indeed having regard to the contributions made by members of Parliament, and comparing this scheme with similar contributory schemes in the States. Although it is proposed that the pension shall be increased to £18 a week, the increased contribution of £5 a week will be far in excess of the contribution to any of the State schemes.
Let us compare the parliamentary retiring allowances scheme with the Public
Service superannuation schemes. I agree that there are far greater risks with a scheme of this kind, involving members of Parliament, than there are with superannuation funds for civil servants, but let us look at the facts. Employees in this Parliament, such as the cleaners, insure for £1 a week and on retirement are entitled to draw £14 a week. On the same basis, and leaving aside the question of risk, members of Parliament who contributed £5 a week would be entitled to receive a pension of £70 a week. Therefore, the additional risk that is involved in a pension scheme for members of Parliament is well compensated by the high rate of contributions and the lower rate of pensions on retirement. Those outside the Parliament who are at present throwing bricks at the retiring allowances of members of Parliament have no justification whatever for doing so, because most of them belong to much better superannuation schemes than we do. I should say that the Richardson committee considered all those factors when it’ was deliberating on this aspect of parliamentary life.
I come now to the opposition that has been raised by the splinter party to this bill. Goodness only knows on what grounds the members of that party intend to oppose the measure, unless the grounds are the same as those I have referred to previously in the Senate, namely, that they have been stampeded into opposing anything and everything because of press propaganda and pressure exerted by outside organizations against the whole of the Richardson report. That propaganda is still being used by the press and evidently it is still very effective in some cases.
– I thought that it was your federal president who was conducting the campaign.
– The honorable senator has mentioned the federal president. I do not make any exceptions, Sir. If our federal president or any other member of the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party has seen fit to run away from the responsibilities that he was elected to shoulder, do not blame me. I never ran away from my responsibilities when I occupied a similar position. When things got tough I applied myself to my job and got on with it. I have no apologies to make for any officer who has run away from his responsibilities and left them, when he probably could have solved the problems if he had remained. That is my answer to Senator McManus’s interjection. No member of this Parliament has the right to deprive colleagues who have preceded him into retirement from the Parliament of increases of their retiring allowances to which they are justly entitled. Any member of the Parliament who opposes this bill will be doing his colleagues who have preceded him from the Parliament a very grave injustice. 1 admit that the Government has seen fit to omit from entitlement under this bill members who have retired from the Parliament already, but we have an assurance from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in the secondreading speech, in the following terms: -
However, the Treasurer has indicated that the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust will be asked to undertake the task of examining the implications of the extension of the new rates of benefit to existing pensioners.
Meaning those who have already retired -
Much as 1 am opposed to my Liberal opponents politically, I take the view that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is certainly a humane type of man and that he will take a humanitarian attitude in this respect. 1 honestly believe that he will do as the Minister for National Development has indicated, and refer the matter to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust. We have no reason to doubt that the trust will find that the fund is sufficiently sound to bring the allowances of those who have already retired up to the amounts proposed tor those who retire in the future. We shall be watching this matter very closely, because we on this side of the chamber consider that the fund is sound enough to bear that burden. If it is not, we as members of the Parliament should make it sound enough. 1 do not think that any member of the Parliament would squib that issue. It is merely a matter of getting together. Probably, it was only due to an oversight in the first place that such provision was not made. That will iron out one of the problems that are confronting us at thepresent time in this particular sphere.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) referred yesterday to the fact that the Richardson committee, in determining the amount payable to widows under the contributory pension system, recommended that the figure - £15 - should be the equivalent of five-sixths of the amount awarded to the member, namely, £18. I contend that the five-sixths principle should’ apply also to the proportion that a widowreceives consequent on the death of an exmember whose pension increased to £21 a. week when he attained the age of 65 years. I hope that the Minister will seek a clarification of this aspect of the matter when he refers the submissions that have been made to the trustees of the fund. If this matter is rectified, we shall offer no opposition tothe provision of the contributory scheme. Indeed, the bill has much to commend it. As I have already stated, but for the increased pension provided by this measure, some of our friends who were formerly members of the Senate, and some of the present members who will retire on 30th June, would receive a pension of only £12 a week. They will now receive £18 a week, which is little enough. As I have previously pointed out, the present pension of £12 a week is less than the combined pensions and allowances received by certain age pensioners and war pensioners. I am glad that they will receive an appropriate benefit from the fund, which is in a sound position, and to which they have contributed so greatly.
In my opinion, the recommendations of the Richardson committee are not overgenerous. I say to those outside the Parliament who have criticized the committee’s recommendations, that if public servants and others had contributed to the various superannuation schemes the same proportion of their salaries and wages that members of Parliament have contributed to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund, they would expect to receive a vastly higher pension than members will receive under this bill. It is true to say that the retiring allowances now payable should be increased, having regard to the heavy contributions we are called upon to make to the fund. I do not think there is any argument against that. Although I may not agree with all of the committee’s recommendations, I do not think that any of our friends outside in the industrial sphere, or any other sphere, are entitled to throw -stones at this proposal.
There would not be so much antagonism towards other recommendations of the Richardson committee were it not for the misleading statements that have been made by the press and by certain members of this chamber. This afternoon, Senator Wright said that if wages in the community had been increased in the same proportion as parliamentary salaries had been increased in recent years he would not disagree with the proposed increase in parliamentary salaries. He went further and said that until wages in the community were so increased, he could not support the proposed increases for parliamentarians. As I pointed out yesterday, since 1922 the basic wage has been increased by 350 per cent., whereas parliamentary salaries have risen only 175 per cent. But for misleading statements such as the one that was made by Senator Wright this afternoon, the people would have a far better understanding of the situation.
The press has played a very important part in this issue by whipping up public opinion against the proposed rises for parliamentarians. It is noteworthy that the press is ever ready to print misleading statements about parliamentarians’ salaries and pensions. Of course, it publishes only one side of the question. The free press of Australia, so-called, engages in one-way traffic. Of course, it has a reason for presenting only one side of the picture. The press has never been fair and just in its criticism of the democratic system of government, nor has it tried to uphold the dignity of parliaments, Federal or State. I do not blame the members of the parliamentary press gallery for this attitude. Rather do I blame the editors. If they succeed in convincing the people that all the comments they publish are true and correct, there could happen in this country what has happened in Europe and other parts of the world, where fascist, Communist and other forms of dictatorship have been established. The magnates of the press will see that the editors adopt the line they dictate. I can see no other reason why the press endeavours to pull down the dignity of Parliament.
To-day, half of the issue of a certain newspaper was devoted to a screed concerning Mr. Chamberlain. An article only half the length could have shown the people of Australia that Mr. Chamberlain left his post at a time of crisis. At least, he claims there is a crisis, but we do not agree with that contention. As I have said before, we will stand up to the decision we have made. We were not stampeded by the press or any other outside organization in arriving at that decision. We have acted in accordance with that decision in connexion with both the Ministers of State Bill and the Parliamentary Allowances Bill, and we shall have no hesitation in adopting a similar attitude on the measure now before us, irrespective of the way the splinter party is prepared to vote.
– Whom do you mean by the splinter party - the Chamberlain group or the Evatt party?
– I refer to the splinter party which assisted the Liberal Party to retain office at the last general election in order to prevent the age pensioners from getting an increase. The same splinter party is to-day trying to ride on the backs of the age pensioners, in order to prevent former members of the Parliament from receiving increased pensions to which they are justly entitled. The splinter party has not co-operated in this matter. It was hand in glove with the Liberals at the last election. But for that fact, Labour might have won the election, and if it had done so the pensioners by now would have received increases.
We have stated our reasons for supporting the legislation even if they were not printed by the press. But to-night we are in a completely different position. We do not have to depend on the press to-night in order to gain the confidence of the people outside. The people now know that the splinter party played its cards at the last election in such a way as to assist the Liberal Party to victory and so do the pensioners an injustice by preventing them from getting increased pensions, to which they are entitled. The responsibility for that rests on those honorable senators who are now opposing the attitude of the Australian Labour Party.
– To which Labour Party does the honorable senator refer - the Evatt Labour Party or the Chamberlain Labour Party?
– There is only one Australian Labour Party. We are not a part of the Liberal Party that has been tossed aside, or an Australian Democratic Labour Party or a splinter party or anything of that nature. We do not change our name or our policy. We have had no cause to change our policy, which guarantees a substantial increase to age pensioners. However, because this Government was returned to office at the last election, the pensioners will not receive the substantial increase to which they are justly entitled. But that is the responsibility of this Government. If 75 per cent, of the pensioners and workers in industry had voted for the Australian Labour Party last November, the age and invalid pensioners would have received an increase of their pensions long before now, and they would not be depending upon Senator Cole or any member of a splinter party to obtain an increase for them.
Reference has been made to sham fighting. I have never seen a better example of sham fighting in my life than the performance of Senator Wood and the members of the D.L.P. They know full well that honorable senators of both major parties have feelings of humanity for their fellow men, and for that reason will vote for an increase in the pensions of their colleagues who will be retiring from this chamber at the end of June next. If the honorable senators who are devoid of any feelings of humanity at election time carry those feelings towards their colleagues who will be departing from us shortly, that is their responsibility. They are the people who are putting up a sham fight, because they know that they are the only persons in this chamber who will vote against the proposed increase of pensions. They know full well that there is no prospect of the legislation being rejected and that, at some time in the not distant future, they will be beneficiaries under the pension scheme.
– Senator Aylett’s speech has reminded me of this line of Scott’s -
There are hills beyond Pentland and firths beyond Forth.
There are splinter parties upon splinter parties, and Labour parties upon Labour parties. The various divisions in the disintegrating Australian Labour Party may be called the Evatt party, the Chamberlain party, the Ward party and even the Australian Democratic Labour Party.
– They need an.’ actuary to work it out for them.
– They certainly do. The D.L.P. , previously regarded as the logical splinter party, has now been lost in. the maze of new splinter parties. I thank Senator Gorton for his very interesting1, analysis and summary of the present position of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. He stated that the fund wassolvent and capable of meeting all demandslikely to be made upon it in the foreseeablefuture. I am of that opinion, too. However, I am somewhat perplexed as to why the members of the House of Representatives who retired, or were defeated, it* November last have been expressly excluded from participation in the proposed’ increased pensions. The number of members concerned is not very great, and most of them, if not all, were foundation members of the superannuation scheme. Like the rest of us, they have been contributing’ £4 10s. a week, or £234 a year, to the fund. That amount represents approximately 10’ per cent, of a member’s saLary. On page 38 of its report, the Richardson committeestates - . . this is a very high rate. It is rare for company schemes to require a higher contribution’ from an employee than 5 per cent, of his remuneration, and the usual requirement is 2i per cent
Honorable senators will see readily thegreat discrepancy between the amountscontributed to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund, and to commercial superannuation funds. Senator Gorton hasreferred to the stability of the Senate as aresult of the system of proportional representation, and to the fact that many seatshave been held by members of the major parties in the House of Representatives for many years. In fact, a change in representation takes place in many instances only when the present incumbent of the seat passes on to a better world. When onehas regard to the fact that the contributions to the fund are more or less constant from a stabilized Parliament, and also that the calls made upon the fund are few, one must admit that the rate of contribution is high.
Those members of the House of Representatives who retired, or were defeated, in November last have contributed to the superannuation fund at a rate from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent, higher than the rate of contribution in private industry. They have an equity in their investment in the fund spread over a period probably of ten years. That fact should be taken into account by the Government and the trustees of the fund in assessing whether those members should receive the increased pensions recommended by the Richardson committee, and which are incorporated in the measure now before us. By a turn of the wheel of fortune, they are outside the Parliament just at the time when an increased pension r.ate has been recommended.
While those former members of the House of Representatives to whom I have referred are excluded from receiving the increased pensions, we have the paradoxical position that members of the Senate who were defeated on 22nd November last, but who will remain as senators until 30th June next, will receive the increased pension. And I could not agree more! If it is proper that senators who were defeated in November last but who are not due to retire until 30th June next should have the benefit of the increased pension rate, then surely members of the House of Representatives who were defeated, or who retired at the same election, should enjoy the same privilege, because the difference between the senator who was defeated at the last election but who, because of the constitutional position, remains a member of the Senate until 30th June next, and the member who retired, or who was defeated in the House of Representatives in November last, merely represents the difference between Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Therefore, I think those members of the House of Representatives who retired or who were defeated in November last have a strong claim to participation in the recommended increased rate.
To support that suggestion I quote a convincing precedent. In 1955, the contributory pension rate was increased from £8 to £12 a week whilst the contributions by senators and members of the House of Representatives were raised from £3 to £4 10s. a week. At that time, the pension of £12 a week was extended to cover all pensioners; that is, senators and members of the House of Representatives who had retired, or who had been defeated. These pensioners - outside the Parliament - had their pensions raised in 1955 from £8 a week to £12 a week. They received this increase despite the fact that they had contributed only £3 a week although the contributory rate had been increased to £4 10s. a week. As far as I know, the parliamentary pensioners of that time were not called upon to suffer any deductions to correspond with the increase in the contributory rate. Several of those parliamentary pensioners who were accepted by the trustees of the fund, and by the Government, in 1955, had been out of this Parliament for a period of five years. There is, therefore, a precedent, and I have no hesitation in saying that the parliamentary pensioners of 1955, in view of the condition of the fund at that time, were justly treated when they had granted to them the benefit of the increased rate of pension. This concession was granted on a far wider scale in 1955 than is asked for in respect of those who retired and those who were defeated in November last.
The Richardson committee’s report, is silent on this matter and it ‘ is therefore obvious that the Government had to make a decision. I suppose one cannot blame the Government for having acted of its own volition in excluding the parliamentary pensioners who retired and who were defeated only a few weeks ago when it had not time to assess the position of the fund. In my view, the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund could hardly, be in a healthier financial position than it is. That this is so was confirmed by Senator Gorton who gave us the benefit of a very careful and penetrating study of the fund early this evening. As he stated, out of an amount of £532,506 paid into the superannuation fund since its inception in 1949, the members of this Parliament - members of the House of Representatives and senators - have contributed £330,000. Total disbursements from the fund since its inception amount to £220,000, as disclosed by the table circulated this evening for the information of honorable senators.
Boiled down, the position is that, taking receipts and outgoings into account, the members themselves, from their own contributions alone, have approximately £140,000 standing to their credit without any Commonwealth supplement whatsoever. In effect, after ten years of operation, the fund is being financed actually from the contributions of members, although we have got to accept the statement contained in the table that there has been a Commonwealth supplement of £152,177. The table discloses that at present the fund has a credit of £312,446, so it is absolutely solvent.
After listening carefully to what Senator Gorton had to say to-night, I think there is a great case for the Government to extend the increases recommended to those members who were unfortunate enough in the political field to suffer defeat and those who retired.
– What about the next election?
– I am coming to that. In paragraph 106 of its report, the Richardson committee emphasized a self-evident fact when it said -
On the face of it, the Scheme is not a generous one, for the rate of contribution in relation to salary is high, and the benefits available are low in relation to the objectives which the Scheme should achieve.
I do not think it could be argued seriously that this fund is likely to collapse because of the additional loading imposed upon it by granting the increases to those who went out of Parliament in November last. Although the Commonwealth has contributed £152,000 in round figures, the fund, for the reasons explained by Senator Gorton, stands in credit on members’ contributions alone, and, taking the overall position, it is in credit to the extent of £312,446.
In answer to Senator Cole’s interjection, I point out that this fund will attract £260 a year from each parliamentary member over the next three years. Even allowing for possible retirements, the fund must be augmented considerably over that period.
– There is also the interest.
– That is so. That must be added.
– What about the 45 who will lose their pre-selection next election?
– Let us take each hurdle as it comes. There might be one or two who have to take the high jump, but the risk of landslide is virtually eliminated, as was pointed out so logically by Senator Gorton earlier to-night. Under those circumstances, the fund must be considerably augmented over the next three years. I see no prospect of any one being debarred in that period. There is only the possibility that some honorable senator or member may retire from active political life, and I do not think that that is likely to happen during the term of this Parliament. I am hotly opposed to the principle of granting non-contributory pensions, but the payments made from this fund to retired and defeated members are in a very different category. Such members have been contributors, and have a vested interest in the fund. I have no doubt that they would willingly agree to the increased contribution by members, namely £26 per annum, being deducted from their pension if Parliament decided to accept them as eligible for the new scale set out in the bill. Therefore, I should like to ask the Government to examine carefully the possibility of accepting the 1955 precedent, and including among those who are to benefit under the bill senators and members who retired, or were defeated, in November last. I ask that that be done even if it becomes necessary to seek a clearer line of demarcation in such matters in the future.
I base my appeal on the 1955 precedent. That would remove any source of irritation or discontent among those who were defeated, or retired, in 1.958. If, for actuarial reasons, it becomes necessary to made a clearer distinction in the future, by all means let us make it, but with the 1955 precedent before us it is our duty to permit members who were defeated, or who retired, last November to participate in the proposed increases. I welcome the assurance of the Minister, expressed in his second-reading speech, that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has undertaken to examine the implications of extending the increased benefits to existing pensioners. I believe that it might present a solution to the problem which I have described. I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I too rise to support the bill. I do so because I believe that it is the responsibility of a government which wishes to encourage people - especially young people with wives and families - to enter the Parliament, to ensure that those who serve for a number of years are cared for upon their retirement, whether that be voluntary or involuntary. In 1948, after the Commonwealth Parliament had been in existence for 40 years, the Australian Labour Party brought down legislation to provide pensions for members. The late Mr. Chifley, when moving the second reading of the bill in another place, said -
This scheme will be on a contributory and compulsory basis. In its general’ purpose the scheme aims to meet the situation, long recognized by members of all parties, that men or women who serve in parliament often sacrifice opportunities to provide against the day when their parliamentary careers come to an end. It has frequently happened that members who have made great contributions to the work of the Parliament have, upon retirement, faced a condition of hardship. Very many others have had to contemplate the results of interrupted careers, earning power lost and private means reduced through, and in the course of, their service in the Parliament. The longer and better the service that has been given the more often has this been the case.
There are various reasons why this has been so. Service in the Parliament has become more exacting as the years have gone by. Unlike the more leisurely conditions of perhaps 50 years ago, parliamentary life now makes heavy and increasing demands upon the time and capacities of all who take part in it. Attendances through parliamentary sessions and the work incidental thereto, the severance of business and professional connexions, and the responsibilities of electorates, all combine to render it almost impossible for members to maintain connexion with any other activity, and, as time goes on, make it more and more difficult for them to re-establish themselves when their term in Parliament is over, rt has frequently been sard that the loss and insecurity which attend upon service in the Parliament deter men and women capable of making a worthwhile contribution to the service of the Commonwealth from offering themselves for election. It is hoped that this measure will help in overcoming difficulties of this nature.
That was the beginning of the retiring allowances scheme for members of the federal Parliament. At present, the pension is £12 a week, increasing to £15 a week when the recipient reaches 65 years of age. This measure will increase the pension of parliamentarians who have served the necessary term - eight years or three parliaments - by £6, from £12 to £18. Upon reaching the age of 65 they will receive £21 a week.
There is, of course, a reason for the proposed increase. Unlike Senator Wright,
I believe that if an actuary were brought in to look at the fund which has been created by members’ contributions he would say that we were entitled to increase the amount of pension to qualified members. The Richardson committee’s report devoted seven or eight pages to retiring allowances and, after describing how necessary it was to encourage responsible people to enter the Parliament, it pointed out that a member at present contributed 10 per cent, of his salary, namely, £4 10s. a week; further, that the fund had grown to such an extent that it was now in a healthy condition and could, without the Commonwealth being asked to contribute very much more, provide increased benefits for parliamentary pensioners. I say that because I have perused a statement circulated to members and senators setting out the position of the fund at 31st December, 1958. If we peruse this interesting document, we find that the contributions by members from 1949 to 1958 amounted to the large sum of £326,446, and the repayments made by members wishing to rejoin the scheme added a further £3,986, making a total of £330,000 contributed by members of Parliament since the inception of the scheme in 1949. We find also - and it was mentioned in the second reading speech of the Minister - that the Commonwealth’s contributions to the payment of retiring allowances for members who have been defeated or have retired from the Parliament is on a 60/40 basis. The amount paid in pension payments was £148,000, and the amount paid in lump sums to people who did not qualify for a pension or who wished to withdraw their money from the scheme totalled £67,329.
All of that money did not come out of Consolidated Revenue, because 40 per cent, of that sum of about £220,000 was paid by members of Parliament. The sum contributed by the Commonwealth out of Consolidated Revenue to pension payments amounted to about £152,000. The total sum paid by the Commonwealth Treasury, or the taxpayer, if you like, is £152,000, while the sum paid in by members of Parliament is £330,000. As I have said, the Commonwealth commitment under this scheme is on a 60/40 basis. The figures show that the amount paid by members into the scheme, plus interest earned by the fund, totals £380,000, and that the amount taken out of the scheme by way of payment of pensions is £220,000, which would leave £160,000 of members’ contributions intact, if the whole amount had been taken from members’ contributions.
The fund, therefore, is in a very healthy state and is, 1 believe, well able to stand the strain of increased pensions, particularly when we take into consideration the fact that the Richardson committee recommended - and the recommendation is adopted in this bill - that there should be an increase in the contributions of members from £4 10s. a week to £5 a week. There will be a deduction of 9 per cent, of a member’s salary. In industry, -employees in some cases contribute only 2i per cent, of their salary to a superannuation scheme, and in very exceptional -circumstances they contribute up to 5 per cent. Because members of Parliament will pay double the amount paid by employees in industry, it can be well said that the Government, in amending the act in this way, is being quite fair to the taxpayers of Australia.
The Richardson committee spent some time in considering the responsibility of the nation to a retired Prime Minister. Under the present arrangements, a Prime Minister who has served eight or ten years as the leader of a country the size of Australia, and perhaps has ruined his health in doing so, is entitled to £1,250 per annum “when he retires or is defeated. The Richardson committee, after going very fully into the duties of a Prime Minister and the exacting life that he leads, made a recommendation that a Prime Minister who has served for two years shall receive £2,000 a year; for three years, £2,250 a year; for four years, £2,500 a year; for five years, £2,750 a year; and for six years and over, £3,000 a year. The maximum recommended is £3,000.
Another interesting innovation, which I fully support is the pension for a Prime Minister’s wife, who has an exacting position. She has to travel from State to State in the interest of the party which the Prime Minister represents. She endeavours to look after her husband’s interests, to advise him, and to help him obtain the maximum number of votes for his party. The exacting duties of a Prime Minister’s wife surely entitle her to some consideration from the
Australian Parliament, and the Richardson committee recommended that upon the death of her husband she should receive one-half the pension to which he was entitled. 1 do not believe that any one in Australia will take exception to that.
The Richardson committee found anomalies in the act. After studying the report of the committee, I believe that there are even anomalies in the committee’s recommendations. Notwithstanding the healthy condition of the fund, the increases in pensions will take effect only from 1st March this year. We know that many members who stood for re-election at the election held on 22nd November last were defeated. Former members of the House of Representatives who, during the last nine years, have contributed to this fund and helped to place it in the healthy condition in which it is at the present time, will not. owing to their defeat, enjoy the increase of the pension from £12 to £18 per week. On the other hand, defeated senators will qualify as from 31st March and on 1st July next, after they retire from the Parliament, they will be entitled to a pension of £18 a week. If they are more than 65 years of age, they will be entitled to an extra £3 a week, making a total of £21. 1 refer now to a passage in the Minister’s second-reading speech, which 1 believe covers the objection to which I have referred. The Minister said -
The bill provides that the increased rates of pension shall apply to only existing pensioners. However, the Treasurer has indicated that the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust will be asked to undertake the task of examining the implications of the extension of the new rates of benefit to existing pensioners.
So I believe the Treasurer has agreed to place this matter before the trust. No doubt it will submit recommendations on the subject to the Government. I feel sure that, when all things are taken into account by the trust, it will recommend to the Treasurer that those who have contributed to the fund during the last nine years should be entitled to the increased benefit.
They, Sir, are the remarks that I wish to make about the bill. As the fund is in such a healthy state, I have no hesitation in supporting the measure. If the stage is reached where extra moneys are required. I shall have no hesitation in supporting an increase of the contribution of members of the
Parliament. Also, I have no hesitation in saying that if in the future there is a heavy drain on the fund I shall support any action taken by the Parliament to reduce retiring allowances.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) [9.23J.- Mr. Deputy President, for a period of some twenty years 1 was a teacher in the service of the State of Victoria and 1 claim with some pride that I was reputed to have had great success with the dullest and most difficult of pupils. I must say, however, that having heard Senator Aylett to-night. I would have despaired of him if ever I had had him under my care. After having listened to debates on members’ salaries and allowances for some days, Senator Aylett made the amazing confession thai he did not understand why the Australian Democratic Labour Party was opposed to these measures. Let me say again in the simplest of language- I am afraid that may not be simple enough for Senator Aylett - that the Democratic Labour Party opposes these measures because it believes that there should be no increase of parliamentary salaries or pensions unless and until an independent tribunal similar to the Richardson committee determines justice for pensioners and others who are receiving social service benefits. That is clear. To most people it would be understandable. I can understand the difficulty of Senator Aylett.
In an endeavour to divert attention from the fact that in this particular matter he is voting according to his own interests. Senator Aylett launched an attack on what he described as the splinter party. Obviously, he meant the Democratic Labour Party. I feel that it might be a good idea to remind Senator Aylett that at one time he had ambitions to be a splinter party of one in this chamber.
– That is a lie, and you know it is.
– Six years ago, he was defeated in the selection of Senate candidates for the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labour Party. After his defeat, there appeared in the principal centres of Tasmania an organization which made it blatantly clear that it intended to support Senator Aylett, under the amazing title “ Anti-Communist Labour candidate “, against the endorsed candidates of the Australian Labour Party.
– Your informant was a liar.
– Senator Aylett has had his opportunity to deal it out. Senator Aylett ought to be prepared to take it.
– Not on filthy lies like that.
– Shortly afterwards, however, before he had crossed the Rubicon - as he has not had a classical education, I inform him that means the river of no return - unfortunately a sitting senator died. The Tasmanian branch of the A.L.P. found it necessary to add one more member to the team. Senator Aylett was saved. He became a member of the team in the No. 4 position. Up to that time, there had been the unusual situation - unusual for the Labour Party - in Tasmania that each candidate campaigned for himself. In other States, the executive of the party determined the order of candidates, who were pledged to ask their supporters to give their first vote to the man who held No. 1 position on the official ticket, their second vote to the next man, and so on. In Tasmania, for local reasons, they had a system under which every candidate was for himself.
I recall the late Frank Anstey, having come back from a Tasmanian tour, telling me on one occasion that he thought it was an amazing system. He said, “ Surely candidates should be friends and brothers “. He said that at that time - in the 1920’s I think it was - he was deputed to go around with one of the Labour candidates, who made it clear that he was working for himself. Mr. Anstey told me that in a number of towns, in order to induce votes for himself and against one of the other Labour candidates, this Labour man told almost every person he met that one of his fellow candidates was leading an immoral life. Apparently the Labour Party came to the conclusion that that had to stop, and the federal executive sent representatives to Tasmania to say that it had to stop. At that time when Senator Aylett occupied No. 4 position, they determined the order and said that every good Labour man must stick to the ticket. But what did Senator Aylett do? He did not stick to the ticket. He broke the ticket. He went around Tasmania and, in defiance of the decision of the party, advocated his own selfish claims just as he has advocated them here to-night. He asked the people of Tasmania, with success, to give him their No. 1 vote in preference to the men whom the party said should be given a position senior to him.
Senator Aylett was then reported to the federal executive of the party. Apparently a number of members of that body wanted to take action against him. Some wanted to expel him. Senator Cole - I know he will never be forgiven - was the man who fought for Senator Aylett and saved him from being expelled from the party and placed in the position of being a splinter party of one. I hate to have to let the Senate know that Senator Cole saved Senator Aylett, because people on both sides of the Parliament will never forgive him for doing so.
I turn now to the suggestion of Senator Aylett that we were stampeded by the press into adopting the attitude that we have taken. All sorts of people, some of them in high places, have tried to stampede Senator Cole and me without much success. Much stronger statements on this matter have been made than those which have appeared in the press. I refer to such statements as those made by the federal president of Senator Aylett’s party, by trades hall councils in every State, by officials of trade unions, and by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Surely, honorable senators will not say that those statements have had no influence with the people, and that everything has been done by the press.
So far as we are concerned, the first decision of our party that we would oppose increases of parliamentary salaries and allowances was made within a fortnight of the announcement that the Richardson committee was to be appointed. We were first in the field; we were there before even the press had decided what its viewpoint was going to be. We made a decision in January, and unlike some people who have been at every point of the compass and still do not know where they are, our policy is now as it was then.
I am sorry that Senator Aylett should have sought to blame the pensioners and the workers for the fact that he was compelled to accept an increased salary. The honorable senator said that if 75 per cent, of the pensioners and workers had not voted the other way, Labour could have increased pensions. Since he was not placed in the position where he could help the pensioners, he has decided instead to fix up his own salary. That, of course, is true workingclass solidarity! His attitude indicates that even if it is going to take years for him to emancipate the pensioners and the workers, he is doing his little bit now to emancipate himself.
Finally, Senator Aylett stated that the members of the Democratic Labour Party had voted with the Liberals. Three times in this chamber the Democratic Labour Party has asked the Parliament to institute an independent tribunal to give justice to pensioners and others in receipt of social service benefits, and three times Senator Aylett and his party have helped the Liberals to defeat our proposal. Senator Aylett is silent now. He went over to the Liberal side of the chamber and voted to prevent pensioners and those in receipt of social service benefits from having a tribunal to investigate their needs. In addition, on this particular issue of parliamentary salaries and allowances, the honorable senator has voted with the Liberals, in defiance of the views of his federal president, in defiance of the views of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, in defiance of the views of an infinite number of trade unionists, and in defiance of the views of most of the trades hall councils. Apparently, he prefers the views of the Liberal Party to the views of those organizations within his own field. If so, that is his business, but he certainly has no right to attack other people who take their stand on a basis of clear principle, who stick to that principle now, and who intend to do so in the future.
– I wish to devote a few moments to discussing retiring allowances for members of Parliament. I do not intend to participate in the dispute between the two Opposition parties. I noticed in the press last week. Mr. President, a statement to the effect that the Senate would pass these bills, dealing with parliamentary salaries and allowances, with indecent haste. We have spent three days on the bills, and I think that tempers and judgments are beginning to wear somewhat thin. Perhaps it is time that we came back to the bill before the Senate and dealt with the .subject matter to which it refers.
This superannuation fund for members of the Parliament is widely misunderstood, and for that reason, I think that we should take every opportunity to put forward a fair and purposeful case regarding our superannuation. Many unthinking people and people who do not know the position, speak of “ pensions for politicians “. I do not think that they appreciate that a member of this Parliament, in addition to meeting his full taxation commitments and contributing (0 social services in the same way as other members of the community, is required under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act to contribute £260 per annum towards his superannuation. I have noticed that a great many thoughtless people have written to the press and compared tha proposed increases of retiring allowances with increases of pensions for other members of the community. If more people were to appreciate the fact that a member of Parliament contributes £260 per annum of his salary towards his retiring allowance they would understand better the justice of the recommendations of the Richardson committee.
I have had more than a passing acquaintance with superannuation schemes in a number of businesses. The scheme that we are considering is not a generous one compared with other schemes, nor is it in any way modern. After all, a modern superannuation scheme provides not only for the payment of a sum of money on retirement, but also for the effects of inflation. Honorable senators should remember that the sum of £18 a week which they will receive on retirement from this Parliament, after having paid £260 a year during the time that they have remained here, may not be worth then what £18 is worth to-day.
– Only some of us will get £18.
– That is right. If a member of the Parliament were to go out without a cracker at the present time, he and his wife would be entitled to receive £8 15s. a week by way of age pension, provided that they were of the requisite age. The sum of .£18 a week is based on an average age of between 40 and 45 years for members entering this .place, an average stay in the Parliament of about ten years, and a span of life of 72 years.
Let me deal with the inflationary aspect of this matter. How many of the younger members of the Senate, when they come to draw this allowance, will be able to say that the £18 a week that they receive is worth what £18 is worth to-day? Nobody can predict what the value of the £1 will be in future years. Because that cannot be done, it is modern business practice that a proportion of salary - to my knowledge, not more than 5 per cent. - is taken from an employee by way of contribution to the superannuation scheme. The employer puts in a commensurate sum, or as much again, and the pension that the employee receives is 50 per cent, of his average salary during the last five years of his employment.
Having regard to the fact that salaries rise, in terms of money.,, as the value of money depreciates, it will readily he seen that such a system of superannuation is much fairer than is the one we are considering. In our case, no one can say whether, by the time members of the Parliament are privileged to draw their retiring allowance of £18 a week, it will be worth as much as it is to-day. I think this is something that honorable ‘senators should consider, as it is important.
Sir, I think that the people of Australia have done a gross injustice to three big Australians, the members of the Richardson committee. Sir Frank Richardson, who has achieved much the hard way, and knows how to do it, a man of great experience, has been belittled by certain members of this chamber. This is not the first government committee on which Sir Frank Richardson has served. He has sat on three independent committees that were appointed by this Government. He sat on committees appointed by Labour when it was in office, including the Disposals Commission, and he has made a tremendous success of a very great business organization. I think it ill becomes anybody, particularly members of this chamber, to belittle Sir Frank Richardson, who undertook this voluntary job in an independent capacity. The same goes for the other two members of the committee, Mr. Fitzgerald, a well-known and successful public accountant in Melbourne, and Mr. Cowper, who is a wellknown solicitor in Sydney. I want to place on record the fact that 1 feel that an injustice has been done to this committee, which performed independent work. Its task was not an easy one. The committee applied itself to that task and gave a decision. Because the decision has not met with the approval of a great percentage of the people of Australia, who have not read the committee’s report, they have seen fit to belittle men who have given great voluntary service to this country.
I should also like to place on record a few facts concerning this matter and point out what the increases will mean in actual money to a private member of this chamber, because some of the proposals have been misconstrued. 1 believe that the private members of this chamber need, and deserve, the increases recommended by the Richardson committee, and I am prepared to contest strongly with anybody in Australia any contention otherwise. At present an honorable senator’s salary is £2,350 a year. If he is married, but has no children, he pays tax of £336, so that his net salary is £2,014 a year. From that amount he makes a compulsory contribution of £4 10s. a week - about £240-odd a year - to the Parliament Retiring Allowances Fund.
By the Parliamentary Allowances Bill, his salary is increased to £2,750 a year, on which the tax payable is £458, leaving him a net salary of £2,292. Therefore, the Richardson committee’s recommendations will result in a private member of the Parliament, if he is married but has no children, receiving a net increase of £278 a year after paying tax. In addition, a senator at present receives an electorate allowance of £700 a year. Under the committee’s recommendations, the amount payable to a senator for his electorate expenses will be increased to £800 a year. Any senator who travels regularly and continuously through the State he represents, as he is expected to do and should do in order that he can properly represent his electorate, travels at least 15,000 miles a year on electorate business. If any member of this chamber thinks that you can run a car 15,000 miles a year for less than £650, he ought to see a public accountant and get his books put in order; he cannot do it. That leaves a senator at present £50 a year to defray expenses in going around his electorate, as well as making contributions and subscriptions to various bodies; and believe me, once you get into this game you know what it is. Of course, a senator needs to apply a great deal of his salary to meet these commitments.
As I have said, under the Richardson committee’s recommendations a senator’s electorate allowance will be increased by £100 a year. As was pointed out by a previous speaker on this side, the committee obtained information from more than 1,500 people, including members of Parliament. Some members said that their present allowance is sufficient, whilst others proved that it is insufficient. The committee recommended an increase of £100 a year for senators and larger increases for some members of the House of Representatives. I was rather amused to hear an honorable senator complain during his speech on these bills, which he opposed, that honorable senators will not receive as much in electorate allowances as will be received by members of the House of Representatives. He expressed the opinion that we should receive at least as much as the members of the other place, if not more. I thought that that was a naive argument to use when he was opposing the bill. 1 never get down to names in these things.
– Why not?
– I know from listening to some of the speakers in this chamber and reading reports of speeches that I did not hear, that one complaint that was voiced’ was that the allowance paid to senators is not being increased by the same amount as that payable to members of the House of Representatives is being increased. Therefore, I repeat what I said a moment ago. I believe that a just and proper case has been made out by this committee, composed of qualified men of an independent mind, who have had a great and wide experience in a number of callings of life. The committeesubmitted its recommendations after considering 1.500 submissions received fromthe public, and all relevant facts. As thosethings have not been fully understood by the public, I felt impelled to place the” facts on record. I have had many years experienceas a business executive. This Parliament needs the younger business executives, young men trained in business management. Unless we encourage those young men to enter Parliament, we shall never have our Public Service departments administered in the proper way. However, if we can induce the young business executives to enter Parliament and submit themselves for advancement to ministerial posts, we shall have the balance in Parliament that is so necessary to the proper management of Government business. The Nicholas committee in the first instance and then the Richardson committee have studied this problem on three occasions during the past nine years, and have come to the conclusion that the solution lies in obtaining the younger trained business executives. However, unless an adequate superannuation fund is available, we shall not attract the proper men to this Parliament.
– Is the Minister waiting until he has sufficient supporters before resuming his seat?
– No, that is not so.
– 1 have never known the Government to stonewall on its own legislation.
– If the honorable senator wishes to make my speech for me, he can do so. I merely wanted to place on record the matters to which I have referred. Even though honorable senators opposite might like to hide the true position, I feel that the public is entitled to know the basic facts associated with this legislation.
– I assure Senator Kennelly that I shall be brief. I address myself to this bill with some reluctance, not because I do not -support it, but because I think that the same -statements regarding salaries and allowances have been repeated over and over again. Senator Wright has referred to the salaries received by members of the House of Commons, and has mentioned some great men in the Mother of Parliaments who :asked their colleagues to forgo salary increases. But the honorable senator, apparently to suit his own purposes, did not state the results that flowed from the rejection of salary increases. On 25th February, 1 959. the “ Sun “ newspaper contained a statement to the effect that more than 100 members from both sides of the House of Commons were expected to announce their retirement from politics this year. A tew will retire because they have reached retiring age; a few because they are no longer interested in politics, but most of those who plan to retire will do so simply because they cannot afford to remain members of the Parliament. To date, 42 Conservatives and over twenty Socialists have told their party leaders that they will have to retire from politics because the salary is inadequate. The leaders of the two major parties are reported to have said that parliament could become a refuge for mediocre, middle-aged men who calculate that the parliamentary reward for their talents is better than the reward they could obtain outside parliament. What would probably be far worse is that parliament could become a snug club for the sons of the rich. That could be the effect of inadequate salaries on the membership of the House of Commons. I, for one, do not want to see such a state of affairs in this Parliament. I sincerely hope that I shall not see the day when one of the qualifications necessary to enter Parliament is a private income or an outside business to supplement the parliamentary salary.
Although some honorable senators may disagree with me, the electors have every right to insist that their elected representative should devote their full time to their parliamentary duties. This cannot be done, however, if the salary is so low that members of Parliament must have outside interests to supplement an inadequate salary. I have wished merely to place my remarks on record. I support the bill.
.- I support this bill, but I should like to comment on certain statements that have been made in the course of the debate to-day. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has referred to one honorable senator who, although evincing opposition to the Parliamentary Allowances Bill, claimed that senators should receive a higher allowance than that provided in the legislation. Apparently, the Minister has not listened very closely to the debate. I remind him that I said that I was not concerned with the amount of the proposed increase, but I protested against discrimination between members of the Ho”se of Representatives and senators. I make that point clear.
– That is a different way of saying the same thing.
– Even if the salary of a member of Parliament were only £700 a year, is that any reason why members of the House of Representatives, who represent only portion of a State, should receive more than a senator who represents a whole State? ls it not logical that a senator should be entitled to receive at least the same allowance as that paid to a member of the House of Representatives? The Minister has referred also to the debate which ha taken place on this legislation. I remind him that the bill now before us is the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill, a different measure from the Parliamentary Allowances Bill, which we have already debated. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) made much of the criticism that has been levelled at the members of the Richardson committee. I have made it clear at all times that I do not criticize the members of the committee. In my opinion, they acted to the best of their knowledge and ability. What I do say is that a man who might be successful in one sphere of activity might not be the right choice to act in another sphere. As a correspondent said in a letter he wrote to me after my radio broadcast the other night-
One of the hardest things to remember is that a man’s merit in one sphere is no guarantee of his merit in another;
That is true. We all know that there are men eminent in certain professions whom we would not dream of asking to investigate matters connected with other professions. For instance, the last man in the world whom one would ask to promote a sales campaign would be an accountant, because it is very seldom that a man with a good mind for accountancy has an aptitude for selling. Although Sir Frank Richardson might be a very good and able businessman, he might possess no political nous whatsoever. As I said on another occasion, many people who have been eminently successful in certain spheres have proved to be the greatest possible duds in the political world. So that when I criticize the Richardson committee, I criticize not its membership but its judgment. If that committee were as infallible in its judgment as our Ministers would have us believe, why did the Government agree to delete the provisions relating to non-contributory pensioners and to alter slightly the provisions relating to the use of cars by former Prime Ministers and others? Was it because the Government had found suddenly that the Richardson committee was not correct in its findings in every detail? This committee made certain recommendations which I am sure most honorable members thought were foolish when they first read the report. They might have changed their opinions because of certain influences and associations or perhaps as a result of a redirection of their thinking, but most honorable senators did think at first that certain of the committee’s recommendations were foolish.
Much was made of the committee’s suggestion that it would cost the country but little to grant these higher salaries and allowances. Senator Wright effectively answered that when he said the question is not the total cost but the effect upon the people of the example set by this Parliament. I repeat that the complete adoption of this committee’s recommendations must have a detrimental effect upon the community.
Senator Cooke said that those of use who voted against the earlier bills were stooges and traitors.
– You misunderstand me, but if you are pleased to have it that, way, sit upon it.
– I do not want to misrepresent the honorable senator.
– You are misrepresenting me.
– Senator Cooke says he did not say that. Therefore, I shall not press the point. All I say is that I voted conscientiously in the way that I thought was right. Some honorable senators might not do that on all occasions, but am very happy to say that I always vote according to what I conscientiously believe to be right.
– Is there any need to boast about your honesty?
– Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan is now getting nasty. If he believes my remarks are meant in that way, he can take them that way. I am not saying it in that way, and there is no need for him to be nasty. He suggested that 1 am boasting about my honesty; 1 am merely stating that 1 vote for what I sincerely believe to be right. Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan is a legal man and he might not agree with my opinion, but I always do what I conscientiously believe to be the right thing for Australia. I did that in voting against the two earlier bills.
Speaking to this bill, I ask why the Richardson committee was asked to investigate the question of parliamentary retiring allowances. We know that certain trustees have been appointed to administer the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. Senator Cooke said that he was one of them. I believe that this matter should not have been referred to the Richardson committee, that it should have been investigated by the trustees. I suggest also that the Richardson committee’s recommendation is not based upon a proper actuarial investigation, and for that reason I feel that in the long run we might be sorry that this matter was not investigated more closely than it was. It is possible that in the long run this will prove more expensive to us than we are led to believe at present. Senator Scott has said that if it is found that the payments to the fund are not sufficient we can increase the rate of contribution. The present contribution for each member and senator is £4 10s. a week. This proposal seeks to increase that to £5 a week. If it goes much higher it will be a burdensome contribution, and it is possible that we shall regret that a thorough actuarial investigation was not carried out before this legislation was submitted to us.
– Are you supporting the bill?
– You are having two bob each way in this business.
– Senator Anderson was very hostile at my opposing the two earlier bills.
– You were very rude.
– Senator Anderson is hostile about my opposing the two earlier bills. Although I propose voting for this measure, I do point out these matters because I feel that if they are brought to the Minister’s attention he will give them consideration. 1 am justified in doing that. I am prepared to accept the bill, but, at the same time, I am entitled to point out certain aspects to which I think consideration should be given. I repeat that I feel that this question should have been gone into more fully, and Senator Scott’s comment made me wonder what contribution members of the House of Representatives and senators will be asked to pay in the long run merely because the whole matter has not been investigated thoroughly.
Even if the bill goes through in its present form, there will still be certain anomalies. I say without hesitation that even under the new proposals the scheme is loaded in favour of married and male members of the House of Representatives and senators.
– You can easily remedy that; you can get married.
– Of course, I can get married. That may be a natural reply, but it is not a logical reply, to what I am putting. On previous occasions, when I have pointed out these things, some of the married parliamentarians have said, “ Yes, but if we put you on the same level we would have to pay more”. What about the people who are single, and have to pay more in order to get less? The present situation is very bad. To a certain extent this legislation rectifies it, but I remind the Senate that there are married lady senators, and that there are also single senators. Even now, they are not on the same level as is the married male senator, or the member of the House of Representatives. Anomalies remain, and they might well be looked at by the trustees, who are really the people who should go into the matter.
I should prefer the legislation to contain a provision giving members the option of partaking in the scheme or of keeping out of it. Frankly, I should be very happy to withdraw from it, and if that were possible I should do so.
Some honorable senators have spoken of the injustice that they feel is suffered because various people go out of the Parliament on different dates. The Minister for
National Development (Senator Spooner), or the trustees, could consider fixing, at election time, a common date upon which the members of both Houses would retire. That might offer a solution of the problem. It would certainly be fair, it would be according equal treatment to the other House and would be unlike the treatment that we received when the matter of qualifying service in the Parliament was decided. Honorable senators will recall that the legislation was altered to meet the situation of members of the House of Representatives. The requirement became service in three parliaments. The fact that there was a double dissolution made the qualifying service of members of the House of Representatives that much shorter. However, the same considerations did not apply to the Senate, where a longer term operates. That represented discrimination against the Senate, and created a position which should be rectified. All these matters should be straightened out at the same time. I have mentioned some of the weaknesses in the present set-up. I propose to support the bill, but I have no hesitation in bringing those matters to the attention of the Minister and the trustees.
I have heard at least one Minister referring to the allowance as a “ pension “. It is not a pension; it is a retiring allowance, or superannuation, whatever you like to call it. The basis of the scheme is that senators and members contribute to it. That is something that lots of people do not understand. It is not a pension. There is a fund that we endeavour to make selfsupporting. It does attract, if necessary, a contribution from the Commonwealth Government, but that is equally true of all provident and superannuation funds conducted by the Government. In the case of private businesses there is a contribution by the employer. This retiring allowance should be so described. It is unfortunate to hear honorable senators, and Ministers especially, referring to the allowance as a pension. Pensions are in a different category altogether, and the use of the term has caused it to be associated with other pensions - a fact that has caused trouble and dispute throughout Australia. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 41
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 2. which reads -
This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of March, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine.
I move -
Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: - “ 2. - (1.) This act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation. “ (2.) This act shall not be proclaimed unless and until the Commonwealth Actuary has reported to the Treasurer that the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund will remain solvent and the Treasurer has laid the Report on the table of each House of the Parliament.”.
I want to be very brief in speaking to this amendment. I suggest that it is manifest from everything that has been said during the second-reading debate that the majority of honorable senators are under a misconception as to the real state of solvency of this fund. It is quite clear from the latest actuarial report, made on 30th June, 1956, that on a proper valuation of the assets and liabilities the fund had an excess of only an exiguous amount of £33,000. Honorable senators will persist in stating that contributions by members have amounted to £326,000 and that, because the total payments for pensions, lump-sum payments and refunds of contributions have amounted to £220,000, the contributions by members exceed the actual payments made. As a matter of figures, there is a surplus, but honorable senators ignore the fact that the Consolidated Revenue Fund has paid £152,000. They look at the final balance of £312,000 and say that that is the fund. It is completely wrong, misleading, and actually deceitful to say that the fund is unencumbered. There are 180 members of this Parliament who, because of the contributions they have made, are entitled to pensions and other benefits which could become payable to-morrow. When the actuary was valuing those contingent liabilities in 1956, he assessed them at £330,000. What would honorable senators think of the honesty of the directorate of a company that put forward a balance-sheet showing only assets and ignoring liabilities? I submit that the fact that this bill has not been submitted for actuarial scrutiny requires the acceptance of the amendment I have moved, which would postpone the coming into operation of a portion of the bill until an actuary had certified as to ‘the soundness of the fund. Only by doing that can the committee show that it has a sense of its responsibility.
– On behalf of the Opposition. I indicate that we cannot support the proposed amendment. The question of the solvency of the fund, upon which the amendment appears to be based, seems to me to be completely irrelevant. I go back to the last report of the actuary, made in 1957, dealing with the position of the fund at 30th June, 1956. I refer the committee to paragraphs 12 and 13. Paragraph 12 reads -
It will be seen that the valuation discloses a surplus of £33,SOO. This result is mainly due to the fact that if future interest earnings are at the rate of 3) per cent, per annum, instead of 3 per cent, per annum as assumed in the original estimates, a statutory contribution of £4 10s. per week is more than sufficient, with the fund in hand, to provide the benefits payable to the present pensioners and members.
I refer now to clause 13. The actuary said -
I would draw your attention to the fact that section 12 (5) of the act provides for a special payment by the Commonwealth to the fund following the second actuarial investigation to be made in 1963. This provision was included in the act to protect the fund against the probability of a deficiency occurring as the result of member* being permitted to count non-contributory service prior to 1948 as portion of their period of qualifying service for pension. The present indications are that no such payment will be required in 1963.
Two points arise from that. As at 30th June, 1956, the fund was actuarily solvent, the contributions that were being made being more than sufficient to keep it so. The actuary pointed to the obligation originally cast upon the Commonwealth to pay a very large sum in 1963 to make up for the period of service of members prior to 1948, in which no contributions had been made, and said that the need for that payment had disappeared. The Commonwealth was absolved from that payment. They are two very solid and healthy positions.
In making its recommendations for various changes in the retiring allowances, and matters pertaining to the fund, the committee, in paragraph 113, said -
Our opinion is that, while the contributory basis of the scheme should be maintained, the weekly contribution required from the member should not, on the salary rate we recommend, exceed £5 (an increase of 10s.); and that the Commonwealth should make up such balance as will be needed to keep the fund solvent. The member’s contribution would be 9.4 per cent, of the recommended salary which, as mentioned in paragraph 105, is a far higher percentage than is required under most other schemes.
The words I pick out from that paragraph are. “ the Commonwealth should make up such balance as will be needed to keep the fund solvent “. We are all properly concerned to be sure that the fund will remain solvent. There are to be increased contributions and increased benefits. The com’mittee recommended that the fund should be kept solvent, if need be - only if need be - by further contributions from the Commonwealth. If we pick up the bill and refer to clause 4, we find that the solvency of the fund is guaranteed.
– By a continual drain on Commonwealth appropriations.
– I merely indicate to the honorable senator, who has based an amendment upon concern as to the future solvency of the fund, that such solvency is guaranteed, on the recommendation of the committee, in a clause of this bill. The relevant part of the clause reads -
Section fourteen of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following subsection: - (2.) In addition to the amounts referred to in the last preceding sub-section, the Commonwealth shall pay into the Fund such further amounts as the Treasurer determines are, by reason of the provisions of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1959, necessary in order to maintain the solvency of the Fund.
A statutory obligation is cast upon the Commonwealth to ensure that the welfare of the fund is not endangered by any Changes made in relation to the fund. The fund is being helped by additional contributions from members. It is exceedingly healthy at the moment. The Commonwealth is relieved of what was expected to be a vast payment. There are no signs that what is being done will impose any stringency upon the fund. But just in case that should happen, and so that no one will be worried about the future solvency of the fund, the bill seeks to write into the legislation a provision which will ensure its solvency. Therefore, why base an argument for the postponement of the application of the legislation on a suggested need for an actuarial valuation in order to be sure that the fund is solvent when the very measure we are discussing, once agreed to, will ensure that result?
The bill may impose some extra commitment upon the Commonwealth. One can only express an opinion on these matters, and my own opinion is that no such commitment will be placed on the Commonwealth. The £4 10s. a week that we now pay has been certified by an actuary as being more than sufficient to keep the fund solvent, and three more years have gone by since that certificate was given. Why do we need to wait for an actuarial certificate guaranteeing solvency when the Commonwealth is prepared to guarantee it? There will probably be no liability on the Commonwealth at all. There was an anticipation in 1948 or 1949 that men then in the Parliament would possibly be paid in respect of service rendered long before 1948, and it was reasonable to assume that that would impose a heavy obligation upon the Commonwealth. But it transpires, according to a report of the actuary, that that was an unfounded fear. The commitment that was then faced by the Commonwealth was never realized.
Having regard to the fact that the Opposition announced at 3.30 p.m. to-day that it supported the measure, this has been an extraordinarily protracted debate. The Government seems to have taken a lot of convincing upon the point. But in all 1 have listened to to-day there has been nothing which would lead me to fear, even if there were to be no guarantee by the Commonwealth, any degree of insolvency by virtue of the increases that are being made - particularly when members are to make increased contributions and when the fund is being relieved of a liability that has hung over the head of the Commonwealth for very many years, a debacle that has never occurred. I certainly do not intend to conjure up any fears about things that may never happen.
I ask honorable senators to recall clause 4, which I read earlier, and to note clause 2 (2.) as proposed in the amendment. Proposed clause 2 (2.) reads -
This Act shall not be proclaimed unless and until the Commonwealth Actuary has reported to the Treasurer that the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund will remain solvent and the Treasurer has laid the “Report on the table of each House of the Parliament.
I would very much prefer what is proposed in clause 4 to looking at 100 reports from an actuary. That seems to me to the best kind of safeguard that any one concerned about the solvency of the fund could wish to have. For those reasons, over which I have taken more time than I thought I would, we oppose the amendment.
– I rise to oppose the amendment. I see no difference between proposing the amendment and opposing the bill almost outright. The submission of this amendment is only an effort to stall the passage of the bill. If sn actuary were to express the opinion that the scheme would not be sound if all 180-odd members of both Houses of the Parliament were to retire to-morrow, he would be right. But such a happening is an absolute impossibility. That is what Senator Wright has inferred.
– You referred to all 180 members.
– In due turn.
– For the scheme to be upset, there would need to be a wholesale exodus of members from the Parliament and a wholesale influx of new members, who would not be eligible to participate in the scheme. In working out such matters as these, one can only take the law of averages. If, as Senator Wright indicated, there was a wholesale exodus of members, that would have a very adverse effect on the fund. I know that Senator Wright will get some support.. 1 asked to be excused for being in the same educational category as was the late Ben Chifley. I have had to come through with an ordinary State school education, just as he did. At the same time, I do not consider myself to be devoid of a lot of commonsense and justice. In reply to remarks that were made earlier in the debate, let me say that at no stage have I engaged, nor am I likely to engage, in a slanderous attack and misrepresentation that could be expected only from a deputy leader or a leader of a splinter party which is not wanted by either of the major parties. I leave the position at that by making an outright denial of Senator McManus’s manufactured misstatements, which have no foundation whatever. I do not doubt for one minute that, just as he has strived to defeat this and other measures by riding on the backs of the pensioners, he will again jump on their backs and cast his vote accordingly.
– Inasmuch as Senator McKenna referred to clause 4 in justification of his remarks in opposition to the amendment, I shall say at this juncture what I have to say in regard to clause 4. I regard the honorable senator’s remarks on this matter as being a simple piece of conjury. No one speaks of the solvency of a fund once the Commonwealth has poured all its revenues into that fund in order to discharge payments from it. I do not suppose there is a fund in Australia that could not be made solvent if the Commonwealth Treasurer were to turn on his tap and fill it with the liquid that comes from the Commonwealth Treasury.
I was putting my amendment on the basis on which the debate was engaged this afternoon when there was great insistence from the Ministerial benches that the amending legislation did not alter the 60/40 ratio prescribed by section 14 of the principal act. That section provides -
The Commonwealth shall pay into the Fund -
an amount equal to sixty per centurnof each amount paid outof the Fund as pension; and
an amount equal to the Commonwealth supplement payable to any person.
The original idea was a ratio of 60 to 40-60 per cent. payable by the Commonwealth and 40 per cent. payable by the contributor, the contributor paying annually as his salary accrued, and the Commonwealth making its contribution when the member retired. In a blissful state of irresponsibility, we now have a proposal to add to that section of the provision that Senator McKenna read, in the following terms: -
In addition to the amounts referred to -
As I have read from section 14- . . the Commonwealth shall pay into the Fund such further amounts as the Treasurer determines are, by reason of the provisions of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1959, necessary in order to maintain the solvency of the Fund.
That is to say, the tap on the outlet pipe from the Treasury is to be turned on by the Treasurer whenever that is necessary to keep this fund solvent. I challenge any Minister, or any member of this committee, to produce such an appropriation under any act of this Parliament.
If that provision were approved, there would be a continuing appropriation, to be decided by the Treasurer, to make solvent the fund at the expense of the Treasury, irrespective of the amount required. I again say what I said during the secondreading debate: That, on a proper assessment of this matter, the actual proportions that will prove to be required are of the order of two-sevenths from the member, on the basis of the new contribution of £5 a week, and five-sevenths from the Commonwealth. That means that, instead of a 60-40 ratio, we can look forward to something like 72-28. I know that that estimate has been challenged. I re-affirm it for the purpose of making good my submission regarding the irresponsibility of clause 4, which Senator McKenna invoked as an answer to my amendment. 1 regard clause 4 as a very unsound piece of legislation. I am submitting my amendment so that the drain caused under clause 4 will not be of an amount which nobody in this chamber at the moment could quantify. J submit that a responsible committee should ensure that legislation does not impose a drain on the Treasury over and above what the actuarial mind assesses as a responsible contribution, on at least a 60-40 basis.
– I feel that I must come into the debate when I hear Senator Wright speaking in such extravagant terms, and accusing the Government of irresponsibility, and the Treasurer of turning taps on and off. That may be good talk in that it attracts publicity when the Government has a hostile press, but it adds nothing to the logic of any argument that the honorable senator may attempt to advance. We can talk in temperate terms in this chamber. This searching for picturesque phrases to get one’s name in the newspapers leaves me cold.
Let us consider what this argument is about. Senator Wright sets himself up as an authority. He attempts to define the actuarial position, although the Commonwealth Actuary says that it is impracticable to do as he suggests. There is no justification whatever for the honorable senator’s contention that the proposal in the bill will reduce the member’s contribution from 40 per cent, to 28 per cent., or whatever the figure was that he used. The honorable senator has conjured that figure out of his mind, and no doubt he thought that by using it he would get some publicity.
– On the best advice available.
– We challenge the honorable senator to say where that advice comes from. I have the advice of the Commonwealth Actuary, who is sitting alongside me, that it is impracticable to make any reasonable estimate at this stage. I can give no more authoritative opinion than that. That is the present situation, and Senator Wright can take it or leave it.
I hope now to become a little more dispassionate, because I do not want to continue in heated terms. We have had before the Senate this afternoon the report of the Commonwealth Actuary on the fund, compiled after actuarial calculation, as at 30th June, 1956. That report ends by stating that the fund had a surplus of £33,500. I suggest that that is the test of solvency of the fund. I have heard no other argument advanced to contest that surplus. Figures were quoted in the Senate this afternoon which dealt with the fund on a cash basis and referred to receipts and expenditure, but I have not heard anybody advance an argument against the contention that solvency is determined by the surplus arrived at after actuarial calculation. Again, I say that it is quite wrong for Senator Wright to attempt to prove that any other test has been advanced.
The report of the Commonwealth Actuary went on to say, in simple words, that the statutory contribution of £4 10s. a week was more than sufficient to provide for the prescribed benefits. In the face of a statement such as that, I do not know by what process of logic Senator Wright could say that that was a slender surplus, a poor surplus, or a surplus to be decried. After all, a superannuation fund aims to provide certain benefits, and in those circumstances, any surplus is a good surplus, and any fund is a good fund that shows a surplus.
– Surely Sydney accountancy has not got to that stage!
– And I hope that the Tasmanian legal profession has nol fallen to your depths. This is a publicity hunt, of which I am thoroughly tired.
Let me again get back to a dispassionate level. As I have said, the report of the Commonwealth Actuary stated that the surplus in the fund was more than sufficient to provide the benefits likely to be payable. In other words, the rates of contribution, up to that stage, would have provided for members greater benefits than are at present being paid. The position is that, in 1956, the Commonwealth Actuary said that the contributions that we had made to that time could have provided for members greater benefits than they were receiving.
Under this legislation we propose to do three things: First, to increase the rate of contribution; secondly, to increase the benefits that will become payable; and thirdly, to provide that any deficiency will be made good from Consolidated Revenue. I am not to be taken as saying that the additional contributions actuarially will pay for the additional benefits. I am not prepared to make light statements to that effect. 1 have my doubts. I think that the benefits may be greater than the additional contributions, but we do not know exactly. The Actuary says that he cannot tell us whether that will be so or not, and that it will take some time before he is able to do so.
I do not find anything terrifying in the thought that we propose to change a superannuation scheme to alter the ratio of payments as between the employer and the employee. That is happening in many superannuation schemes. These superannuation schemes are complicated, and they are not easy to adjust. If we had to wait until this adjustment is made, for one thing there would be a number of members of this Senate who would perhaps be prejudiced. I point this out to the Senate: What we are doing on this occasion is exactly what we did on the last occasion, when we had no actuarial calculation before we altered the payments and benefits. What we did on the last occasion was to increase the rates of payments for members, to increase the Commonwealth contribution to the extent that the Commonwealth paid in itself 60 per cent, plus the additional £3 a week for those who became entitled to it over 65 years of age.
– Both the contributions and the benefits were increased in the same proportion.
– I do not know by what logic Senator Wright can say that. What we did was to increase the benefits. We then said that we would add to the 60 per cent, that the Commonwealth provided the amount that was necessary to provide the additional £3 per week. Perhaps the press was a bit less critical on that occasion, and perhaps that is why we did not hear such a song and dance about it then from Senator Wright. For these reasons, the Government will not accept the amendment.
.- After the storm has subsided, perhaps I may be permitted to say a few quiet words about this matter. If I entertained any thoughts at all about the future solvency of the fund, I would support Senator Wright’s amendment. The position is, Mr. Chairman, that I have no thoughts whatever. I have voted with the Government once or twice earlier this week, and once to-night, and that is perhaps to my personal discredit because on each occasion that I associate closely with honorable senators opposite I find that I have fewer thoughts than ever.
It is usual, Mr. Chairman, when making a review of a fund of this nature, to apply to it the test of time. If we apply the test of time to this fund, we must go right back to the time of its inception and bring it up to 30th June, 1958, or up to the present time. I prefer to take the period from its inception up to 30th June, 1958; and this is the situation that J find: The receipts have been £305,222 by way of contributions by members and the contributions from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, in the form of pension payments, £97,759, and lump sum payments, £37,868, making a total, therefore, from Consolidated Revenue of £135,627. Some members have rebated the sums that have been paid to them, and the total of those amounts is £3,986. The greater portion of the fund has been invested, and the interest on the investments up to 30th June last year amounted to £43,670. So, the receipts of the fund from its inception up till 30th June last year amounted to £488,505.
Let us look at the payments made from the fund. The pension payments made over the period amounted to £133,883, and lump sum payments to £56,743. Refunds of contributions amounted to £4,219. Therefore, the payments from the fund from its inception up till 30th June last year amounted to £194,845, and the balance at the credit of the fund at 30th June last year amounted to £293,660. I would say, Mr. Chairman, having due regard to the commitments which face the fund in the future, that a credit balance of £293,660 last year does put the fund in a very favorable condition. When I say that, I am fully aware of the work that has been carried out in respect of this fund by the Commonwealth Actuary. The fund is in a very favorable situation at the present time, and I would say that the credit for its being in that position is due almost entirely to the Commonwealth Actuary for this reason. On various occasions, members of the Parliament have asked for increases in the pension, and one of the cases I put up myself to the members of my own party was that members should interest themselves in the credit of the fund. I pointed out to them that while they are in the Parliament they should make some kind of a clamour for an increase in the pension, because when they were out of Parliament their voices would not be heard on this matter.
Where is the money that is in the fund? Actually, no cash changes hands at all. As members of the Parliament we are short paid the sum of £4 10s. per week in respect of our contributions to the fund. The fund is credited, and the total sum is immediately made available to the Commonwealth Government for any purpose it may choose. 1 am having a look at the statement now. and I find this: Of the balance in the fund at 30th June last year, £293,311 was invested in Commonwealth Government inscribed stock and in advance subscriptions. The remainder was lodged at call with the Treasury. That was the situation last year, and nothing has since happened to jeopardize the soundness of the fund. Therefore. I look upon the amendment that has been advanced by Senator Wright as so much hum-bug, and I think that it was submitted only for the purpose of annoying this Senate. It cannot be seriously advanced, 1 feel sure, because we all know what happened at the last election. Many men lost their seats, and a percentage of them will become beneficiaries of the fund. But others will not; they will receive lump sum payments. Of course, you cannot consider a fund of this nature without having some regard to the future. That is not my function at the moment; it is the job of the Commonwealth Actuary to survey what might occur in the future. I propose to support the amendments that have been advanced by my leader and to leave the future of the fund in the hands of the Commonwealth Actuary. No government would take the responsibility, without first consulting the Commonwealth Actuary, of tinkering at pension payments from this fund. If a government did so, it would be very foolish indeed.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Clause 10 relates to additional benefits to Prime Ministers. I move -
At end of clause 10 add the following subclause: - (2.) The additional benefits to Prime Ministers created by this section shall not apply to any person who on the date of commencement of this section shall have ceased to occupy the position of Prime Minister for a period of 25 years or more.”.
The principle of non-contributory pensions for Prime Ministers was affirmed in 1952 by all parties in this Parliament. At that time the pensions were made retrospective and extended, not only to Mr. Scullin, but also to Lord Bruce. Mr. Scullin received the pension for a short period, but Lord Bruce has been drawing a pension of £1,200 a year since 1952. Clause 10 of the bill seeks to graduate the amount of pension in accordance with the length of service, the pension to range from £2,000 a year to £3,000 a year after a Prime Minister has served in that office for not less than six years. The amendment which I have proposed will apply only to Lord Bruce who, if the amendment is not accepted, will receive an immediate increase in pension of £1,800 a year - that pension being in respect of service as a Prime Minister that ended some 30 years ago. I ask the committee to accept my assurance that my proposed amendment is directed, not at Lord Bruce as a person, but at thé’ situation that will result if my amendment is rejected.
– When did Lord Bruce first commence drawing the pension of £1,200 a year?
– The pension operated from 1952 in accordance with a recommendation contained in the report of the Nicholas committee. Incidentally, the decision to make the pension retrospective had the support of all parties in this Parliament.
The bill now before us introduces an entirely new element in that the pension paid to Prime Ministers will be on a sliding scale in accordance with the years of service. The increased pension has been recommended because of the arduous nature of the duties that confront a Prime Minister in these modern days. All honorable senators will concede that the tension and burden imposed upon Prime Ministers 30 years ago was as nothing when compared with the duties that have burdened Prime Ministers since the time of the Second World War. All honorable senators acknowledge that a Prime Minister’s burdens are man-killing.
The Opposition does not object to the quantum of the proposed benefit, which is based upon modern conditions, but it is unreal to apply a similar benefit to a man who served in the office of Prime Minister 30 years ago. I venture to say that if the clause before us were allowed to pass without amendment, and the pension paid to Lord Bruce was increased by £1,800 a year, the most surprised and shocked person in the community would be Lord Bruce himself. I repeat - to apply a pension, based on to-day’s conditions, to a period of service that ended 30 years ago is completely unreal.
.- I shall not speak at any length, but I shall reiterate my strong opposition to the principle of non-contributory pensions, irrespective of who the beneficiary may be. When the Government received the report of the Richardson committee, it had in mind implementing the recommendation as to a non-contributory pension, scheme but it has now, very wisely, dropped the proposal. While I am opposed to noncontributory pensions, I am in favour of a substantial parliamentary grant - not a pension - to Prime Ministers, such grants to commence when our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) retires from office.
– Does the honorable senator propose that the grant shall be made annually?
– Yes, to commence from the date of retirement from the office of Prime Minister. The bill should bc amended to provide for the implementation of a scheme along the lines of my suggestion.
– Would the honorable senator’s suggestion dispossess the widows of Prime Ministers who held office during war-time?
– Not at all. They should retain their present pensions. If clause 10 is not amended, the additional benefit will be paid to Lord Bruce. Why should the taxpayer of 1959 be called upon to provide a pension of £3,000 a year for a person who held the office of Prime Minister of Australia from 1923 until 1929 at a time when the Federation had barelyattained its majority? Mr. Bruce, as he then was, became Prime Minister when the Commonwealth of Australia was only 23 years of age. Irrespective of how great or distinguished a man may have been during his period of office, why should we impose such an additional burden upon, the taxpayers of to-day? The proposed pension is not warranted.
Even though I am in favour of the terms of Senator McKenna’s proposed amendment, I should not gain any advantage, because of the depleted number of Opposition senators, by voting with the Opposition, as I have already indicated that 1 would. Irrespective of the way in which I vote, the proposal will be carried. I have decided, therefore, that I can best register my protest by abstaining from voting on this clause.
– If Senator McKenna’s proposed amendment is accepted, a former Prime Minister of Australia will not receive an increased pension. As my party is opposed to all increases in parliamentary salaries, allowances and pensions until the underprivileged have been given justice by the Government, we support the amendment.
– I oppose the amendment. I think the principle of treating a Prime Minister of the Commonwealth as a different person, as a person with greater responsibilities, has been established, and on that ground, and that ground only, I support the bill because I am opposed in general to non-contributory pensions. I think it would be an invidious act for the Senate to carry an amendment which has the purpose of singling out one Prime Minister and one Prime Minister’s wife. I think the most important people to be considered in connexion with this amendment are the widows of former Prime Ministers, and I will name them. They are Mrs. Curtin, Mrs. Chifley, Dame Enid Lyons and Mrs. Scullin.
If Senator McKenna thinks we can fix it at a term of years which rules out one Prime Minister only, it could be argued that wc could bring that term forward two years and rule out another. I would not consent to do that because it would simply have the purpose of robbing Mrs. Scullin of what she is as much entitled to as anybody else. Suppose it happened that Lady Bruce were the only person to be considered. How odious it would be for the Senate deliberately to carry a resolution which would rule her out! As to Viscount Bruce, I want to say that he is not, as one miserable newspaper in Sydney said, a ghost revived from the past. He is a living man. He gave great service as Prime Minister. 1 have been informed by his closest colleagues that during his term as Prime Minister he frequently abstained from drawing many of the expenses that he could have drawn. I was politically opposed to him at that time, but I think everybody in the Commonwealth who had any judgment recognized that he was a great leader to whom this country owes many advantages.
To-day, Viscount Bruce is an unofficial ambassador for this country in London. Ear from being a ghost, I read only this week a report of a magnificent, stirring speech which he made calling the people of the British Commonwealth to a sense of their duty. And I remind the Senate that he occupies a very distinguished position in this country. He is Chancellor of the Australian National University. He made a journey to this country to attend to his duties as chancellor, and those duties are not the duties of a mere sinecurist. During the whole period since the university has been in existence and especially since he has been made chancellor, Viscount Bruce has been of inestimable service to that institution. As a member of the council. I feel it my duty to ask that that fact be recorded. He has been consulted constantly. The appointment of professors and directors has received his unremitting attention. Six years ago, I was in London. I did not know any person. I had a letter of introduction to him. As soon as I sent him the letter, he rang me up, asked me to see him and was of inestimable service to me in putting rae in touch with the people who knew the needs of this country. I want to say that on this very day Viscount Bruce, at the age of 76, is one of the great citizens of Australia still performing great and important duties for this country.
– If Senator McCallum is under the impression that the amendment submitted by me on behalf of the Opposition has reference to any widow of any former Prime Minister, he is completely mistaken. He will find no word whatsoever in the amendment affecting the position of any widow.
– I know that.
– Does the honorable senator concede that?
– I merely pointed out that the widows are the people we should consider, and we owe a duty to one lady who is not a widow yet.
– The honorable senator completely misunderstands the purpose of the amendment and the effect of it. There is no reference to the widow of Viscount Bruce, or the prospective widow of Viscount Bruce. The amendment is directed to the position of one former Prime Minister, and not to anybody else.
– But would not his widow be affected indirectly by your amendment?
– We have very deliberately framed the amendment so as not to affect her position.
– So you admit you deliberately framed it to aim at Viscount Bruce?
– At one man. I have said it affects the position of one man. I made it completely plain that it was directed at a position although its effect was upon one person. I cannot make it any plainer than that. On behalf of the Opposition, I repudiate any suggestion that any widow will be adversely affected by the amendment that I have proposed.
– The Government will not accept the amendment. As I said by way of interjection, it is aimed at one person only, and that seems to me to be a petty and small thing for a political party to do. Viscount Bruce was not of my time and generation politically. 1 have met him only on one or two occasions.
With the concurrence of the Senate, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ an outline of the record of Viscount Bruce. He was the member for Flinders from 1918 to 1929, and from 1931 to 1933. He represented the Commonwealth at the League of Nations Assembly in 1921, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938. He was Australian representative on the Council of the League of Nations from 1933 to 1936, and president of that council in 1936. He was Commonwealth Treasurer from 1921 to 1923. He was Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for External Affairs from 1923 to 1929. He was Minister for Health from 1927 to 1928, Minister for Trade and Customs from May to November, 1928, Minister for Territories from 1928 to 1929, Minister without Portfolio from 1932 to 1933, Australian Minister in London from 1932 to 1933, High Commissioner for Australia in London from 1933 to 1945, and Minister for Australia to the Netherlands Government from 1942 to 1945. He represented Australia at the Imperial and Economic Conferences in London in 1923, 1926 and 1937, and in Ottawa in 1932. He represented Australia at the World Economic Conference in 1933, and presided at the Montreux conference for revision of Straits Convention in 1936. He was representative of the Commonwealth Government in the United Kingdom War Cabinet, and on the Pacific War Council from 1942 to 1945. and he was chairman of the World Food Council from 1947 to 1951.
That is the record of the man at whom this vindictive shaft is aimed. I do not think there is any member of the Senate who would not be proud to look back on a record like that; and it is such a petty thing that we should have the official Opposition in this Parliament singling out this man for such treatment.
.- I think some of the speeches to-night have introduced complete irrelevancies into this matter. We have established the principle of parliamentary pensions for Prime Ministers and widows. That is not challenged. I submit it would be beneath the dignity of this country to discriminate between Prime Ministers, irrespective of their political colour, the quality of their service or the height of their achievements. It is on that principle that I oppose the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have one more reference to make to this bill, and it is to clause 13, the effect of which is to deprive certain members of the Parliament and their dependants, of the increases provided under the bill. It is a concept that is quite new to the scheme of parliamentary allowances. It has not been implemented hitherto, and it certainly does not figure anywhere in the recommendations of the Richardson committee. Therefore, it is a matter to which the Government itself must have given consideration. I canvassed! this matter at considerable length when it was- under discussion earlier, and a- reply- was- made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has- also addressed himself to the question in another place, and we have been left with the assurance that the whole matter will be looked: at again; that it will’ be referred to t’he trust’ which controls- and administers the fund; and that it will; be discussed with Opposition leaders. 1 should like to express great concern for all who will be adversely affected by this provision. The details have been canvassed adequately, but I must make quite plain the fact that though a member of the House of Representatives who was defeated last November will receive the lower pension, a senator who was defeated’ at the same election and was not then qualified - but will qualify just prior to retirement on 30th June - will receive the higher pension.
– It was covered in the second-reading speech of the Minister.
– It has not been covered, except to the extent that we have been given an assurance that the whole position will be looked at. We are grateful for that assurance, and’ we hope that it will speedily bear fruit because, under the clause now inserted, all sorts of anomalies arise.
– What was your attitude in regard to this in 1955?
– I have no doubt at all that those who have been contributors, and their dependants, are entitled to the benefits from time to time paid under this very special type of allowance. The honorable senator’s own Minister to-day directed attention to the grave defects associated with any such scheme which did not have regard to the possibility of inflation, to the trend in money values. There is no surer way, in contemporary society, of keeping a person on an even k:el. than by ensuring that when increases take place in this field they are applied right down the line’. Tt is a principle which the Opposition supports and which, until now, all parties in the Parliament have supported. It comes as a shock to find this new principle introduced, and we hope that it will not last very long.
– You cannot single out the people who were defeated last November, discriminating against those who went out in 1955.
– I do not think that you can. Those who went out in 1955 must have been contributors to the fund, and must, therefore, be entitled to any increase in benefits which may take place.
– I should like to- support the submission of my leader. This is one clause which’ is not based on a recommendation of the- Richardson committee. It has been inserted’ contrary to all precedent as it applies to pensions. It has always been accepted that such benefits should be enjoyed by all who- had an equity in the fund, and contributed to it. In1 the early period of the scheme honorable senators were quite prepared to- concede that people who ha’d not contributed prior to the inauguration of the fund, but who were defeated, should1 be paid a retiring allowance. During the period’ from then until’ now, that liability has been absorbed. There was no quarrel with that, and it would be a regressive step to apply the provisions’ of clause 13 at this stage. The Minister has given an assurance that the position will be referred to the trustees. I hope that it will once again come before this Parliament for discussion. I ask the Minister to give an assurance that early action will be taken to remove the effect of clause 13 - if possible to delete it before this measure is returned to the other chamber. This proposal is a departure from precedent in relation to parliamentary allowances to retired members. It is progressive, and I have no doubt that the fund will continue to grow as it has in the past. In normal circumstances, the liability will not be as great as it has been. It is applicable to all members of the Parliament including those who will retire later as well as those who have already retired. Let us establish this principle of bringing, into line the pensions of retired, members of the Parliament.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 April 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590422_senate_23_s14/>.