24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Yesterday, I asked a question on the same subject, and received a rather evasive answer. Has the Minister seen a report that was published in last night’s Melbourne “ Herald “, under a very prominent heading, about the issue of a liquor licence to the Moorabbin airport? The heading, which is printed in rather bold type, states, “ Letters show State not Consulted “. The article reads, in part, as follows -
Mr. Rylah made public the correspondence between Victoria and the Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Paltridge, on the controversial issue.
He said, “Senator Paltridge did not consult the Victorian Government before deciding to issue the liquor licence. His first letter said he would issue it “.
Mr. Rylah told Senator Paltridge in an answering letter dated January 8th: “I am shocked and dismayed . . . that you propose to issue the Royal Victorian Aero Club with an authority … to sell or supply liquor to club members. “ I desire to lodge a most emphatic objection to the proposal.”
Mr. Rylah further stated, “ I can see no justification for the entry by the Commonwealth into the domestic field of licensing control in this State “.
It will be noticed that in the article Mr. Rylah is reported as having said that the Minister did not consult him, but simply told him that he was issuing a licence. Is that correct?
– My attention was directed to the newspaper article on which the honorable senator has based his question. It is a matter for some regret that only excerpts from the correspondence were quoted. I do not say that Mr. Rylah released only excerpts. I do not know what, in fact, he released to the press. No reference is made in the report to a part of the original letter which, in the light of subsequent events, is the most significant part. I wrote to Mr. Rylah on 28th
December telling him of my proposal - I described it to the Senate quite frankly the other day - and of the type of licence which I had it in mind to issue - a club licence. I enclosed a copy of the licence so that Mr. Rylah could study it, and I ended my letter by saying, “I would appreciate any comments you may have on this proposal “. If that was not an invitation to comment-
– He did comment in the letter of 8th January.
– Wait a minute. If that was not an invitation to comment, I do not know what is. Mr. Rylah, apparently, now says that he was not consulted and that he was not asked to comment. He was asked to comment, and he did comment, as I described the other day, on some of the constitutional and legal aspects of the matter. I replied to him. By the time my reply had reached Mr. Rylah’s office, he had gone on a holiday or on a trip. I received a wire from his relief Minister asking me not to do anything until Mr. Rylah’s return. In order to demonstrate my bona fides in this matter, I have not done anything. In point of fact, this matter was raised with the Victorian Government on my initiative on 28th December, when I invited the comments of the Victorian Government. I still have not advanced the matter one inch, because I realize that the matters which lie between the Victorian Government and myself have not been brought to finality. Let me emphasize that when I say “ finality “ I do not necessarily mean that agreement must be reached. However, I suggest that in the light of what I have said it is unreasonable and unreal for any one to suggest that Mr. Rylah has not been consulted or has lacked the opportunity to comment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I preface the question by referring to the statement made in Adelaide on Monday last by the South Australian Minister of Roads. The Minister referred to the desirability of designating a set of national highways to be determined by an interstate commission and financed by the Commonwealth. Will the Minister say whether the Government plans to establish an authority such as an interstate commission or to determine in some other way a set of national highways?
– I understand that the statement to which the honorable senator has referred was made at a convention arranged by the South Australian Regional Committee of the Australian Roads Federation. According to press reports, the South Australian Minister of Roads, Mr. Jude, said that the Commonwealth should leave the State to work out its own internal road network and should then assist it financially, as is done now. He referred in addition, as the honorable senator has said, to the possibility of the Commonwealth indicating a set of national highways. The provision of highways is, of course, the constitutional responsibility of the States and their associated authorities. The Commonwealth, however, fully appreciates the importance of a national roads system and has been making substantial contributions to State road works.
For the five-year period from 1st July, 1959, the Commonwealth has undertaken to make available to the States £250,000,000 for the construction, reconstruction, maintenance, and repair of roads. Of this amount South Australia received in 1960-61 more than £5,000,000, and it will receive increasing amounts from the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. There is no present intention on the part of the Commonwealth to establish such an authority as an interstate commission to draw up a list of national highways as mentioned by the South Australian Minister. The Commonwealth will, however, continue to assist the States by providing funds for road works.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. What is the reason for still retaining Australian troops or other forces in Malaya? Would there be any military or other advantage for Australia in transferring these troops to Darwin? Would there be any strategic or other disadvantage’ in doing so?
– In view of the importance of the question it would be wiser for me to ask that it be placed on the notice-paper. I think I might grant myself the luxury of replying to the second part of the question by saying that there would be no strategic advantage in transferring to Darwin the Australian battalion at present in Malaya.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Is it not a fact that the Australian Labour Party in the Commonwealth Parliament strenuously opposed legislation aimed at expanding the aluminium industry at Bell Bay, in Tasmania?
– Did it not do so by implying that if the Commonwealth Government sold its share in the industry to private enterprise, the Bell Bay works might be closed, or at least not expanded? Has the Minister seen the recent announcement by Mr. Reece, the Premier of Tasmania, who was greatly embarrassed by the attitude of Federal Labour in this matter, that plans have been drawn up which will result in production being increased from some 13,000 tons a year to 48,000 tons in 1964, thus providing more employment and leading to increased use of hydro-electric power resources in Tasmania? Docs not this fact illustrate the value to Australia of the Government’s policy to encourage private enterprise . to use its initiative and know-how in developing the resources of this country?
– I was surprised to hear an interjection to the effect that the Australian Labour Party had not opposed the sale of the Bell Bay plant.
– To the particular purchasers.
– But the Labour Party did oppose the transaction I have not seen the statement by Mr. Reece, to which Senator Marriott has referred, but from other sources I am familiar with the nature of the expansion that is planned at Bell Bay. My recollection is that the company entered into certain contractual obligations to expand the., works to,, a certain size. 1 have always very firmly held the view that the company would develop Bell Bay to an extent substantially in excess of its contractual obligations. I have also very firmly held the view, which I have expressed in this Senate, that the sale of the Bell Bay works to the company concerned was a major advance in industrial development in Tasmania, and a fine thing for that State.
– And for overseas companies.
– It was a fine thing for the State of Tasmania and for the development of Australian resources which might not otherwise have been developed. I am very glad indeed to see that events are panning out in accordance with the views I held at the time the sale was made. I refrain from expressing any opinion about Mr. Reece’s views. It is for him to say what he thinks, but I am sure that the expansion could not have occurred unless he was a party to it, because the Government of Tasmania has a substantial shareholding interest in th: company.
– Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral ask his colleague to consider urgently the provision of telephonic communications for residents of the Bremer Bay-Gardiner River area in Western Australia? I point out that recently attention was directed to the urgent need for such a service in that area by the tragic drowning of three men. It is claimed by residents of the district that one death possibly could have been averted if means of communication had been available. Will the Minister please regard this question as a continuation of my representations on behalf of people who are engaged in primary production in an isolated area?
– The accident to which the honorable senator has referred, and which resulted in the death of three people, is deplored by all of us. While I commend the honorable senator for his repeated representations on behalf of the people who live in isolated areas of Western Australia, I am bound to remind him of the formidable task that faces the Postmaster-General in extending telephone communications to all the sparsely populated areas of that State. It is true that the department has long-range plans for that development. I undertake to bring to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the specific needs of the people of the Bremer Bay-Gardiner River area.
– Is it a fact that the £55,000,000 Commonwealth loan which closed last Thursday, and which was oversubscribed by more than £35,000,000, produced the best result for any cash loan that has been raised in peace-time in Australia’s history? If that is a fact, does it not indicate that the people of this country have great confidence in its future and in the management of its affairs by the Menzies Government?
– The recently closed loan has produced the best result for peace-time domestic loans for very many years indeed. As the honorable senator mentioned, I believe it was a record peacetime subscription. Such a result must bring a glow of satisfaction not only to the Treasurer and the Government, but also to all the people of Australia. It certainly is a very remarkable manifestation of confidence in the future of this great country and, I suggest, in the way in which the country has been governed and in which, fortunately, it will continue to be governed.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, by saying that this year Tasmania has a bumper pest-free crop of apples which, because of the unusual climatic conditions, is maturing much more rapidly than is normally the case. In view of the importance of this crop to the economy of Tasmania and its impact on overseas balances, will the Minister urgently consider the diversion of more overseas shipping to Tasmanian ports to clear the apples to overseas markets and thus prevent the considerable loss that will inevitably result if the normal shipping rosters are adhered to?
– The matter of overseas shipping is one which falls within the administration of the Minister for
Trade rather than that of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I am sure that if the Minister for Trade can do anything to alleviate a tight shipping position in Tasmania in respect of the shipment of apples overseas, he will do it. I shall be pleased to refer the question to him, and to furnish the honorable senator with the reply as soon as I receive it.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen a statement in this morning’s press to the effect that contracts have now been let by the Western Australian Government to three companies for the handling and export of Mount Goldsworthy iron ore? Is it a fact that the facilities which will be required for the handling of this ore will cost approximately £12,000,000? Can the Minister tell me the tonnage which it is expected will be shipped each year from the new port that is to be established? Can he tell rae also whether this project will create additional employment for a large number of persons who are now seeking work? If it will provide work for some of the unemployed, why are we continually being accused by the Opposition of being a government that wants to have a pool of unemployment?
– I did see the press report. Of course, this is primarily a matter for the Western Australian Government. I congratulate that Government upon entering into this arrangement, because it really opens up a new area of development in the north of Western Australia. It illustrates the point I have frequently made in the Senate - that is, that a sound and sure way in which to ensure the development of the north is to sponsor or encourage certain large-scale activities. The arrangements for the calling of tenders were, according to my recollection, agreed to by the State Government and the Commonwealth Government before tenders were actually invited. I have no doubt that the transaction will come before the Commonwealth for formal approval of the export licences. My recollection is that it involves the excavation and export of 1,000,000 tons of iron ore a year for a period of fifteen years. So it is a largescale mining transaction, which, assuming that the contract is duly completed, will continue for many years and will undoubtedly give a great fillip to development and population growth in that part of Western Australia.
– Has the Minister for Health read a statement by Dr. P. G. D’Abrera a pathologist of. the Lewisham Hospital, Sydney, to the effect that a certain popular contraceptive pill at present in use could possibly have more serious effects than nuclear fallout on the health of unborn Australians? Has the Minister also noted the controversy that has arisen from the statement? Without going into the moral issues, will the Minister have prepared for the future mothers of Australia a report by the Department of Health on the validity or otherwise of the learned doctor’s opinion?
– I have read the statement and I have been interested in the controversy that has been gathering around the statement. I emphasize that the medical evaluation of oral contraceptives is a matter for the medical profession. The product to which the honorable senator refers is an ethical pharmaceutical preparation which, under State laws, is available only on a doctor’s prescription. It is not listed as a pharmaceutical benefit. I shall consider Senator Ormonde’s request that a report on the matter be prepared.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Navy been directed to press reports covering the recent visit of the United States destroyer “Coontz” to Melbourne? The ship, which carries guided missiles, was described as an electronic masterpiece and the most modern warship in the world. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the two Charles F. Adams class destroyers which the Government has ordered from the United States for the Royal Australian Navy will fit into this category?
– A destroyer of the Charles F. Adams class is about SOO tons smaller than “Coontz”. It carries 42 Tartar missiles, as against the 40 Terrier missiles carried by “ Coontz “. In general terms of electronics and of advanced design, the two classes of vessel are comparable, except that one is smaller than the other. The first destroyer of the Coontz class was laid down, I think, in about 1958 and was finished in 1960. The first of the Charles F. Adams class destroyers was laid down about a year later and was finished about three months later than the first of the Coontz class. In fact, the Charles F. Adams class is, if anything, slightly more modern than the Coontz class, but a little smaller. The firepower of the two vessels is approximately the same. The ship’s company, in the case of a Charles F. Adams class vessel, is a little smaller. Both classes are, of their types, the most - modern in service in the world.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that in the last Budget the Treasurer, in providing funds for Commonwealth works, State works and the repayment of loans not converted, budgeted for a deficit of £251,000,000? Is it a fact also that despite the successful loans so far floated in this financial year - one oversubscribed by £30,000,000 in the first half of the year and the recent loan oversubscribed by £35,000,000- and allowing for the borrowing of 100,000,000 dollars, equivalent to about £40,000,000 Australian, from the International Bank, there still will be a gap of approximately £150,000,000 in the Australian loan market for the current financial year? Does the Government regard this situation with equanimity? Will the Minister take an early opportunity to advise the Senate of the size of subscriptions to the recent loan by the Commonwealth, its instrumentalities or any of the trust funds administered by it? How much was subscribed by the Reserve Bank of Australia? How much was subscribed by the private trading banks, the insurance companies and the superannuation funds? Does the Minister envisage any difficulty in providing this information?
– I do not know offhand whether information in the form sought by the Leader of the Opposition can be provided. I will ask the Treasurer what information can be made available. Having said that, I turn to the purpose of the question asked by Senator McKenna. In seeking to find a purpose I must confess that I discern in his attitude a degree of disappointment that he has seldom displayed publicly before, because irrespective of whether loan money subscribed comes from the Reserve Bank, the trading banks or insurance companies, a loan as satisfactorily subscribed as the last one must be regarded by any standards and in any circumstances as a complete success from the point of view of the Government that has floated it. Everybody on this side of the chamber views with great satisfaction the result of the last loan. Everybody in Australia has reacted in the same way to the loan. Senator McKenna’s attitude is merely an indication of the image that the Labour Party has created in its own mirror - an image that it is the future government and will be called to office in the next few months.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence been directed to an article in yesterday’s Sydney “ Sun “ expressing the concern, felt for so long by the Opposition, over the future of Singapore after Greater Malaysia is founded? In view of Britain’s recent pronouncements with regard to a defence blueprint for South-East Asia, and in view of doubts expressed regarding the continued use of Singapore as a strategic base, has consideration been given to the development of a naval base on the mainland of Australia? Since Cockburn Sound on the south-west coast of Australia is in proximity to those spheres in the Far East where trouble could occur, will immediate attention be given to the building of a base at Cockburn Sound? If the provision of funds is the only argument against the establishment of such a base, what is it estimated to cost?
– I did not see the particular article in yesterday’s Sydney “Sun” to which Senator Tangney has referred, but I am familiar with that kind of article, and with the discussion that has taken place on the future of Singapore. I can only assure the honorable senator that the Government’s defence advisers have not been remiss in considering the implications of what might develop in South-East Asia and have considered the steps that Australia would be required to take in any of the contingencies that might arise.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I refer to a newspaper article published in last week’s press, which was headed “ New First to C.S.I.R.O.”, and which outlined an important discovery in the production of aluminium for which patents have been taken out in some 26 countries. Can the Minister tell the Senate how many such firsts have been achieved by the C.S.I.R.O.? Is he satisfied that sufficient publicity is given to the various discoveries made by the organization? In any case, since many of us are inclined to forget some of those discoveries, will he consider preparing for the Senate a report recapitulating all of the discoveries made by the organization so that we may inform ourselves about them, and in the hope that the press will publish the list so that the people of Australia may not only be informed on what this valuable organization is doing, but also make the fullest use of its discoveries?
– I do not think I can answer the first part of the question in which Senator Buttfield asked me to give a list of the firsts that have been achieved by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I certainly cannot do that on the spur of the moment. Of course, a number of such firsts come immediately to mind as contributing greatly to Australia’s economic progress. The development of myxomatosis is one; the development of methods of preventing the evaporation of inland water supplies, water being a very scarce commodity, is another; and this aluminium discovery is yet another. But there must be many more of them. Perhaps more important than something that is achieved finally and announced in this way is the number of small firsts, if I may so describe them, that are achieved during the research when some small break-through is made which, taken in conjunction with others, eventually leads to the final result.
In reply to the second part of the honorable senator’s question, I do not think that these achievements have received sufficient publicity. Already I am trying to ensure that more publicity is given to the work of the C.S.I.R.O. generally. I think the preparation of a report listing all the things that have been done would be too difficult, partly because of the many small things of which I have already spoken. However, I can assure the honorable senator that 1 will endeavour to keep the organization’s new discoveries before the people of Australia as much as possible because I believe that full use is not being made, in agriculture, industry and manufacturing processes of many of the things that have been discovered, because the discoveries have not been publicized sufficiently. I hope to remedy that situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I preface it by saying that as an Australian I am delighted, as is every other honorable senator on this side of the chamber, that at last we are getting people to fill or over-subscribe Commonwealth loans. I recognize, as every one else does, the value of that from a national point of view. I also understand the Minister’s joy, because after three or four months it is nice to get some little ray of hope, however small it may be. I thank you, Mr. President, for your indulgence. I will now ask my question.
– You want to break down any favorable impression, don’t you?
– I am delighted with the attitude that the Leader of the Government is adopting and that there are no insults, as there were last night. What percentage of the money subscribed to the recent loan was lent for the short term?
– Let me “express my satisfaction that for once Senator Kennelly and I are at one in approving of something. That is very good for a start. We both view the success of this loan with much satisfaction. I am sorry that I cannot give the honorable senator the details of the short-term loan now, but I shall obtain them and let him have them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. By way of preface I refer to, and congratulate the Minister on, the announcement made on Monday last that Royal Australian Navy ships would be assisting in comprehensive survey work in the Indian Ocean, working with units from the navies of several other important nations with interests in the Indian Ocean. Is it contemplated that a further naval survey will be carried out in the near future in the region of South Australian waters? If so, can the Minister give the details of the proposed programme? Will he please study the desirability of continuing to widen the programme for normal naval surveys so as to include a programme of marine research along the lines of the proposed Indian Ocean investigation? In particular, could any such programme be so framed as to include an investigation of deep-sea fishing problems off the coast of South Australia - problems which are of vital importance to the fastgrowing South Australian fishing industry?
– I think I should preface my answer by making a distinction between two types of survey work which might be confused if I did not do so. There is a hydrographic survey, which is designed to map the ocean bed and find the locations of rocks or things of that kind. Then there is an oceanographic survey, which is designed largely to discover the habits of fish. The two types of survey are quite distinct and require quite different equipment. Some naval ships are equipped to do both types of survey, but they cannot do both at the one time. They do one or the other.
There is, in fact, a hydrographic survey going on in South Australian waters at present. lt has been going on since January. I am not sure of the naval ships that are doing it, but I think “ Barcoo “ is one. There is another. “ Barcoo “ will bc replaced by “ Warrego “. She, in turn, will be succeeded by “ Barcoo “, after a refit. That survey will continue until September, by which time the work proposed will be finished. Another survey will be commenced next year.
Turning to oceanographic surveys, last year “ Diamantina “ did this sort of survey work in South Australian waters, carrying out studies of currents which affect fish movements. If I may change my hat now, let me say that this year a vessel operated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be going to South Australian and Western Australian waters for this purpose. The C.S.I.R.O. also, in its usual generous way, has lent a number of officers to the South Australian Government for use on its fishery survey vessel.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that banks and insurance companies were heavy investors in the recently oversubscribed loan? Is it a fact also that the banks and insurance companies have very large liquid assets? Are the banks and insurance companies unable to lend their liquid assets to the business section of the community? If so, does that show a lack of confidence in the economy as a whole by the business section of the community?
– In reply to a question asked earlier to-day I told the Senate that I was not in a position to give details of the subscriptions to the loan by banks and insurance companies. Speaking generally, it is true to say, I believe, that banks and insurance companies were significant contributors to the loan. It is also true to say that in the economy to-day there is a state of liquidity which has not been present for some time. But it is also true - and Senator Cant may wish to reflect upon this - that the overdraft limits made available by the banks to people seeking accommodation stand at a record level. Within the next few months the extra money that is available will be in use from within those limits.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday, in another place, the Minister for Labour and National Service spoke about the plans of the Government to relieve unemployment on the coalfields. They were explained in general terms and I was not very much impressed with them. I realise that Senator Spooner knows the coal industry pretty well, and I ask him now whether he will tell the Senate about the Government’s plans for the relief of unemployment on the coal-fields.
– I think my colleague in another place referred to the general measures that the Government has introduced, and is carrying forward, to increase the level of employment throughout the community generally. They will have a beneficial effect on the coal-fields, as well as in other parts of Australia. Expressed in terms of the number of men out of work, unemployment on the coalfields is not high. At 16th February - I get figures each week from a source with which Senator Ormonde is well acquainted - the number of men registered for employment in Cessnock was 247. Cessnock is the hardest hit locality. Eight men were registered in Maitland, 29 in Newcastle, 20 in the western areas and 7 in the south coast districts.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Does he recall - doubtless he does, because he then held the portfolio of Shipping and Transport and was about the most popular federal Minister in Tasmania at the time - the great amount of favorable publicity that was given to Tasmania prior to, and on the inauguration of, the new Bass Strait ferry service by the Australian National Line vessel “ Princess of Tasmania “? In order to obtain further well-merited publicity for Tasmania and its growing tourist industry, will the Minister suggest to the Minister for Shipping and Transport that an Australiawide competition be held to find the most suitable name for the ship that is about to be built to initiate a direct passenger-cargo service between Sydney and Tasmanian ports?
– I will be pleased to refer the suggestion made by Senator Marriott to my colleague, Mr. Opperman.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government, as the representative in this chamber of the Prime Minister. Has the Government yet completed the consideration which on many occasions it said it was giving to the recommendations made by the Constitutional Review Committee in October, 1958? Having regard to what will be the position in the Senate after next June, will the Government give early consideration to the committee’s recommendation relative to the resolving of deadlocks between the two Houses of the Parliament?
– The reply to Senator McKenna’s first question is, “ No “. The Government has not yet completed its consideration of the committee’s report. If my recollection is correct, the Government will have 30 members in the Senate after 30th June. There will be 28 members of the Australian Labour Party, one member of the Democratic Labour Party and one Independent. The Government will have one-half of the strength of the Senate. I remind Senator McKenna that that position existed before in the Senate for a period of three years. It seems inevitable that numbers in the Senate will be evenly balanced as a result of the present method of electing senators. I conclude on the note that I hope that in the ensuing three years the Government will be as successful in controlling the Senate, even though the numbers will be evenly balanced, as it was during the previous period of three years.
– My question without notice is directed to the. Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization who, a while ago, was speaking of investigations by the organization into fish. Did the organization ascertain why fish along the Queensland coast were swimming with their heads out of the water? Did it have anything to do with the political situation in Queensland?
– The C.S.I.R.O. did not carry out investigations into this particular phenomenon. It makes investigations that are referred to it by the Minister, and the Minister did not ask it for a report on this matter. Speaking personally, I can only suggest that fish along the Queensland coast may have been putting their heads out at. this particular time in a desire to draw into their lungs a little hot air.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers are as follows: -
– Yesterday Sena tor Cant asked me a question without notice concerning the airport at Wyndham and I promised to ascertain what progress had been made. The following information gives the position at present: - It is proposed to expend a further £28,200 in maintenance funds this year to resheet a sunken portion of the 12/30 gravel runway. This work should reduce flooding of the runway which at present occurs in the wet season. In addition to the above maintenance, it is proposed to carry out the following new improvement works concurrently: - Reconstruction and sealing of south-east end of runway 12/30; reconstruction and sealing of north-west end of runway 12/30; construction of premature touch down areas; construction of 25-ft.- wide shoulders to each side of runway 12/30; alterations to aerodrome drainage; construction of drainage invert across 91 degrees runway; and re-location of aerodrome fencing.
An amount of £35,000 only was included in the 1961-62 works programme for the above items and the Treasury has requested that the Department of Works invite tenders before an approach is made for additional authorization. The project as a whole will be the subject of one tender so as to reduce heavy overhead and non-productive costs.
This work will commence immediately after the current wet season. Passenger facilities in the combined terminal and operations building are inadequate for the number of passengers at Wyndham, and it is proposed in the 1962-63 year to expand the terminal building.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following senators be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz.:- Senators Anderson, DrakeBrockman and Ormonde.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following honorable members had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz.: - Mr. Brimblecombe, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Dean, Mr. Griffiths, Mr. Mclvor and Mr. O’Connor.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Public Works Committee Act - Twenty-seventh General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Debate resumed from 27th February (vide page 189), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Kennelly had moved by way of amendment -
Leave out all words after “That”, insert “ this bill be withdrawn and redrafted to include provision for the rate of unemployment and sickness benefit for an adult and for a married minor to be increased to the rate of the age and invalid pension, and that the Government present the redrafted bill to the Senate this day”.
.- 1 rise to support this bill which falls into two parte. The purpose of the first part is to reduce from twenty years to ten years the period of residence in this country which is necessary before a new Australian becomes eligible for the age pension. Because of the large number of migrants coming to Australia, the benefit will be very great indeed. The twenty years’ residence qualification was not directed against new Australians as such. The same provision applied to Australians born in this country who migrated to another country, spent a period of time there and eventually decided to come back to Australia and reside here. The idea, no doubt, was that a person should have lived and worked in this country for a number of years, and so contributed to the wealth of the Commonwealth before being entitled to the social service benefit that I have mentioned. The reduction of the period from twenty years to ten years is a big one, but it is a good one, and is entitled to the support of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber.
The other part of the bill relates to the proposed increase of the benefit which is paid to people who are unfortunate enough to be unemployed. During the course of this discussion various statements have been made about the action of the Government in proposing to increase the benefit. In fact, it could be said that the Government has been attacked because of that proposal. Before ever this measure was mooted, it would have been safe to bet, in these days of political expediency, that when the debate ensued the Government would be accused or bringing in the measure because of unworthy motives. That accusation has been made. It might also have been assumed that the amount of the proposed increase would not be sufficient in the eyes of the Opposition.
I think that a reply should be forthcoming to the attack that has been made on the Government for its action in proposing this increase of the benefit. Before I came to this place I used to listen to the debates. It occurred to me that there was not much profit in the exercise of going back over the years and detailing what this government had done and what some other government had done, in defence of attitudes that had been taken up. However, if we go back to the time of the Chifley Government we will find that the unemployment benefit was then only 58.8 per cent, of the age pension. There were unemployed in those days. Had the unemployment benefit been increased in accordance with increases of the pension, it would have risen, provided that the same scale as that operating to-day were adopted, to £2 2s. 6d. a week instead of the £4 2s. 6d. a week now payable. So, Mr. Acting Deputy President, when the Opposition was in power its policy was to grant little more than one-half of the amount of the age pension to people who were out of work.
Let me turn to the other imputation, which was raised here by Senator Kennelly yesterday, that the Government had decided to increase the benefit because of its desire to remain on the right hand side of the chair. Surely any government worthy of the name would want to remain in office. By remaining in office, this Government confers a very distinct and definite benefit on the people of the Commonwealth, if for no other reason than that it keeps out of office a party which went to the polls denying its platform. Members of the Labour Party are obliged to say, “ I pledge myself that I will at all times advocate and vote for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange “. There is another paragraph in the platform to the effect that they will proceed to nationalize the banks and six or eight other institutions. A space is provided for the candidate to sign his name and to pledge himself to support the policy of the party on all occasions. On the recent occasion, when the members of the Opposition went to the country they said, in effect, “If you elect us we will not raise this issue for three years “.
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy President. I should like to know what the honorable senator’s remarks on nationalization have to do with the bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - The debate has covered a fairly wide field. I have in mind particularly the speech made last night by Senator O’Byrne. A certain freedom has been allowed throughout the discussion, but I remind honorable senators that they should link their remarks to the ; bill before the Senate, lt is the responsibility of Senator Lillico to do that.
– I shall keep as closely as possible to the bill. My remarks were in refutation of the allega tions made by Senator Kennelly during his speech in this chamber last night. 1 think I shall be in order if I mention the ‘ claim advanced by Senator Cooke that because he moved in September last an a mendment to bring about a similar reduction in the residence qualification for migrants, the Government should have accepted it forthwith. He seemed to think that the amendment should have been given effect on 14th September, or on whatever date it was moved. Senator Kennelly put forward the same contention. He said that Senator Cooke’s amendment should not have been rejected, and that if it was bad’ then, the purpose it sought to achieve should be bad now. I remind the Senate that an Opposition senator does not accept the responsibility of government. Surely the Government is not obliged to accept forthwith an amendment moved by an Opposition senator. Surely it is reasonable to assume that the Government may see fit, when it considers the time to be expedient, to introduce an amendment along the lines indicated, despite the fact that an Opposition amendment previously had been rejected. If we accept as a principle the suggestion that because an amendment is moved in this place and the Government does not accept it, the proposition contained therein should not later be included in Government policy, we surely reach an absurd position. In my opinion, the Government is in the clear in regard to this matter. It went before the people with a policy in which it promised to reduce the residential qualification from twenty years to ten years. In spite of all that has been said to the contrary, in legislating to give effect to this proposal it is simply carrying out an election promise.
I am sure all of us regret the presence in the community of a comparatively large number of unemployed. I took note of the fact that Senator Kennelly said that the Government was being pricked by its conscience and that the number of unemployed we have is a direct result of measures adopted by the Government over the past eighteen months or so.
– That is true, is it not?
– You say that is true?
– Your leaders admit it.
– Admit what?
– They admit that it was the result of Government policy. Government policy goes hand in hand with it, Senator Spooner said recently.
– At the time those measures were adopted we were faced with spiralling inflation, our costs had increased, and the quantity of goods we could sell on the export markets was continually falling. If those influences had been allowed to continue, the position would have been infinitely worse than it is. Even the Labour Party realized at the time that something had to be done; it realized that something was wrong. I listened with a lot of patience to Senator McKenna and a lot of other honorable senators opposite, but not one of them brought forward a concrete proposal to correct the position other than to suggest that a galaxy of 22 recommendations submitted by the Constitutional Review Committee be placed before the people. If a Labour government had been successful at such a referendum - it is very doubtful whether it would have been - the Commonwealth would have proceeded to control the position from Canberra with an army of bureaucrats and we would have had price control, investment control and all the rest of it. If the Labour Party had been successful in having those 22 powers added to its existing powers, control would have been exercised by a socialist government in Canberra. In my opinion, the remedy would have been infinitely worse than the disease itself. Then we would have had stagnation and unemployment. But during the eighteen months for which the economy was drifting and with an election imminent, this Government was compelled to take unpopular action. The Labour Party capitalized on that action for all it was worth and itself contributed to a destruction of public confidence.
Senator O’Byrne said that never since the last depression have -we had such a degree of unemployment in Australia as we now have. Let me remind you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, of a statement that has been made by Mr. Monk. The Senate has been reminded of it, but it bears repetition. Although I do not necessarily agree with what he said, Mr. Monk has stated that a level of unemployment of H per cent, is necessary. That percentage represents 63,627 members of our work force. So we must have that degree of unemployment before we even start to consider how many people are out of work. It is all very fine to quibble and to say that there are more thao 130,000 persons out of work; but when we subtract Mr. Monk’s li per cent, the real number of unemployed becomes considerably smaller. That is what Mr. Monk, a trade union man who is more likely to err on the right side, has had to say about the unemployment situation in Australia.
Be all that as it may, we must bear in mind the fact that during the years after the war we had a bounding export market and could sell almost anything at a high price. There had been a lag in production brought about by the war which had to be caught up with, and it may well be that, in spite of the policy adopted by any government during those years, we would have had full employment. But the lag has been overtaken and we live in a period when it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell our products overseas. We in Australia have built up a cost system which is out of all proportion to that of the countries with whom we wish to trade and those with whom we wish to compete. It will only be with great difficulty and because of the policy that is being pursued by this Government that we can hope to bring about the expansion and development that is so necessary to create employment.
I always like to quote statements made by Mr. Reece, the Premier of Tasmania. Members of the Opposition should find Mr. Reece to be congenial. At times he seems to shed the cloak of political bias which clouds the vision of so many of us and speaks as an Australian citizen who really sees things as they are. Speaking for Tasmania, which according to the latest figures has the second highest level of unemployment in the Commonwealth, Mr. Reece, so far from criticizing this Government, said that he was pleased with the steps which were taken recently to give financial support for additional public works in that State. Commenting on the recent meeting of the Loan Council in Canberra, he said he was quite satisfied that Tasmania had been treated fairly. He took the opposite view to the prophets of gloom in relation to the future of the economy, saying that a more buoyant economic atmosphere was now apparent. He went on to say -
I believe that people can plan with a greater sense of security than they have been able to do during the past eighteen months.
Mr. Reece said many other things. He believed that Tasmania’s position was fully recognized, and the fact that the amount of £990,000 was made available was tangible evidence of the need to correct the position.
– Can you tie this up with social services?
– I think that I have done so. Others have wandered over the ambit of the economy. This matter has a very direct bearing on the subject.
– You have the wrong speech. You are making your AddressinReply speech.
– Most of the statements I have made have been in reply to contentions advanced by Senator O’Byrne. Of course, the Government cannot win. Whichever way it goes, it is in trouble. Had it not introduced this measure, it would have been blamed. Now it is blamed for having introduced the measure. The position is similar with regard to the Commonwealth loan, about which we heard this afternoon. The Government is blamed if loans are not filled. When there is an oversubscription, there is something sinister about that. That is the attitude of mind of Opposition senators.
When pressed, Senator O’Byrne said thai unemployment benefits should equal the basic wage. If he were a worker on a 40- hour week, receiving the basic wage, and an unemployed man next door was receiving the equivalent of the basic wage in the form of unemployment benefit, would the honorable senator not say: “This is not good enough. The sooner I lose my job the better it will be. Then I can get into the same racket, stay at home and receive the basic wage “?
– These men have been forced out of work by the Government’s policy. It was no fault of theirs.
– Before the honorable senator entered the chamber, I spoke about that. Now he is getting right away from the bill. The position was brought about by a set of circumstances over which the Government had no control. The oversubscription of the loan is the result of some of the measures adopted by the Government which made it so unpopular in the eyes of some people. The Government has been strong enough to take action which will in the long run, I believe, rectify the position.
I support the measure. I am sure that it is a step in the right direction. The Government introduced it from worthy motives. I am not one of those who believe that there is a line straight down the middle of the chamber and that all the sympathy for the unemployed, all the charity, and all the milk of human kindness flow on the other side of the chamber, with none on this side.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly, but before dealing with it I want to examine the first of the proposals in the bill. It relates to a reduction by one-half - that is, to ten years - of the period of residence necessary to qualify for an age pension Looking at the proposal, one wonders just how elastic the policy of the Government can be. From the pages of “ Hansard “ we find that approximately six months ago the Australian Labour Party, from this side of the chamber, moved an amendment in terms of the Government’s proposal. The Government knew at that time that a reduction of the residential qualification from twenty years to ten years was the Labour Party’s policy, because that policy had been announced to the public last May. Senator Lillico said to-day that the provision is one that should receive the support of this chamber. Looking at page 640 of the Senate “ Hansard “ record for 26th September, 1961, we find that Senator Lillico was one of those who did not approve of this provision. It is a pity that he has gone out of the chamber, because this may be of some interest to him. It is interesting to note the names of senators on the Government side who opposed this provision six months ago. Some of them are still in the chamber, so I shall read the names for their benefit. They were Senators Branson, Buttfield, Sir Walter Cooper, Drake-Brockman, Gorton, Hannaford, Hannan, Henty, Kendall, Lillico, McCallum, McKellar, Maher, Marriott, Mattner, Sir Neil O’sullivan, Paltridge, Reid, Robertson, Scott, Spooner, Vincent, Wade, Wedgwood, Wood, Wright and Dame Annabelle Rankin. Those were the 27 senators who on that occasion did not think that this proposal should be supported.
– At that time.
– I shall have a little to say in a moment about “ that time “. It is true that those 27 senators at that time failed to support a measure which Senator Lillico now says should receive the support of this chamber. I respectfully submit that senators on the Government side will expose themselves to ridicule if they support the measure on this occasion. They will reveal themselves as puppets on the end of string; that is all that they are. As the tune is played, so they dance.
– It is better than being on the end of a rope.
– One wonders why honorable senators opposite changed their minds so quickly on what the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) described as a major matter of policy. One wonders why they were not game to oppose their leader on that occasion. Are they now simply concerned to save their political hides? Do they realize that if the Government had not announced on the election hustings that it would introduce this measure they would have lost votes? Only two months after rejecting these proposals when they were advanced by the Labour Party, the Government announced that it would introduce legislation to give effect to them. This is not a reversal of a policy announced six months ago. Only two months after rejecting these proposals the Prime Minister announced that they would be introduced if his Government were returned to office.
Senator Spooner was the only person in this chamber to reply in September last year to Senator Cooke’s motion, which sought to introduce a residential qualification of ten year, instead of twenty years. Senator Spooner’s reply on that occasion is very interesting. He said -
A major matter of policy is involved. No provision is made for it in the Government’s programme for social services this year.
I remind the Senate that in referring to “ this year “, Senator Spooner was not referring to the calendar year. He was thinking In terms, of the budget year. A major matter of policy was involved, atd any change would be revealed in the following budget - the budget of next August, but the Government has acted . much faster than that. One wonders why.
Without doubt the Government knew that if it did not counter Labour’s policy on this matter it would surely lose the votes of new Australians. The Government’s promise to deal with this matter was designed to achieve the purpose for which many of the measures introduced in the dying days of the last Parliament were designed. Those measures were nothing more than vote-catchers. The Government’s promise with regard to this matter was designed to win votes and this is one of the few occasions when the Government has honoured its promise to the people. The Opposition is not opposed to this measure, because it conforms to our policy, but the Government stands condemned for having refused to introduce these provisions six months ago and for having reversed its decision in order to save its political hide.
Honorable senators opposite who support this measure will be ignoring the view’ expressed by their leader in this chamber’ who last September said that the issue was a major policy matter, and that nothing could be done about it before next August. It is apparently no longer a major matter of policy, and honorable senators opposite will be able to vote for the measure. In so doing they will be acting like puppets and jumping when the strings are pulled. To-day, Senator Lillico accused the Labour Party of having abandoned for the purpose of the election its traditional policy. A few nights ago, the leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) made a similar remark. Those remarks are interesting when one bears in mind the way Government supporters have changed their views on this matter.
The Opposition supports the proposal to reduce from twenty years to ten years the residential qualification of persons seeking social service benefits. We on this side of the chamber seek also to amend the second proposal in the bill. We contend that adults and married minors should receive an unemployment benefit equal to the age or invalid pension. Some fears have been expressed by honorable senators opposite at the cost of the proposals submitted on behalf of the Labour Party by Senator Kennelly. The
Opposition contends that the unemployment benefit paid to an adult or married minor should be increased by £1 2s. 6d. a week to £5 5s. If we look at some statistics we see that 56,000 persons are at present in receipt of the unemployment benefit.- Those arc the figures for 3rd February last. They are the latest figures available. Approximately eight-ninths of those 56,000 persons are adults or married minors. They number about 48,000. In addition, approximately 9.000 adults and married minors arc in receipt of the sickness benefit. The total number of persons involved in our proposal would be about 57,000. The total cost of our proposal for the four-months period from 1st March to 30th June - that is the short-term programme of the Government- would be £1,026,000. Perhaps the amount would be less than that, because the Government has great confidence that its measures will reduce unemployment. If the Government is able to reduce the number of persons unemployed below the present figure of 131,500, probably the number “of persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit will be reduced below the present figure of 56,000. As the number of persons eligible under Labour’s proposal was reduced, so too would the total cost of our proposals be reduced. It is conceivable that the amount required to put our proposals into effect might be much less than £1.000.000. Surely that is not a large sum for a Government to find, having regard to the fact that it deliberately created the present’ unemployment situation!
– After all, the Government proposes to grant tax concessions amounting to between £27,000,000 and £30,000,000. I answer Senator Laught’s interjection by saying that the Government deliberately created the present unemployment situation. I do not know whether the Acting Deputy President would permit mc to elaborate that point.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar).- Order! I think Senator Cant has already taxed my patience sufficiently. I advise him to continue with his speech.
– I bow to your ruling. Sir, but T remind you that you allowed Senator Lillico to claim that the present unemployment situation was created as a result of the Government . implementing a policy that was forced upon it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I point out to the honorable senator that I was not in the chair when Senator Lillico was speaking. Please proceed.
– The present pool of unemployed in Australia, was created deliberately. The Government should be taking action to reduce the number of unemployed rather than to increase the unemployment benefit. I know that the people who are out of work will welcome this increase, just as the Australian Labour Party welcomes it, as giving them some form of social justice, meagre as it may be. The Government does not show very great confidence in its own economic measures when it says that the unemployment benefit must be increased because there is a large number of unemployed people. To me that means that the Government expects there will continue to be a large number of people who are forced .to receive, unemployment benefit.
– You cannot match that statement with the amount of money that has been given to the States through the Australian Loan Council to meet this problem.
– I am not allowed to delve into that field, senator; but if I have an opportunity to speak in the debate on the Address-In-Reply, I will endeavour to answer that question for you. I am not satisfied that the Government is injecting very much money into the States to relieve unemployment. We say quite frankly that if the Government is concerned for the unemployed, particularly adults and married minors, it will accept the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly.
– You must belong to the Band of Hope if you think that way.
– We belonged to the Band of Hope when we put forward the proposal for ten years’ residential qualification.
– That materialized.
– Yes, we got that. If the Government has any regard for the unemployed, within the next six months there will probably be a reversal of policy and the unemployment benefit for adults and married minors will be increased to the amount of the age or invalid pension.
Under the legislation as it stands to-day, a single age pensioner can have an income of £8 15s. a week; that is, the full pension plus the means test allowance of £3 10s. and all the other things that are provided in the legislation. Yet, under the Government’s proposed legislation an adult or married minor is allowed to receive only £6 2s. 6d.; that is, the £4 2s. 6d. unemployment benefit plus income of £2 a week. The unemployed man also has to satisfy the Department of Labour and National Service that he has made a proper search for work and is endeavouring to get. off the dole.
– That is tremendously hard to do, however honest he may be.
– That is so. As we know, the great bulk of unemployed people is in our cities and not all workers live iti. industrial areas. The industrial areas are scattered round the perimeters of the cities. A man may live on .one side of the city and work may be available on the other side of that city. He is bound to spend part of his £6 2s. 6d. on fares in order to satisfy the department that he has made a proper search for work. The age pensioner is not subject to that expenditure; yet the Government will not consider this very fair proposal that we put forward.
We say quite frankly, Sir,; that the inferior position of the adult and married minor is not justified in this country which has been in boom conditions under Menzies Governments for so many years. We agree with the provision of 15s. a week for e.ach child in an unemployed man’s family. That provision is long overdue. I know that honorable senators opposite will say, “ Why did you not introduce, it when you were in government? “ It is all very well to be able to transport your mind back over twelve years. They were twelve years of economic boom that the Government claims, has never- been equalled in Australia’s history. Yet, during the whole of that period the Government has not seen fit to give to the second, third, fourth and subsequent ; children any assistance under the unemployment benefit provisions of the. social services legislation. As an excuse for that, supporters of the Government say, “ Labour did not do it, but after twelve years we are doing it “.
Why has this provision been forced upon the Government? When we consider that question we find that under a Labour government there was such a thing as child endowment, and we maintained ..the value of it. On two occasions during periods of price stability we increased child endowment. We not only maintained its value but also increased its value in relation to the basic wage. Yet, in the twelve years this Government has been in office it has not seen fit to keep child endowment up to the value that it had when the Government came into office. Therefore, it is forced into doing something for the second, third, fourth and subsequent children of the unemployed man. We do not say that those children were treated adequately when we were in office, but we looked after them as well as the economy allowed in all directions and not in only one direction.
Much has been said ‘about the number of unemployed ‘people that it is reasonable to expect in the community. In this chamber last night Senator Scott said that he thought 60,000 was a reasonable number to expect and that if we got the number of unemployed down to that figure we could regard that as full employment, to all intents and purposes. We on this side of the chamber do not accept that. We say that when every man and woman in the community who is ready, willing and able to work is able to get employment we have full employment, and not otherwise. We do not specify a figure because we do not know how “many people are incapable of working but do not qualify for an invalid pension. Other people in this category would be those who do not want to work and those who prefer to work at part-time jobs. The only figure that will satisfy the Labour Party is that which is arrived at after every able-bodied man and woman who requires work and is able and willing to perform it is able to get it. That is the only condition that will satisfy us. Speaking again purely from a statistical point of view, many speakers have compared the percentage of unemployment now with the percentage in 1949. It is interesting to note that in 1949 the Government was elected on a unity ticket. There is no question in my mind that in 1949 a tie existed between the Communists and the Conservatives with the object of wrecking the Chifley Government. As a result of the coal strike of that year, we had a rather large percentage of unemployment, but for one quarter only. The position then cannot be compared with the present position. This Government has deliberately created unemployment to further the interests of its policy. Policy decisions created the unemployment that exists in Australia to-day. I support the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly.
– I rise to support the bill and to oppose the amendment. Before I get on to the main part of my speech, let me say that, as a senator supporting the Government, 1 deny categorically that it is the policy of this Government deliberately to bring about, unemployment, as was suggested by Senator Cant. During the course of my remarks I will prove how wrong such a statement is. It came from an honorable senator who, to my way of thinking, should know better, even though one could not expect to find any charity in his remarks.
This bill, coming, as it does, only a few days after the opening of this Parliament, is one that all honorable senators should welcome and pass quickly. There is apparently no great opposition to the provision in the bill which reduces the qualifying period of residence in Australia for a recipient of an age pension. The second part of the bill seeks to increase unemployment and sickness benefits for adults and married minors and their dependants. To this provision of the bill, the Opposition has moved an amendment, lt has moved that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for an increase, involving an unspecified expenditure of revenue. 1 think 1 should give some details of the provision to increase unemployment benefits, because Senator Cant, in his rather wandering speech, did not enlighten the Senate very much on that subject. At the outset, I want to say that the bill illustrates the Government’s policy of improving the whole system of our social services as and when financial considerations permit. Take the provision relating to the period of residence required to qualify for an age pension. For 50 years the qualifying period has been twenty years, but now this Government has decided to reduce the period. As one who attends many naturalization ceremonies during the course of a year, I can assure the Senate that this alteration will be genuinely welcomed by a vast number of the migrants who have come to this country. In order to assimilate migrants, it has been desirable and advantageous to encourage some of the younger migrants to bring their parents and grandparents with them. These people have been in a singularly unfortunate position, but now they will be happier.
– Why did you oppose the amendment that was moved last year?
– The amendment was. introduced during the course of legislation . brought in subsequent to a budget. Since then the Government has considered the matter. The Prime Minister made an announcement during his policy speech. This is the first measure to be brought forward after the successful return of the Government. The promise could not have been implemented any earlier.
– It could not have been implemented last year, is that what you mean?
– It is being implemented now. A great many things still require implementation, but this promise is being implemented now.
I turn to consider the relief to be given to unemployed people. The last Budget provided for a lift in these payments, and the bill before the Senate at the moment provides for a considerable improvement in a number of ways. Let me give some details. The amount payable to an adult or a married minor registered for unemployment or sickness benefit will be increased by 7s. 6d. to £4 2s. 6d. a week. The benefit for a dependent spouse, or unpaid housekeeper, will be raised by 7s. 6d. to £3 a week, and the benefit for a first child will be increased by 2s. 6d. to 15s. a week. Those people all received benefits under previous legislation. The importance of this legislation is that a new principle ‘ is being introduced, namely, the payment of benefit at the rate of 15s. a week for each child of a beneficiary other than the first. This, of course, is an advance in the social services field, and will greatly improve the circumstances of unemployed or temporarily incapacitated members of the work force who have family responsibilities
Let me pause to give a further illustration. Take the case of a married man with three children, who normally would be pretty hard hit by unemployment. The benefit payable to him will be raised as a result of this bill, by ?2 7s. 6d., making his benefit ?9 7s. 6d. a week. Taking the extreme case of a married man with five children, the benefit he will receive in future will be ?10 17s., an increase of ?3 17s. 6d. a week. On top of those payments there will be, of course, the normal child endowment payments which have been made for many years.
– What is the size of the average family in Australia?
– Possibly 2.5 children, or it might be three. I am giving those two illustrations. It would seem, therefore, that substantial justice has been done by the Government in the bill before the Senate at the present time.
Unemployment is a matter of great regret to any government. I completely contradict the statement made by Senator Cant that the present unemployment was deliberately caused by government policy. No government causes unemployment. That is something that governments of every shade of political opinion try to avoid at all costs. Every one deplores unemployment. Considerable thought has been given to it and it has been deeply studied by people of all shades of political opinion. I am indebted to Senator Branson for his reference yesterday to the remarks of Mr. Albert Monk at the Australian Citizenship Convention in Canberra in 1961. After the senator had quoted the remarks I took the opportunity to study what Mr. Monk had actually said. He is a distinguished Australian by any standard. I understand that he has made 40 visits abroad in his fairly long life, mainly to attend conventions of the International Labour Organization at Geneva, where he has had unrivalled opportunity of studying labour organization, employment, unemployment, and so on. In a very studied statement at the beginning of 1961 Mr. Monk had this to say to the Australian Citizenship Convention -
In America to-day, there are about 5,000,000 unemployed, or about 6 per cent, of the total work force.
In Canada, the present unemployment figure is 8 per cent, and it will go up to about 10 per cent, by the end of March, 1961. We have been very fortunate. When I tell people overseas that our unemployment figure is about 1.8 per cent., or less than 2 per cent., they say, “That is not a problem at all “. They are used to having economic problems with a ratio of unemployment to the work force of about 4 or 5 per cent.
Mr. Monk then summed up as follows:
But the ordinary person in Australia now gets awfully frightened if we get up to 2 per cent, unemployment, whereas in actual fact, because of our seasonal occupations in Australia, it is necessary to have about 1.5 per cent, floating work force to deal with seasonal and major construction works.
Of course, the position has receded since Mr. Monk made his statement. The unemployment in my own State is approximately 2.5 per cent. But the main thing, to use the words of Mr. Monk, is that we ought not to get awfully frightened; we ought to do constructive things about it. Both the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia have gripped the nettle of unemployment in an outstanding way. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) caused an immediate grant to be made from Commonwealth funds to the States, based largely on the quantum of unemployment then existing in each State. As a consequence Queensland received a very high amount - I believe it was the highest of all - and South Australia received a comparatively low amount. These grants are most important because, if they are handled properly by the States, the money can give a great impetus to the solving of the unemployment problem. I quote from the Adelaide “ Advertiser” of 20th February last wherein it states, under the heading “ Start for 200 in South Australia “: -
The Engineering and Water Supply Department would provide 200 jobs immediately, the Premier (Sir Thomas Playford) said yesterday.
He said this followed the allocation to it of ?600,000 of the Loan Council’s grant last week for South Australian public works.
The Public Buildings Department had been allocated ?400,000, the Premier said.
I submit to the Senate that this imaginative and quick action by both the Commonwealth and South Australian governments will do a tremendous lot to alleviate unemployment, because it will generate confidence within the community, and thereby private enterprise and industry will help to take up the slack. From inquiries that I made this week I have ascertained that great projects are in hand in two of the major industries of South Australia. I understand that General Motors-Holden’s Proprietary Limited at Elizabeth has been going ahead full steam with its expansion programme. I understand, also, that Chrysler Australia Limited, to the southwest of Adelaide, has been putting on men fairly solidly in recent weeks. The re-generation commenced by the Commonwealth Government by making this money available - much of it a straight-out grant and non-repayable, the remainder in the form of loans - has already’ started something in South Australia.
I wish to conclude by referring to what trie Government of South Australia has been doing in recent months to cope with the unemployment problem. May I remind the Senate that about a year ago the number of extensions to water supplies and of sewerage services was most noticeable in South Australia, mainly in the suburban areas of Adelaide. This is most necessary work. May I remind the Senate also of the vast improvement of roads through the Adelaide Hills. This had resulted from the imaginative planning of the South Australian Government to avert the crash, or the trouble, that might otherwise have occurred in South Australia. Knowing full well that its State was so dependent upon the motor industry, the Government did a special job in getting this work under way. That is why the unemployment figure in South Australia of 2.5 per cent, is probably as low as the figure in any other State, even though South Australia has many of the vulnerable industries and has few natural resources. Compare it with Queensland. Its natural resources are just not comparable, yet by this imaginative planning it has been able to avert unemployment to a marked degree.
– It shows Queensland in a very bad light, does it not?
– I do not put it that way, but it shows South Australia in a very good light. I suggest that this type of imaginative planning will get Australia out of difficulty. We should not enter upon post-mortems about whether governments have deliberate policies of creating pools of unemployment. Let us look at it in a positive way, and see whether we can go ahead. Governments can give the lead, and private enterprise, with the spirit bt confidence that will be engendered, will follow. I wish to refer to a statement which appeared recently in the Adelaide “Advertiser” and was possibly promoted by the proprietors of that newspaper. It is in simple language and states, under the heading “ How all can Help “ -
To-day the problem is somewhat different. The .percentage of unemployment in - South Australia is less than in most other States, but -it is still too high.
. . Government and semi-governmental . bodies are about to speed up public works to provide employment for many of these victims, but they cannot provide for all.
This is a time when the community can swing - into action and help itself.
If work that has been postponed because of uncertainty about the future is now put in hand ‘ by firms and companies and individuals, the effect could be tremendous.
I finish my short speech on this bill on that note. I oppose the amendment because it is impracticable. I support the bill because . it provides for speedy relief on social grounds for elderly immigrants and on. practical grounds to those who, I hope only temporarily, will be unemployed or sick and consequently will need this additional help.
.- Perhaps I should commence my remarks by thanking Senator Laught for saying that there is only 2.5 per cent, of unemployment in South Australia at the present time. His comment gives me the opportunity to explain why Queensland has so many unemployed people. The honorable senator made a brief comparison between the resources of Queensland and those of his own State. He seemed to express wonder at the fact that there are so many unemployed- persons in Queensland. The reason is that Queensland is less industrialized than South Australia. We all know where the Holden motor car is manufactured. The manufacture of that motor car in South Australia has resulted in a great deal of industrialization and the . establishment of many secondary industries in that State. I am sure that .South Australia will become even more industrialized, and that it will be able to employ a still greater work force. The incidence of unemployment there may well be lower than in the other States.
There is a dearth of secondary industries in Queensland. I do not know the reason for this, but. I know that it is so. On the other hand, Queensland . is rich in primary industries. Perhaps that is our undoing, because we suffer from seasonal unemployment. That has been so for years. Seasonal unemployment occurred before I was born, and it still occurs. It appears that, in the present economic circumstances, seasonal unemployment presents an insoluble problem. I know that over the years governments have concentrated on its solution, but so far they have not been, able to evolve a scheme to avoid the break, in work during the year. There is always a hiatus between the end of one year and the commencement of operations for the following year.
To my mind, the most important feature of the bill before us is the provision for increases in the unemployment benefit. I wholeheartedly support the proposed increases, but I also support the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition. 1 should like to see the rates of benefit payable to unemployed persons increased still further. As from to-morrow, the new rates will be paid, pf course, Mr. Acting Deputy President, this is not the first scheme of the kind to be introduced in the Commonwealth. I remember that back in 1922 the Queensland Government introduced legislation called the Unemployed Workers Insurance Act. In addition to carrying out “ other duties, I administered the provisions of that act for a long time. Broadly speaking, it provided for contributions of one-third each to be made to the unemployed workers insurance fund by the employees, the employers and the government. That scheme operated from 1922 until about 1943 or 1944, or until the eve of the introduction of the present CommonWealth social services legislation. We in Queensland paid out millions of pounds under that act. At the conclusion of its operations we had £2,000,000 in hand.
There is another such scheme operating even now.- The coal miners have a form of insurance, whereby a kind of superannuation payment is made to workers in the industry who attain a certain age. The payment that is made to retiring members is greater than that provided for under the Social Services Act. So, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I wish to make it clear to you that over the years, people who have been interested in the welfare of the working population have given a great deal of consideration to the relief of unemployment. I know that at the present time the Queensland Government has several million pounds, to spend before 30th June next. I also know that if the government spends that money as it is expected to spend it, the unemployment position will be relieved. It is quite possible” to relieve’ unemployment by undertaking public works. A simple train of events follows when a government sets out to relieve unemployment temporarily. Money is paid by the Commonwealth Government to a State government. The State government pays part of the money, in the form of wages, to the workers who are doing the work. The workers pay money -to the retailers .for the .’food they consume and the clothing they wear. The retailers make payments for the goods they buy from the wholesalers, and the wholesalers pay. the manufacturers. That is the series of payments that occurs.
The effect is good, economically, in the localities where the relief works are carried out, but while the Commonwealth has made several million pounds available to the Queensland Government to spend for the purpose of relieving, unemployment, when the money has all been’ spent it will have achieved very little economic good. What, then, is the answer? The only answer is to establish secondary industries. Queensland will be faced with unemployment annually until substantial secondary industries have been established. ‘ I do not intend to make this subject the theme of my speech. I have mentioned it only because it is so closely related- to the paying of unemployment benefit.
In the early weeks of this year a topgrade journalist in the service of one ‘of the Brisbane newspapers was sent on a mission lo north Queensland/ He visited cities between Brisbane and Cairns and reported on industrial conditions in each city. He ascertained the number of people receiving unemployment benefit - he referred to it as the dole - and also the prospects of future employment. At this stage, it is rather interesting to have a look at his comments. He went first to the city of Maryborough. The heading of the newspaper article that he sent from Maryborough is, “400 Are Being Paid Dole’ in Maryborough”. The article stated -
Four hundred men and women all receiving social service payments iri Maryborough - yet there is a vast amount, of work waiting to be done. It just does not make sense.
He went on to explain how bad conditions were from the viewpoint of young people. He had a discussion with one of the industrialists in the city of Maryborough, and the industrialist said -
Our organization can take on all the chaps without jobs when the sugar crushing season is finished. There’s always work for them in timber - except now we are down 25 per cent. That’s because of the credit squeeze.
The journalist went on to say, in his article -
Everyone I’ve spoken to in Maryborough is fearful of the long-range effect of the city’s economic problem. The immediate job shortage is bad.
Then he interviewed a gentleman who was the mayor .of Maryborough for a period. This gentleman said -
There just isn’t scope for youngsters here. The clever girls get into offices and banks, others not quite so highly educated become salesgirls in shops.
For the rest, it’s working as’ domestics at the hospital or wherever they can get a job.
For lads it’s worse. How many accountants, lawyers and doctors would Maryborough want?
They go to Brisbane, and in many cases their mothers and fathers finish up following them. Maryborough’s dole list would be longer but for the many young men who have left. They have gone job searching in the south.
This has left big gaps in a lot of old families here.
A city with a population of probably 15,000 persons which has 400 persons on the dole presents a rather sad picture. There is a breaking up of families every year when children reach the age to go to work.
The journalist in question proceeded from Maryborough to Bundaberg and there found a similar situation. He .pointed out that the population of Bundaberg was 23,000 and that 1,000 were unemployed, compared with 750 the previous year. He said that the unemployment benefit was being paid to 500 persons at that time, compared with 350 in the previous year. He added that Bundaberg was faced with an economic and a political problem in that one man can harvest between 10 tons and 1 1 tons of cane a day but machines can cut up to 400 tons a day. There are several machines in the area and they are doing the work which men have done ever since cane was first grown in Queensland. So it is probable that in the future fewer hands will be required for cane harvesting.
– I did not think that machines’ had made much headway up there.
– They have done so in recent years. A period of a year or two has elapsed . since you have visited the Queensland canefields, I think. The machines were being held in check until a suitable one which could be standardized and recommended to the growers was found. I understand that in the Mackay, area there are nine machines. With those machines harvesting 400 tons of cane a day each, the harvesting operations wilt be shortened and the earnings of the mill hands will be lower.
This journalist went from Bundaberg to Gladstone, which is situated between Bundaberg and Rockhampton.. The main place of employment there is a meatworks which is operated by a fairly big company and which last year provided employment for 750 men for six months up to the end of October. After October there was no work at all for them. This is not a district in which it is easy to obtain employment, even when the meatworks is operating. Of course, it is now proposed to mine coal in the Gladstone district and to export it to Japan. That will lead to a good deal of activity, and it is probable that the employment potential of Gladstone and the surrounding district will improve considerably in the near future.
I understand that a foundry in Ipswich is undertaking the construction of a coal, washing plant which will cost approximately £700,000. That will give employment to men in the metal industry in
Ipswich. Finally the plant will go to the Gladstone district and will be used to wash coal prior to its transhipment to Japan.
– Has any thought been given to the construction of a railway from the site of the coal to Gladstone?
– It has been stated that the Thiess Brothers organization and the Peabody company will join forces. The capital will be provided by a Japanese company. They will then be able to transport the coal directly from the field to the port at Gladstone. That is a development we are awaiting.
The journalist to whom I have referred proceeded from Gladstone to Rockhampton. If anybody has been to the Rockhampton district and has made a survey of the industries which are likely to offer employment, they will have found that there are the meatworks, the Railway Department, the transport system generally, and the Mount Morgan mine. The population of Rockhampton is approximately 44,000. This journalist reported that 2,100 persons were on the dole and, to use his words, “ they do not know when they will earn their next wages “. He added -
This is by far the most serious work shortage
I have encountered during my tour of Queensland coastal centres.
The meatworks is perhaps the main place of employment in Rockhampton. The meatworks operates for a certain period each year, according to the availability of overseas markets and the seasonal conditions which obtain in the Rockhampton district and the hinterland.
I was up there recently and was told that not far from Rockhampton there is a comparatively small area with a cattle population of 1,000,000 head. I was told further that with the use of artificial manures manufactured from pyrites, which is the waste from the Mount Morgan mine, the cattle population in this area could -easily be quadrupled. I have read a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization report - I have quoted it in this chamber more than once - to the effect that it has been discovered that with the introduction of certain legumes in the Dawson Valley and other areas the cattle population could be increased considerably. That would mean a longer killing season for the meatworks and would improve the commercial life of Rockhampton.
From Rockhampton the journalist went to Townsville. He stated that Townsville had a population of 51,000 and that 2,000 persons were unemployed, 1,200 of whom were on the dole. He pointed out that the sum spent on building in Townsville in 1961 was £1,500,000 less than in the previous year. Seasonal employment has operated in these places- for many years. The problems which are created by seasonal employment are still awaiting solution by one government or another. I am quite satisfied that no private company could solve Queensland’s unemployment problem. We in Queensland look to private enterprise for the employment of 70 per cent, of our population, but I find it very difficult to believe that any company could undertake a project which would pick up the leeway in Queensland’s seasonal industries.
The journalist then went south to Mackay. I understand that you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, have some knowledge of that city and the surrounding district. He wrote that in that lush part of the Queensland cane belt the sugar crop was bringing in £15,000,000 a year, but more than 1,000 people were out of work. At Ieas 40 mechanical cane harvesters were in operation in the Mackay district. One can therefore understand that very little work is being done by cane cutters and that the employment situation generally throughout Queensland must become worse.
During the Budget debate last year, or at some other time, I advocated the establishment of a joint committee for the purpose of reviewing industry and observing how it is changing almost constantly, throwing out of work people who cannot possibly find jobs in other industries. The committee would have to have its eyes upon the economy and upon political changes. I shall have more to say about that in a minute or two.
From Townsville, the journalist went to Cairns, which has a population of 25,000. He found conditions there as bad as they were elsewhere. Twelve hundred people were on the dole. This is about the number of persons that were on the dole there twenty or 30 years ago, when I was administering the Unemployment Workers Insurance Act and making insurance payments to them. I suppose that many of the same men are involved. The journalist went also to Mareeba, one of the best tobacco-growing areas in the Commonwealth, in relation to both quality and quantity. He referred to the timber industry, which has had such a jolt in its midriff that it will take at least several months to recover.
I wish to refer to unemployment benefit rates for juniors, which are not to be increased under the bill. A person aged between sixteen and eighteen years receives £1 15s. a week and a person aged between eighteen and 21 years receives £2 7s. 6d, a week. These rates have operated for quite a long time. One of the tragedies of our social life to-day is to see young people finishing their scholastic careers and immediately becoming recipients of unemployment benefit. That is one of the problems that we have to overcome. I see it every day of my life, and it breaks me up. The Government does not propose to do anything about this.
I spoke about the establishment of a committee to watch industry and make recommendations to the Government so that concrete action may be taken before unemployment occurs. At present, the Queensland Railways Department is paying off apprentices when they come out of their time, leaving them to go all over Australia to look for a job. We will not stand for this. About 1,000 carriage builders employed by that department have been manufacturing wooden carriages for years. Now the Government is changing over to aluminium or steel carriages, with the result that these men find themselves in a dead-end job. They cannot change over immediately to the manufacture of metal carriages and so they are faced with unemployment unless they take lower grades of work or unless they accept the labouring jobs offered by the department.
In Queensland, age pensioners number 30,578 men and 58,566 women, making a total of 89,144. Invalid pensioners number 7,227 men and 5,857 women, making a total of 13,084. So in the State we have over 102,000 age and invalid pensioners. It is the function of the Government to pro vide for the aged and infirm. In relation to the value of Queensland’s annual production, the amount required to pay pensions to those persons is infinitesimal. In the Commonwealth there are about 651,000 age and invalid pensioners. In comparison with annual income, the amount required to pay their pensions is also infinitesimal.
I support the amendment wholeheartedly. We should withdraw the bill and increase the amounts for the reasons that I have outlined.
– We are debating the Social Services Bill 1962. I know that you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, will not regard it as a reflection on the Chair when I say that the debate has ranged very widely, dealing with all manner of things associated with employment and the fiscal policies bearing upon employment and unemployment. In the circumstances, therefore, and having regard to the fact that to-day the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, I think it would be appropriate to traverse again the main features of the bill.
First, it proposes to give effect to an undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech - I have learned in the debate that this was also in the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) - to reduce from twenty years to ten years the period of residence in Australia necessary to qualify for an age pension. The second main purpose of the bill is to increase the rates of unemployment benefit for adult and married beneficiaries and their dependants. There are some supplementary provisions which relate to the former main provision.
To the motion that the bill be read a second time, the Opposition has moved an amendment to provide that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to include certain additional benefits. I shall advert to that, if not before the suspension, then after it. Despite all that has been said about the provision relating to the age pension, who thought of it first and when it should have been made, it is a provision which should be readily acceptable to all honorable senators and, indeed, to the Australian community generally. In order to qualify for a pension a person will be required to have lived in Australia continuously for not less than ten years. However, if a person has not lived here continuously for ten years but has been a resident for a continuous period of not less than five years, the qualifying period of ten years’ continuous residence otherwise required will be reduced by the time that his total period of residence in Australia exceeds ten years. I am sure that Senator Wright would relish a sentence like that because we know how he likes to attack anything that is not obvious at first glance. For example, a person with nine years’ continuous unbroken residence in Australia will qualify for a pension if his total period of residence in this country amounts to eleven years. At the other end of the scale, a person who has lived here intermittently for fifteen years will qualify for a pension if he has had five years’ continuous residence. I am sure that all of us look upon that as a very reasonable proposition.
The bill also deals with the payment of the unemployment benefit. It provides for an increase in the payment to adults and married minors and their dependants. The rate of unemployment or sickness benefit for an adult or married minor will be increased by 7s. 6d. to £4 2s. 6d. The additional benefit for a dependent spouse or housekeeper will be increased by 7s. 6d. to £3 a week. The additional benefit iri respect of the first child- will be increased by 2s. 6d. to 15s. a week. It is also proposed to pay an additional benefit of 15s. a week for each child of a beneficiary other than the first. : Let us see how this proposal will work in practice. - Take the case of a married man with three children. The benefit payable to him will be increased by £2 7s. 6d. to £9 7s. 6d. a week. The benefit available to the married man with five children will in future be £10 17s. 6d. a week, representing an increase of £3 17s. 6d. a week. Child endowment will continue to be payable. So a man with a wife and three children will receive £10 12s. 6d. a week by way of benefit and endowment, and a married man with five children will receive £13 2s. 6d. a week.
Those are the bare bones of the proposal. I. think it would be fair to say that every honorable senator who has spoken in this debate is prepared to support the proposal in some form or other. But the Opposition has moved an amendment. It asks that the bill be withdrawn and recast to provide for certain increased payments. If the bill is withdrawn the motion for the second reading will be lost, and the. bill as such will disappear.
– If you read the last few words of our amendment you will see that it goes much farther.
– We all know the procedure associated with these amendments. We know that we cannot amend a bill to increase payments provided in the bill. The amendment is nicely drawn so that the bill must be redrafted to-day. Senator Kennelly, who led the debate for the Opposition, is a parliamentarian with wide experience, not only in this great Parliament but also in the Victorian Parliament. He, probably better than anybody else here, would know that bills cannot be redrafted in one day. What is more important, Senator Kennelly knows that any government with a minimum sense of responsibility would not redraft a bill unless it knew what would be the consequences of its action. The Government would have to know the implications involved in accepting Labour’s proposals. If the Government did not take that precaution, and the bill in question were passed, the Treasury advisers would subsequently tell us that the country was not in a financial position to pay for the proposals contained in the legislation.
This must be the silly season, to judge from the speeches that have been made by honorable senators opposite. On the one hand, they support the introduction of this new residential qualification, claiming that it was their suggestion in the first place. On the other hand, they attack the bill and move an amendment seeking that it be withdrawn. There is no consistency in their behaviour. We know that when the amendment is defeated, they will vote for the bill. In all the circumstances, the Government is entitled to claim that this is a good bill. Although honorable senators opposite, for political reasons, have attacked the bill, in their hearts they support it.
The amendment proposed by the Opposition is extraordinary. The subject of unemployment has been dealt with at length in this chamber to-day. The. Opposition has claimed that last June or last March it warned the Government about the dangers of unemployment. The Opposition has claimed that the unemployment benefit should be increased. But in its policy speech at the last elections the Labour Party did not say anything- about increasing the unemployment benefit. I have in my hand a copy of the speech delivered by Mr. Calwell. His photograph appears on the front of the pamphlet, which is entitled, “ A Blueprint for Government “. In his speech Mr. Calwell promised the sun, the moon and” the stars, but he did not say anything about increasing the unemployment benefit. A promise was made to pay some special benefit to persons with ulcers. Many other promises were contained in the policy speech, but there was no reference to an increase of the unemployment benefit. The Government has been attacked iri this Senate over the unemployment situation that exists in- Australia to-day. The Opposition has claimed that it warned us about the position. It claims that we should have done certain things. It now claims that the unemployment benefit is too small, and that this bill should be withdrawn. But as recently as 16th November, 1961, when Mr. Calwell delivered Labour’s policy speech to the people of ‘Australia, no mention was made about increasing the unemployment benefit - an issue which honorable senators now regard as of great magnitude.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
- Mr. President, as’ the proceedings in the Senate are being broadcast to-night, I think I should re-state the main .features of this bill. It has two main provisions. .The first reduces the period of residence in Australia required to qualify for an age pension from twenty years to ten years. The second increases the rate of unemployment benefit for adults and married minors and their dependants. The bill also contains a minor provision which reduces the residential requirement in respect of certain invalid pensions, where the invalidity occurred outside Australia.
The first proposal is in conformity with a- statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech during the recent election campaign. I do not think I need* make further reference to it, bearing in mind Hu. iac is to which I directed attention before the dinner suspension. The second proposal provides that unemployment benefits shall be increased. For an adult or married minor, the rate of unemployment or sickness benefit will be increased by 7s. - 6d. to £4 2s. 6d. a week; the additional benefit for a dependent spouse or unpaid housekeeper will be raised by 7s. 6d.’to £3 a week; and the additional benefit for the first child will be increased by 2s. 6d. to 15s. a week. In addition, an important new principle is introduced. This is the proposal to pay additional benefit, at 15s. a week, for each child of a beneficiary other than the first.
This bill, if passed to-night, will take effect as from to-morrow, 1st March. I direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Opposition has moved an amendment. In view of what I have to say, I think I should read it. It reads -
Leave out all words after “bill”, insert - “be withdrawn and redrafted to include provision for the rate of unemployment and sickness benefit for an adult and for a married minor to be increased to the rate of the age and invalid pension, and that the Government present the redrafted bill to the Seriate this day.”
I say to the Opposition, and particularly to Senator Kennelly who is leading for the Opposition on this bill, that that amendment is. a negation of the bill. Obviously, if the amendment is carried the bill will be lost and, as a consequence; - I say this- deliberately - the benefits will not be able to be paid to-morrow. Members of the Opposition, in their ‘ speeches, by- and large have agreed with : the principles of this bill. I am not quarrelling with that. They have argued on details, but they have agreed with the main principles of the bill. I suggest to them that the amendment, as it is drawn, is an impossibility. According to the Standing Orders it is an impossibility.
– Are you prepared to devise something that will benefit the people?
– I make the point - I do not need any help from Senator Dittmer to do so - that the amendment, as it stands, cannot be put into effect. Therefore, if it were carried, the proposals in the bill would be lost; the bill would be lost and it could not be introduced again.
I remind the Senate that the amendment proposes that the Government should present the redrafted bill to the Senate this day. With great respect, I remind the Senate that this is a money bill and the presentation of a money bill to the Senate requires a message. This amendment entails increased expenditure. Consequently, it is not possible to redraft and re-present this bill to the Senate unless it goes to the House of Representatives first. That House is debating a censure motion. All other business, including questions, has been suspended. ‘Until the censure motion is dealt with and determined, nothing else can be introduced into the House of Representatives. Consequently, if this amendment were carried, the bill would be lost and it would not be possible mechanically, apart from the physical aspect pf redrafting the bill, to re-present a bill of this nature in this place without first having a message and without the bill coming from* the. House of Representatives. - In those circumstances and having regard to the fact that members of the Opposition, in the main, have agreed with the principles of the bill, I suggest that if they are sincere they should forget the nonsense that we have been hearing, withdraw their amendment and pass the bill, and thus enable the benefits to flow to the people who will receive them as from to-morrow, if the bill is passed. It is now five minutes past eight. The idea of withdrawing the bill, redrafting it and re-presenting it when, in ordinary circumstances, the Senate adjourns at 11 o’clock, is absurd. In addition, it is not possible of accomplishment. I invite Senator McKenna, Senator Kennelly and other members of the Opposition to look at the Standing Orders and give an answer if what I have said is nol perfectly true.
Having said that and having invited the Opposition to withdraw its amendment, I want to refer to unemployment. Quite a deal has been said about this matter to-day. I believe that it has all been said with great sincerity. Nobody wants unemployment. Everybody hopes that progressively less and less money will have to be spent on unemployment benefit because of the improvement in economic conditions in Australia. The Government is not unmindful of its responsibility in this matter. In His Excel lency’s Speech reference is made to a series of proposals that the Government is suggesting to . overcome the transitory unemployment that is with us. The measures proposed by the Government are designed to wipe out unemployment quickly. I want to refer to them briefly in what might bc regarded as the conclusion of my contribution to this debate.
The Governor-General, in his Speech, said that the corrective measures that the Government proposed were, first, that the sum of £25,000,000, part of which was a grant, had been made available to the States. Emphasis was given to the fact that the States should put that money to work quickly in types of work with a high labour content and which would make an impact on the unemployment problem. Secondly, ‘ there was to be an increase in the benefit paid to the unfortunate people who are unemployed. Here to-night we are debating that measure. If this bill is passed, it will be effective as from to-morrow morning. There is to be a 5 per cent, rebate of income tax. Quite a deal has been said about that to-day. The plain fact of the - matter is that if an impetus is given to consumer spending we will automatically have a great burst of employment. An economic fact of life is that increased consumer spending is a great help in the relief of unemployment, particularly spending in ‘ the retail, trade which follows through into the manufacturing and other productive industries. Fourthly, there was a special sales tax reduction of 71 per cent, on motor cars. We all know that the motor industry is one of the major industries of Australia. . The contribution that the transport industries make to employment is something which I do not have to. dwell upon, because every honorable senator knows how important it is.
Fifthly, the Government has made special funds available for housing on a short-term basis, so that the building trade, which is in truth the barometer of our prosperity, will be given an impetus in the short run, but it will carry through and enable us to make a tremendous impression on unemployment pockets in the building industry. There is to be an increase in the capital of the Commonwealth Development Bank, and also a special investment allowance for manufacturers. Those are the fiscal plans of this
Government to meet the unemployment situation. I believe that as the debate has flowed to and fro to-day, speakers have tended to overlook the fact that the Government is not sitting down idly on this issue but is taking measures quickly, with the co-operation of the States. I think we are all ready to recognize that.
– What bill are you speaking on?
– I am speaking on the Social Services Bill and I am making a reference to the debate on unemployment which has taken place here to-day. Perhaps you were not present to hear it. Unemployment is a matter associated with the bill.
In conclusion, I return to the point 1 made at the outset of my speech to-night. 1 invite the Opposition, in the interests of the people whom the bill is intended to serve, to withdraw the amendment. 1 say, with some awareness of my responsibility, that it is not possible to give effect to the amendment as it has been presented. Senator Sheehan is attempting to interject; possibly he was not here this afternoon either. The amendment as presented is, as a matter of fact, out of order, in the sense that the withdrawal and redrafting of the bill, is not a practical possibility. A message from the House of Representatives would be necessary before the bill could be presented here again, and it would not be possible for the House of Representatives to send a message to-night, because of the censure motion that is being debated there. Consequently, if the amendment were to be carried, the bill would be defeated. By carrying the amendment, the Opposition would defeat the proposal to give unemployed people this extra money as from to-morrow. If the amendment were carried, the proposal to enable a person to receive a pension after ten years’ residence in Australia, instead of after twenty years’ residence, would be defeated also. Members of the Opposition do not want to do that.
– We do not intend to.
– You will get your chance in a moment. Honorable senators opposite have spoken in support of the principles involved, although they have played around the fringes of the bill in order to attack the Government. However, that is politics. I repeat that if the Opposition’s amendment is carried, it will defeat a purpose which honorable senators, in their hearts, are prepared to accept, and for which this Government should get full credit.
– I listened with great interest to Senator Anderson, because he makes an extraordinarily useful contribution to the debate on many occasions. I think the gist of his speech was in his last sentence, when he said that Opposition members, in their hearts, supported the principles of this bill. We do support them sincerely. It is a pity - nay, it is a tragedy - that we were not listened to six months ago when we sought to bring in similar and better benefits. If the members of the Labour Party can be attacked for anything, it is because they listen to their hearts, as it were. They do not make a cold-blooded, intellectual approach to human problems. We say that the people who need help are entitled to it. I commend Senator Anderson for saying what he did. However, there are some things for which I would like to take him to task before I proceed to congratulate some other people.
He said that if we carried on with our amendment and it were accepted, we would delay the passage of the bill and would deny to unemployed persons the benefits it proposes. As Senator Kennelly pointed out to me - which, incidentally, I knew - retrospectivity is not unusual in bills, particularly when they confer bene. fits. Retrospectivity in legislation seems to be a governmental practice, whether in the State or the Federal sphere. During the time since 10th December, 1949, if big people are involved the Federal Government has not hesitated to give retrospective effect to legislation. If Government supporters were as interested as they say they are in the rights of the unemployed whom they are seeking to benefit by this bill, they would be prepared to sit all night to pass the redrafted legislation.
– Then you would say we were exhausting you.
– This is a new Parliament and this is only the second week of the sittings. This is my first speech in the new Parliament, so will you give me a fair go. Senator Henty? You know I am not provocative. I have never challenged you and I have never interrupted you. so why not give me a go on this occasion?
On the occasion of the first sittings ot the new Parliament, I express my appreciation, Mr. President, of your courtesy, tolerance and efficiency. In passing, may I express my sympathy to the Chairman of Committees on his illness? The honor- - able senator who is appointed Chairman of Committees after 1st July will not find the job as easy as it has been in the past. The Government will have to depend upon the support of a Democratic Labour Party senator and an independent senator from Tasmania. I hope that the new Chairman of Committees will exhibit the same decency, tolerance, courtesy and efficiency as the present holder of the office. I wilt express my appreciation of the new chairman, if he deserves it, in the process of time.
Let us get down to the facts of this bill. What has happened? I think that the Minister for Social Services in another place - if I use the wrong term, please correct me - is the greatest humbug who ever came out of Scotland, or, for that matter, out of Ireland, England, Germany or anywhere else. Since the election we have had a government which is. chastened, but is not repentant. It is humiliated, but not humbled. Now it is trying to do something that I think is totally divorced from political responsibility. Honorable senators on the opposite side have always said that they eschew chasing votes, but on this occasion they are chasing votes. They will do anything, responsible or irresponsible, to get votes. They will pick the time when they can go to the electors again, and will try to create an atmosphere favorable to them. Every one knows that. You have only to ask any of the newspaper correspondents. The ding dynasty - ding means something of no worth or value - is seeking an opportunity to. go to the people to convert a narrow margin of superiority . in numbers to a substantial margin, but the people .of Australia, to put it crudely and colloquially, have had this Government.
We are debating the Social Services Bill. Not one thing has been said during the debate in this chamber or during the debate in the other place that was not put forward by Labour. Reference was made in the other place to a four-pronged attack by the Government. A four-pronged attack on whom? On the electors, or on the people entitled to benefits? The question is: Are these people entitled to these benefits., or are they not? Take the case of migrants or new Australians. The Government is now prepared to reduce the period of residence necessary to qualify for a pension from twenty years to ten years. When Senator Cooke moved an amendment to that effect as recently as 24th August, 1 96 1, what did the Leader of the Government in the Senate have to say? He did not even deign to answer. With coldblooded superiority and arrogance, because of the Government’s majority, he said, “ It is a matter of policy; I will not answer”. Fancy the Government’s arrogancebecause of a 32 majority. He said, “ It. is a matter of policy and I will not answer “. What is the Government doing now? lt is committing a cold-blooded, political theft. Despite the irresponsibility with which the Government acted towards these people previously, it now contends that a ten-year residential qualification period is right. It has gone even further. Though the Labour Party, did not go into details with its plan and suggested only that the residence qualification for age and invalid pensions should be reduced from twenty years to ten years, the Government now proposes a complicated formula under which a person can receive the pension if he has had as little as five years’ continuous residence and has spent’ another fifteen years travelling. The reduction of the residence qualification was not the only point that the Government stole.
Honorable senators should not lose sight of the fact that many things have been left out of this bill. The people and the newspapers are waiting to see what happens subsequently. When the Budget is presented in August the Government will increase child endowment; it will increase pensions. . And if the atmosphere is right the old man will go to the country hoping for the best, but he will get the worst. The term “four-pronged attack” has been used. Why use the word “ attack “, when the people deserve something on humanitarian grounds, having served the nation? That, might have been all right, 20, 30 or 40 years ago, but ever since 1946, immigrants have been coming to this country from overseas. We do not recognize their right to social services if they visit overseas again other than if they go to the United Kingdom or Canada. However, considering the countries from which they originally came, is it not right to say that they have served this nation and added to its material welfare and therefore are entitled to consideration by the Government? There is no suggestion of that . attitude in this bill.
The Government now proposes to help the unemployed, and it has introduced a new principle in respect of unemployment benefits. It will” pay an -allowance for all children of unemployed people. I have, heard Government members say that the Labour Party did not suggest in its policy speech that it would- provide for the unemployed; but it was announced as long ago as August last, following a meeting of the federal executive and representatives of the Parliamentary Labour Party, that the material lot of the unemployed should be improved. What does the Government do? It throws out a- pittance. It forgets the major issues involved; it forgets the necessity to increase child endowment; it forgets the dependent wife of age pensioners; and it forgets funeral benefits. It merely gives a few shillings to the unemployed. In effect, the Government has said, “ We must do something. We cannot increase all these social service benefits now. If we do we will have nothing left when the election comes along, when the atmosphere is right and the environment suits us.” So it trims its sails to the prevailing political breeze. How characteristic that attitude is of the selfishness of this Liberal-Country Party Government. I think, frankly, that if the Country Party had not had an influence on the Liberal members of the. Government none pf these liberalizing conditions would have emanated from the treasury bench.
The Government has said, in effect’ “Let Us give them something now and keep something in reserve for later, because we will have to face the people again “. Despite the result of the last election the members of Cabinet have not been humbled.
They do not recognize the voice of the people. This is tragic not only for the Government from the point of view of its political preservation, but also for -the people of Australia. The Government is merely distributing a few million pounds. As you come from Queensland, Mr. Acting Deputy President, you know the extraordinary election results there were not unexpected by the general run of Queenslanders, having regard to the callous disregard of the rights not only of Queensland but indeed of all north Australia which is crying out for development and settlement. Over the years the Government has accepted no responsibility in this field, but now it says, “ Let us spend a few million pounds there.” It allots £10,000,000 as a grant and £3,750,000 as a loan for Queensland and lets the west and the south fight over the remainder, including another £15,000,000 of loan money. It has no recognition of the basic rights . of local authorities, which you understand so well, Mr. Acting Deputy President.
It is easy to see how the Government’s mind is working. It is meeting the present difficulties with temporary measures. That is not the solution. It contends that the Labour Party did not suggest anything for the unemployed in its policy speech. h0w7 ever, we suggested something really worthwhile - jobs for the people at wages commensurate with their ability. We did not propose to put them on a parsimonious allowance such as the Government now proposes. The Labour Party is wedded to full employment. The unemployment benefit proposed by the Government represents little more than the rent paid by a working man for a house for his family. Let me cite a concrete example of the mean approach of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to the amelioration of the means test which, incidentally, the social services committee of the Australian Labour Party ‘had strongly advocated. As I have said previously in the Senate, all that we got out of him was a rap on the knuckles for not writing to him. Originally he said that he did not know how much the benefits that we suggested would cost the Government, but within a few months he introduced a scheme almost identical to the one that we postulated to
Mr. Goode, the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. The Government is not repentant.
– What have we to be repentant about?
– The fact that the Government received 360,000 fewer votes than Labour at the recent election.
– That is nothing.
– You do not worry about representing the minority of the people, do you? You would be happy so long as your party controlled the treasury bench of Australia. And this is a democracy. I heard an honorable senator yesterday refer to another senator as a fascist.
– He withdrew the remark. I made him withdraw it.
– I am not pointing to you. We say there are virtues in this measure. We are not prepared to oppose it- substantially. We are not prepared to delay its passage, but we do say that it does not indicate that the Government is repentant. The Government has had its chastisement, but all that it is doing now is to assess cold-bloodedly the electoral response of the people, and to gauge if it can the way in which they will cast their votes.
– It is the same as a technical knockout. We are still on our feet.
– You will not bc after 1st July, because you will have to go cap in hand to the two independents then.
– No. We will still have 30 members in the Senate.
– You will have 29.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - -Order! I ask the honorable senator to keep to the bill.
– And I ask the interrupters not to divert me.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT.-
Order! I ask the honorable senator to keep to the bill, and I ask other honorable senators to keep order. The state of the Senate on 1st July next has nothing to do with the bill.
– Why did they interrupt me?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT.-
– Thank you, Sir, They need it, because they are so rude. Let us have a look at child endowment, the funeral benefit, maternity allowances and, in fact, all the benefits that come within the scope of the Social Services Act. The Government did nothing about most of those benefits. It is keeping them in cold storage in case it needs to call on them. I say that it will need much more than that.
Does the Senate know the story of child endowment? The supporters of the Government claim that they were the originators ot child endowment.
– So we were.
– No, you were not. To start with, you were not even here.
– Of course I was here.
– The Acting Deputy President has told you to keep out of this and* to let me develop my story in my own way. Child endowment originated in 1941, when Mr. Harold Holt was Minister for Labour and National Service, when Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister and when Mr. Fadden, as he then was, was Treasurer. I shall tell you how it came about, if I may enlighten your ignorance. It was introduced because the Arbitration Court said, “ If you do not develop a system of child endowment you will have to face up to a rise in the basic wage “. Child endowment was first paid by a Labour government in New South Wales, after a royal commission had been held in the 1920’s, with nine people on it, including John Curtin, who presented a minority report supporting the payment of child endowment. That was none other than John Curtin, the great war-time leader and Labour Prime Minister.
That is how child endowment came into being in 1941. At first, the amount was 5s. a week. In 1945, it was increased to 7s. 6d. for the second child and subsequent children, and in 1948 it was increased again to 10s. What did you do, as a government, after you were elected in 1949? In 1950, you introduced child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child, because you hoped to control the treasury bench by any subterfuge, however irresponsible. It should not be thought that 1 am denying the justification of endowment for the first child. The Government has not altered the rate of child endowment since 1948. Had it done so, and had it accepted responsibility in regard to payments for children, the 5s. would now be lis. 6d. and the 10s. would be nearly 22s. But the Government has not done a thing about that.
The funeral benefit of £10, which was introduced in 1943, has not been changed. There would not be much money involved. Surely you have compassion for the dead. I realize that you are seeking to preserve your political hides. You were lucky on 9th December, 1961. The dead cannot present their case, but surely you, as a government, can represent the dead. However, you are not interested.
That is the whole story, Mr. Acting Deputy President, of this Social Services Bill. It has been introduced in accordance with Labour policy. It has followed a time sequence, starting with loss of electoral confidence. In the House of Representatives, on 24th August last, I understand that the Minister in charge of the Social Services Bill, which was then before the chamber, said that he could not accept any amendments. The Chairman ruled that to do so would be against the Standing Orders. Whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) was ignorant of the Standing Orders, whether he did not know that an amendment might involve an increase of expenditure; or whether, as I accept, he is more tolerant than his Cabinet colleagues in the other place, he allowed an amendment to be moved to the effect that the residence qualification period governing the eligibility of migrants for the age and invalid pensions should be reduced from twenty years to ten years.
Such an amendment was moved in this chamber and was defeated. The Leader of the Government in the Senate would not accept it because it was not in accordance with policy. He did not even deign to answer Senator Cooke, though Senator Cooke had gone to a lot of trouble to ascertain the number of migrants who had come out here and the extent of the financial, social and other contributions that they had made to the welfare of Australia. The Government rejected the amendment, in its intolerance and because of the political arrogance that has been so characteristic of it in recent years. It had the support of splinter parties and it indulged in misrepresentation. It had the power of the tory press behind it. The Government knew that we had our problems, but it was careful to keep its problems inside four walls. The press was so tolerant of the Government and its supercilious approach to the rights of the ordinary people that it would not publish the Menzies-Fadden brawls. If it had been Kennelly and Dittmer, the matter would have been headlined.
The Government, has been neglectful of the rights of the people. It has been entirely callous in its disregard of the north of Australia generally, and of Queensland particularly. But when it saw the writing on the wall - “The Menzies Government must go”, what did the Government do? Its supporters said: “ Let’s put our heads together and give the poor unfortunates something. See if we can kid them again, if we can delude them, if we can spar for time. Anything will do.” The Government has no permanent solution of the problems that face us. The proposed increase of the unemployment benefit is only a temporary solution, even if the people do receive more money, whether it be £4 2s. 6d. a week, £7 7s. 6d. or £10 7s. 6d. They will face relative starvation if they have to live on those amounts.
I say that the Government is deserving of censure because it has no political responsibility. It is wedded to political power. It will not do that which is right. Fancy a government in control of the treasury bench of this Parliament, when the national wealth has grown from £1,900,000,000 to £7,000,000,000, not accepting real responsibility for every section of the community. The Government claims that it has extended pharmaceutical benefits, and that it introduced medical and hospital benefits. The real beneficiaries .of those things are not necessarily the people who recover from ill health or from accidental injury, but the industries of the nation. 1 have challenged you people before on this matter, including you, Senator- Henty, when you represented the Minister for Health.
I hope the new Minister for Health (Senator Wade) will realize that expenditure on the anti-tuberculosis campaign, pharmaceutical benefits and medical and hospital benefits is not necessarily money spent on social services but is a contribution to industry, productivity, the people and the nation. Irrespective of the number of times I have asked it to do so, the Government has never investigated the true value of this contribution to the nation. ‘ I have heard the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) say that expenditure on social services is now £365,000,000 a year, and I have heard Mr. Allan Fraser say it is £240,000,000. There can be confusion about such matters. In my humility, if I can make a contribution to what I hope will be efficient control of the Department of Health by the present Minister for Health, let the honorable senator not hesitate to come and see me.
The legislation now before us is merely an election dodge. The proposals contained in it were put forward months ago. The approach of the Government in general has been arrogant. The Leader of the Government in this place was quite callous in his attitude when I said he was not prepared to reply to Senator Cooke when asked a question about these matters. He thrust Senator Cooke off and said, “This is a matter of policy. We are not prepared to make a statement on it.” The Minister did not even seek to justify the Government’s policy. How can we expect political responsibility when that attitude is adopted? -
I should say that there is no modern nation which has not progressed over the last twelve years. As I said earlier, Australia’s national income has risen from £1,900,000,000 to seven billion pounds; but the Government has had the colossal impudence and the political hide to claim that it has been responsible for that progress.
Despite the inefficiency of this Government, it was just impossible to retard the progress of the nation^ The Government has displayed a callous disregard of the rights of the people, particularly those involved in the amendment that has been moved. The Government has come forward now and has only half done the job it should do. Seeing it proposes to amend the social services legislation, why does it not do so in toto? After rejecting the proposal in the Parliament, the Prime Minister announced in his policy speech that migrants would be catered for in legislation that the Government proposed to introduce. Why did he do that? He did it because he thought he would get the votes of new Australians who had been naturalized. It was a political dodge. As I said, he did it to try to get the votes that he needed. Apparently he was able to attract sufficient Communist votes and Queensland Labour Party votes to ensure the re-election not only of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) but also of his own Government. If time permits me to do so on another occasion, I shall explain to honorable senators opposite that it was not the donkey vote which was responsible for returning the Government to office. The Communist Party voted for the Liberal Party and Australian Country Party candidates and it asked its camp followers, to vote for Labour. Honorable senators opposite should never take me on in regard to that matter.
– Do not be plain silly.
– Don’t you . be stupid, to start with. Don’t describe me as being silly.
– That was a silly remark to make.
Senator DITTMER__ It was not silly.
– It is nonsense.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin). - Order!
– We heard what one honorable senator opposite said last night. I was charitable enough not to certify him. Just remember that. Consider your verdict on that matter. What has really happened is that the Government has come part of the way along the road. If it wants to buy more votes, when preparing the Budget in August it wilt raise the age pension and child endowment. It will do that in an effort to delude the people and to deprive Australia of something that is needed - the development of the north.
– I support the bill, but oppose the amendment. Even if this Government had been prepared to accept the amendment or to include in the bill the provisions that the Opposition is now suggesting, it is quite obvious that the Opposition would have wanted still more. That is as plain as are the noses on our faces. It is quite obvious to any one who cares to look at this matter without passion and bias that the benefits proposed in the bill are consistent with the Government’s policy ever since it assumed office. It has been the policy of the Government to liberalize social services as much as possible without detriment to the rest of the community. As proof of that statement, I remind our Opposition friends that we eased the means test when the Budget was brought down a few months ago.
– You stole it from us, incidentally; it was a breach of confidence.
– I thought you had finished your speech. As I indicated a moment ago, this Government has, consistent with the welfare of the majority of the people, steadfastly sought to increase the benefits that were provided for people in need of them, particularly those who were unemployed. Under this . legislation, a man who has a wife and five children will qualify for benefits amounting to more than £15 a week. If those benefits had totalled £17, our friends opposite would have said that the amount should have been £19. Let us bc frank, of course, and admit that if we were in opposition we might be saying much the same. It is quite easy when in opposition to say that this or that should be done, but when we occupy the treasury bench we must live within our means. Of course, that is something the present Opposition would not be able to do if it were in office.
If we were to capitalize the sum of £15 a week on the basis of a return of 5 per “cent., a person would need to invest a sum of £15,700,- or a little more, to obtain a weekly return of that amount. To acquire £15,700 would mean a good deal of saving in the case of most individuals. When they look at the Government’s proposals in that light, I think most people will probably have a different opinion of them. It is all very well to say that we should do this and that, but there is a limit to what can be done in providing social services. When we recall that earlier in this debate it was stated that the total cost of social services in Australia is now approximately £1,000,000 a day, any one who has concern for the future welfare of this country must wonder where it will all end. I am not suggesting that we should cut down on our social services and deny to those people who are in need of benefits the amounts they are now. getting. But it is a matter which must be viewed very seriously indeed by those who are responsible for the government of this country. There is a limit to the amount of money that any government can provide for social service benefits. I understand that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has stated that about 4,500,000 people are now concerned with social service benefits. That is a tremendous number of persons to be relying on social service benefits or, if not actually relying on them, to be enjoying benefits provided by the taxpayers of this country.
We have seen how schemes have grown overseas, particularly in Great Britain. Many of us have looked with longing eyes at some kind of contributory scheme to enable the payment of benefits to continue, or even to enable the benefits to be increased, without adding to the burden on the taxpayer. We are told that these schemes have been looked at and that up to date all have proved unsatisfactory. I draw comfort from the fact that the National Health Scheme that was introduced to this country by that great Australian who is now no longer with us, Sir Earle Page, has been successful. Another scheme had been a flop under previous administrations, but under his capable guidance the present scheme turned out to be one of the best instituted in any part of the world. If we liked to devote our energies to some similar contributory scheme for social service benefits, we might get somewhere. I know that the problem is not easy.
It is alleged by our friends on the Opposition benches that this bill has been brought down in the hope that we shall get some support and indeed, win some votes. That is not quite correct. It could possibly have been said with more justification had these measures been introduced just prior to the election in December, but they were not brought down at that stage. We shall not have an election for another three years. If winning votes were the Government’s purpose, why would the measures be brought down at this stage? The Opposition is just indulging in a little wishful thinking in saying that the measures are a bribe to the electors. I have shown that that argument does not hold water.
We have been asked why the Government did not introduce these measures when the Budget was presented last year. Budget estimates are considered on the figures available in May, lune or July of each year. We are all aware that the conditions facing us this month are very different from those that faced us in those months last year. As conditions change, the Government adopts new policies to suit those conditions. That is why the Government has been labelled as “ stop and go”. I have said before that as a country dependent mainly on primary products for exports, we are wedded to a policy of stop and go. A few years ago we had a return of about £1,300,000,000 from exports of primary products. Last year the return was down to about £900,000,000. That was a reduction of nearly 50 per cent. How on earth can a stable policy be maintained under those conditions? To suggest that it can is just too silly for words. The wonder is that responsible people who ought to know cannot see this plain fact.
As I have said, conditions have altered. We have, unfortunately, a far greater number of unemployed. It has been the wish of this Government to provide the best possible conditions for those unfortunate people. That is one of the reasons for the proposed increase in benefits, which will become payable tomorrow, provided the bill goes through. I have mentioned before in this chamber that one danger in our social service benefits as we know them to-day is that they may have a tendency to build up a thriftless race. I do not want any one to point the finger at me, saying that I am opposed to helping people who need help. I am not opposed to that policy at all, but I am concerned about the policy of helping those who will not help themselves. Unfortunately, among the people who are unemployed to-day, there are some - I am not saying a great number - who will not help themselves, lt is up to us who are given the task of governing this country to ensure that we do not encourage the thriftless people to whom I refer.
When we look at our great retail stores to-day, what do we find? The emphasis is on attractions for teenagers and other young people who have no sense of responsibility. That is quite plain to anybody who has considered the matter. Before what has come to be known as the credit squeeze, we saw hundreds of young people, with only a few pounds in their pockets, paying deposits on motor cars obtained on hire purchase. There was no encouragement of thrift. The older persons in this chamber know very well where we would have been had we adopted similar procedures when we were of that age. The times that we are going through now may prove beneficial in teaching a lesson to our young people and inculcating in them an appreciation of the value of money. I am not suggesting that they should deny themselves every comfort, but they should look to the future and not spend every shilling they earn with the result that when they are out of work for a week they become destitute and blame everybody but themselves.
There has been much discussion of the size of the average family in Australia. My inquiries show that the average family receiving social service benefits consists of a man, wife, and slightly more than two children. We have heard the criticism that the Commonwealth Government is not giving the States enough money to help reduce unemployment. That is one of the dangers inherent in our uniform taxing system. The States always have a whip with which to flog the Commonwealth Government. I want to talk about the Government of my own State, New South Wales. For years its catch-cry has been, “We would like to do this for you, but the Commonwealth Government will not give us enough money “. 1 repeat the statement I made a few nights ago, that the New
South Wales Government had a golden opportunity of providing quite a considerable amount of work for unemployed persons in that State by. beginning the construction of the Blowering Dam as part of the Snowy Mountains scheme. What did it do? When the whole scheme was agreed upon, the New South Wales Government undertook to construct this dam, but it has simply done nothing’ about it. Now, faced with an election on Saturday next, it says, *’ We shall start this work “. It seems to have learned its lesson. Instead of saying, as it has said in half a dozen other instances, that it will complete this and that job, it now says, “ We shall . begin work on them”. A classic instance of its policies was seen a few years, ago, again just prior to an election, when members of that government went around turning sods and laying foundation stones. In one case the sod was turned in the wrong paddock and construction work was not begun there at all. That is typical. -
Great though the extent of unemployment is, not all of it is genuine. A few days ago I was given a lift into the city by a chap I know. During the course of our drive, he mentioned that -his firm had been trying without success to get certain employees and that another firm in the vicinity had, upon applying for labour, received as employees people who were most unsatisfactory. We must recognize that these things do occur. I grant that most of those people who are unemployed to-day are definitely desirous of obtaining work, and I am very sorry to see them in their present position. Of course, some people are unemployable. Others do not want work unless it is available close to their homes. Something like 1,000,000 married women are in employment. I do not suggest that a married woman should not work while her husband is in employment, but the unemployment situation would be greatly eased if married women gave up their jobs for the time being. Even then, a fair wage would still be coming into their homes each week.
I have a great regard for the Australian workman. However, he must be properly handled. Unfortunately, in many instances, he is too easily led by rag-tag and bob-tail agitators who are endeavouring to dislocate industry. Time and again we have seen examples of that. A classic example of a good worker may be found on the Snowy Mountains scheme where our Australian” workmen have established- records better, than those established overseas.
In spite of the unemployment. situation’ and the housing problem that exist in New. South Wales, we still enjoy a high standard of living in the State. Even honorable senators opposite will agree with that statement. Let us see how the people of this country fare for food. I propose to give to the Senate figures showing the average number of calories available daily per head of population in various countries during 1959-60. The figures are -
Australia is in a very favorable position’ compared to the countries that I have men:tioned Despite all our troubles we have much for which to be thankful. What is . the position in other countries? Unfortunately some countries to-day regard 8 per cent, of unemployment as the norm. Nevertheless, they are prosperous countries. I hope that we never have 8 per cent, of ‘ unemployment in Australia.
Senator Dittmer criticized the Government for introducing the legislation that we . are- now debating. Not long ago, my friends opposite were . telling us that the Government was giving effect to Labour’s “, suggestion. If it was correct for Labour to suggest these proposals, why is it not correct for the Government to give effect to them? It has been claimed by honorable senators . opposite that the Government will not face - up to responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have said on a previous occasion that the Government had no doubt that the measures it introduced more than twelve months ago would be unpopular. Nevertheless, the Government had the courage to go ahead and introduce those measures, realizing that their introduction could lead to the Government’s defeat. Because it had the courage to go ahead, it went within an ace of being turned out of office. But even if it had been turned out of office, the measures that it introduced were in the best interests of Australia, and should have been introduced by any government worthy of governing.
The proposals contained in this bill are in accordance with the Government’s policy of liberalizing as far as possible, and without detriment to the rest of the community, the benefits to be given to people in unfortunate circumstances. No matter how large social service benefits may be, some sections of the community will’ always claim that they are insufficient. That is inevitable. Naturally, the people who are fighting the battles for these unfortunates are out to see that they get the best deal possible for them. We want to do as much as possible to help people who are unemployed. At the same time, we have a responsibility to govern this country and to see that the rest of the community is not penalized unduly because of the benefits paid to some people. The Government is doing a good job, and while it continues to do a good job it deserves the support of the Australian people. That is why I support the bill and reject the amendment.
.- The Australian Democratic Labour Party supports the bill, but not because it thinks that it goes nearly far enough. My leader and I think that the bill could have gone a lot further. The Government in the Senate has a 32 to 28 majority. It is in a position to enforce its will. Our attitude, therefore, is that we must be thankful for small mercies extended to people in receipt of social service benefits. Obviously, with the numbers as they are, the amendment moved by the Opposition is a forlorn hope. However, Senator Cole and I intend to support it as an expression of our agreement with the Opposition that the improvements in social service benefits suggested by the amendment should be carried into effect.
The bill contains some important features. First, it reduces the general residential qualification for age pensions from twenty years to ten years continuous residence. Secondly, it improves the position regarding residential qualifications of persons who become permanently incapacitated or blind while outside Australia. Thirdly, it increases unemployment and sickness benefits. I am particularly pleased about the latter provision in view of what will happen to me after 30th June next.
J express the view of my party when I say that I am entirely opposed to the pro vision requiring even ten years residence before a person becomes eligible for an age pension. My party believes that once a person becomes an Australian citizen he should not be the victim of discrimination. We cannot have first-class citizens and second-class citizens in this country. At naturalization ceremonies we admit to citizenship people who have spent five years in this country. My party believes that once a person becomes an Australian citizen he should be eligible for social service benefits in exactly the same way as are other citizens. The existing practice, which the Government at last is doing something to remedy, has been a very sore point for a number of years with some of our best immigrants.
Let me give an example. Take the case of Dutch migrants. They come to Australia from a country that has a very fine system of social security. They are amazed to find that in Australia, which claims to be socially progressive, no national security plan exists. They are deeply hurt to discover that on becoming Australian citizens they are not eligible to receive social service benefits in exactly the same way as any other good citizen of this country. In the last election campaign the Democratic Labour Party was the only party to advocate equal treatment for all Australian citizens in this respect.
It has been suggested from one notable source that the result of the election shows that the Democratic Labour Party is withering on the vine. I merely point to the election results which, in my view, indicate that many new Australians who have now become Australian citizens must have appreciated our stand on social services and helped to swell our votes. As an instance of that, I give the fact that in the Senate election in 1958 the Democratic Labour Party obtained 387,000 votes all over Australia and in the election last year our party increased its vote to 472,000, which represents an increase of 85,000 votes all over Australia. They take some getting when you have not the money, the press or the organization of the big parties.
In a discussion of a social service measure such as this, we always see a good deal of what might be termed “ political gamesmanship “. I do not suggest for one moment that all honorable senators have not very humane feelings towards people who are in receipt of social services or likely to be in receipt of them; but I suppose there are very few, if any,’ who could not be accused of seizing every opportunity to get whatever political advantage they can out of the social services situation. From one side, for example, we hear a contention made with some heat that its social services policy is being stolen from it. I am never too sure that it is good for the Opposition to say that the Government is carrying out its policy. That might be a powerful inducement for some voters to say, “ If the Government is going to carry out Labour policy, we will leave- it in office “. I believe that in the last election campaign all parties that were opposed to the Government put forward propositions on social services in line with those contained in this bill and going much further. I have not much doubt that if the positions had been reversed - that is, if the present Opposition had been the Government and the present Government the Opposition - the present Government would have been willing to go much further than it has gone in this bill.
I regret that social services is made a political football so often. Within a couple of months we wilt see the regular invasion of King!s Hall by age pensioners from all over Australia. They will come here during the Budget session to plead with the Government to give them certain additional benefits when everybody knows that the Budget has been determined months before and nothing will .be done for them. But still these people come here and buttonhole members of the Parliament. They go through the same process year after year. It is undignified and wrong to put them in that position. I reiterate, without going into the matter fully, that I believe, as I always have believed, that the proper way to deal with social services is to appoint a committee of social experts to determine just rates, and in that way take social services out of politics. I regret that both the Government and the Opposition have declined to take social services out of politics. On the occasions when members of. the Democratic Labour Party have moved that that be done, we have seen members of both the major parties uniting and crowding the benches to defeat the motion.
The introduction of measures such as this, in which a few palliatives are put forward, is not what really needs to be done to remedy the situation. What is needed, and has been needed in Australia for years, is a proper system of national insurance and social security such as other socially progressive countries throughout the world have been able to put into effect and which we could put into effect if we had the will and the determination. For the life of me, I cannot see why we could not have a contributory system of social security under which people would have a few shillings taken from their pay packets each week., to which . would be added a governmental contribution. When those people were no longer able to work, instead of seeking a. pension and having their financial circumstances inquired into, they would be able to” obtain a pension to keep them in their old age as of right and without the application of any means test.
There was a time when the Australian Labour Party opposed such a scheme unless it was non-contributory; but I believe that’ most members of that party - I cannot speak for them; I can only say what I have heard in conversations, with some of its members - now realize that we could not have a non-contributory scheme because we could not finance it. I believe that if a proper scheme were brought forward all parties would support it. Then we would see the elimination of the means test and prying into the financial circumstances of aged people to see whether they should receive a pension or whether they are receiving too large a pension. All of that would be eliminated and the ordinary citizen would be able to receive his retiring allowance or pension as of right. That would also do away with all the political juggling that goes on.
Do not let us be too hard on the suggestion of the Government that this is not a vote-catching measure, but let us be honest. Does any one suggest that this measure, has not been introduced because of what happened on 9th December? Of course it has been .introduced for that reason. If
I were a member of the Government, I would say to the people when I met them in the streets, “We did this because you gave us a hiding and you showed us that we had to do it “. I believe that the average man in the street would accept that and say, “ Well, you are honest and straight about it”. What will happen in six months’ time when the Budget is brought down? Will the Budget be determined in accordance with what is best for this country or according to the electoral possibilities? I would like to think that it will be determined according to what is best for the country, but I have a strange feeling that electoral possibilities will play a major part on this occasion.
In my views on establishing either a system under which experts decide the social service benefits or a contributory national scheme, I am strengthened by my belief that the economic measures taken by the Government during the last couple of years have been influenced too heavily by Treasury officialdom. I do not want to criticize overmuch the advisers of the Government. I believe that the Government always has to accept responsibility for its own actions; but I have a feeling that the Government’s advisers have had a little too much influence and too much strength. I merely sound this warning: No doubt it becomes easy for some people to make decisions according to figures , in books of account; but when one makes a decision it is much more vital and necessary to realize that those figures can affect the lives of human beings. A good government weighs the balance and, if necessary, gives more weight to human values than to the figures in the books.
I wish to refer to another matter which may be canvassed very widely within the next few months. In the press I read a statement by the Leader of the Opposition in another place ‘(Mr. Calwell) in which he challenged the right of the Government to hold office. That challenge is now being decided. I read in the press that he had enumerated fifteen points of disagreement with the Government. I thought that was rather too many.
– President Wilson had only fourteen points.
– As the Leader of the Opposition made his speech, I could not help thinking, as the numbers were mounting inexorably to fifteen, of the occasion at the Versailles peace conference when President Wilson presented his fourteen points. The then Premier of France, M. Clemenceau, was asked what he thought about them and he replied, “ The good God was satisfied with ten”.
One of the Opposition’s strongest points of disagreement with the Government, and one of its strongest reasons for challenging the Government’s right to rule, is related to social services. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government had let the people down on social services, and, as social services were so vital, the Government was not entitled to rule. Then I read in his speech these words -
The Democratic Labour Party supported the Labour Party’s economic and social betterment policies and not those of the Government.
At the last election, the Government obtained 2,217,000 votes and the Australian Labour Party 2,534,000. The issue was decided by the mere 500,000 votes polled by the Democratic Labour Party. The suggestion was that the Government must really have been beaten, and that the Democratic Labour Party, if anything, was over on the Australian Labour Party’s side.
– Where was that said?
– That appeared in the report I read in the press this morning of the speech that was delivered in another place. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the votes of the Democratic Labour Party ought to be counted with the votes of the Australian Labour Party, because he said, the Democratic Labour Party supported the Australian Labour Party’s economic and social betterment policies, not those of the Government.
Now let me deal with the situation in this House. If the Democratic Labour Party was on the side of the Australian Labour Party, why did the preference votes of the Australian Labour Party go to the Government parties? If the Australian Labour Party says that the Government should not be in power because it will not implement good social policies, and if it says also that the Democratic Labour Party would have supported those policies, why did the Australian Labour Party put into power in the Senate, as nearly as it could, the parties which it says are so flint-hearted on social services that it is impossible to get anything out of them at all? I suppose this is only a minor point, but it is a point.
I have sat here and listened to a lot of talk about splinter parties. A splinter composed of 472,000 people is a pretty fair sort of a splinter. When 1 listen to talk about splinter parties and about preference votes that put the Government into power, my withers are unwrung in this House. Let us face the truth. The Democratic Labour Party saved the Government in the House of Representatives, and the Australian Labour Party saved the Government in the Senate. If the Government parties had not obtained the preferences of the Australian Labour Party, after 30th June next the Government would have had 28 seats to 32. You can imagine how the Government could have been forced to do the right thing on social services if there were 32 Opposition senators and only 28 Government senators. But the Government has been saved from being forced to do the right thing on social services by the votes of the Australian Labour Party. Even if Mr. Calwell were to win an election in the next few months, the Australian Labour Party, by placing 30 senators on the Government benches, has ensured that not one item of the Australian Labour Party’s policy could be passed unless the Liberals accepted it.
I do not mind, and I have never minded, the way preference votes are cast. A party can only advise its supporters how to cast their preference votes. A party has every right to place its preferences where it wishes.
– Arc you talking about us now?
– I am talking about any party. In South Australia, in two seats, the Australian Labour Party is giving its preferences to the Communist Party in the State election and is putting the Democratic Labour Party third. I do not mind that; that is its prerogative. However, I hope that now that the Australian Labour Party has saved the Government in the Senate by its preference votes, it will stop rebuking the Democratic Labour Party for saving the Government in the
House of Representatives. If we are guilty, you are equally guilty. That is the situation.
If the Australian Labour Party forces an election, it will be in this unhappy position: The Government parties will tell the people that if they elect the Australian Labour Party the only prospect for the future will be a double dissolution - another couple of elections. They can offer the people stability. They can say, “ If we were elected, at least we would have the numbers to carry on in the Upper House .” I concede that the Australian Labour Party had every right to help the Liberal Party. It had every right to give its preferences to the Liberals, if it wanted to do so. I am merely questioning the tactics of the Australian Labour Party. I think it has defeated itself and has shown the futility of its claim that it can do something for the people in the social service field in the future.
– I am sure we all listened to Senator McManus with a great deal of interest, particularly to the remarks that he made in the latter part of his speech. I am gratified that, apparently, we were able to secure the support of the Australian Labour Party at the last election, and that that has given us a reasonable chance of implementing our policy in the period from 30th June onwards.
I want to say a few words about the important measures that we are debating to-night. I think we all realize that social services are of vital interest to us all. In the Australian electorate as a whole, the subject of social services is probably the most talked about of all the subjects that are dealt with in the Federal Parliament. It can be regarded more or less as a bread and butter item - as one of those things that affect, in one way or another, every man, woman and child in the community. That is why a great deal of attention is focused on social legislation of this type.
I agree with much that Senator McManus said. I agree sincerely that it is deplorable that social services should be treated as a political football. I do not think we can deny that the subject of social- services has been bandied around between political parties for too many years, and that we should do something as soon as possible to remove it from an arena in which political expediency has very often motivated our actions. I . think that is a most undesirable state, of affairs. We should set ourselves to the task of rectifying this unfortunate state of affairs, which is not worthy of an enlightened community. I agree with Senator McManus, and I think a number of my colleagues and members of the Opposition will agree, too, that the only feasible solution to the problem is a contributory national insurance scheme. If that would not remove social services entirely from the political arena, it would go a very long way towards doing so.
Australians delude themselves when they suggest that their social services are the most advanced in the world. We have a very good system of social services, but after conversing with people from, other parts of. the world any thinking person must realize that we are not in the van of social services and that there are other countries with more highly developed social services than our own. We can learn a great deal from those countries. Recently when I was travelling by aeroplane I was sitting next to a young Dutch immigrant who mentioned, as Senator McManus said only a few moments ago, that Holland’s pension system is much more advanced and enlightened than Australia’s. I have a son who was living in Sweden for a considerable time - he is home now fortunately- and what he fold me about the Swedish national^ insurance scheme for social services made me think that our social services are not so advanced as we might think. It is time to make a self-examination and to realize that we can go a long way further to improve social services, good though they may be at present.
This bill has been introduced in accordance with an election promise. It cannot be denied that the promise was made by the Government that this legislation would be brought in. Primarily its purpose is to alleviate the position of those who are short of the present residential requirement and, as a result, would suffer undue hardship. We. can reject outright the Labour Party’s suggestion, which is rather an unworthy one, that we are doing this solely in order to retain office. That does not apply to my thinking on the subject, anyhow. This matter has exercised my mind for a long period, and I had firmly come to the conviction that something along the lines of reducing the residential qualification was necessary. If by doing that we retain office, so much the better.
Though I have been a little critical of our national social service schemes and have spoken of their undoubted shortcomings, the Government has a record of which it can be proud since it attained office. Rome was not built in a day. The Government is doing its best gradually to improve social services to the stage where they will compare favorably with those of other countries. I read in a speech, that was delivered in another place that the Government is spending about £350,000,000 a year on social services, excluding health and pharmaceutical services, but including maternity allowance, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, widows’ pensions, age and invalid pensions, and funeral benefits. That is a considerable amount in any one’s language.
Senator Cooke claimed that the Government took a retrograde step when it amalgamated income tax and social service contribution. After the Government had been in office for a couple of years it decided to pay into the Consolidated Revenue’ Fund all moneys derived from income tax and social service contributions. I shall always remember a rather interesting argument that, took place between, I think. Senator Ashley and Senator George McLeay. I am not absolutely sure whether they were the two senators principally involved, but I know that Senator Mattner came into the argument.. It concerned the National Welfare Fund that was then in existence. The policy now is that all money received from income tax and social services contribution goes into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and the amount required for social services is appropriated for that purpose. The late Senator Ashley was most vehement in contending that the money was more or less in “ kitty “, and was available for social services. The argument on our side was that the money was not available, that it had gone into an account for. general expenditure and was more or less a bookkeeping entry in a trust fund. I do not want to get. into the argument myself, though I think that the Labour Party’s contention had something - in its favour.
– If you do not want to get into it why attempt to open it up?
– It is an interesting point. Allow me to give the Labour Party some credit. The National Welfare Fund was of some value,- and if the Labour Party’s policy on this point had been adopted in full it could have been responsible, in the final result, for establishing a national contributory fund. But the policy was departed from, and in my view the Government was not wise in so doing. However, social services as we know them have not suffered as a result. The amount that is required for social services is appropriated from Consolidated Revenue.
Every one believes strongly in the need for adequate social services. No one can deny that any enlightened country- must have proper social services. The Government has striven through the years it hasbeen in office to provide those services for the community. From time to time it has made adjustments as required by changing circumstances to the various classes of social services.-
We need to devote a good deal more thought to the desirability of establishing a -‘ contributory national insurance plan. There are injustices occurring at the present time iri connexion with our social services. With an adequate contributory scheme, those injustices could be removed. The application of the means test is unsatisfactory in many ways, although we have done our utmost to remove some of the anomalies that existed. I say with a good deal of pleasure and pride that the merged means test, which was put into operation in 1960, has been of incalculable benefit to’ a great number of people throughout the community. I do not wish to give any particular party or persons the entire credit for the introduction of the merged means test, but I think that a few people are worthy of mention. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has worked unceasingly to better the conditions of those people who depend on social service payments. Throughout his parliamentary career he has tried to improve our social services, and I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to him. I do not exclude from consideration other people who have taken an interest in this subject, including members of the Opposition in this Parliament.
I know that there are people on the other side of the House who have assisted in this field.
We can honestly say that the administration of the social services legislation has been very satisfactory indeed during the years that we have been in office.- We are constantly trying to improve the legislation. One of the objectives of the bill before the Senate to-night is to reduce from twenty years to ten years the residential qualification for the payment of age and invalid pensions to migrants. This provision has been introduced in accordance with a preelection promise made by the Government. I know quite well that the Australian Labour Party embodied such a provision in an amendment that it moved when social services legislation was before the Senate last year. I do not think we need to apologize for refusing to accept the amendment at that time. When all is said and done, we were the government of the day, and we still are in government. It is our prerogative to accept or reject such an amendment.
There is no doubt that many .of us on . this side of the chamber saw merit in the proposal, but an over-riding factor was the financial obligation that was involved. We were not, as a government, prepared to allow the administrative control of the country, to go out of our hands on . this important question. I think we were justified in rejecting the amendment that was moved by the Labour .Party for political reasons. We have now embodied such a provision in the bill before the Senate. Because we have done so, I do not think there is room for criticism on the ground of insincerity. We believe that it is necessary to reduce the residential qualifying period. As a Government supporter, I have been of that opinion for quite a long time. I have had the opportunity to attend functions at which migrants were present, such as naturalization ceremonies, and I know that the fact that many migrants were deprived of pensions and other social service benefits because they had not been in this country for twenty years bore very heavily on them. I say without hesitation that -this provision will be of great benefit to many migrants, as well as to some nativeborn Australians. I approve- most heartily of the reduction of the’ period.
It has been suggested that the Government was using the proposed reduction of the twenty years’ residential qualification as a kind of ruse to induce migrants to seek naturalization, but that is not true. The number of people taking the step of naturalization is not as great as we would like it to be, but we have not used the residential qualifying period reduction to try to coerce people into seeking naturalization. The desire for naturalization must come from the people themselves. I am sure that migrants will be very glad to know that in future they will be entitled to pension benefits after they have lived in this country for ten years.
The other very worthy objective of the bill is to increase the unemployment and sickness benefit. The unfortunate plight of the considerable number of people who are unable to obtain work deserves our sympathetic attention. I can say no more than that. Unemployment is a most serious defect in our economy. Over the years, this Government has had a very fine record in regard to employment.
– The best record of any government.
– I agree. We have a magnificent employment record. Throughout practically the whole of the life of the Government we have had an employment record second to none. But because of adjustments that have been necessary in recent years, we have in our midst a certain percentage of unemployed. We believe that those people should be treated sympathetically. Consequently, we are increasing the unemployment and sickness benefit, which will alleviate their distress to some extent, though not entirely. I believe in the principle that if a man is willing and able to work, work should be provided for him. That has been the objective of the Government, and is still its objective.
I am not at liberty to discuss the proposals referred to by the Governor-General in the Speech that he delivered in this chamber recently, but it is the objective .of the Government to return to work every man and woman willing and able to work. Sometimes that is a process that cannot be hastened. It may be a slow process in some instances; but it is the objective of the Government, as outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech, to get these people back into profit able employment in. the. very near future. In the meantime, alleviation of. distress is necessary, and for that reason the Government proposes io increase the unemployment and sickness benefit. In my view, the action of the Government is a worthy one.
The people who are unemployed have my entire sympathy. I should not like to be in such a position myself. I do not think any honorable senator would enjoy being unemployed if he had family and financial obligations. It is very desirable to get the unemployed back into employment, but in the meantime we must assist them as much as possible by providing relief in the form provided for in the bill. Both of the objectives of the bill are very good indeed. They could not be achieved by supporting the Opposition’s amendment, because it is quite impracticable. That is my principal reason for rejecting it. In any case, we want to have this legislation passed to-day so that it may be put into . operation tomorrow. If we were to delay the passage of the bill by redrafting it, the possibility of people obtaining the new benefits immediately would? be removed. I repeat that I believe the two major aspects of the bill are very good indeed, and I have very much pleasure in supporting it.
– It is rather interesting to be present in the chamber just now when a bill dealing with unemployment and sickness benefits is being debated, because just eighteen years ago, on 10th February, 1944, the original legislation to provide for sickness and unemployment benefits was introduced by a Labour government. I had the very great privilege to be a member of that government’s social service committee, which was instrumental in helping to frame the legislation. Another interesting aspect of the matter is the almost complete volte face on the part of the parties which constitute the present Government. I am not referring to honorable senators who are in the chamber to-night, because there is now only one. person on the Government benches who was a member of the Senate at that time and that is Senator Sir Walter Cooper:
Having heard Senator Hannaford acclaim the very great’ work that has been done by Mr. Wilson, who I understand is the chairman of the Government parties’ social service committee, I cannot help but draw the attention of honorable senators to the “ Hansard “ report of the debate when the original legislation was before the Senate on 16th February, 1944. The same Mr. Wilson - he was then Senator Wilson - asked on that occasion -
Is not this a glorified dole?
He said later -
The only difference between this dole and that which was paid during the depression years is that that was paid by the State governments and this is to be met by the Commonwealth . . . This bill is an encouragement to the thriftless at the expense of the thrifty . . .
He said that it encouraged people to be idle by offering them the dole. I repeat that that was the opinion expressed by Senator Wilson, who is now the honorable member for Sturt in the House of Representatives.
The “Hansard” report of the original debate shows that Senator Keane described the bill as being a milestone in the provision of social services. Senator McBride interjected and said that it should be described as a millstone. At page 249 in volume 177 of the “Hansard” report appears a very interesting statement made by Senator Gibson, who had been a PostmasterGeneral in an anti-Labour government. He said -
I shall not be surprised if Australia becomes a sanctuary for unemployables from other countries, who will come here knowing that after one year’s residence they can qualify for these benefits . . . There should be a period of at least five or ten years before they are entitled to these benefits. We may easily have people coming from Italy, or some other country, and claiming the benefit immediately. No person who is not a naturalized British subject should be entitled to them . . .
He was referring not to age and invalid pensions but to sickness and unemployment benefits. His suggestion meant that people who came to the country and could not get work would have to wait up to ten years before they could get sickness and unemployment benefits. Senator Gibson said further - the bill will create a large unemployed class. It will be the means of creating unemployment rather than giving people an interest in employment.
That savours very much of the opinion expressed in another place by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), who spoke about there being many malingerers in his electorate at the present time because of the Government’s legislation.
Senator McLeay, who was the Leader of the Opposition in this place at the time, is reported at page 191 of the same volume of “ Hansard “ as saying, in regard to the policy of the government of the day - a policy which will encourage thriftless.ness and indolence.
He described the bill as being one which was giving something for nothing. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, said, in regard to the original legislation, that it was a pauperizing bill which gave something for nothing. He was taken to task by Labour members for introducing the word “ pauper “ into debates in the Parliament of the twentieth century when it had always been regarded as having relation to the past.
I mention these matters, Mr. Acting Deputy President, because this legislation was not put upon the statute-book initially without great difficulty. At that time the Senate was evenly divided; there were eighteen Government senators and eighteen Opposition senators. The original legislation had to survive fifteen or sixteen divisions and the Government had to wait until one of the Opposition senators of the day caught his train home to Queensland before the bill could eventually be passed. That was only one of the pieces of legislation which was placed on the statute-book during the war. Honorable senators will note that it was passed in February, 1944, when Mr. Curtin was the Prime Minister of Australia and when the country was engaged in a total war effort. Opposition members of the day criticized the Government because of all the sops they said it was handing out to the public when it could not afford to do so. To-day the same criticism is being levelled against the Opposition because of the amendment that has been moved by Senator Kennelly.
The amendment that has been moved is the result of a policy which was drafted by the Labour Party’s social service committee, of which I happened to be a member, and which was presented to the party in May last. ‘ We decided that Labour’s policy should be that an adult or married minor should receive £5 10s. a week and an unmarried minor of sixteen to seventeen years of age £2 a week, and so on. I repeat that that proposal was accepted as Labour Party policy in May last after having been submitted by the Labour Party’s social service committee, on which all States were represented. So this is not something produced out of the blue in order to embarrass the Government. It is a matter about which we have been thinking for quite a long time.
I come now to the suggestion that this concession cannot possibly be paid for. The Government is to allow a 5 per cent, reduction of income tax, which those people with big incomes and not so big. incomes will be quite pleased to receive. The overall effect of that reduction will not be as great as if the same amount of money were devoted to the extension of unemployment and sickness benefits. The money that the tax reduction will cost the Government could be used to much better advantage, we think, by giving extra social service- benefits to those- people who are most in need. The breaking up of those millions of pounds into small parts by reduction of tax will mean to some family men only ls. 6d. a week or even less. That benefit will not be great- People with larger incomes, of course, will receive much larger rebates.
It is about time that somebody on this side of the chamber accepted the challenges thrown out by Government supporters with regard to the unemployment position when this Government assumed office in 1949. Much play has been made on the fact that there was a high unemployment figure in 1949. It is true that the figure was high in 1949, but it is true only of one quarter, from July to September. In July of that year, one of our worst industrial upheavals occurred. I had better not say much against the Communists, as they have become the Government’s friends and put it back into office, despite what Senator McManus had to say. We know that it was Communist preferences, not ours, that returned the Menzies Government. Labour preferences are very seldom counted, as there is generally, in the final analysis, a neck-and. neck run between the Government and the Opposition. We all know that that strike in 1949 was definitely a political strike to embarrass the Labour Government. It was treated as such by the government of the day. Why else would we have found a Labour Prime Minister with such strong political and industrial principles as the late Mr. Chifley calling out the Army in order to ensure that the strike was settled, and that the people of Australia were not held to ransom by he Communists?
In July, 1949, there was a large number of unemployed. In that month, when the strike occurred, there were 118,134 unemployed. In August, after the strike had been settled, unemployed numbered 9.926; in September, 1,056; in October, 742; and in November, 627. In December, only 703 persons were in receipt of unemployment benefit. In January, 1962, after twelve years of Liberal rule, without the occurrence of any major political disturbance such as that Communist-inspired strike of 1949, there having been good seasons and good export markets; 56,755 persons were receiving unemployment benefit, and 131,000 persons were out of work. That should be compared with the 703 who were in receipt qf unemployment benefit when this Government came into office. I think it is only fair, to both the Labour Party and the Government, to make those figures known. in 1936. we were just getting out of the depression. From that year onwards unemployment percentages varied as follows:-
After 1,000,000 men and women had been taken from the armed forces and reallocated to industry without any major disruption, the percentage of unemployed in the community had dropped to .9 per cent, in 1948. Tn March, 1949, it dropped still further to 8 per cent. In the September quarter of that year there was a big rise to 5.5 per cent., but in the December quarter the number dropped back to .8 per cent. In December, 1949, when this Government’ came “ into office, unemployment in the community stood at .8 per cent. -
– Can you cite a time-in the last twelve years when we have had 5.5 per cent, of the work force unemployed?
– I would not want to. In Queensland at present there are almost as many, and in addition many people who could otherwise qualify are not in receipt of unemployment benefit because of having other income and because of the operation of the means test. I know quite a number of instances of persons being registered for employment but not receiving unemployment benefit. One instance was brought to my notice last November, when I was visiting a country town. A young girl of sixteen had been registered for employment and had received unemployment benefit. She- was sent to a job as a shop assistant, but the. work was in- a milk bar which did not have a very savoury reputation. She would have been required to work till 3 o’clock’ in the morning, when the milk .bar closed. Her parents -naturally refused to let. her. have the job, not only because they. . did not think it - was suitable for a young girl to be out working till 3 a.m., but also because the whole surroundings were net conducive to her moral welfare. When they said they were- worried about her getting home late, they ware told that the boss would take her home, but that might have been worse. She did not take the job, but payment of unemployment benefit ceased because she refused it. However, she was still unemployed. That position has, of course, been rectified now.
I was down at Bunbury when men were called for a job on the wheat storage bins. I was present at the pick-up, having gone down to see what was happening. Sixtythree men arrived with lunches and billycans, ready to start work, but only two were chosen for the work. As the other men turned away with despair written across their faces, one said, “I shall have to go home and tell the wife again that I have not got a job, and we have five little ones to keep “. In those circumstances, unemployment is getting altogether out of the realm of statistics. Those men are not statistics. They are human beings who deserve and need a job. They want to keep body and soul together. They want to keep their families in as decent a standard of comfort as possible. 1 resent the remarks of those who say that there are’ many malingerers in the ranks of the unemployed and the sick. I have yet to meet a decent Australian, whether naturalized or native-born, or a decent working man of any nationality, who prefers living on the dole, irrespective of how cheerfully or charitably it ‘ is given, to working in order to keep his wife and family in a decent standard of comfort. It is a terrible libel against the average Australian working man to say that many people in the community are malingering so that they will receive unemployment or sickness benefits. Present it and I throw the lie in the teeth of those who say it. One might meet one or two such malingerers. In every community there are a few black sheep, but that is not true of the great majority of the working men and women of this country. I do not for one moment subscribe to the view that anybody prefers to live on the unemployment benefit rather than get a job.* I willingly take up the cudgels on behalf of the unemployed. It is interesting to note the change of heart that the Governmen has had with regard to unemployment and - sickness benefits in the last few months. . lt is -interesting also to note its changed attitude with respect to residential qualifications for the purposes of age and invalid pensions of persons who have come to this country from overseas. I was surprised to hear Senator Hannaford say that some honorable senators last year saw the wisdom of the amendment moved by the Opposition seeking to reduce the period of time wilh regard to residential qualification but, because the amendment came from the Opposition, the Government could not accept it. I do not agree with that principle. A thing is either right or not right; something cannot be wrong in September and right now. It is said that there is joy among the angels when one sinner . repents. There must be quite a party going on in Heaven now that honorable .senators have changed their attitude to this aspect of social services.
The bill will be of great assistance to many people, particularly family groups from overseas. It will do a lot towards keeping those family groups intact. It will help our immigration programme. It is interesting to read “ Hansard “ of some years ago. In 1944, Mr. Menzies said that it would take a major miracle for Australia’s population ever to reach 8,000,000. If honorable senators want something interesting to do I suggest that they go through “Hansard” for past years. The views expressed in years gone by are amazing when viewed from to-day’s vantage point. The major miracle referred to by Mr. Menzies came to pass thanks to the migration programme instituted by a Labour government. The man responsible for that programme had a great deal of organizational ability and love of Australia. The programme that he instituted has resulted in the 8,000,000 mark being well exceeded. The immigration policy inaugurated by Labour has been adopted by the present Government and continued by successive Ministers for Immigration. That is something for which I commend the Government.
I am always glad to see social service payments increased. I am particularly [ pleased to note that the bill provides for an additional benefit to be paid in respect of second and subsequent children of unemployed persons. I only hope that if this Government is in power when the next” Budget is brought down it will extend those increased benefits to the children of civilian widows who. at present are having a hard struggle to rear their children on the pensions that they receive. Now that the Government has accepted the principle so far as unemployed persons are concerned it should extend it to the children of widows so that those widows may obtain some measure of social justice.
It has been claimed that unemployment and sickness benefits are paid to people for a . limited period of time only but that age and invalid pensions are of a more permanent character and therefore should be higher than unemployment and sickness benefits. Although that may bc so; it must be remembered that persons in receipt of unemployment and sickness benefits generally have family responsibilities. They have to pay rent and buy food. They have to pay for the education of their children. During the last year or two some people have been out of work for months at a time. It is very difficult for such people to avoid incurring heavy debt. Small shopkeepers are affected by the unemployment situation because they are called upon to extend credit to people who are out of work. Those debts must be paid-eventually. I have made a special study of this problem’ and one ofthe saddest things that I have ever encountered is the struggle that people have when repaying their debts after they get back into employment. Because the tradesmen have stuck to the unemployed, the unemployed, arc determined to pay their bills once they get back . into employment. So the time during which those people are living under sub-standard conditions is longer than one would normally expect. Even after they get back to work the money available for living expenses is reduced by the amount that they must pay to their creditors.
I support the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly. I am pleased to know that the Government has had a change of heart and has decided to reduce the residential qualification for age and invalid pensions. I am glad that the Government has resisted the advice of some of its supporters who urged, when this. legislation was first’ introduced, that a period of ten years residence should be required before a person . became entitled to unemployment and sickness benefits. That’ suggestion was put forward by a former Minister in the United. Australia Party Government.
The Government could go further than if has done in this bill. It has claimed a great deal of kudos for its social service policies, but most of our social service benefits were introduced by Labour governments. If our system of social service - benefits ever approached the best system in the world it did so during the years 1942. to 1948. During that period the majority of our present benefits were introduced. During that, time widows’ pensions and funeral benefits, which have never been increased, were introduced. The maternity allowance was increased. Various other payments were introduced by Labour during those years. That was a time when the government was engaged in terrific expenditure because of the war. It faced great responsibilities in placing men and women back in industry following their demobilization. If a Labour government could surmount all those difficulties and introduce benefits of such lasting value, surely this Government could grant the increases proposed by our amendment.
.- The bill before the Senate deals with certain aspects of the Government’s policy. It gives effect to an undertaking given by the Government at the last election. That undertaking was to reduce from twenty years to ten years the period of residence necessary to qualify for an age or an invalid pension. I was interested to hear some of the statistics that Senator Tangney gave. I agree that running through old “Hansards” occasionally is an interesting exercise, as long as you do not become imbued too much with the past and forget to think about the future,, and as long as you go back far enough. Sometimes people go back only as far as it suits them. The honorable senator went back only as far as 1941 or 19.39.
I thought it was a pity that she did not go back a little further, to between 1929 and 1932, when there were Labour governments in five of the six States, and a Labour government in the federal sphere, and 30 per cent, of the work force was unemployed and on a dole of 25s. a week, I think it was. She mentioned the word “ dole “, and that reminded me of those facts which are all in “ Hansard “ a little further back than she went. Apparently she did not wish to go back to those years. As she mentioned one period, I thought it would be fair for some one else to mention another period.
– What figure did you give for 1930?
– At that time there was a federal Labour government and Labour governments in five of the six States, and at one time during those years 30 per cent, of the work force was unemployed.
– Yes, and in 1933 it was 25 per cent. I could go back further, but you would not like me to do that.
– I know that you do not like giving the figures for that time.
– Labour was not in power in the federal parliament.
– Labour was in office in the federal sphere, and five of the six State governments were Labour governments. I have often heard from members of the Labour Party the old furphy that Labour was not in power; but, of course, it was never game enough to take the step that might have put it in power - namely, facing the country after a double dissolution. The Labour Party clung to office for all those years when, simply by going to the country after a double dissolution, it might have solved all those problems about which its members have spoken so often since that time. The Labour Party could have been in power if it had been game enough to do what the Menzies Government did in 1951 when faced with a similar situation. After a double dissolution we went to the country, according to the procedure laid down in the Constitution, and resolved the problem with which we were confronted.
– You do not know anything about that.
– Don’t I? I know all about it The fact was that the Labour Government had a hostile Senate, but it was not game to go to the country after a double dissolution and resolve that position. Is that not true? The Labour Government was not game to take the action which it could have taken under the Constitution had it wished to do so.
I was interested in something else that Senator Tangney said. She said that the Government was in office by virtue of the votes of Communists. I have looked at the figures. In the Senate recently I cited the figures for the electorate of Moreton. It is not without interest that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) received 93 of the Communist Party preferences and the Labour Party candidate received 413 of them.
– Four to one.
– The Labour Party candidate received four times as many as the Liberal Party candidate received. The Labour Party’s trouble was that it did not receive quite enough primary votes to enable it to get the benefit of the 413 Communist Party preferences. Had it done so the position would have been different. Senator Sandford is interjecting, but he got back into the Senate on Communist preferences in the last election.
– No, I did not.
– I am not referring to his election on 9th December, but the one before that. After he lost his seat he was in the Senate for three years by virtue of Communist preferences. So, do not worry; we know all about that. I will give you the figures if you wish me to. I have heard Senator Sandford accuse people on this side of the chamber, so it is time some one pinned that down on him. That is something that he has forgotten, but we have not forgotten it.
Senator Tangney gave some statistics for the years 1$42, 1943 and 1944. Of course, at that time every person who was available to work was working. They were the desperate war years. If people were not working, they were in the Army, the Women’s Australian Air Force, or another branch of the services. The factories had little opportunity to get people to work for them until after the war. As the boys came back from overseas they readily found employment. At that time, the world was hungry for goods that it had been without for so many years.
Statistics are interesting. As Senator Scott has reminded us, in 1949, the year in which the Menzies Government took office, was the greatest industrial unrest that this country has ever seen. In that year the Labour Government put troops into the mines to break the strikers.
– And put the Communists in gaol.
– And let them out, too, quick smart. What about the Australia First boys? The Labour Government let them all out, for a start. This is very interesting. Would you like to hear the story pf the Australia First Movement? That story is well worth repeating. I always think that every generation has to have a real taste of socialist government before it realizes what it really means. If we want to see what .socialist government really means, we only have to look at the Australia First story.
The only other matter in Senator Tangney’s speech to which I wish to refer is that she said she hoped that widows would be given some assistance. I noticed with interest that only last year the Government increased the widow’s child allowance from 10s. to 15s. In 1956, this Government was the first government to give children other than the first child 10s. a week. Last year, we increased that allowance to 15s. I am reminding her of these facts because I believe they are interesting.
The other bill that has been introduced into the Senate contains another of the Government’s measures. I refer to the War Service Homes Bill, which increases the loan that may be granted to exservicemen from £2,750 to £3,500. That bill will be discussed in the Senate shortly. The Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill that is now before the Senate. I support the Government in opposing that amendment. We wish to have this measure in operation as soon as possible. After it has been passed by the Senate to-night, and the Governor-General has assented to it, it will become a law of the land. We hope that all the stages will be completed this week.
I believe that the reduction of the residential qualification to ten years will be of great assistance to many of the migrants who have come to Australia in mid-life after being driven out of Europe by the dreadful after-effects of the war and the regimes in certain European countries. They have come to Australia in search of freedom. I believe that the Parliament is doing something worth while for them in reducing the period to ten years, thus enabling them to receive the benefit as they reach the specified age after they have given ten or fifteen years of great service to this country. Migrants have given great service to Australia, not only by increasing the population, as Senator Tangney mentioned, but also by performing the jobs they have undertaken. The increased production that has occurred in many of our basic industries stems directly from the migrant work force that has been brought out here, first of all under the auspices of a Labour government. I give credit to the Labour Government for inaugurating the immigration plan, which has been carried on and, I think, improved by this Government.
The bill provides for an increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the unemployment benefit paid to an adult or married minor. It increases also the spouse’s allowance by 7s. 6d. to £3 a week. A man and his wife. between them, will get £7 2s. 6d. a week. The bill increases, also, by 2s. 6d. to 15s. a week, the allowance paid for a first child, and for the first time provision is made for a payment of 15s. for each additional child. With the assistance of other social service allowances, such as child endowment, the payments made under this bill will help to stop the gap. No one would suggest that an unemployed man with two or three children would wish to live on this benefit for too long. That is quite understandable. I agree with those who have said that an Australian workman would sooner work any day than accept the unemployment benefit. But if a person is unfortunate enough to be unemployed, then, of course, this benefit will be of great assistance in helping stop the gap. Most unemployed persons have access to some other assistance besides the unemployed benefit.
The formula relating to the residential qualification for a pension is somewhat complicated. It is easy to say that we should simply reduce the qualifying period from twenty years to ten years, but when you come to examine the position you find that there are many anomalies. Men fighting overseas are entitled to have their period of service overseas taken into account. They might not have been continuously in Australia, because they were fighting overseas. Surely their period overseas should be taken into consideration when calculating the qualifying period. Many other anomalies had to be dealt with, with the result that a complicated formula was worked out to cover all the cases coming within the ambit of this benefit. I do not think any one will object to that formula.
– This is a good speech, but just wind off.
– Senator O’Byrne is endeavouring to make it for me, apparently.
– We do agree with you sometimes.
– I am glad of that. I did not see a very receptive look on your face a little while ago, but I am glad to see that it is there now.
More legislation will have to be passed in order to carry out the programme which the Government placed before the people at the commencement of this session of the Parliament. It was not without interest to listen yesterday to the first three items in the news. The first item, of course, concerned the censure motion or amendment which the Opposition bad moved in another place. It was announced that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) had referred to a lack of confidence in Australia. The next news item concerned the recent loan, which was over-subscribed by almost £36,000,000 - a record over-subscription, except for the war years. The first news item was a statement to the effect that the people have no confidence in this country, and the second was an announcement that the recent loan had been over-subscribed by £36,000,000. The next item concerned an investment of £12,000,000 in Western Australia for the export of iron ore. That does not indicate a lack of confidence in this country, under this Government.
There was no mention in the news, however, of something important that is to happen in Tasmania. Of course, many people here do not seem to know even where Tasmania is. We have to remind Senator Courtice, for example, of our existence every now and again. There was no mention in the news of the increase of production that has been planned for the aluminium industry in Tasmania.
– Who started it?
– Do not provoke me into a discussion about who started the Tasmanian aluminium industry. I lived through it. I saw stuff lying in the open, rusting away, while a Labour government could not make up its mind about the site that would be used, let alone about when the industry would be established. It was not until Mr. Howard Beale, a Minister for Supply in this Government, took the matter in hand that a real start was made. Obviously Senator Courtice has forgotten the dreadful story of Labour’s endeavours to establish an aluminium industry at Bell Bay.
That industry was established, and it has been producing at the rate of between 11,000 and 13,000 tons a year. This Government was criticized severely by the Opposition when it sold the undertaking to private enterprise. Members of the Opposition opposed that course and said that if the undertaking was sold it would be shut down. I think that Senator O’Byrne used that very expression. However, an announcement has been made that production is to be increased to 48,000 tons. The Tasmanian Government, which is a partner in the undertaking, supplies the necessary electricity. This is an immense development in Tasmania. It should have been the subject of the fourth item in the news this morning. As I said, the first item was a statement by the Opposition that there is no confidence in Australia. The next item was one that gave an indication of great confidence in Australia. The third concerned a large investment in Western Australia, and the fourth should have been about the proposed increase of production of the aluminium industry. That is of tremendous interest to Tasmania, and will mean a great deal to the development of that State.
I understand that Senator Sheehan wishes to speak in this debate. When I rose to speak I noticed there were 40 minutes to go to 11 o’clock. I thought it would be very fair if we took twenty minutes each. I think it is fitting that Senator Sheehan should have an opportunity to speak, in view of the fact that he will not be coming back to us after July. He was not a candidate at the last election. He has been here ever since I have been a member of the Senate. He is a great stalwart of his party. 1 have great pleasure in supporting the bill and in opposing the amendment moved by the Opposition. I now give Senator Sheehan an opportunity to make his speech.
.- In rising to support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Kennelly, I, like other honorable senators who have been here, for some time, feel that one cannot but marvel at the conversion of honorable senators opposite, who now profess to admire social services. I think I should say something to Senator Henty about his recollection of the position prior to the very interesting period mentioned by Senator Tangney in a very fine address. In fact, Senator Tangney spoke of some of the matters that I intended to deal with. The remarks of honorable senators opposite remind me of a person who has been addicted to drink and suddenly reforms and becomes a keen advocate of total abstinence. My mind goes back a fair while to the struggle that .was put up in the early years by the Labour Party to introduce social services into this country. I remember what was said not only by the honorable gentleman who is now the leader of the Government in another place but also by those who preceded him in the control of the destinies of this country when it was suggested that a pension of 10s. a week should be paid to aged people. They regarded it as something that would encourage idleness and would be spent on liquor and fast living. Eventually the age pension became an accepted principle in Australia and its administration moved from the States to the Commonwealth. As the years went by increases were gradually made as a result of pressure from the Labour Party, not when it formed the government, but when it held the balance of power and was able to wring from governments support for social legislation.
Senator Tangney has done a service to the Senate, to those outside who may have listened to her speech, and to those who will read it in the press to-morrow. Senator Henty thought he would go a little further back in history in an endeavour to break down the damning indictment which Senator Tangney presented against the Government. Senator Henty referred to the conditions that existed during the regime of the Scullin Government. He might have gone back a little further and told the Senate that the conditions which were inherited by the Scullin Government were the result of long years in office of anti-Labour governments. When Mr. Scullin came into power he found an empty Treasury; he found that a cold blast was blowing not only in Australia but also in other parts of the world, and that as a result of the administration of the preceding anti-Labour governments Australia’s national income was next to nothing.
Senator Henty referred to the lack of courage on the part of the Scullin Government in not forcing a double dissolution and going to the country. I do not know that a double dissolution would have solved the problems of that Government. Anyway, rumour hath it that the preceding Liberal Government, afraid to face the position and being incapable of devising legislation that would help to stem the tide of unemployment and to weather the storm that was breaking over this country, deliberately contrived to lose control of the treasurybench, by introducing in another place legislation which it knew would lead to its defeat. So lack of courage is not to be found on one side only, if Senator Henty considers that the Scullin Government lacked some courage in that crisis.
The’ usefulness of the only institution that could have helped this country to weather the storm had been almost destroyed during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, by the mutilation of Labour’s great financial institution, the Commonwealth Bank. So, Labour found itself in office unable to give effect to measures that could have saved this country. However, thanks to what has happened since, and despite the mutilation of the Chifley Banking Act since the advent of this Government, one section of it still remains because this Government would not take it out. It enables a future government that meets with conditions similar to those that confronted the Scullin Government to use the finances of this country. To-day the Parliament has some control over the Commonwealth Bank, though the Scullin Government had none.
When one studies the history of social services one finds that the parties which to-day are so loud in their praise of social services and talk about what they have done, have got little, if anything, to be proud of. This bill has improved the position somewhat compared with that which existed prior to the election on 9th December. One of the most useful provisions of the bill is that which reduces the residential qualifying period for the age pension. Despite this amendment, Australia will find it very difficult in the near future to attract those immigrants whom we need so much. While I was overseas I observed that there was extremely keen competition for the able-bodied immigrants that we need. Instead of this country being the Promised Land for those who have been dispossessed of their properties and are finding things very difficult, a number of European States are now anxious to bring immigrants to their shores, and the conditions that they offer are far in advance of those in Australia.
This bill might go a little way towards encouraging immigrants to come to Austra lia from those countries where social services are in existence. They will appreciate the fact that if they tear up their roots and come to Australia they will be entitled to some social service benefits. When one considers the encouragements that are being offered to Italians and others by Sweden, Denmark and Holland and one realizes that they are much in advance of the conditions offering here, one appreciates that our job will be rather difficult. Sweden, with its increase in ship-building, not only offers each potential immigrant a job; it also says to him, “There is your home, there is your job, and these are the wages that you will receive “. The migrant who goes to that country has no fear of unemployment. In Denmark, there is a similar position. Yet, we in Australia expect people to by-pass those countries, to come here and* spend a period of time in a camp, such as Bonegilla, and then face the prospect of unemployment. We are going to be hard put to it in the very near future to maintain the flow of trained migrants.
If the electors are given the opportunity to speak again, those in Victoria may do as the electors of Queensland and New South Wales did. If that happens, there will be a change of government. But until that occurs, of course, the Government parties will still be in office. I hope that while they are in power they will try to improve conditions for potential migrants. As I have said, the provision of the bill which relates to the residential qualification of migrants is a very important one and one that we all should support.
The Opposition has challenged the Government to withdraw the bill and redraft it. I have listened to the various speeches that have been made during this debate, and I also heard some of the speeches that were made when it was being discussed in another place. If the Government were really anxious to stimulate the economy by creating greater purchasing power in the community, and if it wished to live up to the advertisements that are being inserted in the newspapers asking people to spend more, advertisements which the Prime Minister and other members of the Government have so eloquently supported, it would withdraw the bill, amend it and present it again, when it would go through without opposition.
We of the Labour Party justifiably are finding fault with the meagre increase that the Government proposes to grant in unemployment benefit. 1 remember, of course, when the payment of unemployment benefit was beyond the thinking of the political predecessors of the Government. Unemployment benefit has found support from the parties on the Government side of the chamber only because of the deplorable’ conditions that existed during the depression years, when there were soup kitchens here and soup kitchens there. It was thought that something of a permanent nature might be placed on the statutebooks. I ask honorable senators opposite: How do you expect an unemployed person, with a wife and child, to exist on the amount that will be payable even when the benefit has been increased? We have asked the Government to increase the amount of the benefit to that of the age pension. After all, an age pensioner would not have a young family to support. We do not agree, of course, that the amount of the age pension is sufficient. We think that the pension should be much greater because of the changed economic conditions that now exist. I ask honorable senators opposite to try to put themselves in the place of an unemployed person. If he is a widower, he may be granted £3 a week for a housekeeper. Where could a widower obtain the services of a housekeeper for £3 a week? In Victoria, the State social services legislation provides for the payment of at least5s. an hour to cover the services of a home help who will go into the home and help people out. Yet, apparently, we expect an unemployed widower to be able to engage a full-time housekeeper for £3 a week. That is ridiculous, in view of the price of commodities to-day.
Honorable senators opposite always miss the point, conveniently, of course, when they are speaking of the wonderful fillip that the Government has given to our social welfare scheme. They are so fond of referring to conditions in 1949, but when we compare conditions then with those of to-day, we find that commodity prices were very much different from what they are now. I think it will be agreed that, on a percentage basis, the amount of the unemployment benefit and the age pension was greater in 1949 than it is to-day. I admit that in those days the requirements of the home were different from those of the present day. Nevertheless, why should an unemployed person who has had the misfortune to be thrown out of work as a result of the credit squeeze and the attiture of the Government prior to the recent general election, be penalized? Why should he be thrown on to the scrapheap? He was entitled to think that full employment was assured, and having thought so, he was justified in purchasing certain commodities or equipment for his home, such as a washing machine, a television set or a wireless set. He might even have purchased a motor car because of the conditions which then existed. Why should that man suffer because of the economic conditions foisted on us by the mismanagement of the Government?
The Government refused to listen to the entreaties of the very people with whom it has been conferring since the election. It now proclaims that it intends to . do all that those people have requested it to do, although prior to the election it was deaf to their pleas. The Government deliberately brought about the state of affairs which has resulted in so many people being thrown on to the employment market. I venture to suggest, Mr. President, that if the Government wanted to compensate these people who have suffered because of its misdeeds and who are now in a precarious position, it would go to their aid first of all and put into the pockets of that great army of people the wherewithal with which to stimulate the economy. What is the use of our talking about stimulating the economy by means of taxation concessions, or by giving a moiety to the great bulk of the people and a good handout to a few?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I suggest to the Government that even at this late hour it should do more than it is doing to help the unemployed. The Government admits that the improvement in the economy is far too slow. Here is an opportunity for it to do something to make that improvement more rapid. I hope the Government will accept the amendment, withdraw the bill and redraft it to increase the amounts as suggested.
– The first of the two main provisions of the bill is designed to make social service benefits available to people after a residence of ten years in Australia instead of twenty years as has been the case heretofore. The second of those two provisions is designed to make an appreciable increase in the rate of unemployment and sickness benefits. The Opposition has moved an amendment in which it seeks to have the rates of unemployment and sickness benefits increased to the same as those of the age and invalid pensions. There has been a fairly lengthy and comprehensive debate during which the Opposition has twitted the Government about a number of matters. In my opinion, Government senators have replied quite adequately to what has been said.
My task is to have the bill passed. It must be passed by the Senate to-night so that the benefits will become available tomorrow. In winding up the second-reading debate, I propose to refer to only the main points of criticism that have been levelled against the bill. There have been three main points of criticism. The first one relates to the provision whereby the residence qualification is to be reduced from twenty years to ten years. The Opposition supports that proposal, but it has stated that the Government has stolen its policy. The second point of criticism is that the unemployment and sickness benefits are inadequate, and the third point is that the unemployment benefit is somewhat harshly administered.
Let me deal, first, with the statement that the Government has stolen the Opposition’s policy. The Opposition’s case rests principally upon the fact that during the debate on the last Budget, the Government voted against an Opposition amendment to give effect to the present proposal. My reply is that that is not a valid ground for saying that the Government has taken the Opposition’s policy. Every one with experience in such matters knows that a budget always contains the balanced view of the government of the day as to what can be done in the particular year. There has never been a budget which has not included some provisions which might well have been included. A government must make the best selection that it can. Of course, a government always votes against amendments of its Budget. Government under any other process would be quite impracticable. If a government were to introduce a budget and accept amendments to it, there would be no end to the matter; there would not be a final fiscal policy.
– Is this to be a precedent? Are we to have a budget every February?
– This legislation has not been introduced in association with the Budget. It has been introduced in accordance with a promise which was made in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). When Opposition senators take the point that we voted against this proposal when the last Budget was before the Parliament and have now stolen its policy, they make that criticism with their tongues in their cheeks, knowing quite well what parliamentary procedure is in relation to these matters.
The second point of criticism is that the proposed new rates are inadequate. That is the reason for the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. It may be material to consider the present rates and the proposed new rates. The present rate of £3 15s. a week for an adult or married person is to be increased to £4 2s. 6d. The rate for a man and his wife is to rise from £6 7s. 6d. to £7 2s. 6d.; that for a man, wife and one child from £7 to £7 17s. 6d.; and that for a man, wife and three children from £7 to £9 7s. 6d. We must add to that payment an extra £2 which a man is allowed to earn in addition to the benefit and child endowment where it is applicable. So a man with a wife and three children will receive a benefit of £9 7s. 6d. a week plus 25s., making a total of £10 12s. 6d. It is very easy to say that the amount of any social service benefit should be greater than that proposed by the Government. If we were to double the amount I have no doubt that the Opposition would say it was too small, and if we were to treble the rate it would still be too small. We must look at these matters with a sense of proportion.
It would not be a good administration to make the level of these benefits the same as that of the age and invalid pensions, because they are in a different category. Age and invalid pensions are long-term benefits. The unemployment and sickness benefits are short-term benefits; they operate for the period for which the recipient is unemployed or ill. A person in receipt of a short-term benefit is not in the position of having to meet all the expenses to which he would be committed if be were entitled to a long-term benefit. A pensioner has greater liabilities over a long period than has the recipient of unemployment and sickness benefits over a shorter period. We believe that the proposal contained in the bill, which provides for an appreciable increase, is equitable.
It is claimed that the unemployment benefit is being harshly administered because of the fact that the men concerned are required to seek work for themselves and have to incur fares and expenses in doing so. That is the whole basis of it. The benefit, quite rightly, is payable only when the person concerned cannot obtain employment. It is surely reasonable, in those circumstances, that there should be assurances to make certain that the person who applies for the benefit does reasonably seek work where he can get it and does not rely entirely upon the service which the Government provides.
The Government has a very extensive service which docs a great deal of excellent work in placing people in employment. But I think any government has to resist a suggestion that the man concerned has not himself to make his contribution by seekingto obtain employment.
I have replied to the main points that were made during the course of the debate and from what I said flows naturally the consequence that the Government is not willing to accept the amendment which has been moved on behalf of the Opposition and will vote against it.
Question put -
That the words proposed to bc left out (Senator Kennelly’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the wish of the committee that the bill be taken as a whole?
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Qualification for age pension).
– We are concerned about this bill, in view of the following statement by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in his second-reading speech -
It is conceivable, though highly improbable, that a person could satisfy the existing residence requirements while failing to meet the conditions in the bill. Should this unlikely position arise, a claimant who satisfied these existing conditions immediately before the commencement of the new provisions will, if and when he qualifies in all other respects, be granted an act-of-grace payment at the rate of pension otherwise payable, until he satisfies the new requirements.
I believe a saving clause should be placed in the bill so that every one may know what he is entitled to receive. How can the average person, who feels that he may have some claim, know what his position is? I do not for one moment doubt that if he gets into touch with the Department of Social Services its officers will help him. I have found them very obliging in many ways, but in a case like this 1 consider there should be a saving clause. The. bill in its present form is not good enough. However much we may praise the work of departmental officers, who are attempting to implement the legislation in a” sympathetic way, I do not believe that we should pass the bill in such a loose form. Surely to goodness the draftsman could have included a clause that would express in legal terms what the Minister stated in his secondreading speech.
The bill provides that a claimant must have been in Australia for ten years. A claimant may fulfil the requirement for ten years’ residence in one unbroken period or in a number of broken periods. We understand that if he has eleven years’ residence, but in broken periods, in order to qualify he must have nine years’ continuous residence. If he has twelve years’ residence in broken periods he must have eight years’ continuous residence. If he has fifteen years’ residence in Australia he must have five years’ continuous residence. That is the way in which I read the bill and, having read what the Minister stated, 1 believe that interpretation to be correct. However, 1 am amazed that the draftsman could not formulate a clause to cover other circumstances, however remote the likelihood of persons qualifying for the pension in other ways. One cannot be pleased with legislation of the National Parliament that is really not complete. There is nothing in the bill to indicate whether it is conceivable that persons may meet the requirement for ten years’ residence by some other method. Will the Minister cite an instance which may help honorable senators on both sides to explain the position to persons who think that they may be able, by some other means, to qualify under this legislation?
– Senator Kennelly’s request is easier made than met. Thought was given to including in the bill some general saving provision, but the senior officers of the department, with their long experience in the administration of this legislation, were unable to recall a case in which the claimant could have satisfied the present requirements of the act and not the requirements of the bill. They pointed out that it was possible to work out mathematical computations by which this could conceivably happen, but in making those remote mathematical computations good intentions are cast astray, because one has to take into account those absences that count as periods of residence, absences on war service, absences that are treated as periods of residence for income tax purposes, and other circumstances that are safeguarded in the bill.
In the net result the experienced officers, in their wisdom, felt that there would not be any such case. If we tried to include in the legislation a provision to cover a contingency so remote that, in the opinion of the administration it would never occur, the last stage could be worse than the first. The final decision was that the appropriate course was to include in the second-reading speech a passage which would give to officers concerned for the future, not for the present, a guide to the manner in which the legislation should be handled.
– I do not want to labour the point. If I were as satisfied as is the Minister, after what his experienced officers have told him, I would be very doubtful about including that passage in a second-reading speech. The Minister may claim, of course, that he has done it to ensure that no one is done an injustice, but having heard what he has said I doubt whether that will be achieved. People outside will study this legislation alone, or they may have legal men to help them. I do not know whether it is usual for legal men to have second-reading speeches by them when they consider the provisions of an act. The officers may have thought that at some time some one could suffer an injustice. I believe that they thought that, otherwise that passage would not have been included in the speech. However remote the contingency may be, I regret that a saving clause has not been included.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Rate of unemployment and sickness benefit).
– I refer to sub-clause (c) and, in particular, to proposed new sub-section (6.). Proposed new sub-section (5.) provides, amongst other things, that unemployment benefit may be paid to a person who has the custody, care and control of a child or who is contributing regularly to the maintenance of a child. That is subject to the qualification in proposed new sub-section (6.) which, amongst other things, provides that if unemployment benefit is to be paid to more than one person in respect of the one child, or to a person in respect of a child, first, in respect of whom a person is in receipt of a child allowance; or secondly, who has been taken into consideration in fixing the rate of an age or invalid pension, or a widow’s pension, or an allowance under the Tuberculosis Act; or thirdly, in respect of whom a service pension is payable under the Repatriation Act, then, to quote the words of proposed new sub-section (6.) -
The Director-General may direct that any increase under the last preceding sub-section in respect of that child be not payable or be limited to such amount as the Director-General thinks fit.
It is quite obvious that where there is a payment to one person in respect of a specified social service benefit, as well as unemployment benefit, in respect of a child, and a second person comes within the provisions of the bill and is an applicant for unemployment benefit, a complete discretion is vested by the proposed new sub-section in the DirectorGeneral as to whether anything is payable and, if so, how much. He may also decide that nothing be payable. That is an exceedingly wide discretion to vest in the Director-General.
I am not averse to the conferring of a discretion on the Director-General for the extension of a benefit in a hard luck case which might cut across the finely drawn line of the- provisions of an act. But I am reluctant to concede him a discretion which enables him either to deny a benefit or to reduce it. I take it that the DirectorGeneral will proceed upon some principle in using this discretion. Will that principle be laid down for the DirectorGeneral by the Government? If so, what is the principle?
If there is some general principle, such as that an amount cannot be paid twice, or that it is to be shared between two possible recipients and not exceeded in respect of one child, why is not such a principle written into the act so that the persons concerned will know their entitlement? If the Minister could answer those questions, I would be grateful.
– My instructions are that no principle will be laid down for the DirectorGeneral to act upon in the kind of case mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). These matters are too complicated to be resolved by a simple directive. Senator McKenna has put his finger on what is involved. Let me explain one kind of case. There may be a set of circumstances in which there is a deserted wife who qualifies, because of the desertion, for a widow’s pension. Perhaps the husband is contributing something to the maintenance of the wife. The deserted wife, getting the widow’s pension, gets a child allowance, child endowment and so on. The husband becomes unemployed. The unemployment benefit carries an allowance for the children. It is possible that in those circumstances the husband could claim the unemployment benefit and the child allowance that goes with it.
– That would only be if he were making a contribution, I take it, to the deserted wife in respect of the child?
– I think the husband could make a claim for the child allowance payable in conjunction with unemployment benefit whether or not he was making a contribution to the maintenance of the wife.
– I doubt that.
– I am instructed that I am wrong on that. He has got to be making a contribution to the maintenance of the wife. If he were to make that claim - to try to get an allowance paid to him instead of to his deserted wife - that would be one of the sets of circumstances in which the Director-General could exercise his discretion. There may be the reverse case. The husband might be maintaining the child, not the deserted wife. The way in which it is contemplated that the discretion would be applied would be to make the benefit applicable to the person - the husband or the wife - who has the benefit of a long-term other social service benefit as distinct from the shorter term sickness or unemployment relief. In other words, this benefit would follow the division of the family. It would go to whichever member of the family was responsible for the children, in accordance with the existing arrangement. I do not feel that I have been terribly coherent, but that is the position.
– I am obliged to the Minister. I realize that these cases are complicated I think that if we stay on the case cited by the Minister we may get some clarity. I shall deal with the case of a deserted wife, who is treated as an A class widow, and is in receipt of the child allowance that accompanies that classification. She may be unemployed and may seek unemployment benefit. Perhaps the husband is paying 15s. a week under a maintenance order, and he also becomes unemployed. A claim is made by the deserted wife, and also by the husband, in respect of the one child, for unemployment benefit. In those circumstances, the Director-General is given a discretion to do as he likes. I would like to ask the Minister: In that case, is the DirectorGeneral free to pay the amount twice?
– Then he denies the benefit to one unemployed person?
– A person in receipt of a pension cannot get unemployment benefit.
– In those circumstances we come to the ordinary case, where the woman is merely getting a child’s allowance. The unemployment benefit is claimed by the man, who is making a payment of 15s. a week to the woman. The DirectorGeneral may deny the whole of the 15s. to the man. I take it that in the case to which I have referred the Director-General may deny the 15s. to the unemployed man who hitherto has been making a contribution to the wife by way of maintenance of the child, or he may reduce the amount to whatever figure he thinks fit. That is done because in respect of the child an allowance of another type is being paid to the wife. Has the Government given consideration to the plight of an unemployed man who is under a legal obligation to make a payment, which would be far more than 15s. a week as court orders go today - it would be more like £2 a week? That man is out of work and living alone. He has to live on the benefit paid to him, ‘ but is denied the allowance for a child for whose maintenance he is responsible. Such a state of affairs not only does not do justice to the man but may well work hardship on the child.
– In nine cases out of . ten the man would not pay the maintenance for the child.
– I do not know the statistics but a great many court orders are enforced and are enforceable. If unemployment is prolonged the man may fall into arrears under the maintenance order. He may be brought before the court and ordered to comply with the order, in default going to gaol. Why would the Government want to empower the Director-General to deny a benefit otherwise payable to the man in those circumstances? It seems to me to be particularly harsh. It is not a question of paying unemployment benefit to two people at the one time in respect of one child. It is a denial of unemployment benefit to one person because another person is getting a different allowance in respect of the child. I do not think that is a proper provision. There should not be any such discretion in the Director-General and if there is to be any discretion to deny benefit or to reduce it, we should know the principles upon which the DirectorGeneral will act before we approve this clause.
– This matter could well operate in the reverse way to that mentioned by Senator McKenna. You start with the principle that you pay only one benefit for each child. In the circumstances referred to by Senator McKenna the discretion may well operate to pay an additional benefit to the husband. It is not one-way traffic.
– If the Minister will state firmly the principle upon which the Director-General may exercise his authority, I may relax a little.
– In the case of a man in receipt of the unemployment benefit living apart from his wife and children, is there any provision for payments made to him on behalf of his wife and children being paid to the wife or must the payment be made to the husband, so enabling him to keep it if he wishes?
– The provision referred to does exist.
– I appreciate Senator Spooner’s effort to clarify the position, but on behalf of the Opposition I express my disappointment that such power to deny a benefit should be vested in the Director-General. I do not propose to move an amendment to the clause but I implore the Minister to look again at this matter to see whether the discretion is not a little too wide and to see whether it may operate harshly. I invite the Government to consider establishing some general principles and at some future time to let the Opposition know what the Government’s mature consideration of the matter is.
– I am sure there is some sympathy for me in my efforts to explain this matter simply. I will place on record the advice that has been given to me by the departmental officers. Dual payments could arise where one person is in receipt of a social service payment in respect of a child or children in his or her care, custody and control and another person claims unemployment or sickness benefit, together with additional benefit, for the same child on the grounds that he is making regular contributions towards the maintenance of the same child or children. The typical case of this is where a deserted wife is receiving a widow’s pension, increased by 15s. a week for each child after the first, and her husband claims unemployment benefit together with additional benefit of 15s. a week for the same children. The Director-General will, in genera], exercise his discretion in such cases by continuing whatever longterm payment - usually increased pension - is being paid in respect of the child. The claimant for unemployment or sickness benefit would be granted additional benefit for the child equal to the difference, if any, between the long-term payment already being made and the maximum amount of additional benefit - 15s. a week - payable in respect of the child. The principles have not been incorporated in the legislation since there will be unusual circumstances in which the enunciation of hard and fast principles might tie the Director-General’s hand and prevent justice being done. For instance, a husband might be in receipt of additional benefit for children because he was paying maintenance for them. While benefit is current the wife, having been deserted by her husband, might claim a widow’s pension because she had the care, custody and control of the children. In such circumstances the deserted wife would be granted a widow’s pension at an increased rate because of the children and the husband’s additional benefit for the children would be adjusted accordingly.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 11.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 February 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620228_senate_24_s21/>.