24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuliin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1963. Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1963.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1963. Customs Tariff (Federation of Rhodesia and
Nyasaland Preference) Bill 1963. Excise Tariff Bill 1963. Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1963. Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1963. Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill
Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 5) 1963.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Has his attention been directed to a press report on the recent symposium of the Victorian College of Speech Therapists at which prominent psychiatrists, psychologists and speech therapy experts claimed that many handicapped children in Victoria were being deprived of proper speech training because of what they described as a scandalous lack of research facilities and the appallingly limited facilities for certain types of handicapped children? The report stated also that insufficient funds-
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to ask his question and not to give information.
– I ask the Minister: In view of the possibility that a similar position may exist in some, if not all, of the States, will the Government undertake an immediate investigation and also seek the views of the States on this important matter?
– I shall talk to my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, about the matter. However, while the honorable senator was reading his question my first impression was that this was a matter for the State health authorities. It seemed to me to relate to hospitals and health administration rather than to social services. Rehabilitation does come within the social services field, but only rehabilitation of those eligible under the. Social Services Act. The Social Services Act may or may not apply to people in the category to which Senator Toohey referred. My initial reaction was that the question should more properly be directed to the State health authorities.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Can the Minister say whether the aid that the United States has threatened to withdraw from Indonesia because of what it terms uncivilized conduct towards the British Ambassador and in the British Embassy at Djakarta is within the ambit of the Colombo Plan or is unilateral aid given to Indonesia by the United States? If the attitude of the Indonesian Government towards foreign embassies, particularly the British Embassy, and British firms in Indonesia does not improve, will a statement be made by the Government indicating its attitude in respect of aid given to Indonesia under the Colombo Plan? If it is correct that the British Ambassador was denied access to his own strongroom and that other diplomats were kept out by military police, will the Australian Government consider making a protest to Indonesia against this serious breach of diplomatic immunity?
– My only knowledge of what the United States had in mind in its discussions about aid which is extended to Indonesia comes from’ press reports. Part of the aid that it does extend is channelled through the Colombo Plan, but it is not confined to aid extended through the Colombo Plan. United States aid also includes all sorts of financial credits and the supply of various kinds of economic assistance outside the ambit of the Colombo Plan. As to the other questions that the honorable senator asked, the Prime Minister has indicated that he hopes to make a complete and definitive statement on Australia’s position in this present historic situation. I think that the time at which he is aiming to make such a statement is after questions to-morrow. He hopes to have the statement completed in time for it to be given to the Leader of the Opposition before it is made in the
House so that an immediate and full parliamentary debate can take place. If because of the limited time the statement is not available for distribution soon enough for an immediate debate to take place, then the Leader of the Opposition will be able to seek an adjournment and the debate can come on as soon as is feasible. I think all points covered by the honorable senator’s questions should await that definitive and carefully thought-out statement of the Australian Government’s position in regard to this whole matter.
– I desire to address a couple of questions to the Minister for Health. From time to time honorable senators receive pamphlets from the Australian Association of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industry which tell of the costly investigations and research work being conducted to ease the sufferings of mankind. One such pamphlet stated that the pharmaceutical industry of the Western world spent more than £140,000,000 in research and development during 1962. However, some facts are not publicized. Can the Minister inform the Senate why procaine penicillin costs 14s. 7d. in Australia, compared with 5s. 7d. in England, or why cortisone costs £2 10s. in Australia compared with £1 Ms. lid. in England? These figures are all in Australian values.
– As the honorable senator suggests, vast sums are spent annually on research. I believe that it is well nigh impossible to pinpoint just where research in this field begins and ends. I do not think it possible to make any comment in respect of the sum of £140,000,000 mentioned by the honorable senator. He has asked specifically why the two drugs which he named cost considerably more in Australia than they do in England. That is not an easy question to answer, either. However, certain factors have to be borne in mind. A drug is retailed at the same price in Darwin or Geraldton, or in any town or village in this far-flung country, as it is in Sydney or Melbourne. There are great distribution costs. I am not suggesting that such costs wholly account for the differences in price to which Senator Brown has referred. This is one of the questions that are engaging our attention, and I hope before long to be. able to supply more information on it.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, by stating that I welcome the announcement that a large bulk coal-carrier for Australian operators will soon be built at Whyalla in South Australia. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the cost of the ship, the date on which it is expected that it will be launched and completed, and the amount that the Commonwealth will pay by way of subsidy in respect of this work? Are there any other special features relating to the ship upon which the Minister would care to elaborate?
- Senator Laught earlier indicated to me his interest in this matter and gave me an opportunity to have a word with my colleague, Mr. Opperman, who has told me that the estimated cost of the ship is approximately £3,000,000. It is anticipated that it will be launched in June, 1965. The amount of subsidy which a particular ship attracts is always treated as being confidential. The total amount of subsidies paid each year is made available but the subsidy applicable to each ship is not disclosed. The name of the ship will be “ Gerringong “. It will be 582 feet in length with a 74-ft. beam. It will carry about 15,000 tons of coal. It will be powered by Salzer diesel engines and will have a speed of 15 knots’.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me how the runways at Eagle Farm airport, Brisbane, compare with the runways at the other capital cities, including Canberra? Can he inform me whether the free floor area at the air terminal premises at Brisbane is satisfactory and compares favorably with tha floor space provided for passengers at other air terminals in the Commonwealth and overseas? Can the Minister say whether the services provided for passengers at the terminal buildings at Brisbane are adequate and of a satisfactory standard?
Should the terminal premises at Brisbane be replaced in about seven years time, will the Minister arrange for the same air temperature to be maintained in the new remises as is maintained in the existing buildings? Does the Minister know whether artificial snow is available for decorating the igloo roofs of the air terminal buildings at Brisbane?
– The main runway at Brisbane has a length of 7,760 feet. The lengths of the main runways at the other capital citiy airports are as follows: Sydney, 8,290 feet; Adelaide, 6,850 feet; Melbourne, 6,100 feet; Perth, 7,500 feet; Canberra, 6,800 feet; Hobart, 5,800 feet. In terms of pavement strength, the runway at Brisbane is second only to Sydney. Its high standard is shown by the fact that Qantas can operate its Boeing 707 from this runway on a regularly scheduled service direct to Honolulu. The free floor areas in public lounges and concourse areas at Brisbane airport are 5,700 sq. ft. in the international terminal, 9,700 sq. ft. in the Trans-Australia Airlines terminal, and 7,300 sq. ft. in the Ansett-A.N.A. terminal, giving a total of 22,700 sq. ft.
The corresponding figure for Melbourne, which has more than twice as much traffic as Brisbane, is 17,000 square feet; that for Sydney, which has more than three times as much traffic as Brisbane, is 35,300 square feet; and that for Adelaide, which has a little less traffic than Brisbane, is 4,500 square feet. No comparative figures for overseas terminals are readily available.
It will be seen that free floor area at Brisbane compares more than favorably with that at other Australian airports, and it is considered it would compare more than favorably with free floor area at overseas airports when relative traffic densities were taken into account. Whilst it is recognized that improved passenger facilities at Brisbane are desirable, it is considered that the services now provided can be maintained in an adequate and satisfactory state until the new facilities are provided. The new terminal building, when constructed, will have such treatment of air temperature as is necessary to provide comfortable conditions at all times for those persons who use it. The reply to the question about the use of artificial snow is that if the decoration suggested were considered to be appropriate, I have no doubt that the material required would be found to be available.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, relates to the Colombo Plan and has particular reference to the assistance that has been given by Australia to Indonesia. Would it be correct to say that since the scheme started more than ten years ago Australia’s total capital aid contribution to Indonesia has exceeded £2,000,000, that an additional £1,000,000 has been spent on technical equipment, that some hundreds of Indonesians have been receiving training in primary, secondary, technical and university establishments in Australia, and that many experts have been sent to Indonesia from Australia? Will the Minister kindly arrange for a complete statement to be made showing the assistance which Australia has given to Indonesia in every field since the scheme started as well as assistance that has been given under the specialized agencies of the United Nations? Will he also prepare a statement showing the total aid that has been given to Indonesia by all countries, especially the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America?
– I would be happy to supply the honorable senator with a record of the assistance that has been given under the Colombo Plan by Australia to Indonesia in the various fields he has enumerated. I shall discover for him the sources from which he may ascertain the amounts that have been given by other instrumentalities for which we do not bear responsibility. I shall give him that glossary so he may look up those details for himself.
– Senator Sir Walter Cooper indicated that he would ask this question. My colleague, the Minister for Territories, has provided the relevant information. Before the change in administration in West New Guinea there was liaison between Australian and Netherlands authorities in regard to plant, animal and human quarantine in New Guinea. Cooperation was maintained by means of exchange visits and technical correspondence and through membership of the international and regional organizations which cover these matters. In the case of plant quarantine, both areas were covered by the Plant Protection Agreement for SouthEast Asia and the Pacific Region, but cooperation went beyond the terms of this agreement. A plant quarantine conference between Australian and Dutch administration officers was held in December, J 953, and closer co-operation resulted. The West New Guinea plant quarantine legislation, which was promulgated in 1958, was very similar to that of Papua and New Guinea. In 1953, it was recognized by both administrations that uniform animal quarantine legislation was desirable, and in 1957 a draft agreement between the Netherlands and Australian Governments was drawn up, but an agreement was not concluded before the change in administration in West New Guinea. However, agreement was reached on the principles involved and every effort made to ensure that both areas remained free from exotic animal diseases.
During the period from 1st October, 1962, to 1st May, 1963, the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority applied the previous Dutch regulations governing plant and animal quarantine. In January, 1963, expert officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health visited West New Guinea to have discussions with United Nations authorities and to inform themselves on the quarantine situation as it might affect the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and Australia. As a result of that visit, recommendations were mac’e and adopted to strengthen quarantine measures in Australia and the Territory. In August, 1963, senior quarantine officers of the Commonwealth and of the Papua and New Guinea Administration visited Indonesia to discuss the question of arranging for continuous consultations between plant and animal quarantine authorities in Papua and New Guinea and West New Guinea, to ascertain Indonesia’s intentions regarding the importation of animals, animal products and plant material into West New Guinea, and the quarantine restrictions or precautions which Indonesia proposed to impose on these imports. The Government will continue to give its close attention to these matters.
On the subject of human quarantine, both the Netherlands and Australia are members of the World Health Organization. They observe quarantine measures recommended by the organization and submit epidemiological and other data in accordance with requests received from it. This common membership assisted both administrations in maintaining effective control of notifiable human diseases during the Dutch administration of West New Guinea. Indonesia is also a member of the World Health Organization.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has he seen a report which appeared in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ on Friday, 20th September, 1963, that the conversion of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill railway line to standard gauge may now be completed earlier than scheduled? Is he aware that the report indicated that the Commonwealth Government had accepted, at a conference in Canberra, the view that the standardization of the Kalgoorlie to Kwinana line should be completed in 1967 instead of 1968, and also that the Commonwealth officials believed that the time-table for the South Australian work may now be advanced? Is the Minister in a position to make an announcement on this matter?
– I should prefer to have the question placed on the noticepaper so that a considered answer may be given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport. 1 am aware that late last week there was a conference of Commonwealth Ministers and the Western Australian Minister for Railways, as a result of which an agreed statement was made. However, there are aspects of the honorable senator’s question that go much beyond that matter, and for that reason I should like him to place it on the notice-paper.
– My question is directed to the Acting Treasurer. Has his attention been directed to a report that a new electronic system has been installed in America to check the arithmetic of taxation returns and to ensure that the tax computed is correct? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the comparable checks that are made in Australia and whether they are made manually or by machines?
– I can well understand the interest of Senator Wedgwood and every one else in ensuring that tax assessments shall be correct. I have no information about the checks that are carried out in the Australian Taxation Branch, or whether there is in use a computing machine similar to that suggested by the honorable senator. I shall have a look at the question and see whether there is any additional information I can let her have.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of published reports that there is a conflict of opinion between some sections of the wheatgrowers’ organizations and some State governments concerning the effective operation of the new wheat stabilization scheme? Is it a fact that the Minister for Primary Industry has called a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council to discuss immediately these three points: The failure of the respective State governments to grant recognition of the need for a margin of profit on wheat sold for home consumption; that the policy of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation in respect of additional wheat storage for carry-over wheat had not been agreed to; and the freight rate differential for Western Australia? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether any information on these matters has been received from the Australian Agricultural Council? Is a new wheat stabilization scheme likely to follow the council’s reports? What State governments are in conflict with the Commonwealth Government concerning the home-consumption price and the freight rate differential for Western Australian wheat?
– I am not aware that any State governments are in conflict with the Commonwealth Government over the new wheat stabilization scheme. Indeed, I would be surprised if (here were such conflict of opinion for the very good reason that the Commonwealth Government, following its usual policy., has conferred with the Australian Agricultural Council and the wheat-growers themselves from the inception, of the renewal of this agreement. A good deal of time has been taken in finalizing the agreement and it has been well received, according to my observations of the reactions of those concerned. Of course, there are those who would say that the agreement would have been improved had there been a profit margin or if some other figure had been accepted as the index; but I remind the. Senate teat the Government reached its conclusions in conference with representatives of the industry, and the industry has expressed unanimous and ready acceptance of the final agreement. Therefore, I shall be greatly surprised if the Australian Agricultural Council is to meet to discuss further details. Indeed, I would be more than surprised if these matters were up for discussion: - though I speak subject to correction - because I am satisfied they were all examined very carefully before final agreement was reached.
– Has the
Minister for Customs and Excise read a recent report that women were being used to smuggle the drug, heroin, into Australia and that some expensively-dressed women who travel abroad frequently have now come under the surveillance of customs officers? Are large quantities of this drug finding their way into Australia? What steps are being taken by the Department of Customs and Excise to apprehend these drug runners and to ascertain who are the receivers of the drug? Have any women been arrested, or is thereany possibility of people being detained in the near future for such an offence?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred.I noted that one of the officers at the port concerned denied any knowledge that women were being used in this traffic. Another officer said that this might have happened. I know that officers in the various ports have been particularly active in this field, and recenthauls of the drug have been the biggest in Australia’s history. 1 have asked for a report, and if the honorable senator will put his question upon notice I shall give him a complete answer when the information is supplied to me.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate recall my asking a question in October last year as to whether, in view of the likelihood of the adoption of decimal currency, the Government should also consider adopting the metric system of weights and measures? Has the Minister noted a report in the Melbourne “ Sun News-Pictorial “ of last Saturday that the Australian Public Service Association is urging the Government to adopt the metric system, claiming that it would result in huge savings in time and cost to the community? Has the Government any views on this matter? If not, will the Minister ask the Government to investigate the claim’s and, if their validity is established, to change over to the metric system as soon as practicable?
– I should like the question to be put on the notice-paper. There has been a good deal of discussion upon this issue. I have a recollection that it is a matter with which it is beyond the competence of the Commonwealth to deal. I have a recollection that, so far as it is practicable, the metric system is operating in relation to certain commodities in Australia. But there are so many aspects of the subject that I think it is unfair to try to deal with it without notice. Therefore, I shall get a proper answer.
– Did the Minister for
National Development, in opening the national electrical industry conference in Canberra yesterday, express the opinion that by 1970 nuclear power costs would be about the same as those of the most efficient thermal base load generating plant at present, and that the capital cost a kilowatt hour in nuclear power stations overseas had declined? In view of the importance of nuclear power to Australia’s future industrial development, will the Minister give the Senate a statement showing the present comparative power costs and the projected estimates upon which his statement was based?
– What I said yesterday was that the present indications were that by 1 970 nuclear power could be produced at . 5d. a kilowatt hour, which was of the order of the present cost of production of electricity in Australia. I went on to say that it would be hard to foretell the trend of thermal power production costs between now and 1970. I shall give thought to the suggestion that a statement be made on the matter. I shall have a talk with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and see whether this is practicable. I think it might be a useful exercise. There are so many technicalities that it might be difficult to state the various opinions in precise words, but I did it once before and we might try again.
(Question No. 40.)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for the Army, upon notice-
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. As the honorable senator probably is aware, both the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Western Australia are interested in tuna research, and
Commonwealth funds have been spent investigating tuna resources in Western Australian waters. Accordingly, the Army in response to an official request by the responsible Minister of the Governmentof Western Australia partially erected a pre-fabricated steel framed cyclone-resistant hut, measuring approximately twenty feet by twelve feet on Rosemary Island for use as a base for research activities in nearby waters.
(Question No. 53.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following replies: -
Residence F. W. Wilson, Wirrinya.
Residence C. Johnson, Forbes-road, Grenfell.
Residence R. Martin, Byng.
Residence W. J. Irwin, Lidster.
Recreation ground pavilion, Pinecliff.
Public Hall, Red Hill.
Shearer’s quarters, Blunt’s woolshed, Emu Swamp.
Public School, Tarkeeth.
Public School, Lower Dyraaba Creek.
Police residence, Dalmorton.
Public Hall, Maynard’s Plains.
Public School, Central Bucca.
Maxwelton Hall, Upper Kangaroo Creek.
P.O. residence, Thumb Creek.
Forestry Office, Brooklana.
Public School, Timmsvale.
Public School, Codrington.
Aboriginal Station, Brewarrina.
Shearers’ huts, Meranda Station.
Homestead, Mooranding Station.
Weeks’ residence, Wrightville.
Shearers’ huts, Bindaree.
Sowden’s residence, Claremont.
Homestead, Emby Station.
Station office, Eremeran Station, Eremeran.
Post Office, Conoble.
Post Office, Kerrigundi.
Station office, Toorale Station, Toorale.
Public School, Kinalung.
Waiting room, Sayers Lake.
Homestead, The Corners, Brooklands.
Homestead, Buckiinguy Station, Buckiinguy.
Railway waiting rooms, Tarcoon.
Shearers’ quarters, Willow Point.
Homestead, Riverview, Dandaloo.
Residence O. M. McCarron, Reidsdale.
Residence J. Carpenter, Mogilla.
Public School, Niagara.
Recreation Hall, Jindabyne Camp.
Residence A. E. Webb, Charley’s Forest.
Post Office, Jembaicumbene.
Public Hall, Dignam’s Creek.
Public School, Chakola.
Residence R. Malone, Bellmount Forest.
Residence J. S. Keir, Bywong.
Residence E. H. Stephenson, Big Hill.
Residence C. Povey, Colinton.
Public School, Jerrabatgulla.
Public School, Brooman.
Residence M. J. Malinn, Holt’s Flat.
Post Office, Pomeroy.
Residence J. H. Sturgiss, Lower Boro.
Southern Cross vineyard, Hopefield.
State School, Tarramia North.
Public School, Upper Bingara.
Church Hall, Loch Adair.
Willowdale homestead, Willowdale.
Thorndale woolshed, Burraweeda.
Post Office, Braefield.
Station Office, Miller’s Creek.
Public School, Copeton.
Borumbil homestead. Borumbil.
Moongulla Station, Collarenebri.
Bybilla huts, Yetman, Dumaresq River.
Yarran Vale woolshed,Cuttabri, Merimborough.
P.O. residence, Wondalga.
Post Office, Isabella. “Mount Carmel”, Triangle Flat.
Court House, Crookwell (Wheeo North).
Post Office, Blanket Flat.
Post Office residence, Goondah.
Provisional school, Tangmangarco.
Marquee, Two-mile Flat.
Residence T. C. M. Suttor, Triamble.
Residence A. L. Bow, Crudine.
Residence B. Sheehan, Upper Botobolar.
Residence H. W. Rhodes, Gulgamree.
Residence L. Doherty, Upper Meroo.
Residence F. H. Byrnes, Wilbertree Flat.
Public School, Wooleybah.
Residence V. E. Roberts, Munmurra.
Public Hall, Uarbry.
Residence R. W. A. Currie, Dubbo (Delroy).
Soldiers Memorial Hall, Rawsonville.
Public School, Windorah.
Residence J. W. Hyland, Gcurie, Nubingerie.
Graham’s residence, Crawford River.
McGrath’s residence, Mayer’s Flat.
Public School, Mungay Creek.
Public Hall, Collombatti.
Post Office, Collombatti Rail.
Reynold’s old homestead, Pappinbarra.
Methodist Hall, Woodhill.
Public School, Kangaroo River.
Public School Building, Barrier.
Residence of C. M. Colley, Essington.
Public School, Tyldesley.
C.Easson’s residence, Pretty Gully.
Post Office, Fladbury.
Balmoral Station, Bald Nob.
Public School, Backwater.
Hall, Rushes Creek.
Post Office, Black Swamp.
Woolshed, Emu Creek.
Post Office residence, Fishers Hill.
Mr. A. Bird’s residence,Strathisla.
Mr. A. Taylor’s residence, Gosforth.
Shearers’ quarters - North Glen Dhu, Glen Dhu.
School, Upper Horseshoe Creek.
School, Upper Cooper’s Creek.
Detached room, Homebush Hotel, Penarie.
Homestead office, Freshwater.
Homestead office, Manfred.
Public School, Curriba.
School Hall, Gibson Vale.
Fairfield Hall, Kynwoor.
Station office, Goolgumbla.
Fegan’s Old School, Wonnue.
Station office, Burrabogie.
Melbergen Hall, Melbergen.
Wood Park, Wilson.
Thake’s residence, Moira.
Casey’s woolshed, Thule.
Public Hall, Stony Crossing.
Public Hall, Milby West.
Post Office, Howe’s Valley.
Roberts’ barn, Payne’s Crossing.
Post Office, Sweetman’s Creek.
Camp office, Holsworthy.
(Question No. 55.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER.The Minister for Trade has informed me as follows: -
Crawford Productions Proprietary Limited (film producers), £37,725.
The programmes besides being telecast in all. States by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, are now being shown by some commercial stations on a no charge basis, as then contribution to the national drive for greater export income. The Government is most appreciative of the assistance and co-operation which has been forthcoming from the television industry.
(Question No. 103.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
– Senator Willesee, on 1 2th September, 1963, asked for some information concerning the criteria that are applied in determining whether prizes awarded to athletes are subject to income tax. This is a matter that has to be determined by interpreting the provisions of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act and the responsibility for administering these provisions rests with the Commissioner of Taxation. The commissioner has made available the following explanation of the principles that are applicable: -
Although there are no provisions in the assessment act dealing expressly with the taxing of prizes, the legislature has declared, subject to certain exceptions, that the assessable income of a taxpayer shall include the gross income derived by him, directly or indirectly, from all sources. Whether a prize won in a competition is subject to income tax will turn on whether, in the taxpayer’s particular circumstances, the benefit received has the character of income and this can only be decided by applying the general principles of the income lax law as explained in the decisions of the courts and taxation boards of review.
On the one hand, it is recognized that, in the absence of special circumstances, no liability to tax would arise merely because a member of the general public participates casually in a competition and wins a prize. The position here is much the same as where a taxpayer wins a lottery or makes a profit from casual gambling transactions. The windfall gains received in these circumstances would not have the character of income, whether the taxpayer appears once or makes a series of appearances in an elimination contest.
A class of case in which competition prizes may be assessable income includes taxpayers such as professional sportsmen who receive gifts, prizes, awards or other fringe benefits as regular incidents of their occupations. A long series of decisions of the English and Australian courts suggests that the test to be applied in deciding whether a benefit of this nature is taxable is: Was the benefit of a personal nature divorced from any incomeproducing activity of the recipient, or is it so connected with the income-producing activity as really to arise as a result of that activity?
Accordingly, the Taxation Board of Review held that a professional footballer, who was awarded a television set for being selected as best and fairest player in a newspaper competition, was required to include the value of the set in his assessable income. Although there has not yet been any decided case on the point, the position would appear to be the same if the taxpayer had been invited, because of his sporting fame, to appear in a radio or television contest which had been conducted in such a way as to make the winning of prizes by the sportsman a foregone conclusion.
– I lay on the table of the Senate a report by a special advisory authority on the following subject: -
Cotton bed sheeting and pillow casing.
[3.45]. - by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that during the absence overseas of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who will attend a meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers in London and the annual meetings of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, Senator Paltridge will act as Treasurer.
Debate resumed from 19th September (vide page 729), on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Poke had moved by way of amendment -
At end of motion add the following words: - “ but the Senate is of opinion that -
increases should be made in -
child endowment which has remained unchanged for the first child for 13 years and for subsequent children for 15 years;
maternity allowances which have remained substantially unchanged for 20 years, and
pensioners’ funeral benefits which have remained unchanged for 20 years;
there should be a standard rate for all pensioners and supplementary assistance for special needs, thus removing the discrimination against married pensioners;
other social service payments and qualifications including permissible income should be adjusted to compensate for changes in the cost of living;
Australia now lags behind most comparable countries in its expenditureon social welfare, and
research and inquiry into social welfare in Australia is inadequate.”
.- I wish to congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill. I oppose the amendment. During the whole of the term of office of this Government there has been a steady expansion of social service benefits. I shall give a few examples covering a very wide range: There has been a substantial increase in the rate of pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, and rehabilitation allowances. There has been a liberalization of the property and income means test. In 1954 this Government introduced the Aged Persons Homes Act, and in 1958 it doubled its financial contribution under that legislation. I could quote many other examples of this Government’s interest in social services and of its determination to act.
All voluntary workers in the field of social welfare have a keen realization of the needs existing in the community and they submit their requests to the Government from time to time for assistance in alleviating some form of distress or for governmental action to meet a particular need. I have taken part in many discussions in voluntary organizations and also with the women of the Liberal Party in my own State. These discussions have led to such approaches to the Government. When the Government has replied that the matter would receive consideration, or that action could not be taken, naturally there has been disappointment, but there has been also an awareness that the answer must depend upon the Government’s ability to find the necessary finance. So, at a later date the requests have been submitted again.
I know that many honorable senators also - at least those whom I now call colleagues - have given much serious consideration to social welfare problems and have voiced their requests. There is great gratification that, by means of this bill, alleviation will be given to the civilian class A widow and the single pensioner. I have received from voluntary workers, both men and women, many expressions of appreciation of the Government’s action.
May I illustrate the Government’s continuous awareness of the need for assistance to widows and the steps it has taken year by year to meet this need? Let us go back to 1942, when the Curtin Government introduced widows’ pensions. The then Government paid a weekly rate of £1 10s. for the class A widow and £1 5s. for the class B or class C widow. These rates were subject to cost-of-living adjustments. In 1943 the rates were increased by 2s., and in 1944 the Curtin Government repealed the provisions relating to cost-of-living adjustments. In 1945 there was an increase, and in 1946 the means test was eased. In 1947 there was another increase, so that by 1948 a class A widow received £2 7s. 6d. a week, an increase since 1942 of 17s. 6d. By this time the class B widow had received an increase of 12s., making her pension £1 17s., and the class C widow an increase of 17s. 6d., making her pension £2 2s. 6d.
In 1950 this Government increased the pension for a class A widow by 7s. 6d., bringing the rate to £2 15s. The class B and class C widow each received an increase of 5s., which brought their rates of pension to £2 2s. and £2 7s. 6d. respectively. Then in 1951 came a further increase and the means test was again liberalized. There were further increases in 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. The year 1956 saw the introduction of the payment of an extra pension of 10s. for each child other than the first. There was another increase in 1957. In 1958, supplementary assistance for certain pensioners who paid rent was brought in and, also, the property limit was raised.
In 1959 there was an increase and the pensions scheme was extended to cover aboriginal widows. The increase in 1960 was accompanied by the introduction of the merged means test. There was another increase in 1961, and in 1962 an important measure was brought in with regard to migrants. The residential limit of twenty years fixed by the Labour Government was halved and ten years’ residence was accepted. British migrants had been covered in 1953 by the reciprocal agreement on social security between this Government and the Government of the United Kingdom. The provisions of this agreement were liberalized further by a new agreement in 1958.
So we come to 1963, when a very considerable step forward is being taken. By this bill it is proposed to increase the pension rate for a civilian widow by 5s. and to introduce a mother’s allowance of £2 a week. In addition, provision is made for an allowance of 15s. a week to be paid for the widow’s eldest or only child. This will bring the pension payable to a widow wilh one child to £8’ 10s. a week. Compare 1963 with 1948!
According to the 1962-63 report of the Director-General of Social Services, the total number df widow pensioners is 58,477. Of this number, 9,518, that is, 16 per cent., receive the supplementary allowance. I suggest that the proportion of class A widows who would receive the supplementary allowance would be considerable, especially when we consider Jean Aitken Swan’s survey, “ Widows in Australia “, which stated that 52 per cent, of widows had less than £1 a week left after paying rent and after providing a low-cost diet for themselves and their children. This benefit of an additional £3 will alleviate a great deal of stress of mind and enable a widowed mother to care for her children and give them a much better standard of food and home.
Of the civilian widows, 49 per cent, have two children, so instead of speaking in vast figures I shall speak of one family, a mother and two children. We can see that the widow’s pension and the weekly amount that she receives to care for her children have increased considerably. Her pension will be £5 15s., her mother’s allowance £2, the allowance for her two children £1 10s. and child endowment 15s. Referring again to the 52 per cent, of widows who would have less than £1 after paying rent and for a low-cost diet, 1 point out that they will receive a supplementary grant of 10s., making their total weekly income £10 10s. Of course, they will also receive the Slate welfare allowance, which I sincerely hope will continue. According to the report to which I have referred, there are 33,112 class B widows who will receive an increase of 10s. a week, bringing their pension to £5 2s. 6d. a week. Of the class C widows, 104 will also receive an increase of 10s. a week, bringing their pension to £5 2s. 6d. a week.
Mr. Deputy President, this bill will provide education allowances in respect of all student children of pensioners up to the age of eighteen years. Previously, this allowance was payable only in respect of children up to the age of sixteen years. Again, this bill will relieve the anxiety of widows in their concern to give the children the best possible future. I think the figures that I have cited speak for themselves. They show that the Government has indeed done its utmost, within its financial resources to provide assistance for widow pensioners.
Turning to the subject of age pensioners, it is interesting to read that aged pensions were introduced by that eminent Australian, Alfred Deakin, in 1909. It is interesting to note, too, that the maximum rate in that year was 10s. a week, with a permissible income of 10s. a week.
– Why did he introduce it?
– It was a very wise provision, I would say. May I go on and give the overall picture at this stage? There are now 786,000 age pensioners in Australia. Of that number, 5.16,000 will receive the increase of 1 0s. a week. As has already been stated, of that number, 1 00,000 already receive supplementary assistance. It is rather wearisome to continue giving figures but I want to illustrate this point. According to the report of the Director-General of Social Services, there were 607,350 age pensioners at 30th June, 1 962. Of the total number of age pensioners, 1 1 per cent, were receiving supplementary assistance. I should imagine that the corresponding figure would be about the same for the financial year 1962-63.
Supplementary assistance, as honorable senators know, is given to single pensioners and to married couples where only one is a pensioner if they pay rent and are considered to depend entirely on their pension. So the single pensioner will now receive £6 5s. a week. The married couple, both of whom receive a pension, will receive a combined pension of £10 10s. a week. The pensioner whose spouse does not receive a pension will receive £5 15s. a week. The Government has made adequate provision for the husband and wife where the husband is an invalid or permanently incapacitated. In these cases, there will be an increase in the wife’s allowance of 12s. 6d. a week, giving her £3 a week. There will also be an increase of 15s. a week in the allowance payable for each child after the first. There will also be the education allowance of 15s. for all children up to eighteen years of age undergoing full-time education.
At this stage, Mr. Deputy President, I should like to comment upon what seems to be an anomaly. I have spoken about the care of the wife of an invalid husband or a permanently incapacitated husband. But where husband and wife both receive a pension and the husband or wife needs to be placed in an institution for a period, it seems that a pension will be paid only to the one who is not admitted to the institution. Consequently, commitments of £.10 10s. a week will have to be covered by that one pension. I suggest that an inquiry should be made into this position.
This bill will provide for the care of those classes of people which all voluntary workers and statutory workers in the field of social services agree should receive the utmost consideration and help - the civilian class A widow, the widow with children, the married couple in receipt of only one pension, and the single pensioner. A married couple, both of whom have a pension, receives £10 10s. a week and can have a permissible income of £7 a week which makes a total of £17 10s. a week. Also, they may have considerable assets which are not subject to the means test. They may have a home, in which they permanently reside, furniture, personal effects, a motor car, a life insurance policy with a surrender value of £750, and any property to which either spouse is entitled from a deceased person’s estate but which has not been received. Therefore, I suggest that the majority of married couples in receipt of a pension are able to live in circumstances in which all right-thinking Australians would like to see them live. But their conditions must be contrasted with those of the single person and the civilian widows to whom I have referred. Therefore, I am completely in agreement with the
Government’s action in providing, within the finance available for this purpose, the increases which have been proposed.
In speaking to paragraph 5 of the Opposition’s proposed amendment, Senator Willessee seemed to suggest that there was not enough research, inquiry or publicity in connexion with social service activities in order to enable us to improve the conditions for which provision has been made in the Budget. He went on to say -
I suppose that the only time the public was made fully aware of what was happening in the field of social services was when national insurance was first introduced.
I should like to refer again, Sir, to the voluntary organizations with hundreds of male and female members who take a vital interest in the subject of social services. There are the organizations within my own State at the Commonwealth level. There are the women of the National Council of Women in each State.
There is the Country Women’s Association which is doing magnificent work in this field. In each State there is a Council of Social Service which is co-ordinated by the Australian Council of Social Service, and there are many other organizations. There are the men and women of the Liberal Party throughout Australia who have special committees for the very purpose of discussing social service needs in the community. So far as Victoria is concerned, we receive the utmost assistance from the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and the State Department of Social Services. I suggest, Sir, that information gained by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services in dealing with the requests made by the voluntary workers whom I have mentioned has provided a background of knowledge on which the Government can draw and has drawn.
So we look forward to further increases in social services as the prosperity of the country grows. As there is every indication of continuing prosperity in this country, due to wise governmental measures in every field of .activity, I feel quite sure that in future budgets more and more benefits will be introduced to meet the needs of the community. Therefore, Sir, I hope this bill will be passed as quickly as possible so that the benefits which it provides will be made available expeditiously to those who are sorely in need of them.
– Mr. Deputy President, Senator Breen made a very interesting contribution to the debate. In her own inimitably sincere way she attempted to persuade the Government to rectify one anomaly, lt was interesting to hear her pay a tribute to an anti-Labour government for having introduced age and invalid pensions. However, when we look at the official “Year-Book” we find that credit for introducing age pensions in the southern hemisphere should be given not to the Commonwealth of Australia but to New Zealand. Pensions have been payable in that country since 1898. The first State in the Commonwealth to pay such benefits was Victoria. The second State to do so was New South Wales, and the third was Queensland.
– What kind of government was in office then in New Zealand?
– I have only limited time available to me. On this occasion I do not propose to speak at great length, because a valuable contribution to the debate has been made by Senator Poke and many other honorable senators want to follow me. If you are prepared to be as industrious as I am, you should go to the Library and look up these things just as I have.
– You cannot give me the answer.
– What kind of government would you expect to be in office in those days?
– I am asking you that.
– I shall now deal with the Deakin Government, which introduced pensions in 1909. For the honorable senator’s edification, 1 shall deal with the history of social services in the Commonwealth sphere. Before I proceed to do so after having been so rudely interrupted - it is characteristic of the honorable senator to interrupt - may I say that, having listened to proceedings in another place at 8 p.m. on 10th September, one could be pardoned for thinking that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) was wedded to the welfare state and was the father of social services. That would be one’s view if one did not know the history of the honorable gentleman. You, Mr. Deputy President, being part and parcel of the Government parties, will recall that not long ago the Government members’ social services committee was not particularly happy about the honorable gentleman who is now the Minister for Social Services. Apparently his attitude to social services changed when he was appointed to the Ministry in 1956. I recall that in 1959 at least one of the Sydney lory newspapers, when referring to the honorable gentleman, used a term which I am loath to use within the precincts of this chamber. That newspaper referred to him as M:. Humbug. It was stated that the members of his own party referred to him in that way. Apparently prior to 1956 he displayed an attitude which suggested that he was opposed to social services.
Let us cast our minds back to last year and recall what happened in another place when the Budget was being discussed. The present ‘Postmaster-General (Nf r. Davidson) said that the cost of a proposed increase in social service payments would be £40,000,000. He said that the last thing he would increase would be social service payments if it meant adding an additional sum of £40,000,000 to the Budget.
Let me return to the history of social services. 1 will concede that the Deakin Government introduced age and invalid pensions in 1909. Why did it do so? It did so because there, was almost a world trend in that direction, but more particularly because of the vitriolic attacks of the late William Hughes and the approach of the late Andrew Fisher. Labour members of the Parliament spurred on the antiLabour government to introduce those benefits in 1909. Which government introduced the baby bonus in 1912? It was the Fisher Labour Government. But there was almost no real change in social service benefits until 1941, when an anti-Labour government introduced a child endowment payment of 5s. for the second child and each subsequent child. Sir Arthur Fadden was then the Treasurer and I think the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was then Minister for Labour and National Service. Why was that benefit granted? That benefit was introduced because the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration had said that if child endowment were not granted it would increase the basic wage.
– Did you say the Arbitration Court said that?
– Yes. If you read the records you will find that consideration would have been given to a further substantial increase of the basic wage if child endowment was not granted. It is interesting to note that when a royal commission was appointed to investigate the desirability of introducing child endowment, there was a minority report in support of that benefit. The only person who supported it was a Labour member of the Parliament - John Curtin.
– I ask you again whether the Arbitration Court said that.
– Let me proceed in my own way.
– Of course, you never interject!
– I never interject, unless it is necessary to correct some statement.
– In your own inimitable way!
– I shall not only edify you but educate you. In 1945, child endowment was increased to 7s. 6d. for the second child and each subsequent child, and in 1948 it was increased to 10s. A further step was taken in 1950. Of course, this Government cannot always be charged with having committed sins; there are some things which are to its credit. However, the Government is usually under duress when it introduces some new benefit. This Government introduced a payment of 5s. for the first child.
– And Labour opposed it.
– Tell the whole story. Labour was not particularly in favour of a payment for the first child, but it did propose substantial increases for the second child and subsequent children. Of course, Senator Mattner would know the history of the Labour Party better than I dol But what he says is not always consistent with the truth. Before the general election of 1949, simply in an effort to win votes, the Government parties promised to pay endowment for the first child. They made many other promises, but this is one they honoured.
We might say that an increase of child endowment payments has been consigned to the limbo of the forgotten. There has been no change in the payment for the second child and subsequent children since 1948 and no change in the payment for the first child since 1950. Let us consider the value of the present payments in terms of the purchasing power of £1. That reminds me that apparently the “ royal “ has been consigned to the limbo of the forgotten, too. To buy the same quantity of goods, the payment of 5s. for the first child which was’ granted in 1950 should now be more than lis. The payment of 10s. which was granted in 1948 should now be more than 23s. Although this Government has been in office continuously since 10th December, 1949, it has done absolutely nothing to improve child endowment.
What is wrong with the amendment which Senator Poke has moved? I am not going to say there is nothing worth while in the bill. Every one admits there is something worth while in it, but after all, most of the measures that it proposes were inevitable. They were particularly inevitable because of the pressure which the Labour Party exerted during the 1958 and 1961 election campaigns. The 1961 election was won by mischance. I shall not discuss the details of Communist support and matters of that kind, because they have been dealt with so often, but on that occasion the Government almost had to walk the yardarm. Why, on this occasion, do we see this particular concern for the widows?
– Because we are humane people.
– Because you borrowed the idea, as usual, from Labour. We suggested it in 1958 and again in 1961. The honorable senator is too intelligent not to know that that is so.
It is useless to say that Labour is now opposed to the increase of pension for single pensioners. Labour has never been opposed to advancement for anybody who is entitled to it. Incidentally, if honorable senators opposite think we are trying to split the ranks of the pensioners let them consult the pensioner organizations. They will see that those organizations are opposed to this differential approach to a base pension payment. They say, and my party agrees, that there should be a base payment to all pensioners. We appreciate the disabilities, not only of single pensioners, but also, in particular circumstances, of married pensioners. We say that there should be a supplementary form of assistance. We put forward a scheme under which supplementary assistance of as much as 30s. a week would be provided, and we hoped that in the process of timewe would be able to increase the assistance.
I know that the present Government introduced a rental allowance of 10s. a week for single pensioners, or married pensioners in cases where the spouse of a married pensioner was not receiving a pension; but the Government has not gone far enough. It has not been fair enough. It has not accepted responsibility to see that social justice is done. It has attempted to win votes. Honorable senators opposite have bitter memories of the 1961 general election results. They are going to make certain, if they possibly can, that they will efface from the minds of the electors the thoughts they had about the Government parties when they went to the polling booth on that occasion. However, I do not think the Government parties can win again.
– Do not worry about that. Remember the last gallup poll.
– Do you remember the time when Truman was not going to win and Dewey was a certainty? That was the forecast made by a poll conducted by Dr. Gallup, the originator of gallup polls. Yet, Mr. Truman became President of the United States. Do not be too concerned about gallup polls. Honorable senators opposite would do belter to concern themselves about providing social justice and economic security for the people.
What does the amendment proposed by Senator Poke involve? I suggest that it involves nothing more than social justice. We say there should be no differential rates when we are determining base rates of pension. We admit the justification for a supplementary allowance.
– Do you deny that we have a base rate now?
– Of course, you have. You have different base rates for single pensioners and married pensioners. You know that the pensioners themselves quarrel with that arrangement. You know how far away you have got from the basic approach to child endowment. You have used child endowment as an election winner on two occasions, and since then you have forgotten all about it. Responsibility to the mothers of this country does not concern you collectively as political parties in a de facto arrangement, but if to-morrow you thought that control of the treasury bench in this Parliament depended on an increase of child endowment, you would not be able to get into this chamber quickly enough to introduce the necessary legislation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order! The honorable senator is directing his remarks to the supporters of the Government. He should direct them to the Chair.
– I was directing them to Government supporters through you, Sir.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– I was diverted, Sir.
– Do not blame me.
– I do not blame you; I blame myself for being silly enough to listen to you. When we think further of social legislation for the benefit of those who deserve to benefit and who merit consideration, what do we find? Maternity allowances and the funeral benefit were introduced in 1943 by the Curtin Government. Those social service benefits have not been increased in 20 years, despite the decline in the purchasing value of Australian money under successive anti-Labour governments. Admittedly, the sickness and unemployment benefit, which was introduced in 1945 by a Labour Government, has been changed since then, but on this occasion there has been no change in it.
It is interesting to note that the unctuous remarks associated with the second-reading speech in the other place were excluded from the speech made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir William Spooner). Honorable senators opposite should not try to tell us who is responsible for social services. The history of social services in this country tells the story of the interest which the Labour Party has taken in the welfare of the people. We know that expenditure from the National Welfare Fund has increased, but nevertheless, the supporters of the Government do not tell the whole story. We are prepared on every occasion to pay tribute to governments which do good, but we have the right to expect that governments will tell the whole story. The supporters of the Government boast of the increase that has occurred in expenditure on social services since 1949, but they do not say that in the interim the population has increased by between 25 and 30 per cent. They are not game to admit that purchasing power has declined. They do not admit that more children have been receiving child endowment. They do not admit, although we all are aware of the fact, that there has been an extraordinary increase in the national income.
– Thanks to this Government.
– I shall finish the story in my own inimitable way. I do not want any help from you. National income has increased despite successive Menzies Governments. The increase was inevitable. It has occurred in every country of the world. In this respect, Australia has progressed less than many other countries. Australia is the twelfth greatest trading nation in the world, a position it occupies not because of the efforts of successive Menzies Governments but because of its natural endowment and the greatness and indomitable spirit of the Australian people who will survive despite successive Menzies Governments.
If we take social service payments as a guide to the percentage of national income devoted to the welfare of people who, by and large, cannot help themselves, we find that Australia is low on the list. If we compare the social service provisions in Australia with those in 21 other nations including Belgium, Ireland, Italy, West
Germany and the Scandanavian countries, we find that these countries virtually leave this present Government of ours for dead, at least in a political sense. Yet supporters of the Government profess to find pleasure, and take pride, in the bill before the Senate. That passes my comprehension, although I have a mind far superior to those of honorable senators opposite.
Senator Breen, like myself, is a peaceful person and she expressed interest in the call for a social survey covering the needs of those who, by and large, cannot help themselves. Such a survey was made recently in the United Kingdom and it was found that one-fifth of the population there was living in relative poverty. We can understand such a situation existing in certain backward countries - and I do not intend to enter into a debate on colonialism - but it is incomprehensible in a civilized country. Unfortunately, the experience in Australia is similar. Members of this Parliament have a responsiblity to the nation but many honorable senators opposite, because of their wealth and their backgrounds, cannot visualize the circumstances in which many Australians exist.
It is the responsibility of every worthwhile Australian - and more particularly it is the responsibility of the Government to see that in this land of plenty people are not denied reasonable sustenance and a suitable environment. That is the only reason why the Australian Labour Party asks for a social survey. We do not want to castigate the Government, and we do not even demand such a survey. We merely want to alleviate the conditions of the underprivileged people of the community and offer them a better place in the sun. If we think the Government is negligent we will not hesitate to castigate it, and if the people decided they wanted a change of government we would expect criticism as a government if we did not measure up to our responsibilities. Why should the Government hesitate to agree to a social survey when there is so much we do not know about the unfortunate people in the community?
I realize that this bill provides for an increase in benefits of 10s. a week for single pensioners and some help for widows. But there is to be nothing extra for married pensioner couples. The Minister for
National Development (Sir William Spooner) has proudly announced that twothirds of the pensioners will receive something from this measure, but he forgot to say that nearly .300,000 persons who are in relatively necessitious circumstances will receive nothing. Is that right or fair? Can it be justified when the Government and its supporters so frequently and vociferously claim that the country is passing through a period of extraordinary prosperity with increasing national income? New assets provided by nature are constantly being revealed and some are being sold overseas callously and indifferently because of the ineptitute of the Government - or because of its deliberate desire to do so. Surely the Government has a responsibility to almost 300,000 people who are overlooked in the measure before the Senate.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is the man least fitted of the members of the Government to handle this measure. It is said that we on the Opposition side come from the rank and file and represent the underdog. We are particularly concerned with the unfortunate people in the community and we believe that many supporters of the Government share that concern, but because of their upbringing and their environment and wealth they are not so closely associated with these people as we are. They do not know the disabilities that are suffered by these unfortunate people. The man entrusted with the portfolio of social services is least fitted for the task because of his expressions and his attitude before he accepted the portfolio in J 956, and because of the attitude to him of the members of his own Social Services Committee. He has been referred to by them as “ Mr. Humbug “. It would be far from me to use that word in connexion with a distinguished Minister, but I say that the Government has a responsibility-
– I rise to a point of order. Standing Order No. 418 provides that no senator shall use offensive words against either house of the Parliament or any member of such House. It was offensive to me for Senator Dittmer to call a Minister in’ another place “Mr. Humbug”, and I ask that those words be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! Standing
Order No. 418 is quite clear. I listened carefully to Senator Dittmer. He did not reflect upon the Minister as a person. He made a criticism of him as a Minister. I heard a reference to “ Mr. Humbug “. Senator Dittmer was repeating something that had been said of the Minister. He did not call the Minister “ Mr. Humbug “. The point of order is not upheld.
– If Senator Marriott reads an issue of the Sydney “ Sun “ of 1959 he will see that the Minister was referred to in those words in an article by Elwyn Spratt. I would hesitate to use the term myself.
To sum up: We move this amendment in a sincere desire not particularly to help the Government but to help those people who are entitled to assistance, namely, married pensioners and single pensioners in particularly necessitous circumstances. We desire to eliminate the difference in the pensions. We seek a justifiable increase in child endowment, in recognition of the rights of mothers and the desire for nativeborn migrants, as distinct from those who are imported. We do not oppose immigration. Much credit is taken by the Government for pursuing, almost religiously, a pattern laid down by a previous Labour government, in which the Minister for Immigration was the present Leader of the Opposition in another place.
We seek a survey of social circumstances and economic needs of the community in general. There is nothing in those proposals that is undesirable or unnecessary. The unctuous remarks that emanate from the mouths of successive speakers on the Government side do nothing to mitigate the callous disregard by successive Menzies Governments of social justice and economic security. There should be an increase in child endowment. There should be no difference in the basic rates of pension. There should be a form of supplementary assistance. There should be an increase in the maternity allowance. There should be an increase in the funeral benefit. There should be an increase in sickness and unemployment benefits. These increases are more particularly necessary because of the decreasing purchasing power of money under successive Menzies Governments, whether the unit be £1, a dollar, a royal - term it what you will. If the Government provides these increases, it will earn the gratitude of the people and will be entitled to a continued tenure of office. If the Government does not provide these increases, it has no authority and no right to hold control of the treasury bench.
.- We have listened to a vehement speech by Senator Dittmer. What always surprises me about him is that he becomes vehement and even quite heated about aspects of a measure that do not really matter. I was amazed when, early in his speech, he became quite heated as to who introduced child endowment and invalid pensions in the southern hemisphere 50 years ago. After all, does that matter very much?
– It was 65 years ago.
– I think I am correct in saying that it was an anti-Labour government in New Zealand and the Deakin Government in this country. But that does not matter very much. It was 50 years ago.
– That is why we got Labour governments.
– You have made your speech.
– Subject to your interruptions.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT.
Order! Senator Dittmer must not interrupt.
– I do not think that the origin of our social services matters, and only some one who is devoid of argument would bother about a name that has been applied to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). These things do not matter a bit. Indeed, coming from some quarters such remarks might almost be taken as a compliment. If certain persons were to say complimentary things about me I would quickly take stock of myself and wonder what on earth was wrong with me and whether in some way or other I had made a faux pas All these things are irrelevant. They do not matter at all. So far as I am aware, the Minister for Social Services is a conscientious man who does his job to the best of his ability. Remarks such as those made by Senator Dittmer come only from persons who are so completely devoid of any constructive suggestions that they do not know what else to say.
Senator Willesee said something about a matter which has been working on my mind for a number of years. He said -
To-day one of the problems is that a political atmosphere is creeping into social services.
Creeping in! That is a gross understatement. It crept in twenty or 30 years ago. We have seen so often in this country and in other countries, particularly in New Zealand, an Opposition party trying to induce the people to believe that if it were on the treasury bench social service benefits of all descriptions would flow ad infinitum. We have seen election campaigns fought on that issue, or very largely on that issue, and it is bad for social services to have become a political football. It is bad for persons to say, “ All you have to do is to put us on the treasury bench and things will be wonderful. Social service benefits will flow to every one who is deserving. Everybody will have plenty “. That has been going on in this country at election after election and so far it has never paid off. I am one of those persons who hope that a government is never returned to power merely because it attempts to bribe the people with their own money.
We have heard about the niggardly attitude of this Government to social services. Propaganda of that nature has been disseminated throughout the country by press, radio and television. We have been told how unfair, how mean and how unjust is this Government. If attempts are made to justify the Government’s actions by saying that about four times as much is paid in social services to-day as was paid in 1949, that argument is written down by the claim that the value of money now is not so great. I think that one of the best comparisons is that whereas in 1949, 47 per cent, of the proceeds of income taxation of individuals was devoted to social services, last year the proportion was 74 per cent. In my opinion, it is difficult to argue against that yardstick, and the comparison is fortified to some extent by this fact: We have in Australia to-day a very much larger percentage of people in the earning phase of their lives than was the case in 1949. This has been brought about because the immigration policy has altered the age groupings of the population. In 1962 fifteen per cent, of the labour force in Australia was under twenty years of age compared with only 8 per cent, in the United States, 11 per cent, in Great Britain, 13 per cent, in Germany, 12 per cent, in Italy and 11 per cent, in Japan. Those figures indicate that because a larger percentage of the Australian population is young the relevant incidence of taxation on individuals must be very much greater to-day than it was in 1949. In spite of that fact the figures show that more than 74 per cent, is expended on social services to-day compared with 47 per cent, in 1949. It will be agreed that the increase is very large indeed.
Figures have been quoted to show the amount spent on social services in Australia in relation to the national income compared with the amount spent on social services in other western countries in relation to their national incomes. That, to me, seems to be a very flimsy and unstable basis of comparison. I read not so long ago the following statement made by the President of the United States. He said -
He meant that there was still much to be learned about a reliable method of assessing national income. The article in which this quotation occurred went on to say -
Most economists seem to have been prepared to accept an average annual growth rate in productivity (production per man-hour) for Australia of 2 to 2i per cent. However, the Commonwealth Statistician’s recently published estimates of the growth in real gross national product since 1948/9, now suggest an average annual increase of about 4% in total G.N.P.
I quote that merely to indicate the divergence of views, among people who should know, about what constitutes national income. The article continues -
In Australia the position is more complicated than in many countries because of the wide swings (often from year to year) in the terms of trade which have a largs influence on gross national product.
I discount the figures that we have heard quoted in this chamber. The methods of assessing national income are so unreliable, and so many aspects are involved, that it is almost impossible to compare social services in Australia in relation to the national income with those in other countries in relation to their national incomes. Australia’s payments compare more than favorably with those of other western countries.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer before I close. I believe that the bill will clear up many anomalies in social service payments, particularly to widows and their children. For instance, the extension of the age for children receiving an education allowance will solve problems for many pensioners. Honorable senators will agree with me that items such as that have posed problems to us when pensioners have come to us for advice. However, the matter to which I wish to refer especially is the proposed increase in the single pension rate as against no increase in payments to married pensioners. It is to be expected that dissatisfied people would seize with avidity upon such a differentiation between the pensions proposed to be paid to single persons and those to be paid to married persons. There are sure to be some who are dissatisfied. Because of the human characteristics prevalent in all of us. I do not doubt that a number of married pensioners will have a sense of injustice at not having received an increase. But the fact remains that the single pensioner - and I think every member of the Parliament has been confronted with this position - is not nearly in such a fortunate position as a married couple each of whom is receiving a pension.
I was interested in the result of a gallup poll held in relation to this matter. The people who conducted this poll arrived at the conclusion that most people think pensioners living alone should get more than each husband and wife living together. Tha question posed in this poll was -
Do you think all pensioners should get the sama pension, or should those living alone get more than each husband and wife living together?
In 1957, when this question was asked. 69 per cent, of those asked thought that pensioners should receive more if living alone and 26 per cent, thought that all pensioners should receive the same. In 1963, when the same question was asked again, tha figures did not alter very much. Sixty seven per cent, said that pensioners should receive more if living alone and 29 per cent, said that all pensioners should receive the same amount. There was a majority of more than two to one in favour of what the Government is doing now.
The amendment that has been moved by the Opposition is directed at this action by the Government. The Labour Party in its amendment suggests that there should be a standard rate for all pensioners and supplementary assistance for special needs. That seems to be very similar to what the Government is doing, except that I take it that those who administer social services would have to assess the special needs of pensioners. If I were an administrative officer of the Department of Social Services I would say, “ Lord save me from having to administer an amendment such as that “.
I support the bill, which I believe will remove many anomalies in our existing social services legislation. However, when I consider that the cost to Australia of social service benefits must be approaching, if it has not already reached, £1,250,000 a day, I wonder when we will arrive at the position when we simply cannot afford any longer to increase- social services expenditure and meet the cost from a graduated scale of income tax. Nothing is more certain than that the limit must be reached sooner or later. In my opinion we are fast approaching that limit.
– The subject of social services probably causes more heat in debate than any other subject. In speaking on this bill my remarks will begin where Senator Lillico’s just finished. I should like to congratulate the honorable senator on a very forthright and well-reasoned speech.
We are now reaching the point under our present social services system where we can do very little to lift further the standard of living of the needy people in our community. I suppose we could go on from year to year granting an extra 5s. here or there. If a Labour government were in power it would no doubt follow that same pattern. That was demonstrated over the years when Labour was in office. But we are reaching a stage now where we must rethink the whole concept of social services legislation. In my opinion there is only one way in which the level of our social services and the consequent standard of living enjoyed by the recipients can be raised. I refer to the introduction by the Commonwealth Government of a national insurance scheme. This is a matter that has been thought about and discussed, and it has even reached the stage of being put on the statute books, but the legislation has never been implemented.
It must be an objective of future governments to re-think the social services legislation and to introduce national insurance in the federal sphere. This is essential because, as Senator Lillico mentioned, more than a quarter of the amount provided in the Budget in 1963-64 is to be used to provide funds for social services and repatriation benefits. More than £500,000,000 has to be found by the taxpayers to give only meagre help to those in the community who need help.
The introduction of a national insurance scheme would see the disappearance of many anomalies that now exist. Some people suggest that the introduction of such a scheme would result in further taxation. Indirectly, it might, but that money would be set aside for the welfare of people when, because of age or disability, they were no longer able to earn a living. The money in this fund would belong to these people and be available to them because they would have provided for the contingency. 1 should like the Government to establish a committee of experts from various walks of life - even from the parliamentary side - to look into the subject of national insurance and to see how it can be implemented. I know that there would be arguments against it. I know also that the cost to the Government of various social services would not be any less in the first few years of operation of such a scheme, but over a period it would save the Government a great deal. The amount saved could be suitably used in the development of Australia.
I congratulate the Government on what it has provided in the Budget for certain categories of social service, lt has attempted to cure some of the anomalies that previously existed. I do not know why, but anomalies seem to creep into every new piece of legislation that is passed. At least the Government is trying, and its efforts to provide better .conditions for widows is well worthy of commendation.
In this legislation the Government proposes a differentiation between the rate of pension for single and married pensioners. I agree with this provision. The Government must now be realizing that pensions should be granted on a needs basis, rather than at a standard rate. If there is to be a standard rate, as is proposed by the amendment, that standard should be fixed according to the needs of the various categories of pensioners. If that were done, those in receipt of pensions would derive great benefit.
I have suggested that national insurance is the way to improve our social services scheme, but until such a scheme is adopted we have to look at the system that we now have. A great deal has been said by some honorable senators about the political aspect of social services. Senator Ditmer and many others have said that the pension has been made a party political matter. Well, there would have been no need to do so if honorable senators, especially those on the Labour side of the chamber, had supported my efforts over five or six years in this Senate to take pensions out of politics.
– Have you ever put a plan forward to provide the finance?
– I am not speaking about finance. I am talking about the political side of pensions.
– Are you proposing a national insurance scheme?
– My party has worked out a full scheme of national insurance but it would take quite a while to put it before the Senate. If the Senate is prepared to listen, I shall have much pleasure in putting before it a full social services scheme based on national insurance. Of course, that would take considerable time and this is not the time to do it. The best way to do it would be by means of a private member’s bill if the Government itself were not prepared to introduce such legislation. That may take place with the support, I hope, of a great number of senators on both sides of the chamber at a not far distant date.
I was speaking of taking pensions out of politics. As I said, I have moved over the years in this Senate to try to do that. I have moved at the committee stage of legislation that an independent tribunal consisting of worthy men of ability should study the whole system of pensions and present their suggestions and findings to the Parliament with a view to their adoption by the Government. Thus, action could be taken on the findings of a committee, not on grounds on which action is usually taken in order to make party political capital out of the needs of pensioners. On the findings of such a committee, the government of the day could decide how much pensioners should receive. Such a proposal has been submitted by me but it has been objected to, year after year, by people who have said in this debate that the pension is a party political issue. I have tried to prevent it from being treated in that way. I have said that pensions are a necessity in our way of life and that an unbiassed study, free from party feeling, should be made of the needs of people in various categories so that they may receive justice and enjoy a decent way of living. So, Mr. Acting Deputy President, as I have said, the differentiation between the single and the married pensioner is certainly a move in the right direction.
A loud noise has been made by the Opposition because married pensioners are not to receive any increase this time. If the motions which I have proposed in the Senate over the last five or six years had been passed the rate for the married pensioner would automatically have been increased. I have moved here before, and I intend to move again at the committee stage of this bill, that increases in the cost of living should be automatically added to the pension. If a correct base rate were determined by an independent tribunal there would not be the trouble that we have year after year when party political capital is made out of pensions. This proposal has been put forward but it has been objected to by the Labour Party in the Senate. If my proposal had been adopted pensioners would automatically have benefited from the 10 per cent, increase in metal trades margins which was recently approved. I hope that when I propose my motion in committee on this occasion I shall receive the support which has not been forthcoming in the past. In talking about taking pensions out of politics, I should hope that Senator Lillico who is a great believer in this principle will support the first amendment which I shall submit at the committee stage.
– You are throwing out a bait, are you not?
– There is? nothing like trying. Another aspect of social services with which I should like to deal raises the question of what the Government should do to help the family man. We know that it is not possible, by means of the wage structure, to differentiate between the single man and the married m.-in who is more in need of an increase of income. The only way in which we can help the family man is by means of the child endowment scheme from which he benefits at the present time. Assistance given in that way would be a great help to the family man. Child endowment was a gesture that was made and then forgotten. If the Government presents another budget - and I am not sure that it will - I hope that it will increase child endowment
There is no need for me to outline again the scheme which 1 have put forward many limes in this place. By increasing child endowment the Government will gain a great deal of satisfaction itself and will help a very needy section of the community. It will take some of the very heavy burden off the shoulders of young married people. As I have said, this is about the only way in which a differentiation can be made in order to help the family man in relation to the single man. I hope that the Government will very seriously consider increasing child endowment in its next Budget so that the younger generation may be appropriately assisted. In this bill we are considering a measure to help old people. If necessary, we must help people from when they are born until when they die. I have nothing against the proposals that are contained in the Opposition’s amendment. They constitute an attempt to do something to help the people. Whether the Opposition will be found to have been genuine in its attitude if it is returned to office. 1 do not know. It has not been genuine in its claim to have been sympathetic when I have moved certain amendments in this place. Let us hope that when I move the amendments that I have just foreshadowed the Opposition will be proved on this occasion to have been genuine in what it has said.
The provisions of social service benefits needs to be investigated. The older people in the community should enjoy some of the benefits for which they have fought over the years. If the granting of these benefits is to be achieved through increased taxation, let us adopt that means of providing them. Then the burden will be spread evenly throughout the community. It is the older people who have pioneered in this country and who have made it better for us. We should appreciate what they have done and should ensure that their declining years are spent in at least a modicum of comfort.
– I have listened with interest to Senator Cole. There seems to be some difference between the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labour Party in the Senate and its attitude on the platform when it is seeking the confidence of the people. Whilst the honorable senator says that he does not agree with the proposals contained in the Opposition’s amendment, he and his party have very vigorously-
– Did you say I did not agree with the Opposition’s proposals?
– You are not supporting the amendment.
– I am.
– Well, I am very pleased to hear that. I am quite sure that if the party which Senator Cole represents had not given its second preferences to the anti-Labour parties at the last election, we would not now be pleading for something to be done for the family man in the form of increased child endowment, maternity allowances and so forth. The records show that the Labour Party has been prepared to help the family man and, when in office, has done so from time to time.
– Social service is not quite as important as is national service.
– That may or may not be so, but the family units form the nation. If you weaken the family unit, you damage the nation irreparably.
– If you do not have national service to look after the family unit, it does not make much difference.
– The people who have looked after the nation are the people whom we are now trying to care for. I make so bold as to say that the family man, the young worker - the young men of Australia - will never let this country down. I make a plea to the Senate not to let them down. It is the young man who goes to the war and who gives his service for the benefit of the nation. He ultimately becomes an old man and is then entitled to the privileges and benefits which the country can provide for him.
What happened in respect of social services when Labour had its first opportunity to remove people who were in need of such benefits from the role of mendicants? Labour legislated for special taxes to be levied and for the money to be paid into a special fund. That fund was to have been sacrosanct so that it would never be argued in a time of depression or when Consolidated Revenue was hard pressed that the Government could not do in the field of social services and pensions what was just and proper for the people on the argument that finance is not available. We passed legislation which provided that a national welfare fund should be established. In order that revenue would be clearly marked for social services purposes, the title of the income tax legislation was changed to the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act, and it has retained that title. It has often been argued that we should impose on the people of Australia a national insurance scheme. The scheme that was adopted by Labour was a national insurance scheme. Are we now to say to the people of Australia “ We will pay all your taxes into Consolidated Revenue and start again with a national insurance scheme “ and charge a further premium?
The Commonwealth “ Year-Book “ for 1962 contains this passage about the National Welfare Fund -
The National Welfare Fund was established by the National Welfare Fund Act 1943 to finance a scheme of national welfare. In introducing this measure to Parliament, the Prime Minister -
He was a Labour Prime Minister - said that part of the scheme was to be introduced immediately, and part was to be deferred until after the end of the war.
That part was to bc deferred until we could do something about it. The statement continues -
A certain balance, which would therefore accrue to the fund, would bc invested in Commonwealth securities, and would thus provide finance for the war effort.
At the same time it would form the nucleus of a fund which would keep social services independent of the rise and fall of the Consolidated Revenue and the national income. Everybody contributed to the fund in one manner or another. Whether it was in the form of indirect or direct taxation, every member of the community contributed. This passage continues -
The fund operated from 1st July, 1943. At its commencement, it was used to finance funeral benefits and maternity allowances. Other social and health benefits were made a charge on the fund from time to time. At present-
That is, in 1962, when these statistics were issued - expenditure on all benefits except repatriation and a few minor social and health benefits was met from the fund. The fund is used only to finance the benefits themselves; it is not used to finance the cost of administering the benefits, or of capital works associated with the benefits.
That was a sincere effort to introduce progressively a scheme whereby pensions and social service benefits could be placed in a compartment of their own so that the people of Australia would be guaranteed the benefit of such payments. The people of Australia have continued to pay the kind of tax that was imposed at that time. The Commonwealth Committee on Taxation said that because of the misappropriation of revenue there was justification for saying that reference to social services should be removed from the title of the taxation legislation. He said that the way in which revenue had been applied had destroyed the relation between the two elements of the legislation.
The Government displays a degree of hypocrisy when it speaks about placing social services beyond the realm of politics. When all is said and done, finance is the basis of politics. If you make social services independent of financial considerations, you make them independent of politics. I am quite sure that if revenue due to be credited to the National Welfare Fund from taxation was allocated to that fund and was utilized properly, we would not now be talking about not being able to show consideration to the people of Australia in social payments at a standard recommended by the Opposition. The Government consistently refers to these matters in terms of money. But when it comes to unemployment, the Government does not refer to the problem in terms of the number of people unemployed or the huge expenditure in unemployment relief, but in terms of percentages. We have this twisting and turning. Nobody can deny that taxation, social services, financial arrangements and the welfare of the nation are so closely related that it is almost impossible to separate them.
The trend is for the family man to be treated miserably and despicably. In fact, I say advisedly that he is being cheated, because he has not received from this Government over a period of years the return to which he is entitled. After all, he contributes to the provision of social services. The discriminatory approach of this Government to the Australian family man is absolutely unjustified. There is the implication that the institution of marriage is placed at a disadvantage. It is all very well for Senator Cole to say that pensions should be determined according to needs, and for Senator Lillico to say that we have reached the limit and that the single pensioner has great responsibilities to meet. Honorable senators should not be misled into thinking that the Opposition wants to convince the Government that something should not be done for single pensioners. We certainly think something should be done for them; nevertheless, we do not see any reason why persons should be given an advantage although, perhaps, they have lived as de facto spouses and have not had to provide a home for themselves.
We do not see why such persons should be placed in a position superior to that of the married man who has laboured all his life to support a family and who has struggled to acquire a little home on which, of course, rates have had to be paid and maintenance carried out. As we know, in the later years of our lives it becomes increasingly difficult to do all the little things that need to be done around a house. Does not that man deserve something in the national distribution of revenue? Does the Government think that people should remain single all their lives and inculcate others with the same idea? Is that the Government’s policy? There is no argument about providing assistance for single pensioners, but we think that married pensioners should receive an increase of pension as well. If the increase is to be determined according to needs, then let the needs be properly assessed.
The amendment which has been proposed by Senator Poke on behalf of the Labour Party refers to the fact that child endowment for the first child has remained unchanged for thirteen years, and for subsequent children for fifteen years. Government supporters boast of the great increase in expenditure on social services. However, during the period in which the increase has occurred there has been an increase of more than 100 per cent, in the consumer price index figure. It has risen from 61 to 124. The fact that there has been no increase in child endowment again is probably due to the trend towards penalizing the married man. An orphan is a charge upon the State, and rightly so, but why penalize the children of the family man to this extent?
The age pension was introduced on 1st July, 1909. It was increased in a meagre way, depending on the fluctuations of national income and the state of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, until it was determined to give it a reasonable equation to other factors. The Government has increased the age pension from time to time, but it has never considered it in the way that Labour regarded it when the National Welfare Fund was first established. Child endowment for other than the first child was introduced in 1941. It was adjusted under a Labour government, but fifteen years have passed without adjustment. I cannot see how the Government can justify its attitude and why it persists in penalizing the family man. Child endowment for the first child was introduced in 1950 and has never been increased, although prices have gone sky-high.
– What should be done?
– It should be altered.
– Should tha rate be altered?
– Yes. It should be equated to present-day values.
The funeral benefit has remained unaltered for twenty years. It was introduced on 1st July, 1943, by a Labour government. Even then it was disliked by the predecessors of the present Government parties, which were in Opposition. Maternity allowances were introduced in October, 1912. They were adjusted in 1943, but twenty years have passed without further adjustment being made to them. These are matters which impinge on the life of the family man. Let us see how he has been treated in relation to taxation. The Government claims that it gives taxation concessions to the family man. The vast majority of family men who pay taxes find that the 5 per cent, refund of income-tax which the Government has allowed is of very little value to them compared with its value to persons on large incomes. Since 1945, indirect taxation has increased from 35.2 per cent, of the total taxes to 43.2 per cent, to-day. As we know, indirect taxation is paid by every section of the community. The Government apparently takes the view that nothing need be done to improve the position in this respect.
It is pleasing and refreshing to see something being done under this bill for widows and their children. An improvement in the position of widows is most necessary. Nevertheless, the Government has failed to increase child endowment; and the married age pensioner has been left out of the picture altogether. The Opposition is of the opinion that there should be a standard rate of pension for all pensioners and that supplementary assistance should be provided to meet special needs, thereby removing discrimination against married pensioners. I cannot understand why the Government has differentiated between the married pensioner and the single pensioner. Incidentally, many single pensioners who do not own their homes have said, “ Whatever increase we get will go by way of a direct transfer to the landlord “. That may have something to do with the Government’s thinking. An old couple who are pensioners should receive an adequate increase of pension, and there certainly should be no differentiation between them and single pensioners. On a previous occasion, the Government introduced the supplementary rent allowance, but in the majority of cases it is merely a bonus for landlords.
Other social service benefits, and also the amount of permissable income which pensioners may earn, should be adjusted to compensate for increases in the cost of living. It is true that the means test has been adjusted so that a person who is sufficiently fortunate to own his home and a motor car and to have £2,020 in the bank now comes within the scope of social service benefits. It is very nice that that should happen. It is the policy of both the Labour Party and the present Government progressively to alleviate the means test and ultimately to eliminate it. But what has been given to the married man who has not been able to pay for a home, who still has a mortgage and has not the permissable £2,020 in the bank? He can earn £3 10s. a week but he has no reserves. This is the man the Government has thrown right out of the ring.
The Opposition believes that it is unjustifiable for the Government to talk of the needs of the single man and forget the married couple. There are some people living on the pension who have £4,040 between them, a motor car and a home and they are in a fairly good position. But Government supporters should not depict them as typical married pensioners. They are in a different position from those with a mortgage and without money in the bank. The Government has failed badly in this connexion and the anomaly should be corrected immediately. A pensioner may have £2,020 in the bank, or a married pensioner couple may have £4,040, without their pensions being affected and they are permitted to earn a certain amount to augment their pensions. However, a man who has an income from superannuation of £8 a week may have his pension cut by 10s. or £1 a week because of the Government’s failure to increase the permissible income. Consideration should be given to that anomaly. The value of money has declined and £3 10s. a week is not worth what it was when the provision was made.
It is said that Australia lags behind other countries in social service benefits, but the comparison made by Senator Lillico is not altogether valid. The citizens of these other countries have benefits that we do not enjoy but we must remember that we have 1,000,000 more people as a charge on social services compared with 1949. The population of Australia has risen from 7.800.000 to 10,600,000, and all these things must be taken into consideration when a comparison is made. I do not know that any other country has a special tax levied for the sole purpose of providing social service benefits, as we operated when we were in office - .he National Welfare Fund. That fund should have been kept sacrosanct and used only for social welfare purposes. This Government has allowed social services to decline materially, particularly for the family man, the mothers and their children and the Opposition’s criticism is fully justified.
The Opposition has suggested that research and inquiry into social welfare in Australia are inadequate. That is beyond doubt. Research should be extended over ;i much wider field, but the Government has not. taken that into consideration. The bill. provides for some amelioration of the plight of widows which has been desperately needed for a long time, and some relief is to be given to single persons. erhaps they will be able to pay their rent more regularly, or they may be able to pay a little more. Even if their economic position is not improved materially their dignity has been lifted. But the Governnent is not doing anything for the married pensioners. The situation of the man with i home that is paid for and with £4,040 n the bank between himself and his wife may consider his position satisfactory. The ame cannot be said of a man who has -aised a family on the basic wage and whose home is mortgaged whose doesn’t enjoy any superannuation payment and little if any other income.
In 1955 this Government initiated a shameful variation of the means test so that many pensioners were deprived of hospital and medical benefits. In one hit ;he Government did grave damage to the pensioners. I have already spoken on these natters during the Budget debate when I referred to the incidence of taxation and expressed my disappointment with the differential treatment in social service benefits approved by the Government. I repeat that the Government has failed to make
Adequate provision for social services, and will support the amendment.
– Senator Cooke expressed certain sentiments on behalf of the widows towards the end of his speech. May I remind him that the widows were in a much worse position in relation to social services in 1949 when the Labour Government was in office, particularly if they had more than one child. A widow who had ten children received no more in the way of child endowment than did a widow with two children. The honorable senator referred to the position of families, and I shall refer to that matter later. Earlier, Senator Dittmer said that Labour Governments had been responsible for introducing all the social service benefits that are now accepted policy, and that if they did not introduce them, at least the Labour Party had brought pressure on the non-Labour governments to introduce those benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth. This was a misleading statement designed to try to convince those outside the Parliament that life would be rosy under a Labour Government.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension I was saying that previous speakers on the Opposition side had said that this Government had done nothing to improve social services and that the Labour Party had either been responsible for the introduction of benefits granted over the years or had pressurized non-Labour governments into giving those benefits. This, I said, was not correct; I said that I wanted to put the record straight.
Let us have a look at the conditions that prevailed in 1949 and compare them with those that exist to-day. In 1949, under the Labour Government which had been in office for eight years, expenditure on social service benefits amounted to about £74,000,000. Under this year’s Budget they will amount to £314,000,000. I know that Opposition, senators will say - in fact, they have said already during the debate - that we cannot compare the value of money in 1949, with its value to-day. Let us have a look at this argument; In 1949 the age and invalid pension amounted to £2 2s. 6d. After the passage of this legislation, a single’ pensioner will receive £5 15s., which is £3 12s. 6d. or- 171 per cent, more than the amount which was paid in 1949. The basic wage has increased only 123 per cent, in the same period, so there has been a marked improvement in the rate of pension. But there is more to it than that.
In 1949, under the Labour Government, there ‘was no Commonwealth provision for the housing of aged persons. Labour apparently did nothing in those days to house aged people. This Government under its Aged Persons’ Homes Act, has made 900 grants amounting to £18,000,000. This has been responsible for housing 15,860 aged persons. Further, in 1.949 there was no children’s allowance for age, invalid or widow pensioners. As I said in my opening remarks to-night, in reply to a statement made by Senator Cooke, in 1949 it did not matter whether a widow had two children or ten children to look after; she was still paid the same amount. While Labour was in office, there was no such thing as supplementary assistance to those most in need. This year, there is provision of £95,149 for this purpose. In 1949 there was no provision for a pensioner medical scheme. It can therefore be seen that there is a vast difference between the social service benefits of 1949 and the social service benefits provided by this Government.
I want to touch upon another subject which was mentioned by Senator Poke in opening the debate for the Opposition and which has been mentioned by other speakers also. Senator Poke gave a complete history of child endowment. He said that this Government had done nothing except extend the benefit to the first child. Perhaps this is true, but in answer to an interjection by me, Senator Cooke said that his party thought that child endowment should bc extended. Docs the Opposition think that an extra 2s. a child, perhaps, should be paid? If this were done, parents like myself and even the wealthier parents in the land would receive an extra 2s. a week for all children under 16. An increase of even ls. a week in respect of the children now receiving child endowment would amount to £9,000,000 a year. Would such an increase benefit the people whom the Opposition wants to assist? In other words, would it reach the needy people? That is the point. This Government has had a look at this situation and has found that it is far better to help the family man in other ways. In considering child endowment we must consider also other things.
This Government has helped the family man in many other ways. lust let me enumerate some of them. For instance, the Government has helped the family man by the introduction of the medical benefits scheme. Under this scheme the Comonwealth subsidizes the cost of medical treatment which previously had to be met in full by the family man. The Government has introduced an extensive pharmaceutical benefits scheme, which is now being extended to cover almost all prescriptions written by a doctor. We have increased from 8s. a day to £1 a day the Commonwealth contribution towards the cost of hospital treatment. Further it has provided free milk for school children under the age of thirteen years; last year this provision cost £3,727,000. We have provided poliomyelitis vaccine free of charge. The cost of this provision last year amounted to £600,000. This Government has introduced special taxation concessions in respect of the cost of education of children at school. This concession was first provided in 1952. At that time the maximum deduction was £50 for each child, in respect of payments made direct to educational institutions. The Government had another look at the matter and recognized that a parent was required not only to make payments to educational institutions but also to incur other necessary expenditure in connexion with the education of dependent children, such as the purchase of school uniforms and books, and the payment of fares to and from school. The Government amended the law in 1953 to extend the concession to cover all necessary education expenses. At that time, the maximum allowance was increased to £75 in respect of each child. There was a further increase in the allowance, in 1956, to £100. Under this Budget, the allowance will be increased to £150.
In 1951, this Government introduced the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme with its attendant benefits. The Government pays, subject to a means test, a living allowance for students. In addition, it pays in full for tuition and it meets compulsory fees in all cases. Surely this Government is helping the family man, not by providing a couple of shillings extra in child endowment, but by going to the very root of the problem, helping him to bring up his children and educate them. Surely that is the better of the two ways.
Mention has been mad: of the 10s. a week increase, to single pensioners. This increase is to be paid to Single pensioners, widows, widowers and to married persons where the spouse is not also receiving a pension. All of us know from experience the difficulties of single pensioners. We know, too, the problem that has to be .aL<U by the remaining partner in keeping a home going after his or her partner has passed on. He or she has to meet out of a single pension the rent that previously two of them were paying. I am surprised at the Labour Party’s opposing this scheme. ! am surprised also at the remarks of some Opposition members in the other House. They have tried to conjure up in the minds of people all sorts of problems. They suggested that married couples would obtain a divorce and live as single persons in an endeavour to get an extra 10s. a week each. They suggested also that there would be numerous cases of de facto associations. I think these suggestions are just red herrings drawn across the trail. The Government has introduced a fine principle in differentiating between the amount paid to married pensioners and that paid to single pensioners.
I am not the only person who is pleased with the Government’s action. I have here a cutting from the “ Sydney Morning Herald”, of Monday, 16th September, which contains a letter written by Mr. T. H. Kewley, Senior Lecturer in Public Administration, at the University of Sydney. In his letter Mr. Kewley wrote - . . what the Government has done is an Important, though approximate, step in the right direction and is much to be preferred to an increase given to all pensioners irrespective of : heir relative needs.
Then he concluded -
Critics of the proposed change have perhaps overlooked the fact that, when adopted, it will bring the Australian pensions scheme into line with the pensions schemes of most other countries, including the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Another Opposition speaker said that the pensioners did not think much of this innovation. Let me read portion of a letter which I received from the National Pensioners Society, Sydney. The letter is headed “ Political Tactics Deplored. The Plight of the Single Pensioner “ and reads -
This outcry against a differential rate of Pension - which is the first breakthrough for the needy - is deplorable.
By all means let there be an overall pension if merited but to create political hatred between the married and single pensioners is, to say tho least, un-Australian
If the Labour Parliamentarians oppose this differential rate, they are not concerned wilh the welfare of anyone. If those same Parliamentarians came to N.S.W. they would see that single pensioners are paying in rent four-fifths of the rent paid by married couples; they would also see that married couples arc rich by comparison with the single pensioners; they- would see tho misery of the single pensioner brought about by the N.S.W. Landlord and- Tenant Act. Perhaps then instead of opposing this differential rate they would be calling for a greater increase.
To create a hatred such as is being created in the Parliament is an infliction on single and widow pensioners.
The Government made a wise move in its breakthrough for single and widow pensioners. Let the Opposition go on from there and not kill the good that is being done for so many thousands of really deserving pensioners.
There are two points of view in this matter. I believe that the Government has done a very good thing.
Senator Cooke also made reference to the treatment of married couples. I point out to him that it was this Government that introduced the merged means test, lt did so for the very reason that he was criticizing. Previous to the introduction of the merged means test a married couple who had been thrifty were penalised for their thriftiness. In 1949, a person with an income of £3 12s. 6d. a week was ineligible for a pension. To-day a person can have an income of £8 15s. before his pension cuts out. In the case of a single person, or where only one pension is coming into a home, the income can be as much as £9 15s. a week. This Government has completely removed the penalty on thrift. It has done this by the carefully worked-out formula which it introduced in 1960, known as the merged means test. Property and income are merged so as to give the thrifty person the benefit of his thrift. Because of the Government’s action a single thrifty person to-day can obtain a pension and in addition have an income up to £3 10s. a week. A married couple can earn up to £7 a week over and above their pensions. I state these facts to refute Opposition statements that this Government has done nothing for the family man.
Some problems still have to be ironed out, but I am sure that the Minister for Social Services will find a solution to these problems in exactly the same way as he has found solutions to many other complex social service problems that have existed in previous years. I congratulate the Government and support the bill.
.- It is said that a country’s civilization can be judged by the social services it provides for its people. If one accepts that as a true principle and then makes a full review of the social services operating in the Commonwealth at present, including the proposals we have under discussion to-night, one must deduce that Australia’s civilization is mediocre. One of the basic things to consider when dealing with social services is the necessity to have sufficient funds to pay the various social service benefits. Some honorable senators this afternoon were strongly in favour of having a national insurance scheme whereby people of the Commonwealth would contribute and then be entitled to a proportionate payment from the fund. 1 recall that some years ago there was rather widely and freely advocated a scheme known as the “ saving wage “ scheme. The “ saving wage “ was to be sufficient to enable a worker, after he had paid his ordinary living expenses, to save for his old age and for sickness, and all the other problems that he would encounter throughout his life. The advocacy of that “ saving wage “ died probably thirty years ago and I have not heard of it since. The weakness of the scheme was that all working people would not save, even if they were paid the socalled saving wage.
I have looked carefully at the scheme we have in operation to provide funds to meet the cost of social services, and I would say unhesitatingly that in income tax we have the very best scheme. AH income earners have to meet their taxation commitments to finance the Commonwealth’s social service .requirements. It is rather interesting to see how we raise our revenues and how we spend them. I shall take a moment or two of the Senate’s time to mention some of the receipts that the Commonwealth expects during this financial year. Before 1 begin I remind honorable senators that in Australia we have direct taxation and indirect taxation. I shall have something to say about both forms that are imposed to enable us to meet our responsibility for social services.
From customs duties this year the Government expects to receive £111,000,000, and from excise £287,000,000. Sales tax this year will yield £155,000,000. Income tax on individuals will bring in £606,000,000. From company tax the Government will receive £289,000,000, from payroll tax £68,000,000, from estate duty £8,300,000 and from gift duty £3,000,000. To put it briefly, the amount that the Commonwealth Treasury expects to receive this year from the taxes I have just mentioned is £1,648,000,000. From all sources, the Treasury expects to receive this year a total of £1,837,000,000. When a government expects to receive a sum such as that, it can look around and say to itself: What can we afford for social services for the people of the Commonwealth?
In the accounts of the Commonwealth is a fund known as the National Welfare Fund. Money is passed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund into that fund and is not largely itemized. The contribution to the National Welfare. Fund this year is expected to be £411,000,000. I turn now to more of the records of receipts because money is fundamental to the provision of social services. A while ago I referred to customs duties. Here it is interesting to look at some of the details but because we are in a hurry to-night I shall not give them. However, I shall cite some details of collections from excise.
This year the amount to be collected from excise on beer will be £122,000,000. That is not the amount that Australians will pay out for beer, but merely the amount that will be paid in excise on beer. I am not one of those mean persons who go about saying, “ if you can pay £122,000,000 in excise on your beer you can afford to pay any sum at all for social services “. I do not take that attitude. The excise from spirits, which of course would include the better whiskies, will be £8,600,000. In addition, the Government will receive £10,000,000 from tobacco and £73,000,000 from cigars and cigarettes. Motor spirit and other petroleum products will yield £67,000,000. The tax on diesel fuel will amount to £2,500,000, and a further amount will come from the excise on coal and other things. The total amount paid to the Commonwealth by the people in respect of excise will be £287,000,000.
Then I look to see where this money is going and I find that a reservoir is being built up by the Treasury in an account known as the National Welfare Fund, into which is paid the sums allocated for certain purposes. That fund is mounting up, but some amounts are going out and being reticulated through various departments, among which is the Department of Social Services. I shall now state some of the expected expenditure by this department this year.
For funeral benefits for age and invalid pensioners the expenditure will be £428,000 - a small amount, indeed. Age and invalid pensions will require £201,000,000; widows’ pensions, £20,000,000; maternity allowances, £3,800.000; child endowment, £76,600,000; unemployment and sickness benefits, £11,000,000; and the Commonwealth rehabilitation service, £723,000. These payments will require a total of £314,000,000. That is the sum that the Government proposes to pay out this year.
It is pertinent to ask: Who is to pay the taxes to finance these benefits? I indicated a moment ago who will pay the huge sum involved in respect of excise; I propose now to state by groups some of the collections of income tax. There are 52 taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding £50,000 a year; 152 taxpayers with incomes exceeding £30,000; 430 taxpayers with incomes exceeding £20,000; 807 with incomes exceeding £15,000; 3,000 with incomes exceeding £10,000; 26,000 with incomes exceeding £5,000; 23,000- with incomes exceeding £4,000: 55,000 with incomes exceeding £3,000; 208,000 with incomes exceeding £2,000; and 433,000 people with incomes exceeding £1,500. We have to assess our liabilities. This is the situation that exists at the present time. At the end of June, child endowment was paid in respect of 3,432,000 children. The number of families benefiting as a result of the payments was 1,500,000.
This is the point that 1 want to make: We admit that in 1941 the Menzies
Government provided for the payment of child endowment at the rate of 5s. per child per week in certain circumstances. The Curtin Government increased that amount by 2s. 6d. a week and, in 1948, the Chifley Government increased it by 2s. 6d. So, to-day, we have a child endowment rate of 10s. per week operating in respect of all children under sixteen years of age excluding the first child. The greatest blunder that the Government has ever made in any legislation was made when it introduced the child endowment legislation in the first instance. Now, 22 years after that bill was introduced, we are looking at it retrospectively. But there were people who were considering such measures for twenty or more years before it was introduced. I shall quote what they said. I have in my hand a booklet containing three lectures delivered at the Queensland University by Mr. Justice McCawley, who was President of the Queensland Court of Industrial Arbitration. The lectures were given in July and August of 1924, which would be seventeen years prior to the introduction of the child endowment legislation. Mr. Justice MacCawley said -
We have examined in a general way the working of industrial arbitration towards ‘the goals of social justice and industrial peace. What should be the next step?
He went on -
It seems to me that Mr. Piddington is right in considering that it should be the institution of child endowment on a national scale. His arguments are set forth in his little book which all should read - “ The Next Step,” published in 1921. I can see no other way of substantially raising the standard of living of those who are at present the most unfairly treated, married men with young dependent children who now receive the basic wage or a little more. Those who desire to consider further the subject of child endowment should read Miss Rathbone’s recent book “The Disinherited Family,” Professor Paul Douglas’ pamphlet on “ Family Allowances “ (published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, February, 1924), “Family Allowances in French Industry “ (International Labour Review, February 1924), and Dc. Eduard Hermann’s article on “ The Family Wage Controversy in Germany “ (Economic Journal, December, 1923).
He continued -
The principle of child endowment has long been affirmed by the platforms of the Labour Party. Mr. J. T. Sutcliffe, the able secretary of the Basic Wage Commission, has given evidence upon the matter before the Federal National Insurance Commission, now sitting, and it is possible that that Commission will express its views upon this universally discussed question. Mr. Sutcliffe explained his views recently in the Melbourne Herald (reprinted, Daily Standard, 11th August).
That would be 11th August, 1924. That was what Mr. Justice McCawley said seventeen years before the Menzies Government introduced the child endowment legislation. But I shall go further and quote another authority on child endowment. 1 have here the “ Report of the Economic Commission on the Queensland Basic Wage”. The findings of the commission were given on 30th September, 1924; and this appears at paragraphs 100 and 10 L of its report - 100. A preliminary consideration concerns the extent to which payments on account of children should be made, and particularly whether differences should be provided for to correspond with differences in earnings above the basic wage. This does not appear to be necessary if the object is to ensure a minimum standard of provision for dependent children. The discrimination here suggested is for that purpose only. A flat rate is suggested, the principle to be applied to higher incomes at the discretion of the Court. After a scheme is adopted and experience has been gained, an extension of the principle might be appropriately entertained. 101. The scheme proposed is as follows. The object is the payment to parents of an amount for each dependent child. This amount should be paid to the parent irrespective of his earnings as an employee, provided the scheme is made to apply to his grade and income.
The number of children for which payments are to be made should be estimated, and a fund created. Payments into this fund may be made in various ways, but it is here presumed that they will be made by employers.
I commend this booklet to any honorable senator who is interested in this matter. It would give him a good idea about how child endowment was viewed many years prior to the introduction of the relevant legislation.
We can recall the Harvester judgment given by Judge Higgins in 1907. He stated a family wage for a man, his wife and three children. We have never departed from the concept of a family wage. In its social services legislation, the Government has made provision for a means test although all the thinking of experts up to 1941 was in favour of child endowment to assist the needy person, not the person in receipt of an income which would be equivalent to an income of £2,000 or more today. It is my own personal opinion that I am expressing on this subject to-night. If the Senate had said to me, “Redraft this bill and let us see what it is like “, I would have drafted a bill providing for the payment of child endowment to all employees who receive less than £1,500 per annum. Of course, there would have to be a provision making it applicable to selfemployed people such as those on dairy farms whose incomes are small but who, nevertheless, have children.
The report on the Queensland basic wage which I have mentioned referred to the necessity for a future work force. How are we going to provide for a future work force unless we make funds available to the man who is receiving the basic wage or little more than the basic wage? We are saddled with a child endowment scheme which does not allow us to increase the rate of endow.ment. The Government is not prepared to increase it because of the sum that would be involved in any increase. The position has been stagnant for seventeen years. The Government is not prepared to make an increase because of the higher taxation that an increase would involve. The present position is too stupid for me to entertain. I have often wondered why the Government has done nothing about it. If Government supporters were to ask me how to overcome the problem of child endowment I could tell them. One of the things that the Government has not fully considered in connexion with child endowment is the effect of inflation. The endowment of 10s. which was payable in 1948 is not the equivalent of the 10s. which is payable to-day. The equivalent of a payment of 10s. for each child except the first in 1948 would now be a payment of 23s. for each child except the first.
It is interesting to see what has happened since child endowment was introduced. In Brisbane in November, 1941, the basic wage was £4 4s. per week. In 1942 it rose to £4 lis. and in 1943 to £4 13s. In 1944 it was still £4 13s. At that time a Labour Government was in office in the Commonwealth sphere. In 1945 it was still £4 13s. In 1946 it rose to £4 14s. and again in 1946 to £5 ls. per week. In 1947 it rose to £5 5s., in 1948 to £5 15s., in 1949 to £6 5s. plus 4s., and in 1950 to £6 15s. In 1950 it further rose to £7 14s., in 1951 to £9 5s., and in 1952 to £10 16s. In August, 1953, it rose to £10 18s.; in June, 1956, to £11 8s.; in May, 1957, to £11 18s.’ in May, 1958, to £12 3s.; and in June, 1959, to £12 18s. To make a long story short, to-day it is £14 6s. So, since the time when the Government fixed the payment of 10s. per week for the second child the basic wage has risen from £4 4s. per week to £14 6s. How can the Government justify the payment of 10s. per week? How can it argue that that is a fair and reasonable sum? Clearly, the Government must go back over its tracks. It is faced with the responsibility of applying a means test to child endowment payments. I support that approach, and I support the collecting of the necessary funds by way of taxation.
I now wish to mention an injustice that irritates me a lot. I have before me a statement which shows when the current rates of social service benefits commenced to operate and what they will be after this legislation is passed to-night. The Government has made provision for a certain unemployment benefit to be paid to persons between sixteen and eighteen years of age. I am speaking particularly of school leavers who have attended primary school and secondary school and who have discovered that they cannot obtain a job. Persons in that age group are entitled1 to a benefit of 35s. per week. Perhaps the father of the person concerned is not blessed with a big income and has not any money saved. Based on a six-day week, the benefit works out at 5s. lOd. per day. Any unemployed young fellow or young girl who has any spirit would be out looking for a job every day in the week. So the Government gives that young person 5s. lOd. per day to enable him or her to look for a job. That sum would not even meet the cost of fares let alone buying a meal in the middle of the day.
The rate for persons between eighteen and 21 years of age has been static since 1957. When it is compared with the increase in living costs and in the basic wage it cannot by any means be regarded as being reasonable. Persons in the category I have just mentioned receive £2 7s. 6d. per week, which works out at 7s. lid. per day. That sum is quite inade quate for young people who are travelling around the cities and towns looking for employment.
We live in a Christian democracy and we should conduct ourselves as Christians. We have the money at our disposal. We should find a means of reticulating it to the needy people in the community. Not one of the rugby league players who are now playing against the teams of the United Kingdom would be receiving an invalid pension. The Government does not pay age pensions to persons who are 21 years of age, but it continues to pay 10s. per week for child endowment - a rate that has been in operation since the basic wage was £4 4s. per week. It is too unrealistic to be believed.
– This debate is not receiving the attention it should receive. I regret that it will be limited to one day and one evening. There is so much to be said about the measure that that time is not sufficient. To my mind, the fact that Government senators have given the debate away is not a satisfactory state of affairs. I do not propose to use the time at my disposal to engage in a fruitless argument about whether this Government or any preceding government did not do this or that. If we adopt that approach, we only arrive at a stalemate. I want to utilize the time available to me to deal with some of the things that this Government has not done.
It is regrettable that, although Government speakers have said during this debate that there are many things which still need to be done in the social service field and that many anomalies still exist in the social service structure, they have devoted not more than a microscopic amount of time to pin-pointing and dealing with those anomalies and injustices, some of which have existed for a considerable time. I believe that to correct these injustices, many of which I have mentioned over the last five years, would not require a great deal of expenditure or extensive alteration of the act. Although we point out these anomalies from time to time, nothing is done to rectify them. I propose to touch upon some of them now.
I acknowledge at once that in this year’s Budget the Government has gone part of the way towards correcting some of the anomalies in the social service legislation. I refer to the increase of 10s. in the pension payable to single pensioners and the increase in the wife’s allowance. Widows will receive increases and widows with children will receive additional relief. Pensioners with student children will receive assistance. I acknowledge freely that they arc steps in the right direction. But there are still many anomalies which have not been tackled. Some of them are serious and impose great hardship, particularly on aged and infirm members of the community. It is a wonder that something has not been done to correct that situation.
I want to deal now with the wife’s allowance. At the present time, a pensioner whose wife is not entitled to a pension because of the age qualification receives £5 1 5s. per week and his wife receives £3 a week, making a combined payment of £8 15s. per week. I know that the first thought that will fly into the minds of honorable senators opposite is that the wife has the opportunity to earn money with which to supplement the amount of £3 or the total amount of £8 15s. That is a purely theoretical right, because most of the women concerned are in the late 50 years age group, so that their earning days are practically over for the general run of employment in Australia.
This Government already has acknowledged that the minimum amount on which two people can live in this day and age is £10 10s. a week, because that is the amount which it pays to a married couple who both qualify for a pension. Having acknowledged that fact and having taken credit from time to time for having conferred a degree of justice on the age and invalid pensioners, the Government then expects another section of the pensioners to live on an amount that is £1 15s. a week less than the £10 10s. minimum. No honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber can be proud of the fact that such a situation is permitted to continue. I think it is a disgraceful thing. In my opinion, the act would require very little amendment to remedy the defect. The amount of money required would not be very great.
– What is your proposition?
– My proposition is that the minimum amount which people in the circumstances I have described should receive should be the full pension rate for two people.
– That is, where the breadwinner is a pensioner and his spouse is of any age?
– Yes, or if the spouse is younger than the pensioner. I know that there could be cases in which the spouse was considerably younger than the pensioner, but I should say that in 95 per cent, of the cases to which I am referring in this category, the spouses are in their middle or late fifties. If the Government were to take the trouble to find out the statistical position I am sure that that statement would be supported by the facts. I believe it would be found that the number under the age of 50 years was very small indeed. Such people, without doubt and without hesitation, should each be paid a full pension.
– So, for the married couple who are pensioners the pension should be £11 10s.?
– No, £10 10s.- £5 5s. each.
– But for the single pensioner it is to go up to £5 15s.
Senator TOOHEY__ Yes.
– Then why stop at £5 5s.? Why not double the £5 15s.?
– I am suggesting that they be placed in the same category as the married pensioners. I am not saying that! the £10 10s. to which I have referred is the proper or appropriate rate. I am not entering into an argument on that score at all. What I am saying is that the rninimum amount which such people should receive is the amount that is paid to a married couple who are pensioners. There might be room for argument if the amount were greater than that for a married pensioner couple, and I think the honorable senator will see the force of that suggestion. If we accept the view that if is not possible for two people to live on less than £10 1.0s. a week, then they should receive at least that amount. The Government, in determining that £10 10s. is the minimum amount on which a .married couple who are pensioners can be expected to live,, has accepted that argument. Therefore, for the life of me I cannot see why it should expect two people to live on £8 15s. a week in these days of high prices and high rents. 1 hope that the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) will devote at least some part of the time that he spends in replying to the debate to indicating his thoughts on the matter and also the future policy of the Government, because I regard it as one- of the gravest anomalies in the pension field at present.
I come now to a matter which I think is most important. I refer to the residential qualification for people of non-British descent who come to this country under the immigration scheme. We have been informed officially that there are approximately 250,000 people in Australia who have emigrated from countries in Europe and have not yet accepted Australian citizenship. That in itself is a problem which, I feel, must engage the thoughts of all of us. We might. perhaps ask ourselves whether there is some reason why those people have not applied for citizenship. Some of them may have no intention of doing so in any circumstances, but I think there are others who are not receiving sufficient encouragement to apply for citizenship 1 believe that one of the barriers which prevent them from applying is the fact that they are informed, through their various organizations and by their national advisers, that they must have ten years’ residence in this country before they may receive the benefit of social services. It is my .belief, and also that of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, that if the residential qualification were reduced, a considerable number of those people might reconsider their attitude towards applying for naturalization. I submit that thought to the Government because, in the first instance, I do not think it is just that we should say to people whom we invite to come here and, indirectly, to take up the cudgelskin defence of .’.’Australia- in the event -of attack -.-by a foreign power, “ We want you to come and help us to build a nation”; and then differentiate between . them and people of British extraction in regard to entitlement to social service benefits. The residential provision is wrongly based and does not achieve a useful purpose. In fact, it acts as a barrier to naturalization. I hope that the Government will consider further reducing the period. Of course, it has already been reduced. At one time it was twenty years. However, I think that it has not been reduced sufficiently.
– But everybody must have ten years’ residence.
– No. It is obvious that Senator Hannaford has not studied the Social Services Act if he suggests that everybody who comes to this country must have a ten years’ residential qualification.
– For naturalization purposes.
– I am not speaking of naturalization. I am speaking of entitlement to social service benefits.
– I thought you were connecting the two.
– No. What I am saying is that the qualifying period of residence before a migrant becomes entitled to social service benefits should be reduced. At present, he must wait ten years. As I have said, I believe this provision is partly responsible for the failure to take out naturalization papers. Those of us who have had dealings with people of European descent, or who are relatives of migrants, know full well that this requirement is a source of great dissatisfaction and disillusionment to people who migrate to this country and want to become good citizens.
I wish now to refer to the plight of blind pensioners, on whose behalf not enough is said. I would make a plea to the Government that they should be given free telephone installation and rental. Again, this would not cost a great deal, but it would confer immeasurable benefit upon a section of our people who are suffering very grave difficulties and are bearing up very well. It is not too much to expect that some remission in telephone charges should be given to age and invalid pensioners also. I hope the Minister will consider these- matters and perhaps will prevail upon the Government to give them some attention in the Budget next year, if not sooner.
I come now to something else which is lost sight of in the general discussions on these matters. I refer to elderly people who are in receipt of a pension - most of them are widows or widowers - and who own their own homes. They are not penalized for owning them while they remain in their homes, but at some stage in their lives, through ill health or because they are unable to look after themselves, they have to leave their homes for hospitalization or to live in the care of a member of their family. Immediately they leave the home it becomes an asset which is accounted against them. Their pension is cut, or ceases altogether. Just when they need extra money their income is curtailed. Again, there are very few in this group, but it is a group that merits consideration.
Much has been said about the 10s. supplementary assistance. This has been of great benefit to some single pensioners, and 1 congratulate the Government upon what it has done in this matter, but I feel that the benefit could be extended to persons who are not necessarily in that section of the pensionable community who pay rent, lt could be extended to those who own a small home. Again, I refer to the widow or widower who has to pay rates, taxes and maintenance on a home out of a meagre pension, particularly when there is no other income. 1 suppose it is the most human of desires to retain a home, but those who have to pay maintenance, rates and taxes out of the existing pension are precluded from getting the 10s. “supplementary pension. In many cases they are worse off than a pensioner who has not a home of his own. Not sufficient thought has been given to this section of the community.
Much has been said about child endowment, and the position was very adequately covered by Senator Benn. I listened carefully to Senator Drake-Brockman who indignantly refuted any suggestion from the Opposition that the Government had not provided for the family man. He cited something that happened in 1948 and compared the endowment then with the payments received by the average family to-day. I respectfully suggest that it is not a question of comparing what was paid in 1948 with what is being paid now. What should be exercising the minds of all honorable senators is what amounts are being paid to families by way of child endowment and whether these payments are sufficient to meet the needs of a family in this day and age. It is as simple as that. I say that these amounts are not sufficient to meet requirements to-day. Not sufficient encouragement is being given to families. There is not enough regard for the fact that has been stated and restated in this Parliament and throughout Australia in the past ten years - that our best possible immigrant is an Australian-born child. If you accept that - and nobody in this chamber would deny it - it becomes incumbent on us to ask ourselves whether the time has not come for some drastic reconsideration of child endowment payments which have remained static for so long.
It is useless to say that because something happened in 1948 the position was worse then than it is to-day. We want to know what are the needs to-day, and we should act accordingly. Those needs are not being met by the present provisions of the social services legislation.
Senator Drake-Brockman also contended that thrifty people had been adequately provided for by the merged means test. I am the first to admit that there has been considerable improvement in the means test in the last three or four years. In many cases those improvements were long overdue. I still argue, however, as I have done for years, that the merged means test does little or nothing to alleviate the burden on superannuated pensioners. Let me give an illustration. It is possible for a married couple - and I do not argue against this because I think it is fair and right - to have a home, about £5,000 in cash or assets and the income that accrues from that amount, without it affecting their pension. Nobody can quarrel with that. But when you compare their position with that of the superannuated couple, the latter are in a much worse position.
Instead of paying money into the bank throughout their lives, the superannuated couple have reduced their standard of living by contributing to a superannuation scheme.1 At the end of- their working. -lives they have a superannuation pension, somewhere in the vicinity of £9 a week, and nothing in the bank, not because they lacked thrift but because they ordered their lives in such a way that they made tangible provision for their old age, believing that a merciful government would give them some concession when they reached the end of their working lives. But if their income exceeds £9 a week their pension is affected and that is a discrimination against a section of the pensionable community. Not sufficient thought is given to the position of the superannuated pensioners. They have. become a legion of the lost to the Government, -and 1 hope some consideration will be given to their plight.
While I am on the question of the income lest, let me raise again the pensioner medical entitlement provisions. Nothing is more ridiculous than these provisions. If a single pensioner earns more than £104 a year and a married .pensioner couple have an income of more than £208, their entitlement to the pensioner medical card immediately disappears.. What a ridiculous situation! A married ‘ pensioner couple who earn , exactly £208 a year receive a pensioner :medical service entitlement card, but if they earn £208 10s. a year they lose that entitlement. Surely some’ different system can be evolved to provide a greater measure of justice. The earning of an additional amount/of 10s., 5s., or even 6d. in a year, should hot make the difference between having a medical entitlement card and not having one. It is a farcical situation, which ought to engage the attention of the Government urgently.
– If a person is 64 years and 364 days old, he does not qualify for a pension. If he is a day older, he * does.
– That does not- affect the ridiculous nature of the situation to which I have referred. It is farcical that a couple who receive exactly £208, may. have pensioner medical services whereas a couple who receive £208 ls. 6d. may not.
– What solution do you suggest?
– There ought to be a ‘more generous ceiling.
– One has to fix a particular income amount at which entitlement ceases.
– There are two courses that might be followed. First, the Government, might raise the ceiling. I am prepared to admit that if that is done, inevitably at some stage a point is reached at which another anomaly is created. Therefore, the most practical thing, which can be done without any trouble whatsoever, is to forget about placing a ceiling on income and to decide that if persons qualify as pensioners they qualify also for the pensioner medical service. At least, let us not allow the situation that we have at present to continue. Despite increases in the cost of living and despite the diminishing value of money, the Government sticks to arbitrary amounts of £104 in the case of a single pensioner and £208 in the case of a married pensioner couple, just because these happen to be the figures that somebody plucked out of the air at some point of. time. There is no justification for them. The Government ought to remove that ceiling altogether. Entitlement to a pension should carry with it entitlement to the pensioner medical service.
The last matter upon which I wish to touch relates to rehabilitation. You may stop me, Mr. Deputy President, but at least I shall then know under what heading I may raise this matter. This afternoon I asked a question about speech therapy facilities for handicapped children. . I pointed out to the Senate that at a symposium on this matter in Melbourne within the past week speakers were highly critical of such facilities in this country. If you, Mr. Deputy President, rule that this matter comes under the heading of health, I shall not proceed with it. I want to make some reference to the reply I received from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Sir William Spooner) this afternoon.
The DEPUTY. PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar) - If you can connect the matter up with the bill, you will be in order.
– I shall try. I connect it with rehabilitation. In my opinion, it has something to do with social services. It may be said that it relates to the field of health, but it is a border-line matter. I reject utterly the proposition that simply because the administration of these matters is handled by the States there is not some Commonwealth responsibility when the system is failing and breaking down. The Leader of the Government said, in reply to my question this afternoon, that because this was a State responsibility he did not intend to proceed to give Iti:’- Government’s attitude to it. Surely, where the power lies the responsibility lies. Surely, this Government must have some regard for the fact that responsible psychiatrists and psychologists throughout Australia are prepared to say that speech therapy facilities for handicapped children are in a deplorable state in Victoria. The only conclusion one can arrive at as a result of that statement is that this state of affairs is reflected in every other State. I say that this is a responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament. It is easy enough to say, as is said from time to time, that we can forget about these things because they are administered by the Slates, but if these deficiences are to be corrected, the money must come from the national coffer. Because of that, there is a responsibility on the Commonwealth. The problem should not be summarily rejected as being a matter that is the business only of the States and not in any way the business of the Commonwealth. As I said, I reject utterly that idea.
Looking at the report of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services for the year ended June, 1963, we find that a smaller amount was spent on rehabilitation in that year than was spent in the previous year. There was a quite considerable drop of 3.5 per cent, in expenditure in this field. I know that the Government has, in recent months, given quite a fillip to what are known as sheltered workshops throughout Australia. I wholeheartedly endorse that action because the people concerned are doing a splendid job in the field of rehabilitation, and the encouragement from the Government ought to boost their confidence and enable them to do even better things in the rehabilitation of handicapped persons. I am somewhat concerned to find that the expenditure in the field of rehabilitation is decreasing instead of increasing.
It may be said that this is an indication that the need for rehabilitation is decreasing. 1 do not agree. I think it will be conceded that more money could be expended on rehabilitation than is being expended at present. The States receive only a certain amount of money to expend on a host of services. Unfortunately, those who are least able to speak up for themselves are usually the first to suffer when there is a shortage of money. Nobody will argue with that contention.
I have tried to confine my contribution to the debate to-night to anomalies that can be established. Some of these matters I have raised in years gone by. It is my sincere hope that 1 shall not have to raise them again.
– We have listened to a very fine, sincere address by Senator Toohey. I hope that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir William Spooner) and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who are at the table, will give consideration to what he said’. I am advised that this bill must pass through all stages, including the committee stage, to-night. I do not want to be caustic about the failure of Government supporters to take part in the debate; they are aware of the need for urgency in considering this measure. We must be realistic. We all want to expedite the passage of the bill. The Opposition does not want to be accused of delaying it. The Australian Labour Party has never been responsible for delaying pension payments. We believe that payment of increases should be made at least from the date of introduction of the bill. We go so far as to say that the increases ought to be dated back to 1st July, lt is not impossible for this to take place. Many provisions in the Budget, such as that for the superphosphate bounty, reduced sales tax and matters of that nature, came into operation at the time the Budget was introduced. 1 do not think Government supporters can give any valid reason why pensions should not be paid as from the date the Budget was introduced. It would overcome the problem of Government supporters who are not prepared to make a contribution to a debate of this nature. This point has been argued in a most sincere manner by leaders of the
Labour Party, and I think that consideration should be given to it. Widows and pensioners surely are entitled to some consideration.
I support the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Labour Party, and so that honorable senators will know what I am supporting 1 shall read the amendment. The Labour Party amendment states that -
increases should be made in -
I hope in my remarks to deal effectively with the matters I have just mentioned. It is inhuman for any parliamentarian - particularly a member of the Liberal or Country Parties practically every one of whom has an income additional to his parliamentary salary - to vote against the five proposals I have mentioned. Admittedly there have been changes in social service benefits over the past fourteen years. Great social changes have taken place in every country, and great changes in the conditions of the workers everywhere. Senator Drake-Brockman compared payments made in 1949 with payments made at present. I do not want to go into details, as these matters have been very effectively dealt with by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) when he opened the Opposition’s case in respect of legislation, and also by Senator Poke in this chamber. The position has been dealt with very effectively.
As I said earlier, we do not want to make a political football out of social services. Labour by tradition has always fought for the pensioners. When the Labour Party was formed in 1890 ‘the working day, by. law, was unlimited. There were no overtime payments, no workers compensation, no paid holidays, no annual leave or long service leave. There were no sick pay and age and invalid pensions, no maternity allowance, no child endowment, no unemployment benefit and no thought of the principle of full employment or the 40-hour week. Labour pioneered all these reforms for the people.
In the early days one of the great writers of the Labour Party was askedwhy the Labour Party was formed. He replied, “ We are here to secure some of the pleasures, some of the leisures, yes, and some of the treasures the Australian Labour Party will be able to give to our people “. I say to honorable senators to-night that we are endeavouring to bring some of these leisures, pleasures and treasures tothe people whom we represent in this Parliament.
It was in 1890 that the Labour Council of New South Wales decided to form the political Labour League, andthe spirit which operated then was apparent in the early writing of Labour publicists. The Labour Party pledged itself to bring benefits to the children of the people then living and to their children. The leaders of the party said, “ Although we may not obtain improvements for ourselves to-day, we are striving to improve the lot of our children and their children”. In 1896 the first social services pledge was put into the Labour Party’s programme, when age and invalid pensions were first mooted.In 1900 the first age pension was won in New South Wales, when the Labour Party held the balance of power in the Parliament of that State. It was the Sir John See ministry in New South Wales which gave the people an age pension of 10s. a week in return for Labour Party support. In 1910 Labour was first elected in the Commonwealth when Andrew Fisher took office at the time that James McGowan was Labour Premier of New South Wales.
As one who came from the other House and occupied the position as secretary of the parliamentary Labour Parly while in that place I was fortunate enough to be able to read many of the records and minutes of Labour Party meetings, almost from the inception of the party. I was very impressed by a letter written by Mr. Alfred
Deakin in July, 1905. Writing to the leader of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. J. C. Watson, he pledged the support of his party at that time for the introduction of the old age pension in return for Labour support of his leadership and control of the national government. One of the reasons why the Labour Party of that period gave its support to Sir Alfred Deakin was that pledge to support old age pensions. Pensions became, so to speak, an important consideration in the National Parliament because of the place that Labour gave to them at that time.
What has the present Government done? Where does it stand on these matters? I do not want to go into all the details, but I wish to refer to a statement that was made by a Minister in another place. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), when speaking on the Budget in 1962, made the following statement: -
I will go on record as saying - I do not care what it costs me - that if I could see another £40,000,000 in the economy available this year for purposes other than those specified in the Budget, I would put an increase in pensions and other such social services last or. the liSt following development proposals. I go on record to say that, and honorable members opposite can use it as they like.
That statement has been used effectively already, and will be used effectively in future elections. It is an indictment on the Government for a Minister to speak in such a way about people in such desperate need.
Earlier my colleague and great friend Senator Dittmer condemned the present Minister for Social Services, Mr. Roberton, for the sour note he sounded on pensions in 1959. Mr. Elwyn Spratt wrote in the Sydney “Sun” of what the Minister said prior to accepting the portfolio. He had indicated he was opposed lo all forms of social services. Spratt told of the great fight being waged by members of the Minister’s own party in getting support and assistance for the benefits they desired to give to pensioners. So that we can understand exactly what has taken place, I shall mention something of what has been done by men with a desire to see benefits given to people in desperate need. I shall not gp into all the details. On 1st October, 1941, John Curtin moved in the .ordinary way that the first item of the Budget be reduced by £1. He stated as his reason-
That, while agreeing that the expenditure requisite for a maximum prosecution of the war should be provided by Parliament, the Committee is opposed to the unjust methods prescribed by the budget, declares that they are contrary to true equality of sacrifice, and directs that the plan of the budget should be re-cast to ensure a more equitable distribution of the national burden.
At that time John Curtin said -
The Labour Party would, immediately on assuming office, raise age and invalid pensions to at least 22s. 6d. a week and at least ascertain how far we could go beyond that figure.
On 3rd October, 1941, the Fadden Government was defeated and the Curtin Government was formed on 8 th October, 1941. The Fadden Government was defeated because it would not increase social services and would not increase soldiers’ pay. There were also other matters in issue at that time. Our present Government, like the one in office then, has always opposed and bitterly fought increased benefits to those who are in need, even to the extent of not accepting suggestions advanced by its own supporters.
In introducing this bill the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir William Spooner) said that the Government had the support of pensioners, the press and everybody else on this measure. I do not want to take up a great deal of time, but I have before me several press cuttings. The first is from the “ Daily Telegraph “. Under a headline “ Government puts a penalty on marriage “ the newspaper stated that the Federal Government should reconsider its decision to withhold its 10s. old-age increase from married pensioners. The article referred to what Mr. Allan Fraser had said and stated that Mr. Roberton’s explanation that the increase was intended to ease the shock when married pensioners found their joint income suddenly halved with the death of one partner, would give small comfort to pensioners.
The article continued -
Any pensioner, given the choice, would rather have the extra 10s. now and worry about the other problem later.
The “ Daily Mirror “ at the same time stated, “This mean injustice”, and attacked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). It said that the 10s. a week increase for single age and invalid pensioners, bringing their new pensions up to £5 15s., was “ both just and reasonable “, but then added -
But then Mr. Holt perpetrated an act of meanness that is difficult to understand.
He decided that married couples,.. both pensioners, would not receive the increase. Their combined pension would remain at £10 10s. a week. By this arbitrary act he seeks to perpetuate the fallacy that two can live cheaper than one.
In addition, I have a sheaf of protesting letters from pensioner organizations. I shall not read them all - one is from the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association of New South Wales, and another from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation. If time permitted 1 would read them, because they are very important. The Minister’s statement about the payment of pensions is a complete fallacy, and he knows that very well.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber maintain that there should be a standard rate for all pensioners and a supplementary allowance of up to 30s.. for special needs, thus removing the discrimination against married pensioners. That is a policy which Labour would pursue if it were in office. lt is of interest to trace briefly the history of social service benefits in Australia. I remind the Senate that the social service referendum was carried in 1946 by 2.297,934 votes to 1,927,148. At that time the present leaders of the Government opposed most vigorously and viciously the social service referendum proposed by the Labour Party.
– Who did?
– Supporters of the present Government, and in turn two States, Queensland and South Australia, because of the activities of the then Opposition, voted against the proposal.
– It had nothing whatever to do with the governments of those States.
– Can the honorable senator imagine a referendum being carried by less than 300,000 votes, if it were not opposed by at least one of the major parties? It was opposed by the present Government parties. In 1901, the John See Government of New South Wales introduced age pensions. In 1909 the Deakin Government of the Commonwealth introduced age pensions. Both governments held office by the support of the Labour Party. In 1910 the Fisher Labour Government introduced the invalid pensionChild ‘ endowment was first introduced in 1927 by the Lang Labour Government in New South Wales. The payment was then 5s. to each child, and this was described as a family allowance. In 1941 the Menzies Government introduced child endowment at 5s. for each child other than the first. The basic wage’ was then £4 9s. a- week. In 1948 the Chifley Government raised the rate to 10s. At that time the basic wage was £6 2s. In 1950 the Menzies Government introduced the payment of 5s. for the first child.
The maternity allowance was introduced by the Fisher Labour Government in 1912, and in 1943 the Curtin Government fixed the rates at £15, £16 and £17 10s. In November, 1943, the basic wage was £4 19s. The unemployed and sickness benefit was introduced in 1945 by the Curtin Labour Government. Since then, of course, it has been increased by successive Menzies Governments. : The widows’ pension was introduced in 1927 in New South Wales by the Lang Labour Government. In the federal sphere it was introduced in 1942 by the Curtin Labour Government, and it has been adjusted by successive Menzies Governments. The funeral benefit was introduced in .1941 by the Curtin Labour Government, and the allowance of £10 remained for 22 years. The Aged Persons Homes Act was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1954. This act has since been amended. lt has been a proud boast by honorable senators opposite that Australia enjoys the best social service conditions in the world, but that is not true to-day. Countries that were almost devastated by war have surpassed us. In a pamphlet, “ Cost of Social Security 1961 “, published by the International Labour Organization, is a list of countries showing social services expenditure as a percentage of national income. The pamphlet shows that Australia,, which spent 9.1 per cent .of its income on social services, was below countries such as Belgium, which spent 16.3 per cent, of the national income; Denmark, which spent 12 per cent.; France, which spent 18.9 per cent.; Germany, which spent 20.8 per cent.; Ireland, which spent 11.5 per cent.; and
Haly, which spent 15.2 per cent. There were other countries also with a greater percentage expenditure than Australia on social services. 1 should like to mention what a Labour government would do if it were in office. 1 think it is important to place this on record so that the people of Australia will realize who has pioneered social services legislation and what we intend to do in future. At present a supplementary allowance of 10s. a week is available to single pensioners and to married couples where only one of the partnership is a pensioner and no wife’s allowance is payable. This rate is payable only to persons who pay rent and who depend entirely on their pensions. Labour proposes to increase this to 30s. a week and also to examine the question of payment for special- needs. On the matter of funeral benefits, Labour has announced on numerous occasions that the £10 now payable to a family upon the death of a member will be increased to £30. The unemployment and sickness benefit which Labour proposes to pay to an adult or married minor is £5 10s. per week; to an unmarried minor of 16 or 17 years of age, £2 per week; to an unmarried minor between 18 and 21 years of age, £2 12s. 6d. per week; and to a dependent wife resident in Australia, £2 7s. 6d. a week. Child endowment will be paid at the rate of 10s. per week in respect of the first child, 17s. 6d. per week in respect of the second child and 20s. per week in respect of each additional child. The mothers of Australia should know that had Labour been in office over the past thirteen years and had Labour’s pledges been carried out concerning child endowment they would have received during that time at least an additional £180,000,000.
In maternity allowances, Labour will provide payment of £30 for the first child, rising to £35 for the fourth and subsequent children. Labour will establish a social service appeals tribunal for the purpose of hearing appeals by any unsuccessful applicant for social service benefits. The need for such a tribunal is illustrated by the applicant for an invalid pension who may desire to challenge certain medical testimony or an age pension applicant with respect to a valuation of property. Labour, too, pledges its word to make available to all pensioners a medical service which would cost in a full year - and this has been questioned by honorable senators opposite - the sum of £1,400,000. This is official information which was made available in reply to a question on notice in another place last year.
In conclusion, I point out that total Commonwealth expenditure for all purposes in 1963-64 is estimated to be £2,280,700,000, an increase of £197,000,000 over last year’s expenditure. In a recent publication, the story of the economic decline in Australia is reviewed in figures taken from an official document, “ Net Value of the Production of Primary Industries and Factories “. From the end of the war up to 1949-50 the Labour Government increased overall secondary and rural production from £89 per head to £176 per head. The basic wage in 1946 was £4 16s. and in 1950 it was £6 9s. Relatively, the increase in production was not as great as it would appear to be; none the less, it was immense. The real value of the increase in production was £50 per head and more than £200 per family. What happened when the Menzies Government took office? Overall production in 1949-50 was £176 per head, as I have said. The basic wage was £6 9s. In 1961-62 overall production was £322 per head. The basic wage in 1962 was £14 8s. The value of the £1 had diminished by well over half-
The combined effect of the proposals introduced by the Government in this bill will be to increase expenditure by £18,000,000 in a full year and approximately £11,500,000 during the current year. I know that Labour’s proposals will cost a great deal more and that the Government will say that it is impossible to find the amount required. But I submit, Mr. President, that it was not impossible to lose tcn times this amount -as a result of the neglect and the incompetent methods used by this Government over the past fourteen years. I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment proposed by Senator Poke.
[9.44].- The bill before the Senate is a very important one indeed, and I shall start by thanking the
Senate for the way in which it dealt with it to-day and on our last day of sitting in order that it might be passed through all its stages by the close of the sitting to-night. I think it is fair to say that the debate on the bill has followed the pattern of many previous debates on social services bills because there is a clear line of demarcation in the respective approaches to the bill by the Government parties and the Opposition parties. The Government parties, being in power, have had the opportunity to think about the proposals which would come forward for the year in the Budget. Committees of Government members have considered the various problems, prepared their recommendations and reports to the Government and have conferred with Cabinet Ministers before the making of actual decisions. Honorable senators supporting the Government come into the Senate after having had a hand in the preparation of proposals. Their recommendations have been considered and, therefore, they stand behind the final programme which is being achieved. Of course, the contrary is the position so far as the Opposition is concerned. On a great matter such as social services there are few people who have not some particular idea - some pet proposal - which they would like to see incorporated in the legislation. On this occasion, the two great matters to me that are contained in the bill are the very appreciable increase in widows’ pensions and the very substantial assistance which is being given to those homes into which only one pension is coming. These represent substantial improvements in the standard of social service benefits. I think they are two of the most noteworthy improvements in social services.
I do not propose, Mr. President - and I hope I do not give offence - to reply to each of the proposals that has been made in the course of the debate. I think it is fair to say that over the years no proposal has been advanced in debates of this nature which, at some time or other, has not been the subject of consideration by the Government. What will be done with respect to social service benefits each year involves a major Government decision not only in terms of the finance involved but also in terms of the good that, will he done through out the community. I take a lot of pride in the programme that is advanced this year. I do not propose to reply to the criticisms that have been made except to mention two comments from Senator Fitzgerald which I think I should not let go unchallenged. He has said that political parties similar to those which support the present Government opposed a referendum which was held in 1946 for the transfer of social service powers to the Commonwealth. That is quite incorrect. That proposal was supported by those parties. Then Senator Fitzgerald made a statement which, hardened as I am to party politics, offended me somewhat. He said that the Government parties had always opposed increases in pensions. That statement was so unjust that I think merely to repeat it calmly is sufficient answer to the criticism. In the light of the bill before the Senate it will be seen to be a very unfair comment.
One sometimes does well to stand off, as it were, and look at a measure. Illustration of the importance of the bill now before the Senate can be achieved by repeating a couple of the general statements that have been made. In 1962-63 the total expenditure on social services and health was £379,000,000. It is estimated that in 1963-64 the sum expended will pass the £411,000,000 mark, which is equal to 68 per cent, of the total amount of income tax that is collected or 27 per cent, of the total revenue that is received by the Commonwealth Government. To re-state figures of that magnitude is to place in perspective the social service effort that is being made by this Government. The proposals now before the Senate will cost £17,750,000 in a full year. When we are confronted with sums of that magnitude, there can be no justification of strong criticism of our social service programme. The various proposals to which any particular senator lends his support must be viewed against the background of the Government’s overall effort.
Some criticism has been offered of the proposal to pay an additional sum to single pensioners. This proposal emanates from the research that was conducted by the Government Members Social Services Committee. Most countries in the Western world, including the United Kingdom;
New Zealand, the United States of America, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, have adopted this principle. It has been stated on the other side of the chamber that the proposal is not popular. A government has the responsibilty to do what is right irrespective of whether or not it is popular. But I do not accept the view that this proposal is not popular in the quarters in which opinion counts most. Although we all had a good deal of correspondence on this subject, I believe that this development is supported overwhelmingly by recipients of social service benefits. I was interested to note the result of one gallup pole which revealed a favourable vote of 68 per cent. A footnote stated that an analysis of the voting revealed that 68 per cent, of those who vote for the Labour Party thought that this was a good proposal for the Government to adopt. I believe that the giving of additional assistance to widows and single pensioners is to direct assistance to the quarter to which most Australians would like to see it directed - where the need is greatest.
I am sure the Opposition will not be surprised when I say that the Government does not support the amendment. Perhaps I should offer a few reasons for the Government’s decision. It is estimated that the cost of the Opposition’s proposals in a full year would be £68,900,000. I do not say that the high cost of a proposal should make its implementation impossible but I do suggest that to add that sum to the present annual social service outlay of £411,000,000 would create a situation which we certainly would not be prepared to accept. The first proposal in the amendment relates to child endowment. I have dealt with it mainly in terms of the cost involved.
The Opposition’s second proposal relates to the standard rate. I think I covered this proposal when enunciating the general principle that any additional funds that are made available should be directed to where the need is greatest. It is difficult to believe that a valid argument can be advanced against the general proposition that a single pensioner needs more than half of the combined pension of a husband and wife to maintain anything approaching their standard of living: ‘ ‘ ‘».’.> ,’” ’/>’. .
The third part of the amendment refers to the need to adjust social service payments and qualifications to compensate for changes in the cost of living. The Opposition, in putting forward that proposal, is convicted on its own record, because on two previous occasions such a proposal was tried in association with social services legislation and was twice repealed, on each occasion by a Labour government. In other words, the Labour Party, when it was in office and bearing the responsibility to administer the legislation, repealed this principle because the Labour Party found that it did not operate effectively.
The fourth part of the amendment states that Australia now lags behind most comparable countries in its expenditure on social welfare. This is one of those general statements which it is easy to make and repeat but difficult to refute in specific terms. In my judgment, it is not correct. We do not lag behind other countries in this respect. I believe that our standards of social services are quite high comparatively. We cannot judge social service payments merely in terms of percentages. We have to relate them to so many other things, such as standards of living and the rate of employment. We must take tangible as well as mathematical considerations into account. We must look at the standard of living within the country in relation to social service benefits. I should think few Australians would dispute that our standard of living compares most favorably with that of any other country in the world.
The last part of the amendment states that research and inquiry into social welfare in Australia is inadequate. I held the Social Services portfolio in my early days in the Ministry. I believe that Australia is well served by the staff of its Department of Social Services and that there is as much research and as much comparison of trends here and abroad as there is in any other government department. I should be sorry to see, super-imposed on the work that the department is doing already, the activities of any other body, because I believe that the department is working most efficiently at present.
Question put -
That the words proposed .to be added (Senator. Poke’s’’ amendment) be added: ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘’” ’
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . Nil
– There being 27 “ Ayes “ and 27 “ Noes “, the question is resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
.- I move-
That the clause be postponed.
As an instruction to the Government -
That, immediately on the payment of the present increases, provision should be made for the establishment of an independent tribunal to ascertain and inform the Parliament of suitable amounts which should be made payable for the comfort and needs of the recipients of age, invalid and widows’ pensions.
I point out that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber often have declared that the pensions and other social service benefits that are provided by the Government are used as party political propaganda.
We should take pensions out of politics.
– The old theme.
– It is old, but true. People come to Canberra from all parts of Australia trying to impress on members of Parliament and the Government that they are deserving of certain help so that they can live decently. My proposal is that there should be an independent tribunal which would set the standards for pensions after very careful research. The first amendment that was moved by the Australian Labour Party provided for research and inquiry into social welfare in Australia. My proposal is that a tribunal should carry out very close researchand inquiry into social welfare. It could submit a concrete proposal to the Parliament on appropriate rates of pension to keep pensioners of various categories in a modicum of comfort.
This amendment would take pensions out of politics and give justice to the pensioners, and I hope the Senate will support it. It is a very simple proposition. My amendment contains certain germs of thought that were also to be found in : he amendment moved by the Opposition. If the members of the Opposition who supported that amendment are honest in their desire to help the pensioners they will support the amendment I have moved.
– I second the amendment because it is virtually the same as a proposal I have put before the Senate twice in questions to the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). The Minister turned me down each time. The previous amendment referred to the health and needs of the pensioners; this amendment refers to their comforts and needs. I believe that an inquiry into the health of age pensioners is long overdue. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator SirWilliam Spooner) said that research goes on in the Department of Social Services. I am not sure whether the results of that research are published in a journal or are published at all. I do not know where I can get a statement on the results of this research, and I wonder whether the Minister was referring rather to opinions than to research. There is a difference between somebody saying they think this or that is necessary for age pensioners, and true research. Research is far more scientific.
I have suggested twice that the College of General Practitioners, which is closely associated with pensioners, and the Department of Social Services should get together and do a research survey or a pilot study on the health and needs of pensioners. I cannot understand why the Government opposes this proposal. It would not cost very much. The Government would have the co-operation of the general practitioners who deal with these cases, and the social workers could be provided by the Commonwealth and State Departments of Social Services. It is the same old story: We did not think of it, and so it is no good; we think of it, and it is good.
Could the Senate be informed of the real reason why this work cannot be done? Each time I have made this suggestion I have been fobbed off with the reply that such a study is not necessary, yet the latest research in England shows how much we need research into the conditions affecting aged people in Australia. Some of the findings from this research into the health and needs of aged people in the United Kingdom were remarkable - so much so that one would hardly believe that they were correct; but the research was conducted on a scientific basis. Perhaps the Leader of the Government will tell the Senate where we can get details of the research that is conducted by the Department of Social Services, where these details are published, and who conducts the research.
– Has the honorable senator read the annual report of the Department of Social Services?
– -I am sorry that I have not the time that is available to Senator Marriott to read every annual report.
– Why speak on the subject if you have not read the report?
– If honorable senators spoke only when they had read an annual report, half of them would have to remain seated and silent. I know that Senator Marriott is such a studious person that he reads every report, and I bow to his superior knowledge, but I do not think anything I have said is . invalidated by the fact that I have not read the report of the Department of Social Services. If the information 1 want is in the report I will apologize to the Leader of the Government for not having read it. All the Minister has to do is to tell me whether it is in the report, and if it is I will read it.
We are fortunate that the members of the Australian Labour Party are so wholeheartedly behind this amendment. They cannot be anything else, really, because they submitted an amendment which was virtually the same as the amendment moved by Senator Cole. They wanted research into social welfare. This proposes research into the comfort and needs of pensioners, and I hope the Australian Labour Party will support the Democratic Labour Party in this amendment.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER (New South Wales - Vice-President of. the Executive Council and Minister for National Development) [10.17]. - This proposal has been before the Government and the Senate previously. There are two principal reasons why the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. One is that the Department of Social Services already has its own research section which delves into the problems of social service administration and has a well-informed view on these matters, which it gives to the Government. I think I should say in reply to Senator Turnbull that perhaps his approach to this matter is different from the view I am expressing, because I interpret his remarks to convey that he was thinking of research in terms of medical matters. I would not claim that the Department of Social Services does research on medical matters - that is, on the definition of terms and responsibilities that are more a matter for the Department of Health. But all social service schemes and arrangements and the means of various classes of social service beneficiaries are matters on which the research section of the Department of Social Services is well informed. It provides information which would be better than that which would come from an independent tribunal. It is close to the problem in its day to day operations.
The next ground upon which the proposal is not acceptable to the Government is one of tremendous importance. If there were a tribunal with functions such as those outlined in the amendment, we would be putting the Parliament in a situation in which- we would remove from , it responsibility and control over expenditures. It would be a very difficult situation indeed. As I said earlier, total expenditure is now running at the rate of £411,000,000 a year. It would be a difficult situation indeed if an independent tribunal, dealing with only one aspect of government, seeing only one problem, not seeing all the ramifications of government, all the demands upon expenditure, and all the possible avenues of revenue, were to bring forward proposals which would, in effect, take out of the hands of the Parliament final determination or control of what has become, in this modern world, one of the largest single items in the Budget.
– The Opposition does not support the amendment, which is based on the proposition that it would enable pensions to be taken out of politics. When one examines this claim, one sees that it is a mere slogan without any relevance to the amendment at all. One has only to think of what would happen if, perchance, the proposed independent tribunal advocated a reduction in the current rate. That would instantly be a matter of high politics. On the other hand, if the independent tribunal recommended more than the government of the day was prepared to give, quintessentially one would have another matter of high politics. The matter would be as highly political as it ever has been, as it is to-day, and as it will continue to be in future. First, then, I reject the slogan upon which the proposition is based.
It is proposed that this tribunal will have persuasive effect only, that its recommendations will not be conclusive and that it will not bind anybody. The tribunal will be asked to consider one factor only, the amount required to provide for comfort and needs. Who will assess comfort? Comfort can be luxury. If you modify it with the word “ reasonable “, how do you determine what is reasonable? I would hate to select an appropriate qualifying word. I merely indicate that the word that is proposed is quite unsuitable. “ Needs “ - yes. That approaches very much nearer to the mark. The point I want to’ emphasize is that the tribunal is to be invited to look at one. matter only, the comfort and needs of three ‘classes of pensioners - age, invalid and widow pensioners. But there are many other factors that any government of -any colour must consider. It must consider on each occasion whether the state of the economy for the current year can bear any proposed increase of expenditure. Then there is the more important consideration that an increase, once granted, cannot be taken away. Before an increase is given, the Government has to determine whether it can be sustained for the foreseeable future.
This amendment ignores the realities of government. Against the legitimate claims of those in the pension field are many other legitimate claims, all of them needing money all of the time. I indicate the claims in relation to education, national health and child endowment. A government, having regard to the resources and the situation at the moment, is eternally faced with a series of claims, all competing for resources that are, in any circumstances, limited, because under all of these heads more money ought to be poured out than is available at any one time. The Government simply must accept the responsibility for making the maximum contribution to the reasonable needs of pensioners, having regard to the resources available to meet all the competing claims. I again direct attention to the fact that this amendment is intended to deal with only, three matters in the pension field - age pensions, invalid pensions,- and widows’ pensions. If there is a legitimate basis for such a tribunal, its activities ought also to be extended to’ cover the needs of the unemployed and the sick.
– It would be, too. We are only dealing with these three matters under this bill.
– I merely indicate that What the. honorable senator proposes is limited to those three fields. It does not touch upon the very important question of child endowment. There may be very real questions about the comfort and needs of children, the most important section of our population. I put’ it to the committee that all sorts of bodies are advocating better conditions for’ pensioners. Pensioners have their own associations. The electors are concerned for them as a body. The party in opposition in the Parliament is always exceedingly vocal for them. All of these are alert to see that the. maximum pension is paid. If there is one class in the community that does not lack very vocal spokesmen, it is certainly the age, invalid and widow pensioners. I should say that there are enough advocates in the field at present without adding another one.
The tribunal might -or might not be composed of people who were competent and knowledgeable. If I were faced with the task of selecting such a tribunal, I would go instantly to the senior officers of the Department of Social Services, because they meet the pensioners in season and out of season. Even in my time - and that is a long while ago - we had social workers whose job was to keep in touch with what was happening to pensioners as human beings and as individuals. All the time an evaluation is being made of the impact of these various concessions and benefits upon the recipients to see whether the purpose of the Parliament is being carried out.
– If you believe that what the department says is correct you should accept the. principle of a 10s. increase for single pensioners.
– We would do better than what the Government proposes to do, I suggest to the honorable senator. Our policy is to have a basic pension for all, having regard to need. We suggest that there should be one basic pension for every individual, married, unmarried or otherwise, and then a system of supplementary allowances of up to 30s. a week - not merely^ 10s.- to meet sickness, difficulties with rent, and 101 other things. That is an infinitely better, more human, and more generous proposal than what Senator Turnbull now puts and what the Government proposes.
Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved iri the negative.
– I would imagine that there would not be an honorable senator who, if I were to moye that the.’.deter- mination of the amounts payable in the pension field be left to senior and competent officers of the Department of Social Services, would not reject the motion out of hand. Honorable senators would do so for the simple reason as Senator Sir William Spooner has already said - that the Senate would thereby be abdicating its responsibility and handing government over to a department. That is why I have developed the theme about competent officers in the department. I have done so in order to demonstrate that although you could get nobody better informed, or better trained, than the departmental officials, or with anything like their experience, to consider handing this authority over to departmental officers would be to consider abdicating parliamentary as well as government responsibility: In this matter we are not dealing with an insignificant amount of money. The Minister for National Development quoted the total figure in relation to social services and health. In the three categories with which the amendment deals - age, invalid and widow pensions - we are considering an amount of £221,500,000 for this year. That is a very substantial sum for which to make some extraparliamentary body responsible.
For the reasons that I have given on this occasion which are similar to those I have given, on previous occasions, as well as for the new reasons that I have developed, the Labour Party rejects the amendment.
– All I can say is that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has made a very good effort to try to wriggle out of his responsibility to those people who depend upon his party to try to improve their living conditions. I have heard the same arguments put forward before against the establishment of a tribunal such as I have proposed. It has been said that if this amendment were agreed to it would remove the control of pensions from the Parliament. It would do nothing of the sort. The tribunal would make recommendations to the Parliament and the Parliament would decide the adequate pension rates that, should be paid.. .Honorable senators know that that is what happens. - :
It has been said that the Department of Social Services is acquainted with all the requirements of social services because the various anomalies are brought to its notice. However, ^officers of the department can do only what the act allows them to do. They can make no decision on what rate should or should not be paid. As far as I know they do not even recommend what rates should be provided for in the Budget.
– Of course they do!
– The Government does that. It is the Government, with the Treasurer, which decides the amount to be appropriated for social services, and then the officers of the department are asked to advise on the best manner in which the amount can be distributed in the social services field. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech to-night has demonstrated to the public that if the Labour Party were to come into power in the Commonwealth Parliament, age and invalid pensioners could not expect very much justice. It would appear that they will receive nowhere near what they are asking for to help them to maintain their standard of living. From what Senator McKenna has said to-night, he would be harder on the pensioners than even the present Government is.
It is all very well for the Labour Party to say that it will fix a base rate and will then pay perhaps 30s. over that base rate to certain pensioners. Who will determine the base rate? How do we know that that base rate would not be lower than the rate being paid at present? The Australian Democratic Labour Party is asking for a tribunal to be set up to consider the various categories of pensions. It will take into consideration the environment of pensioners and determine a base rate of pension with variations to suit certain classes of pensioners, just as the Government is doing in part, because of its realization that there must be a differentiation in the rates.
The Labour Party says that pensioners should have a reasonable standard of living. At the present time it is suggesting that they should be given half the basic wage.
-r-Who said that?
– That “has been said by a number of members of the Labour Party on the hustings, all over the countryside. They have said that that will provide a reasonable standard of living for the pensioners. They have set their standard, but I say that that standard is not good enough. Maybe that rate would be good enough for two pensioners living together, but it would not necessarily be a satisfactory rate for a single pensioner. I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to differentiate between two classes of pensioners at least. If the tribunal which ‘ I suggest were appointed it could differentiate between more categories. The base rate could be fixed to provide a reasonable standard of living. A standard of living cannot be fixed for all people by the application of a single rate, because the standard of living of each person is different. The word “ reasonable “ has to be interpreted in the light of the individual needs of pensioners.
– Surely you are not suggesting that the Government should run away from ils responsibility and the policy that it has announced.
– I suggest that it is time we got away from a policy which causes us to be chased around by age pensioners all over the country.
– They elect the Government on the policy it puts forward.
– They elect the Government on a number of things. The Government has been prepared to hand repatriation matters over to tribunals. It appointed a tribunal to consider an increase in parliamentary salaries.
– We did not have to accept the recommendation of that tribunal.
– I accepted it eventually, although I was against it at the time. We asked a tribunal to recommend our own rate of payment to give us a reasonable standard of living. We understood what the word “ reasonable “ meant, and the tribunal recommended certain increases. It cannot be said that by asking a tribunal to make recommendations we are sacrificing our parliamentary power. We are not. In the case of parliamentary salaries the tribunal made certain recommendations and we accepted those recommendations.
– Some of them.
– Most of them. You did not have to accept them. The responsibility was on the Parliament to decide whether it accepted them or not. If this amendment is agreed to the responsibility will still be on the Parliament to accept or reject the recommendations of the tribunal.
I cannot see any basis for -the argument put forward by Senator McKenna in an endeavour to get the Government out of a sticky position. If the Labour Party ever obtains office and Senator McKenna is Minister for Social Services I am afraid that the pensioners will be even worse off than they are under the present Government.
– I regret that a speech made with deep sincerity by the leader of a party in this chamber should have provoked a personal attack by Senator Cole. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) showed a deep sense of responsibility, and unlike Senator Cole, he has had the responsibility of administering the portfolio of Social Services. When I heard Senator Turnbull speak I thought how far out of his depth he was, and my mind went back to a time he was Treasurer in the Tasmanian Government. I thought how annoyed he would have been if the State Parliament had set up a committee to tell that government what to do with some type of taxation. If he had appointed such a committee in respect of Tattersalls he might- have done some good for Tasmania.
I know that the proposal to establish this tribunal will not be agreed to, but if it were established we would find that later in this session we would have motions and further amendments to bills from Senator Cole and Senator Turnbull who, of course, are without any responsibility in these matters. They would be asking us, for instance, to set up a tribunal to inquire into income tax. In the result we could find that the whole field of finance was being run by tribunals which had not the responsibility of government. I believe that an honorable senator would need to have a small mind to support such rs proposition and 1 trust that the committee will vote against it. ‘ ‘
– What about “ Senator Wright? Did he not -propose the other night that a committee should be set up?
– I am not speaking about Senator Wright.
– Order! Senator Marriott will address the Chair.
– I have, finished.
– Having listened to the twitterings of a scavenger, I should now like to reply to some of the things he said. I am glad that he does not see fit to protest about being called a scavenger, apparently he accepts the term. He said first of all that I had not read the report of the Director-General of Social Services. I therefore assumed that the honorable senator had read the report. May I ask him through you, Mr. Chairman, whether he has read the report.
– I have read it.
– Now that the honorable senator admits it, I should like to know where in the report is a reference to the research that he said I should look for. I have looked for it and have been unable to find it. It is unfortunate that I have to attack him because he is so uneducated that he does not know the difference between statistics and research. I do not want to labour the point, but there is not one item of research in this document, nor even one suggestion that research has been done. But the honorable senator suggested with his usual twitterings that I should study the research contained in the report. There is not one bit of research in it.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir William Spooner) has opposed the amendment on the grounds that his governmental officers have research teams studying problems of social services When he can show me that there has been research and that articles have been published on that scientific research - not just opinions or statistics compiled by his departmental officers - I will be prepared to withdraw my suggestion that we should do something about it. The cost of a scheme - such as that introduced in the United Kingdom would be very small indeed because the doctors participating would make no charge for their services. Also, the social service workers would come from the Commonwealth and State departments, so there would be very little cost to the taxpayer.
Why can we not have sucha tribunal? Could there be any. harm in it? Is the Minister afraid that his officers may be wrong? Is it notpossible that some good could come from it, as was the case in the United Kingdom? Does it matter very much whether we receive a report just on needs and health and brush it off by saying that it is a health department matter? Perhaps it is, butit is also a matter that concerns the Department of Social Services. Actually the two portfolios could well go together and save the Commonwealth one Minister. Apparently, but because this proposal is advanced by someone other than the Government itself, it has to be opposed. ] think it is quite petty to argue that a constructive idea that is put forward in this chamber must be opposed because the Government did not Chink of it first. I have looked only quickly through the report and 1 cannot see what topics have been the subject of research, but I trust that the Leader of the Government will tell us so that I can check this.
I want to deal now with the Opposition. I must say that I have never been so disgusted as I was to-night when I heard the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The only thing more hypocritical than his speech.-
– Order! The honorable senator is out of order in alleging that the Leader of the Opposition was hypocritical. He will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw the suggestion that he was hypocritical. All I can say is that I have never heard a Leader of the Opposition speak for so long with his tongue in his cheek. The only other honorable senator to do that to-night was Senator Marriott who complimented the Leader of the Opposition. Let us look at what has happened. The same criticism that I have made of the Government can be made of the Opposition.Because somebodyelsehasbroughtinanideathe
Opposition will not support it. Although what Senator Cole has proposed is the very thing that is wanted by the Opposition, its leader says, “ That is only part of what we want, so we will throw it out “. Is it not better to have a piece of the cake than to have no cake at all? But because it is the Democratic Labour Party that brings forward the idea, the Opposition rejects it. Surely it shows a lack of spunk and character when the Opposition allows a think like this to go just because of its personal emnity towards one man. When you go on like this, the whole thing stinks.
The Leader of the Opposition has produced every argument possible why Senator Cole and I should in future vote with the Government against any Opposition proposal that a select committee should be set up. I have never heard such good arguments as he gave us to-night condemning the setting up of tribunals and select committees. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: Next time you are thinking of appointing such a committee, think again, because obviously, on your own words, by setting up this type of tribunal you would be taking the business of government out of the hands of the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition said also that the tribunal would not know what to do whereas the officers of the department do know what to do. Does he think that a select committee of the Senate would know what it was doing? I must admit that the day one becomes a politician one is able to talk with knowledge on any subject. It is surprising the subjects that we can talk about the moment we become politicians. Nevertheless, a select committee comprised of honorable senators would have not much knowledge of the matters put forward.
We have been told that we should go to the departmental officers for advice rather than have an outside tribunal. If we accept the Leader of the Opposition’s argument why on earth is there all the fuss from the Opposition about the10s. increase for single pensioners? That is what the officers of the department recommended. They are the officers who, the Leader of the Opposition said, know what they are doing. I presume that in saying that he was speaking for, all Opposition senators. He said that the officers know what they are doing, that they have examined the question and have. decided that single pensioners should get an increase,but married pensioners should not. That being so, why did the Opposition attack the Government about the differentiation?
Another point that has been made is that by setting up a tribunal we would be practically giving the work of Parliament to outside people. I have never heard such stupidity in my life.
– You want to listen to yourself.
– I am prepared to listen to myself, but my God it is hard to do so with you interjecting. You are either asleep or interjecting. I would prefer you to go to sleep because then you do not distract me. The Leader of the Opposition said, I presume on behalf of his party, that if we appointed tribunals they would rule the Government and take over the government of the country. That is a stupid statement. Every one knows that when a select committee of the Senate brings in a finding it is not automatically accepted. I doubt whether the findings of any select committees of this Parliament arc accepted. I know that, in the State Parliament of Tasmania, nothing is ever done about the findings of select committees. Those in other States seem to meet the same fate. Senator McKenna had the nerve to say on behalf of the Labour Party, “ Well, after all, this proposal will cost many millions of pounds more; and we are already spending £221,500,000 so we must not spend any more “. Do Opposition senators agree with that statement? They sit silent in their places. When the time to vote comes they will do as they are told.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 50
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Section twenty-eight of the Principal Act is amended -
Two hundred and ninetynine pounds per annum;. and
Section proposed to be amended -
(1a.) The maximum rate of age, or invalid pension is, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, Two hundred and forty-seven pounds per annum. (1b.) Where a person who is qualified to receive an invalid pension, or a person who is qualified to receive an age pension and is permanently incapacitated for work, has the. custody, care and control of two or more children under the age of sixteen years, themaximum rate specified inthe last preceding sub-section shall, subject to the next two succeeding sub-sections, be increased by Twentysix pounds per annum for each of those children other than the elder or eldest child.
– I move -
In clause 5, sub-clause (a), after proposed subsection (1a.) insert the following sub-section: - “ (l’ab.) The maximum rates of pension provided for by the last preceding sub-section shall be reviewed annually and shall at least be increased in accordance with any upward movement of the cost of living as measured by the weighted average retail price index for food, clothing and groceries as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician for the twelve months ending on the thirty-first day of March each year.”.
This important amendment is designed to preserve the value of the pension that is being provided. Some people say that the base rate of pension is too low. My previous amendment would have established the correct basis for pension rates; it would have prevented pensions from losing their value as a result of upward trends in the cost of living.
– What about downward trends?
– The reference” was to upward trends in the cost of living. There was nothing about downward trends. Once the pension goes up with the cost of living, if the cost of living should subsequently come down, I am sure that nobody would begrudge the pensioner the couple of. shillings extra that he would be getting. The extent of movements in the cost of living can be well judged from the present Budget.
I advanced this proposal quite a number of years ago when my party held the balance of power in this chamber. If the Labour Party had had what it takes to support such art amendment, this provision would now be part of the social service legislation. But, like the first amendment I moved-to-night, my proposal was opposed. I have not yet been able to ascertain the reason.
I repeat that no provision has been made in the Budget for an increase in the.” amount of pension received1 by a husband and wife The same thing, has happened in previous years. So. relatively’ “the pensioners will continue to be worse off than the wage- earners in the community. Their position will be further aggravated by the award of an increase of 10 per cent, in margins in the metal trades case. That increase will push down the value of the existing pension. As I said earlier, no provision was made in the Budget for an increase of the amount of pension received by a husband and wife.
– Nor would there be if your amendment were agreed to.
– How do you mean?
– Your amendment docs not say anything about margins, lt refers to the cost of living index.
– Do you not think the cost of living will go up?
– It might.
– If you think the cost of living will remain where it is after the effect of the 10 per cent, increase in margins is felt throughout the economy you arc very optimistic.
– Labour would put value back into the £1.
– I am not too sure about value being put back into the £1. I ask the Government to agree to the amendment so that we will have a firm base and the relative value of pensions will remain the same. We have not been able to get that firm base in the past, because of the attitude of those people who are supposed to’ have the welfare of the pensioners at heart.
– I should like to point- out that there has been no collusion between Senator Cole and myself. I support’ his amendment because, as I. “indicated- in regard to his previous amendment, L have asked for two- inquiries on the. part of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). . Honorable senators will have - heard me. say on at least three occasions that government grants of the kind .we .are considering should be tied to the cost of living or to politicians’ salaries. Senator Cole’s amendment just ties in with what’ I have been advocating for some time. I think it is a reasonable and fair proposal.
When governments, whether they be Liberal, or Labour governments, institute such schemes they go to the people and say, “We have given you something for your good”. Then, as the years go by, they forget all about the needs of the people, and because of natural inflation the value of the original grant becomes negligible. All grants, whether they be child endowment payments or pensions, or even medical and hospital benefits, should be tied to the cost of living. I know that to do so would cost money. Any government that makes a grant of 5s. must believe that that is the amount it should award at the time. But as the value of money declines with the passage of time because of inflation, that government, if it is sincere, should increase the payment to restore its value.
When we come to personal matters such as parliamentary salaries, we like to get a little ahead of the cost of living. I would strongly resent having to sit in this chamber and discuss the salaries of members of the Parliament every time an increase was proposed. Those salaries should be measured by some yardstick, and there is no better yardstick than the cost of living. I support the principle that any such grant should be tied to the cost of living. Therefore, I must support Senator Cole’s amendment.
[1 1 .7]. - The Government regrets that it is unable to accept the amendment. The Government has three reasons for adopting that attitude. The first is that the proposed system of fixing pensions has been tried in the past and found wanting. Such a system operated from 1933 to 1937 and again horn 1940 to 1944. Experience showed that it was not really satisfactory, and it was abandoned twice.
– It was tried at rather peculiar periods.
– I am just relating the facts. I repeat that the proposed system was tried from 1933 to 1937 and from 1940 to 1944. Each time it was repealed by a Labour government.
Secondly, the proposal has been advanced on the ground that it would retain the value of the pension. It is interesting to note that, if this principle had been applied during our term of office, the age pension would now be £1 2s. Id. per week less than it is. In other words, experience shows that it is not wise to tie the pension to a certain standard. The increase in pensions over the last thirteen years, during which time this Government has been in office, has been much greater than it would have been if the proposed system had been adopted.
Thirdly, the adoption of such a system of increasing pensions would have a very material effect upon social service policy. It is the responsibility of a government when making decisions on social services to take into account not only the movement in the cost of living index but also changes in the social structure and in social service administration and thinking. Each government has the responsibility of making its own decisions on what improvements shall be made. In making those decisions it would be handicapped very materially by automatic variations, because the effect of them would be to reduce the room that the Government had in which to manoeuvre and to make other changes it might think desirable.
.- The Opposition does not support the proposal. I need add only one or two comments to what Senator Sir William Spooner has said. I do not think that the proposed amendment would achieve the purpose at which the proposer has aimed. If he refers to proposed sub-section (1a.), which is mentioned at the beginning of the proposed amendment, he will find that it relates to two classes of pensions only - age and invalid pensions. The proposed amendment therefore entirely ignores the widows’ pension.
– That is the only way in which I can bring it in.
– But you have left it out. You have not brought it in. The proposal supports the application of cost of living adjustments to age and invalid pensions but denies it to widows’ pensions. The measuring stick selected is the retail price index, which takes certain items from those submitted by the Commonwealth Statistician and ignores others. One of the items not included in the statistics relating to retail sales is rent, but this is one of the major elements affecting pensioners, particularly single pensioners. The measuring stick proposed in the amendment for the determination of fluctuations in the cost of living completely disregards rent.
It is quite clear that the proposal in the amendment is illogical. If one used a measuring stick of the kind suggested, it would be logical and fair to say that if there was an increase in the standard the pension should bc increased and that if there was a reduction in the standard the pension should be reduced. The proposal provides only for an increase. It has been proved to be politically impossible to maintain that position. The Minister referred briefly to the history of the period from 1933 to 1944, and I shall not traverse it again. It has been found politically impossible to reduce pensions. Therefore I claim that the proposed amendment has no merit in that it does not provide for a two-way application.
The only other comment I want to make is that I apply to this proposal a number of the general considerations that I mentioned in speaking to an earlier amendment.
– As Senator McKenna has said, my proposal relates to two classes of pensions only. That is the only way in which we can proceed now, but if the principle that I suggest is applied to those two pensions by the Government accepting the amendment, it will be applied to all pensions. Senator McKenna’s remarks were only a cover-up. Illogical or not, a proposal in the terms of my proposed amendment has been accepted as the policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions for a number of years. I am not certain whether that policy has been changed within the last year, but what I am suggesting was the definite policy of the A.C.T.U. for a number of years. My proposed amendment was taken from A.C.T.U. policy.
We suggest that the maximum rates shall be adjusted only in accordance with upward movements of the cost of living. I think that is fair enough. Surely we would not begrudge it if the pensioners happened to receive 6d. or ls. a week more than they should be receiving. I thought we were here to do all we possibly could to help the pensioners.
Rent is taken into consideration in determining the cost of living. Honorable senators know that as well as I do. 1 cannot see how any person who purports to support Labour policy can refuse to support my proposal simply because similar proposals have been refused over the years. The Minister said that the age pension would be £1 2s. Id. a week less than is now proposed if we added only increases in the cost of living, but I do not say that such increases should be the only yardstick for determining pension rates. The Government has a responsibility to raise pensions to a decent standard every year, but, having done that, it must maintain the value of the pensions.
Honorable senators will note that my proposal sets the 31st March as the date in each, year on which cost of living adjustments shall be made. The Budget is introduced in August, and that is the time when improvements can be made to pension rates, unless the Government considers that they have reached the maximum level. At Budget time the Government can increase pensions to improve the conditions of the pensioners. On the following 31st March the Government, after studying the cost of living index, will, if it accepts our amendment, adjust pensions so that they will maintain their value. That is all we are asking the Government to do. It is logical and it can be done.
I do not know what happened between 1933 and 1944. The period between 1933 and 1937 seems to be a bad period to select for this purpose, because that was the period of the depression. The years from 1940 to 1944 - war years also - would not be good years on which to consider the application of my proposal.
– Senator Cole has suggested that his proposal is based on a formula which was adopted at one time by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, following some discussion about pensions being related to the basic wage. He is quite wrong. I rise to reply briefly to his statement, because it may be misrepresented by the press. Some one may suggest that Senator Cole is expressing the viewpoint of the trade union movement. When the A.C.T.U. was referring to a social services scheme based on the basic wage, obviously the basic wage was that which included food, clothing and shelter, but that is not the basic wage that is meant by Senator Cole’s amendment. I think it was Senator McKenna who pointed out that the amendment relates to a retail price index which takes into account food, clothing and groceries.
The A.C.T.U. has always wanted a basic wage which covered a more extensive range than does the present consumer price index. As honorable senators know, the C series index related solely to food, clothing and shelter. The consumer price index goes further and includes items that are used in modern living. The propositions advanced by the trade union movement always have taken into account not only needs but also things associated with the development of society. Senator Cole is on the wrong track if he thinks that the approach he is making in his amendment is also the approach of the trade union movement, because obviously some of the factors which the trade union movement had in mind are not included in his amendment. Apparently, the honorable senator does not wish to adopt an index which would give justice to pensioners. The fault lies in the fact that the basis of the index must be conditions in 1963, and nobody would know which index to use to adjust the rates in the future. Justice might not be done to the pensioners.
– I wanted to do that by means of my first amendment.
– We are discussing your second amendment, and I say that you have put forward a wrong proposition. Its adoption might cause confusion.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Cole’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 49
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Mr. President, I want to clear up the matter of research in the Department of Social Services. By interjection, Senator Marriott, in one of his less lucid moments, said that if I had read the report of the Director-General of Social Services I would have found out about the research being carried out by the department. I have since ascertained from an officer of the department that there is not one word about research in the report. How the honorable senator found out that there was mention of research in the report 1 do not know.
As the Department of Social Services has a research unit, I asked where it published its reports. 1 was informed that they were confidential to the department. I do not think that can be called scientific research. So what I said originally still holds true. It is time we had scientific research into the problems that 1 enumerated previously.
– Mr. President, I apologize for telling Senator Turnbull that the matter was referred to in the report of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. However, I was fully aware that the Department of Social Services went into every aspect of social services, and I thought that was mentioned in the report. Departmental officers engage in research into every aspect of social services and inform the Minister for Social Services and, through him, the Cabinet of the results of that research. I believe that in that way they are doing the right thing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 September 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630924_senate_24_s24/>.