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Tuesday, 19 May 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- Mr. Chairman,I ask you to reconsider your ruling that I may not at this stage move the amendment which I previously indicated that I desired to move. When the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Rill was under discussion, its scope was considerably increased, and that must have had the effect of increasing the appropriation required for the purposes of that measure.

The CHAIRMAN - Under the Standing Orders, and according to practice, the Chair is not empowered to allow an amendment by a private member that would increase an appropriation. Manifestly, the amendment suggested by the honorable member would do so. Of course, the Minister for Social Services could move the amendment, but a further message from the Governor-General would be required.

Mr CALWELL - I moveThat further consideration of the clause be postponed.

I do so in order that I may consult certain eminent authorities, who may or may not agree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I understand that I may submit such a motion without obtaining the Minister's consent.

The CHAIRMAN - The clause has already been considered and amended, and, under the Standing Orders, further consideration of an amended clause may not be postponed.

Mr Archie Cameron - I rise to a point of order. I understand that you, Mr. Chairman, have ruled that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) cannot move to alter the qualifications required of a candidate for a widow's pension under clause 4 of the bill, and that you have given as your reason that the proposed amendment would increase the appropriation. Clause 4 is not an appropriation clause. I ask that the message transmitted to the House by the Governor-General be read to this committee. It did not state whether the persons who were to qualify for pensions under the bill should be de facto widows, or women whose husbands were in gaol, or in Hong Kong or anywhere else. The message requested that an appropriation of money be made in order to provide a fund from which to pay pensions to widows. The definition of "widow" is a matter to be dealt with in the bill, and, therefore, it is a matter for this committee to decide. I ask that the GovernorGeneral's message be read to the committee.

The CHAIRMAN - I explain to the honorable member that an extension of the definition of "widow" in order to make another class of persons eligible for the widow's pension as is desired by the honorable member for Melbourne, would necessitate an increase of the appropriation.

Mr Archie Cameron - -You are entirely wrong. Mr. Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN - My ruling stands. The honorable member may move that it be disagreed with.

Mr Archie Cameron - If your ruling is to stand, Mr. Chairman, honorable members will be precluded from moving, in connexion with any bills relating to the expenditure of public moneys, amendments such as that which the honorable member for Melbourne has foreshadowed.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member may not continue his remarks unless he moves that my ruling be disagreed with.

Mr Archie Cameron - I move -

That the ruling of the Chairman be dissented from.

The proceedings of this committee are becoming rather Gilberti'an.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member has contributed more .than anybody else to this discussion.

Mr Archie Cameron - I have not done so. Your ruling, Mr. Chairman, is not, even founded on common sense.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question now before the committee.

Mr Archie Cameron - I am prepared to do so, but I do not want to hear any comments from you about my conduct in this place.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member is not in order in criticizing the proceedings of this committee.

Mr Archie Cameron - There is plenty of cause for such .criticism. If your ruling is to stand, Mr. Chairman, the result will be that, no matter what measure comes before this committee, honorable members will not be permitted to move any amendment affecting qualifications for the receipt of public money, on the ground that any such amendment would increase an appropriation. The recommendation for an appropriation of .money for widows' pensions provides, according to my recollection, " for the payment of pensions to widows ". The word " widows " was not defined in that message from the Governor-General, nor was the amount of the appropriation mentioned. Two important matters must be considered by this committee. One is the definition of the term " widow ", which should be considered now; the other is the amount of money to be appropriated for the payment of widows' pensions, which should be considered at a later stage. Therefore, I say that your ruling,

Mr. Chairman,is utterly wrong. According to my memory, the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, which was considered in this place last week, were widened so as to extend the payment of old-age pensions to certain kanakas from the South Sea Islands. That amendment involved an increase of the appropriation.

Mr Holloway - The payment of pensions to kanakas was provided for in the original bill.

Mr Archie Cameron - I understand that some increases were made.

Sir Frederick Stewart - No.

Mr Archie Cameron - I say " Yes ". En any case, amendments requiring increases of appropriations have been agreed to time after time in this place. If .this ruling is to stand, honorable members will be able to do nothing more than assent to or dissent from any recommendations for the appropriation of public funds. They will be prevented from deciding in detail the purposes for which appropriations shall be used. I should like to see the standing order which, according to you, Mr. Chairman, provides that in committee honorable members may not vary the qualifications required of a person who receives money from the Crown. Recommendations made in messages from the Governor-General are always wide, because this committee must have full power to decide what should be done with -appropriations so recommended. For the time being, I shall leave the matter at this stage, but I request that the Governor-General's message, recommending an appropriation to meet the requirements of this bill, be read to the committee. Honorable members will find that it imposes no limitations. It is for this committee to decide the definition of " widow ".

Mr Holloway - I hope that honorable members will not allow their desires to overrule their judgment in considering the issue before the Chair. The Chairman's ruling is undoubtedly correct, as the honorable member for Barker (Mt. Archie Cameron) must realize when he considers the matter carefully. The bill provides for the payment of pensions to a widow, a de facto widow, a deserted wife, a woman who has been granted a. divorce from her husband and has not re-married, and a woman whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr:. Calwell) now desires to include in the definition the wife- of a man serving a term of imprisonment exceeding three months. Obviously, such a provision would increase the amount of money required to meet the cost of the scheme.

Mr Archie Cameron - No amount of money has been specified in the appropriation message.

Mr Holloway - The amount was determined when the Government completed its plan to pay these pensions. If the classes of persons eligible for the pension be increased, obviously the amount of money necessary will also have to be increased. The honorable gentleman's contention that the appropriation will not need to be increased is a quibble.

Mr Calwell - I support the motion of dissent. If the Chairman's ruling be correct, honorable members of this Parliament are obviously debarred from moving amendments to bills of this character. The term " widow " was not defined in the Governor-General's message.. If the amendment which has been ruled out of order had proposed an increase of the pension from 25s. to 26s. a week, or the payment of pensions to children, or to other persons, an assumption that the appropriation would need to be increased would be justified. But how can an accurate estimate be made of the amount of money involved in this scheme, seeing that provision is being made, for the payment of pensions to persons in Australia who have been widows for five years immediately prior to the date of their claim?' Pensions canbe paid to widows of enemy soldiers who come to this country with their children when the war is over because they believe that life under1 the. Southern Cross will be safer and. happier than in war-torn Europe. If this ruling be sustained the members of this Parliament will be reduced to the status of members of the German Reichstag and the Chairman of Committees will become a kind of Marshal Goering whose call for " "Fni-1. " must bo responded to by every one. My amendment to provide for the payment of pensions to women whose husbands are serving a term of imprisonment of more than three months, and also the proposal of the honorable member for Barling (Mr. Clark), have been ruled out of order on the ground that their acceptance by the committee would increase the appropriation, but how can it be assumed with any exactitude that the appropriation would be increased? There might be a saving in the amount of money estimated to be necessary to pay pensions already provided for in the bill. As no evidence has been submitted to the committee that my amendment would necessarily increase the appropriation I support the motion of dissent.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) .may, perhaps, realize that acceptance of the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) must necessarily involve an increase of the appropriation when 1 point out to him that when the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) intimated that he was prepared to accept' certain amendments suggested in the second-reading debate, he found it necessary to fortify himself with another message from the Governor-General

Mr Curtin - All honorable gentlemen who have been private members of this Parlianient for any length of time know that on innumerable occasions they have been prevented from moving amendments to bills involving the expenditure of public moneys. I refer to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill as an example.

Mr Spender - And- a very good one.

Mr Curtin - It is open to the Minister in charge of the bill involving the expenditure of public money to indicate that he is prepared to consider favorably suggestions for amendments the effect of which will increase the appropriation, but before even he may move them,, he must fortify himself with an additional message from the Governor-General. Such messages may be submitted for consideration at any stage of a bill, but the usual practice is to present the message when the bill is being introduced1. The message is always followed by a motion -

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a biTT- in this case, for a bill for the payment of pensions to widows. When this bill was introduced the Minister for Social Services intimated that it was estimated that the cost of the scheme would be £1,600,000.

Mr Morgan - That is an estimate.

Mr Curtin - Of course it is an estimate, but it is the amount covered by the appropriation, for which the Government must make provision. The Constitution makes it perfectly clear that no expenditure of this character may be authorized by the Parliament except as the result of the consideration of a message from the Governor-General. Our practice in this regard has not varied since the inception of federation. As the Chairman of Committees has pointed out, when the Minister for Social Services indicated that the Government was prepared to accept two amendments suggested during the second-reading debate, the honorable gentleman had to fortify himself with an additional appropriation message. Although the Chairman of Committees rightly declined to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne, it would, nevertheless, be quite proper for that honorable gentleman to submit a case to the Minister in support of his proposal. If the Minister were convinced of the soundness of the case, and if the Government agreed to a proposal of the nature outlined, an amendment could be moved by the Minister himself, or else the Senate may be invited to request that the bill be amended in the desired direction. The point is that only a member of the Parliament who is qualified to present a message from the Governor-General providing for an increase of the appropriation is competent to move such an amendment. I do not see how public expenditure could be controlled except on that basis.

Mr Holt - The Prime Minister has explained very carefully the practice of Parliament, but he might have made the position clearer for those honorable members who have had little experience of parliamentary procedure, by explaining to them the underlying principle, namely, that responsibility for financial measures belongs to the Government itself. It is rather misleading to suggest that there is some mysterious procedure associated with the receipt of a message from the Governor-General in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution. The fact is that the Government is responsible for financial measures, and Parliament cannot amend those measures except by taking action which would displace the Government from office. In this instance, an amendment has been propose.-! which would increase the amount of money to be expended. The interesting piece of sophistry indulged in by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), namely, that in some other category the expenditure might not come up to the estimate, and that, therefore, the total expenditure might not be more than that contemplated in the bill in its present form, does not alter the situation. The Government must necessarily estimate future expenditure, and if an amendment be passed providing for increased expenditure in a particular category, then it must be assumed that the total expenditure also will be increased by that amount. It is surely straining the language to say that a woman whose husband is in gaol for a period of three months or more is a widow.

Mr Calwell - The bill regards n divorced woman or a deserted wife as a widow.

Mr Holt - One might as well say that 1a woman is a widow whose husband has gone off to spend a week-end in Manly.

Mr Archie Cameron - The Prime Minister advanced a clever and specious argument. I remind honorable members, however, that the message of the Governor-General recommending an appropriation merely stated that this committee should provide a sum of money for the purposes of a bill, and that sum of money is not named in the bill or anywhere else. The only figure mentioned in the bill is the rate of pension or allowance that shall be paid to a widow. It is for this committee, and for no one else, to determine who is entitled to receive that pension. It is absurd for the Prime Minister to argue that every proposal is out of order which does not fit in with the Government's ideas in regard to a bill which has not yet been passed by the Parliament. There may be important and honest differences of opinion regarding what a bill means. I have always had a great admiration for Charles I. and the other Stuarts, and it seems to me that their methods were, in some respects, much more intelligible than those of the Prime Minister.

The CHAIRMAN - I trust that the honorable member is not trying to qualify for the role of Cromwell?

Mr Archie Cameron - That is the last thing I should like to do. Is it seriously suggested that when a bounty bill is before the committee, no one may move to vary the qualification upon which the bounty is to be paid ? The important point in connexion with this matter is that no specific sum is mentioned in the bill, except the weekly rate of pension.

Sir Frederick Stewart - But the message must be read in connexion with the draft bill introduced by the Minister.

Mr Archie Cameron - What this committee agrees to becomes law, and it is for the committee to say to whom pensions shall be paid.

Mr Curtin - The time to take action in that direction is on the motion for the second reading. It is then competent for an honorable member to move that the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for this or that. I have moved a dozen such motions, including one on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, but it was defeated.

Mr Archie Cameron - I say that the amount to be appropriated under this bill has not been determined, either by the Government or by this committee. If the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) wants to press his point, he may, when the Appropriation Bill is brought down, move that the amount be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to do what he wishes. I am not expressing any opinion on the merits of the honorable member's proposed amendment, but if the ruling of the Chair be allowed to stand, we might as well pack up and go home.

Motion negatived.

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