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Wednesday, 25 November 1959

Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- This bill is another superannuation measure which has been examined by the Opposition. It is fair enough to tell the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that it has caused us some anxiety to gauge it by the multiplicity of bills on superannuation and their ramifications. That is the only complaint we make, and we do so in a reasonable way, not with any histrionics. We have been able to examine these bills and the one that has already been passed, and they will not lack proper oversight on the part of the Opposition. But we were definitely pressed for time and this occasioned us some anxiety for the time being.

With regard .to defence forces pensions, I have to thank the Government Actuary for his kindness, and also the Treasurer for allowing us to have access to the relevant papers and information so that we could make a case - as we hope to make from this side of the House - with regard to the important matter of defence forces retirement benefits. Here is an ancient matter, an old story. Superannuation has been long in the land, and an adequate and sufficient superannuation for the men who are in the services in peace time has never been actually achieved although, within recent years, a solid framework has been erected. We concurred in the decision of the Government that Sir John Allison should report on two problems of the defence forces. One was the question of a pay code and the second was the question of superannuation.

As early as 1947, the late Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, invited the Chiefs of Staff of the British Commonwealth of Nations to visit and confer with us on the rehabilitation of the serviceman in peace time so that he would not be regarded as a sort of Cinderella on the perimeter of a world at peace but as a citizen who was prepared to undergo some hardship, privation, separation from family and some loss of the possibilities of income earning to defend his country as a permanent soldier. I use the word " soldier " in relation to the definition in the Repatriation Act, meaning a man who serves in the forces - in the Navy, Army, or Air Force.

It had been one of the dreams of the Australian Labour Party's planning committee in relation to defence to be able to create for the serviceman a proper background. First of all, there were his amenities, which have now been brought up to date. Credit must be given where it is due, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) and those who went before them did apply themselves to the task of giving some semblance of standards to the men in the services in peace-time. We have them to-day and they are reasonably good.

The next point was to get a proper code of salaries. . The general feeling appeared to be that the man who went into the Army was a sort of fellow who drifted. He was on the perimeter of industry, and while he might have courage and be a chevalier in time of war, in time of peace he was just one of the fellows who bobbed around. He belonged to this or that unit, and there was no organization. The Labour Party felt that we had not got a proper appreciation of his needs. What has happened? The serviceman to-day has dropped into the professional, industrial or training classes of the community with his own well-conducted camps and barracks, with his own social services, superannuation and very good salary and conditions.

The private of World War I. received 6s. a day, with a little more for a corporal, and still a little more for a sergeant. You can imagine such a man looking at the position to-day, when a young buck private gets £956 a year, or something near £19 a week, and after a full term of service can draw superannuation of £340 a year. The corporal - the man who led us on those rather diverting and extraordinary fatigues for which corporals are famous - mow gets £1,000 a year. Down the arches of the years the conditions of servicemen have changed in regard to finance, living conditions and many other things in a way that is almost a romance in itself. That is the background against which the Allison report was made.

We approve in principle of the decisions. We think that a careful and painstaking job has been done. We think that some of the class-consciousness has been rubbed out of things. We approve of the principle of fixing a man's pension on the basis of his actual service. Sometimes in the past perhaps too much notice was taken of the man's rank and too little of his time in. the services. Now, whatever capacity a man serves in, all his service to the nation is reflected in the pension he will receive. I think that that is all to the good. So we approve of the first part of the Allison report, which deals with the code of salaries. The second part deals with the code of superannuation, and we direct the attention of the House and of the Minister to the fact that the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund is extremely buoyant. I see by the document provided for us that there is an accumulated surplus of £9,500,000 in the fund, and that collections this year amounted to £1,296,106 9s. 2d. Pension commitments amounted to £841,692 3s. Id. Included in that was a government subvention of £391,000. So even the superannuation fund for servicemen reflects the buoyancy throughout the world which the Prime Minister referred to only a little while ago as fantastic.

If economic progress is fantastic for the civilian outside, we also want it to apply to the man who has to watch the wards of the outer marches, the man who is helping to hold the front line in the piping days of peace. We believe that the best way to do that is to deal as we did with the Superannuation Bill a little while ago, and move for retrospectivity. The retirement benefits provided in the bill have been planned on civilian superannuation principles in the main, except that cognizance has been taken of the fact that the man in the Services retires much earlier than the civilian, and as a result the period of payment of contributions is shorter and naturally the pensions are foreshortened. We believe, however, that with a buoyant fund which is likely to be more financially powerful in the future, with the barometer set fair for greater contributions, and with the accumulation of credit in the fund, the Government could well accept an amendment, in the following terms, which I now intend to move. I move -

That all words after " That " be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - " the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the benefits under the act to be made available from a date not later than the 1st July, 1959 ".

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