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Thursday, 25 July 1912


The PRESIDENT - The statement, 1 understand, was not made in Parliament, or in the precincts of Parliament, but was made by some person connected with a contest which was going on in Werriwa.


Senator CHATAWAY - The attitude which I, and, I think, a very large number of honorable senators on the Liberal side, and, I am sure, most of the senators on the other side of the Chamber, if the opportunity occurred, would take up, is that there should be two rules underlying all old-age and invalid pensions. One rule is that the people shall need the pensions, and the other is that there shall be no differentiation between one class of people and another class. If we are going to give pensions, whether invalid or oldage, they should be given because the people require them. The idea of giving pensions to Mrs. Brown-Jones and Mrs. Jones-Robinson, who are left widows, or who have reached the age of sixty- five years, and have, perhaps, a quarter of at million of money to their names, is not, I think, what Parliament intended; at any rate, I do not'think that is what the people wanted.


Senator Henderson - The Act does not allow it to be done.


Senator CHATAWAY - I am not dealing with the Act at all, but with the principle of the thing. At present the Act does not allow it; but, whether right or wrong, I have seen it in print that, so soon as the finances will allow it, the Prime Minister hopes that the system will come into force.


Senator Rae - And pensions will be universal.


Senator CHATAWAY - Just so. That is exactly where my honorable friend and I differ. My own view is that pensions should be given where it is proved that people want them.


Senator McGregor - People might not want pensions, perhaps, but need them.


Senator CHATAWAY - I said once to my honorable friend, when I was dealing with a subject, that he was one of those men who try to make party capital out of everything that is done. I reminded him that he is one of those who, like Wordsworth's philosopher -

.   . would peep and botanise

Upon his mother's grave.

I ask him to leave me alone when I am trying to develop a thesis which may be of some value to the country. I am not endeavouring to make any party capital out of it. but to lay down certain general principles on which I think our old-age pension system should be carried on in future. I think we should aim, as far as we possibly can, to prevent people relying upon the Government for what one might call eleemosynary assistance.


Senator Givens - Do you call oldagepensions eleemosynary assistance?


Senator CHATAWAY - At the present time it appears to be a sort of free business.


Senator Givens - It is something to. which they can look forward as an absolute right.


Senator CHATAWAY - The only thing the pensioners can look forward to is their ten "bob" a week. I am referring to. those who are still earning their living. I would remind my honorable friend that no one was stronger on the point than John Burns. According to a book by Joseph

Burgess, which was published in 1911, and is hostile to John Burns, the latter, referring to his earlier days, said -

They lie in their teeth when they tell you that unemployment is caused by drink. Here I stand, a skilled artisan, teetotaller, vegetarian, nonsmoker, and Malthusian. I have not tasted food for twenty-four hours. I have been out of work for four months. There stands my wife. She is turning the ribbons of her bonnet to make it look more respectable. That is my position, a killed artisan. What then must be the position of those who have not skilled trades, and have a family to support?

After he entered office in 1905 - six years afterwards - and was called upon to discriminate between the men who wanted work and the men who asked for work and did not want it, he thus spoke -

What was the kind of day's history in the life of such a man in search of a day's work? Between g and 10 in the morning he went to Birdcage Walk, and listened to the Army Band. Aftex this he walked across the Park to Soho or Piccadilly, and got his luncheon at some one's expense at a cheap restaurant. " What shall we do next?" was the question of one companion to another. " Oh, let us walk across the Park and see Old Burns go to the levee." At 5 o'clock came tea at a cabmen's shelter; sit 10 o'clock there was not money enough for a lodging, but the night being fine, this man and Ins companions elected to go to the Embankment, and get soup and shelter.

He went on to say -

Was that a discriminating kind of charity ? When a man knew that this sort of thing took place, what kind of incentive was being held out to any sturdy vagrant, getting probably 6d., 8d., or9d. a day from certain sources, with a loo indulgent wife or mother, which should prevent him coming up to London and swelling the ranks of the unemployed."

I have made that quotation from John Burns mainly for the purpose of showing that even a man who has risen from the Tanks, as he has done, realized that a large number of persons are not honestly entitled to any help, because they are hopeless loafers ; that, under any system of pensions which is to be any good, we must differentiate between the man or the woman who deserves a pension, and the person who does not. We get down, then, to the question of necessity.


Senator McGregor - What about the rain falling on the just and the unjust?


Senator CHATAWAY - I notice that we in Queenslnad get very much more than they do in South Australia. I suppose it proves that the Queensland people are more just than the people of South Australia. Having shown that we must discriminate between what one might call the just and the unjust, I want to point out what I think should be done in connexion with the old-age pension system. I do not say that we should deal with people as is done in the Old Country, because we know that it costs more to put them into barracks than it does to follow the Continental system, and put them, if they want to go, into cottage homes. I dealt with this matter in June, 1908. On page r2oi4 of Hansard, volume 46, I said-

As we cannot have such a system as I think we ought to have, in view of our advance in civilization, we must take what is offered,, and I can only hope that this measure will not be held to represent the Ultima Thule of our aspirations in the direction of making provision for the aged poor.

That statement I followed up later by various inquiries andinvestigations. The idea underlying my motion is one which, I think, will be accepted. I have here a monumental report on old-age pensions by the late Senator Neild. I have been through the report very carefully, and 1 find that in the Continental Acts there is a provision which might almost be considered to resemble the section in our own Act, though the provision in the Denmark Act is very much more distinct and decisive. I refer to the provision dealing with the good conduct of pensioners. It corresponds with sections 43 and 44 of our Act. Section 43 reads - 43. (1) Whenever the Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that, having regard to the age, infirmity, or improvidence of a pensioner, or any other special circumstances, it is expedient that payment of any instalments of the pension be made to any other person, a warrant to that effect should be issued by the Deputy Commissioner, and transmitted to the person authorized therein to receive payment.

Section 44 provides -

44.   Where, in the opinion of a Registrar -

(a)   A pensioner misspends any part of his pension, or misspends, wastes, or lessens any part of his estate or of his income or earnings, or injures his health, or endangers or interrupts the peace and happiness of bis family, or

(b)   A claimant or pensioner is unfit to be in trusted with a pension, the Deputy Commissioner may, on the report of the Registrar, make an order directing that until further order the instalments shall be paid to any benevolent or charitable society, minister of religion, justice of the peace, or other person named by the Deputy Commissioner for the benefit of the pensioner, or suspending the pension certificate pending the decision of the Minister thereon, or directing the forfeiture of so many of the instalments as the Deputy Commissioner thinks fit.

It seems to me that we do not go fat enough. What we ought to do is to resort to the system which obtains in several countries in Europe, especially as is mentioned in Colonel Nield's report, in Denmark, where the authorities are the judges as to whether a man is making, or is able to make, the best possible use of his pension, and if, in their opinion,- he is unable to do so, they look after him. It is enlarging the use of the pension system, and not restricting it. When I spoke on the subject before, many points were raised, including the cost of the system. I have spent a good deal of time in inquiring into the cost of a comparatively small system in Melbourne called the Old Colonists' Homes. The old people have a beautiful garden. Every old lady and old gentleman have a home. Within the last hour or so I have received a report which I asked for prettywell a month ago. During my visit I found that the old people were proud of" living in the homes. They receive, if I understand aright, no old-age pension, but get 8s. a week. Some extras are given to them at Christmas time in the form of a load of wood or coal, and, possibly, a bonus.


Senator McGregor - This is the time cf the year when they should get the wood and the coal.


Senator CHATAWAY - I wish that my honorable friend would allow me to develop my argument.


Senator McGregor - I was only trying to help you.


Senator CHATAWAY - No; what the honorable senator desires is to prevent these old people to whom I am referring from getting a little extra help. I have worked out the figures, so far as I could, and I find that, by paying these old people 8s. per \veekj and allowing for reasonable interest on the cost of buildings and the cost of management, the total cost runs to from i is. 6d. to 12s. a week for each person throughout the year. That amounts to from is. 6d. to 2S. per week more than the old-age pension we pay at the present time. The difference is that these old people are living in the greatest comfort. One lady was good enough to entertain me to afternoon tea. The houses are absolutely separate, and surrounded by beautiful gardens. What I saw would be an eyeopener to those who think that the only way to deal with the aged poor is to take some decrepit man or woman and say, "Here is I OS. a week. You -could not live comfortably on 30s. or £2 a week before; now go and live as best you can on 10s. a week."


Senator Findley - Does the honorable senator suggest that the Government should do what the association he refers to is doing, and build homes for the old people?


Senator CHATAWAY - No; the honorable senator has missed my argument. There is a certain class of people who do not deserve assistance of this kind. But the class of people whom we all desire shall receive old-age pensions should, in my opinion, be treated in this way. I do not object to the Government providing homes for old-age pensioners; but they should be managed decently. I asked the Commissioner of Police in Victoria to give me a list of persons described as old-age pensioners who had been discovered dead in gutters, outhouses, and so forth. I am sorry to say that he could not do so. The Police Department had never thought about the matter at all ; but such information is now being collected. Any honorable senator who lives in Melbourne must have read almost daily in the newspapers of cases of old-age pensioners found either dead or dying in miserable and most objectionable circumstances.


Senator Findley - That is an exaggerated statement.


Senator CHATAWAY - My honorable friend is only saying that the newspapers here are guilty of exaggeration. Such cases have occurred over and over again. It has been argued that the system which I am strongly in favour of is one which would reduce people to practically a starvation level. It is assumed that if people are put into barracks or cottages, they must be very badly treated. I shall give some quotations which go to show that, even in this glorious country of Australia, we do not know everything. Referring to the treatment of aged people in the Old Country, the late Colonel Neild, at page 430 of his report, stated -

But the comparison between English workhouses and Colonial asylums does not end here. What is there in common between " the wretched barrack institutions of this Colony," and the workhouses of Shoreditch and White-chapel described in paragraph 125 of this report?

What provision is there in this Colony for the purchase of " books, magazines, newspapers, and games (such games as draughts)," or the spending " for some years of many pounds in the purchase and binding of books," such as exists in England for the use and recreation of workhouse inmates, under the direct authority of the Local Government Board - paragraph 127?

What is there in this Colony's procedure analogous to the authorized supply of tobacco and snuff to workhouse inmates (paragraph 126), or to the grant, by order of the Local Government Board, of the necessaries for the making of "afternoon tea" by the aged female occupants of English workhouses!

What is there analogous to that in the method we adopt . in Australia to-day of giving an old man 10s. a week, and telling him to look after himself?


Senator Rae - Does the honorable senator propose to increase the pension?


Senator CHATAWAY - No ; but I say that the amount of pension now paid might, in many instances, be spent to very much greater advantage. It is often said that the diet supplied in these homes is far inferior to what people could get outside. I will give the menu for an ordinary week day of one of these cottage homes in Vienna, which were originally established by the Empress of Austria about 120 years ago. I quote from Edith Sellers' work Foreign Solutions of Poor Law Problems -

For breakfast they have coffee, cocoa or soup, and bread and butter ; for dinner, soup, meat, vegetables, and pudding; for "Jause," coffee and cakes; and for supper, soup and some light dish. The materials used are of the best quality ; everything is beautifully cooked and nicely served. Such of the inmates who wish to cater for themselves, however, are free to do so, provided they are not on the invalid list, and can be trusted to cater prudently. In this case an allowance of 52 heller a day - about 5¼d - each is made to them,, and they are free to spend it either at the home restaurant, where everything is sold at cost price, or elsewhere, if they choose.

At page 127 of the same work, a reference is made to one of the municipalities' oldage homes -

This home is a delightful retreat, quite a model of what such a place should be. Although it is in the centre of the town, with windows looking on to a busy street, it has behind it a large garden, with great trees, under which the inmates can spend the whole day if they choose. There they receive their visitors, as a rule, although they have well-furnished, comfortable rooms in which to receive them, if they prefer it. These old people are fed, too, as well as they are lodged, the food provided for them being not only good, but quite dainty. They have coffee and rolls for breakfast -


Senator Findley - And Frankforts for supper.


Senator CHATAWAY - It is a great deal better than the Government are supplying to the men on the torpedo-boats, if we can believe the statements appearing in the newspapers. This is private members' -evening, and Ministers might permit a private member to tell his own story. If they do not do so, they must expect me to make remarks about the way in which they feed the men on our torpedo-boats. I continue the quotation - soup, meat, and vegetables for dinner ; coffee, with something to eat in the afternoon; and soup with vegetables or a pudding for supper. And such of them as smoke receive also tobacco, cigarette paper, and matches. Yet, thanks to good management, the cost per head is only 6d. a day.

I have quoted two cases.


Senator Guthrie - What about the Queensland practice?


Senator CHATAWAY - I do not like the Queensland practice. I should put an end to it to-morrow if I could.


Senator Guthrie - What is wrong with it?


Senator CHATAWAY - The system followed at Dunwich is practically the barrack system. I prefer our old-age pension system to the barrack system ; but I believe we could improve our system in such, a way that people who are not able to look after themselves might be looked after properly for the same amount of money.


Senator Rae - Would that include all classes ?


Senator CHATAWAY - I have said that two tests must be put to a man who demands an old-age pension. Those are the tests we have provided for in our Act, though whether we enforce them or not I do not know: The applicant must show that there is a necessity for the pension, and that he is a decent and respectable man. I believe that at present we give an old-age pension to any one who has reached a certain age in life, and who is not in receipt of an income of £1 per week. The pension given is sufficient to bring the amount up to £1 per week. If a man is iri receipt of an income of 15s. a week, he is entitled to a pension of 5s., and if he has an income of 10s. a week he is given a pension of ros. a week.


Senator Sayers - That is not the case.


Senator CHATAWAY - That is the principle of the present system. I am not dealing with all who receive pensions, but with those who receive pensions and do not know how to spend them. I would go so far as to say, in certain cases, " You are incapable of spending your pension to advantage. You are being robbed and swindled, and it will in future be spent for you." I remind honorable senators that a case was reported in the newspapers some time ago of an old-age pensioner who was kept in a shameful condition by some one who made a profit of 7s. 6d. a week out of his misery. We want to stop that sort of business, and should do something more than say to an aged person, " Here is 10s. a week; go and spend it." One is faced at once with the question, of cost. I quote the following from Helen Bosanquet on the Poor Law Report, of 1909 -

But unless a community is to become bankrupt it must keep steadily in view the importance of enforcing upon the individual the primary duty of being self-supporting.

I have said that the applicant for a pension should establish his necessity. I am sorry the late Senator W. Russell is not with us; but I remember that he brought forward a case which is typical of quite a number such as I have had to deal with myself, where people write to members of Parliament pointing out the hardships of their case because they cannot get oldage pensions. On inquiry, it has been found that they have given away their property by deed of gift to their sons, daughters, or wives, in order to secure old-age pensions. Such cases go to show that we must differentiate between the applicants for pensions. Denmark affords the best illustration in the world of how to deal with what I call the deserving aged poor. They are also properly dealt with in the Balkans, and in Vienna. Here we deal only with the fringe of the question. We have a haphazard arrangement by which a Deputy Commissioner, or someone else, hands the pension to a hospital, charitable institution, or benevolent society if the pensioner is a drunkard. My contention is that we should keep under our own control the money expended upon the aged poor. There are people entitled to oldage pensions who are well able to look after themselves. I say that they1 should be allowed to. do so; but we should go further and adopt some means by which the recipients of pensions may get a fair deal for their money. It is affirmed, I shall not say with how much truth, that in certain parts of Australia men are living alongside billabongs, and practically spend the whole of their time in going backwards and forwards to a neighbouring township to draw their old-age pensions, the bulk of which they spend in drink, and are thus gradually killing themselves. If we. are going to give these old-age pensions, we should do something to see that they are worth what they ought to be worth to those who are in receipt of them. These old people should not be "taken down." All that I am urging is that the Government should take some steps to improve and amplify the system so that the old-age pensions may be of full value to a class of thecommunity who cannot look after themselves when they reach the age of sixty or sixty-five, as the case may be, and are in receipt of this money from the Government.







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