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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr POLLARD (Ballarat) (3:17 AM) . - I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to give some attention to the practice adopted since the introduction of the financial emergency legislation of taking into consideration the miners' phthisis pension in calculating the permissible income of an old-age pensioner. Prior to the financial emergency legislation, no notice was taken of the fact that an old-age pensioner was in receipt of the State pension granted to a person suffering from miner's phthisis, but, to-day the old-age pension of such a person is fixed at a lower rate than would otherwise be paid. This practice inflicts a grave hardship on these sufferers, because the full pension is little enough to enable them to secure necessary medical attention. I mentioned this matter on the motion for adjournment some time ago, and asked the Minister in charge of the House at the time to convey my request to the Treasurer (Mr.Casey), but, up to the present time, I have had no reply. I trust that the Prime Minister will take definite action with a view to having justice done to these unfortunate old-age pensioners. There are many of them in Ballarat, and, no doubt, there are others in a similar plight in Bendigo, and, possibly, in the Prime Minister's own electorate in Tasmania.

I direct attention also to the harsh manner in which that portion of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which deals with the invalid pension is administered. The medical men who examine applicants are not devoid of the milk of human kindness, but the regulations under which they work make it practically impossible for them to recommend applicants for the invalid pension. Some months ago a man called on me, and said that his claim for -the invalid pension had been rejected. Both of his hands were crippled by arthritis. He is 62 years of age, and has a family of eight children. He is a carpenter by occupation. Possibly he could act as a "spruiker" outside a picture theatre, or could operate a lift. To that extent he is not permanently and totally incapacitated, and therefore a doctor cannot, under me present harsh regulations, certify that he is entitled to the invalid pension. But we should have regard to the fact that the economic conditions of this country 'are very different from those obtaining when these harsh regulations were drafted. With the object of assisting this applicant, I inserted an advertisement in the Ballarat Mail, the Ballarat Courier, and the Melbourne Age to this effect - " Man, carpenter, both hands partially crippled, desires work of a light character; wages to be arranged." I received only one reply to that advertisement, and it came from a man in the Ballarat district who said that he was prepared to give the applicant the work of pulling down a house and reconstructing it! The sufferer was quite unable to undertake such a task, because, owing to his hands being crippled, he could not use tools. Steps should be taken to ensure the provision of more humane regulations than those now in force in connexion with applications for the invalid pension. Ten years ago the carpenter to whom I have referred might have been able to secure light employment, but to-day nearly all the positions which were formerly filled by partially incapacitated men are taken by those who are physically fit. The provision in Commonwealth and State legislation that preference shall be given to returned soldiers shuts out from light employment many who are partially incapacitated. Most of the lifts in the large cities are operated by returned men, and they also occupy most of the positions of a light character in the Commonwealth Public Service. Often those who are regarded as ineligible for the pension are forced to take the dole. The directions issued to medical officers in dealing with applicants for the invalid pension state -

Attention is directed to the specific requirements of the net in all cases coming within its provisions, namely, that the accident or invalid state of health must be - (1) permanent, and (2) such as to incapacitate the claimant for work. (Note. - Cases of a transient nature, only temporarily incapacitating the claimant foi' work, or of a permanent nature, but only partially incapacitating him for work, do not come within tho act.)

Therefore, the unfortunate applicant is deprived of the pension in almost every instance. The medical officers are placed in a difficult position under the regulations. Dozens of applicants who come to me are inclined to put the blame on the doctors, but the latter are quite unable to certify them as eligible for the invalid pension, despite the fact that in most cases they should certainly receive it. Although I cast no reflection on the officers who administer the act, I think that a new instruction should be issued to prevent injustice from being done to these applicants. Periodically the pensions branch instructs those in receipt of the invalid pension to report to the doctors for re-examination. It is considered, of course, that a doctor may have erred on the side of leniency in certifying that an applicant was totally and permanently incapacitated, or that the pensioner's general condition may have improved in the meantime. When the pensioners are re-examined they are often informed that they are no longer eligible for the pension because they have recovered sufficiently to prevent them from 'being classed as permanently and totally incapacitated. Some are sent along to another medical referee for further examination., and others are stood down for three months before being sent to another medical referee. Often, as the result of the second examination, they are successful in having their pensions restored. I appeal to the humane instincts of the Prime Minister, and urge that an investigation be made into this problem to ascertain if something can be done to interpret the act in a more humane way, taking into consideration the fact that the economic position facing these people to-day is very different from that which confronted them in the. past.

Within the last few days I asked the Prime Minister if anything was being done to investigate the reported find of iron oro deposits at 'Gordons, near Ballarat. The right honorable gentleman informed me that the department had no knowledge of the existence of those deposits. Not very long ago, people interested in ' tlie Gordons deposits, shipped 5 tons of iron ore to Japan, and I received to-day by air mail a copy of a report submitted by a Japanese firm, which I shall be glad to make available to the Prime Minister, indicating that the iron ore is of excellent quality, and that a market definitely exists for it in Japan. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister and his department are entirely ignorant of the fact that these deposits exist, I ask him if he will take the necessary steps to have an exhaustive examination conducted by Dr. Woolnough into the iron ore deposits, not only at Gordons, but also at Lal Lal. In justification for this request, I may say that when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) first raised the question of the iron ore deposits in this country, it was thought that the supplies were practically illimitable. As that has been found to be a fallacy, the reports as to the small size of the deposits that exist at Lal Lal and Gordons may be equally fallacious. A thorough examination of the deposits by Dr. Woolnough will definitely determine their extent and value.

In common with country people generally, I am dissatisfied with the postal facilities afforded in country districts. I know that every government has to face complaints of this type, but none the less, they are very real. I have, without Qualification, always opposed any suggestion for the reduction 'of the postage rate from 2d. to Id., justifying my attitude in that regard by the statement that I believe that if the postage rate were so reduced all hope of securing an extension of postal and telephonic facilities in country districts would vanish. I say, frankly, now, however, that I shall have to review my attitude in regard to this matter," be- cause the huge postal revenue now being collected is devoted mainly towards the improvement of buildings and services in capital cities, while insufficient attention is given to the needs of rural communities. This applies, not only to telegraphic and telephonic facilities, but also to postal deliveries. In 1931, deliveries of mail were made to the residents of Campbell's Creek, a fair-sized village near Castlemaine in my electorate, but at the onset of the depression on the ground of economy, and also because with the dwindling of the mining industry in that area the population had decreased, the Postal Department discontinued the delivery of mail. From time to time I have made representations to the Postal Department and to the Postmaster.General himself that this service should be restored in view of the fact that the financial depression had passed and particularly because, as the result of the growth of mining activities in the Campbell's Creek district, the population had actually increased beyond what it was before the service was discontinued. Some time ago I asked to be supplied with figures covering the revenue derived from the Campbell's Creek post office in the years 1931 and 1937. The reply was that it was not the practice of the department to divulge the revenue received from individual post offices. That reply indicates that, possibly, conditions were so favorable to the restoration, of the service that the department did not wish to supply me with figures which would assist me in urging that the restoration be made. I appeal to the Prime Minister to consult with his colleague the PostmasterGeneral to see if it is not possible to grant the request of the residents of this village that their mail service be restored.

I wish to deal now with the subject of immigration. I did not intend to touch upon this question but I was so astounded at the fervour displayed by the honorable member for Henty (.Sir Henry Gullett) last night in urging the resumption of immigration that I thought a duty devolved upon me to say something in the opposite direction. The honorable member spoke with pride of the British blood that flows in our veins. We are all proud of it, but I think it would have been more relevant if the honorable member had confined himself to hard facts, with a view to ascertaining first of all whether the economic position of this country at the present time justifies the resumption of immigration. He lives in a suburb of Melbourne in which the residents are out of touch with workingclass conditions and the position of primary producers generally. If the economic position of this country were sound, I should not be opposed to the resumption of immigration, but from my own experience among primary producers generally and from my personal experience as a primary producer, I am satisfied that the time is far from ripe for the re-introduction of such a policy. I undertake to make available to the Prime Minister a list of the names of 20 young men in my electorate between the ages of 20 and 23 years, all virile, strong, and able-bodied Australians, who are prepared to take labouring work at any time at the basic wage provided they can be guaranteed reasonable continuity of employment. These young men have asked me if it is possible to secure employment in the munition factories reconditioning ammunition, little knowing that within the last six months many men have actually been dismissed at Maribyrnong, and also that, pursuant to the policy of the Government, preference is given to returned soldiers in connexion with work of this sort. These lads have not the ghost of a chance of securing employment in vocations such as this; private enterprise cannot absorb them, and there is little chance of their finding employment in rural industries. Farmers are able to offer a certain amount of employment to lads between the ages of sixteen and 20 years, but primary producers generally cannot afford to pay adult wages. In view of these circumstances, it is outrageous that anyone should urge that immigrants should be brought from overseas. The immigration policy of the Government is directed towards bringing to this country young migrants to work on farms, but even our own Australian boys cannot obtain work on farms at decent wages. Those fortunate enough to obtain work of this sort receive only from 10s. to £1 a week, and when they reach the age of 21 years the primary producer has either to con tinue to pay them a low wage or to say I cannot pay you the basic wage; as far as I am concerned you are now on the scrap heap ". I have always advocated the protection of rural workers by bringing them under tribunals such as are provided for workers engaged in secondary industries. It is in my opinion the first duty of the Labour movement to see that the wage earners on farms are protected. If that is done, it may be the means whereby the primary producers will be brought to a realization that) they should get behind the Labour movement and, associated with their natural allies, by cohesion, cooperation and solidarity of organization, demand that they receive a price for their products which will enable them to pay a standard of wages comparable to that paid in the secondary industries of this country. What happens to the young Australian men on the farms to-day will also happen to the boy migrants brought to Australia under the scheme announced in this House by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) on the 12th May last. I have known of fine English lads being paid 10s. or £1 a week, until they reached the age of 21 years, when they were practically forced to leave the farms and go to the industrial cities. Many of them failed to secure regular employment, with the result that the few pounds that they had saved disappeared, and finally they became recipients of the dole or were employed as sustenance workers. Associated with the various schemes of assisted immigration are many excellent Australian citizens as well as charitable and church organizations. In the nature of things, these people have little or no knowledge of the facts which these young fellows have to face. Most of them are residents of cities and larger towns and know nothing of the conditions in rural industries. The Minister said that some of the States were co-operating with the Commonwealth Government in connexion with these schemes, and pointed out that in February, 1938, South Australia lodged a requisition for household workers, whilst New South Wales decided to resume assisted immigration, covering individual nominations involving re-union of families, juveniles, youths for farm work and household workers nominated by approved associations. What do these approved societies know about this subject? In March of this year, the Commonwealth Government' decided, with the co-operation of the Government of the United Kingdom, to grant assisted passages to certain people nominated by such organizations as the Fairbridge Farm schools, the Big Brother movement, the Salvation Army, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Boy Scouts' Association and the churches. What do members of the Young Womens' Christian Association know of the conditions in rural industries ?

The arrangement also covered immigrants specially requisitioned for by any State, and persons of British stock resident in the United Kingdom who, if married, were in possession of not less than £300 on arrival in Australia, or, alternatively, a pension or other income of not less than £100 per annum or, if single, had not less than £50 on arrival.

What happened to these people in the past? Some years ago a number of Indian army officers settled in the Western district of Victoria. They were excellent men as individuals, but they had been accustomed, as army officers, to having batmen to clean theft boots. In the very nature of things, they were doomed to failure. The only man left there today is one who married a squatter's daughter.

Mr Street - There are still about half a dozen of them left.

Mr POLLARD - I do not blame the men, but I blame those who thought that such unsuitable types could succeed. They were so unaccustomed to Australian conditions that when they came in from their farms at night they dressed for dinner. They had been known to sit on the seed drill all day with no grain in the drill. We can only blame those misguided people who thought that such men could make a success of farming in Australia. It is now suggested that inducements should be offered to retired English army officers to come out to Australia under a scheme of assisted immigration. Should they do so, they will be equally unsuccessful as were the Indian army officers to whom I have referred. Indeed, their position would be worse, because the other men were all possessed of considerable capital. Let me outline the experience of the Victorian Government. Between 1922 and 1928 the governments of Victoria, the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom entered into an arrangement to bring migrants to Australia, particularly Victoria. Hundreds of men settled in that State. All of them possessed substantial capital; indeed, every one of them had more than the £300 capital suggested by the Minister for the Interior. I shall not do more than cite a few cases. Settler No. 1 brought with him capital amounting to £1,115. He worked for nine years in Victoria. Settler No. 2 possessed £3,750 on arrival in Australia. Settler No. 3 brought with him £4,030. He paid the Closer Settlement Board £31, and walked off the farm leaving debts amounting to £5,478. That sort of thing will be repeated under the Minister's scheme. Victoria paid £300,000 as compensation to these settlers and sent them back to the United Kingdom where they constituted a bad advertisement for Australia. A royal commission was appointed to investigate their cases. It was found that upwards of 120 men had been settled on dairying land and provided with substantial advances from the State. Finally, they had to be paid sums ranging from £50 to £500 as compensation. Since that time the economic conditions of primary producers have not improved, but rather have become worse, so that the fate of those who may come here under the Minister's proposal is not likely to be any better. It may be said that they will be young persons, but that really makes the tragedy the greater. Should they ask for more than £1 a week, they will be given the sack; and if they drift to the cities they will meet with fierce competition and probably be forced to accept sustenance. Young fellows too young to be returned soldiers, are unwanted, and their position is desperate indeed. The latest figures available for Victoria show that in that State 22,000 persons are registered for employment, 5,400 are on sustenance work and ' 450 are in receipt of benevolent assistance.

In Ballarat, a country centre, with some secondary industries, 600 men are registered for work. They get only a few days' work at a time, and are in receipt of sustenance. I shall quote from the report of the debates in the Victorian Parliament to show what some unsuccessful migrants said on their return to England. The following article appeared in the Star, an English paper, on the 15th July, 1933:-


1,500 Settlers -Most of Them Dead or Insane - " StruckHell " : London Man's Story.

Stories of their terrible sufferings in the Australian bush arc told by English emigrants who have returned to this country, ruined financially, and many of them broken in health.

An Australian Royal Commission has recently published the results of its inquiry into their hardships, and claims for compensation are being made, estimated to total £750,000.

A typical case is that of Mr. Charles Clarke, an ex-service man, of Central-road, Morden.

No Farming Experience.

In 1925, he sold a prosperous business, and in the following year sailed for Australia with his wife and four children. " Though I had' no previous farming experience, I was promised a year's training, and was told that there were good prospects of being independent within fifteen years," he told a Star reporter to-day. " When I reached Australia, I went to a training farm near Melbourne, and was passed out as a wheat farmer in exactly six weeks. I was then dumped on my 800 acres of land in Victoria. It was a wilderness of eucalyptus scrub, even without a wooden shack on it. The nearest water supply was a putrid water-hole6 miles away. The water, when we got it, had to be boiled, and then cleaned with the aid of salts. The nearest medical station was 47 miles away, and the nearest railhead, where we could get food supplies, was 15 miles, through almost impassable forest."

They Reaped Nothing." The land was not fit for blacks to live in, let alone whites. For four years I pitted my strength against the bush, battered by sand storms and wind storms, plagued by 14-ft. snakes, dingoes, and blinding flies."

I mention these things in order that similar happenings may be avoided in the future.

Mr Street - A good deal depends on getting suitable candidates.

Mr POLLARD - Compensation was paid to about 300 men. Surely the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) would not say that they were all unsuitable. When they arrived in Aus tralia they possessed considerable capital and, in addition, they were given liberal assistance.

Mr Badman - How many of them made good?

Mr POLLARD - Some of them are still here, and are doing well. The chief causes of the failure of the others were that the land was over-valued, that they themselves were insufficiently trained, that they had no knowledge of Australian farming conditions, and that many of them were middle-aged business men, or retired army officers, incapable of standing up to the arduous work required of them. Notwithstanding these experiences, the Minister suggests that the same policy be again followed. His proposal has the further disadvantage that boys will be brought here, only to be dumped on the labour market when they become 21 years of age. There is no hope of their remaining in primary production after that age. I speak strongly because I have seen these things happen. I am engaged in the dairying industry and I know the position of dairy farmers. The younger generation of Australian farmers say that it is not fair that men engaged in dairying should notbe paid the same as men: in other walks of life, but they realize that under prevailing conditions they cannot do more. The Melbourne Age of the 9th May, 1938, contained the following paragraph -


Request for Inquiry.

In The Age to-day appears a statement by Judge Drake-Brockman that conditions in the clothing trade were deplorable," said Cr. H. H. Hilbert at the meeting of Keilor shire council on Saturday. Cr. Hilbert, who said he was a dairy farmer, stated that if His Honour knew conditions in the dairying industry he would just as strongly condemn them. Representing a riding in which half the ratepayers were engaged in the dairying industry, he felt it incumbent upon him to bring sweating in that branch of primary production before the council so that the public could be informed of scandalous conditions prevailing on dairy farms. He moved: - " That the responsible Minister be requested to arrange for an inquiry to be held to consider the question of sweating in the dairying industry."

Cr. N. W. Gooch seconded the motion.

The motion was carried, and it was also decided to invite councils of adjoining municipalities to support the request for an inquiry.

Recently I attended an inquiry by the Victorian Milk Board at which I, with other producers, presented the case of milk producers supplying the metropolitan market for an increased price. The representative of the retailers threw the jibe at a witness, that as the Labour party was supporting the Dunstan Country party in office it ought to obtain a wages board for the workers in the dairying industry. Without exception, every farmer witness said, "Hear, hear! We are prepared to support it ". That is a marked change of attitude compared with that which was held in the days when the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) was a boy, and I am glad to see it. But until conditions on the land have been improved, and the primary producer has the protection of the courts in respect of the labour he employs, it will be outrageous for a government to assist migrants to come to this country and encourage them to believe that they can make a competence when they arrive.

There are several matters upon which I should like some information. I notice that the agreement provides that the Government shall pay one-half of the tourist steamer fare to Australia. Men who are out. of work in my electorate would like to get one-half of that fare, or to be employed even for a fortnight. The agreement also provides that nominations received direct by the Department of the Interior will be carefully investigated, in order to ensure that nominators are in a position to honour their obligations towards migrants introduced on their nominations. I should like to know what steps are proposed legally to bind nominators to honour their obligation to see that the boy, girl, or adult migrant nominated by them is kept indefinitely in remunerative employment. Honorable members have not been told that there is to be a legal agreement between the nominator and the Commonwealth Government or any State Government to determine that the boy, girl or adult migrant brought to this country shall be guaranteed employment for one, two, three or five years. It is so much "hooey " to say that the position will be kept under review and that steps will be taken to ensure that the nominators are in a position to honour their obligations,

That is merely "flim flam " and " humbug ". There will be no legal undertaking, or if there is, means will be found to escape from it.

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