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Thursday, 17 June 1915

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I intend to reply briefly to the criticism offered to the Bill. Broadly speaking, honorable senators have recognised its usefulness and its value. It received a vigorous criticism from Senator de Largie, and, shall I say, a vigorous or a venomous , criticism from Senator Senior?

Senator Shannon - Not venomous.

Senator GARDINER - I felt that I was using rather a strong term when I asked the question.

Senator Senior - I knew that you did not mean it.

Senator GARDINER - I never do anything to connect myself with measures before the Senate. I am responsible, of course, for the measures I introduce, and I will stick to that responsibility ; but, so far as criticism is concerned, I let a measure take the criticism, and, of course, the sting is then all the easier for me to bear. Senator de Largie said he was disappointed with the Bill because it was not sufficiently progressive, and, therefore, he desired the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the whole matter, and make the. Government better acquainted with what the Commonwealth should receive at the present time". I did hope that I had made it quite clear that this was a measure to deal with existing companies - that is, to bring the companies transacting business in all the States under the control of the. Government, and, therefore, of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. When we hear an honorable senator say that doing that is not doing enough, we are amazed. To my mind, if we do a little well, and do it in the manner in which it should be done, it is better than to rush in some great measure dealing "with matters so farreaching that they would be discussed during the whole life of a Parliament, and nothing would be done. Senator de Largie was quite fair in his criticism and quite candid, but I venture to say that his disappointment was due to the fact that the Bill did not foreshadow a Government insurance proposal to come into competition with existing insurance companies. He concluded his remarks by saying that possibly the Government had such a proposal in mind. I do want honorable senators to understand our attitude. I hope that, instead of proclaiming promises ahead, instead of making fine promises, we will do good work. I hope that, instead of saying what we are going to do, we will do something, and when it comes to do the next thing we will do it in the same methodical, matter-of-fact way, without making any loud proclamation of what our intentions are in this or that direction. I make that statement because as regards the business of the Government, both Senator Senior and Senator de Largie know just as much about what our intentions are with regard to this particular matter as- 1 do. I do not complain of my honorable friends' criticism, but I do think that Senator Senior's might have been couched in milder and kindlier language. I suppose that a stranger reading in cold print his references to the Government and the Bill would not imagine that it was 'a generous supporter, as we know him to be, who was levelling the criticism. But that is a matter for the honorable senator himself to consider, and not for me to complain of. Senator Keating, following Senator de Largie, made a remarkable criticism, which to some extent might mislead honorable senators. He sought to show * that with regard to the making of regulations, we were taking exceptional powers which had not been taken in other measures. I can only regard it as evidencing one of the infirmities of a great mind when I have regard to the fact that in the Arbitration Act, the Census Act, the Excise Act, the Australian Notes Act, the Copyright Act; the Coinage Act, the Electoral Act, the Immigration Act, and other Acts, we find the identical wording to which he takes exception in this measure.

Senator Senior - I grant that, but still it is legislating by regulations, and not by clauses.

Senator GARDINER - My honorable friend will understand that in a factory where Bills are being turned out. if there is one suitable pattern which will fit all the time, it is the pattern which is used. In this measure, we are not asking for exceptional powers with regard to regulations, we are sticking hard and fast to the same phraseology as is contained in the Acts I enumerated, and possibly in all other Acts. I make these remarks in order to disabuse the minds of honorable senators of the idea that exceptional powers are being asked for.

Senator SENIOR - The tendency is to make the Cabinet a Super-Parliament.

Senator GARDINER - There is no such tendency in connexion with this measure, because we simply use the same clause as has been used in other measures.

Senator SENIOR - It is a continuation of a questionable practice.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Keating did not put it in that way. I do not know that I should make further reference to Senator Senior, except, perhaps, to quote some of the phrases he used. Referring to myself, he said, for instance -

If he had said that this was a Bill preliminary to a national scheme he would have led me to very much tone down my remarks.

The honorable senator, of course, will remember making that statement. I presume that we may conclude from his language .that if any reasonable excuse had been given by my own remarks, it would not have been so severe as it was. The whole tenor of his speech was a complaint that we had not introduced a national insurance scheme, or, as he phrased it, a Bill to deal with the widows, the maimed, and the sick. It ill-becomes any one to taunt the present Government with having forgotten the invalid, the old, the maimed, and those who are unable to look after themselves. Because, if ever there was a party in the Commonwealth, or any other part of the world, that deserved well at the hands of the unfortunates, it is the party of which I am a representative. Not only have we not forgotten these people, but we have taken a foremost stand, and introduced legislation which has placed unfortunate persons on as good a footing as they are in, I venture to say, in any other part of the world. We have led the way with progressive legislation. With our old-age pension, our invalid pension, and our maternity allowance, we have set an example which will be followed by any civilized nation. Yet, on a Bill of this kind, we are taunted with neglect of duty to those classes. Senator Senior quoted a state ment I made that the Bill would benefit the companies. There was quite a tone of triumph in his voice as he pointed out that it would benefit all companies, and he wanted to know if it would benefit any one else. I am rather pleased with his reference to the benefit which this legislation will be to the companies, because most of them are mutual companies.

Senator SENIOR - Not all, not by any means.

Senator GARDINER - I know that; the largest number of the insurance companies are mutual companies, When we make more profitable the good working of the companies; when we regulate the companies, and prevent them from being exposed to unfair competition; when we take care of the securities of the companies, and say that those which are well managed, and well directed, shall be well protected, I am proud to be in a position to say, as I did say before, that this Bill will be of immense benefit to the companies, and, incidentally, to the policy-holders, who represent a huge proportion of the population of Australia.

Senator de LARGIE - Many of them are only mutual in name.

Senator GARDINER - Even if that were so, Senator Senior asked -

Does it beneficially affect one soul in Australia except indirectly through the insurance offices? Does it not benefit the latter immensely ?

If we benefit the insurance offices, that should be a very good reason why the honorable senator ought to be found supporting the measure because those offices are worked for the benefit of a large number of our population.

Senator SENIOR - You plead that the Government should neglect their duty because somebody else takes it up.

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator also said -

I looked forward to the introduction of a useful measure, which would confer a great benefit, and be a distinct gain to the maimed and the wounded, to the widows and the orphans of the toilers of Australia. I am very sorry that the honorable sena-tor has been disappointed in that respect; but the Bill has not been hurriedly drafted. This measure, or one very similar to it, was in the hands of Senator Pea'rce about twelve months ago.

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