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Wednesday, 5 May 1920

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

This is an exactly similar Bill to that with which we have just dealt, though it deals with a new kind of pension. I should like to inform honorable members precisely what our obligations are in respect to war pensions.

Mr Tudor - Are they more than they were?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - A great deal more. They are peaking up sharply, and the expenditure this year will mean a very considerable sum indeed.

Mr Tudor - Why propose to pay these pensions out of Trust Funds, whereas previously they were paid out of revenue ?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - For these, amongst other reasons : When the last Budget was introduced it was expected that the year would require, roughly, £5,500,000; to be precise, we have on the Estimates a sum of £5,450,000. It is now seen that we shall require for the whole year no less than £6,230,000, an excess of £780,000 over the estimate in the Budget. Whether we have reached the peak, I do not pretend to know.

Mr Riley - The men are nearly all back now.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I am inclined to think that we may have reached the apex by this time, and that the pensions may begin to moderate a little from now on. If, more money has to be found, of course it must be found. There is a sacred obligation resting on the Commonwealth to find pensions within such adequacy as the House has already provided for the men who did the fighting for us at the Front. To provide the additional money required this year we shall have to draw - as, indeed, we are drawing at this moment - from the Treasurer's Advance, and it is to recoup the Treasurer's Advance that I ask for this appropriation urgently.

Mr Tudor - The pensions cannot be paid out of the Treasurer's Advance--

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - There is no other way. The pensions mustbe paid, and. if not by other means, out of the Treasurer's Advance.

Mr West - When is the Government going to float the next general loan?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - We shall need one very soon now. In the meantime, we are awaiting the report of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), who has gone to London to see how the monetary world is there.

Mr Fleming - Does that mean that we shall need a loan very soon in Australia?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - That depends on the report from the Treasurer in London. If we cannot get the money in London, we shall have to get it here. Money has to be found, and very generously found, next year, but I am hoping that the Treasurer will make such arrangement's in Britain as will ease things down at this end. Still, that is problematical. May I suggest that this discussion is just a little irrelevant?

Mr West - You may not be in Australia then.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I am not going away.

Mr Austin Chapman - Is not the date of the banquet fixed ?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - My honorable friends are kind, but, really, they seem to know more about me in this respect than I do myself. Now, may I proceed with the explanation of this little Bill? I have already pointed out that we urgently require this money to recoup the Treasurer's Advance. We have no money to take us through the year with these pensions; indeed, we have not enough to pay next month's accounts. We must have a further appropriation or draw extensively on the Treasurer's Advance account, which is a very undesirable thing to do. I ask for this appropriation as a statutory requirement for payment to the Trust Account, as in the case of old-age and invalid pensions, and I hope the House will agree.

May I, as in the case of the Bill relating to old-age and invalid pensions, supply a little information as to the number and extent of the war pensions ? Here, again, I go back to 1917, when there were in force 45,191 pensions, with an annual liability of £1,725,022, while the average pension was £1 9s. 4d. per fortnight. May I explain here that when I speak of the number of pensions in force, I include women and children - all pensioners are included in the total.

Mr West - Dependants?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Yes. In 1918 the number of pensions in force was 110,174, with a liability of £3,848,884 ; in 1919, the pensions in force had increased to 181,529, and the liability to £5,508,568. The estimate for this year is 228,000 pensions in force, with a liability of £6,260,000. As I say, I am not aware whether we have reached the top of this continuous column, but let us hope so. I should say that these 228,000 pensions represent about 86,000 soldiers actually in receipt of pensions at this moment. The total amount expended on war pensions from the beginning until 30th June this year is about £15,100,000. Pensions - oldage and invalid and war - represent a very considerable total indeed, amounting, roughly, to about £12,000,000 per annum, or about £2 l0s. per head of the population of Australia. This is a great liability, which calls on us to be careful how, in the immediate future, we spend money on things that are not essential. I am bound to say that the outlook is for increased expenditure in many directions; and Ihope that honorable members will keep in mind the obligations already on our shoulders in respect of pensions and interest on our war debts - will keep in mind our constantly towering obligations - when they make this and that proposal for increases on the itemised matters presented to the House. If we take the Estimates and our financial proposals in detail, we can very easily justify increments; and what we have to do is to have regard to the totality of our obligations, which I may tell the House are very considerable at the present moment. I hope honorable members will accept this little Bill, so that we may pay moneys into this Trust Fund for war pensions, just as we have done in the case of the old-age and invalid pensions.

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