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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr TUDOR (Yarra) .-There are several matters which I desire to discuss, including one to which reference was made a few evenings ago by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) and the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden). In the schedule to the Bill there appears under "The Department of the Treasury" the item -

Maintenance of persons admitted to charitable institutions and hospitals in accordance with provisions of Invalid and Old-age Pensions Acts, £4,500.

This is the provision to be made in respect of one month's supply, so that it would appear that we are paying something like £54,000 per annum to these institutions for the maintenance of invalid and old-age pensioners.

Mr Hector Lamond - We are practically maintaining these State institutions.

Mr TUDOR - That is so. We have a right to give to the old people who would be pensioners even if they were not inmates of these institutions, the 2s. per week which is allowed them for the purchase of comforts, but the States themselves have a responsibility in the matter. This £54,000 per annum is handed over to the States,- and we are thus paying largely for the upkeep of institutions over the management of which we have no control. We should not say to these old people, "You must come out of these institutions in order to become eligible for a pension." I would be in favour of treating all persons alike, but I do not believe that, in order to give these inmates- of charitable institutions 2s. a week to provide them with comforts, we should have to make ourselves liable for an additional 13s. per head per week to the States. The great majority of honorable members recognise that 15s. a week, does not go very far with old-age pensioners who are not inmates of charitable institutions, and if there is to be any alteration, it is more likely to be in the direction of an increase than a decrease.

Mr Bowden - Nurses of these institutions in New South Wales are charged 15s. a week for their accommodation, and 13s. per week is being demanded for the accommodation of the old people.

Mr TUDOR - I am surprised to hear that. I would prefer the accommodation set apart for the nurses rather than that provided for the old people. I do not wish, however, to .say one word against the management of these institutions. They do their very best with the money available. Honorable members will recognise that every increase made in our invalid and old-age pensions has meant au increased allowance to these institutions, and it seems to me that since we make this allowance to them we should have a voice in their management.

Mr Gregory - No, because we do not send the old people into them.

Mr TUDOR - Many old people go into charitable institutions after being granted their pensions, and we allow the management to deduct 13s. out of the 15s. per week allotted to them; The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) stated recently that inmates who had friends outside leave these institutions for a fortnight or a month, in order to become eligible for the pension, and that immediately it is allotted to them they return and draw the 2s. per week allowed them for comforts.

Mr Bowden - That is frequently done.

Mr TUDOR - The honorable member for Illawarra also referred to that practice.

Mr West - I know of a man who left one of these institutions and slept on newspapers in the Domain for a fortnight in order that he might become eligible for a pension. While he remained an inmate, he was not eligible.

Mr TUDOR - That is a scandal. We ought to make better provision for these poor people.

Mr Hector Lamond - Pensioners who are inmates should now be receiving at least 3s. per week to provide them with comforts.

Mr TUDOR - Undoubtedly. I do not know whether this question will be discussed at the Conference of State Premiers to be held shortly, but there is much, from the point of view of the Commonwealth, that might be said in regard to it.

In another part of the schedule, under the heading of " Department of Trade and Customs," we find the following item : -

Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry (including expenses of Advisory Council pending establishment of permanent Institute), salaries, contingencies, £1,170.

This has been for some time a recurring item. It is not long since we passed £30,000 for the purpose of the Institute. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) recently stated that he desired to dispose of the Institute of Science and Industry Bill before we adjourned in connexion with the approaching visit of the Prince of Wales. We should either abolish the Institute altogether, or place it on a permanent basis. There should be cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States in order that there may be no unnecessary expenditure. We ought certainly to co-operate with the States to the extent to which they are doing work likely to come within the scope of the Institute. We should make use of the Commonwealth laboratories to supplement the work of the State agencies rather than set in operation a big institute which will try totake over the whole of the work now being done by the States.

The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) stated last night that he intended, in connexion with this Bill, to propose a reduction of an item as an instruction to the Government to continue the operation of the moratorium regulations. I think we all approve of the protection which those regulations afford to returned soldiers and their dependants in the matter of rentals. The moratorium in this respect, however, has proved a double-edged weapon. Landlords in many instances have refused to let houses to returned soldiers or their dependants. When many of us complained of the way in which dependants of soldiers had been treated, we were successful in a number of instances in securing a reduction of rents, and in others we prevented any increase being made. In some cases, dependants of soldiers have been invited by their landlords to move as soon as possible. I have received the following letter from a returned soldier : -

The information I require to know - are the landlords allowed to raise the rents on a returned soldier. I will not be discharged twelve months until August, and my rent has risen 5s. a week during the last two months. Have I got any redress? If so, you will be doing me a service, also others, if you would let me know.

I have written to the Attorney-General's Department to ascertain whether this man has any redress. However, it is not only returned soldiers that heavy rents are affecting. Last week the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) instanced a case of the proprietors of one of the oldest business establishments in Melbourne having their rent enormously increased; and I, myself, have received the following letter addressed from one of the business streets in the metropolitan area : -

I wish to bring under your notice the profiteers that are in our midst.

The facts are: I being knockedout with mining, and being unable to do any for a long while, and having a young family, I started doing light work, and the wife going out to work. We saved up a little money, and started business in Ballarat in a small way, which we thought we would sell out and come to Melbourne. We bought a business in Chapel - street, SouthYarra - confectionery and tea rooms. We had nine months of the lease to run, which expires at the end of June.

The property which consists offive shops, the late owners being the Colonial Life Insurance, the present owners .... The rent we paid was £2 10s. per week. They notified three of us tenants, whose leases expire, that we would have to pay £5 per week - 100 per cent, of a rise.

Now, don't you think they are profiteers of the worst type? I may state that we have to face the winter; and, confectionery being so high, it would take us all we knew to make anything during the winter months. We have been compelled to give up our side line - cigarettes and tobacco - which meant a great loss with us.

I would esteem it a great favour if you would bring this before the House. I was wellknown in Ballarat.

It may be said that these increased rents are made necessary by increased rates; but in the case I have just mentioned the rates cannot amount to more than 2s. or 2s. 3d. in the £1, with an increase of 3d. I suppose that 8,000 out of the 9,000 houses in my own electorate have been erected for twenty-five years; and yet, when any tenant leaves, the opportunity is taken to increase the rent. The Government will, perhaps, tell us that owing to constitutional limitations it is impossible for us to do anything in the matter; but

I suggest that they might co-operate with the State Governments with a view to simultaneous action throughout the Commonwealth. With the ever increasing cost of living it is impossible for people to make ends meet. There is a fear on the part of some honorable members that, owing to the way things are going, there may be a crash sooner or later, and everything we can do to avoid such a calamity should be done in the interests of Australia. This matter requires the earnest consideration not only of this Parliament, but of all the State Parliaments.

I should now like to draw attention to a complaint by returned soldiers who are temporarily employed in the Post and Telegraph Department. The communication regarding them is as follows: -

I would like to state a few grievances against the Postmaster-General's Department regarding the treatment meted out to the temporary soldiers in the Department. A fair number are employed as letter-carriers. Some of these have bicycle rounds, which are extremely awkward in wet weather. A few have capes, but the big majority have none. That means getting wet through whenever it rains. The Department shows no consideration at all as far as this is concerned. These men had hard times on the other side - that's not to say they have to have them here. A little consideration goes a long way. Why is there so much consideration shown a permanent man? He is allowed two uniforms a year. The temporary soldier has to find all his; while there is a vast difference in the wages, by pay day, which is in the permanent man's favour. We ask that no morning deliveries of letters extend to later than 10 a.m.; majority out this way

II a.m. and 12 noon.

The hours of delivery are a matter for the Department, but I ask the PostmasterGeneral to consider whether something cannot be done for these returned men. Honorable members who were in the first Parliament will remember how, in those days, I urged that all postal employees should be treated alike in the matter of clothing and so forth. Even if a man is temporarily employed he, requires a great coat -or cape just as much as does the permanent employee.

With other honorable members I met a deputation last week of returned munition workers who feel that they have a grievance against the Department which sent them away. They say -

We would point out that this body of men who have fulfilled their agreements, and with the highest satisfaction to the Commonwealth and Imperial Government, have returned to Australia in a much worse financial position than before leaving for work overseas.

We consider that the facts relating to our services and sacrifices are not available to the honorable members of the House.

We earnestly plead that you will consent to . the appointment of commission of inquiry, which will enable us to justify our claims for consideration, and vindicate the false impression prevalent in the minds of the community at large that munition and war workers improved their position through their services abroad.

In the camps in Australia were found enlisted men who were engineers, and directly this was ascertained, they were withdrawn and sent oversea, or set to work here as munition workers. Those men are as much entitled to fair consideration as _any other soldier. Many enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and it was not their fault they did not go to the Front with the troops. If honorable members are under a wrong impression regarding the conditions that applied to these men, their case should have fair consideration, and I have been on at least five deputations to the then Assistant Minister for Defence (Senator Russell), the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), and others regarding them. They were allowed a certain amount of money for the voyage, and their wives and dependants were also made an allowance; but this allowance lasted for only eight weeks, whereas in some cases the voyage lasted up to sixteen weeks. I believe, however, that something has been done bv the Defence Department to allay the dissatisfaction in this regard. As I stated before, the skilled worker did not earn so much as the unskilled worker in munition making, for the reason that the unskilled worker was on a machine which turned out hundreds or thousands of articles, whereas the skilled man was employed making the tools and dies, and he was not, like the unskilled man, paid by piece-work. I also believe that there is differential treatment in some of the States, some of the men coming within the land settlement schemes, while in other States they do not. I do not know which Department has control of this matter; but we have no right to throw these men aside after the services they have rendered. They are just as much entitled to fair treatment as the larger number which went to the front.

Mr Fleming - You do not suggest that they should have the same treatment?

Mr TUDOR - I never said so.I know of anAustralian munition worker who, when proceeding from his work to his home in Camberwell, London, was killed in consequence of an accident to the bus on which he was riding.

Mr Fleming - That could happen here.

Mr TUDOR - But his wife, who lives here, was given absolutely nothing, not even workers' compensation, on the ground that he was not at work when he was killed. Another case - in which, however, some redress has been given - is that of a man who contracted pneumonia, or some other disease, on the voyage, and was sent back to Australia without a penny, his wages being stopped during his illness. There are many little grievances of that nature, and it is the " pin-pricks " that count.

As to the Bill itself, I realize that if we are to adjourn, it is advisable to have Supply for at least one month ; but I trust that before another Supply Bill is introduced we shall have the Budget delivered, and an opportunity afforded for a full and free discussion ofthe Estimates. It is most desirable that the prevailing practice of passing the Estimates in whole Departments, involving millions of money, without discussion, should not be continued.


Sydney - Assistant Minister for Defence) [4.15]. - I should like to say a few words in reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). Of course, this is the old story of interference by the "'prentice hand"; the honorable member knows nothing about military matters, or he would not, I fancy, have said what he did about military training. We have had compulsory training in this country for a good many years.

Mr Considine - It is a very rotten system !

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