§ 205. “Invalid and Old-age Pensions.”

In considering Mr. J. H. Howe's proposal to place this sub-section in the Constitution, the question debated was not the policy or practicability of giving governmental pensions to poor and aged persons, but whether such a power ought to be left to the States or added to the functions of a Federal Parliament. Those who doubted the wisdom of the proposal argued that it was a matter which stood in the same category as State Banking and State Insurance; that it was a branch of the charitable systems which existed in the States; that it could be best dealt with by each State apart from the Federal authority; that it might involve embarrassing financial issues; that it would tend to load the Constitution with a social problem of complexity and magnitude, which had better be reserved for the States. In reply to these arguments it was said that the Federal authority would occupy a superior vantage-ground which would enable it to deal effectively and comprehensively with the subject, which could not be done by the disunited efforts of the States. Such a law should be uniform so as to reach and regulate the rights and obligations of those who were migratory in their habits. “The people who would benefit most by this provision,” said Mr. Howe, “are a moving population. They are engaged in seeking work all over Australia, and are constantly going to those places which, for the time being, are more prosperous than other places. Our labouring classes will be a nomadic race for a considerable time to come. If the State took this matter in hand, and made payments compulsory, it could not follow a contributor to the fund from one State to another. The duty is one which can only be performed by the Federal authority. (Conv. Deb., Syd., 1897, p. 1086.)

“In these Colonies,” said the same hon. gentleman, “men are born in one State, spend their manhood and best days in another, and then return, broken down and unfortunate, to the land of their birth, which owes them nothing. Is it to be contended that under such circumstances the State of the unfortunate man's birth should be compelled to support him? Surely the support of the aged poor could be better accomplished by a Federated Australia. Wherever a man may roam within the boundaries of Federated

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Australia, he should know that in his old age he need never fear the pauper's lot. I would compel every able-bodied man, in the heyday of youth, when he has the means, to make a compulsory contribution towards a fund, out of which provision would be made for his old age. That is another reason why the Federal authority should take it instead of the State, because within the bounds of Federated Australia a law can be enacted compelling that individual, who is to receive the benefit, to contribute to the fund in which he is to participate in old age.” (Conv. Deb., Melb., 1898, p. 1992.)

If a precedent were required it could be found in the German Empire, which has adopted the system of providing invalid and old age pensions. “In Germany it is compulsory for those in fixed employment, and for employers, to contribute to a fund which is subsidized by the Government. Then when a man comes on the fund he does not come upon it as with us a man comes upon the charitable institutions of the country. He can hold up his head among his fellow men. This law prevents a man who has fulfilled all the obligations of citizen, husband, and father, from becoming a pauper in his declining days. … At the present time there are no fewer than 12,000,000 of people in Germany subject to this law, and Germany takes the pride of place in having been the first nation in Europe to adopt the system. … In Australia we have a country far removed by a vast expanse of water from every other part of the world. Our labourers will be Australian labourers. Labourers from other lands will not intermingle with them. We should try to prevent these men from becoming destitute in their declining years through no fault of their own. Every member of the Convention knows of cases where men, who, perhaps, once held high positions, have through force of circumstances had to become inmates of charitable institutions. The poor have to be kept by the State in any case, and I want the Commonwealth to say to those of its citizens who have attained a certain age, or who have been maimed for life by some accident, that they shall not want, and need not be a burden upon friends, who, perhaps, are not able to keep them, but that the Commonwealth shall provide the means from this fund to which they have contributed whereby they can live. I hope the Convention will agree to these words being inserted. I am sure that if they do so, the Federal Parliament will be able to formulate a scheme whereby my object can be achieved, and thereby crown itself with glory.” (Hon. J. H. Howe. Conv. Deb., Syd., 1897, p. 1086.)

The Convention after several unsuccessful appeals at last yielded to Mr. Howe's advocacy of the cause and granted the power to Parliament, making it a concurrent authority, which could be exercised by the States until it was acted upon by the Parliament. “And,” said Mr. Kingston, “there is no fear whatever that one would desire to exercise that power to the prejudice of the other. No doubt also the Federated authority will be armed with greater power for giving effect to anything it may desire, for the reasons which my hon. friend and colleague has pointed out.” (Conv. Deb., Syd., p. 1087.)

51. (xxiv.) The service206 and execution207 throughout the Commonwealth of the civil and criminal process208 and the judgments of the courts of the States:

FEDERAL COUNCIL OF AUSTRALASIA ACT, 1885.—Saving Her Majesty's prerogative, and subject to the provisions herein contained with respect to the operation of this Act, the Council shall have legislative authority in respect to the several matters following:—

  • (d) The service of civil process of the courts of any colony within Her Majesty's possessions in Australasia out of the jurisdiction of the colony in which it is issued:
  • (e) The enforcement of judgments of courts of law of any colony beyond the limits of the colony:
  • (f) The enforcement of criminal process beyond the limits of the colony in which it is issued, and the extradition of offenders (including deserters of wives and children, and deserters from the Imperial or Colonial naval or military forces).—Fed. Council of Aust. Act, 1885, sec. 15.

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HISTORICAL NOTE.—No provision corresponding to this sub-section is to be found in the Constitution of the United States of America, or in that of Canada. It first appeared in the Federal Council of Australasia Act, 1885, section 15, supra. In the Commonwealth Bill of 1891 the provision appeared in exactly the same form as that in which it now stands in this sub-section. (Conv. Deb., Syd., 1891, pp. 686–8.) At the Adelaide session it was inserted in its present form. At the Melbourne session a suggestion by the Legislative Council of New South Wales, to omit “throughout the Commonwealth,” was negatived. (Conv. Deb., Melb., p. 29.)