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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) . - I very much regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has not been more generous in this matter. When this clause was under consideration in this chamber, strong representations were made by several honorable members on both sides of the House that sickness benefit should commence on the first day of sickness instead of on the seventh, and the Treasurer sought to justify the intention of the Government to alter the date from the seventh day to the fifth. I moved an amendment, the effect of which was to make the benefit available on the first day. I pointed out that this was the practice amongst friendly societies, and that the Treasurer should have made the national insurance scheme at least as generous as those of the friendly societies. I understand that section 32 of the British National Insurance Act provides that sickness benefit shall commence on the fourth day of incapacity. We know that, in practice, a great many persons are incapacitated by such illnesses as in- fluenza, dengue fever or severe colds for periods of three or four days, and such persons will not obtain any benefit under the insurance scheme at all. They will be required to pay their contributions, but, for the most part, they will obtain very little return for them. No doubt the Treasurer will try to make us believe that the Government is making a generous concession which will cost the fund a great deal of money.

Mr Holloway - That only proves how much the workers will lose.

Mr FORDE - It is probable that the workers will lose £300,000 a year by the refusal of the Government to make sickness benefit payable on the first day of disablement. The Government is anxious to augment the insurance fund as much as possible, and for this purpose is prepared to deprive the workers of the benefit for which they will have paid. I ask the Treasurer, even at this stage, to consult with his experts with a view to acceding to the request that sickness benefit be made available immediately, instead of after a lapse of five days. It is evident that the Senate did not give this matter due deliberation. Unfortunately, it was acting on the instructions of the Treasurer, who said that he could not concede anything more. If the Treasurer will give an assurance that the matter will be reconsidered, it will not be necessary for us to say anything further.

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