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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) .- I had thought to endeavour to prevail upon the Treasurer (Mr.. Casey) to relent somewhat his inflexible attitude towards the views of honorable members on this side of the chamber in regard to this clause. I was not at all impressed with the statement of the honorable gentleman that because under the English act Sundays are riot counted, the five days provided for in this bill are equal to the four days provided for in the English act. I point out that a man who becomes ill on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday may continue to be ill for four days without a Sunday intervening, and unless he became ill at the end of the week, the exclusion of the Sunday would not come into the picture. The honorable gentleman is a contortionist of the first order.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order !

Mr LAZZARINI - Purely in the political sense, Mr. Chairman. In my opinion the honorable gentleman is hard pressed for argument when he is forced to descend to tactics of that kind. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) sounded the right note when he urged the Treasurer to follow an Australian practice, rather than one adopted in some other country. Not only is sick pay paid by friendly societies from the first day of illness, but also in all workmen's compensation legislation enacted by the State Parliaments compensation is paid from the date of injury. Immediately an employee has to leave his work because of an accident sustained in the course of his employment, he is entitled to compensation. I point out also that two-thirds of the workers of Australia receive their week's wages for five days' labour, and although a man may be ill on a Saturday or Sunday he is not entitled to sick pay in respect of those days. Under this bill, however, a man who is sick for the whole of the five days during which hewould normally be working will lose the whole of his week's wages and be entitled to no sickness benefit. The Treasurer has said that if provision were made for the payment of sickness benefit from the first day of incapacity, a heavy charge would be imposed on the fund, which would mean that other benefits would have to be curtailed. If that be so, the honorable gentleman cannot get away from the charge that the sick people of this country are to be called upon to provide funds for a large proportion of the oldage pensions. Many people throughout Australia lose two or three days' employment through sickness every month, due. in some cases, to occupational disease, and in others to the effect of seasonal conditions, which may, for instance, cause hay fever. In a year those people maylose from twenty to fifty days' employment, but they will not be entitled to sickness benefit, because their illnesses have been of short duration. Ineffect, the honorable gentleman tells us now that he intends to exploit the sick in order to accumulate funds which should be subscribed in taxes by the wealthy classes in the community. When I suggested, by way of interjection, that sick insured persons were to be penalized to pay old-age pensions, the honorable gentleman was quite huffed about it. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) spoke about the millions of pounds which would be accumulated in the insurance fund. Why cannot the fund bear the cost of the very desirable alteration which we seek to make in this clause? Is it just that the Government should seek to accumulate huge reserves in the fund while at the same time it will deny to sick people to-day and during the next five years sickness benefits in respect of illnesses of short duration? This is against elementary justice and that fair play of which we boast so much in Australia to-day.I feel sure that after the scheme has been in operation for a couple of years the people will realizethat they have been sold a pup. There is no justification for demanding contributions from workers who are employed only two or three days in a week, particularly when the Treasurer is anxious to give as little as he possibly can by way of sickness benefit. As I have said on numerous occasions, this bill typifies and crystallizes-

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