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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- Members of the Opposition need express no amazement that their pleas to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) are not having the desired result. The honorable gentleman represents in this Parliament only the wealthier sections of 'the community.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the request of the Senate.

Mr WARD - The arguments of the Opposition must necessarily fall on deaf ears, because the Treasurer is carrying out instructions given to him. Even if he desired to do so, he could not accede to the request of the Opposition. Despite what the honorable gentleman might say regarding the generosity of the Government's proposals, the position of the workers will be infinitely worse under this scheme than under the existing voluntary system. This so-called national insurance scheme will compel every worker to insure, but as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) pointed out, a worker who is compelled to contribute ls. 6d. a week to it will have to withdraw from other voluntary schemes to which he may now contribute, and he will find that the alleged benefits under national insurance will be less than those provided by the friendly societies. The amounts now paid as contributions to friendly societies by workers who will be forced to join this scheme, are less than they will be called upon to pay in the future. The Treasurer has not an atom of sympathy for the workers of this country. He referred to the payment to approved societies of certain moneys, out of which sickness payments will be made. He endeavoured to show that a. hardship would be inflicted on the approved societies if the period of sickness for which no payment is made, were reduced. He said that any moneys that are not actually paid out as benefits by the approved societies, will eventually go back to the insured person. There is good reason for the Treasurer's anxiety to ensure that the moneys which are paid to approved societies shall be conserved; they will be required for other purposes. Tinder this scheme the invalid pension will he reduced to 15s. a week.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the general principles of the bill now.

Mr WARD - The Treasurer tried to prove that any moneys saved by the approved societies would eventually return to the insured persons. I am endeavouring to show that the honorable gentleman is not stating facts. The Government is anxious -that provisions shall be emembodied in this legislation in order that the funds collected by approved societies shall be conserved, not for the purpose indicated by the honorable gentleman but for an entirely different purpose. Under the provisions of the bill, approved societies will have to meet, to an amount of 15s. in the £1, the payment of invalid pensions, the Government providing out of Consolidated Revenue only 5s. in the £1. The disablement benefit being 15s., the Government will have to provide only 5s. In order that the responsibility for the payment of invalid pensions may be transferred to approved societies, the Treasurer is anxious to have this particular provision incorporated in the measure so that sufficient funds will be available for the purpose. That is its whole purpose. When introducing the hill, the Treasurer sought to convince honorable .members that it contained more generous provisions than, any other existing scheme in the Commonwealth. By way of interjection when the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was speaking, the honorable gentleman said that insured persons would receive the medical benefit during the five days when no payment was made to them. I ask him: What will they have with which to purchase the necessaries of life ? Probably he will recommend that, whenever a sick worker or his dependants become hungry, they should take a dose of castor oil and be satisfied. That is all the consideration which he and his party have for the workers of this country. I have heard ministerial members to-night express the belief that the payment should be made from the first day of sickness. Why did they not bring pressure to bear on the Treasurer in the party room, when they had the opportunity to. influence the course which this legislation should take? Why did they not vote for amendments moved in committee, which were designed to ensure that of which they now say they approve? The Treasurer was prepared to wrangle and argue in order to keep the period at five clays, when the proposal was made to reduce it to four clays, proving conclusively that the sole purpose of the Government is, not to provide for the health of the people, but simply to dip into the pockets of the workers and make them pay for their social benefits, relieving the wealthy sections of the community whom the Treasurer and his party represent, from the payment of taxation now levied to provide funds for this purpose. I advise honorable members of the Opposition not to waste time in making futile appeals to the Treasurer or the Government, who are merely carrying out to the letter the instructions of the class which they represent in this Parliament. The Opposition might as well make an appeal to a flock of vultures.

The CHAIRMAN - I have twice requested the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before theChair.

Mr WARD - For the present I have said as much as I desire to say in this Parliament on the question. Out in the open air, where there is greater freedom to express oneself, I shall make further observations in the electorates of some honorable members opposite who now smirk and grin.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.

Mr WARD - I expected that from you, Mr.Ch airman. You are a very impartial chairman !

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I name the honorable member for East Sydney.

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