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Friday, 8 May 1942

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) . - I support this bill which I realize is only a fulfilment of a promise by the Government party at the last election, and reaffirmed towards the end of last year. I do not regard it as an instalment of the new order, but merely as an attempt to treat the old people and invalids fairly. Legislation for the granting of old-age pensions in Australasia began with the New Zealand act passed in 1898. That inspired legislation in the Australian colonies. Speaking on the pensions bill in the New Zealand Parliament, Mr. Richard .Seddon laid down certain principles. I quote as follows from Sir William Pember Reeve's book The Long White Cloud-

He took the human view that those who had brought up large families and worked hard all their lives for a daily wage had done their duty by the State. He held, too, that it was impracticable to try and compel the working man to set aside part of his wages towards a pension scheme during a period when every penny he earned would, in the ordinary course, be spent in the upbringing of his family. Such expenditure, Seddon maintained, was every bit as much for the benefit of the State as would be a forced contribution towards a pension scheme.

The lead given by New Zealand was followed in Australia by New South Wales and Victoria which passed old-age pensions acts in 1900. Both acts fixed the rate of pension at 10s. a week. Subsequently, there was an agitation for a Commonwealth pensions scheme, and the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was passed in 1908. In the same year, a pensions act was passed by the Queensland Parliament. The sum was fixed at 10s. a week as long ago as 1900. The Commonwealth Year-Booh 1940, at pages 698 and 6#9, show.? that while the nominal wage index number for adult males was 848 in 1901, it was 1846 in 193'9. That means that the cost of living had more than doubled over that period. During the last few years we have attempted to restore to the old-age pensioners the standard they 'enjoyed 40 years ago. The preamble to the New South wales act is very interesting. It reaffirmed succinctly, the view accepted by the .people of Australia at .that time -

Tt is equitable that -deserving persons who, during the .prime of life, have helped to bear the public burdens of the colony "by the payment of taxes and by opening up its resources with their labour and skill should .receive from the colony (pensions in their old age . . .

That has been the principle upon which action has been taken in Victoria, and it was never assailed until the introduction of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 193S. Many honoraMe members axe -disposed to tait of contributory pensions as 'if the contributory system were a novel idea. As a matter of fact the contributory scheme is much older than the non-contributory. In Germany, Bismarck 'set 'out to T>eat the Socialist parties by offering a policy of social reform. He introduced a contributory pensions scheme. 'The first proposal of this kind to be made in Australasia was that submitted hy Sir Harry Atkin- son, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, in 1882. He proposed a contributory old-age pensions scheme on the lines of the German law. However, nothing came of that proposal. Again, in 1897, an .attempt was made to amend the Seddon pension bill in New Zealand to provide a contributory scheme. That proposal was not carried. Subsequently, the non-contributory principle became general throughout the world, although there was a partial supersession of that idea in England. Britain was avowedly following the social legislation enacted under the German monarchy. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain had initiated a movement for protection, and one of his arguments was that the German worker under protection was much better off than the British worker under free trade. This led to an examination of the position of the German worker. The Liberal party, which stood for free trade, contended that the advantage which the German worker possessed over the British worker was due to -German social legislation. Consequently, in 1911 Mr. Lloyd George introduced the National Insurance Act, which was intended, as he said, to give every person 9d. -for 4d. This Parliament -should not adopt any scheme which makes the granting of invalid and oldage pensions conditional upon contributions. Honorable members on this side opposed the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill in 1938, because it was designed to finance the benefits to be given to the fortunate few at the expense of *he unfortunate many w.ho were not able to keep up their payments. That a veT.y bad measure, and I am glad that it was not -enforced. I hope that the House will not abandon the noncontributory principle. The weight of evidence .taken .by the Joint Committee on Social Security was that the payment of contributions should mot be made a condition for the receipt -of benefits - -that there should not be a scheme by which a graduated 'tax fell -upon , every body who received wages or income, but rather that persons should receive benefits whether or not they did, in fact, pay contributions. That was the preponderant view expressed to the committee, although I was rather -surprised to find that that was the case. However, the weight of opinion ki Australia is moving away from the view that people should be made to pay for social benefits. These benefits are given to them for the advantage of t3ie community, and payment should not be made conditional upon contributions as was provided in the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 1938. As this measure is largely a committee measure I rose at this juncture merely to reply ito the contentions that we are making too -lavish provision in respect of pensions, and that a contributory scheme would be better than a non-contributory scheme.

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