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Thursday, 4 April 1946


Mr MENZIES (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) -I know that! Of course, it has never been challenged! What I am asking is : Where is the power to legislate for maternity allowances unless it is in the appropriation power, because it is not in any one of the other provisions of the Constitution ?

That section of the right honorable gentleman's speech clearly indicates that in his considered view the Commonwealth Government has no power to legislate in respect ofmaternity allowances, as there is no provision in the Constitution under which legislation making provision for such an allowance can be enacted unless it be under the power of appropriation of moneys. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made the point that the Maternity Allowance Act had never been challenged, but that does not dispose of the fact that, if it were challenged, the view expressed by constitutional lawyers is that the challenge would be successful.

It seems quite clear from the decision of the High Court regarding the validity of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act that the power of this Parliament to legislate regarding other social services is open to challenge. I have quoted the view of the late honorable member for Bourke, Mr. Blackburn, the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Warringah, supported by eminentauthorities from whom the Government has sought advice onthis matter, that the validity of the present social services legislation is doubtful. Although it has not yet been challenged, there is no guarantee that it will not be questioned in future. Child endowment could be challenged, and it is declared by these eminent authorities that, if it were, it would be held by the High Court to be invalid. We should endeavour to give effect to social legislation which conforms with the decisions of the International Labour Organization.I attended the conference which was held at Philadelphia in 1 944. The opinion isheld in some quarters that Australia is leading the way in the provision of social services. It may be in some directions, but in recent years it has lagged behind other countries, particularly in the matter of medical care. Among the recommendations of the International Labour Organization reached in 1944 were the following: -

Extension of social security measures to provide a basic income to all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care;

Adequate protection for the life and health of workers in all occupations.

Provision for child welfare and maternity protection;

The provision of adequate nutrition, housing and facilities for recreation and culture;

The assurance of equality of educational and vocational opportunity.

Australia subscribed to that convention, and unless this Parliament has the power sought in the bill now before us, there will be no hope of giving effect to such legislation other than through the power of appropriation, or by the cumbersome method of obtaining agreement between the States. Australia should not lag behind such countries as the Latin- American states. CostaRica has made complete provision for the medical care of its people, and other Latin-American countries are leading the way in social ser vices of this kind. All of our people should be able to get the best medical care based on their needs rather than on the length of their purse. I support wholeheartedly this bill to empower the Commonwealth to make laws for the provision of maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment, unemployment sickness and hospital benefits, . medical and dental services, benefits to students and family allowances.

We are also considering a bill to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws providing for the organized marketing of primary products, unrestricted by section 92 of the Constitution. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition on this matter, and he left me in a maze. He very successfully clouded the issue, but the matter before us is a si mple one. It is necessary to continue in the days of peace what we have been able to do during war-time with regard to the orderly marketing of primary products. Whatever differences there may be between the proposals now to be sub mitted and those submitted in 1936 merely indicate that we have profited by the mistakes of the past. The Government is seeking to establish a system of orderly marketing for primary products. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) spoke of the varying costs of production of wheat and potatoes in different parts of Australia. It is true that it costs more to produce wheat or potatoes in some places than in others. We have always been faced with the problem created by those persons who try to grow wheat or potatoes on unsuitable land, who go " broke " in the process, and then appeal to the Government for assistance. I do not want ever to return to the days when Tasmanian potatoes were soldfor 30s. a ton. Such a situation is uneconomic, and harmful to the community. It is better that we should stabilize prices for primary produce, and although the present proposal does not provide for a stable price, the fact that it provides for the introduction of orderly marketing will tend to stabilize prices over the years. If the issue is presented clearly to the people I believe that they will, in their own interests, realize the importance of orderly marketing, and grant the power sought.

It is further proposed to alter the Constitution by empowering the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws in respect of' the conditions in industry. The people will be given the opportunity to accept or reject this proposal, just as they will be able to accept or reject any one of the three proposals that have been placed before them. They' will have perfect freedom of choice, as they should have in a democracy. It has been made clear that the new power, if granted, cannot be used in order to impose industrial conscription. Therefore, the issue cannot be clouded as it was during the last referendum campaign. The people have had experience of military conscription and man-power controls, and they did not wish to take the risk of being pushed around in peace-time. Now it has been made clear beyond all doubt that no form of industrial conscription can be introduced under thepower which is sought.

It is proposed to hold the referendum on the day of the general elections, and this will enable the people to consider the referendum issues apart from the question as to -whether or not they wish to change the Government. I know that it may be said that a vote, for the referendum proposals will' be a vote for the Government, hut that will not necessarily be so. In 1914, the Fisher Government submitted to the people proposals for alterations of the Constitution, and those proposals were rejected, although the . Government was re-elected.- It may happen that, in this instance, the Government will be defeated, while .the powers sought, for the Commonwealth will be granted.







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