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Thursday, 1 July 1920


1.   That this House is of opinion that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be amended in order to provide for a destitute allowance to be made to all inhabitants who are destitute, so that any person making a statutory declaration (to a postmaster, Customs officer, or other appointed Commonwealth official, a schoolmaster, a union secretary, a magistrate, or other appointed individual) that he or she is insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered, shall be paid as soon as possible the sum of 15s. per week, and for each child 7s. 6d. per week, until relieved.

2.   That the passing of the foregoing resolution be an instruction to the Government of the Commonwealth to bring in the necessary amending Act.

Honorable members may recall that I originally gave notice of this motion at a time when the amounts mentioned therein were the same as were being paid in respect of old-age pensions. It will now be seen that I am again putting the same figures into the terms of my motion as apply to the old-age pensions at present paid. Every writer on economics, every one who studies society, must own that the chain of the present system of society has to be judged by its weakest link, and that, at the present day. that weakest link is poverty - known as destitution. If this motion should be carried and the House were toinsert amending sections in our old-age pensions legislation, the tendency at least would be for the stigma of poverty to be removed from our midst. , The fact of an applicant being compelled to make a statutory declaration should have the effect of placing him within the reach of the law in the event of his swearing falsely. In eliminating the weak link in the chain of society to-day we should be able to look to the future in the hope that this century will make life the highest wealth, in comparison with the possession of property. The troubles which have always existed between labour and capital have caused much destitution in the past. But, just as in the days of old, slavedom was succeeded by serfdom, and, later, serfdom by wagedom, now the time has surely come when wagedom must be succeeded by freedom.

Charity has been defined by Captain. Wilson, the originator of the philosophy of comprehensionism, as the makeshift of the rich to meet their obligations to the poor. It is a mere palliative. We have our Old-age Pensions Act, which is one of the noblest Acts in the world; but the pension rate must be increased, and I hope that when the time comes it will be increased to £1 per week, if not more. The old-age pension gives independence, to a certain extent, to the old people in our midst, and I hope to see the time when the stigma of charity will no longer attach to it. I think I may speak of the late 'Treasurer as a gentleman who deserted his country in the hour of need. Him I once applied to for an old-age pension, for two reasons: One- was that the people throughout the length and breadth of this land might see that there was no. disgrace in accepting an old-age pension, and the other was to draw attention to the contrast between the position of the late Chief 'Justice of Australia, who applied for and obtained an old-age pension of £5 a day. The invalid pension also helps, to a great extent, to prevent destitution, and, in addition, we have our hospitals and our benevolent asylums; but, nevertheless, there are persons whom no agency relieves. At one time they had in Victoria what was known as a compassionate allowance : but the Treasurer of this State, one of the meanest men who ever held a position so high, swept it away, thus causing immense distress, as every Victorian politician knows. That allowance was first provided for by the Government of Sir Alexander Peacock, and was continued by subsequent Administrations, until removed by the cheeseparing policy of the present Treasurer. Prevention is better than cure. If any one will look at the tabulated list of deaths, he will see that want and destitution, by lowering the fighting powers, make men and women more inclined to disease than they otherwise would be. When the -fire-fighters are called out to a conflagration, they do not first busy themselves with seeking the cause of it. Should it seem to be a case of arson, they do not look first for the person who has perpetrated that crime. Their business is to play water immediately on the flaming and inflammable material, and to do all they can to put out the fire. I recognise that the adoption of my proposal will not remove destitution, but it will be a palliative, and quite as useful a palliative as those that I have mentioned. When I visited the splendidly-managed Department for Neglected Children which they have in South Australia, I was shown an excerpt from a newspaper published in Great Britain, in which it was stated that in two towns there - West Gorton and another whose name I forget - out of 1,000 children born, 800 died within the first year. To a medical man like myself those figures reveal a terrible state of affairs. But in the institution to which I have referred, a child has a better chance of reaching adult age than has the average child of well-to-do parents. No words of mine can sufficiently express my appreciation of that Department, and I regret that the Government of that State has not more money to place at the disposal of this most deserving charity. When a person sees a bath overflowing, he will, before taking a mop to wipe up the overflow, turn off the tap; but should a child be in the bath and in danger "of drowning, he will first rescue the child. There are those who say that many persons who are destitute will not own to being so, but my experience in London and in other large cities, including Melbourne and Sydney, is that the splendid independence of the human often disappears before the pangs of hunger. I have never felt hungry, but I have been thirsty, and 1 do not know what I should do, supposing hunger to be as bad as thirst, were I to feel hungry and to have those dependent on me also hungry. Charity organizations devote a good deal of their time to the detection of imposition, and I do not blame them; but they can find no fault if the Government does what I suggest. I know that my proposal is a -startling one, but that may be said of every new idea. A few years ago wireless telegraphy and aviation would have been incredible, but the advance of science has made them common-place. J\o one with a Christian heart, no humane follower of Mahomet or Buddha, and no member of that old religion upon which Christianity is based, Judaism, will deny that in helping those who are in want we do God's best work. I believe that God gave us brains to help one another, and is it not an argument against the so-called superiority of man to the other animals that human beings are left in want by their kind. If we look through the eyes of scientific men, we must, I think, acknowledge that there are three races of intelligent beings on this earth, the humans, the ants, and the bees. Never in the nest of the ant or in the hive of the bee do the workers or the young suffer privations, so long as the necessaries of life obtain there. But we cannot say so much for the humans. Mankind, is gifted with brains superior, we are told, to those of any other form of life, but how callous we often are towards the poor, making no provision against privation and want, even when our harvests are overflowing. As to the prohibitionists, I ask them if there is not positive destitution among the followers of Buddha and among the Mohametans, all of whom are absolute abstainers. That being so, I claim the assistance of the prohibitionists. Every man who calls himself a philanthropist must be in sympathy with me in this matter. There are those who repeat the saying, " The poor you have always with you"; but to them I say, as I have said on many a platform, that they pay but small regard to the Creator if they do not allow the brains of humanity to be used to build up a civilization under which no man, woman, or little child will ever go hungry to bed. I have a quotation to make from a paper that has been of great use to me. It is addressed to moralists. Before reading it I remind honorable members of the saying of Richard Baxter, who once seeing a man in a cart on his way to execution said, " There, but for the grace of God, goes Richard Baxter." So to those who, in the pride of their hearts, look down upon others not so well placed, I say that to all temptation may come. Honour to those who resist. But we must know the temptation before we can condemn the tempted person who falls-

Moralists! Why make conditions as to character? Arc loafers, cadgers, crooks, vagrants, spoilers, dead-beats precluded from the free, though very costly State-provided protection by Navy, Army, police, Judges, and Law Court officers, and from the use, free, of roads, bridges, parks, art galleries, museums, lending libraries, drinking fountains, sanitary conveniences, elementary schooling, maternity allowance, coinage of gold?

The sun of our Maker shine3 upon those who are destitute as well as on those who are wealthy, the air of Heaven is free to all who breathe, and I claim in the name of humanity that means of living shall be made available to all. In large centres of population there should be establishments to which the destitute could go for assistance. In this connexion I desire to thank the Salvation Army for what they have done. I have seen their good work in many countries, and in the slums of such cities as London, Glasgow,' Dublin, Belfast, and NewcastleonTyne, and I have been told by our soldiers that kindness, courtesy, and help were always given by the Salvation Army officers to those who appealed to them, either ai 'he front or in the cities. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to my motion. I recognise that it may present difficulties, but if it is fairly considered I shall be glad, and I shall welcome the assistance of the Government and of every honorable member.

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