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Thursday, 1 July 1920

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I have very much pleasure in seconding the motion, though I shall not occupy much time in supporting it, because, in common, I am sure, with honorable members generally, I wish to know what the Treasurer proposes to do in regard to it. I cannot imagine any honorable member being against the proposal, which should commend itself to the House and to the country. "When we amend the old-age and invalid pensions legislation, there are many amendments which should be made. I should like the rate of pension to be increased to £1 per week, and I should like to know what has been the effect of increasing the . pension rate from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week? What additional expenditure has it entailed 1 Many applications for pensions have lately been refused, while in a great many cases pensions are being cut down. I hope I am not correct in venturing the opinion that the increase has not entailed a very much greater expenditure owing to this cutting down.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I will tell the honorable member presently what the increased pension has involved.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I hope that what is being done in the direction of cutting down pensions is not due to a desire to avoid additional outlay in connexion with the increased rate. In common with other honorable members, I have had great difficulty of late in securing the full rights of old people who are applying for pensions, and whose applications very often are not attended with much result. I do not offer these observations by way of an indictment against the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in New South Wales, since I know that he is one of the most sympathetic officers in the Commonwealth service. He has, however, to administer the law as he finds it, and to carry out his instructions. So far as he can possibly do so, I am sure he is administering the Act in a sympathetic spirit.

Mr Burchell - How can the total expenditure be reduced, having regard to the fact that the pension rate has been increased from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If, following that increase, there has been a certain cutting down of pensions, and excuses are made for reducing them-

Mr Burchell - But I understood the honorable member to say that he was satisfied with the way in which the law was being administered by the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in New South Wales.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am satisfied that he is sympathetic, and would not wilfully withhold a pension in any deserving case; but I repeat that he has to administer the law as he finds it, and to carry out instructions as they are given to him.

I shall not deal further with that point, since this motion relates particularly to the granting of a destitute allowance - a proposal that must commend itself to every honorable member. It would be deplorable if any deserving man or woman, or any little child, in this country were allowed to go hungry. We claim to be, from a democratic point of view, the most forward of any country.

Mr CONSIDINE (BARRIER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is a lot of Democracy in seeking in garbage tins for a crust, as I saw men doing recently in Sydney.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am led to believe that, in many cases, there is not much to be urged in support of our claim.

Mr Jowett - Will the honorable member tell us of a more democratic country in the world?

Mr Lazzarini - A country that is not administered under a War Precautions Act after the cessation of war is more democratic.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There should be many more democratic countries. During the last five years, much of our experience has been the very antithesis of democratic government, but in regard to legislation of a sympathetic character we claim to be an advanced country; and it is a stigma on the Commonwealth that there are in Australia today hundreds of little children who, when they lie down at night to rest do not know where they are to get their breakfast in the morning. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) referred to children in Sydney whom he had seen searching garbage tins for a crust.

Mr Considine - Not only children, but men.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Such a thing is a disgrace, and the cause should be removed as soon as possible. We have in this motion a means for removing the stigma, and it has my hearty indorsement. We should stand for the principle that no deserving man or woman, and no child who requires food, should be allowed to go unsatisfied.

I shall not discuss this question further, since I understand that the debate must close at 4.30 p.m., and I wish to give the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) an opportunity to express the views of the Government on the subject. I hope he will be able to regard this motion from a sympathetic point of view. The lives of the future men and women of Australia are at stake; and an ex-Victorian Treasurer once declared that the life of every child born into the country was worth £300 a year.

Mr Laird Smith - The late Richard Seddon said the same thing.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know how that estimate was arrived at, but it is a very low one. A child born into this country is worth far more than £300 a year. The life of every child is of immense importance to the nation. By giving effect to the principle of this motion we shall do something in the direction of prolonging the life of every child in Australia, guard it from being stinted in its infancy, and so lead to better citizenship.

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