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Thursday, 29 July 1920

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- I owe it to my constituents to voice my opinions concerning this motion, so that they may know that their representative is alive to their interests, and that in the hearts and minds of members of the National Parliament there is compassion for those who suffer the misfortunes of life, and the desire to help them in difficult times. I certainly hold no brief for those who by misconductput themselves in unhappy circumstances.

Mr Hill - How would the honorable member discriminate between a deserving and an undeserving applicant for this pension ?

Mr MAKIN - How is discrimination exercised in the granting of old-age and invalid pensions?

Mr Hill - By the verification of the facts alleged by the applicants.

Mr MAKIN - There would be similar verification in this case.

Mr Prowse - No; the certificate of a union secretary is to be sufficient.

Mr MAKIN - I have as much confidence in union secretaries as in any other men. The positions they hold show them to be men of character and trust.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Not only is the certificate of a union secretary to be sufficient, but such a certificate from a postmaster, schoolmaster, a Customs officer, and the like is to be accepted.

Mr MAKIN - Matters of detail can be dealt with when a measure to give effect to the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is under consideration. We can then fully safeguard the interests of the people, and protect the public funds. My concern now is to support the claims of those who deserve consideration. Let us give just consideration to the wants of those in the community who are in unfortunate circumstances. Within recent months I have come into contact, in my own district, with a very sad case indeed. The misfortune of sickness and other ills had fallen on the home to such a degree that the family were left penniless through no fault of their own. The father had been in the hospital, and while there three little mites had been born into the home, although the word "home" is scarcely a proper description, for it was merely a kind of shelter, and very inadequate at that. There was a family besides the three new arrivals, and all were absolutely without food and clothing beyond that which resulted from the benevolence of their fellow citizens. There ought to be some provision to meet such cases as that.

Mr Prowse - Certainly, but why introduce a measure of the kind proposed?

Mr MAKIN - I am asking the honorable member to give his support to the principle, leaving it to the Government to frame legislation providing the necessary safeguards against the possible imposition that has been suggested. Candidly, I would prefer a general scheme of national insurance in the case of life, sickness, or unemployment, which would, I think, carry out the wishes of the honorable member fox Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The honorable member is a young man, and I warn him to be careful in discussing national insurance. When we suggested such a thing we were denounced all over the country as being against old-age pensions.

Mr MAKIN - I can allow the honorable member for Melbourne in his reply to refresh the memory of the Treasurer on that point. In every community there are people placed in unfortunate circumstances, because of sickness and unemployment; and I do not think that any man worthy of the name would desire to accept charity unless it was absolutely necessary for the support of his wife and dependants. My fellow citizens have, 1 think, a keen desire to give a quid pro qua for any assistance rendered to them : and, in my opinion, only a very small percentage of them would seek to impose on the public funds. However, the fact that there might be imposition does not justify opposition to a measure of the kind suggested; at any rate, we should not neglect those who are deserving of consideration on any such ground. I have a knowledge of the poorer classes of the community in my own district and elsewhere, and I wish to do something to help those who cannot help themselves.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Have you ever considered ways and means ? We are spending £5,300,000 on old-age and invalid pensions, and the present proposal, if carried out, would more than double that.

Mr MAKIN - I suppose that arguments in regard to inadequacy of financial resource were used against the proposal to institute old-age and invalid pensions, and also the maternity grant. In Australia, with our vast resources, we need have no very great fear about financial difficulties such as a number of honorable members have suggested. If we had sufficient acumen to manage the affairs of the country in the way they should be managed, controlling more efficiently the wealth produced in Australia and providing employment for all who desired it, there would be returned to the Treasury more than sufficient to meet our obligations as a nation and the wants of our less fortunate citizens. It isnot only the men who have to contend with, difficulties of the kind, but the wives and children, perhaps, suffer even more acutely. The wives have to make the greater sacrifices, and it is with the idea of succouring them in times of- adversity that I support the motion.

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