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Thursday, 29 July 1920

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon J M Chanter - Before calling upon the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) to withdraw the offensive remark, I again ask honorable members to assist the Chair in preserving order. There were so many interjections at once that it was impossible for me to hear what was said. It is unfair that, following a chorus of interjections, the Chair should be called upon to decide a question of order. If the honorable member made that statement, it was offensive, and I ask him to withdraw it.

Mr FLEMING - I made that reply to the interjection of the honorable member. I did not wish public notice to be taken of it, and I withdraw it, as requested. We cannot afford to allow ourselves to be swept off our feet by a rush of sentimentality. To do so would be to damage the community as a whole.

Mr Riley - That was said when the old-age pensions were first proposed.

Mr FLEMING - I have never objected to the old-age pensions, because I hold that the old people have earned them; but this motion leads us by the slippery path of sentimentalism to destruction.

Mr Considine - That is right. Starve them out!

Mr FLEMING - We are a civilized people, and no member of. this community would wish any one to starve; but if we have the real welfare of Australia at heart we shall not overload our citizens for the support of those who are able to do for themselves. Competition is the law of life. Every individual, from the highest-placed man to the humblest insect, has to struggle and fight in order to live. If the need for effort were entirely removed, the strength of the individual and the strength of the nation would depart. It is because I see in the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) the cloven hoof of sentimentalism that I object to it.

Mr Mahony - Has not the honorable member heard of mutual aid?

Mr FLEMING - We all believe in mutual aid; it is taught to us by Christianity, and our civilization is built on it. But we have to strike the balance between the struggle for existence which is imposed by a law of nature and the mutual aid theory to which the honorable member refers. The strength and purification of nations depends upon the struggle that they make to live. Sloth leads only to disease and to individual and national decay.

Mr Riley - Then what is the good of social legislation?

Mr FLEMING - I raise no objection to legislation for the improvement of the conditions of the community, 'but I am against extreme measures.

Mr Gabb - I call attention to the state of the House. - [Quorum, formed .]

Mr FLEMING - We must require self-reliance of our citizens, and we must give them incentives to activity, and some reason to maintain their individuality. If persons are encouraged to rely absolutely on the State for support, there is taken from them all that makes for the greatness of the individual and of the nation. By way of moderating the proposal now before us, I move-

That after the word " the," line 1, the words " destitute poor of the country could best be relieved by a carefully thought out scheme of State insurance " be inserted, and that the remaining words of the motion be omitted.

Motion (by Dr. Maloney) put -

That the question be now put.

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