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Thursday, 29 July 1920

Mr BURCHELL (Fremantle) . - No one doubts for a moment the bona fides of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), or the largeness of heart which he invariably brings to bear on motions of this kind. I certainly think, however, that before we carry a bald motion, couched in these terms, without any adequate safeguard so far as the total amount of expenditure is concerned, it would be well to consider the amendment moved by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming).

Mr Ryan - What does the honorable member say would be the effect of carrying the motion?

Mr BURCHELL - It is exceedingly difficult to say exactly how many destitute people there are in Australia or how many are, unfortunately, " insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered." The number who would come within those terms would be great, particularly in the cities, and it would be exceedingly dangerous to accept the first part of the motion, and' then say, in the second part, that the whole should form an instruction to the Government to introduce a measure to carry out the object of the honorable member for Melbourne. It was for that reason, when I first read the motion, that I drafted an amendment to omit the last words of the first paragraph, " until relieved," with a view to providing that those concerned should receive the amount mentioned., to be reduced by 2s. 6d. a week for each adult, and1s. 3d. a week for each child, until the amount allotted became exhausted. I say in all sincerity that there are, unfortunately, some people who, if they get au) opportunity - I was going to say, would' " sponge," for lack of a better word; at any rate, there are those who, given a chance to secure even the small amount mentioned per week, would do so.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The honorable member must rcognise that the number of claimants would be reduced, because there has to be a sworn declaration. It is all camouflage talking about invalid and oldage pensions.

Mr BURCHELL - The honorable member must not accuse me of camouflage, because I have not as yet mentioned invalid 'and old-age pensions. There are many directions in which I should like to see the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act amended ; but I am not dealing with that matter now.

Mr Fleming - The Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act is specifically mentioned in the motion,

Mr BURCHELL - .That is so, and J must confess that I cannot agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that in this discussion the Act is not a fair subject for criticism.. However, where sentiment is concerned one is naturally inclined to view with kindly feeling those in less fortunate circumstances than ourselves. <

Mr Gabb - The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has told us that sympathy without cash is not .much good.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - What I said was that sympathy is not a complete substitute for cash.

Mr BURCHELL - There is much in that idea, but probably the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), like other honorable members and myself, is constantly receiving applications for assistance by people in unfortunate circumstances; and I can say that, so far as I am concerned, no deserving case has been turned away. I am npt bragging in saying that, but simply describing the typical experience of honorable members generally.

Mr Gabb - I was speaking of the honorable member's vote on this question.

Mr BURCHELL - The amendment to the motion commends itself very much to me. We hear from the honorable member for Maribyrnong '(Mr. Fenton)- a. great deal about science and the scientific method as applied in different directions : and it is essential, however much we are in sympathy with the motion, that we should examine it critically and ascertain exactly where it will land us. I was surprised and astounded recently when the Treasurer told us that the increase of 2s. 6d. a week in the invalid and old-age pensions means an additional expenditure of £750,000.

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