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Friday, 24 August 1923

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) .- I am quite sure that the honorable member for Perth. (Mr. Mann) has convinced himself, and he reminds me of a Frenchman who convinced himself that he had only to place green glasses. over the eyes of his horse and he could feed him on shavings. But despite his conviction the horse died. The honorable member for Perth said that when the pension wasfixed at 10s., nobody objected to it. When the pension was fixed at 10s. in Victoria it was welcomed as a commencement only v for it was pointed out at the time that the Danish pension was equal to- 10s: of our money, and would purchase more than 20s. would in Victoria. Why is it that the- unemployed problem is not more serious: to-day ? It is because of the oldage pension. In earlier days, when unemployment became rife, the aged people were the first to suffer. Now they have- at least ,some income to keep them from want On that ground alone, I appeal to honorable members opposite to support the amendment. At the same time, I recognise the difficulty in which they have been placed by the Prime Minister's statementthat he would resign and thereby forgo his trip to England as the representative of Australia at the Imperial Conference. That statement surpasses any I have ever heard in my political experience. I ask honorable members not to stifle their own convictions with specious arguments, but to make up their minds that whilst they are compelled to support the Government to-day they will bring pressure to bear upon the Ministry during recess to have the pension increased to £1. For years I have allotted £5 per week to .increasing the pension of some old people from 15s. to £1. Therefore, I welcome the increase to 17s. 6d. because it will enable me to help forty pensioners instead df twenty. If the people who created thiB Parliament were consulted by referendum, would they hesitate to sanction the payment of the paltry 2s. 6d. required to make the pension £1 per week? A sum of £340,000,000 has been spent on the slaughter and murder of men, but the rich money holders have not contributed their share. How many dependants of men who fought and died at the Front are helping to bear the accursed cross of interest on the war debt? Why do we not provide that the children of every soldier who died at the 'Front stall be free of taxation, or be paid from the Consolidated Revenue an amount equal to the tax. I welcome the increase of 2s. 6d. just as in time of want if I stood on the brink of hell and the devil himself handed mo bread for the hungry, I would take it. But I am not content with the increase offered by the Government, and I am surprised that the Prime Minister should prevent men who are loyal to th Govern ment from voting in accordance with their consciences. An amendment is required to do justice to certain invalids who are subject to congenital defects. I have in mind the case of one who is afflicted with congenital dislocation of the hips, and who has no chance of ever being able to earn her own livelihood, but because she was four and a bale' years, instead of three years or under, when she arrived in Australia, she is mot eligible for a pension. That contemptible provision was drafted by a legal mind. 1 have been long enough in .political life .to know that when a leader 'of a party makes such a grave statement as the Prime Minister has made to-day, it 'must influence his followers. The .-only thing they can do is to try to. persuade the Ministry during the recess to 'be 'a1 little more decent to those who are old, and often helpless, and thus wipe out the infamy or the vote that I know * will take place to-day.

Mr. W.M. HUGHES (North Sydney) f3 24]. - As the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) said, we cannot get all we want, but that does not prevent us from asking for it. Unfortunately time does not permit us to do so effectively, but we must do the ; best we can. This pension legislation, which .has been copied by many .countries, and in :the end will be copied by all, has :been on the statute-book for many years, and we have lived to see the errors we made ad initium. One of those errors is patent on the face of it. The present system of pensions discourages and penalizes thrift. If a person -who arrives at C5 or 60 years of age, ns the case .may be, has been so foolish or unfortunate as to save money in the hey-day of life to buy a house, or invest it in other ways, he or she is penalized. Naturally, people .do not like that, and, .therefore, in order to qualify for a full pension, they have t*> turn prodigal in the evening of their live." n:id spend all they have accumulated. The Act requires radical amendment in that respect, and the discouragement of thrift should be eliminated. A person has done well for this country on having arrived at the age of 65 or 60 years, and deserves .of the country a pension sufficient to place him or her beyond the reach of that abject poverty which marked the condition of our forebears. Therefore, the prohibition against property and earnings should be wiped out, and all persons who choose to apply for a pension, if otherwise qualified, should receive it in full. Cases have been brought under my notice lately of .pensioners who had invested in property. In assessing the value of that property, no allowance is made for the rates and outgoings necessary to maintain it, and their pensions have been cut down. That is quite wrong. I certainly do not censure the present Government for that condition of things; they take the legislation as they found it ; but I point out what I conceive to be the road on which -we should s travel. As to the amount of pension, we as representatives of the people should be very thankful that the increase of the amount by 2s. 6d. per week has been proposed, but fi to-day will not purchase more than did 10s. when the pension was first instituted. I wish to point out to Ministers the obvious fact that during the war the payments made in respect of soldier's pensions and repatriation were many million pounds in excess of such payments to-day. Our war expenditure will never vanish in our time, but is proceeding towards vanishing point, and when we have the means to be just to the old-age pensioner's we should utilize them. So whilst I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne, that the dictum of the Prime Minister is final as regards our power to translate our wishes into action, I still say that the first thing the Government should aim at is, not tho saving of money, but the administration of the affairs of the country justly and wisely, and with due regard to those basic interests upon which the welfare of the community depends. There has been a remission of taxation, and a sensible, and indeed, large diminution of the amount payable for soldiers' pensions and repatriation. Therefore, it is within our power to pay to the aged and invalid a pension commensurate with that prosperity which Australia, alone, of all the nations that engaged in the war, is fortunate enough to enjoy. The least we can do is to see that those who have spent their lives in building up the country shall receive a pension that will assure their comfort in their declining years. I therefore urge first the removal of all those provisions which prevent the old-age and invalid pensioners from obtaining the full pension because they have saved up a certain amount of money, and secondly an increase in the pension to at least £1.

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