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Tuesday, 1 October 1935

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- I support the amendment. Personally, I do not object to the restorations proposed in the bill. It may be claimed that there has been an improvement in general conditions which justifies the Government in bringing in a bill to provide for increased payments to honorable members and public servants. Certainly there has been some improvement of the outlook of the community in general. One reason for this is the fact that factories have been able to increase their output in order to replenish warehouse stocks, which had been allowed to become low during the depression. The fact remains that the emergency legislation passed by this Parliament has caused the standards of the mass of the wage-earners to be lowered.

I listened with a good deal of interest to the remarks of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in regard to pensions. The honorable gentleman quoted statistics to prove that it is not possible to make any restoration to pensioners, and said that a formula had been prepared under which their position would be improved in the future. I agree with him that the pensions bill absorbs a good deal of revenue. But I join issue with him upon the reasons which he gave for the considerable addition to the number of pensioners within the last year or two. In the main, the reason is that depressed conditions have caused a number of persons to lose what income they formerly possessed. I suggest in all sincerity that we cannot afford to neglect the aged and infirm members of the community. We are not greatly concerned with what is done in other countries. In many respects Australia has led the way in the provision of social services for its people. The royal commission which inquired into the matter some years ago presented in tabulated form the rates in European countries, Great Britain, and the dominions. I frankly admit that the rates in other countries are relatively not so high as they are in Australia. But that does not alter the fact that we now have a less attractive system than that which formerly operated. If not actually stated, it certainly was implied in the financial emergency legislation that there would be complete restoration as soon as it was warranted by the circumstances. During the last three years, however, another line of attack has been developed. Taxation has been remitted to an amount of about £9,000,000 to those who were not promised relief. That constitutes a definite breach of faith cn the part of the Government. If it be not practicable to make complete restoration, I join with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in appealing to the Government to give some relief to pensioners. I read with a good deal of interest the following statement made in London by the wife of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) : -

There is a feeling of hopelessness among the young. They are bom, they grow up, and they have no outlook. There is a fine foundation for optimism.

The position to which Mrs. Lyons referred is due largely to the reduced purchasing power of the people. The problem must be tackled from that angle. There is a good deal of truth in what the

Prince of Wales told a conference of nations in 1932. His Royal Highness said that the problem of production had been solved, that the problem now to be faced was that of distribution, and that the position could only be improved by raising the standard of living of the people as a whole by employing all the employable labour for a limited number of hours a day. It is well known that with five out of six persons earning less than £2 a week, the purchasing power of the community is not likely to rise. The paradox of the situation is that production must be increased before the people can obtain some of the good things that alreadyexist in abundance. I hope that the appeal which has been made to the Assistant Treasurer will not be entirely ignored; and that he will at least attempt to do something to improve the position of the pensioners as well as that of wage earners generally. [Quorum formed.]

Debate (on motion by Mr. Mahoney) adjourned.

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