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Thursday, 11 May 1939


Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I ask honorable members not to debate that matter.


Mr JAMES - It is no secret that many members of Parliament, because of the calls that are made upon them by charitable organizations and other bodies whose appeals cannot be disregarded, are not able to make adequate provision for their dependants. Many honorable members on this side of the House rely entirely upon their salaries. I have not been able to make suitable provision for my wife should I die. This Parliament should be invited to consider a comprehensive scheme of insurance for its members whereby, in the event of their death, their dependants would be provided for out of members' contributions. The subject should not be dealt with in this piecemeal fashion. We should have a system of insurance for members similar to the superannuation scheme for Commonwealth public servants. I do not for one moment suggest that my wife or children are better than the wives and children of any other workers in the community. Therefore, why should we' vote the people's money away in this manner? All, to the full extent of their capacity or opportunity, play their part as social units of the Commonwealth. Because the workers have never received what they consider is a fair deal, we have been sent to this Parliament to speak for them. We appeal to them for their votes, and having been sent here, it is our duty to see that their interests receive fair consideration. There should be no discrimination in our social legislation between the children of the ordinary citizen, the children of deceased soldiers, and the children of a member of Parliament or even a Prime Minister. All are the future citizens of the Commonwealth, all have the same right to be maintained according to a reasonable standard, and all should have the same educational facilities to fit them for good citizenship.

Because of the high position which Mr. Lyons held, probably every one in the community feels that his widow is entitled to special consideration. In my opinion the original proposal was not fair and reasonable. The intention was to place at the disposal of Dame Enid £1,000 a year - £500 for herself and £500 in trust for her children until the youngest reached the age of 21 years. Under the amended scheme the provision for the children is restricted to a period of ten years. This means that when the youngest child reaches the age of sixteen years, no further payments will be made in respect of the children. Though some people may think it logical to make special provision for Dame Enid Lyons, the children of the late Prime Minister are no better than the dependants of any other unfortunate widow in the community. I think that the annuity of £300 for the widow and £200 for her children which the Leader -of the Opposition will propose in committee would be more than fair and reasonable. This- would work out at £5 15s. 7d. a week for tlie widow, and £3 17s. a week for the children. I consider also . that provision for the children should cease as each reaches the age of sixteen years. This proposal would give to Dame Enid Lyons a total income of £9 12s. 7d. a week. This amount is excessive in my opinion, but if it is accepted by the Government, no one could claim that the widow and dependants of the late Prime Minister would not be receiving fair treatment, especially when compared with the total income provided under other legislation for widows and dependants. It is grossly unfair to provide, out of the Consolidated Revenue, £1,000 a year, or £20 a week, for the annuitants under this bill. I invite honorable members to compare the provision made in this bill with the treatment given to invalid pensioners and their wives and children. Section 22h of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act contains a provision, inserted in 1932 by the first Government led by the late Mr. Lyons, and, so far a3 I have been able to ascertain, the Government does not intend to repeal it. It provides that if the relatives of any applicant for an invalid pension either severally or collectively adequatelymaintained him, he is not entitled to a pension. I also have knowledge of the refusal of a claim for invalid pension by a man, 52 years of age, because his father, who was then aged about 80, was deemed to be maintaining him adequately.


Mr SPEAKER -Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, or its administration.


Mr JAMES - I am merely making a comparison between other social legislation and this bill. My intention is to show that invalid pensioners are not getting anything like the same treatment as is proposed in this mei sure. In one case within my knowledge a woman, whose husband is an invalid and in receipt of an invalid pension, is unable to take other work because the care of her invalid husband and children occupies the whole of her time. As she is unable to supplement her income- by other work she is forced to live on the invalid pension given to her husband.


Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member is obviously criticizing a Commonwealth law.


Mr JAMES - These people do suffer undue hardships because of the operation of that social legislation. This bill contains no stipulation regarding the probable income, from other sources, of Dame Enid Lyons and her family. Some members of the family may, during the currency of this legislation, occupy positions returning them as much as £10 a week; yet they will participate in the benefits provided by this measure until the youngest child reaches the age of twentyone years. If under other legislation the income of the beneficiary is assessed and payments reduced accordingly, there should be similar provision in this bill. I would support an amendment of the measure on the lines which I have indicated. Such an amendment would. I believe, meet the views of the people generally. I know that many people are opposed to the Government's proposal although they approve of suitable provision being made. I do not consider the Government's proposal fair, particularly in view of the fact that the dependants of others who served their country to the fullest extent of their capacity and the opportunities presented to them have not received the benefits now proposed for Dame Enid Lyons. The bill is grossly unfair and does not accord with my view of Christian justice. It discriminates between the wives and dependants of returned soldiers and others and the widow and dependants of the late Prime Minister. On the 28th October, 1916, an Australian soldier was posted as a deserter, whereas the records later disclosed that he was killed in action. Tet his widow and child had to suffer for twenty-two years without a pension, In July of last year I directed the attention of the then Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll) to this case, with the result that the Minister endeavoured to make some restitution to the woman and her son, both of whom had unjustly suffered for many years the stigma attached to the term " deserter ", although the man had been killed in action.


Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member is criticizing the repatriation, administration. That may not -bc done under this bill.

M.r.JAMES- All that that widow received, in respect of the son whom the father had never seen, was the ordinary pension payable until he was 16 years of age. A lump sum was paid. The widow herself merely received the pension ordinarily payable to a soldier's widow. Even a woman who suffered so great an injustice as I have mentioned was not granted a pension anything like that proposed in this bill.


Mr SPEAKER - I shall have to call upon the honorable member to resume his seat unless he confines his remarks to the measure before the House. The matter to which he has referred has nothing to do with the bill.


Mr JAMES - I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will, place the same restriction on other honorable members as you are placing on me.


Mr SPEAKER - Order !


Mr JAMES - Apparently, I am not to be allowed any latitude.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member will resume his seat. It must be clear to every honorable member that the Chair cannot allow a discussion of any injustice associated with the administration of government departments olof any subject outside the scope of this measure. Such matters are clearly not relevant to this measure. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.


Mr JAMES - I shall conclude by saying that I am strongly opposed to this bill. I hope that, in committee, amendments will be moved to reduce the annuities to at least one half the amounts now proposed. Even that amount would be far in excess of what is allowed to others. I shall vote for any amendment the object of which is to reduce the proposed grant.







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