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Wednesday, 17 May 1939


Mr MCHUGH (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - £10 a week!


Mr FROST - Does the honorable member for Richmond really believe that £10 a week would be a beggarly allowance? I am sure he does not. I believe that it will be sufficient in the circumstances, and it should be given to Dame Enid Lyons.* We have no right to say to her that any part of the allowance must be devoted to the education of her children, or to any other purpose. We can safely leave that to the mother. Why should we say that so much is for the widow, and so much for the education and maintenance of the children? Of course, the reason is that members .of the Government felt that £1,000 sounded a rather large sum, and so they decided to divide it.


Mr Jolly - Let the honorable member speak for himself.


Mr FROST - I am speaking for myself and also for honorable members on the other side of the House who have not dared to address the committee on this measure and say what they really think. If it is considered that an annuity of £1,000 is necessary, then Dame Enid Lyons should be paid that money. But I ask what right have honorable members to dictate to Dame Enid Lyons ;just what sum will be adequate to provide for herself and what will be required for the education of her children. If I were to die and people were to say to my widow, " "We shall give you an annuity for yourself and so much for your children ", she would tell them to mind their own business. Dame Enid Lyons should tell honorable members opposite the same thing. I cannot understand why this matter was not discussed at a meeting of representatives of all parties before legislation was introduced. I can readily appreciate the attitude adopted by Dame Enid Lyons in the letter which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) read to honorable members to-day. She is a heartbroken woman, and because this matter was not handled in the same way as similar cases which previously have come before Parliament it has been subjected to a prolonged unpleasant debate. There should have been a consultation between the leaders of all parties before the bill was framed. If agreement had been reached at such a conference then probably no debate would have taken place. I remember putting up a fight some years ago for a grant to the widow of a former member of this Parliament. I approached the Government, and brought the matter up on the adjournment of the House on several occasions, but eighteen months elapsed before any action was taken. I will say this much, that had it not been for the efforts of the late Prime Minister, no provision would have been made for that widow at all. He and I had several private talks regarding the case, and the necessary action to provide an annuity for the widow was taken in this Parliament one night. The Treasurer introduced the legislation, no one else spoke, and the bill was put through on the voices. Only those who follow Ilansard closely knew that a pension had been granted to the widow. But there was no question on that occasion as to whether or not she had to provide for children. The maximum amount payable by way of pension to widows of exmembers is £3 a week, and no differentiation is made between those widows who have children and those who have not. As a matter of fact that point should not be raised. This Parliament, when granting an annuity for a widow, has no right to lay down conditions as to the education of the children. The mother of the children is the best judge of how they should be provided for and what education they should receive.

The Government's proposal is degrading to this Parliament. It has been put forward in a degrading way. I trust that, if similar circumstances should arise in future - I hope they will not - the matter will be brought forward in a decent way. As the Leader of the Opposition said, a grant of £500 a year to Dame Enid Lyons, with provision for the children should she die before the youngest is eighteen years of age, is fair and reasonable.

The honorable member for Richmond was wrong in saying that the £500 proposed by the Opposition would be a beggarly allowance. If it were, then the whole of our pension system is wrong. Time after time battles have been waged in this House, with a view to raising invalid, old-age and soldiers' pensions, but it has been maintained that £1 a week is sufficient for these people. In the circumstances, therefore, I do not think that £1,000 a year is reasonable for the widow and family of. the late Prime Minister. However, I would not like to make any such comparison. ¥e must grant to Dame Enid Lyons and her family something in keeping with the position which they hold in society. The matter was discussed at a meeting of members of the Labour party in this House, and the decision arrived at was that £10 a week would be a very liberal allowance. I also discussed the matter with some of my constituents while I was in Hobart last week-end, and the general opinion expressed was that that sum would be very acceptable and would be quite sufficient. But honorable members opposite do not agree with this, and, as the right honorable the Prime Minister has said, it is intended to proceed ' with the measure which, in my opinion, makes far too liberal a provision in respect of the children. It means that £20 a week will be going into the home for the next ten years, and after, that, £10 a week. I intend to vote against that proposal because I think it is wrong for the Government to spend public money in that way. It is far more than is necessary to keep that home going in reasonably good circumstances. I feel sure that Dame Enid Lyons would have preferred an agreement between the parties prior to the introduction of this legislation, and a grant of £500 a year for herself and her children, rather than have her circumstances made the subject of such a long debate. I think that £500 a year is regarded as reasonable,-not only by members on this side of the House, but also by many honorable members opposite who have had the steam roller put over them and are obliged to accept the Government's proposal.







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