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Wednesday, 17 May 1939

Mr RANKIN (Bendigo) .- I wish to state my attitude on this issue. I think that all honorable members should do so. I shall be brief. The Government is proposing to treat Dame Enid Lyons and her family generously, and I think it should treat them generously. For many years the people of Australia were well and faithfuly served by the late Prime Minister, and they will expect this Parliament to treat his widow and children generously. Not long ago this Parliament voted an extra allowance of £1500 a year for the

Prime Minister. AH future occupants of the high office of Prime Minister will receive this increased allowance. Had the late Prime Minister received it for the whole period of his prime ministership, the total would be almost as great as the amount involved in this measure. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that it would be quite wrong to expect gentlemen who occupy the high and honorable position of Prime Minister of Australia to be satisfied with the thought that in the event of their death their families would be dependent upon a legacy or gift from some wealthy citizen of this country. To give any kind of assent to that proposition would, in my opinion, encourage dishonesty of a kind not uncommon in many countries but notable for its absence in Australia. Only on odd occasions has there been any suggestion of that kind of thing here. We should not follow any course in this comnexion which would tend to encourage anything but the strictest honesty of purpose. The fact that the late Prime Minister died a poor man provides proof of his honesty throughout his long political career. No one can think for a moment that had he wished to enrich himself he could not have done so. He must have had many opportunities to ensure that in the event of his death his widow and family would be left well provided for in every way. It should be borne in mind that hitherto the emoluments of the Prime Minister have not been large. In fact, compared with payments for similar services in some other countries they have been extremely small. The Prime Minister of Great Britain receives a salary of £10,000 a year and is assured of a pension of £2,000 a year upon retirement. Until recently the Prime Minister of Australia received only about £2,000 a year with no pension on retirement. /Some public servants, both Commonwealth and State, receive £4,000 a year. I have in mind a commissioner of the police who will retire on a pension of £1,000 a year. I admit that he will make some contribution towards it. One railways commissioner in Australia will receive a pension of £1,500 a year on retirement. In all the circumstances I do not think that the Parliament will act too generously if in this case it adopts the proposal of the Government. However, we should see to it that provision is made now to ensure that no future Prime Minister's widow and family will find themselves in the position in which Dame Enid Lyons and her family find themselves to-day. Although the proposal made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) appeared to be somewhat misunderstood by some honorable members, there is a great deal to commend it. He suggested that arrangements should be made through an insurance company for honorable members to make certain payments out of their allowances inorder to ensure that in the case of their defeat after a certain term of parliamentary service, or of their death, their dependants would not be left in need. We should, ourselves, make provision for our dependants ; we should not expect the taxpayers to step in in every case. The salary of the late Prime Minister was niggardly during the greater part of his term of office, having in view the great responsibilities of the office, and we should, in consequence, deal in a fitting way with the circumstances that we now have to meet. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) that widows are badly treated. Yet, not so long ago, when a proposal to provide a pension for widows was put forward, honorable members on this side appealed unsuccessfully for support to members of the Labour party, who now talk with tears in their eyes about the plight of widows.

Mr.Rosevear. - A pension of 12s. 6d. a week!

Mr RANKIN - I admit that it was not much; but it was something.

Mr.Gander. - Lang would have given them £1 a week.

Mr RANKIN - Lang feathered his own nest. I have never declined to support any move to provide pensions for widows. I supported the national health and pensions scheme. I still support it. I sincerely hope that this measure will be approved by such a majority that Dame Enid- Lyons will not feel that the benefit she and her family are to receive is poisoned by the unjust attacks on it.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be added (Mr Curtin's amendment) be so added.

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