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Thursday, 20 November 1941

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- I support the bill, although it is of comparatively minor importance and is not likely to usher in the new social order that we wish to have established. For many years, Australia led the world in social reforms, and Victoria from 1854 to 1880 led Australia. To the end of the last century, that State made many desirable improvements in connexion with 'the constitutional, social and industrial life of the community. It was the first to pass legislation to establish the principle of manhood suffrage, and the secret ballot at parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, Australia has lagged behind the world in recent years. For so long had we convinced ourselves that we were the leaders that we failed to realize that other countries were outstripping us. and it is safe to say that we now occupy a relatively minor position.

Mr Harrison - Instead of being in the vanguard, we are in the guard's van.

Mr CALWELL - We are well hi the rearguard. We could, if we would, learn from our enemies, particularly Germany and Italy, many things which would enable us to make easier and better the lot of our people. The German and Italian people are fighting for their dictator masters to-day, partly because of the improvement of their social conditions under those dictatorships. They have lost liberties, but have gained material advantages, and apparently measure their responsibilities according to the improvements effected since the advent of the dictatorships. We do not want dictatorships.

Mr Duncan-Hughes - Has the honorable member ever been to Germany? Does he know what he is talking about?

Mr CALWELL - I know what I am talking about, on this and all other subjects upon which I address this House. For a number of years, I was attached to select committees of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria which investigated widows' pensions, child endowment, and related matters. It was a part of my duty on the Child Endowment Select Committee to draw up a questionnaire, for submission to the governments of European countries in which were in operation various- schemes which conferred social benefits. I submitted this questionnaire to the consuls of most' of the European countries which had offices in Melbourne, and after a period received from each a voluminous report on the social conditions in their countries. Last year, I read to this House portions of the reports upon such schemes, together with an extract from an article published in the Economic Record, which is not a Labour organ, but a university production, with which no less a dignitary than the great Professor Copland is associated, and he is far from being persona grata with me. In that article, a university professor stated, among other things, that the birth-rate in Germany had increased by 1,200,000 in the five years which succeeded the rise of Hitler to power, compared with the preceding five years.

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