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Thursday, 20 November 1941

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The word "cowardly" is distinctly unparliamentary. The honorable member is making a bad start. This debate has already broadened considerably and, unless honorable gentlemen curb their utterances, it may be necessary to put some limit on the scope of the discussion.

Mr MARTENS - I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker.I shall try not to go so far away from the bill as did the honorable member for Barker. That honorable gentleman spared no words in condemning certain people who are not here to defend themselves. He made accusations, right and left, of extravagance, bad. habits, and general delinquency. Let me tell him that there are still left in Queensland some descendants of the kanakas and ticket-of-leave men who were forcibly brought to Australia by the " blackbirders " years ago, and compelled to work for £6 a year. The honorable gentleman's friends, the sugar barons associated with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and also others of the same character, treated the unfortunate kanakas in a most unchristian way, and I make a plea to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to do all that he can to improve the lot of these unfortunate people. Many of the kanakas who were' forcibly brought to Queensland were worked to the point of exhaustion on a pay of only £6 a year, and when they died, utterly " burned out ", they were then buried coffinless in trenches, in order that their remains might quickly decompose and manure the ground. That is a truth that cannot truthfully be denied. I know of plantation-owners in Queensland, . who, with deep-cutting ploughs, have turned up the bones of Kanakas buried in the district years ago. The descendants of these people are fully entitled to the pension.

I make a plea also on behalf of another class of people whose circumstances I placed before the former member for Corio (Mr. Casey) when he was Treasurer, in the Lyons Government. That honorable gentleman, and also succeeding Commonwealth Treasurers, made promises that the law would be amended to cover persons in the circumstances which I described to them, but it has been left to a Labour Treasurer to do the job. I have in mind a lady who has lived at Ingham for 40 years. Two of her sons went to the last war, and one is serving in this war. This lady married an Englishman in Fiji. She has never been able to obtain a pension. I congratulate this Government on having removed the provision of the law which hitherto has been fatal to her claims.

The Labour party, in seeking to liberalize our pensions legislation, is not pandering to any section of the community. It does not do that kind of thing. Its object is to try to improve the lot of what it regards as a most deserving section of the people. It is high time to give favorable consideration to the claims of many miners who, in the course of their employment, contracted miners' phthisis. These people unquestionably deserve the pension.So, also, do many women who have reared large families in this country, but who, notwithstanding all their thrift and care, have been unable to makeprovision for their old age. The honorable member for Barkermade remarks that ill became a professed Christian and a good man. He attacked people who were not able to defend themselves. His sneers, jeers, and contumely were a complete condemnation of himself, and I do not hesitate to say so in the bluntest terms.

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