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Thursday, 7 May 1942

Mr RYAN (Flinders) .- This bill will meet with general approval throughout Australia. I do not propose to discuss -the measure in detail, but content myself with suggesting that the amount which oldage pensioners are allowed to earn without disqualifying themselves for a pension should be increased beyond 12s. 6d. a week. I say that in spite of the fact that such a provision would increase the number of pensioners. As against that, it would have the advantage of releasing for war work a large number of men who, though not representing firstclass labour, would be able to make a valuable contribution to production. I should like to see the amount increased to at least £1 a week.

I desire to address my remarks particularly to the part which this bill will play in the general scheme of our social services. Naturally enough, the winning of the war comes first at present, but after that our programme is very vague. It has been said that we should put our own house in order before setting out to establish a better world order. Victory is essential, but victory alone is not enough ; we must decide what we want, economically and socially, and then set out to achieve it. The Atlantic Charter prescribes the four freedoms; freedom of speech, freedom of religious observance, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Those are the four sides to the square, but the square has to be filled in in greater detail. We should start now on the work of filling it in, and we should encourage other democratic countries to do the same. Hitler's new order has been long proclaimed, and Germany is making war, not only with the sword, but also with ideas which are, in many instances, stronger than the sword. Hitler's new order cannot be bought for 6d. at the bookstalls, but its principles are more clearly understandable than are those of the new order which the democracies talk about. His new order is founded on a very low estimate of human nature; it has its roots in the Nazi conception of the State, namely, that the State is the only thing that matters, that the individual lives only for the State, and that the spiritual outlook and morality of the individual can be moulded by compulsion. That order is being broadcast to-day, not only in Germany, but also throughout the world, as one of the highest ideals of humanity. The state of affairs which that particular order has brought into being in Germany has actually produced much of positive value in that country. The worker has been given security of employment, reasonable stability of prices, housing, and amenities during leisure; and he has been promised a people's car. The industrialists in Germany have been given new industries and security of markets. Under this order, Germany as a whole has recovered self-respect, and a considerable measure of prestige in the eyes of the world by force of arms. On the economic side, Germany's plan means the domination of Europe, the breaking down of all trade barriers, and control of finance, industry and markets. Supply will be provided by the countries subject to German domination, and Germany will be the consumer. This new order has attained wide acceptance in not only Germany but also in other countries, for instance, South America. If we are to fight Germany we should fight it not only with arms but also with ideas. We must work out these ideas ourselves. What has happened in Germany is this : While, no doubt, hundreds of thousands of Germans hate the new order, at the same time, hundreds of thousands - and this is undeniable - are imbued with fanaticism in the carrying out of Germany's new order, not only inside, but also outside, Germany. The latter see in that new order a messianic mission; and it is this fanaticism which represents the main difficulty we are up against to-day. We must, therefore, evolve ideas which will capture the mind of the world to a greater degree. It cannot be denied that Germany is achieving a large measure of success by force of arms. It is our duty to do something to counteract, not only Germany's arms, but also its ideas. Whatever we may say about Germany's new order, and the fanaticism which that order produces, it is nevertheless true that, to-day, there is to be found among the people of Germany an inspiration which far transcends anything that is to be found among the democratic peoples. The Germans have ideas for which they are fighting. Our ideas, apparently, are still negative. I repeat, therefore, that we must set about working out ideas of our own new order to counter-act Germany's ideas and in order that w» may carry our mission throughout the world, as we have done in the past. In ibis country, to-day, many people do not realize the imminence of the danger that confronts us. It has been truly said that the strongest urge within man is the urge for existence. However, thousands of people, either because of their remoteness from the scene of conflict, or because of their inability to understand the implications of present events, are unable to comprehend the danger in which our country stands. Many of these people are obsessed by the difficulties which they have experienced in the past, and are imbued with the new theories which have swept through the world during the last twenty years. They are discontented with the present social order. They are fearful that when this war comes to an end they will still be faced with the same old order. Moreover, they are unconvinced by the pious platitudes which fall from the lips of politicians, and are published in the press. What these people require is some indication that something definite will' be done to alter the present social order, and that their leaders are planning a better future for them and their children. I do not think that we can expect to go forward with brave and hopeful hearts to the conflict if we think that we are going to come out of it as destitute as we went into it.

It has been said that the present is not the time to plan; that, in the turmoil of war, it is impossible to lay down foundations for any future order, because such foundations would be unstable. The bricks are lying about us to-day; but these people argue that the site for the proposed construction has not yet been surveyed, and, in many respects, no site at all has been decided upon. Therefore, it is impossible now to plan for the future. I cannot agree with that contention. I believe that now is the time to plan for the future. Unless we start to do so immediately, we shall not be able to give the inspiration essential to the development of a strong and healthy society in the future. The sooner we start to plan comprehensively for the future, the greater the scope of our planning, the greater will be the likelihood of its acceptance by the people as a whole, and the greater the measure of inspiration we can hope to impart. History shows that ideas are stronger than the sword. Whilst in the last war, we triumphed by force of arms, it is certainly true that that triumph was accelerated to a very great degree by the ideas put forward by the democratic countries, in particular, Wilson's fourteen points. They had an enormous effect upon German opinion. It is something of that kind that we should put forward to the world to-day. So far we have not done so.

The second point I wish to make is in respect of social legislation in this country. So far, this legislation has been dealt with in piecemeal fashion. The first step was to institute the old-age pension in 1908. That has been followed by a number of other measures; but these have been entirely unconnected, and, so far as I am aware, they have emerged as the result of bargaining by political parties endeavouring to outbid each other. The result has been that our social services are not connected, and are not based on a scientific plan.Whilst twenty years ago, Australia was able to make the proud claim that it led the world in social legislation, to-day we have fallen far behind many countries in that respect. I mention, for instance, Great Britain, the United States of America, the Scandinavian countries and New Zealand. The time has come when we should make up that leeway, and set to work to devise a coherent and comprehensive plan to coordinate our social services in an efficient and practical whole. The sooner we start upon that work the better. During the last two decades the greatest cause of social insecurity has been the fact that so many individuals have been filled with a sense of frustration and anxiety. This has produced political and social instability and unrest. These causes have been mainly responsible for the rise of Nazi-ism in Germany, and Communism in Russia. We must realize that, it is the business of a democratic country to ensure that not one of its citizens shall fall below a certain standard of health and economic security because of forces over which he or she has no control. That can, and must, be done. Many people strongly object to the institution of any large scale social service system. They urge that such paternalism on the part of a government will breed a race of irresponsible citizens ; that the principle of giving too much for too little will destroy initiative, and reduce the resourcefulness of the individual. I suggest that two principles should be applied to every individual in respect of social services. First, every citizen has with certain rights, certain obligations. To-day; we hear too much talk about the rights and far too little about the obligations. However, I believe that it is possible to establish a broader system of social services which will not produce the evils which certain people fear. This system can be established on two principles. The first is that every individual who comes under such a scheme must bear a financial responsibility in respect of the benefits he receives. He must make contributions towards the scheme. The second principle is to broaden our educational methods in order to teach the individual not only how to earn his living by the acquisition of technical and material knowledge, but also how to become an effective unit in the social system to which he belongs. If those two principles are preserved, the evil which many people fear will not eventuate. In Great Britain and in other countries it has been found, after social services have operated for many years, that this evil has not occurred. Great Britain has a large range of social services, and the savings of the general public are now far greater than they were before the introduction of social services.

I recommend the Government to formulate, without delay, a comprehensive scheme of social services. As I stated earlier, our objective, which is total victory, when it is reached, will be barren unless we find some way in which to achieve a total peace. The democratic countries seek no territorial gains; they do not propose to enslave other nations. But many thousands of people are longing for some form of security in the future and look to their leaders to show them the path that they should follow. Our road is well defined. The only way in which we can obtain a full realization of our aims is through the gates of victory. If we formulate our plans now, we shall produce that inspiration for the people which, at present, seems to be lacking.

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