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Thursday, 7 May 1942

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) (Minister for Aircraft Production) . - My views upon the subject of invalid and old-age pensions are well known to honorable members. The title of this bill is wrong. It should read "Bigger, better, brighter and more beautiful pensions for everybody ". There must be some limit beyond which even this Government cannot go in the payment of pensions and when I refer to "this Government" I do not confine my remarks to honorable members opposite. There are quite a few honorable gentlemen, who, somewhat mistakenly, remain on this side of the chamber. No doubt their true judgments will bring them some day over here, where they belong. The argument that now, when this country is struggling for its existence, and when the Japanese are threatening a major invasion of our coasts, is the time to talk about a new order and to increase the burdens on the shoulders of the taxpayers, is an argument to which I cannot subscribe. It is only in a community like this, which is pervaded by a sense of complete and utter irresponsibility, that such a proposal could be made. There is no sense of reality about these matters in this Commonwealth. There are many problems facing the nation, and there are many obligations that this Government and this Parliament can honour. I know that the Government carries many obligations, and later it will carry many more. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has been pressed in such a way this afternoon that I am sure the Government will have to attach a label to him, so that he will know himself.

Mr Frost - He is at least constructive, not destructive, as the honorable member for Barker always is.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is getting red in the face. The old Rome Beauty certainly comes from Tasmania. When the honorable member for Wimmera and the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) sat on this side of the House, important contracts - if I may use that term in this place - were entered into between the Opposition, my friends, and the wheat-growers of Australia. As the expenditure of public money is involved in this bill, may I ask the honorable member for Wimmera to stand up and say what he intends to do about those contracts? It is time some one in authority stated what it is intended to do to honour the obligation freely and publicly entered into between the present Government, its supporters, and the wheat-growers, who were asked to do a certain thing at a certain price, but who have not received their money. Before we entered the war, I said that certain things would be changed if war broke out. I told the then members of the Opposition, who are now members of the Government, and who opposed the compilation of a national register, that if they were in power they would turn around and do what they would not to agree to do at that. time. I told them that if the country were faced with invasion, and if an invasion took place, they would not he able to maintain arbitration court awards and the then conditions of employment.

Mr FRosT - The honorable member said that this country would never be invaded.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I did not say that. I am one of those who believe in doing my bit overseas, and not at home. Some of my friends think that when we are engaged in war we should bomb and blast our own territory, but I believe in bombing the other fellow. The Labour party cannot expect to increase social benefits while terrific burdens are being placed on the people by the war. It is doing certain things, the effect of which will not appear for a little while, and it is my earnest wish that when those effects do appear, it will still be in power to deal with the difficult and delicate problems that it is now, with the assistance of one or two members on the Opposition side of the House, creating. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) likes to talk about the new social order, but that does not help when we have an overdraft of a few millions and have more millions to pay than the overdraft limit permits. We cannot divert man-power, materials, and other elements of production into destructive channels and, at the same time, give everybody better and more attractive benefits.

I am not one of those who say that the world order is perfect; nothing in this world is perfect, but I agree entirely with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that a definite relationship should be established between social benefits and social obligations. There is too much talk in this House about what people are entitled to receive from the Government, but too little about what people are expected to do, not for the Government, but for themselves. If there were a greater measure of thrift and self-help, there would be less necessity for a bill such as we have before us to-night. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has talked on this subject, and I am amazed that he has not, with his usual eloquence, suggested that where an old- age pension is granted a brand new bright house should be added. That suggestion could be further improved, and if the Government wishes me to do so I will make further suggestions in committee. In that event even the Government might say that the cup of benefits was full to the brim, or even overflowing. I know that the numbers are against me. I realize that certain people in the community, and a large majority of members of this House, have decided that the Government is an everlasting Father Christmas, who can come down the chimney every night, it necessary, so that everybody can live happily for 24 hours. A day of reckoning is coming, and I am afraid it may be with us before we are through with the war.

Mr Lawson - The honorable member receives his share from the Commonwealth Government.

Mr Falstein - How much salary does the honorable member receive from the Commonwealth ?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I am not receiving any military pay while I am here, but I have no doubt that if the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) were in uniform, he would be drawing two salaries. For his personal information, he can receive his cheque from the pay office if he likes. I do not want anything out of the war if I am not entitled to it.

Mr Falstein - We want to be quite clear as to whether the honorable member is receiving two salaries.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable member for Watson would be prone to think of something like that.

Mr Falstein - The honorable member is complaining because pensioners are to receive 25s. a week.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I happen to be one of the poor men in this Parliament, but I am one of the proud ones too. Whether it is the Minister for Transport (Mr. Lawson) or some one else, I can look him and the whole thundering lot of them in the face, inside or outside this House, and that is something that some members on the other side would not care to do to me at times. The Government is going too far with its benefits. It has declared that the hospitals will not receive payment from pensioner patients. In that event, who will maintain the hospitals, which cannot be built and maintained without money? If people go to a hospital, whether they be pensioners or not, they should be prepared to pay something towards the upkeep of the institution. It is all very well for the Government to say that the money can be obtained by a wonderful method of juggling with the currency, but there is an old saying that

The cards beat the player ". If the Government juggles with the money system, the money system will beat the Government before it has gone far.

There are aborigines in my electorate, and I do not agree that the Government should extend benefits to them. I know something about them, and, taking them as a class, they are not over-enthusiastic in doing a little toil. If social benefits are handed out, there is a strong suspicion that much of the money will not be used in a desirable way. Therefore, £ have to take my stand with the small majority of members of this house and say that the Government has gone too far. The time is coming when we should have inspections of the areas where the benefits are to be paid in order to find out what is being done with the money. For that purpose, we shall require persons with a clear insight, who do not accept statements on trust. I have no doubt that there are members in this House who, if they would state what they know, could cause the House to pause and think before it agrees to the proposal before it. This Parliament is proceeding in a happy, caref ree manner, but we await the day of reckoning. When that day comes, there will be a few members on the Opposition side who will have an account to render, for which I at least will accept payment in the only coin that is politically recognized in this place. My friends on both sides know what that is.

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