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Thursday, 7 May 1942

Mr MARTENS (Herbert) .- I congratulate the Government- and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) upon introducing this legislation to improve the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. Some years ago in this chamber, I advocated an increase of invalid and old-age pensions,, and the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey) assured me that the necessary legislation would be introduced. It has been left to a Labour Government, in war-time, to give effect to my wishes.

In my opinion the position of the aborigines in Australia would not be so bad as it is if all governments had done as much for them as has the Government of Queensland. Comparatively few aborigines a-rc walking about in that

State. Most 'of them live on mission stations-. The honorable member foi Swan (Mr. Marwick) declared that the Government, instead of paying to aborigines a pension of £1 5s. a week, should use the money to provide- permanent shelter for- them. Prom my extensive knowledge of the habits of aborigines, I contend that the quickest way to kill them is to place them in a home. Even on the mission stations, some of them at times become unmanageable and insist upon " going walkabout ". However, many of them on mission stations, such as Lockhart, Mapoon, Arakun and Weipa missions, work among the stock and their efforts return to the establishment a considerable sum of money from the sale of cattle. The aborigines are treated well, and lead a better life than they would if left to their own devices. I see no objection to granting assistance in those cases, and I doubt whether the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan would be of advantage to tlie aborigines,, because I am under no illusion as to who would ultimately get the money. They would not belong to the Labour party 1

Kanakas, who were " black-birded " to Australia many years ago by undesirable elements who claimed that they were developing the country,, will be entitled, under this legislation, to receive the pension. These old men, few of whom are under 70 years, of age, would not number more than 100, and they airis Queensland, assistance has been extended to them by farmers who have made available small plots of land on which they build mlami as and grow vegetables. A pension of £1 5s. a week will be an enormous boon to them, and I congratulate the Minister upon his humane action in extending to this small group the benefits of the: act.

Like many honorable members, I should like invalid and old-age pensions to be further increased but I consider that in view of the circumstances, the Government has done a wonderful job. The honorable member for Boothby (Dr.

Price) stated that in 1938, certain benefits were granted and more were promised. The conditions that existed in that year were vastly different from those prevailing to-day, when the Government has to provide for enormous war expenditure. But it has not forgotten the claims of the pensioners. The Lyons Government bad an opportunity in 1938 to introduce these benefits, and I keenly appreciate the fact that the then Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) would have been much more liberal had certain influences not been brought to bear upon him to restrain him from acting upon his personal inclinations. On that occasion I invited him to record his vote against the coterie which then governed the country. In conclusion, I appreciate the introduction of this legislation, which will be a boon to invalid and old-age pensioners.

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