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Friday, 8 May 1942

Mr MORGAN - Would the honorable member also give a pension to a man who had £4,000 invested?


Mr Calwell - The honorable member believes in being conservative in all things.

Sir GEORGE BELL - If the honorable member for Melbourne knew what " conservative " meant, I should perhaps discuss the subject with him, but I do not think that he has the foggiest notion of the meaning of the word. Therefore, it would be idle for me to debate it with him now. The only satisfactory solution for this problem would be a contributory form of insurance against old age. J remember well the occasion when a bill to establish a national insurance scheme was actually passed through this House, because the debate which took place on that occasion was the longest that has ever occurred in this Parliament, and I, as the Speaker of the day, had perforce to listen to it. The bill was not perfect. But could anybody expect a measure of that nature to be perfect from the outset? I considered that there were many weaknesses in it, but had I been on the floor of the House at that time, I should have supported it in the belief that we could have put right any mistakes in it as we learned about them from experience. The Labour party, which was then in opposition, opposed the measure on the ground that there should be no contributions for pension benefits. According to the ideas of its members, which, incidentally, change rather frequently, all pensions should be free. Their attitude encourages the frenzied spending of money that is going on in Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities to-day. People in those places are spending as they have never spent before. They know that if they save money they will not be entitled to old-age pensions and that incomes from their savings would, in most cases, be much less than the pension rate. My views on this subject have never changed. I maintain that pensions should be on a contributory basis. Every body should contribute to a fund, and upon attaining a certain age every citizen should participate in benefits from that fund, whether he needs the extra money or not. The people will never be satisfied with any other sort of pensions scheme. Every worker should be able to contribute an amount of say ls. 6d. a week to an insurance fund. This would encourage the people to be thrifty instead of spending all their earnings, as many are doing to-day in the knowledge that it will be better for them to do this and be eligible for old-age pensions later, than to try to scrape together a few pounds to provide for their declining years. Most workers know that they have no chance of saving C4.,000 in order to provide a competence in their declining years, and, therefore, they spend their earnings now and rely upon the old-age pension for the future. They know that they will not be entitled to the old-age pension if they save £500, which would produce only £10 a year in interest. That is the effect of the Labour party's attitude towards this problem. The party is most inconsistent. I say deliberately that it is not the friend of the poor and the thrifty, from whom it is taking money which it passes on to another more comfortably situated section of the people. The thoughtful members of this community are to-day spending their money so that, when they are old, they will be able to draw the old-age pension. I urge the House to consider what will happen to the nation if we continue to encourage this sort of thing.

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