Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 8 May 1942

Mr PERKINS (Eden) ( . - I am always ready to criticize the Government for its errors of commission and omission, but on this occasion it- is with pleasure that I support the bill and congratulate the Government on its efforts to improve the social services of the country. The Social Security Committee went to considerable trouble to conduct inquiries on which to base recommendations to the Government on social security matters. It is with satisfaction that I note that the reports of that committee have not been pigeon-holed and that, without unreasonable delay, they are being given effect by the introduction of necessary legislation. The bill does not go so far as many social workers desire, but when we take it in conjunction with a former- Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, introduced by the Government, we find that it has disposed of many of the grave anomalies in the act which have caused dissatisfaction for years. I have listened attentively to the debate, and some Opposition members seem to be of the opinion that because of the war, social reforms such as are envisaged in the bill should not be undertaken. I do not subscribe to that view. Certainly we are involved in war, and both the Government and Opposition members realize that our main duty is to win the war. At the same time, we have to clear up certain urgent problems of social security. When the Social Security Committee visited different parts of the Commonwealth and took evidence it saw that much distress and hardship does exist among the poorer sections of the community. We are living in a rapidly changing world, and we must discard many of our conservative views, because the public will not put up with things that they have suffered in the past. I ask honorable members to compare the atmosphere in the House to-day with the atmosphere that prevailed some few years ago at the depth of the depression. I was one who firmly believed, because we were so told by the Treasurer of the day, that any attempt lit that time to find another £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 of revenue would result in the ruination of the country. We retained the disabilities during those years, and nobody suffered more than the old-age pensioners. Their pensions were cut clown to as low as 15s. a week, on which amount it is impossible for anybody to keep body and soul together. Those days have passed, and to-day the country is able to find approximately £1,000,000 a day for the prosecution of thu war. The Government now proposes to ask for an extra £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to assist old-age pensioners and others who worked and fought in years gone by to build up the nation. I shall support the bill as a first step in social reform, and I think that in the next two or three months, Parliament will be asked to do much more than increase old-age pensions. The Social Security Committee is preparing certain advice for the Government in connexion with housing. If that housing scheme be carried into effect, it will cost many millions of pounds; but it is absolutely necessary, if we are to have a country worth holding in the future. I shall be behind the Government in any scheme it introduces for that purpose. Unemployment insurance is also receiving attention. I do not agree with the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) that all social security benefits should be placed on a direct contributory basis. I say they are on a contributory basis to-day. The honorable member suggested that munition workers and others in Sydney, who are now receiving high wages and are wasting their money, should contribute something towards providing a pension for their old age. Every time a person spends a shilling he is paying sales tax, and that is a part of his contribution towards his pension. The more a man spends the more he is contributing. Whether he is asked to contribute ls. 6d. a week as a direct social security tax, or to pay ls. 6d. in sales tax is immaterial. If a special tax were imposed it would probably be necessary to build up another big government department, with the usual staff of public servants and, instead of the full ls. 6d. a week to be paid by the worker, the employer and the Government being available for social security purposes, much of the revenue received would bc absorbed in administrative costs.

The fact that the. Government does not pigeon-hole reports submitted to it by various committees demonstrates that the time of the members of those committees has not been wasted. I hope that the Government will continue to follow the course it has adopted, that the unemployment problem will be dealt with in due course, and that other pensions will be liberalized in a way similar to what is being done now. It will be the duty of the Social Security Committee to investigate fully any other anomalies in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act that have been referred to, with a view to submitting a report to the Government as soon as possible. Although the present Government has been in office for only six months, on two occasions already it has introduced legislation to give effect to the Social Security Committee's recommendations.

Suggest corrections