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Tuesday, 19 May 1942
Page: 1369

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Social Services and Minister for Health) . - I cannot but wonder what has happened during the last 24 hours to cause honorable members who until yesterday were fa.vora.ble to this measure to try to defeat it to-day. For the last twenty years, the States have tried to lay the basis for a scheme of widows' pensions on a Commonwealth basis because they were agreed that it was a matter for the National Parliament. They hoped that, by refraining from introducing such legislation themselves, some Commonwealth government would be induced to do so. The BrucePage Government went so far as to appoint a commission which travelled all over Australia and examined witnesses in every State, involving the country in great expense. Some present members of this Parliament gave evidence before that body, but no scheme of widows' pensions emerged. At last, New South Wales refused to wait any longer; it decided to introduce legislation providing for pensions to widows in that State, although legislators in the State parliament believed that it was a matter for the Commonwealth. Later, for similar reasons, New South Wales introduced its own scheme of child endowment. When a scheme providing for child endowment was introduced into this Parliament it was suggested that a coercive clause, under which the Commonwealth would be authorized to dictate to the States, should be inserted. With the enactment of Commonwealth legislation providing for child endowment, New South Wales gave up its own scheme. That the same result can confidently be expected in connexion with this legislation honorable members opposite are well aware. Why have some of the most astute politicians on the other side of the chamber seized upon this particular piece of legislation to cause dissension between the Commonwealth and the States? If ever there was a time when political unity and harmony was desirable in the Commonwealth, it is to-day.

Mr Archie Cameron - The Government's proposals for uniform taxation are not producing harmony.

Mr Paterson - The States would be delighted to see the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley incorporated in this legislation.

Mr HOLLOWAY - The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who is one of the most evenly-balanced men in this Parliament, must know that, the carrying of the amendment would amount to an insult to the Parliament of New South Wales. It would be a reckless thing to do, particularly at this time, and the Government will not allow it to be done. I am confident that with the passage of this legislation New .South Wales will discontinue its scheme of widows5 pensions just as it relinquished its child endowment scheme with the passing of Commonwealth legislation providing for child endowment.

Mr Spender - What is the reason for the activity shown in New South Wales in connexion with this matter?

Mr HOLLOWAY - Probably the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who was formerly the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, has a good idea of the reason. I urge the committee to reject the amendment, because it is both illogical and inopportune. It cannot do any good, and it may do a lot of harm. No State government would be bound by it, but some people who would benefit from this scheme would be placed in a false position. The carrying of the amendment would certainly lead to discord in the community, and therefore the Government cannot consider accepting the amendment, which is wrong from every point of view.

The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that the proposal of the Government would enable an alien who had been resident in Australia for five years, but had not become naturalized, to receive a pension. The honorable member for Barker, in whose electorate there are many aliens, should know that aliens are not entitled to a widow's pension. I ask the honorable member for Lilley to withdraw his amendment, because it cannot achieve the purpose which he has in mind. The Commonwealth Government will continue with its policy of providing economic and social security by means of legislation, and whilst it hopes that the States will continue to co-operate with it to that end, it will not attempt to coerce them.

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