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Tuesday, 19 May 1942

Mr SPENDER (Warringah) .- I support the amendment. It is not to the point to state, as the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has done, that other income of a widow will be taken into. consideration under the means test, in determining the amount to be paid under this legislation. The vital principle is whether this committee, in considering for the first time social legislation of this character, which is designed to have uniform application throughout Australia, should, by refusing to adopt the amendment, encourage supplementary provisions on similar lines in the States. If there be agreement upon the principle that widows' pensions shall be payable throughout the Commonwealth, there must also be agreement upon the hypothesis that the amounts payable are such as should properly be made out of public funds. The cold fact is, that this matter cannot be divorced from the uniform income tax proposals introduced by the Government. These moneys will come from the one source and, at least during the period of the war, from the one governmental source; because the Commonwealth, if its legislation be passed by this Parliament, will be the sole taxing authority. If the amount be a proper one, there can be no justification for any State being able to pay in respect of the same obligation an additional sum, which will vary and have a different incidence in the respective States. If it be not proper, either the committee or the Government should increase it. The matter is governed by simple propositions. The first is, whether this legislation is intended to operate throughout the Commonwealth on the basis of payment to a widow in respect of her needs, in accordance with the maximum sum which this committee considers should be payable out of public funds. If that be answered in the affirmative - apparently it must be - it is idle to contend that any State should then contribute an additional sum in respect of the same obligation. I understand that it is the Government's desire to seek to have this field of social legislation taken over by the Commonwealth. True, it cannot be taken over immediately ; but, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Hollo way) has said, the Commonwealth desired to enter this field and ultimately to take control of it. That is an objective which I particularly welcome; but 1 cannot see how it may be attained if, concurrently, encouragement be given to supplementary legislation by different States, particularly as one State or another would, in effect, contribute to what would be payable in New South Wales. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) has said that he is opposed to supplementary State provisions involving two parallel forms of legislation dealing with the one subject. Although I agree with that, his approach to the matter is different from mine. Refusal to adopt the amendment would encourage such supplementary provisions, and place on them the imprimatur of the committee.

Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The honorable member knows that the Commonwealth cannot dictate to the States.

Mr SPENDER - With great respect, the Commonwealth would not be dictating to the States. For the first time, the Commonwealth is entering this field of social legislation.

Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member entered it for the first time with child endowment.

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