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Tuesday, 19 May 1942

Mr CONELAN (Griffith) .- I am strongly opposed to the amendment, which is decidedly unfair. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) lias spoken of blasting the States out of this, that and the other field.

Mr Abbott - Only out of this field.

Mr CONELAN - The States have certain rights, of which they cannot be deprived by honorable members of this Parliament without offering insult to the people in those States. This matter is not concerned with unification. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides for certain considerations. This bill has been brought in to provide for certain other considerations in respect of widows and orphan children. An invalid or old-age pensioner may have an income of 12s. 6d. a week without his pension being varied. I cannot see why a similar principle should not apply in this case. What does it matter to this Parliament whence the income is derived? It is no concern of the Commonwealth if the source be a State widows' scheme.

Mr Abbott - Does the honorable member suggest that there should be State old-age pension schemes?

Mr CONELAN - That is an absurd remark. If any State government were to continue a widows' pension scheme, it would materially assist Commonwealth finances, because any amount received in excess of 12s. 6d. a week would be deducted from the pension payable under this scheme. The coal-miners of Queensland have a pension scheme, to which they make contributions and from which payments are made to the widows of former contributors. Is the Commonwealth to divest those persons of their rights? The Commonwealth Constitution does not permit the Government to filch the rights of the States without the consent of the people. Those who talk about unification should study literature on the subject in order to learn what it means. If the committee carried the amendment it would be acting unfairly to both the States and the Commonwealth.

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