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Tuesday, 19 May 1942

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- The position has been well put by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner). The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) interjected that, when this Parliament provided for child endowment, it did not expect the States to continue such payments, but I contend that it did. I well remember the debates, and the fear was expressed that the Sta>te of Victoria, for instance, might cease payment of the allowance that it had granted for children as soon as the Commonwealth child endowment scheme came into operation.

Mr Holt - That referred to children in State institutions.

Mr BLACKBURN - No; those children are excluded. The act excludes from the definition of " child ", a child maintained in an institution, but it does not exclude a child who is boarded out to his own parent or to a foster parent. It was said that as a result of the Commonwealth child endowment legislation the Government of Victoria would cease its child welfare payments. The Minister in charge of that measure stated at the time that that Government did not desire the State governments to act in that way.

Sir Frederick Stewart - There is a great difference between family endowment and payments under the child welfare system.

Mr BLACKBURN - The honorable member is not so much concerned about the amount to be paid to widows as he is about the whole field of social service being reserved to the Commonwealth. According to my reading of the debates in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, that State is not likely to continue the payment of widows' pensions under the State scheme once that field is occupied by the Commonwealth. That State could do much better for itself than directly compete with the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth could not prevent it. It could pay pensions under certain conditions. It could pay widows' pensions at an earlier age than that at which they are to be paid under the Commonwealth scheme. If the Commonwealth provided that the pension was to be paid to the childless widow at the age of 50 years, the State could provide that a pension should be paid to the childless widow at the age of 40 years. The State now makes its scheme supplementary to the Commonwealth scheme of invalid and old-age pensions. The New South Wales act provides that, as soon as a widow becomes qualified for an old-age or individual pension, she loses her right to the widows' pension. What is there to prevent the State from vacating the field now occupied by the Commonwealth and deciding that it will grant the pension to a widow on reaching the age of not 50 years, but 40 years? What was stated as the desideratum by the Opposition was that the States should be driven out of the field of social services altogether, and that, if that were not done, it would reconsider its attitude towards uniform taxation. I think that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that without qualification. Then, subsequently, in reply to honorable members on their own side, objection was taken by members of the Opposition to widows receiving an extra payment. I do not believe that the widows in New South "Wales will receive 37s. 6d. a week. I cannot conceive of a State overlapping Commonwealth legislation in that way. The States may make their scheme supplementary to that of the Commonwealth. From my study of the New South Wales act, it appears to me that a widow applies for and obtains a pensions certificate. While she holds that certificate, she draws a pension. If she has children under the school-leaving age, in addition to drawing 25s. a week for herself, she gets 10s. a week for each child under the school-leaving age.

Mr James - Under the age of fourteen years.

Mr BLACKBURN - No, the age may go up to fifteen years in some cases. A widow has not two separate rights under the act. She has not one right to draw a widow's pension and another separate right to draw an allowance for her children. She gets the allowance for her children because she holds a widow's pension certificate. If the bill were amended to provide that the Commonwealth pension shall not be paid to a woman who is in receipt of a widow's pension in New South Wales that would deprive the widow with one child, or with children under the school-leaving age, of the benefit of the payment of 10s. a week. T do not think that that is the intention of any honorable member. I suggest that we are over-anxious to drive the State out of this field altogether. The amendment submitted to the committee is merely provocative. If the scheme provided for in the bill is agreed to, the States will not have enough money to carry out double-banking schemes. If the New South Wales politicians are as astute as I believe them to be, and if they want to grant pensions to widows, I think that they will decide to grant them where the Commonwealth scheme makes no provision for them at all. The tenor of the debates in the New South Wales Parliament, on both sides of the House, seemed to be that New South Wales was getting in before the Commonwealth Government made its declaration, without any intention to compete with the Commonwealth.

Sir Frederick Stewart - This debate will make it hard for the New South Wales Parliament to get out now.

Mr BLACKBURN - I do not wish to make things difficult for New South Wales in that respect. I should like to see pensions paid, at an earlier age than is provided under this bill ; but, in my opinion, the States will not. have enough money to carry on their social services on the same scale as in the past. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson that the amendment should be rejected.

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