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Thursday, 4 April 1946

Sir EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Government has £3,000,000 a year to spare, for God's sake let it devote the money to something that will be worth while! What is the good of saying to the people, " Here is a free bed ", when there is no bed? When my wife was ill with pneumonia in Melbourne last year, she -could not get a bed in a hospital. Despite all the influence that I was able to bring to bear on the medical and nursing profession, the best that I could manage was a nurse for half a day. What chance has any one who has not the advantages that I possess in that connexion? The problem should be attacked right from the base. When the late Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister and I was Minister for Health, I brought into being the National Health and Medical Research Council, consisting of representatives of the .Commonwealth and States, as well as the medical profession, which has made valuable reports and recommendations oh nutrition.

The right method to adopt is that outlined by the Chief Justice of the High

Court, Sir John Latham, in his decision on the Pharmaceutical Benefits case last December. The people should be asked to vote on a proposed alteration of the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of the maternity allowance, family allowances, child endowment, and widows' pensions. The other matters should be dealt with by co-operation with the States or, if that is npt accepted, by a special referendum on public health.

The third question which the Government proposes to submit to the people relates to employment and unemployment. On that subject, I associate myself with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I have always said that this matter is one not for this Parliament but for a competent body to which the. Parliament had delegated the necessary power. What sort of a result would we achieve if we had this Parliament to act as a jury to make ad hoc decisions on all sorts of intricate subjects, for which we are not properly equipped by our training, knowledge, or the time that we can devote to them? Investigations concerning wages, hours of labour, and industrial conditions generally, ought to be made by a properly constituted tribunal. I believe it to be a good thing to give a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. The system under which wage fixation has been dealt with has been hopelessly wrong. The aim should be not to estimate the number of hours that suits the trade union secretary or the agitator, but to determine what conditions will ensure that all men and women will be maintained in the best of health, so that they will take a pleasure in their work and will feel that they are being paid not merely for the tasks that they perform but also for the help that they give to all their fellow men.

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