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Wednesday, 1 May 1957

Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) .- I rise to support the plea made by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. McIvor), and I regret very much that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is not in his place in the chamber this evening.

Mr Cramer - He is here!

Mr LUCHETTI - I am pleased to know that the Minister is now in the chamber, because it is important that he should hear the plea which has been made, and which I desire to support, on behalf of the aged and the infirm. I regret that to-day, when I asked the Minister a question suggesting that he might indicate some measure of hope for pensioners and give some thought to increasing pensions, I received nothing from him but a veiled insult. He passed the question over by suggesting that the honorable member for Macquarie and other parliamentarians ought, in their Christian charity, to do something for the pensioners. I rarely speak in the debate on the motion for the adjournment, but I wish to say to-night that I throw that statement back in the teeth of the Minister for Social Services.I ask him to employ his charity in his own electorate in doing something for the pensioners there. I say to him that if it were not for the Christian charity of the people of Australia the plight of the pensioners would be considerably worse than it is now.

In recent times we have discussed many matters here. Among them have been the subjects of trade and the surplus of food produced in this country. While food is available here in great quantity, and we are puzzling ourselves as to how we are going to dispose of it in other markets, then, I suggest that the Minister for Social Services and the Government have a responsibility to see that adequate money is made available to pensioners so that they may be able to procure some of the surplus food produced by Australia. A few pence added to the weekly incomes of pensioners would make a substantial contribution to a solution of the problems of pensioners. This important matter is one that ought to receive the attention of this House. It is not a sectional question. The plight of the aged and infirm affects every member of this Parliament and every person in this country. How often do we hear of honorable members on the Government side, and also on this side, attending various functions and saluting the pioneers of this country, saying how much we owe to them in building up this nation? Honorable members laud the pioneers for their magnificent performance in making this country what it is.

Mr Anderson Mr. Andersoninterjecting,

Mr LUCHETTI - Of course, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) pays tribute to nobody but the financial institutions responsible for sending him here. I should certainly be surprised if he ever stood in his place in this chamber to say a word for the needy and the oppressed. It will be a red-letter day when he says a kind word for those who need a kind word to be said for them. I remind the Government that only recently the federal basic wage has been increased by 10s. a week in conformity with the increased cost of living. If there is need to increase the federal basic wage by 10s. a week because of continuing inflation, surely there is a responsibility on the Government and on the Minister for Social Services, if there is any Christian charity in his make-up, to deal with pensions on the same basis.

From time to time the C series index has proved conclusively how inflation is growing, and we all know that that index does not measure the increases of prices of all of the items required by the people, in particular the aged and the infirm who, as I mentioned to the Minister to-day, need protective foods and warm clothing now that winter is upon us. Action should be taken now. It should not be deferred. It is up to the Minister to take some action. Perhaps, he has changed since the days when he wrote that booklet entitled " Why Blame the Farmer? ", and cited a certain character in the Riverina as requiring illiterates and certain other unfortunate types of people there to carry on the industry of the Riverina. He has not travelled very far since then, despite the fact that he has transferred himself into the realm of lush and pleasant carpets and the surroundings that he decried so much in those days. I ask him to think of the people now as he thought of them when he wrote that booklet, and when he was prepared to make a plea for some one who had to sleep under a vehicle down in Old Junee. There are many people living in that area nowadays in the way that people lived at the time that the Minister wrote that booklet. So I make this plea to the Minister and the Government to throw off the sham and the humbug and to stop talking about charity from honorable members who give very generously to all appeals in their electorates, and to face up to the responsibilities of government and see that funds are made available to those who urgently need them at present.

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