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Thursday, 3 October 1912


Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - The amendment of Senator Millen strikes me as amusing, not to use a stronger term. He based his grounds of objection to this Bill upon the fact that it only gives relief in cases of maternity, instead of giving relief in other cases, such as sickness and unemployment. Yet the walls of this chamber are still ringing with the cries of the honorable senator and his friends sitting behind him against Federal extravagance. The echoes of the cries of all the members of the Opposition who have so far spoken on the Budget are still resounding through the walls of Parliament House. They have complained that the Government have not told the country how they are going to find the money to meet its enormous commitments, that it is launched upon a sea of extravagance.


Senator Chataway - So it is.


Senator O'KEEFE - On every platform during the last few months, honorable senators on the other side have been talking about Ministerial extravagance. Yet we have moved to the motion for the second reading of this Bill - which, mark you, only involves an expenditure of about £600,000 a year, according to a fair estimate, and not more than £850,000 a year if every woman who bears a child applied for the allowance, accord- ing to the latest statistics - an amendment which would commit the Commonwealth to an enormous expenditure at once.


Senator Vardon - No ; it is contributory.


Senator O'KEEFE - I admit that the amendment moved here, like a similar amendment moved in another place, provides for contributions from the recipients. But whether it is a contributory insurance schemeor not, my honorable friends on the other side will not deny that, if the amendment were carried and put into effect as soon as this Bill could be brought into operation, it would mean an enormous increase upon the expenditure outlined therein.


Senator Vardon - It would save millions in other directions.


Senator O'KEEFE - That is a very late cry to come from members of the Liberal party. It shows the most utter inconsistency on their part to come forward at this eleventh hour with a proposal that the Federal Parliament should provide at once, not only for this small measure of relief to women in their hour of trial, but also for relief in all cases of sickness and unemployment. What would have been said by our opponents in politics, not only in this Parliament, but in every corner of Australia, if the Government had proposed such a thing this session? We know perfectly well that the Government are committed to an enormous expenditure on its many great national projects which the electors gave it a mandate to carry out. We know very well that there would not have been the slightest assistance received from the Opposition in the Federal Parliament if the Government had seen its way clear financially to bring down a scheme, not only for a maternity bonus, but for insurance against general unemployment and sickness. Not only would we have received no assistance from our honorable friends on the other side, but we would have been met with the most bitter opposition, on the ground of financial inexpediency. The cry is that the time is not ripe.


Senator Chataway - We say that your idea is more than ripe; it is rotten.


Senator O'KEEFE - When this pro posal was first mooted at the beginning of this session, the cry from the other side was that the time was not ripe.


Senator Chataway - Who said so?


Senator O'KEEFE - My honorable friend says a good deal, but he does not say everything. He must allow Senator

St. Ledger and a few others to say a few things, and they have done so on the platform.


Senator Chataway - Who said that the time is not ripe?


Senator O'KEEFE - It has been said by many supporters of the Liberal party that the time for this legislation is not ripe. That statement was made by our opponents at the beginning, until they thought that this proposal was going to become popular in the eyes of the public, and now, even at the eleventh hour, I am glad to say that very many of them have become converted. Two of them have stated that they do not intend to support the Bill ; others have not yet spoken. We know that members of the other House, after bitterly decrying the proposal before Parliament met, from a. thousand platforms in Australia, carried their opposition to such an extent as not to call for a division and vote against it.


Senator Chataway - What about Mr. Fisher ?


Senator St Ledger - What about the Hobart Conference?


Senator O'KEEFE - I am asked, what about the Hobart Conference?







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