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Friday, 18 September 1936

Senator BROWN (Queensland) .- -It is not often that I find myself in agreement with Senator Duncan-Hughes, but in this instance I can support some of the complaints he has made. On one occasion, you, sir, referred to the British Navy as the silent watchdog of the Mother Country, and, possibly, if the Government persists with its present policy of asking this chamber to dispose of important measures in a few hours the Senate will also be regarded as a silent watchdog. Expediting the passage of this bill in accordance with the Minister's request, necessarily means that the debate must be curtailed, and if similar requests are made in connexion with other important measures this chamber will- soon be regarded as the silent Senate. I agree with Senator Duncan-Hughes that tho budget should have been considered first, and that measures to give effect to the Government's financial policy should be dealt with later. I cannot, however, support many of the statements made by Senator DuncanHughes, particularly his contention that the appropriation for invalid and oldage pensions is becoming too heavy a burden upon the community. He appears to be distressed because the Government proposes to grant pensioners an additional ls. a week. If I understood the honorable senator aright he considers that the money which the pensioners are to receive should be expended on defence. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not offer any serious opposition to the proposal to expend £8,000,000 this year for that purpose, because we believe that this country should be defended. But while a country has the men and material to defend it, the Government should see that its aged people receive sufficient to sustain them in reasonable comfort in the declining years of their lives. I have never heard the members of the true-blue Tory party mention the loss which this country sustains by the short-sighted policy of governments in not using the man-power available to increase production. The increased expenditure of £760,000 on invalid and old-age pensions is a mere bagatelle compared with the loss Australia sustains by the inefficiency of go- vernments in dealing with the unemployment problem. It is admitted that, at times, there have been over 200,000 persons out of work, and if their productive capacity be valued at the low figure of £100 each per annum, it represents a sum of £20,000,000, which, in ten years, would be £200,000,000. If valued at as low as £50 a man, in ten years time their total production would be valued at £100,000,000. Although the Government is to be complimented on its action in making a partial restoration of the reduction applied to invalid and old-age pensions, yet it has not gone far enough. The rate should have been increased to £1 a week, the money to be provided from the sum set aside for the reduction of the accumulated deficit. As I understand it is the desire of the Government to pass this bill without delay, I shall reserve my further comments upon this subject until a more appropriate time. However, I join with Senator Duncan-Hughes most wholeheartedly in his protest against the methods adopted in bringing forward this bill before the discussion has taken place on the Estimates and budget papers.

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