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Friday, 18 September 1936

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) . - I think my learned colleague from South Australia (Senator Duncan-Hughes) was rather extravagant in his criticism of the Government for having brought forward thisbill so hurriedly, and not affording honorable senators greater opportunity to consider its provisions. The bill does not contain many clauses, and the matters contained in them are perfectly simple. To say that this bill has been hurriedly placed before us without giving us adequate opportunity to consider it is not quite correct. Ever since the budget speech was delivered honorable senators and the people generally have known, with some degree of certainty, what measures the Government proposed to introduce to give effect to its financial policy. Even weeks before the budget speech was delivered, practically every journal in Australia was speculating as to what it would contain, and many of the proposals which actually appeared in the budget were accurately predicted. There has been ample time to study the provisions of this bill and to give proper consideration to the matters embodied in it. I compliment the Government upon its proposal for a partial restoration of invalid and old-age pensions. I do not agree with many of the comparisons made by Senator Duncan-Hughes with regard to the amount paid to pensioners, despite the fact that the total annual commitment is very large. Honorable senators will be presented with an opportunity to discuss this matter at greater length when a measure dealing with national insurance is introduced into the Senate.

I think the Government could have been more liberal in respect to the maternity allowance. Nothing can be gained by considering migration schemes until we have dealt adequately with the people already in the Commonwealth. As one means of stemming the alarming fall of the birth rate, the maternity allowance should be increased. I should also like to see steps taken to curtail or abolish the present unrestricted commercial traffic in contraceptives.

I agree with Senator James McLachlan that certain primary producers who are not in financial difficulty are deriving benefit from the fertilizer subsidy, though I have no doubt that that difficulty could be overcome. The wheat-farmers in the north-western portion of Western Australia are in a very precarious position this season. When honorable senators representing Western Australia left that State four weeks ago they had high hopes of a successful harvest in that area, but, unfortunately, conditions have altered, and the wheat-farmers are facing a very difficult position.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

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