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Wednesday, 1 September 1937

Senator HARDY (New South Wales) . - Although Senator Brown said that the Labour party had always been in the forefront of the fight for invalid and old-age pensions, I waited patiently to hear from him exactly what that party lias done. History records that the Labour party was not even responsible for the introduction into Australia of the invalid and old-age pensions system and that it has never raised the rate of pension by any appreciable amount. Every real effort to improve the position of the pensioners has been made by non-Labour governments, and the record of the Labour party is a blank. The Labour party's " blue book " states that the .Labour party was responsible for the introduction of the first invalid and old-age pensions bill; but as honorable senators are aware, the first bill ' was introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament . in 1908 by the Deakin Ministry, which was not a Labour government; it was what Senator Brown has been pleased to call a Tory government. A scrutiny of the pages of Ilansard will prove conclusively that the invalid and old-age pension was first introduced into the national life of this country, not by a Labour government, but by a. non-Labour government - one of the despised " Tory " governments of which the honorable senator spoke to-day.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Mr. Deakin was no more a Tory than Senator Hardy himself is.

Senator HARDY - That is so. Speaking to the first bill making provision for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions the then Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives said that he did not think that the introduction of such legislation would be possible for years. Yet on every street corner and in the highways and byways spokesmen of the Australian Labour party are claiming, without foundation, that that party introduced the invalid and old-age pension into Australia. Such a claim is nothing more than deliberate political misrepresentation and I say emphatically that it cannot be substantiated.

Senator Brown - .The Labour party has never made that claim.

Senator HARDY - It has made it repeatedly - during, the Gwydir election campaign at least sixty times. I have no doubt that it will be repeated again during the coming elections. Listening to Labour spokesmen one would gain the impression that the Labour party has never' occupied the treasury bench, and therefore has never had an opportunity of doing anything for the invalid and oldage pensioners. Let us consider, however, the number of occasions on which a Labour government has occupied the treasury bench and has had the opportunity to give the pensioners a fair deal. The first Labour government led by Mr. Watson, was in office in 1908 and it had the opportunity, if it so desired, to increase the original rate of pension which had been fixed at 10s. a week. Bur a perusal of the pages of Hansard reveals that the first Labour government made no attempt to raise the rate of pension above 10s. a week, and went out of office* without having done a single thing to assist the pensioners. It is obvious that the Watson Government was quite content to accept the pensions legislation introduced by the Deakin Government which preceded it in office. The second Labour government, of which Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister, attained tho treasury benches in 1910, and remained in office for three years, but during the whole of that time the rate of pension remained at 10s.. a week, the amount fixed by a non-Labour government in earlier years. Yet the Labour party today, in the hope of catching votes, makes the unwarranted claim that it was responsible for the introduction of invalid and old-age pensions. The third Labour government, it is true, raised the rate of pension by 2s. 6d. a week, but the fourth Labour government reduced the rate by 2s. 6d. a week, bringing it back to what it had been before. The real test is to ask ourselves what governments or parties have assisted the invalid and old-age pensioners, and what governments were responsible for the seven distinct increases which have increased the rate of pension from 10s. .to £1 a week. The answer is that, in every instance, with the one exception I have mentioned, the pension was increased by a non-Labour government. That is the truth in regard to this matter and it should he told to the people of the Commonwealth. That claim can be supported by the Hansard record, and the truth of it will be recognized at the next elections. So it' ill-becomes the Australian Labour party to try to hang its political hat on that peg.

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