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Thursday, 3 April 1941

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honorable senator must discuss the bill.

Senator ARTHUR - I am merely directing the attention of the Senate to the fact that this is not the first child endowment bill that has been introduced in this country. The Holman Government introduced a similar measure, merely to allow employers to evade the payment of a higher basic wage. At this stage T should like to give a very solemn warning. If this bill be passed, will a position similar to that which I have referred arise when the basic wage is to be fixed next June? Will the judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court who fixed the wage to be paid to a man with his wife and one child reduce the basic wage and thus save large numbers of employers from paying an increased basic wage as was attempted in 1919 ? It has been said in this chamber and published in the press that this bill is not, in the interests of primary producers. That, is an old car-call, and it will not stand close analysis. The facts are that in the primary industries of this country few wives of wage-earners will receive child endowment, because those industries employ very few persons, and consequently there are few wives of wageearners in rural areas. For instance, how many wives whose husbands are engaged in the wool industry will receive the benefits conferred by this bill? It is also well known that very few; of the married men employed in the dairying industry work for wages. It was shown that, in the whole western districts of New South Wales, fewer than 100 persons would be affected. If endowment is to be paid to mothers in this country, its application should be equitable throughout all industries. Under this measure, certain industries will receive no benefit at all.

Senator Leckie - All mothers will be on the same basis.

Senator ARTHUR - In primary in? dustries very few wage-earners will be affected. I made an official investigation of this matter and submitted a report to the Government of New South Wales. Few mothers in rural areas will be affected by this bill. 'Certainly it will be a godsend to some persons. It will be of great relief to some of the mothers in Canberra, where the birth-rate is higher than in any other part of the Commonwealth. The wife and eleven children of a man who was a resident of the Australian Capital Territory and was killed recently have, so far, not received a penny. That is an example of what is occurring in the National Capital. I congratulate the Government upon departing from its original proposal to put this very essential social service under the control of the Pensions Department. I hope that later the Government will see its way clear to establish an independent department of social services. The administration of the New South Wales scheme forms only part of the functions of a department and consequently all sorts of anomalies have crept in. A separate department set up to administer a Commonwealth child endowment scheme would receive the closest co-operation of all sections of the community. I am glad that the bill has been introduced and that the great reform of child endowment is now in sight. For many years the Labour party has fought for this reform, but it has always been opposed by the Tory interests who, I suppose, will now claim the credit for the introduction of child endowment.

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