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Friday, 21 November 1941

The PRESIDENT - That is not a point of order.

Senator CAMERON - I repeat that, right from the outset, the party to which the Leader of the Opposition belongs has consistently opposed invalid and old-age pensions. Why? Simply because pensions are a charge on profits and on consolidated revenue, and because those individuals who have exploited the workers all their lives are taxed for the purpose of giving back to the aged a little of the wealth which they have amassed..-

Senator Herbert Hays - I do not wish to interrupt the Minister's speech, but what, he has said is untrue and he knows it. The Minister has said that the party to which I belong has always opposed old-age pensions. That is untrue.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator will have an. opportunity if he so desires to refute any statements which the Minister has made.

Senator Herbert Hays - It is untrue just the same.

Senator Cooper - When, the Labour party last hold office it reduced invalid and old-age pensions.

Senator CAMERON - I shall answer that charge later. I intend to pursue one theme at- a time; the honorable sena tor cannot distract me in that way. Whilst I am thankful for the assistance which honorable senators opposite are apparently endeavouring to give me, I assure them that I do not need it. I regret that I have to repeat these statements, but when one is dealing with a cement-set mentality such as that possessed by the Leader of the Opposition, repetition, is necessary to drive thorne a point. Forcible, clear and convincing language is necessary to make Lim understand. I repeat that the party to which the honorable senator belongs La3 opposed invalid, and old-age pensions from their inception because they are a charge on profits. If that were not so, there would bo no objection from honorable senators opposite. Here is the proof of my contention: The Leader of the Opposition said that he believed that invalid and old-age pensions should be on a contributory basis. Just what does he mean by .that? Translated into simple language his words can mean only this: In their younger days pensioners were paid' a wage which did not represent all that they earned or the full value of what they created, but a. wage based upon the minimum, cost of living. Under a contributory pensions scheme the workers would be asked to accept less than that living wage; in order that they might make provision for their old age. Naturally there is no objection by honorable senators opposite to such a scheme because it does not interfere with profits. But, as the policy laid down by this Government is aimed' at reducing profits, and because the hip-pocket nerve of honorable senators opposite is the most sensitive of their nerves, objections are raised to this proposal.

Senator Gibson - What objections?

Senator CAMERON - Objections to an increase of invalid and old-ago pensions.

Senator Gibson - Who is objecting?

Senator CAMERON - Senator Amour was taunted by the Leader of the Opposition because he favoured increasing invalid and old-age pensions to 30s. a week; but I am in favour of that too.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Why not £2 a week?

Senator CAMERON - I should bo prepared to go even further than that.

Our arbitration courts Lave fixed a basic wage which they consider to be the minimum weekly remuneration necessary for a man and wife. If it were possible, I should be prepared to pay the basic wage to pensioners. And why not? If, during their lifetime, they have created all these profits, why should they not get a little back in their old age? That is all that is involved. Surely it cannot bc claimed that those so-called entrepeneurs, those colossal intellectuals and super-human individuals who are in charge of various commercial concerns, . create all the profits. Proof that that is not so is to be found in the fact that immediately workers say that they will not continue to work profits cease. In their individual capacity these super-men are just as helpless as any one else. The profits which are being made to-day on a colossal and unprecedented scale are created entirely by the workers. Yet when these workers grow old and weary, and cannot, take their places in industry, honorable senators opposite would deny them reasonable sustenance. It is not proposed that they should get the basic wage, or. even 30s. a week, but just barely enough to keep body and soul together. It is alleged that we are making the pensioners the plaything of politics, but that is not true. Honorable senators opposite are merely trying to rationalize their brutal inhumanity towards their fellow-men. I should like some members of the Opposition to come face to face with miners hewing coal, or workers who sweat day and night Iia udi ing white-hot ingots of steel at such huge industrial undertakings such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and then say what they have said in this chamber.

Senator McBride - What did the Minister say eleven months ago about indirect taxation?

Senator CAMERON - I do not withdraw anything; I do not apologize for anything, and I can explain everything. Honorable senators opposite should not imagine that just, because they have developed a certain amount of amateur capacity for distorting the meaning of words, that they are disconcerting mc or even misrepresenting me. I say again that when honorable senators opposite oppose an increase of the invalid and oldage pension on the plea that sufficient money is not available, or some such silly excuse, they are simply endeavouring to rationalize their acquisitiveness, their brutal inhumanity, and their utter disregard for their fellow-men who have beon responsible for putting them where they are to-day. I remind Senator Gibson that his parliamentary allowance of £1,000 a year is made possible only by the efforts of the men who work in the fields, the factories and in the workshops.

Senator Gibson - If the allowance were reduced to £500 a year I should still be happy.

Senator CAMERON - I have offered to accept a similar reduction. I again remind Senator Gibson that the comforts and privileges which he enjoys as a member of this chamber are made possible only by the efforts of working people whom, in their old age, he would deny a paltry increase of pension. In that attitude we see what constitutes the Opposition's idea of generosity and fellowfeeling towards these old people. I leave it at that.

I turn now to the economic aspect. One would be almost led to believe that the proposed increase was in reality an increase, but that is not so. As the purchasing power of money has been substantially decreased, it is not in fact an increase, either in terms of gold or of commodities. The 23s. 6d. which it is proposed to pay will not buy the pensioner any more bread, meat, or fruit. I remind honorable senators opposite that they were mainly responsible for hundreds of thousands of bushels of fruit being allowed to rot on the ground rather than sell at rates which would have been within the reach of pensioners and other unfortunate individuals in the community. When I say that the purchasing power of the pension in terms of commodities is not equal to what it was previously, I am stating a fact. Compared with 1914 a £1 note to-day is worth only Ss. To-day we have an excess of production, and particularly of meat and other primary products. The policy of honorable gentlemen opposite is that those goods should be dumped rather than that, the invalid and old-age pensioners should be privileged to have a little more of them. Our excess products cannot be shipped overseas. Shall we do as is done in other countries, and. allow them to rot or be dumped, subsequently restricting production? By devious means it is possible to keep the workers dependent on the basic wage. Production is restricted, prices are kept at a high level, and the invalid and old-age pension is kept down.

I am not surprised at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition. He is running true to form. Twenty-five years ago, he would have opposed the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, lock, stock, and barrel ; but to-day, because the people believe that the provision of pensions is a legitimate charge on the Consolidated Revenue, he is prepared to admit the principle, although he would keep down the expenditure on pensions to the lowest possible amount. To say that his philosophy is similar to that peculiar to savages is to do an. injustice to the savages. When Australian aborigines have plenty to eat, no attempt is made by them to deny food to any tribe which may be short, of it. To-day we live in a land of plenty, yet honorable gentlemen opposite attempt to do what savages would not do. They would deny their fellow-men adequate food and shelter when plenty is available. If I have any criticism to offer regarding the attitude of my colleagues, it is that they are far too forbearing and. lenient, because they are inclined to give credit to the Opposition for a degree of altruism which, in my opinion, it does not possess. 1 may use language more forcible than that which some of my colleagues deem advisable. I ask honorable senators opposite to imagine how they would feel, in the autumn of their lives, when they could no longer work as in earlier years, if they were denied the elementary things necessary to sustain life. If they were denied a few crumbs in their old age, would they not consider that they had been treated brutally? The proposed increase of the invalid and old-age pension could be granted without honorable senators opposite ha ving to lose one meal, or one suit of clothes, or be deprived of any comfort. Could anybody imagine anything more brutal than such an attitude of mind?

SenatorHerbert Hays. - That mind is not present in this chamber.

SenatorGibson. - Except in the imagination of the honorable senator.

Senator CAMERON - I say emphatically that it is, but it is so subtly and ingeniously expressed, and there is so much make-believe, that its presence might be overlooked. Honorable senators opposite would deny to the invalid and old-age pensioners a few paltry shillings, and I say emphatically that that mind is more conspicuous in this chamber than it is outside the Parliament. The man in the street, in his crude vernacular and limited vocabulary, is not discriminating in his choice of words. He is not a skilled dialectician, and has not cultivated the astuteness of the legal man, but says quite frankly what he thinks. In the Senate, however, we have those astute gentlemen who have learnt to some degree how to advance an argument and conceal their true intention. Plausible arguments have been used about the many millions of pounds that have to be provided, and the implication is sought to he established that if it were not for those millions the pensioners would be granted an increase. In their hearts, however, honorable senators opposite know that they are misleading the people. The brutal intention behind t heir arguments is to deprive the pioneers of this country, whobuilt up its wealth, and who made possible the presence of honorable senators in this chamber, the payment of their allowances, and the enjoyment of their privileges, of a few more crumbs or another very thin slice off the loaf. As I have already said, that mind isconsolidated and expressed to a far greater degree in this chamber than outside. I should have no hesitation in making that statement before any audience the Leader of the Opposition chooses to name and in justifying it.

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