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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Senator DARCEY (TASMANIA) - As the bill is based on the capacity of the people to provide pensions at the rate of 25s. a week, and as the Leader of the Opposition has denied the ability of the people to do so, I consider that I am justified in pointing out how our pensions system can be financed. We cannot continue taxing the people in order to pay for social improvements, including the provision of larger pensions. It is impossible to improve social conditions effectively so long as we have to borrow the money that we need from the private banks.

Senator ARNOLD(New South Wales) 1 5.12]. - I am pleased to be associated with the Government which has introduced this measure. The bill will cause a slight alleviation of the poverty which is suffered by a section of our people, and it will not detract in any way from our war effort.. It is a measure that indicates what social improvements the Government has in mind. Ear too many of our people are still ill-clad, undernourished, living under slum conditions, and unemployed. I admit that, for the moment, war-time conditions have practically eliminated unemployment, but these evils are natural to the social order in which we live. I am glad to know that the Government contemplates the building up of a new social order. In this war, we are pledged to destroy the totalitarian systems of our Axis enemies. But in addition to making that pledge, our leaders have promised that we shall go on to a better social order. There has been considerable talk by the leaders of the British and American nations about a new order that is to emerge at the end of the war, and there is a general determination amongst the Australian- people that we shall not return to those unsatisfactory conditions which existed in this country from 1930 until the outbreak of war. Anybody who has witnessed mass unemployment, such as we had on the coal-fields of New South

Wales, knows that the disturbances that are continually occurring in the coalmining industry are the fruits of those conditions. When we ask that something be done to keep our coal-mines in full production, we must remember that the attitude of the miners is a legacy of the order which compelled them to remain idle for ten years, to live on a dole, and to exist under conditions of which Australians should be ashamed. The knowledge that the pledges have been made by out leaders is not sufficient. Concurrently with our war effort, we should build up a scheme- of social services. The nucleus of such a system should be put into operation and the general structure of the new order should be shown to the people so that they will know that it is not a specious plea that this war is being fought in order that there shall be a better world in which to live. That Great Britain has done something towards building the new order is evident from some of the legislation that has been passed in that country in recent years. In September, 1941, Mr. Ernest Bevin made this statement -

During this war, we accept social security as the main motive of our national life. In a bill to improve widows' pensions, unemployment insurance and social welfare generally, in July, 1941, it was reported that the promising of things after the war was rousing cynical comment. The colossal problem of changing from a war footing and war economy to a peace footing and peace economy would present numerous problems of great difficulty. In the transition period a prescribed system of social security would be absolutely necessary. We ought to have this system of social security and social measures completed before the end of the war.

It is disturbing to hear ominous rumblings from the Opposition in this chamber to the effect that such a small measure as the provision of an additional ls. 6d. a week for pensioners may overload our economic system and make it unworkable. If those thoughts are in r.lie minds of honorable senators opposite, how can the people of this country look forward to the introduction of a new social order? If we are earnest in our talk of making this country a better place to live in after the war, and in asking our boys to lay down their lives to protect their country so that those who return afterwards shall be able to live under happier conditions, we must change the minds of many of those people who are represented by honorable senators opposite. It is not too much to ask when such a small measure of relief as this is before us, what they intend to do in the coming years. They should support this measure with a willingness that will show that they realize that the old order that has existed for many years - an order that has not provided the people with security in their social life - will disappear at the end of the war. But I am disturbed because it appears that some members of the Senate are not yet ready for the new order to emerge when the war is concluded. I wonder what is in their minds. What do they contemplate in this new social order? Are they prepared to see slum3 remain? Are they willing to see people still under-nourished? Do they wish unemployment to be rife once more? Do they think that the people should be under-educated and ill-clad? If we are determined that all those things shall vanish there must be a change of mind, and we must be determined that this country is going into a social security era of which we can be proud. It is to the degree to which we can remove those blots from our national life that the success of any new contemplated order will make itself evident.

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