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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- 1 congratulate the Government upon introducing this bill, and upon its change of tone in respect of this legislation. I have a clear recollection that when the previous Government introduced the bill on which this measure is based honorable senators opposite opposed the measure lock, stock and barrel.

Senator Keane - The Child Endowment Bill was supported by the Labour party.

Senator LECKIE - It was opposed to the method then proposed for raising the funds to finance the scheme. In view of the fact that they have now introduced this amending bill, I take it that they have seen the error of their ways, and are now of opinion that the principal act is sound. I am not complaining about the opposition put up by those honorable senators against the original bill. J. merely congratulate them upon seeing the light. We might easily have assumed that they would take the first opportunity to upset the legislation passed by the previous Government. We find instead that they have set about improving that legislation in minor respects. I believe in giving the Government credit when credit is due to it. Of course,. I have criticized it when it has deserved criticism. I am glad, therefore, that on this occasion, I am able to speak kindly of it. In view of the strong-man stand invariably adopted by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) in respect of every matter concerning the comfort and wellbeing of the Senate, I am glad to see that even he is prepared to change his mind when he sees the light. I was beginning to believe that he had resolved 50 or 60 years ago that during the course of his life, he would never change his mind. He is one of the real tories in the Labour party. I am glad that he is not taking his characteristic stand and deliver attitude on this occasion.

Senator BROWN(Queensland) [5.59J. - 1 have a. clear recollection of the debate which took place in this chamber when the Child Endowment Bill was being considered. I cannot recall that I or my colleagues offered any serious opposition to that measure. Certainly, we endeavoured to amend it. On that occasion, I pointed out that the people of Australia were being led to believe that endowment would be paid in respect of every child under the age of sixteen years, with the exception of the eldest. I proved that it was impossible, under the terms of that measure, to do so. 1 showed that clearly in argument, and also by a comprehensive table drawn up by my friend, Mr. Ben Taylor, of Brisbane, who is the father of nine children, and whose wife, incidentally, has been very pleased to receive £'7 a month under this legislation. Unfortunately, the purchasing power of that sum will be reduced as time goes on. I. spoke to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) about the matter but he did not understand the bill thoroughly, and many other members of Parliament were in the same position. Then, for the purposes of administration, it was decided to pay endowment in respect pf the eldest child of a family but not in respect of the youngest child. This meant that all but the youngest of the children in any family would receive endowment benefits up to the age of sixteen years. This administrative change gave effect to the wording of the bill, but it excluded the youngest child of any family from the right to benefits. The Labour party, which was then in Opposition, objected to this feature, but it did not oppose the bill as a whole, and I give credit to the government of the day for' the splendid job that it did. I said at the time that I was inclined to be jealous because I should have liked a Labour government to have introduced such legislation. Even- to-day I hope that, before many years have passed, endowment will be made payable in respect of every child.

I should like to have seen such a provision in this bill. However, the Government is to be congratulated upon the provisions which it contains.

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