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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator COLLINGS - We are providing £1,000,000 a day for the war effort, and we can do it for a peace-time measure.

Senator SPICER - I claim that the Government is not providing £1,000,000 a day for war purposes upon a basis that will prove entirely satisfactory to this country in the future. In introducing a scheme of this kind, the Government means that members of the community who are not subject to financial misfortunes shall be called upon to contribute to the welfare of less fortunate citizens; This necessarily involves a transfer of income from people who have it to those who have none. That is the problem that this Government refuses to face. It is not enough merely to pass a bill providing that a pension of 25s. a week shall be paid to widows.

Senator COLLINGS - But the widows will get the 25s.

Senator SPICER - That is perfectly true.

Senator Brown - Where will it come from?

Senator SPICER - Probably it will come from that mythical source of which we hear so much, bank credit; so far as I can see, that is the only source from which it could come at present, but ultimately, if the pension is to maintain its value of 25s., and is to continue to purchase 25s. worth of goods, it must represent an extraction from one section of the community in order to support another. That is a situation which cannot be escaped- but which this Government is not prepared to face.

Senator Collings - We are facing it.

Senator SPICER - The Government is not facing it merely by introducing a bill providing for the payment of 25s. a week to widows, without telling the community the source from which it is proposed to obtain that 25s. Honorable senators opposite are running away from the real obligation, which rests upon any government that introduces measures of this kind. I have no objection whatever to legislation such as this, but I do object to a government which is not prepared to face the obligations which such legislation involves. The Government is not prepared to say that it proposes to take certain money from the pockets of the more fortunate members of the community, and to transfer it to the pockets of the more necessitous people.

Senator Brown - We are doing that.

Senator SPICER - The Government is not doing anything of the kind. We all know that this year's budget is to be financed very largely by means of bank credit, and not by extracting money from the pockets of the people. In my opinion this continual resort to bank credit is entirely unsound. Ultimately we shall have to face the fact that the war must be paid for out of the income of every body in the community. To the degree to which the Government refuses to face the situation, it is building up a problem for the future. There is no escape; some day the difficulties will have to be met. It is impossible to pay millions of pounds out of the public exchequer to certain beneficiaries without extracting an equivalent amount of money from the taxpayers.

Senator Courtice - "Would the honorable senator give these unfortunate people the dole?

Senator SPICER - I am quite prepared to assist them to obtain that which is provided in the bill. I am also prepared to support a measure designed to finance these proposals, but the Government has not the courage to introduce it.

Senator COLLINGS - What does the honorable senator suggest?

Senator SPICER - I suggest that we should do what is done in other parts of the world, and place the scheme on a contributory basis. It is ridiculous to suggest that any one can get anything from the community without placing a burden upon some one else. We all desire that pensions and other similar benefits should be paid, but my confirmed opinion is that such schemes should be on a contributory basis. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who introduced this bill, referred to what was being done in other parts of the . world, but I submit that pension schemes in operation in other parts of the world support exactly what I am saying now. In practically every case when legislation of this kind has been introduced, provision has been made for the payment of contributions. The Minister referred also to what had been done in New Zealand. In my opinion, what has been accomplished in that country is meritorious compared with what we have done.

Senator McBride - It has been done properly in that dominion.

Senator SPICER - Yes. The New Zealand Government did not say to 70 per cent, of the people, " We shall tax you as lightly as we can ", nor did it say as this Government has said, in the midst of a war, "We shall relieve you of some taxes ". It has said, in effect, to members of the New Zealand community, " If you want social security, you must pay for it at the rate of Is. in the £1, irrespective of your income". The Labour Government there has recognized that, if a person has any income at all, and is a potential beneficiary under the scheme, then he or she should make a contribution. That is in addition to a war tax of Is. in the £1.

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