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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator MCBRIDE - It is now Is. 6d. in the £1.

Senator SPICER - If we were to tax the Australian community on the same basis, we should be collecting from people in receipt of £400 a year or less approximately £28,000,000, or perhaps £30,000,000 a year. If that were done, we should have some justification for a social service scheme of this kind. The Government would then be able to say, "Not only are we prepared to propound an act of Parliament under which money is to be paid out for this benefit, but also we have the courage to provide that any one who is in receipt of an income must make a contribution to the scheme ".

Senator Collings - Has the honorable senator ever heard of the pensions that are paid to members of the judiciary without any contributions?

Senator SPICER - At present I am dealing with widows' pensions. Judges' pensions have to be paid for by the community just like other pensions. My complaint is that, realizing that pensions have to be paid for by the community, a government which introduces the scheme under which they are paid should have the courage to say to the community : " This i3 the way in which we propose to raise the finance." But this Government does not do that.

Senator Collings - Yes it does; we propose to pay these pensions out of Consolidated Revenue. The honorable senator does not like that.

Senator SPICER - All of us know that Consolidated Revenue comes from taxes. But if Consolidated Revenue is not sufficient to meet ail the demands that are being made by the Government upon revenue-

Senator COLLINGS - Then we use hank credit.

Senator SPICER - In other words, the Government runs away from the problem; that is exactly my complaint. The burden is there, and it is not carried by some mythical thing known as the Commonwealth of Australia, which does not exist in reality. The only thing that exists in reality is men and women.

Senator COLLINGS - And their work.

Senator SPICER - Yes, and their work and services. This money cannot come from anywhere else. It is not bank credit. The Leader of the Senate now runs away from that issue. He recognizes that these pensions must be paid for by men and women. He does not solve the problem by saying that it is going to be paid for by bank credit. Somewhere or other, by some men or women, the money represented by bank credit has to be paid.

Senator COLLINGS - Of course.

Senator SPICER - I am glad to have that admission from the Leader of the Senate. But does that not place upon the Government the responsibility of working out a scheme to extract from the pockets of one section of the community money which it will put into the pockets of another section of the community? "We cannot solve the real problem by talking about bank credit. That is the burden of my complaint.

Senator COLLINGS - There is only one problem, and that is to give £1 5s. a week to certain widows.

Senator SPICER - No; it is not merely a problem of giving £1 5s. a week to widows; we must also raise that £1 5s. That money has to be raised.

Senator Collings - The widows will receive it.

Senator Cameron - The honorable senator is not game to oppose the bill.

Senator SPICER - I am not opposing the bill, and I have no desire to do so. As a matter of fact, were the Government to go more fully into the matter, it might find many other people who should benefit under a scheme of this kind. This scheme is to benefit widows over 50 years, without children; but what about the spinsters over 50 years of age?

Senator Cameron - They are not widows.

Senator SPICER - That is so; but what logical distinction does the honorable senator draw between the two classes? What does he say about the needs and claims of spinsters who are over 50 years of age and in necessitous circumstances?

Senator Large - We shall look into their claims later.

Senator SPICER - I merely mention spinsters in this respect in order to show that the Government has made no attempt to examine this problem carefully with a view to submitting a well-designed plan to Parliament. The Government has submitted this scheme because it is politically popular, and because it will not directly cost the Government anything. It simply takes the view that so long as it is not obliged to tax the people who will benefit by this measure, its popularity will not be affected. It seems to think that it can simply run along to the Commonwealth Bank, and obtain another million. I repeat that the perpetuation of this kind of conduct must mean that a day of reckoning is inevitable. At a time like the present, when we are faced with tremendous expenditure for war purposes, we should not, at any rate, act irresponsibly in handing out money in this way. A government can very easily get into the state of mind that another million, or ten million pounds, does not matter so long as the Government itself does not have to take the responsibility of saying that Bill Jones, or Tom Smith, must pay more taxes in order to meet these pensions. That is easy ; but do not let us delude ourselves that we can really solve the problem in that way. Some day we must face up to the problem. We may reach a stage when the Government may find that it cannot continue to finance these pensions, and must reduce the rate of pension. That happened in 1931. I should not like those circumstances to recur. It is for that reason that I now contend that the Government should place social services of this kind upon a proper foundation, and that it should say from the start that the money which has to be raised in order to provide these pensions must be taken from the pockets of certain taxpayers. That can be done most effectively by placing widows' pensions on a contributory basis in order to ensure that the financial structure of the scheme will coincide with realities. Then, regardless of difficulties that may confront us in the future, we shall be able to say to recipients of financial assistance of this kind, that the rate of assistance need not be reduced, because the scheme rests upon a proper and sound financial basis.

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