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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator LARGE (New South Wales) . -I am indeed happy to support this measure, because it is one of the most humane that has ever been introduced into this Parliament. It is a tardy recognition by the Government of its responsibilities to these unfortunate people. That aspect of the measure, apparently, has escaped the notice of the honorable senators opposite. The more advanced States of the Commonwealth have recognized their responsibilities to the widows, but the governments of those States have been providing financial assistance to that section of the community in competition with other States commercially. I support this measure notbecause it will afford relief indirectly to the trading community of New South Wales, a State which for some time has had a most progressive system of widows' pensions. I support it because it will afford a measure of protection to a section ofthe community which has for too long suffered as the result of omissions from man-made laws. I favour any measure which will ameliorate the conditions of the widows and the female community generally. Honorable senators opposite claim that they are just as sympathetic towards the widows as supporters of the Government. They certainly give lip service to that view; but they do not assist the widows in any material way.

Much of this debate has revolved round the term" bank credit". That is a misnomer. Honorable senators on this side are concerned not with bank credit, but with national credit.

Senator Leckie -What is the difference?

Senator LARGE - Briefly, national credit is made available by a nationallyowned bank, and bank credit by privately controlled financial institutions. The source of national credit is the nation's power to produce. Honorable senators opposite contend with great concern that, under this scheme, the Government merely proposes to take money from one section of the community for the benefit of another section. The recipients of these pensions have been the wives of the wage-earners, who really create all wealth by their labour and service. Credit is measured by wealth; and the source of all wealth is labour applied to land and raw materials. Yet, honorable senators opposite are very concerned that the section of the community which produces the wealth of the nation is to be afforded some measure of protection under this bill. Any person in necessitous circumstances, whether she be a widow, spinster or old-age pensioner, provided she has led a lawabiding life, is entitled to a measure of security in her declining years. I would regard such a proposal as a measure of the new order which we on the Government side of the chamber desire to see ushered in at an early date. It says much for the popularity of this bill that the only opposition that can be raised against it is that it does not provide for a scheme of widows' pensions on a contributory basis. If the people produce all the wealth of the nation they contribute by that production at the source of the wealth. It is not a correct statement of fact to assert that the intention of the framers of the bill is to take money from one section of the community and hand it to another section. Each honorable senator on the Opposition side who has so far taken part in the debate has made that assertion the burden of his argument.I listen always with keen interest to the speeches of Senator Spicer, but debating the bill this afternoon he painted a picture of some sort of calamity that would befall us if the bill were agreed to in its present form. He did not paint his picture clearly, and I thought the zeal that he displayed was worthy of a better cause. I feel that the honorable senator, able as he is, is not a success as a calamity howler, for that was the role he adopted this afternoon. My sincere belief is that the enactment of this measure will make this Parliament honoured and revered. In years to come, the people of Australia will realize that this Parliament, by placing the measure on the statute-book, infused a ray of sunshine into the black outlook of the working class of Australia. No doubt it is a socialistic measure, but the community is gradually developing on socialistic lines. Forty years ago, the mere mention of" socialist " conjured up visions of men wearing black caps and cloaks lurking in dark corners armed with lethal weapons. Since then, a marked change of view has developed, and now a man described as a socialist is regarded as one possessing intelligence and an understanding of economics. Honorable senators on the Opposition side are gradually coming around to the implementation of socialistic principles. The very conduct of the present war is an object lesson of the efficacy of the socialistic ideal. Invariably, when the capitalist system has been placed on trial in a great war, it has collapsed, and the community has found it necessary to discard the production for profit and apply instead the principle of production for use for the general welfare of the community. In time of war, we safeguard our transport and foodstuffs and other facilities necessary for the expenditure of the nation's best effort.We do that in the interests of the nation, and it is an expression of the socialistic ideal. Having added my tribute of praise to those who initiated the bill, and expressed my pleasure at being a member of the Senate when it is receiving its sanction, I add the hope that the principle of the pension of £1 5s. a week, which, after all, is only a token, will be extended to the invalid, old-age and child endowment schemes until at least what is regarded as a proper basic wage is given to all those people who find it necessary, through adversity or old age, to lean on the goodwill of the community.

Senator Collett - That will be when a proper national insurance scheme is secured.

Senator LARGE - Every person should be given a policy of national insurance when born into the world.

I hope that the principle enunciated in this bill will be extended through our national life until every person who has led a decent life will be guaranteed against the fall of that sword of Damocles which is suspended above the head of the poorer section of our community.

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