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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - Even though Senator Large hinted that honorable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber who have taken part in the debate were speaking with their tongues in their cheeks, I propose to discuss the bill critically.

Senator Large - I did not say anything about Opposition senators speaking with their tongues in their cheeks.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Honorable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber are just as keen to safeguard the interests of widows and children as are honorable senators on the Government side.We believe that the bill is a step in the right direction, but we claim the right to criticize the bill in its entirety. Several of my colleagues have pointed out that the bill applies only to widows. I consider that the application of the measure might well stop at the widow left with children. If a widow without children is to be given a pension when she reaches the age of 50, I see no. reason why a spinster should have to wait until she reaches 60 years of age before she can claim it. The debate so far has been concerned mainly with the financial aspect of the bill. It is not so much a question of the payment of £1,600,000 per annum in widows' pensions as the source from which the money for pensions is to be obtained. Senator Spicer suggested a contributory scheme, and I support such a scheme for invalid and old-age pensions and unemployment insurance. But I cannot subscribe to the view that our present system of taxation provides for such a scheme. I realize that it is the money of the people, and that therefore it may be distributed among the people; but most countries whose social legislation has proved successful have adopted a contributory basis for their schemes. We have heard a good deal to-day about the system of finance in operation in Australia. Senator Brown said that as money can be raised in war-time it should be possible to raise it also in times of peace. It is true that when a nation is at war money is raised more freely than in normal times. The explanation is that a nation at war is similar to a home in which there is sickness. In normal times, the breadwinner of a home may have to disallow certain expenditure contemplated by members of his family ; but should his wife or any of the children become ill, he spares no expense, but takes all possible steps to ensure their speedy recovery. The health and happiness of his loved ones means more than anything else in the world to him. That is our position to-day as a nation; we are fighting for our very existence, and are indeed sick unto death. Irrespective of cost, we must ensure our national safety.

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