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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) . - The widows' pension provided for in this legislation was recommended by the Joint Committee on Social Security of which I had the honour to be a member. It is very gratifying to see that the Government is carrying out the recommendations of that committee, and of other committees set up by Parliament to investigate important matters. This scheme was agreed to by both Government and Opposition members of the Joint Committee on Social Security. It is also gratifying to note the manner in which this measure has been received by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. Obviously, the bill is designed to protect a section of the community which is in urgent need of protection. The only two matters relevant to the bill which have been raised in the course of this debate were brought up by Senator Spicer, who claimed that there should be a supplementary financial measure to provide the money required for this scheme. There is a wealth of common sense in Senator Spicer's suggestion. I believe that the social services of thi , country should be financed, at least partly, by contributions from all incomeearners, in accordance with their ability to pay. In its report, the Joint Committee on Social Security recommended the imposition of a graduated tax to cover the cost of all social services. In reply to a question in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) indicated that he was working on a bill which was designed to co-ordinate all the social services of this country. That also was the subject of a recommendation by the committee. I believe that social services should be contributed to by the people, according to their ability to pay, and that a definite sum should be set aside each year to cover the cost of social services. When a bill such as this is brought before Parliament, there should also be a supplementary measure providing for the raising of the necessary finance. The other point raised by Senator Spicer was the question of paying a pension to widows over 50 without children, whereas no such pension is provided for spinsters. The committee took a considerable volume of evidence in regard to that matter, and it was proved to our satisfaction that a married woman who loses her breadwinner after she has reached the age of 50 years has become so accustomed to her mode of living and to being provided for by her husband, that it is a great hardship for her to take up the earning of her own living. On the other hand, a spinster who has had to battle for herself all along is in a different category.

Senator McBride - Has the honorable senator never heard of a spinster having to look after her parents?

Senator ARNOLD - This measure is designed to meet the needs of the broad masses of people, and we cannot particularize with any small section. It has been shown conclusively that a spinster who has maintained herself all along has not so urgent a claim for assistance as has a woman over 50 who loses her husband.

Those are the only points to which objection has been raised, and I believe there are reasonable explanations for both of them. I feel that the bill will fill an urgent need, and I trust that it will have a speedy passage.

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