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Thursday, 8 July 1920

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I ask the honorable member for Barrier not to continue his interruptions.

Mr Tudor - It would be as well if the honorable member for Eden-Monaro kept within the terms of the motion.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Yes, but with his experience of parliamentary life the honorable member for Yarra knows that I am entitled to reply to interjections. And surely the honorable member knows that he, too, is out of order in interjecting. All I can say now is that if ever I hear anybody refer to our boys as "killers," they will get the length of my tongue, and if they are within reach they will feel the weight of my fist, too. But these interjections have been made merely for the purpose of throwing me off the track.

Mr Gabb - You are on a very good track, I think.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I doubt if the honorable member thinks so, and I may remark that I do not notice any medal on the lapel of his coat.

Mr Considine - Apparently it does not matter whether we agree or disagree with the honorable member; we get it all the same.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I will say what I think until the Speaker calls me to account. However, I know it is a mistake to use a sledge-hammer for the purpose of killing a fly. I have already stated that, in my opinion, there should be some amendment of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act. Some means must be found to raise sufficient money to enable us to pay our pensioners a decent allowance. This half-starvation rate is no good to them at all. What is going to become of them if they cannot get enough to live upon? One-half of the pensioners are tightening their belts to-day, because the 15s. per week is not sufficient, and we, who are sitting on cushioned seats in this chamber, should not allow this state of affairs to continue. We must face our responsibilities. It is idle to say that the pensions bill has grown to a large amount. Even if it has, on the other hand we have largely increased revenue. Some of the big "money-bags" who did not subscribe to war loans or do very much to help this country during the war period should be made to pay. Where would they be with their wealth, their homes, their stations, their terraces of houses, but for the services of men who to-day are among our pensioners; men, grown grey in the service of the country, but who were not wise enough to amass any of the world's goods for their old age? Lack of cash appears to be the only objection to the proposal to increase the pension. That is not a sufficient answer. The present allowance is not any better than 7s. would have been when the Act was passed, and it is logical that we should go further and pay these people at least £1 per week. I say unhesitatingly that Australia can afford this amount. I am -satisfied that, if a vote of the people were taken to-morrow, there would he an overwhelming majority in favour of the increase, and I propose, so far as I am able, to insist upon something being done. I was chairman of the Commission that inquired into this subject, and visited every State of the Commonwealth in order to get the fullest information upon it. The Commission was composed of members of all sides of the House, and its first recommendation was that the pension should not be regarded as charity but as a right; the right to live. If, now, we are not prepared to give our pensioners the means to live, then we are not acting decently by them. On the contrary, we are suggesting that it is a crime to be poor. Unfortunately, the mills grind slowly. The allowance of 10s. continued till 1916, and the increase to 15s. only came into force this year. Twenty years ago the same objections were raised. We were told that we could not afford the money, and it took us till 1916 to make up our minds to increase the amount to 12s. 6d. This is not playing the game fairly. We can afford to pay a further increase. One crank of the Customs wheel, or a special tax upon the rich people of the community - and I do not think there would be very much objection on their part - will provide the necessary cash. I hope the Government will take notice of what I have said on this subject. I know that private members' resolutions do not count for very much in this House, but if the Government, of their own volition, are disinclined to do anything, then honorable members should insist upon something being done in the interests of our old-age and invalid pensioners.

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