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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr SHEEHAN (Cook) .- When the measure was previously under consideration, I understood the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to say that under a seven-day period the daily allowance would be one-seventh, that sickness benefits would be only 2s.10d. a day, and that for the two days it was intended to include it would amount to 5s. 8d. I regret that the Treasurer has not considered it desirable to follow the British act, and to provide that sickness benefits shall commence on the fourth clay. Originally the Government provided that such benefits should commence on the seventh day, but the Senate has now reduced the period to five days. The Treasurer has endeavoured to make the request appear reasonable by saying that under this scheme a week consists of seven days, whereas under the British act Sundays are excluded. The statistics compiled by the friendly societies disclose that the average sickness extends from 10 to 12 days, and it is therefore clearly demonstrated that insured persons will be receiving sickness benefits for only onehalf of the period during which they are sick. A person will have to be ill for 14 days before he receives one and a quarter weeks of sick pay. A person who is absent from work on several different occasions will lose a certain amount of sickness benefit on each occasion. Moreover, no definite provision has been made for the manner in which claimants will be declared to be off the sick fund. The doctors will have to work overtime in declaring persons off the fund on Sundays, because if a sick person goes off the fund on Saturday he will lose 2s.10d. Men do not work on Sundays, and a majority of those who have been in receipt of sickness benefits will endeavour to be declared off the fund on Sundays. This is merely a scheme to provide rent for the landlord, because all the money which insured persons receive must be used to liquidate tenants' liabilities in that respect. Some employers who are sufficiently humane to pay their employees while temporarily absent from duty will now decline to do so because they will say that the employees are drawing sick benefit. I protest against the action of the Government in refusing to grant sickness benefit from the first day on which an employee isunable to work.

Motion agreed to.

Consequential request in clause 66 also made.

Resolution reported ; report adopted.

Bill amended accordingly, and returned to the Senate.

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