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Wednesday, 2 April 1941

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.

Senator DARCEY - This is a matter of great importance, but I bow to your ruling, Mr. President. I should like to deal now with the first child of a family. I was one of twelve children. Any one who knows what modern, marriage means to the young man on the basic wage will appreciate his difficulties. He must save for years to get enough money to equip himself for married, life and when married he has to set up a home, and is involved, in the expenditure of a large sum of money on furniture, most of which is usually purchased on the .timepayment principle. Then, after a year or so, the first baby usually comes along and the. expense involved makes it very hard for the parents to make ends meet. There is no inducement for them to have a larger family. That is why I maintain that the payment of endowment in respect of the first child in a family is of the utmost importance. In his book The Tyranny of Words, Stuart Chase said1 -

In 1708 Malthus published his famous essay on population, one of the grandest examples of extrapolation on record. The essay was in part designed to answer William Godwin's argument to the effect that mankind could achieve happiness through the use of reason. Malthus wanted to scotch the dangerous idea that happiness was in prospect to the mass of the people (the principle of " original sin") again. So by study of the exceedingly unreliable statistics of the time he laid down two postulates: First, that population tends to grow at a geometrical rate; second, that the food supply tends to grow at an arithmetical rate. The population of England was then 7,000,000; in a hundred years if the curve was followed it would be, he said, 112,000,000. If food was sufficient for the 7,000,000 in 1800, by 1900 the supply would expand to feed only 35,000,000 - "which would leave a population of 77,000,000 totally unprovided for."

Malthus had many followers in England at that time.

This fantastic hypothesis was then solemnly applied to the problem of poverty. As the population was designed to leap ahead of food supply, restrained only by pestilence, war, and famine, it followed that measures to improve the living standards of the mass of the people were futile.

What is this Government doing to improve family life and to raise the living standard of the people? The quotation continues - " It is, undoubtedly, a most disheartening reflection that the great obstacle in the way of any extraordinary improvement in society, is of a nature that we can never hope to overcome."

That was before the age of mass production in industry, and to-day, if the economic situation were mastered there would be sufficient food for all. However, it will never be mastered if the advice of orthodox economists is followed. It is the advice tendered to governments by such economists that has got us into trouble to-day. A remarkable statement by the Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament, Mr. H. S. Baker, appeared in a Hobart newspaper a few months ago. It is something that should be brought under the attention of honorable senators. Mr. Baker criticized the action of the Tasmanian Treasurer, Mr. Dwyer-Gray, at the last Loan Council meeting in suggesting, as I have often done in this chamber, that finance could be obtained from our national bank.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is not entitled to refer at length to finance on this hill.

Senator DARCEY - The statement to which I have referred was made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Tas manian Parliament. Commenting on what Mr. Dwyer-Gray had said, Mr. Baker said that his party stood for obtaining expert advice on financial matters, and expert advisers were seldom members of Parliament. Why should we not have expert financial advisers in Parliament? The present alleged experts have managed the business of the country so well that we started this war with a national debt of £1,300,000,000. I have a far better idea of carrying on the war than that. When the child endowment scheme was first mooted I was called to a conference held in Launceston, representative of various women's organizations which for many years have been working to secure an improvement in child welfare, and the care of mothers. The complaint, made at that conference was that the child endowment scheme did not provide for the endowment to be paid to the mother.


Senator DARCEY - Then the scheme must have been altered. My impression is that in its original form the bill did not so provide. I have been associated with social work in Hobart for the. last 20 years and I know the conditions. At the conference of which I have spoken, the fear was expressed that the mothers would not actually get the benefit proposed under this legislation. A protest was made, and I am very glad to find that the bill now provides for the payment of the money to the mothers. A request was also made that child endowment be paid in respect of every child in families which have more than one child ; that in a family of two or more children, the payment of endowment for the youngest child be continued until the age of sixteen, notwithstanding that it is the only dependent child ; and that the endowment be paid to widows in respect, of all children maintained by them.

I do not intend to speak at great length on this subject. I hope that this measure is only a start. The child of to-day is the man or woman of to-morrow, who will assume the responsibilities of the nation. A child that grows up in a . bad environment, and is neglected and uneducated, makes a very poor citizen. We cannot regard too seriously the welfare of children in our national life. Reports of health officers in almost every State of the Commonwealth show that malnutrition, rickets and other children's ailments are .rife. I was in Hobart recently when Lady Gowrie opened the new Children's Hospital in that city. Many of the beds in that hospital are occupied by children suffering from limb troubles such as infantile paralysis caused by lack of proper food and lack of medical attention. J. have already given honorable senators statistics showing that a tremendous number of children will not benefit under this scheme. I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter, and bear in mind the fact that if there is a shortage of money, it can be obtained in millions. In paragraph 504 of its report, the Royal Commission on Banking-

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I shall have to ask the honorable senator to resume his seat if he persists in discussing finance on this bill.

Senator DARCEY - I. have shown that this measure does not by any means eliminate all family problems, and I trust that it is only a preliminary step in. the right direction.

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