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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr POLLARD (Ballarat.) .- I regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) remains adamant and will not agree to a reduction of the qualifying period to four days. It will be generally conceded that the average Australian is not a malingerer, but I can conceive of no provision of any act or of any friendly society tending to encourage people to become malingerers more than will this provision of this very stupid national insurance bill. I am quite satisfied that this provision will tend to make sick people exaggerate the seriousness of their illness, as, in fact, they will have every justification for doing. It will encourage people to act dishonestly. Nobody knows better than the Treasurer that there are such people as malingerers.He is himself a political malingerer. He is malingering on the people of Australia in regard to this national insurance bill. He is attempting to take something away from people who cannot afford to lose it, in order to lighten the burden on a more favored section of the community. In the circumstances I should feel justified in advising people who have been sick for three or four days to assume sickness for another day in order to recover some of the money that they have paid into the national insurance fund. This is not a nice thing to say, but I contend that people who are unjustly treated under this scheme will undoubtedly retaliate and this is one of the means by which they will do it. The Government will not gain anything by refusing to give way on this question. During the earlier discussions of the bill the Treasurer said -

The patient will be encouraged to go early to the doctor. This cannot fail to have a substantial preventive effect in respect to disease.

Will a patient be encouraged to go to a doctor when he knows that his illness may last for three or four days during which he will receive no sickness benefit at all? Rather will he avoid going to a doctor for fear that he may not qualify for sickness benefit, but yet may lose several days' pay. Logically, the Treasurer has no justification for persisting in his stubborn attitude. I hope that honorable members will voice their protests against this provision, not only in this House, but also in their electorates. It seems useless for members of the Opposition to make pious appeals to the Treasurer. They might as well talk to a brick wall, for almost invariably when they are addressing the Treasurer he is indifferent to them and is talking to his colleagues or other Government supporters. That may also be said of other Ministers. The members of the Opposition have not the same opportunity to influence the Government as have its supporters, who in party meetings and through their party organizations can bring pressure to bear upon it. It is entirely futile for supporters of the Government to make appeals to the Treasurer in this chamber and expect members of the Opposition to believe that they are sincere and desire seriously that their requests shall be granted. The refusal of the Treasurer to concede to the demands of members for a further liberalizing of this provision is an insult alike to this committee and to democracy. I hope that the electors, particularly those adversely affected by this provision will show in no uncertain manner at the first available opportunity their disapproval of the Government's attitude, and their resentment at the manner in which they have been treated.

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