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Thursday, 11 May 1939

Dr MALONEY (Melbourne) .- A short time after the death of Mr. Lyons I attended a church ceremony, and I was glad to see that every religion was represented there, the Jewish among the others. I wish that we could achieve the same degree of harmony in our parliamentary affairs. With a project of this kind all sections of the House are naturally in sympathy. At the time I pronounced my eulogium on the late Prime Minister, I did not realize, as I do now, what a wonderful man he was to have kept his party together. I now know that it is a very quarrelsome party, and my admiration for him has increased tremendously. I am glad that a com mittee was appointed to inquire in a decent way into matters relating to the object of this bill; but consider the six pages of questions, some of them with twelve questions each on them, which the unfortunate applicant for an old-age pension has to answer ! Can we not have a committee to remove some of those infamous questions that are an insult to the applicants, and a reproach to this Parliament? I learned one lesson from an. old man who was, until recently, an old-age pensioner. It was to this effect: " Judge not your own child, but every child. Judge not according to the life that one woman wants, but that every woman wants, and that every mother wants ". I welcome this bill, though I do not approve of some of its contents, and would not vote for it if a division were called. I welcome it as an example of what we ought to do for every mother of eleven children. On the very day that the announcement was made that it was proposed to make a grant of £25,000 to Dame Enid Lyons, the newspapers carried a story about a mother of twelve children who could not find a home. As the result of the recent bush fires in Victoria, there is one woman, the mother of eleven children, without a home, but I did not hear any Minister of the Crown suggest that special action should be taken on their behalf. We hear constantly about the need for increasing the population, but we do not give the people enough food to feed their children I say that as a medical man, backed by the highest medical authority in the world. The paltry wage paid to a great many of our people is not sufficient upon which to bring up a family. I do not know whether there is some malign influence at work to prevent the people knowing their wealth. Dr. Wilson has removed some information regarding the private wealth of Australia from the latest epitome of statistics; but for the year 192S-29, the last for which information is available, the private wealth of Australia was estimated at £526 for every man, woman and child. We are born into this world, we live here a little while, and then we pass along, leaving behind us wealth to the value of thousands of millions of pounds for the wise men in politics to divide. We have never known what the public wealth of Australia really is; what is the value represented by the unsold lands of the country, the big public works, and the unworked mines. As a matter of fact, the mineral rights in the land belong to the State and Commonwealth. Assuming the public wealth to be half that of the private wealth, we arrive at a total of more than £7,000,000,000, which amounts to over £1,000 for every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth. Yet we allow mothers and children to lack food. For the last three years I have made an effort to raise money with which to buy milk for children attending creches and kindergartens in Victoria. So far the public have subscribed over £4,000 for this purpose. I should like the Prime Minister to take steps to ensure that every Australian child receives two pints of milk a day. In Russia, that country about which so many lies have been told, every child is entitled to receive .not less than two pints of milk each day. I, as an Australian, loving my country, want to see the same provision made here. With the possible exception of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), no other honorable member of this House has seen the home life of the poor in the cities as I have seen it. I have seen mothers trying to make a meal for their children when there has not been enough food in the house. I have never known any man, be he a conservative of the deepest dye, who would not favour the 'making of adequate provision for the children, at any rate. I remember when there were no old-age pensions or invalid pensions in Australia, when the destitute had to contrive to live on 2s. 6d., and sometimes as little as ls. 6d. a week, distributed by benevolent societies and church authorities. Thank God those days have gone. When the old-age pensions scheme was introduced in Victoria, I tried to induce the authorities to base the system on the pensions scheme operating in the Public Service. I was unable to do that, but, at any rate, we succeeded in having the pension fixed at 10s. a week. An attempt was made to compel the dependants of the old people to contribute to their support, and I remember that there were two deaths, one very shortly after the other, as the result of taking poison instead of medicine when government officers were about to make investigations regarding means.

The widows of New South Wales have to thank the Government of John Lang for the widows' pensions scheme in operation in that State, the only State in which widows receive a pension. In this respect, New South Wales stands upon the pinnacle of civilization. Let us all follow the good example.

I lived for six years in London as a medical student, and that was where I first learned my hatred of "man's inhumanity to man " which as Bobbie Burns wrote " makes countless thousands mourn ". I appreciate what it is proposed to do in this bill for Dame Enid Lyons, and I ask that similar treatment be accorded to every mother of eleven children. Every one would like to see the children healthy and well fed. There is no head of a State, be he king or president, if he is wise enough, who would not rather have a healthy population than one dragged up in slums.

I crave the indulgence of the House to include a personal reminiscence. A few years ago, I had a glorious birthday party. I wish that every member of this House could have its equal. Over 2000 persons paid for admission to the Town Hall in Melbourne, and the birthday cake weighed 188 lb. Needless to say I did not eat it. Those who organized the party worked very hard, and about £60 was raised for the purchase of milk for- the children. Next year they wanted me to have another hig party, but I said that one like that was enough for a lifetime. Instead, I paid a visit to the creches and kindergartens where the children were being looked after by their nurses, and I remembered that the man who had instituted the system of kindergartens was allowed to die almost a pauper. They asked me if I would allow myself to be photographed for the screen, and I agreed, provided it were for a good cause. Thus it was that, at the age of SO, I became a movie actor, together with my well-loved friend and comrade George Prendergast, who was one of the straightest men that ever lived. Nothing could induce him to swerve from the path of duty as he saw it. I never see that picture without wishing that my old friend were with me still. Well, when they came and said, " What do you want to do?" I said, "Could I make an appeal for the creation of a fund for the supply of milk for the mites at the kindergartens?" I thus became a movie actor. One little mite, when she came along with her twopence, said that she had seen me on the screen - that wonderful invention - and I asked her whom she liked best. She replied, "I like you, Dr. 'loney". For these little ones - nearly two thousand years ago, Christ took the children in his arms and blessed them - I ask more than they receive at present. I ask that they get enough food. I feel that the hearts of all honorable members are with me in that. There is no honorable member who would refuse, if it were put to the vote, to see that the children are properly fed. I welcome this bill, because it tells me that the hearts of men who wish to look after the welfare of eleven children of a dead man must ask for the same or better treatment for every mother of twelve children - even six children. God knows that is enough for any working man to have.

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