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Wednesday, 17 May 1939

Mr WILSON (Wimmera) . - I rise with a good deal of diffidence to make some brief observations on this bill. Some assistance should be provided for the widow and children of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), but I do not think that to the degree that is set out in the hill the taxpayers of Australia should be expected financially to support them. I have been surprised at several aspects of this matter. One is the peculiar silence of the majority of members on the Government side of the committee on a matter on which some expression of opinion should be given. Another is that, despite all that has been said in many places, particularly in the press of

Australia, of the high services rendered by the late Prime Minister, there has been no spontaneous move by the general public of Australia to subscribe a sum of money for the purpose of giving support to Dame Enid Lyons and her family. Its absence is remarkable. In view of the high praise that has been given to the services of the late Prime Minister, I feel that we have not tackled -this problem in the right way. It calls for a spontaneous expression first of all. by members of this Parliament. In view of the general expression of hostility we who have been in touch with the electorates realize that it would have been a much better gesture if the members of this Parliament had taken up this matter voluntarily. That would have made for a genuine expression of the ideals that have been expressed by a good number, and felt, no doubt, by all of us. It is far from my desire that I should suggest any cheeseparing in making provision for a widow and children, particularly the widow and children of one who served his country so well as did :tb& late Prime Minister ; but I, in common with many other speakers, feel that there has been too much neglect on the part of past governments in dealing with the widows and children of others who in humbler stations have equally served this country. I have in mind many soldiers' widows and children, with whom I frequently have correspondence. We have to make a tremendous fight in many cases to overcome hurdles of red tape in order to obtain for them even a meagre amount of assistance. The same applies to widows of workers who have been worn out and have fallen by the wayside in doing this country's work and in accumulating its wealth. We have not done justice to them, and I take this opportunity to bring that point of view before honorable members. The same applies equally to many of the widows and children of those who were on the land, those who have struggled in primary industries, and have left heavy responsibilities to their widows and children. I hope that any precedent that we create in passing this legislation - I am not opposed to it - will bring a greater realization of the responsibility of the ( Government to deal more generously with those other sections of the community which in a humbler way play an equally important part in our whole scheme of things. It would have been better in this case, I believe, if every member of this Parliament had offered to contribute even £100. Honorable members may laugh at that, but I make the suggestion in all sincerity. I am surprised at the laughter.

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