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Thursday, 20 November 1941

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - No subject in this chamber causes greater interest, or at any rate, induces so many honorable members to participate in the debate, than that of invalid and old-age pensions. On countless occasions, the pensioner and his worries have been dragged into the debate by the hair of the head, the heels, the sleeve, or any part of the anatomy or of the clothing that provides a grip.

Mr Harrison - Even by the beard !

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - This is one of those rare occasions when the bill deals exclusively . with invalid

Mr Riordan - What has this to do with pensions?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable member for Kennedy should hequiet. I am like the wise old cat. 1 like my mice playful, and I like them young. As the honorable member is one of the young, playful mice in this chamber, he had better be quiet.

On behalf of the pensioner the Government is prepared to say to one section of the taxpayers, " We propose to conscript your income by taxes that will rise to 18:. in the £1. ". But it is not prepared to say to the other section of the taxpayers - '"In the direst necessity which faces the country to-day, we propose to increase the taxation of your incomes in order to provide something for the pensioners ". Nor is the Government prepared to .tackle the problem of manpower; but before long, it will be forced to do so, and my friends and I will be very happy to lend a helping hand in order to assist the lame dog over the stile. At this stage, the Government is, not prepared to call upon the men of the country to safeguard those conditions which, according to supporters of the Government, the pensioners must enjoy. 'She

Mr Calwell - That is true.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I should not bc proud of it.

Mr Calwell - It is not their fault. It is the fault of the system, which the honorable member defends.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable member for Melbourne is himself a legacy of this place. He was left to us in the will of the late Dr. Maloney. If I were the honorable member, I should not advertise the fact, that one in every seven of my constituents is a pensioner.

In every constituency one finds dozens of elderly mcn of approximately the same age. They lived their lives in the same district. One man saved his money and produced from his earnings, a competence on which he now lives. Another man, a pensioner, had a. very good time during his working life. If lie lived in New South Wales he attended the " dogs ", went to the races, or had a "bob" or two on "Billy". If he happened to live in the electorate of Watson, he would be most unwise to "back" the present member at the next election. One could find these comparisons in every electorate. But iv hat does the Government say to the elector when lie attains the age of 65 years? If he has saved nothing and. is "stony-broke", the Commonwealth

Government says, " Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Here is 23s. 6d. a week ". If the tail be able to wag the clog next year, the revised budget will increase the pension to 25s. a week. But if the man has saved a competence of the value of £400, the Commonwealth Government says to him, "Get into utter and outer darkness. You can weep and wail and gnash your teeth until you have disposed of your equity of £400; but it has to last you a certain length of time ". A social system based on that foundation is utterly wrong and unjust. There is neither justice nor sense in a social system which says to the thrifty and provident " You are to be socked. You will get nothing. We disregard you, you foolish fellow. You were thrifty. You took out insurance or bought a house or other property and received rent. No, we do not own you ", and to the man who has spent to the limit or beyond,

You are the sort of chap we want.We shall give you more". That is the sort of thing that the Government proposes to encourage. Legislation of this type is wrong. I do not. agree with what was said this afternoon by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). He did not express my sentiments, and I hope that he does not express the final sentiments of the United Australia party.

Mr Calwell - If he does, the honorable member for Barker will have to leave the United Australia party also.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Not at all.

Mr Sheehan - Pensions are products of low wages.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Pensions are not the result of low wages. It is thepride of the Labour party that in this country industrial conditions are better than in many other countries of the world. Members of the Labour party cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that as the result of their efforts, either in office or out of office, industrial conditions in this country compare more than favorably with industrial conditions in other countries and at the same time claim that pensions are owing to low wages. Whether there be an election or not my honorable friends opposite will be out on the hustings telling the electors, the poor misguided industrialists in the cities, of the wonderful things that they have done for the working men. At the same time, they cannot claim that the pensions are the result of low wages. Largely responsible for the rising pensions bill in this country is the inability or failure of people to make any provision for their old age. I am not sure whether the statement was made from this side or from the Government side of the chamber, because honorable members on both sides speak with the same voice on this matter, a voice which does not appeal to me, but it was said by someone this afternoon that this question would have to be gone into much more deeply and that shortly we should have to think of making it a universal rule that as soon as a man became 65 years of age he would become entitled to the pension. That is a very poor type of political gull for any party of this country.

Mr Coles - Why not compulsory insurance?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) must remember that he is now attached to the Labour party. To quote a few lines which will be familiar to you, Mr. Speaker, " Sold in advance hoof and hide, to the little black god on the mountainside ". The honorable member for Henty is over there for the sacrifice. His throat will soon be cut. The honorable member should sit down and study the history of compulsory insurance in this House.

Mr Conelan - What did the honorable member do about compulsory insurance?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I devilled for the then Treasurer, the former member for Corio (Mr. Casey), whom I assisted in putting the national insurance legislation through this House. I sat at the table for six weeks, except for one night, when the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell), the then Speaker, relieved me of duty. I had a very interesting experience in putting that legislation through. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Act was a good piece of legislation.Sooner or later, if our friends opposite remain in office with the

Mr Calwell - What about dealing with the bill?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON -O! am dealing with the principles of the bill. This is a bill to amend tlie Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.

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