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Tuesday, 19 May 1942
Page: 1357

Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) . - A feature of this legislation which appeals to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) no less than to me, because he referred to it in bis speech, is that it will create a social service uniform throughout the Commonwealth. I am not at all dismayed by the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that the proposed amendment would exclude the State governments from conferring a social service by way of widows' pensions. I believe that is most desirable.

Mr Stacey - But it would not achieve that.

Sir FREDERICK STEWART - No, but the honorable member for Bourke was dismayed lest it should. No State persevered with old-age pensions after the 'Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme was instituted. The State of New South Wales vacated the field of child endowment when the Commonwealth Child Endowment Act was passed. I am sure that the great majority of honorable members and of the community anticipate that there will be a similar result from the passage of this legislation. It is inconceivable, although I admit that it would not be illegal - I support this proposed amendment because I desire to make it illegal - to have operating concurrently in some States, State widows' pension schemes and a Commonwealth widows' pension scheme. The situation is made worse in this instance because in New South Wales at present there is a generous widows' pension, in Victoria one much less generous, and none at all in the other States. I warn the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that unless action along the lines of the amendment be taken the effect on another bill which is to come before us will be serious. Prom the remarks of the Treasurer on Friday last, honorable members generally assumed that it was proposed to adjust the finances as between those States which had certain social services and the Federal Treasury. If, however, we take no steps to prevent New South Wales from running a scheme of widows' pensions concurrently with the Commonwealth scheme, there will be no justification for making a financial adjustment with New South Wales in that connexion. No one will accuse me of lack of sympathy with widows and orphans, but it is almost Gilbertian to suggest that we should have a Commonwealth scheme of widows' pensions operating throughout Australia concurrently with a scheme of widows' pensions operating in certain States, but not all States. I shall support the amendment.

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