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Wednesday, 31 July 1946

Mr SHEEHY (Boothby) .- Efforts by honorable members opposite to discredit what the Labour party has done in the field of social services fall flat in view of its great achievements some of which occurred in the years when we had to battle against a hostile Senate. I remind honorable members that it was not till two years ago that the influx of Labour adherents . to the Senate gave full effect to the will of the people expressed at the general elections in 1943. Ashort recital of what we have done would not go amiss in view of the belittling statements from honorable gentlemen opposite. We have increased expenditure on social benefits from £.17,000,000 to £77,000,000 a year, a truly remarkable achievement in view ofthe fact that we also had to pilot this nation through the greatest war in history. We have been attacked for not having done something about the basic wage. Any one would think that honorable gentlemenopposite instituted all social reforms in this country. Why, they claim credit for child . endowment.

Mr Holt - The honorable member has a poor memory if he does not remember that child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government.

Mr SHEEHY - Child endowment was in operation before then, and it was instituted by a Labour government.

Mr Spender - Where ?

Mr SHEEHY - In New South Wales.

Mr Spender - Speak about what this Parliament has done.

Mr SHEEHY - I am talking about child endowment. The history of child endowment in the Commonwealth sphere is interesting. The basic wage was being reviewed by the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court, and,on the evidence before it, there was no doubt that it would have increased the basic wage by 5s. or 7s. a week, but the anti-Labour government forestalled it by introducing child endowment under which 5s. a week was paid in respect of every child under the age of sixteen after the first. Had the basic wage been increased, the employing class' in this community would have been called upon to pay out millions of pounds, but instead the Menzies Government relieved the employers of the responsibility by paying child endowment out of the Treasury. It remained for the Labour Government to make the child endowment a more respectable amount byincreasing it 50 per cent. Our policy is that the family man can most be helped by family allowances. We do know, however, that both the rate and the method of compilation of the basic wage ought to be reviewed. There is no need for me to stress the obvious. Every one knows what we have done in providing social benefits. Before the last general elections, hundreds of women 'said to me, "We must vote for the Labour party because of the great job that it has done for us ". Honorable gentlemen opposite have the temerity to criticize our methods, but their criticism is not echoed by the people, whereas the national insurance scheme that was passed by this Parliament during the Lyons regime, but was never operated, was treated with hostility throughout the community. I know of no other legislation that has received such a cold reception. Meetings of protest against it were held all over the land. About £90,000 was expended on taking evidence about the practicability of that scheme, but it never came into force. Even if it had operated, the benefits provided would have been negligible compared with those that this Government has bestowed on the people. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Scheme was sectional in character and it covered only a section of the people. The act provided unequal benefits for men and women. The amount of sickness benefit was only 20s. a week to a man and 15s. a week to a woman. It made no provision for medical treatment of a wife or dependent children. A man had to pay1s. 6d. a week for . himself for health insurance and an old-age pension, and if he wanted his wife to receive a pension at 60 years of age he had to pay another1s. 6d. a week. If he wanted medical treatment for his wife and children he had to join a friendly society. Apart from all the other long terms in office that the antiLabour forcesenjoyed, they had from 1932 to 1941 to do something tangible for the people, but did nothing except pass the abortive National Health and Pensions Act. So reactionary are they that I know that when the referendum campaign is being waged they will strenuously oppose this Parliament obtaining power to control conditions of employment in industry so that it shall be able to do more for the workers.

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