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Wednesday, 31 July 1946

Mr RYAN (Flinders) . - I was amazed by the unfriendly attitude of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) towards the proposal of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) that child endowment should be paid in respect of the first child in a family, I should have thought of all people he would support that. I am led to wonder what are the views of his colleagues. He described her speech as extraordinary, but her proposal is sound, and I have no doubt that before long it will be adopted. The Labour party professes interest in larger families and more family comforts, but the honorable member for Bass does not seem to share that interest. It is true that the Social Security Committee, of which I am privileged to be a member, has made many recommendations in respect of social services, most of which, I am glad tosay, have been adopted. In the last two years the committee has mainly concentrated on medical and hospital benefits, as requested by the Government, but it hasnot been asked to make any recommendation to the Government about family allowances, which are of the greatest importance. The honorable member for Bass saidthat as this bill dealt with the raising of the money for social services it was improper for the honorable member for Darwin to raise the matter of child endowment, but the social services at present operative are mostly of a negative character. In other words, they provide benefits to help grown people over misfortune, sickness and old age. They are entitled to that help,, but. of more benefit, to, the. country would' he steps, to. enable, people to avoid the. need. to. seek many of those benefits. The honorable, member for Darwin, proposes something of great wisdom, The structure of the nation should be based on the. family unit, and we should devote more attention to infants and children, who require assistance more than any one else in the community does. The honorable member for Darwin pointed out that the basic wage to-day is not adequate for the needs of a family of three - husband, wife and one child. Indeed, the basic wage is less than what that family unit requires. The standard on which the basic wage is fixed does not conform to present conditions, particularly category 3, which contains a large number of protective foods for the maintenance of the health of the individual. During the last few years, the price of those ' foods has increased greatly. The prices of vegetables, have risen by between 50 per cent, and 60 per cent. Eggs, which are not subsidized, are much dearer than they were a few years ago. The price of fruit, which forms an important part of the diet of a family, has increased considerably. All those foods are not taken into the calculations when the basic wage is being computed. Rents and the cost of clothing also have increased steeply in the last few years. As those alterations have not been taken into account, a family is not able to live comfortably on the basic wage and maintain its health. Therefore, the basic wage should be re-assessed on a new and sounder basis.

Mr Calwell - "Why not allow the Commonwealth Parliament to determine the basic wage?

Mr RYAN -- Because the Parliament is not the proper authority to do so. In my opinion, family allowances should be payable in. addition to the basic- wage. I consider that the basic wage should be fixed on the basis of the needs of a man and his wife, and a family allowance should be added to it. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) mentioned that the Labour Government of New South Wales was the first government in Australia to introduce child endowment. Whilst that statement may be correct, I point out- that this Parliament deals,, not- with. New. South Wales alone, but with the whole of Australia. The Menzies Government has the ' credit for having introduced' a scheme of- child: en:dowment applicable to the Commonwealth as a whole. After the next elec ti'ons, a government formed by honorable members on this side of the chamber will deal with child' endowment. I commend the honorable member for Darwin for having raised this matter.

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