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Wednesday, 31 July 1946

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- The honorablemember for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) spoke hopefully,but not very confidently, of this " best Government in the world governing the best country in the world " being returned to office. In discussing this motion, I desire to read an extract from a Labour newspaper which gives the best possible description of the hollowness and shallowness of this alleged Labour Government's efforts on behalf of the workers.

Mr Fuller - What is the newspaper?

Mr ANTHONY -The Century.

Mr Calwell - One of the " kept " organs of the Liberal party.

Mr ANTHONY - Once upon a time, the gentleman who now directs the Century was hailed by the honorable member forLang, who had been a member of the Lang party, as a leader " greater than Lenin ".

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order! Will the honorable member relate his remarks to the motion?

Mr ANTHONY - I shall read an extract from an editorial published in the Century on the 19th July. It states -

The workers have nothing to thank the socalled Federal Labour governments for. It was the Scullin Government, under stress of the depression, which gave us the sales tax in all its viciousness.

You can't alter the character or unpleasantness of castor oil merely by changing its name.

But it has remained for the Chifley Government to make it a permanent feature of our income tax laws that practically every income, no matter how small, must pay income tax.

The Century also published other statements in the same strain concerning the social services legislation of this Government. Honorable gentlemen opposite pretend that they are friends of the wageearners, and that the Government has introduced a social services programme which is free, but, in effect, far heavier payments are being extracted . from the workers than would be required for first-class service, of the same kind by non-government means. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has nterjected to the effect that the scheme will not cost as much as bananas from my farm; but the honorable gentleman is merely trying to divert attention from- my statements. However, I intend to proceed to expose the hollow hyprocrisy of the so-called free social service programme of this Government. Any services that are being provided will be paid for at high rates by the entire community, and working men will have to bear a heavy share of the hurden. Do honorable gentlemen opposite realize that a man earning £7 8s. a week, who has a wife and two children, will be required to pay £27 17s. 6d. a year for these benefits? The rate of payment will he ls. 6d. a- week. This is what the Government calls a " free " service. The National Welfare Fund, which should have to its' credit between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000, but which, we know, is not in credit at all, was established to meet the cost of a long list of benefits which include invalid and. oldage pensions, widows' pensions, maternity allowance, child endowment, funeral benefits, unemployment and sickness benefits, pharmaceutical and hospital benefits, tuberculosis benefits, and rent rebates under the Government's housing plan.

Mr Calwell - Not a bad first instalment.

Mr ANTHONY - No doubt the Minister for Immigration will be touring the country very shortly declaring from public platforms that this Government has done a marvellous job in providing such a long list of benefits^ According, to the financial statement made by the Treasurer a few days ago, the services which I have just enumerated cost £53,161,585 in 1945-46, but honorable gentlemen should realize that, of that total, £50,721,423 was required for invalid and old-age pensions, widows' pensions, maternity allowance and child endowment, all of which were provided free, and_ without special tax, by previous governments.' So much for the claims of this so-called beneficent Labour Government.

The amounts that the wage-earners will be required to pay for the benefits that they receive is worthy of a little more comment.

Air. Mulcahy. - Is the honorable gentleman opposed to the provision of those benefits?

Mr ANTHONY - I am about to reveal to the taxpayers how much, the benefits will cost. A wage-earner in receipt of £125 a year will be required to pay a social services tax of 5s. a week, and a man on a salary of £7 8s. week, with a wife and two children, will be required to pay a tax of ls. 6d. a week, or £27 17s. 6d. .a year. He could obtain practically the same hospital benefits for. himself and his family for a payment of 9d. a week to the ' Grand United Order of Oddfellows, and he could obtain a funeral benefit for a few pence more a week. As a matter of fact practically every one of the benefits which the Government is providing could be obtained by joining any one of a- number of wellestablished friendly societies in this country, and at a quarter of the cost which the Government is about to impose.

But there is a worse side to the story. The. Menzies Government was instrumental in having placed on the statutebook legislation for a national health and pensions scheme under which employees would pay ls. 6d. a week on the average, and employers a similar amount, for invalid and old-age pensions and insurance benefits, without the application of the means test.

Honorable membersinterjecting,

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! There are far too many interjections. The honorable member for Richmond is entitled' to be heard in silence.

Mr ANTHONY - Honorable gentlemen opposite do not like having the weaknesses of their scheme exposed.

Mr Calwell Mr. Calwell interjecting,

Mr ANTHONY - I congratulate the Sydney Morning Herald on having caricatured the Minister for Immigration as a cockatoo.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member for Richmond is provoking the Minister to interject.

Mr ANTHONY - I agree, Mr. Chairman, that I am provoking all the supporters of the Government to interject. They do not like the hollowness of their professions to be exposed. They do not like the public to be told the truth about the legislation that is being submitted to Parliament. The social services contribution which will be required under this measure will be a definite burden on the wage-earning community. A man earning £385 a year, who has a wife and two children to maintain - an average family man - will not be pleased at having to contribute £27 17s. 6d. a year for social service benefits, most of which were being provided free by the Menzies and Fadden Governments. Such persons are valuable members of the community, though they would be even more valuable if their families were larger. This impost will fall on many artisans, tradesmen, and clerks. I do not think any one will disagree with my statement that an impost of £27 17s. 6d. a year on a man who is earning little more than £7 a week will be a hardship, especially as he will receive for it very little more in social benefits than he was previously receiving without any such tax. The Government's policy in respect of social services offers no inducement to thrift. Under the national health and pensions scheme enacted by the previous Government there was no. means test. For a payment of a few pounds a year all citizens would have been entitled to the prescribed benefits, but under the scheme now before us a man who owns his own home and has an income of £2 or £3 a week will be denied any benefits of an insurance character.

Mr Conelan - That is definitely untrue.

Mr ANTHONY - I said that he would get no benefits of an insurance character. By that I mean invalid and old-age pensions.

Mr Conelan - That also is untrue.

Mr ANTHONY - The benefits of the Government's scheme will not be available to prudent and thrifty citizens who have saved a few -pounds to provide comforts for themselves in their declining years. I am not surprised that honorable gentlemen opposite have interjected so freely during my speech, for I have touched them " on the raw ", and have exposed the claim that the Government is doing something to assist the wageearners. Honorable gentlemen opposite claim to represent the wage-earners, but in fact they merely batten on working people and pretend to be their champions. The workers will be required to contribute heavily for any social services they receive as the result of the legislation of this Government.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member's time has expired.

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