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Thursday, 10 November 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) . - Upon the payment of maternity allowances, I differ somewhat from Senator Payne. From what I have been told by persons who are closely in touch with those mothers who are really in necessitous circumstances, and whom the bonus was intended to benefit, it is clear that the intention of the Act is not being carried out. Instead of the bonus being earmarked for the special benefit of the mother and child at lie birth of the child, in the majority of cases it is devoted to other needs.' For example, 'the husband, if he happens to be a drunken waster, gets it and spends it. It seems to me that the administration of the Act requires radical review. In no circumstances should the actual cash be handed over to the applicant. The Act ought to be administered in such a way as to insure proper medical attention for the mother and child at the birth, and there should be some provision for clothing for the child, I noticed in a report of the Children's Hospital the other day that, notwithstanding the payment of the maternity allowance to all mothers, some of the children have been taken from the hospital with a piece of old blanket wrapped around them, and exposed to a tram ride in bitterly cold weather, with the result that pneumonia frequently supervenes and results in the early death of the child. I therefore suggest to the Governmen t that it should be disbursed through some organization which will insure that the amount of the bonus is properly spent, and that its benefits reach the proper destination. So long as the Act remains in force as it exists at present I shall not quarrel with the distribution of the bonus, no matter what may be the positions of those who apply for it. The bonus was offered deliberately to all, without distinction. The nature of that provision was, in my opinion, wrong. It should have been limited to mothers in necessitous circumstances. A change shouldbe made in that direction, and also the distribution should be through some charitable or philanthropic organization which could furnish, in each instance, medical attention to mother and child, and any other necessary assistance at the time.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Attorney General's Department (£13,143), agreed to.

Home and Territories Department.

Proposed vote, £66,368.

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