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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator LAMP (Tasmania) .- I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of the hill. The need for child endowment reminds me of the following : -

Father: Du you like your new sister, Tommy ?

Tommy: Yes, she is all right, but there are lots of things we needed more.

The child endowment scheme will assist to relieve the situation in many families, as summed up by Tommy. I believe, with Senator Cameron, that the greatest asset of a country is highly skilled and developed man-power. Therefore, there should be linked with child endowment a move to make the school-leaving ege uniform throughout Australia. In most of the States, the school-leaving age is fourteen years, but I consider that it should be made uniform at sixteen years. Child endowment will be paid on account of children under sixteen, years, but the operation of the measure will not prevent a child from going to work at fourteen years. The child's mind is most receptive between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. Leaving school at fourteen years, children earn more money doing unskilled work than they can earn learning a trade. A boy or girl of fourteen years can get a wage of 4s. or 5s. a day for unskilled work, but learning a skilled trade he or she will be paid a wage of perhaps 2s. 6d. a day. In his book, The Next Step,Mr. A. B. Piddington, K.O., who was chairman of the Royal Commission on the Basic Wage, discussed the school-leaving age and quoted from the report of the Royal Commission on Apprenticeship in New South Wales in 1912. The following quotation is taken from that report: -

In my recent report dealing with factory life, I recommended that the school-leaving age, except in cases of actual necessity, should be raised from fourteen to sixteen, and this appears to me both to be the only hope of increasing the readiness of boys and their parents to come back to the ambition of skilled tradesmanship, and also to be the only remedy for a serious mischief, which I shall now mention. In most trades, the apprenticeship term being five years, the employers- especially the better class of employers - prefer not to have boys until they are sixteen, when their strength is come on them, and when the five years' time will give the employer the advantage of the apprentice up to the end of his minority, and after he has attained almost full manhood energy . . .

The motive of the appeal for a uniform school-leaving age is to guide children when leaving school into skilled trades in which they will become craftsmen and real assets of the country. That is most important, because at the present juncture there is a great scarcity of skilled man-power. Child endowment will be of lasting benefit to the community, but I think that the efficacy of the scheme could be improved by the Commonwealth Government bringing pressure to bear on the States to make the school-leaving age sixteen years. I shall conclude with the following quotation from Mr. Piddington's book: -

Progressive minds who study the relation of the sexes are often heard to urge the recognition of women as an independent economic unit. It is unnecessary to go into this wide question, but if the old belief that a nation's greatness may be measured by the status of its womanhood, much remains to be done with regard to working mothers; and their right to child endowment could not fail to increase their importance in the home and also in the community. There is ground for the impression that the wives of the working men, as a result of present social conditions, hare not, speaking generally, the same status in their own circle that wives in more fortunate circumstances enjoy. Nothing but good can come of any policy which increases the respect and influence in the home and in political and social action of these incomparable women.

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