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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales) . - I wish to associate myself with the passage of this epoch-making legislation. It is a most amazing measure, owing to the source from which it springs. The reactionary parties which are now in office, and have been in power for many years, have brought down a measure which one would have expected from the Labour party. Certainly the war has revealed strange bed-fellows. In Europe we find Mussolini and Hitler cheek by jowl, and in the United States of America President Roosevelt is seen walking arm-in-arm with his opponent, Mr. Willkie. In Great Britain Labour and Capital are also walking together. In the last twenty years the United Australia party and the Country party have produced legislative results of a negative character, but war-time conditions have now forced the Government to recognize the claims of wageearners on the bottom rung of the social ladder. I am almost inclined to forgive honorable senators opposite for their past political sins, in view of the splendid job they have done in introducing this child endowment scheme. I congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) who was in charge of the measure in the House of Representatives. I had an opportunity to read his second-reading speech, and I mention, incidentally, that no such opportunity was afforded to me in this chamber. The Minister surveyed social conditions in Australia, and his address was an acceptable addition to the collection of notable speeches made in this Parliament. This measure constitutes an important step. in the right direction, but, until the Government deals effectively with the problem that arises from the need for an increased population in Australia, it will have only half performed its task. European dictators have offered various inducements to the people of their respective countries to increase the population. Marriage loans and other inducements have been offered, and the populations of those countries have increased by leaps and bounds. But here in Australia, where one would expect the population to increase normally, we find that during the last ten years, mainly because the standard of living has been allowed to decline, our vital statistics have become most disturbing indeed. If, in supplementation of child endowment, the Government approaches the problem of the birth-rate with a view to encouraging, first, early marriages, and, secondly, the rearing of large families, it will do much to retain power. This is the kind of legislation which the Labour party wishes to see placed on the statute-book. Personally, I do not care which party initiates it. In fact, if this Government brings down more legislation of this kind the need for the Labour party might disappear altogether. I give that tip to the Government.

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