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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) . - in reply - I thank honorable senators for the kindly way in which they have received the bill. Neither I nor other members of the Government desire to take any credit for the introduction of the measure. Members of this chamber and the people whom we represent outside are united in an effort to place child endowment on a proper basis. Most of the criticism directed at the bill has been non-party, but occasionally in the debate the old Adam of political bias has obtruded. I deprecate such obtrusion. I think that all of us can take credit for possessing the ordinary human emotions and desire that the children of this country shall have the best chance possible to become useful citizens. Senator Keane commented on the method of paying the endowment. This question has caused the Government much concern, and it has been investigated from every angle. The Government has no objection to mothers having the endowment money paid into their savings bankaccount. If they wish the endowment to accumulate for, say, three months or six months, they may adopt that method. The Government will take every precaution to ensure that the mothers' convenience will be studied in making the payments. The Government's only concern will be that the money is paid to the mothers entitled to receive it and that it is used properly. Many mothers may desire to allow the endowment money to accumulate for some years for the purpose of providing a fund for the higher education of their children when they complete their primary education. No slur will be cast on any mother. If a mother does not want to call at a post office to collect the endowment, she may authorize the money to be paid into her savings bank account.I was intrigued by the statement of Senator Keane that the boss has all his sympathy. The only senator who caused me some sorrow was . Senator Cameron, who is prone to paint doleful pictures.

Senator Cameron - I thought thatI painted a bright picture.

Senator LECKIE - If the honorable senator painted a bright picture, then his favorite colour is black. Senator Lamp advocated the introduction of a uniform school-leaving age throughout Australia, but I would point out that the Commonwealth Government has no right to interfere with the State governments in that matter, because the fixation of the schoolleaving age is entirely within their province. With reference to the comments of honorable senators regarding the basic wage, the Government has indicated to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration the standard family unit for which the court must have regard when determining the basic wage.During the last 25 years the size of the standard family unit has varied. Now the court will be relieved of considerable worry, because the unit will be indicated by the Government. Senator Abbott said that he wanted child endowment to be made a national responsibility. I do not think that it can be described as other than a national responsibility.

Senator Abbott - I meant that the whole of the money required for child endowment should be a charge on the Consolidated Revenue.

Senator LECKIE - Actually, the whole of the money will come out of Consolidated Revenue. Succeeding governments will be bound by the act to raise the money required for the operation of the scheme. Senator Arthur gave the impression that families in the country districts are smaller than those in the cities. From my experience, I should say that on the average, families in the country districts are 25 per cent, larger than families in the cities. The honorable senator also stated that very few families would benefit from child endowment. I would point out that the 1,800,000 children in Australia have 800,000 parents; therefore a very large number of families will benefit.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 (Administration).

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