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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator McLEAY (South Australia) (Leader of the Opposition) , - I had an opportunity to peruse the bill as presented in the House of Representatives, and I have read the ministerial speech on the second reading of the measure in that chamber. I understand that some amendments were made in the House of Representatives, and that they have been incorporated in the bill now before the Senate. Up to a few minutes ago, it was impossible for me to obtain a copy of the bill as now presented to honorable senators. I do not think that the amendments are vital, but I hope that the Minister in charge of the measure (Senator Keane) will supply the necessary information when the bill is in committee. In addition to the amendments made in the House of Representatives, I notice that further amendments have .been circulated in the Senate. As the Government is anxious to push on with this legislation, I do not propose to hold up the passage of the .bill; but, if any member of the Opposition desires to secure the adjournment of the debate until a later hour of the day, I suggest that he would be entitled to do so. I again remind the Government of the financial commitments in which the Commonwealth is involved for the year ending the 30th June next. When we remember the cost of child endowment, widows' pensions and the increase of the invalid and old-age pensions, as well as war expenditure, and the fact that the Government is anxious to relieve from taxes a large number of persons whose taxable income is below £400 per annum - 70 per cent, of the wage-earners of Australia fall within that category- it appears that the Government is proceeding blithely ahead without taking into account the fact that a day of reckoning must come. A former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, had the unfortunate experience of having to face a financial crisis, and I repeat, for the benefit of members and supporters of the Government, the suggestion made by members of the Opposition from time to time that widows' pensions, invalid and old-age pensions and social services generally should be financed on a contributory basis at the earliest possible opportunity. When the Parliament had under discussion the proposal for a comprehensive scheme of national insurance, members of the present Government opposed it bitterly, chiefly because the benefits were to be provided on a contributory basis. 1 hope that the Minister will not lose sight of the fact, aa stated in his second-reading speech, that in most other countries in which pensions have been provided the schemes are formulated on a contributory basis.

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