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Thursday, 18 September 1958

Mr ROBERTON (Riverina) (Minister for Social Services) . - in reply - Mr. Speaker, I would not have addressed myself to this bill a second time during the second-reading debate but for the fact that when the debate was resumed some three hours and five minutes ago the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) opened the discussion on behalf of the Opposition with a vicious attack on my honour and my integrity.

Mr Turnbull - A shameful attack!

Mr ROBERTON - It could be described as a shameful attack. But there is a complete explanation for the disgraceful behaviour of the gloomy member for Eden Monaro. He was forbidden to-night to make any reference to the Labour party's record on social services, and he ignored that record. He was expressly forbidden by his leader to make any reference to the policy of the Labour party with regard to the future of social services, and he observed his instructions to the letter. Consequently, he had nothing else to do but to indulge in a vicious attack on me.

Mr Ward - What did he say?

Mr ROBERTON - I shall tell honorable members some of the things he said in the few minutes at my disposal. He quoted these remarks from my second-reading speech - . . year by year and Budget by Budget. . . Rates of pensions, benefits, and allowances have been increased. . . . The means tests, both with respect to income and property, have been liberalized . . . social services have been extended and expanded, and new social services have been introduced. . . .

The honorable member also said that I stated that this bill was no exception. Hs said that my statements were untrue. He told honorable members that I had said that I did not believe that social service progress could be measured in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, and that my statement was untrue when I said that in 1949 the total expenditure on social services was no more than £81,000,000 but that it had increased until now it is £273,000,000.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it is my bounden duty, as a responsible Minister, to cite the figures given in an official document which I have before me giving expenditure from the national welfare fund under the Social Services Act. I do not wish to delay the House in a debate of this kind, but it is necessary to answer these allegations. I shall give honorable members the total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund in the years since 1949. In that year the expenditure was £80,777,000. In 1951, the total expenditure was £114,983,000, and in 1953 is was £165,511,000. In 1955, the expenditure was £189,319,000; in in 1956-57 it was £223,923,000; in 1957-58 it was £247,485,000; and the estimate for 1958-59 is £273,817,000. Those figures are not to be contradicted by any honest man. They are incorporated in the Budget papers.


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