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Thursday, 18 September 1958

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro persists in interjecting. If he interjects again, I will have to deal with him.

Mr ROBERTON - In 1950, this Government made the first increase to be granted in its administration - an increase of 7s. 6d. per week in age and invalid pension? In 1951, it granted an increase of 10s. per week; in 1952, an increase of 7s. 6d. per week; in 1953, an increase of 2s. 6d. per week; in 1955, an increase of 10s. per week; in 1957, an increase of 7s. 6d. per week; and now, in this year, it has provided for this supplementary allowance of 10s. per week.

Widows' pensions have moved in the same way. The means test, both with respect to property and income, has also been liberalized substantially, as this bill indicates. As I have said, there are eight pages of this document, setting out the achievements of the Menzies Government, year by year, as it has increased the rates of pensions and social service benefits, and as it has extended the social services provision by the liberalization of the means test to include tens of thousands of people, year by year, who were previously excluded by the socialist government in the most generous year of that unhappy period when it was in office.

We have introduced new social service schemes, all of which were denied by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, but no one knows better than he that when the Chifley Government, driven to the final madness of socialism, introduced a pharmaceutical scheme, no reputable pharmacist would have anything to do with it. When it tried to introduce a medical benefits scheme, no reputable medical man or woman would have anything to do with it.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) referred to the hospital scheme to-night. Every hospital in the community was in a state of financial desperation when this Government came to office in 1949. This Government has entirely changed that situation by encouraging people to take some protection again the normal hazards to life and limb.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, I have no wish to detain the House any longer than is necessary. I should like to end on this note: Some people talk in ' extravagant terms of social service payments, and are inclined to forget that every penny spent on social services has to be found by the taxpayers, including the lowly workers who receive only the basic wage, and the considerable number of people who earn less than the basic wage. There are more than 300,000 men and more than 700,000 women in Australia who receive less than the basic wage to-day. That, of course, is due to the itinerant nature of their employment, and to other circumstances. Altogether, more than 1,000,000 people earn less than the basic wage. Fewer than 4,000,000 people pay the taxes from which are derived all the financial resources that are available to me as Minister for Social Services, in addition to the financial resources needed for all the other services of government. Loading the taxpayers with an intolerable burden of taxes against the savage incidence of which they would be forced to seek protection would only serve to destroy the social service scheme, and would do the greatest harm, in the humanitarian sense, to those people who are in need of social services from time to time.

I have no wish to prolong this debate, Mr. Speaker. I commend the bill to the House, and ask for its speedy passage in order that it may be proclaimed at the earliest possible date, since the supplementary rent allowance will be paid on the first pay-day after the proclamation is made.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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