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Thursday, 26 February 1959

Mr ROBERTON (RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Social Services) - My attention, up to this point, had not been drawn to the statement alleged to have been made by the Lord Mayor of Sydney. Unfortunately and, perhaps, unhappily, I do not know the gentleman, but from what the honorable member for Hume says, it is fairly obvious to me that the powers of comprehension of the Lord Mayor of Sydney are limited. It is true that the International Labour Organization publishes a list of countries, stating their expenditure on what is called " social security ", measured against what is described as their " national income ". But the International Labour Office, in the document, warns readers not to draw the wrong conclusions from that list or from any other list of the kind. The fact remains - and apparently the Lord Mayor of Sydney has forgotten it - that Australia is noi a unitary country such as France. Belgium, Spain and Portugal. It is a federation. The Commonwealth Government has certain responsibilities in regard to social services and discharges them to the best of its ability. The six State Governments, too, all have social welfare responsibilities which are discharged to the best of the ability of the people of those States. So it is entirely unfair to draw a comparison between a federation and another kind of country. In addition to that, perhaps I should say - and the honorable member for Hume would want me to say - that there are no special merits in huge expenditures on social security since, quite obviously, a relatively poor country with a high percentage of unemployment would naturally spend a higher proportion of the national income on social security than would a rich country with comparatively little unemployment.

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