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Tuesday, 2 October 1906

Senator FRASER (Victoria) .- I .am very sorry to hear that the Government have not made up their minds to allocate the fund which may be collected under this measure to the payment of oldage pensions.

Senator Playford - We fought that out in Committee. We had a division on an amendment to provide for that, and the

Government voted against it.

Senator FRASER - That only emphasizes my objection. If the Government will even, at this stage, pledge themselves to apply the revenue to be raised under this measure to the pm:ment of old-age pensions, they will relieve me of a great deal of anxiety. In Victoria and New South Wales, old-age pensions schemes are already in operation, and those States comprise two-thirds of the population of the Commonwealth. I have been for many years in favour of old-age pensions, though I think I could improve upon the system at present in vogue. I should favour a Commonwealth scheme of oldage pensions if it could be reasonably carried out, but I am afraid that if the Minister does not give me an assurance whilst I am speaking, or after I sit down-, that this fund will be allocated to the payment of old-age pensions-

The PRESIDENT - It is the Bill, not the Minister.

Senator FRASER - The Minister could bring in another Bill providing that the money derived from these special duties shall be devoted to the payment of old-age pensions.

Senator Playford - That is what is intended.

Senator Clemons - The Government opposed an amendment to that effect. It is not in the Bill, and we cannot get it there.

Senator FRASER - The Ministry could introduce another Bill of a few lines allocating the money to be raised under this measure to the payment of old-age pensions. If they will do so, I shall vote for the third reading of this Bill, or, if they will make a promise to do so next session, I think I can see my way to vote for the measure.

Senator Playford - This Bill cannot become law until it is indorsed by a majority of the people in a majority of the States.

Senator FRASER - I know that that is so, but I cannot break the compact that was honestly and fairly made at the Federal Convention, especially when I consider the extravagance that is taking place, though I admit that if the Commonwealth were in danger, I should be prepared to break any of the provisions of the Constitution. Why should we be called upon to break the compact made with the States when, with a few months' delay, the difficulty might be overcome. If the Government had conferred with the Premiers of the States that have not already established old-age pensions schemes, they might have induced them to do so.

Senator Playford - Conferences have been held, and the States Premiers have said that they would not object to special duties.

Senator FRASER - There might have been another Conference.

Senator Clemons - The States Governments are asking for one at the present time.

Senator FRASER - They are going to hold a Conference next week, or the week after, which will probably open the eyes of the people of this country. I say that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to confer with the States Governments on every occasion where there is a clashing of interests. The Common wealth Parliament was not created merely for the purpose of riding rough shod over the States Parliaments. It was created to deal with defence and other matters which cannot be so well dealt with by the States Governments, but its powers and duties are circumscribed by the Constitution. I am sorry that, as the matter stands, I cannot see my way to vote for the third reading of the Bill, because the Government will give no pledge that they will apply the funds raised by means of these special duties to the payment of oldage pensions.

Senator Playford - A pledge was given in another branch of the Legislature that the money would be devoted to the payment of old-age pensions.

Senator Millen - No pledge has been given. The Minister of Defence said that it might be used for the purpose of defence.

Senator Clemons - What is a Ministerial promise?

Senator FRASER - I am glad to have had - that statement from the Ministerof

Defence. I am sincere in my speech. If that be so, and the Government in another place have given a pledge to apply the money raised under this measure to the payment of old-age pensions, I must vote for the third reading of the Bill.

Senator Clemons - Why do not the Government put it in the Bill ? Ministers here voted against it.

Senator FRASER - Ministers in the Senate may have voted against it, but I do not look upon the action of the two Ministers representing the Government in the Senate as equal to a pledge given by the Government in another place.

Senator Clemons - Will not the honorable senatorlook at the Bill? Of what use is such a promise when it is notin the Bill?

Senator FRASER - I do look at the Bill, and I am sorry that another has not been introduced allocating the money for the purpose intended.

Senator Clemons - If the honorable senator votes for the Bill the money can be applied to any purpose in the world.

Senator FRASER - I admit that it could in certain extraordinary emergencies or contingencies, which I hope and believe will not arise.

Senator Sir William Zeal - Did not the Government vote to exclude the express provision from the Bill?

Senator Clemons - Yes. We moved an amendment to earmark the. fund for old-age pensions, and the Government voted against it.

Senator FRASER - Am I not right in believing that the Minister of Defence has said that the Government have given a pledge in another place?

Senator Playford - Yes, absolutely.

Senator Dobson - Then why did the Government vote against it?

Senator Playford - Because we did not consider it constitutional to put it in the Bill.

Senator Sir William Zeal - What is the value of a pledge?

Senator FRASER - The pledge having been given, I shall vote for the third reading of the Bill.

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