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Friday, 4 October 1912

Senator McCOLL - It is nonsense to say that one woman representing one society was more in touch with the subject than any of the rest. The resolution is entitled to our best consideration. It is as follows -

That this meeting disapproves of the Maternity Allowance Bill, on the following grounds : - First, the useless expenditure annually of the large sum of money involved in making all mothers (irrespective of the need of financial assistance) eligible for the allowance ; second, the wholly inedaquate amount of the fixed allowance, which, it is considered, will in very many instances utterly fail to realise the avowed object of the measure and only render the work of existing societies and institutions more difficult ; and third, the absence in the Bill of any provision or guarantee that the allowance will be expended in any way which will benefit either mother or child.

I have read the speeches made at the conference, and can say that they were full of charity and toleration. Nothing was said to run down any woman, no matter how unfortunate. Everything that emanated from this conference was done with the desire to help. It would have been well, before this measure was brought in, had people like these from the various States been taken into counsel, and some scheme prepared which could have been by common consent recognised as suitable to the whole community. I feel quite sure that, whilst this proposal will do some good, whilst some benefits will arise from it, it will not be long before Parliament will be called upon to make a radical alteration on the lines which these ladies propose. I am against the Bill, and intend to vote against it for the following reasons : I object to it, first of all, because it is a votecatching proposition, and I am not going to play into the hands of my opponents by helping them to carry it through. Secondly, I object to it because the money could be better expended by working in with State and local agencies.

Senator Guthrie - Societies which cost more to work than they distribute in help.

Senator McCOLL - A great number of these organizations which are doing so much good in the community are administered without any cost whatever.

Senator Guthrie - Not one; can the honorable senator mention one?

Senator McCOLL - I object to the measure also because the amount that will be spent, except in cases of absolute need, will be unnecessarily spent. Lastly, I object to it because I consider that the whole subject should be dealt with on sounder line's than those proposed at the present time. An expenditure of £400,000 a year, if wisely administered, would suffice to erect maternity homes, hospitals,, and similar institutions over the whole of Australia, and the balance to be expended would provide a foundation fund to keep these institutions going, aided, perhaps, by a little State or Commonwealth support. One year's expenditure under this Bill would be sufficient to do this great work, which would be of enormously greater advantage than simply paying out a dole and forgetting all about the people who received it after the money was paid. For these reasons I intend to vote against the measure.

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