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Tuesday, 10 December 1912

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I am sure that every member of the Government, and every member on this side of the Chamber, and, I dare say, every member on the other side, would only be too pleased if we could grant pensions such as are proposed by the amendment in a time of difficulty; and not only grant them in connexion with servants of the Commonwealth, but the working sections of the community in every walk of life. It would not be fair to the workers, who have to go out into the cold blast of competition throughout the whole of Australia, and who meet with an accident or misfortune, that they should have only the State Acts to fall back on in connexion with accidents, and that the employes of the Commonwealth should be placed in such an advantageous position. Senator Stewart must remember that it is the workers in every walk of life who would have to make their contributions towards the amounts that would be distributed by way of pensions among the widows and orphans of those who had been in the service of the Commonwealth. The liberal allowance proposed to be made to the widows and orphans of Commonwealth employes is not for the purpose of enabling the widows to sit down and enjoy themselves in peace and contentment during the rest of their lives. The widow gets this compensation for the purpose of enabling her to get into some little business, or carry on some calling, until such time as her children are in a position to assist her.

Senator Rae - lt is a subsidy.

Senator McGREGOR - That is so. It is a subsidy on account of a loss that they have sustained; and I think it will be time enough to consider the widows and orphans of deceased Commonwealth servants when we are considering the position of other widows and orphans. Honorable senators are all aware that you, sir, have a motion on the business-paper dealing with this very question, and I hope the time will come when the Commonwealth will be in a position to bring in a general scheme providing, not only for all invalids as well as old-age pensioners, but for all widows and orphans who are left in an unfortunate position. Senator Stewart has neglected to look at another phase of the question. It' you are going to give a widow with four children, of whom the youngest is only eight, 15s. per week until she is married, she will never get married, and the very object which Senator Stewart has in view with regard to peopling Australia with young Australians will be defeated. I believe Senator Stewart is endeavouring to do something in the interests of the widows and orphans of former public servants, but before he proceeds to do anything of that kind, I ask him to consider the hundreds of thousands of other widows and orphans.

Senator Stewart - We are not dealing with them now.

Senator McGREGOR - No ; but when we begin to deal with widows and orphans, let us deal with all the widows and orphans in Australia, and not one small section at the expense of the rest. Although I should be glad if we were m a position to do this, and far. more. I ask honorable senators to consider the position of the Commonwealth. At the present time we have enormous commitments to meet, and although we may desire to do all that Senator Stewart wishes, still we should have discrimination enough to know that an amendment like this, upon such a Bill, is not the very wisest legislation that could be passed.

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