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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr CUNNINGHAM (Gwydir) (Assistant Minister) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The object of this measure is to enable relief to be given to persons whose eligibility for pensions under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is affected by the fact that they are entitled to deposits in the old business division of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank. Owing to the closing of that institution, these persons are, unfortunately, unable to operate on their accounts, which, in many instances, represent their whole life savings. As the pensions law stands at present, these deposits constitute property within the. meaning of the act, and there is no option but to take them into account in dealing with claims for pensions, despite the fact that the depositors are unable to operate on their accounts. It has been represented that in some cases this is causing hardship, and it is the earnest desire of the Government to afford relief in these instances. Cases have been brought under notice in which persons who are debarred from receiving pensions have offered to refund any pension paid to them when the State Savings Bank is in a position to repay deposits. It is now proposed to amend the law in order to enable pensions to be granted to these persons irrespective of the amount of their deposit in the Savings Bank, subject to their assigning the amount of such deposit to the Minister administering the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Provision already exists under the New South Wales Government Savings Bank acts for the assigning of deposits. If the proposed amendment becomes operative, any claimant or pensioner who has a deposit in the old business division of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank will be able to assign his deposit to the Minister, and thereupon the amount of such deposit will cease to be regarded as property for pension purposes, and the amount of pension will be assessed accordingly.

It must be clearly understood that this concession will apply only to those persons who have money in the old business division of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank. Deposits in the new business division of that bank, or in the savings bank of any other State, or in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, will not be entitled to the benefits of this amendment. When the whole or any portion of the assigned deposit is paid by the Savings Bank Commissioners, the amount of pension which has been paid as a result of the assignment will be deducted from such payment, and the balance remaining, if any, will be paid over by the Minister to the pensioner, or to his representative, in the event of the pensioner's death.

The cost of this amendment cannot be estimated at present. The Commonwealth will be safeguarded by the provision for the deduction of any pension paid as a result of the amendment from any moneys eventually received from the Savings Bank authorities. That is a brief outline of the provisions of the bill. The amendments, which are only of a machinery character, are being made to give effect to the Government's proposals. They do not interfere in any other way with the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. This measure hasbeen submitted in order to grant relief to those "deserving and thrifty persons who placed the whole of their life savings in the old division of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, and who are now in the unfortunate position that they cannot operate on their deposits. As the Government is anxious that these people shall not be left in their present position, I trust that honorable members will give the bill a speedy passage.

Mr Beasley - Will the pension department assess deposits at their full face value?

Mr CUNNINGHAM - For pension purposes the value of a deposit will be disregarded.

Mr Maxwell - Pensioners having deposits in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales will, if thismeasure is passed, be deemed to have no property.

Mr Beasley - Will the department continue to pay a pension after a deposit, of, say, £300 has been exhausted?

Mr CUNNINGHAM - Yes. If the old division of the Government Savings Bank is not re-opened before a deposit is exhausted, the depositor will still continue to receive a pension.

Mr Paterson - A depositor would forfeit the deposit after its value had been exhausted. But payment of a pension would still continue?


Mr Crouch - Could not this concession be extended to those who have their money locked up in the conversion loan ?

Mr CUNNINGHAM - Provision is made in the Debt Conversion Bill (No. 2) to grant relief innecessitous cases. That cannot be done under this measure.

Debate on motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) adjourned.

SUPPLY (Formal).

Gold-Mining Industry.

Question - That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.

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