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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)

DIVISION:NOES 26 (12 majority) AYES 14 PAIRS 0

Majority . . . . 12





Question so resolved in the negative.

Proposed votes put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 12.51 to 2 p.m.

Department of the Treasury.

Proposed vote,£862,000.

Mr.MAHONEY (Denison) [2.0].- I wish to draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to an anomaly in connexion with the payment of old-age pensions. It has to do with the position of pensioners' wives, and the effect of their earnings on their husbands' pensions. To cite a typical example: A man, on reaching the age of 65, becomes eligible for a pension, but, because of some physical disability, is unable to earn anything extra for himself. His wife is not yet old enough to draw a pension, and so, in order to augment the family income, she engages in seasonal work for three or four months in the year. If, as the result of her efforts, the total income of the couple exceeds £3 a week, the Pensions Department will reduce the husband's pension to 12s. 6d. or 15s. a week. This is most unfair. Before making any such reduction, the department should at least take into consideration the income of the family over a period of twelve months, and not over only a few months of the year. It sometimes happens that other members of the family have to live in the home of the pensioner. Some of the children may not be strong enough physically to earn for themselves, though they are not sufficiently incapacitated to qualify for an invalid pension. In the circumstances, three, or perhaps four, persons may be living in the house, all dependent on the earnings of the mother, plus the father's pension. It is sufficiently tragic that the mother, after rearing a family, should, in her declining years, have to go out and earn money with which to keep her children, without having her meagre earnings taken into account for the purpose of reducing her husband's pension. It is not right that mothers of families, who are getting up in years, should have to compete for employment in shops and factories. I suggest that the services of such women to the nation should be taken into consideration and, when a husband receives a pension at 65 years of age, his wife also should become eligible for a pension, even though she be two years or so under the statutory age. I do not really expect that the Government, which represents the big financial interests, will give favorable consideration to the claims of the poor, because its actions in the past have shown that it is not interested in them, or in the welfare of the mothers who have reared families. For income tax purposes the income of a taxpayer over a period of twelve months is taken into account. The same consideration, at least, should be extended to pensioners, so that a man's pension would not be reduced just because the total income of himself and his wife, over a period of a few months, exceeded £3 a week.

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