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Tuesday, 19 May 1942
Page: 1355

Mr CALWELL - That answers the question put by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I should like to know what the position will be in respect of widows in New South Wales who will receive increased payments after the passage of certain legislation through the Parliament of that State. I am not sure whether the legislation has yet been passed, but I know that it was introduced in the Legislative Assembly. Is it intended to permit the benefit to be conferred under the Commonwealth Widows' Pensions Bill to be augmented by the amount payable under the State legislation; or, does the Treasurer intend to deduct from the grant to be made by the Commonwealth to the State not" only the amount actually expended by it in respect of widows' pensions during the last two years, but also the amount involved in the State legislation at present under consideration ?

Mr Chifley - The bills to establish uniform income tax propose that there shall be deducted from the compensation to the State of New South Wales only the equivalent of £ 1 a week in respect of each widow and 5s. a week in respect of the first child.

Mr CALWELL - Then it would be possible for a widow in New South Wales to receive the benefit of this legislation and also the amending legislation at present before the Parliament of New South Wales?

Mr Chifley - The Commonwealth proposal is concerned only with a simple means test - what a widow receives from any source. Payments under State legislation will be taken into- consideration.

Mr CALWELL - If a widow receives an additional benefit from the State, an equivalent amount will be deducted from what she would otherwise be entitled to receive under Commonwealth legislation.

Mr Chifley - If warranted by the amount of income derived, such a deduction would be made.

Mr CALWELL - I have previously pointed out that the Government of Victoria. through the Charities Board, is able to profit because of payments made under Commonwealth legislation.

Mr Scullin - That is true of all States.

Mr CALWELL - It ought not to be true of any State. Legislation of this kind should contain provision for the protection of the Commonwealth Treasury against State governments obtaining a benefit which this Parliament intended should be enjoyed by children, widows, or other persons. The Minister for Social Services has said that the matter will be raised at a Premiers Conference. That does not satisfy me. I am not assured tha t the Premiers would be in a receptive mood if the Commonwealth should tell them that they must not make such profits. Commonwealth legislation should be so framed that its validity may, if necessary, stand the test of appeal to the High Court.

I should be immensely intrigued to know exactly how the officers who are to administer this act ascertained the number of persons widowed, or likely to he widowed, during a period of five years immediately preceding the date of a claim for a widow's pension. I said at an earlier stage that it is possible that quite a lot of persons will wish to come to Australia from European countries at the termination of the war. Many of them will be the widows of men killed in the conflict. After a residence of five years in Australia, they will be entitled to claim the benefits of this legislation, whether they were widowed before or after their arrival in this country. Whatever appropriation has been fixed; the Governor-General has been misled; because it is not possible for any official to say what this scheme is likely to cost. What irks me considerably is the thought that a number of refugees who will come to Australia because they think it will provide them with an asylum in which the conditions are much easier generally than they have experienced in the land that gave them birth will obtain an advantage over Australian-born subjects whose husbands happen to be in gaol or are invalid pensioners. I can see no reason why, in respect of future substantial social benefits, those who might never speak our language, but, on the contrary, may congregate in settlements and speak a foreign tongue, should receive better treatment than those of our own kith and kin who have assisted to advance the welfare of this country, and whose parents or grandparents laid the foundations of the prosperity which we of this generation enjoy. Several days have elapsed since I raised this matter on the second reading. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us more than has been vouchsafed to us so far in respect of the probable cost of this bill.

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