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Wednesday, 14 December 1927

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) .- I move-

That the Senate at its rising adjourn till till 11 a.m. on Monday, 19th December.

It is only after I had exhausted all the ordinary channels, and a few additional ones, that I decided to adopt this course. I should not have done so had I been able to obtainredress in any other way. I realize that the Pensions and Repatriation Departments have a number of intricate questions to solve from time to time, and that they do the best they can with the staff at their disposal. Nevertheless, in their enthusiasm they occasionally make mistakes. I desire to refer to one instance, in which, in my opinion, a grave injustice has been done. I refer to the case of Mrs. Christina McArthur, of 306 Nelson-street, Annandale, the mother of Sinclair McArthur, who enlisted in the early days of the war, and soon after paid the supreme penalty for his patriotism, leaving a widowed mother. In common with many thousands of others, Mrs. McArthur did not know what she was entitled to receive from the Repatriation Department. On the18th August, 1915, the department commenced to pay her a war pension of £2 a fortnight. That continued until the 26th April, 1926 - a period of nearly eleven years - when the department discovered that every fortnight Mrs. McArthur had been short-paid to the extent of 12s. 3d. The department thereupon forwarded her a cheque for £173 3s.1d. which was paid to the credit of her Savings Bank account at Annandale. About that time the Deputy Commissioner for Pensions issued the usual circular inquiring as to the financial position of pensioners. In response to that request, Mrs. McArthur supplied information revealing a substantial sum to her credit in the Savings Bank. On receipt of that information, the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, in terms of the act under which the pension was granted, reduced Mrs. McArthur's old-age pension by £1 for every complete £10 over £50 standing to her credit in the bank. Prior to the receipt of the cheque referred to, Mrs. McArthur had incurred certain liabilities which were discharged promptly on receipt of the cheque. Nevertheless, she still had in the hank a. sum sufficient to cause the Commissioner to reduce her pension. In consequence, sums totalling £11 8s. 9d. were deducted from the amounts -which otherwise would have been paid to her. I desire to emphasize that only because the amount withheld was paid to her in a lump sum was it possible for the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions to reduce her pension. Had Mrs. McArthur been paid the correct amount of pension fortnightly, there would probably not have been to her credit in the bank a sum sufficient to cause her pension to be reduced. Mrs. McArthur was left a widow some years before her son was killed at the war, and had to support a fairly large family and pay rent for the home in which they lived. I claim that she is entitled to interest on the amount wrongfully withheld from her. At the rate of 4 per cent, she is entitled to interest amounting to £44 15s. 8d. in respect of the £172 3s. Id. withheld from her. In addition, since receiving the cheque referred to, she has been deprived of £11 8s. 9d. She is, therefore, entitled to receive from the two Departments a sum of £56 4s. 5d. I have put this woman's case before the Minister for Defence (Senator Glasgow), and following upon representations made to the Deputy-Commissioner of Pensions, the department, on 23rd September, restored the pension to the maximum rate of 40s. a fortnight as from 22nd of that month. In reply to a letter which I sent to the department I received the following from the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, Sydney, under date 25th October, 1927 :-

ReChristina McArthur, widowed mother of Sinclair McArthur, Ex/156, Cpl., 4th Battalion. Address: - 306 Nelson-street, Annandale, New South Wales.

With reference to the representations made by you on behalf of the above named, I have to advise that the facts of this case as as follow: -

The pensioner is the widowed mother of a deceased unmarried soldier whose rate of pay in the A.I.F. was 10s. per day at the date of his death.

In accordance with column 2 of the first schedule of the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act 1020 she is entitled to war pension of f2 12s. 3d. per fortnight. War pension at £2 per fortnight waB granted to Mrs. McArthur with effect from the 18th August, 1915, which represented the day following on the date military allowances ceased to be paid.

In April, 1920, the case was reviewed and the fact that Mrs. McArthur was a widowed mother was disclosed. The pension was underassessed at the difference between £2 and £2 128. 3d. per fortnight from the date of original grant. An increase in the rate to £2 12s. 3d. per fortnight was effected from the 18th August, 1915, and on or about the 14th May, 1926, a cheque for the amount of £172 3s. Id. was forwarded to the pensioner to cover arrears then due in the case.

I have no power to accede to the request made for interest to be allowed to Mrs. McArthur in respect of the moneys paid to her by way of war pension arrears, and compensation may not be granted on account of the reported reduction in the rate of her old-age pension.

It will be clear from the above that Mrs. McArthur has been justly treated in so far as she has received all moneys to which she is entitled under the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act, and any representations considered necessary with regard to her old.age pension should be made direct to the deputycommissioner, Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department.

That is the view of the department I do not agree with it. On the 10th November I wrote the following letter to Sir William Glasgow, Minister for Defence-

Dear Sir. - I am enclosing herewith a letter from the Repatriation Commission dated the 25th October, 1927, in reference to the delay of the commission in paying to Mrs. Christina McArthur, of 306 Nelson-street, Annandale, New South Wales, the war pension of £2 12s. 3d. per fortnight as due to her, by which she was deprived of the use of £172 3s. Id. for the period as set out in the letter. 1 am also enclosing a letter from the New South Wales Deputy-Commissioner of Pensions, dated the 8th November, from which you will see that as a result of the receipt' of £172 3s. Id. in one sum the DeputyCommissioner for a time reduced her old-age pension by which she was at a loss to the amount of £11 8s. 9d. lt seems to me that Mrs. McArthur has been unjustly deprived of this money by the Oldage Pensions Department - perhaps quite legally so far as that department is concerned_ but it was through no fault of hers that the. £172 3s. Id. above referred to was placed in the bank to her credit, thereby necessitating the above reduction by the Old-age Pensions Department. It seems to be only just that the money deducted by the Pensions Department, together with interest at the rate of 4 per cent, on the money held by the Repatriation Commission, should be paid to this lady, and this would amount to -


She is certainly in equity entitled to get this money, and I shall be glad if you will give these representations early and favorable consideration.

The matter was referred to Sir Neville Howse, Minister in Charge of Repatriation, and on the 10th instant I received the following letter from him -

With reference to your letter of the 10th November, addressed to the Honorable Sir William Glasgow, regarding the case of Mrs. C. McArthur, of 306 Nelson-street, Annandale, New South Wales, I. have now had an opportunity of perusing the relevant departmental file. I regret, however, that there is no provision in the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act under which interest could be paid as compensation. Neither is it possible to reimburse Mrs. McArthur in respect of the deduction which took effect in connexion with her old-age pension.

That is the final word from the Minister in charge of repatriation. The departmental view may be right, but it is not satisfactory to Mrs. McArthur, who was deprived of the use of £172 3s. Id. spread over a period of nearly eleven years. Had she placed that money in the bank and received interest at 4 per cent, on it, it would have amounted to the total I have mentioned. We have to remember also that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions department came on the scene with the result that she lost £11 8s. 9d. in pension payments properly due to her. Mrs. McArthur's case demands sympathetic consideration. When the call came her son, upon whom she was dependent, responded and made the supreme sacrifice. When we consider the huge sums of money that are spent in a thousand and one directions it should be possible to make up to' Mrs. McArthur what is due to her, either from moneys at the disposal of the Repatriation Department or from a special fund. There should be no trouble or delay about the matter. I have placed the facts before the Senate to the best of my ability, and I feel sure that all honorable senators understand the position. Again I ask the Government to take immediately whatever steps may be necessary to ensure the payment of this money to Mrs. -McArthur.

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