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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator CANT (Western Australia) . - I direct attention to Division No. 470 - Central Administration, and wish to refer to compassionate allowances. Reference was made to this matter by Senator Fitzgerald. The handbook " Commonwealth Social Services " states at page 1 1 -

For classes A and B, the term " widow " includes a deserted wife, divorcee, a woman whose husband has been in prison for at least six months, and a woman whose husband is in a menial hospital.

No where in this document can I find any reference to a deserted de facto wife. There are some of these in our community. Simply because they have failed to go to a registry office or to a church to get married, they are unable to qualify for a pension. I find that there are people in the community who are not even Australian citizens and who are not naturalised but who are paid a compassionate allowance equal to a widow's pension. They may never become Australian citizens and their children also may never become Australian citizens, yet they are entitled to a compassionate allowance. An Australian woman who has lived with a man for a number of years and borne children to him, is rejected if she applies for a pension or a compassionate allowance. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has admitted this in a letter to me in which he stated in reply to a letter I wrote on 14th July 1964 -

As a general rule a compassionate allowance, equivalent to a pension, is paid only to an unnaturalised person who possesses all the other qualifications necessary to receive a pension . . The view has always been held that under the existing social welfare structure there will always be a residue of cases to be dealt with by voluntary effort and State instrumentalities.

Looking at this matter a little further, we find that a divorced person is entitled to receive a widow's pension.

Senator Wedgwood - That is right. She has been married.

Senator CANT - The woman may even have been the cause of the divorce, yet having caused the break up of a marriage, within the terms of this definition she is entitled to claim a widow's pension. Then we come to the position of a woman whose husband is in gaol. It should be remembered that the gaol sentence has to be six months or more so the crime is generally a rather serious one.- The crime is a voluntary act, and the man is sent to gaol when he is convicted. Arising out of that voluntary act the man's wife is entitled to a widow's pension.

The woman I am speaking about lived with a man for about 17 years and bore him seven good Australian children. Then he decided to desert her and she was left without any support with which to bring up those children. She applied to the Department of Social Services for a pension but her application was rejected.. Then she made an application to the Department for a compassionate allowance equal to the widow's pension plus children's allowances, but the Minister for Social Services rejected that application. He said that it was not within his power under the law to grant a widow's pension, and I agree. However, it is within the discretion of the Department to grant a compassionate allowance. The Department often grants a compassionate allowance to people who probably will never be Australian citizens, but this good Australian woman is unable to get assistance. If the Minister far Customs and Excise cannot answer my query, he should take the matter up with his ministerial colleague with a view to having the position rectified.

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