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Wednesday, 5 May 1920

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) . - I move-

That this Bill be now read a second time.

The object of this Bill is to provide moneys for the purpose of paying invalid and old-age pensions. The moneys appropriated will be paid into a trust account. This is a. statutory requirement, but it means that payment of these pensions is not dependent on the passage of the annual Estimates. The Trust Fund is handy for other reasons. The Constitution requires that all surplus revenue at the end of the financial year must be paid to the States, but so that we may keep any outstanding balances within our own compass and for our own use, we always take care to appropriate them into this very convenient Trust Fund. I am asking now for the appropriation of £10,000,000 to cover the payment of invalid and old-age pensions for another two years. The total amount appropriated for invalid and old-age pensions since we began to pay them in 1909 is £31,250,000. The last appropriation, amounting to £10,000,000, was made in 1917, and is now exhausted ; at any rate, it will not last until the end of this financial year, and, therefore, it is urgent that we should have this fresh appropriation. Perhaps I may give honorable members a few figures to show the generous provision made by this Parliament from time to time for the invalid and oldage pensioners of Australia. They indicate an increasingly generous attitude on the part of Parliament towards these pensioners. In 1917, we had 120.000 pensioners, to whom we paid £3,518,000. In 1918 we had 125,000 pensioners, to whom we paid £3,753,000. In 1919 we had 127,000 pensioners, to whom we paid £3,S80,000. ' This year there are 135,426 pensioners, to whom £4,569,000 has been paid, and to whom for the full year, it is estimated, £5,134,000 will be paid. The increase is due to the extra 2s. 6d. per week which was granted to the pensioners some time ago. A small weekly incre- ment means a tremendous sum in the total for the Commonwealth to pay. No one begrudges this increase, which has been brought about by the increased cost of living. It was right that we should try in some small way to help the old people to meet the conditions of life that are afflicting other" persons in the community who are much better off. The conditions under which the pensions are paid are now very much more liberal than they were. We allow the pensioner a maximum pension of £39 a year, but when the income from other sources exceeds £26 a year, a deduction is made from the pension, so that any person in receipt of a pension shall not have a total income of more than £65 per annum. Formerly the limit was fixed at £58 10s. I wish the country could afford to be more generous, but honorable members will see that the rates of the pension are making very heavy demands upon the Treasury, and in the next Bill which I shall bring forward I shall indicate what demands are being made upon it by other pensions. In fact, our pension list is peaking sharply upwards, and I hope that at the present moment no honorable member will raise debate as to the adequacy or inadequacy of the pension rates. I am merely asking the House to give us a further appropriation of money so that we may be able to continue paying the pensions as heretofore.

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