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Thursday, 6 May 1920

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - I desire to once more refer to the question of invalid pensions as these affect tubercular and similar cases. There are many unfortunate individuals in the community who, by reason of tubercular disease, are unable to follow any occupation. Many of thesehave been in hospitals for months or years, and only recently some were turned out of the Austin Hospital, at Heidelberg. Amongst those turned out are sufferers who have parents in receipt of wages which at one time were considered large, but are not so considered now. Unless parents who find themselves unable to support the sufferers turn them out into the streets, invalid pensions are not granted.

Mr Poynton - I think that is hardly correct.

Mr MATHEWS - It is a fact, and it is not the first time that suchcases as I refer to have occurred. In one case that has been brought under my notice, the parents are in receipt of a wage of £4 per week, and of their four or five children some are dependent, others semidependent, whilst the eldest is suffering from tuberculosis, and cannot earn a living. He left a sanatorium to return home, and' because the parents are willing to give him a shelter he cannot secure a pension. The only way to obtain a pension, as I say, is for the parents to put the sufferer on the streets. If that be done, they have to sleep in the street, or be locked up, until a pension can be secured, and we all know that the business of getting a pension cannot be got through in three or four hours. I am sure that there is not a member in the House who has not heard of cases of the sort. For years I understood that the Commissioner had special powers to deal with such cases on their merits.

Mr Poynton - I think the Commissioner has that power. I shall be only too pleased to inquire into any typical cases brought before me.

Mr Tudor - The case the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) is referring to is that of a man, with both lungs affected, who was turned out of a hospital.

Mr MATHEWS - I have had five similar cases of hardship brought under my notice in the last two months. Some years ago 8s. a day might have been considered a fair wage, but now 16s. is worth no more than 8s. was then. We still base the power of the parent to maintain his children on the rate of the old cost of living. It is no pleasure to me to be continually bringing these cases before the House, but there are so many that they cannot be neglected. It certainly is not according to the spirit of the Act that a parent should be compelled to throw his invalid children on the street in order that they may obtain a pension. If the Minister (Mr. Poynton) will promise that such cases will be considered in view of the present high cost of living I shall be satisfied.

Mr Poynton - I promise to inquire into any cases laidbefore me, and see what can be done.

Mr MATHEWS - In the case of one sufferer - a man twenty-eight years of age - I told him, in, perhaps, a brutal way, that in order to obtain a pension he had better sit down in the gutter and let the police arrest him.

Mr Poynton - Does the honorable member mean to say that if a child is crippled the parents have to turn it out into the street before a pension can be obtained ?

Mr MATHEWS - That is so, if the parents are earning anything like £3 10s. or £4 a. week. I have fought the matter out with the Victorian Deputy Commissioner, and I believe that all the Deputy Commissioners have endeavoured to deal with such cases in the spirit of the Act, but find it impossible. I took cases to Mr. Collins, when he was Secretary to the Treasury and the real Commissioner of Pensions, and also to his successor, but there seems tobe a disinclination to alter the decisions arrived at some time back. The present is certainly not a humane way of administering the Act.

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