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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) . - I take advantage of this- clause to refer to the administration of the' Act in' connexion with property owned by- pensioners. If people live in their home, its value is not taken into account in- computing the pension, but. if they leave it, as very often they have to do for reasons beyond their control, they risk the loss of the pension. Many of - them are- ignorant of the law, and do not know that it is necessary for them to acquaint the Department' with the fact that they have left their home. When that is discovered; -they receive- a communication from the Department informing them- of the amount of pension they have- received over and above what they are entitled (Sounder the Act, and' are asked to make s refund, or the pension may be cancelled. 1 cannot say - a word against the Pensions Department, because all the officers' there are sympathetic, but they have to' take certain action under the law. I could in' stance many cases of this- kind- that havearisen during the last twelve months.- A case I have in mind at present is that of a blind man, a. friend of mine, who lived: with his' wife in their old home. The1 wife was stricken' down, anc? confined to hexbed' as an invalid, without much hope- of recovery. Because' of the condition' of the husband, they were compelled to< leave their home, and live with their son, who is a working miner, with a large family, and whose- income is.' barely sufficient to. keep his own family. Being ignorant of the' law, these old- people did' not inform the Department that they had left their homey which they let' for the magnificent) sum of' 5s. per week-. They were notified, that they had' been overpaid from the time they had- left their home: This, ia a very hard case* an>d: it was never- contemplated that the Act should operate- is this- way. As1 a. matter' of fact, these' oldpeople required more- money when they left their home than they did previously^ Many similar instances might be quoted; and something should be done- to> meet; these cases. The Government propose to increase the value of the- property which, " may be possessed' without affecting tha pension from £310 to, £400. I think it should be increased to at least £500.

When the original Act was passed, property was not half as valuable as it is today. A house that would cost £900 to build to-day could be built for £400 in 1912 or 1913. Where old people have to leave their home, and let it. the value of the home as property is taken into account in calculating the pension. That is a good reason why the maximum value should be raised to at least £500. The valuation generally accepted is that of the local authority, and so no deception could be practised upon the Department by pensioners. I prefer that the Treasurer should propose the amendment of the clause himself, because in view of the last decision of the Committee any amendment I moved, however desirable, would be defeated.

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