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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr F MCDONALD (BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I ask the Government to make the administration of the Pensions Department a little more sympathetic to deserving cases, not that I have anything to say against the officers, because they keep within the letter of the Act, for which no one can blame them. But the Government might give them a hint, or power, to use their discretion. A blind man of Sydney, who applied for a pension, has written to me as follows: -

The cause of mv application is blindness; mv occupation is that of a cigarette and tobacco vendor, and I earn about 35s. per week. I have not sufficient money in the bank to warrant a limitation of pension, and have no other property, &c. I was born in Australia, and have never been abroad.

He says further -

A friend of mine, similarly afflicted and employed, applied for the pension as a cigarette and tobacco vendor, and as such he was granted the pension. Last week he was summoned to the Pensions Office and told that his pension was to be discontinued, and bc was likely to be the recipient of charity, and the pension was not for mendicants, and that the granting of his pension was a mistake in the first place.

In that case the Department said that the applicant might possibly become a recipient of charity. It would not harm the Commonwealth even if blind pensioners did receive a little over and above the minimum wage. I implore the Government to give their officers power to use their discretion, which I do not think they would abuse. An association of blind people has written to say that persons who come to Australia with defective eyesight are debarred from receiving the pension.

Mr Maxwell - They are being provided for in a later amendment.

Mr F McDONALD (BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that is so, I shall not press that matter further.

Mr Charlton - I am very doubtful whether the Treasurer can amend the Bill in view of the present ruling.

Dr Earle' Page - I have a separate Governor-General's Message for that purpose.

Mr F MCDONALD (BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have the case of a person who occupied a certain home and then disposed of it. He is not yet in full receipt of the proceeds of the sale, as the purchase money is being paid off by instalments, and those instalments are being used to purchase another home. To all intents and purposes this person is living in his own home, but the proceeds of the sale were taken into consideration by the Department, and the pension was very much reduced. I shall, later, move an amendment to section 25 of the principal Act, which deals with the exemption for homes.

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