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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) . - I have much pleasure in supporting the request made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). It will be agreed that it is a very modest one. Under the clause provision is made for -the payment of 3s. per week to pensioners who are inmates of institutions. The Treasurer has said that from the information he has received, these old. people will be satisfied if they are given this amount.

Dr Earle Page - This is what they have actually asked for.

Mr FORDE - So far as I know, pensioners in institutions in Queensland will not be satisfied with the proposal of the Government. Certain individuals may have said that they would be satisfied with a pension of 3s., believing that it was impossible to get it from this Government, and hoping that honorable members on this side would put up a fight for more generous treatment for them.

Mr Groom - They did not think of anything but what they wanted. They did not give a thought to honorable members on either side.

Mr FORDE - If the AttorneyGeneral were in the place of these people, who have spent the best part of their lives in the service of the country, and now find themselves in these institutions, he would not be satisfied with a pension of 3s. per week, which is hardly sufficient to keep these old people in tobacco. It will not be sufficient to provide them with the little comforts that are so essential to people in the evening of their lives. There is one of these institutions in Rockhampton, which is the chief centre of my electorate. It is called the Rockhampton Benevolent Home. A very fine body of women manage the institution in the interests of the old people of central Queensland, who prefer to remain in the district in which they have spent their lives, to going into the State institution at Dunwich, which is 400 miles from Rockhampton. From visits made to the institution, I know that the old people there do not consider that they have been fairly treated in the past, and they will not be satisfied with a pension of 3s. per week. The institution is run with funds drawn from the charity of people in central Queensland, and although it receives, also, a grant of £600 from the Queensland Government, the total revenue is not sufficient for its proper maintenance, and requires to be regularly supplemented by collections which are periodically made in Rockhampton. These old -folk cannot obtain the wholesome foods which are necessary to keep them in good health, and in consequence I support the very modest demand for 3s. per week, which could go towards paying for little luxuries and comforts. This would allow the pensioners to purchase tobacco or clothing, and enable them to set aside a few shillings to have at their disposal if at any time they wished to leave an institution. The amendment would involve no great expenditure. The Government were prepared to remit to the wealthy classes of this community accumulated rentals amounting to £1,300,000 that were due to the Crown.

Mr Groom - The honorable member knows that that tax applied to a great many struggling selectors in his own country.

Mr FORDE - I know that Sir Sidney Kidman and Edmund Jowett owe between £150,000 and £200,000. The Australian Estates owe about £60,000, as does the New Zealand Loan, and other big companies. There is an exemption of £5,000 on the taxable leasehold interest capitalized, so the struggling selector is not affected. The Government are prepared to assist the wealthy interests, but they do not display the same solicitude for the people in the benevolent institutions of Australia. An amount of 10s. 6d. per week is to be paid to the management of institutions in which pensioners are inmates, and 3s. is to be paid to the inmates themselves. There is still 4s. per week unaccounted for. Is it fair that the Government should profit because these old people are in institutions? If the pensioners were being cared for outside, they would receive 17s. 6d. per week. Why should the Government benefit because a philanthropic institution like the Rockhampton Benevolent Society has provided a home for the old folk? The full amount of pension should be paid to them. I am pleased that the pension is to be increased, although not to the extent desired. I strongly supported the Labour party's amendment that the pension be increased to £1 per week. The Rockhampton Benevolent Society have frequently made requests to the Federal Government for increased payments to the institution. They receive 10s. 6d. per week for each inmate, and they find it impossible to carry on at that figure. This institution is not a Government concern, but is controlled by a number of humane ladies who devote the whole of their time to it. The Queensland Government provides a grant of £600 per annum, which does not nearly meet the expenses. The funds are augmented by public subscriptions and collections in the streets. On several occasions, the management have unsuccessfully approached the Federal Government for the payment of an extra 2s. 6d. per week for each inmate. That request could be met even if the amendment of 'the honorable member for Reid were carried, since it would account for 17s. in all out of the 17s. 6d. that will be provided after the 10th September for every old-age pensioner in Australia. If 2s. 6d. per week in addition to the present 10s. 6d. were given, it would leave room for the payment of 4s. 6d. per week to each inmate of the institution, or 2s. 6d. extra to such homes as the Rockhampton Benevolent Society, and 2s. extra to the inmates. I ask the Treasurer to consider the advisability of making the payment retrospective to the 1st July. When the measure dealing with taxation on leaseholds was before the House, it was proposed to make its provisions retrospective to 1917. In this case all I ask is to make the payment retrospective to the 1st July, 1923. The justice of this request must appeal to the humane instincts of every Australian who has the welfare of the pioneers of this country at heart. They have lived on a basic wage, and reared large families, and have had no opportunity to provide for their old age. Through no fault of their own, they are now in a state of destitution. I regret that honorable members opposite are tied in this matter. They should b6 allowed to cast their votes according to their personal views, but the Government have cracked the whip over their heads and told them that a vote cast in favour of the increase of the pension to £1 would be taken as a vote of no-confidence in the Government. I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment, and so bring a ray of sunshine into the saddened hearts of the old people who are destitute and friendless.

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