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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr MAHONY (Dalley) .- I wish to have a clear assurance on the matter from the Minister.

Mr Groom - The case mentioned by the honorable member for Barton (Mr.F. McDonald) can be met under existing regulations.

Mr MAHONY - It has already been referred to the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales, and we have been informed that it cannot be met. The persons concerned had a small farm, on which they resided. They sold it. A certain amount of the purchase money was paid down, and the balance was to be paid by instalments. They then bought a home under similar conditions. They paid a small deposit, and the balance was to be paid by instalments. When application for the pension was made the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales, who is an excellent officer, and gave very sympathetic consideration to the matter, took the view that the money received in instalments from the sale of the farm was income, and therefore the recipients were not entitled to the pension. I make no complaint about the decision of the officer. He said that the case had been contested so often that there was really no doubt about it. One applicant went to the expense of obtaining legal assistance to determine the matter. It is an absolute anomaly that money which a person receives from the sale of one property and applies to the purchase of another should be counted as income. In this case the people were actually in debt over the transaction. I have a letter dealing with the case which was sent to me by the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales. It reads -

With reference to your representations concerning this case, I have to inform you that the position, as set out in letter dated 8th inst. (attached) is correct, according to information in Department's possession when pension was granted.

The letter referred to was sent by the applicants for the pension to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald). It sets but the circumstances which I have described to the Committee. The letter from the Deputy Commissioner continues -

The sum of £546 was owing to pensioners, and there is no option but to hold it against the claimants in assessing the pension. The fact that they owe money on their present home does not affect the matter. The . Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act exempts the value of the home, but does not permit of money owing from any source being set off against the mortgage on the home, nor can the £300 said to be owing to a brother be taken into consideration, because only moneys secured by a registered mortgage are allowable deductions.

There is no doubt about the stand the Department has taken, and the Deputy Commissioner stated that he had no option but to act as he did. I think the Minister should do something to meet such a case.

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