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Thursday, 17 March 1932

Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. H. Mackay)

Mr LANE - In travelling through the country districts of New South Wales, I have met with requests from landholders for the construction of railway lines through virgin country, who promised that if a line were constructed the land would be brought under intense cultivation. A reference to the records will show that where lines were built giving the landowners an increased price of £4 or £5 per acre for their land, very little of the area served has been brought under cultivation. It was my intention to make several suggestions whereby employment could be provided; but I shall reserve what I have to say on the subject until some future occasion. I may say, however, that the exploitation of the worker by the worker is largely responsible for the position with which we are now confronted.

I take this opportunity of directing the attention of the Government to the hardships experienced by war widows who are at present deprived of a pension, and to earnestly request that further consideration be given to the matter before further pensions are withdrawn. The last Government passed an act which deprived of a pension a woman who has £200 in the bank. Honorable members are constantly receiving letters from all parts of the Commonwealth asking why a widow who lost her husband at the front should be deprived of a pension when she has £200 in the bank. A peculiar anomaly exists in that one widow who may have a home worth £800 and £150 in the bank is entitled to a pension, while another widow who does not own a home and has £250 in the bank is refused a pension. I have already brought one case under the notice of the department of an elderly lady who kept boarders, whose only son was killed at the war, and who, as a result of her thrift, was able to save up £250. She is not entitled, to the pension. Why should a woman who has reached the age of 70 years, and has that amount in the bank, be compelled to live in a home for the aged and infirm? I hope that during the recess the Minister will instruct his officers to interpret the law more liberally. I know of scores of women whose wealthy sons have left them without protection in their old age, with the result that they have ended their days in the Newington asylum. That fate awaits these women of whom I speak, for their £200 will not last them many months. Unfortunately, there is differentiation in the treatment of war widows. I do not know whether the law, or the interpretation of the law, is at fault. Some cases which I have brought before the Deputy Commissioner in Sydney have been dealt with there, while others have been sent on to Melbourne for decision, and I have been unable to make personal representations to the officer with whom has rested the final decision. I hope that the Minister will see that all mothers of worthy sons who were killed at the war will retain their right to a pension.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 6.53 p.m. until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.

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