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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) . - I wish very briefly to refer to two matters, which, although they may seem of minor importance, are of great moment to the people primarily concerned. I refer first ito the position which exists when the payment of a pension has been suspended pending review. Sometimes a review takes place at regular intervals, and at other times it is done at irregular intervals, perhaps as the result of the receipt by the department of an anonymous letter which has to be investigated. When, after inquiry, the pension is restored, the pensioner cannot be paid more' than two retrospective fortnightly payments, even though the pension had been stopped during investigations which had extended over many weeks. I do not blame the pensions officers for this, because they are merely administering the law as it now stands; but it is obvious that when pensions have been withdrawn as the result of inaccurate information supplied by a neighbour or others, pensioners should be entitled to receive retrospective payment for the whole period of the stoppage. I ask the Treasurer to investigate whether it is not possible to amend the law in order to provide for complete retrospective payments in all such cases. .

The other matter relates to the payment of maternity allowance. In some of the poorer districts, in my own electorate especially, a married man may make arrangements with a hospital for his wife's confinement, only to find, when the time arrives, that, owing to unemployment, he is unable to meet the hospital bill; but because of the arrangement with the hospital he finds that his wife cannot draw the maternity allowance.

Mr Casey - The honorable member refers to cases in which the assignment form has been signed by the prospective mother before she goes into hospital?


Mr Casey - There is no necessity for the form to be signed before she goes into hospital.

Mr HOLLOWAY - That is so, but many do so voluntarily.

Mr Curtin - They do so under a misapprehension of their rights.

Mr Casey - The department endeavoured to put that right by withdrawing one of the two forms.

Mr HOLLOWAY - I admit that, in some cases, the hospital secretaries have met the difficulties of people so circumstanced in the proper spirit, but in other cases they have demanded their pound of flesh, with the result that a great deal of hardship has been inflicted on unfortunate people. I have asked the officers of the Pensions Department why anybody other than the mother should be entitled to draw the maternity allowance. The officers of the Pensions Department would like the Treasurer to make a rule that nobody but the mother shall receive the allowance. I suggest that this be done and that the recipients should be permitted to do what they like with the money. The important thing is that a prospective mother should not be penalized by some foolish arrangement inadvisedly made with a hospital, at a time when she could not foresee the unemployment of her husband or other domestic troubles.

Mr Curtin - She should not be permitted to assign her right to the money.

Mr Casey - The allowance can be assigned only by the mother.

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