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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr POLLARD (Ballarat) .- Applicants for invalid pensions are required to obtain certificates of total and permanent incapacitation from medical practitioners approved by the Pensions Department. That in some instances certificates are refused is no reflection on the doctors, because they have no alternative if they are to give their honest opinions. But doctors, like lawyers and other professional men, frequently differ; one medical practitioner may certify that a person is totally and permanently incapacitated, another may say that he is fit for work. A city applicant who is rejected by one doctor may go to the head-quarters of the department and ask to be examined by a medical referee. In his case, his only expenditure may he the cost of tram fares, but should the application of a country resident be rejected by the local departmental doctor, he would have to pay his fare to and from the city to be examined by the medical referee. In the case of a visit from Ballarat to Melbourne, the cost may be £1, or more. That appears to me to be an unjust discrimination against country applicants. I have suggested to the Commissioner of Pensions that a medical referee should visit country centres from time to time to examine such cases, but he, probably for good reasons, regarded the suggestion as impracticable. It should not be outside the scope of the Treasurer's power to consent to the payment of expenses in such instances. Only in that way will it be possible to avoid discrimination between country applicants and city applicants. I know of one applicant who, being dissatisfied with the report of the local medical practitioner, was persuaded by his friends to visit the medical referee in Melbourne, with the result that his pension was restored. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will give favorable consideration to this reasonable request.

The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to a minority of old-age pensioners who are deprived of their pensions because, at times, they indulge too freely in intoxicating drinks. These men have reached an age at which all hope of reform has passed. I have in mind a man who periodically becomes intoxicated. I have warned him that on such occasions he should keep out of sight of the police, but sometimes he fails to do so, with the result that he is taken to court. Subsequently the department deprives him of his pension. Such punishment achieves nothing. I ask that more sympathetic treatment be meted out to these offenders.

Under the legislation providing for national health and pensions insurance, approved societies will have branches in many country towns. At present, much of the business of friendly societies is conducted at the homes of the secretaries of thelocal lodges. With the introduction of the national insurance scheme, the business to be transacted by the secretaries of approved societies will be increased, and the position will be somewhat unusual if employers and employees have to meet at such places.

The CHAIRMAN - The time allotted for the consideration of this portion of the Estimates has expired.

Mr Casey - I shall endeavour to reply by correspondence to the various points raised by honorable members.

Proposed vote put and agreed to. attorney-general'sdepartment.

Pro-posed vote,£218,000.

Department of the Interior.

Proposed vote,£662,000.

Ordered to be considered together.

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