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Tuesday, 6 December 1938

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- I have examined this bill, and find as has been stated by the Minister, that it elucidates a difficulty which has arisen under the Repatriation Act. At present a war pension payable to a mentally-deficient ex-soldier, or to a soldier who is a lunatic, whose wife is not drawing a pension for him, is administered at the discretion of the Repatriation Commission, and a provision to this effect is contained in the fourth schedule to the act. Doubts have arisen as to how the Repatriation Commission may dispose of the accumulated arrears of pension when such an exsoldier dies. As a general rule, only part of the pension is paid for the maintenance of such a pensioner during his life-time, the balance being accumulated in the hope that he may sometime recover, when it may be paid over to him. In the event of his death, however, the arrears of pension which were not paid over to him have to be disposed of. It is claimed by the State probate departments that the amount of those arrears forms part of his estate, andhas to be taken into consideration in assessing the value of his estate. And in the event of intestacy, it becomes available for distribution to his next-of-kin. The Repatriation Commission thinks, in my opinion rightly, that it should not be bound to pay the money to the nextofkin without any consideration of their merits. It very often happens that some of the next-of-kin of such a pensioner are quite indifferent as to what happens to him, whilst others may have stuck to him. The Repatriation Commission should be given discretion as to which members of the family are to share in this accumulated pension money. I commend the bill to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from the committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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