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Thursday, 20 November 1941


Mr RYAN (Flinders) .- Several objections have been raised to the proposal to increase the limit of earningpower of pensioners, among them being the' contention that to do so would increase greatly the number of pensioners and so increase the pensions bill of the country. I do not consider that that objection can be substantiated. I do not think that such a step would encourage persons to apply for the. pension who would not otherwise do so. A second objection, that the benefits following an increase of the earning-power of pensioners would not be great, also appears to me to be unsound. It would be an excellent thing, in my view, to provide pensioners withan additional incentive to earn extra money, and I believe that, generally speaking, pensioners who arephysicallyable to do so would take advantage of the opportunity to do suitable work. I therefore' commend this suggestion to the favorable consideration of the Government.

It has been frequently stated in debates: in this House that our invalid pensions scheme is too rigidly based. This afternoon the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said that the method ofassessing the degree of incapacity of invalids wasunsound.He didnot approve of the numerical standard which, he contended, would leadto injustices. He suggested that incapacity should be determinedby methods similar tothose adopted in the administration of our workers' compensation legislation.I agree that it is most difficult to make a judgment on the degree of incapacity of an invalid, and to say that a person is 10 per cent., 15 per cent., or 20 per cent, short of total incapacity, but after considering all aspects of 'the subject, I have formed the opinion that the numerical method will give better results than the method suggested by the honorable member for Bourke.

The proposal of the Government to introduce' some- form of vocational training with the idea of encouraging invalids to fit themselves to do work within their physical capacity is a step in the right direction.Such a scheme will serve at least two useful purposes. If work can be provided for a large number of invalids by affording them some initial training, it will be advantageous alike to the invalids themselves and to the community. Many invalids would be able to work if they were given some training in suitable occupations. I have in mind a girl who, in her early life, suffered from partialparalysis - a result of spinal meningitis. Her family had her trained as a milliner. The girl showed a considerable degree of skill and is now earning between £4 and £5 a week. Moreover, she is much better in herself because her mind is fully occupied, and she is no burden whatever on the community. I do not consider that that is an exceptional case. Many legless men could do useful work if they were given some training. Of course, they could not engage in primary production, but they could certainly perform many kinds of office work and they could also gain a degree of skill as tradesmen. Many people in the community who suffer from cardiac trouble could engage in quiet callings without any danger of accentuating their disability. -A scheme is in progress in Queensland, in a small way, which, in my view, offers great possibilities'. Between 20 and 30 persons have been given some technical . training under the scheme and are now engaged in useful employment. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) raised some objection to the proposed vocational training plan on the ground that it might lead to the bringing of pressure to bear on invalids in. order to forcethem todo work which they did not desire to do. He said that they might be taken from their families and deprived of the benefit of

Iiic invalid pension. I do wot -share the honorable gentleman's fears in that regard. I consider that the scheme is eminently sound and that it offers good possibilities of benefiting the invalids who might take advantage of it, and the country at large, which would be relieved of certain financial obligations without hardship to individuals. .Invalids who engage in. some useful work must have a better outlook on life. I can imagine nothing worse f or a person than to be condemned to a life of complete idleness.

The honorable member for Bourke said that the Government was putting the cart before the horse in this connexion. He said that schools for training purposes should be established before proposals were made to invalid pensioners that they should undertake training. I hold the opposite view. In my opinion, it would be unwise for the Government to establish training schools all over .the country until it was quite sure that sufficient invalid pensionerswould be available to make such expenditure worth while. Under the Queensland scheme to which I have referred, invalids are trained by private firms, which undertake the work without cost, or at a quite nominal figure. I believe that openings could be obtained for suitable persons to be trained as milliners, secretaries, 'and in certain professional and commercial capacities. That system would give more satisfactory results than any other that comes to my mind.


Mr Mulcahy - ."Would the honorable gentleman favour paying to such pensioners the basic wage during their period of training?


Mr RYAN - No; I would pay them their ordinary pension rate. If they could live on the pension as invalids, they could surely live on it as trainees. The honorable member for Bourke expressed opposition to any contributory pension scheme, but I am strongly of the opinion that the inauguration of a soundly based contributory scheme would be an excellent thing for the country. I realize, of course, that such a scheme could not be applied to persons at present receiving the pension, but. I can see no reason why, in any general social security programme that we may adopt, we should not include a contributory pensions scheme. Such a scheme would raise the dignity of people and encourage thrift. Most people realize that a thing they pay for is much to be preferred to a thing that comes to them as a charity. The contributions would help substantially in the financing of the scheme. Every single person should be imbued with a sense of responsibility for his own welfare, and should not rely entirely on the State to care for, feed and house him.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Social Security recommended in it3 report that a social service bureau should, be set up to deal with the whole range of social services in this country. The Government might now very well consider the recruitment and training of a certain number of social workers for the particular task of dealing with invalid and old-age pensioners. Good though the staff is which deals with social services, it is engaged mostly on administrative matters, and has neither the leisure nor the opportunity to make individual contact with pensioners. The aged and invalid, require, not the administrative touch, but human sympathy. Anyone who has worked .among them will agree that social workers do a great deal of good, and, by advice and sympathy, can definitely mitigate the hardships of old age and the severity of invalidity. They perform a two-fold service, in that besides the comfort they give to the pensioner they also assist the administration to deal justly and sympathetically with - its problems.







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