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Thursday, 20 November 1941

Mr FALSTEIN (Watson) . - I " - should like the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to give- the assurance that sub-section 1 of section 15 of the principal act, which makes provision in respect of a male person over the age of 60 years who is otherwise permanently incapacitated for work, will be administered in the same way as the proposed amendment which provides that an invalid pension shall bc granted if the applicant for it is 85 per cent, incapacitated. It would be particularly fortunate if the honorable gentleman were prepared to give that undertaking when lie is replying to the debate, in order that the matter might be cleared up immediately.

Some honorable members have mentioned various funeral funds to which invalid and old-age pensioners arc substantial contributors. The solution of this very real problem lies in an amendment of the act to provide that a nominal sum, in addition to the pension, be paid into a fund in order to provide for the decent burial of deceased pensioners. The proportion of pensioners who die within twelve months of receiving the pension 2.5 approximately 21.5 each 1,000; therefore, about 3d. a week in respect of each pensioner would be needed in order to provide burials costing £10 each. If the "Minister will consider this proposal when drafting a further amending bill to be introduced next March, he will bc moving in the right direction.

We have held for many years our present conception of pensions; but, being a progressive nation, we must advance; consequently, this House ought to concern itself with the consideration of further means of improving the lot of pensioners other than by a. straight-out increase of the pension. Some of my constituents have submitted to me that a possible method of achieving this end would be to provide pensioners with a half-acre block of land just outside the city boundary, on which they could grow a few vegetables and flowers and have a place that they could call their own. "Future legislation in respect of pensioners should embody a scheme along these lines. If this were done, a large number of pensioners would, bc enabled to cease their present mode of living, which obliges them to rent, a room, in a poor district at, say, 10s. a. week, leaving insufficient for food and clothing. As it seems beyond the power of the Government at present, if not later, to grant a larger sum by way of a straight-out pension, it should avail itself of the power to make available Crown lands to persons who have been resident- in Australia for twenty years and would thu.s~be imbued with a desire to assist in building up this country by reclaiming land not previously worked in any way.

The Government should consider a system of universal superannuation, to bo applied, to men as well as women of the age of 60 years, irrespective of the possession of real or personal property. Tin's principle, I am pleased to say, has been applied in the sister dominion of New

Zealand for a few years, and as a part of its social-services scheme has proved extremely beneficial. Although it has not attained to full fruition, that point will be reached in a few years.

In the application of all legislation which comes under his department, the Minister has discretion to allow curtain, claims which are not strictly within the letter of the law. He should take power, under an amendment to the act, to allow the Commissioner to exercise a similar discretion, and thus rid himself of a lot of work with which he should not, bc troubled. The Commissioner could deal expeditiously with representations and claims. There are very many claims which, (from a human point of view, should be granted, and. any person with a humane outlook would exercise discretion in favour of the applicant, having regard not only to the national interest, but also to the very human interest associated with the assistance of persons who have to face what to them are tremendous problems. Poor persons, whom circumstances ha ve obliged to become pensioners, should bc given all the assistance that a liberal administration can devise, in order that they may bc able to provide themselves with three meals a day and a roof over their heads. If the Minister adopts this suggestion, he will do a very great deal for those who are subject to the act.

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