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Thursday, 7 May 1942

Mr MORGAN (Reid) . - I commend the Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway) for bringing down this important proposal for social legislation. I do not agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that it will fill the cup of social benefits for the people who are helped. If is in some respects only a very small contribution to their amenities of life, but it will be welcomed by them pending the introduction of a wider measure of social security as advocated by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who dealt with the various matters recommended by the Joint Committee on Social Security, in the work of which he took a prominent part. There is no need for us to take the negative attitude adopted by the honorable member for Barker. It may be appropriate for him to lament the cost of social legislation, but there is a more effective way to meet the situation. The time is approaching when some constructive proposal should he presented to provide a plan for social security, and for something in the nature of national insurance. National insurance legislation was passed by this Parliament, but, except for insignificant parts, never proclaimed. The cost of social services is increasing considerably. This year invalid and oldage pensions will absorb about £20,000,000, repatriation pensions about £10,000,000 and child endowment about £12,000,000, a total of more than £40,000,000. As the result of this war the cost of repatriation pensions will rise greatly, and I dare say that it will not be long before Australia's annual social services bill will amount to £100,000,000. Honorable members will remember that the first war-time budget introduced by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) contemplated the expenditure of about £100,000,000 on normal need's and on the war. The only way out of the situation is a system of national health insurance under which the people will in their working years contribute to a fund which will enable them in their declining years to receive something - call it a national dividend or anything you like. The aged people would much rather receive the pensions as a right than as charity as at present. 1 agree with the honorable member for Bass and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that now is the time to prepare for the new era of social justice. The honorable member foi Flinders appropriately contrasted our approach to the lot of the less fortunate people of the community to the approach of our enemies. Not long ago I read that in Germany about 100,000 aged and infirm people were quietly slain because they were of no further use to the community. Australians could never adopt such callous measures, not even the honorable member for Barker.

Another welcome provision in this legislation is the long overdue increase of the permissible income of blind pensioners. There are many anomalous provisions in the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act which should be amended now, and should not await the promised wider measure of social legislation. One" anomaly is the limitation to £400 of the value of property, other than their homes, which may be possessed by recipients of a pension. That creates many inequalities. A couple who put their savings into a home for their old age cannot apply for and obtain a pension unless they live in the home, but had they invested those savings in assurance policies or in shares, or even in a vacant piece of land, the value of which exceeds £400 each, they are denied the pension. That provision reacts harshly on such people, but especially on those whose savings are invested in a vacant block of land because of the restrictions imposed upon the transfer of land under war-time conditions. Having no income, and being debarred from drawing a pension, they have to rely on outside support. I submit that the permissible property limit should be raised. Likewise, I agree with the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) and the honorable member for Flinders that the permissible income of pensioners should be raised. The limit of 12s. 6d. a week is very small. Many invalid and old-age pensioners are desirous of helping the war effort. In my electorate the Lidcombe Old Men's Home and the Newington Home for Women house about 5,000 pensioners, many of whom are most anxious to help in the war effort, but, without surrendering their pension, either in whole or in part, they are not allowed to earn more than 12s. 6d. a week. That with their pension is a mere pittance, .and is wholly inadequate to enable them to live sufficiently well to work. Most of these old people would rather wear out than rust out.

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