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Thursday, 7 May 1942

Mr MULCAHY (Lang) . - I support the measure. I was particularly pleased to hear the speech made by the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price). It was a very valuable contribution to the debate. The honorable member showed conclusively that we are far behind many other countries in respect of social legislation, and that this measure does not go nearly far enough. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) said that any attempt under existing conditions to honour election promises could not be justified. All I can say is that this measure falls very far short of the promises that I made at the last general election in respect of invalid and oldage pensions. Regardless of circumstances, I should not at any time ask a human being to live on £1 5s. a week. We can find unlimited sums of money for war expenditure; but, surely, we shall not win the war if we be content to let many of our people starve. The honorable member for Swan objected to any increase of invalid and old-age pensions.

Mr Marwick - No. I objected to the manner in which it is. to be made available to aborigines and half-castes.

Mr MULCAHY - I have never heard the honorable member object to the payment of a bounty on wheat. I urge the Minister to give careful consideration to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) that old-age pensioners should be allowed to earn at least 30s. a week over and above the amount of their pension. If that were done, large number, of aged people would be enabled to render valuable service to tlie country. Only last week an old-age pensioner, approached ]ne and told me that he had the opportunity to do some air raid precautions work. It was to put up a protective covering over plate-glass. He asked me whether he would lose hi? pension if he received payment for this work. I was obliged to tell him that if il1S earnings throughout the year averaged more than 12s. 6d. a week, he would be disqualified from receiving a pension. Surely, there should be no objection to permitting an old-age pensioner do work of that kind. Such an arrangement would not involve the country in any cost; but, on the other hand, many able-bodied men perhaps could be relieved for more urgent work. The honorable member for Hunter also instanced the case of the wife of an invalid pensioner who i3 obliged to remain at home in ord'er to attend to her husband. Some provision should be made in respect of a woman placed in that position. I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept amendments dealing with cases of the kind I have mentioned. I am hopeful that later, many medical benefits which the Government of New Zealand has granted to pensioners in that dominion wilt be introduced in. the Commonwealth; and that our social' legislation will be greatly improved by the Labour Government.

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