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Friday, 8 May 1942


Mr JOLLY (Lilley) .- Whilst every honorable member will subscribe to the view that the proposed increase of pensions cannot be regarded as being extravagant, the House should give consideration to the additional burden that will be placed upon the Treasury. Parliament should be reminded of the fact that, since the outbreak of war, the cost of social services to the Commonwealth Government has increased by 100 per cent.


Mr Calwell - Not enough !


Mr JOLLY - I remind the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that the principal task of the Government is to win the war. Every increase of social benefits which we make to-day will be in vain unless we defeat our enemies. The contention that Parliament should increase social benefits because of the high cost of the war is patently absurd. It is true that we are finding, for the conduct of the war, colossal sums of money that were undreamt of in time of peace; but the plain fact is that we are eating up our reserves. Every prudent nation, like every prudent man, should put something aside for a rainy day. This is our rainy day. Regardless of our humane desires, we cannot ignore the burden that the increased cost of pensions will impose upon the country. In addition, we should not overlook the fact that the annual pensions bill will be increased, quite apart from the increases that Parliament will grant under this legislation. During the last five years, the number of applicants for invalid and old-age pensions has risen by 10 per cent. "pdr annum. For a number of reasons that percentage will grow. For example, many people are now maintaining relatives, who, though eligible, have not applied for a pension; but heavy income tax commitments and contributions to the war will soon compel sons and other relatives to ask aged dependants to claim this social service. Since the outbreak of war, invalid and old-age pensions have increased by 25 per cent., and as I stated earlier, the cost of social services has risen by 100 per cent., because the Commonwealth Government now finds £12,000,000 per annum for child endowment.


Mr Calwell - Child endowment will be of great value, because it will stimulate the birth rate.


Mr JOLLY - I do not dispute that; I merelyremind the House that we have already done fairly well in bestowing social benefits at a time when we should devote every penny to the conduct of the war.

An effort should be made to place pensions upon a permanent basis. Personally, I consider that the best system would be to peg the pension to the Commonwealth basic wage. That contention is supported by two strong reasons. First, the basic wage can be increased only when the prosperity of the country justifies it, and no one would object to invalid and old-age pensioners sharing in the benefit of increased prosperity. Secondly, when the Arbitration Court increases the basic wage, the cost of living rises.


Mr Calwell - It is said that prosperity is always round the corner.


Mr JOLLY - I am employing the argument that is used in the Arbitration Court by the representatives of the trades unions.


Mr Brennan - Does the honorable member consider that pensioners should receive the basic wage?


Mr JOLLY - There are two good reasons why they should not receive the basic wage. First, as most of the pensioners do not work, they make no contribution to the economic prosperity of the country ; and, secondly, those who are employed are unable to do the same amount of work as younger men who are paid the basic wage.

In my opinion, the time has arrived when social conditions throughout the Commonwealth should be made uniform. Some States provide social services which have not been introduced in other States. When the Government achieves uniformity in income tax, uniform social services must follow. That position will be forced upon the Commonwealth Government in order to ensure equitable treatment in all States.

The bill will not affect hospitals so seriously as I thought at first glance, because, under existing conditions, hospitals receive no payment in respect of pensioner patients for the first four weeks that they are inmates. I have been informed that at least 70 per cent, of those who enter hospitals are discharged in less than four weeks. Under present conditions, hospitals may receive, but they have no direct claim on, the pension for the first four weeks of inmatecy, as they have under the act for a longer period. It would be a graceful gesture on the part of the Government to confer with the hospitals for the purpose of reaching a satisfactory arrangement. When a pensioner seeks treatment, the hospital is entitled' to receive a contribution either direct from the patient or from the Government. Therefore, in the final analysis, the burden must fall either on the people or on the Government.

Because some of us are inclined to criticize officials who administer social service departments, I take this opportunity to praise the work of those who have arranged for the instruction of invalid pensioners. For example, departmental officers in Brisbane are most anxious that young crippled persons and other invalids should have an opportunity to learn a suitable trade, and they take great pains to see that these unfortunate people receive tuition. This interest is valuable because in time, the invalid becomes independent of the Government, and secures a definite interest in life. The results of the work undertaken by invalids after they have attended the training classes reflect great credit upon the department and the instructors.

In conclusion, I point out that those honorable members who contend that Parliament is granting a mere pittance to pensioners, should, not overlook the fact that, despite the tremendous war expenditure, at no time in the history of Australia have social services been increased to the same degree as they have since the outbreak of war.







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