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Wednesday, 13 May 1942


Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) , - I have indicated previously that this clause is one of the few provisions in the bill about which I am not enthusiastic. My diffidence was noi motivated by views expressed by Opposition members, but because I share the fear expressed by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that there is a real danger that this provision will operate to the detriment of pensioners generally. If there is anything in the statement of the Minister thai possibly the hospitals will benefit, then it is inevitable that this must be at thi1 expense of the pensioners. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. .Tames) seems to be deluding himself into the belief that this is a deliberate and definite provision to free old-age pensioners from any hospital charges. Of course, that is not so.


Mr James - It is an attempt to clear the deck for future action.


Sir FREDERICK STEWART - The honorable member has mentioned a list of hospitals which have indicated that they would prefer to have no right to charge old-age pensioners for treatment received. I must point out, however, that with one exception all the hospitals mentioned are in mining districts in the north, the west, and the south of New SouthWales. In most of those districts the majority of pensioners are associated with the hospital fund conducted by the miners' federation, and are entitled to hospital treatment under that scheme. It is not. difficult to understand that the authorities of such hospitals do not want to be bothered about collecting subscriptions from pensioners who are outside those funds. The only exception in the list of hospitals mentioned is the Canberra Hospital, but a hospital tax is imposed in Canberra under which every one is entitled to admittance to the hospital under certain conditions. One of my grounds for favouring the amendment is that the existing provision discriminates against pensioners. In no other case does the Commonwealth Government underwrite the hospital fees or any portion of the hospital fees of persons who receive money from the Government. We do not presume to underwrite such fees in respect of public servants who may have to enter hospitals for treatment. No one would dream of suggesting that an amount should be abstracted from the fortnightly pay envelope of a public servant in order that it might be forwarded to a hospital. The Commonwealth Government pays pensions other than those provided for under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Would any one suggest that a soldier's pension, or a superannuated public servant's pension, should be subject to deduction for hospital fees? We do not say to such a person : " If you enter a hospital for treatment we shall pay a part of your pension to the hospital." I support the clause.

Question put -

That the clause be agreed to.







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