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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) . - At first sight it might be thought that this clause is discriminatory. This is an entirely new provision, which enlarges the field of invalid and old-age pensioners in that provision is made for the payment of pensions to aborigines. Authority is given to the Commissioner of Pensions to direct that the payment of the pension may be made to some person other than the pensioner or to certain specified authorities, for the benefit of the pensioner. That discretionary power does not apply to pensions paid to aborigines of the South Pacific, for example. The reason for it in this case is that it is necessary to meet exceptional cases, as when aborigines are under part-time control at mission stations or otherwise, or when they go " walkabout ". The explanation given by the Minister to justify the granting of this discretionary power seems satisfactory, and I shall therefore support the clause.

Mr. CALWELL(Melbourne) [9.0 J .- Aborigines are now to receive assistance from the Government. As the Minister knows is the case in connexion with another matter concerning which I have had some conversations with him, there are institutions responsible for the care of aborigines which receive a grant from a hospitals and charities board in Victoria, yet whilst the aboriginal will receive a pension from the Commonwealth, the board, claiming that its grants are . made in accordance with the needs of the institutions, will deduct an equivalent amount from the contribution that it normally makes. There should be a provision which would ensure that these institutions shall not be deprived of their normal grants. I consider that the natives should have their pensions, and that the institutions should continue to receive their grants. I know what has happened in connexion with the payment of child endowment, and I am afraid that in at least one State the benefit conferred may not be what is in tended by the Commonwealth Government; that Commonwealth money will be paid to the aboriginal inmates of institutions and the State government will save an equivalent amount by means of a diminution of the grant that it makes. I do not know how the difficulty might bc overcome; but the Minister cannot leave the matter to the Charities Board of Victoria, and be certain that the payment of the pension will confer an additional benefit on the inmates of those institutions.

I have very little to say in regard to the power proposed to be given to the Commissioner to determine the rate of pension payable. Any applicant who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Commissioner should have the right of appeal to the Minister. It ought to be recognized as a principle that the aborigine who is to receive a pension is entitled to the full amount payable to any white person; that the discretionary power given to the Commissioner should not be absolute, but should be conditioned by the right of appeal to the Minister by an unsuccessful applicant.

With these observations, I commend the clause. I hope that the Minister will try to find some means of preventing State governmental authorities which distribute public money from benefiting al the expense of the Commonwealth, as ha.happened in the matter of child endowment.

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