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Friday, 15 May 1942

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- [ do not. wish to delay the passage of cbe measure, but I should like to make some suggestions to the Minister now in order that he may consider them before the bill reaches the committee stage. I support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that the pension should not be discontinued in the case of a widow, who has qualified on account of the fact that she has a child, when the child reaches the age of sixteen years. The bill does not contain a definite provision that the pension should be discontinued, but I presume that the Pensions Department will take the view that, if a widow has received a pension while her child has been under the age of sixteen years, the pension should be discontinued when the child reaches that age, provided that the woman is still under the age of 50 years. I hope that the Minister will favorably consider the propriety of continuing the payment of the pension to widows in such circumstances. I also suggest that the definition of the word " widow " should be widened. Clause 4 of the bill states -

*' Widow " includes-

(c)   Awoman who has been granted a divorce from her husband and has not remarried;

Apparently that refers to a woman who has petitioned successfully for a divorce. It is unfair to disqualify a woman who may have been a respondent in divorce proceedings. Anybody who practises law knows that some women will not themselves petition for divorce, on religious grounds, but will not defend divorce proceedings taken against them by their husbands, although they may be innocent parties. A woman, whose marriage has been broken up by .the fault of both parties, may at some time or other come to the divorce courts. Her religion may forbid her to petition for divorce, but she may accept the position of respondent because she cannot truly deny that the marriage ought to be terminated. Such a woman will not be able to qualify for a pension unless the bill is amended. I should like the definition of " widow " to be altered in order to include any divorced woman who has not remarried. The definition should also be enlarged to include a woman whose, husband is insane, whether he be an inmate of a hospital or not. A number of people who have been under the care of lunacy departments in the States have returned home to their families. Wives often make efforts to have their husbands released on probation to live with them at home, but by doing that they disqualify themselves for a pension. Whilst her husband is in a mental hospital, a wife can receive the pension, but not so after she has taken him home, although he is still of no more use to her as a breadwinner than he was when in an institution. There are also mental patients who are sent from asylums to old men's homes and similar institutions.

Mr Holloway - They would receive pensions.

Mr BLACKBURN - But the women do not receive anything. The husband or the institution receives the pension, but not the woman. A woman whose husband is, by reason of mental disease, unable to support her, ought to be treated as a widow, whether the husband is in an asylum or in her home.

Mr Holloway - If he is in a hospital for the insane, he cannot receive a pension, but if he is in any other institution, he can.

Mr BLACKBURN - But that does not protect the woman in the least. Another suggestion I should like to make is that the bill should be amended to provide for a woman whose husband has been totally incapacitated and who cannot work for her. I think, also, that a woman whose de facto husband has died should also be included.

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