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Tuesday, 19 May 1942
Page: 1375

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Social Services and Minister for Health) . - I understand the aim of the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Flinders (Mr. Ryan). The matter is more difficult than they have inferred. A widow with one child, of whatever age she may be, is to become entitled to a widow's pension. She may be only 20, 21, or 22 years of age at the death of her child. The general impression is, that she should fit into a profession or an industry. If not able to do so, she could obtain help from some other source. Surely it is not suggested that all widows, whatever may be the state of their health or mentality, need a widow's pension !

Mr Blackburn - Alternatively, all pensions should cease, whether the widows are able to work or not.

Mr HOLLOWAY - If unable to work through invalidity, they become entitled to the invalid pension. The Government's view is, that a widow with a child is handicapped, and that when the child reaches the age of sixteen years its dependence on the mother ceases and it is able to engage in industry or a profession. The position of the widow then is not the same as it was previously. The Government considers that a healthy widow, 50 years of age, without encumbrance, may not be in need. Any one can visualize a first and only child dying when the mother is at an early age. There are thousands of such cases. There is a gap, I admit, which may be bridged when the act is made more nearly perfect. The honorable member for Bourke realizes that absolute perfection is not possible, and that what appear to be anomalies are always revealed. These two groups of widows are being fairly dealt with for a start. The adoption of the proposal of the honorable member would open the gate to much more than they have mentioned. The matter has been closely studied by the Government. Widows are of all ages. Provision is made in respect of group 0, because of the possibility of a young married woman losing her husband before the birth of the first child. The Government is able to visualize the difficulty in which such a widow would be placed. It is not suggested that she would never return to industry but, on the contrary, it is hoped .that she will return to the profession, trade or craft in which she was engaged before marriage. The belief is held that she should be nursed for a period of six months after the bereavement so as to enable her to think properly.

Mr Ryan - Would it not be possible to give .to the Commissioner discretionary power to deal with cases of hardship, such as widows of the age of 45 years?

Mr HOLLOWAY - That cannot be done under this clause.

Mr. BLACKBURN(Bourke) [10.13'J. - The Minister thought that he had disposed of my point by saying that, a woman who was unable to work would receive an invalid pension. That does not f ollow. " Unable to work " does not necessarily mean physically unable; she might be unable to obtain employment. A woman who has given up remunerative work in order to marry and become a wife and mother, is not so easily employable as a widow. There would probably be no prospect for such a woman other than some badly paid form of daily household employment. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has suggested what would probably be the best course - that in the case of a woman of a fixed age, or, for that matter, any widow, the Commissioner should have the discretionary power to continue the pension indefinitely or for such time as he .thought would meet the circumstances. It would be very hard for a woman- passing through the very trying period of the middle forties to find that her pension had suddenly been stopped by reason of the fact that a child in respect of whom she had been receiving it had died.

Mr Chifley - She would be no worse off than the average spinster in such circumstances.

Mr BLACKBURN - She would be a lot worse off, because the average spinster would have been working during the whole of her lifetime. She did not give up her career to become a mother, and she has much better prospects than a widow.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 22 and 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 (Cancellation, &c, of pension).

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