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Tuesday, 19 May 1942


Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parra matta) . - I see nothing in the amendment inconsistent with the general attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the States in recent times. If the view of the Government prevails, widows in New South Wales who have no other source of income whatever, and who simply have the widows' qualification upon which to base their claims, will receive a maximum of 37s. 6d. a week. In Victoria, where a modified State pensions scheme is in operation, widows will receive from 31s. to 37s. 6d. a week. In the other States, the payment will be 25s. a week. That, of course, abrogates all federal sentiment, and prevents similar treatment for all Commonwealth citizens without regard to the artificial State boundaries. But there is also a mechanical difficulty that the Treasury will be called upon to face in connexion with this matter. It, is proposed under the bill that a certain rate of pension shall be paid to a widow with one child. The bill does not provide for the payment of so much for the widow and so much for the child, but it stipulates that there shall be a pension of 30s. a week for the widow and child. How is that provision to be correlated to the New South Wales or Victorian systems under which the provisions for the widow and children are separate and distinct? The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has told us that, in pursuance of the uniform taxation proposals of the Commonwealth, provision has been made for compensation to those States in which social benefits, including the widows' pension in New South Wales, are being conferred. The Minister intimated that £1,600,000 was proposed to be taken from the New South Wales compensation payment in consideration of the Commonwealth Treasury assuming the obligations provided for under this bill. He said that the amount had been arrived at by calculating the pension at the rate of 20s. a week for the widow, which was the rate prevailing in New South Wales until the last few days. I am not sure that that rate does not still prevail in that State. But, if what has been said in this chamber in the last hour or so comes true, the Commonwealth will not pay 25s. to widows in New South Wales, as would seem to be the case under this bill, nor will it pay 20s. a week as is predicated under the Commonwealth's uniform taxation proposals. The maximum payment under this legislation to widows resident in New South Wales will he 12s. 6d. a week, and even that sum will be reduced if, as happens in many cases, the widows have income from extraneous sources.

I draw attention to clause 33, which specifically states that no claim for a pension for a widow who is already in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension, will be considered. What justification is there for discriminating between the widows who are now receiving invalid pensions in all States and those who are receiving widows' pensions in New South Wales and Victoria only? Under the Government's proposal, a widow in New South Wales is to receive the widow's pension provided under the State scheme, and is also to have the Commonwealth pension superimposed upon it, with, of course, certain income qualifications. I should like the Minister to attempt to justify that, discrimination. I agree with other speakers that perpetuation of such discrimination is not justified. If 37s. 6d. a week is considered the correct provision for a widow in New South Wales, which contains two-fifths of the population of Australia, let this Parliament be honest and make that the rate for widows throughout the Commonwealth.







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