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Tuesday, 19 May 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- Provision is made in this clause for the payment of a pension at the rate of £65 per annum to a widow who is not maintaining a child under 16 years of age, and is not less than 50 years of age, and of £78 per annum to a widow who is maintaining one or more children. The extra £13 per annum is calculated at the rate of 5s. a week, and in that respect the provision is in accord with the provision for each child after the first child made in the Child Endowment Act. The amount of 5s. a week is, in my opinion, too small. Under child welfare schemes in operation in various States a larger amount is provided for the first child. In Victoria, for example, 10s. a week is provided for the first child. If this clause is passed without amendment a widow with one child will receive a pension of 25s. a week for herself and 5s. a week for her child. She will also be permitted to earn 12s. fid. a week. Therefore she will have £2 2s. 6d. a week on which to maintain herself and her child. Children are an expensive item these days, particularly if they are sickly. The cost of children's clothing and footwear is extraordinarily high. 1 know that from my experience with my own family. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) told me a day or. two ago that his wife had recently visited a city store in order to buy a pair of pyjamas for a lad four years old. The only pair offered to her was marked 24s. 6d. She went to other stores to try to purchase a less costly pair but could not obtain a pair at any price. I mention this to indicate the cost of children's clothing. I suggest that a larger sum should be provided for the first child with, perhaps, a diminishing amount for succeeding children, until a static sum is reached. It is highly desirable in these days that everything possible should be done to assist the mothers of families. Whilst the mother of a family of several children, or a mother with a child beyond tender years, might be able to go out and earn 12s. 6d. a week, I do not think that any honorable member would desire that the mother of an infant should be obliged to go out to work. We should be doing everything in our power to encourage family life, and to assist mothers to rear their children under reasonable conditions. We must make the preservation of child life our greatest care. Provision is made in widows' pensions schemes in Germany, France and Italy for a larger payment in respect of the first child of the family. A diminished amount is provided for the second child and the rate is varied for successive children until the static figure is reached. That principle is also followed in widows' pensions schemes in other countries. It may be argued that the Government desires to achieve uniformity in payments for children, but I can see no reason why we should slavishly follow uniformity in this case. There are reasons why widows with children should be given even more sympathetic consideration, perhaps, than old-age pensioners. Widows have a heavy responsibility in the rearing of their children and in discharging it they are performing an invaluable service to the State. Ministers who are receiving more than £2,000 a year as well as other valuable privileges including travelling expenses at the rate of £2 12s. 6d. a day, and private members of the Parliament, who receive an allowance of £1,000 a year, are far removed from the struggles and adversities of the average person in the community, and they should not deal with claims of widows in a niggardly way. It may be said that money is not available to make higher payments than those provided in the bill, but I remind honorable members that the Government is able to provide about £1,000,000 a day for war expenditure. The full cost of this pension scheme is estimated at £1,600,000 per annum. If, say, £200,000 per annum be added to the cost in order to provide more liberal payments for the first child of a widow, the money would be wisely expended. It certainly would not be wasted. I do not think any one will deny that quite a substantial sum of money is being wasted in defence expenditure these days. Money is also being wasted in expenditure on munitions. Perhaps some waste in these matters is unavoidable. My point is tha t we could well make an additional sum available to assist widows to bring up their children with profit to the nation. If we can finance the war in so liberal a way, we should also be able to finance social services. We should not hesitate to provide money for social services, because of any fear of th( future. We hope that we shall pass from this war into a new social order and a new financial system. Consequently the yardsticks of the past will not be the yardsticks of the future. I impress upon the Minister for Social Services the importance of making adequate provision for the maintenance of children.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 - (1.) Where a pension is granted, it shall be paid from a date determined by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner but the date so determined shall not, subject to this section, be prior to the date on which the claim for pension was made.

Mr. ROSEVEAR(Dalley) [9.57 J. - I move -

That, in sub-clause (1.), after the words " prior to the date " the following words be inserted : - " or later than the pay day next succeeding the date ".

The clause would then provide that in the case of a claim for pension being approved the first payment would be made as from the first pay day after the date of the claim. I am aware that the clause, as it stands, is in accordance with a similar provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but that provision has not proved to be satisfactory. We all have known of instances of serious delay in the granting of pensions. Sometimes some delay is inevitable, but when the delay is due to no fault of the claimant, the claimant should not have to suffer. If it should take six or eight weeks to reach a favorable decision on a claim, for a pension, the claimant should receive her first payment from a date not later than the first pay day after the application was lodged. That appears to me to be a reasonable provision. I appreciate the difficulties in granting pensions from dates which would involve broken pay periods. My amendment would avoid any such trouble but would ensure that pensioners would not have to suffer for delays for which they were not responsible. I appreciate the difficulty of setting up a department of this sort. I realize that the administration of this act, in addition to the Child Endowment Act and the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, will add enormously to the work of the department, and that many delays may be occasioned by reason of understanding on account of war conditions. I should not blame the department for such delays; but an applicant for a pension should not suffer in consequence.

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