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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) . - When the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) expressed a desire for an exemption in respect of an invalid child over sixteen years of age who is maintained by a taxpayer, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) said that, apparently, this provision had been omitted from the social security laws. It is a deliberate omission from those laws, because the matter has been discussed over and over again in this chamber. Originally, under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act an invalid child who was maintained by his relatives was denied a pension, but after some agitation that provision was altered in order to meet cases in which the invalid was maintained by a brother, sister, or other relative. Nevertheless a child who is incapacitated to the degree of 85 per cent and is maintained by a parent, cannot obtain an invalid pension. That position is the result of deliberate action taken in this Parliament as late as this year. It is true that administrative practice takes the family income into account, but that practice has no statutory basis. If a deduction be allowed in respect of a mother who is maintained by a taxpayer, I cannot see any reason why a similar deduction should not be allowed in respect of an invalid child of any age whom he maintains. Moreover, that deduction should be allowed irrespective of whether the taxpayer has a low income or a moderate income. The allowance should apply to every child who would be entitled to an invalid pension were it not that he is maintained by the taxpayer. Either the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be amended, or provision to that effect should be made in this legislation. It seems unfair that a taxpayer parent should bear the burden of maintaining his invalid child and not have such expenses recognized as a fit subject for deduction. I do not think that it is fair that this deduction should not be allowed in respect of persons with incomes higher than those suggested by the right honorable member for Yarra. So far asmy memory serves me, there is no statutory basis for taking the family income into account; it is merely the administrative practice of the department.

Mr. Scullin.There is a regulation.

Mr. BLACKBURN.It does not bind any one. The Government can alter it without consulting Parliament. There should be statutory provision for this deduction, and it should notbe confined to persons with low incomes. A man receiving £600 a year should be entitled to a deduction in respect of an invalid child maintained by him.

Mr. Chifley.What does the honorable member regard as a proper definition of an invalid?

Mr. BLACKBURN.Any child who, but for the fact that he is maintained by his parents, would be entitled to an invalid pension. In respect of every such case a deduction should be allowable.

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