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Wednesday, 17 October 1956


Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- This is an appropriation bill designed to provide for the payment of war pensions, including those fixed by the new schedules contained in recent legislation. As usual, the amount provided is not large enough. Not enough money is made available, for instance, to provide what honorable members on this side of the House believe should be the absolute minimum rate of war pension. Any increases that have been granted are very limited. We believe that the totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman has been completely neglected. As a matter of policy, we must repeat that consideration should have been given, and should certainly be given in the future, to increasing the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen to the level of the basic wage, irrespective and exclusive of any payments to wives and dependants arising out of the payment of the pension to the ex-servicemen.

The Government has entirely neglected this matter. You, Mr. Speaker, know, of your own vast and kindly experience in service matters, and. other honorable members of this House know that the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen constitute a tragically diminishing group, who have suffered grievously because of the war. Their injuries have been so severe that they have been granted the totally and permanently incapacitated pension. I think they are disappearing from the Australian scene at the rate of about four or five a week, and, although I am not certain of the number, I believe that only about 1,100 of them remain. It would be an act of gratitude as well as an act of grace to increase their pension rate to the level of the basic wage. Our main criticism of this appropriation bill is that it makes no provision at all for these men. It is not a matter that would involve a great amount of expenditure, and the adoption of my suggestion would help to discharge a debt that we have not yet fully discharged. I think that we should consider this matter, even in connexion with the appropriation measure that is now before the House.

I do not intend to take undue advantage of the indulgence shown by the Chair, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I would not dare to do so. I think, however, that I am permitted in this debate to refer to the money grant. The money provided is not sufficient to deal with this very urgent problem of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. The extra amount that would be required to bring their pensions to the level of the basic wage, to provide them with some little extra comfort in the years that remain to them - and they are very few indeed - and to give their wives and dependants some assistance when they are alive and some security after their death,would be little enough to add to the appropriations that the House is being asked to agree to.

I now refer to the base-rate pensioners. The Opposition feels that they have been treated in a manner that we must oppose. It has been the policy of the Opposition for some years past to relate these pension rates to percentages of the basic wage. We base our case on the case that was made out by the returned servicemen's league, both federally and in the States, I believe, regarding these pensions. We do not entirely accept the view that the pensions paid to ex-servicemen should not have some percentage relation either to the basic wage or to the cost of living index, but we try to adopt more stable figures contained in the statistics available from the days of the Chifley Government until to-day. We see from an analysis of, or even a glance al, those figures that the percentage of the basic wage represented by the base-rate pension has decreased. From memory, i think the pension now represents a percentage of the basic wage which is 7 per cent, to 10 per cent, less than it was in the days of the Chifley Government. I stand correction on that point, however, because, as I said earlier, I am not makin ' a general speech on this matter, but am merely directing attention, within the limits of this debate, to the fact that the bas-. rate pension has decreased by comparison with the basic wage. It is valid enough to argue that if certain percentages were established in the early post-war period-


Dr DONALD CAMERON (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - 1 rise to order, ls it in order for the honorable member to proceed in this way? This bill has no relation to the rates of pension, but merely seeks an appropriation to cover the payment of pensions.







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