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Thursday, 25 October 1956


Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) . - I wish to bring to the notice of the House matters which concern social services and repatriation. I have raised them with the respective Ministers, about whom I have nothing to say but good, because they have done their best. In my electorate of West Sydney there are two pensioners who, because they own a cabin at Wyong, are de-, barred from full pension rights. I have advised them, as did the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) when I brought their case to his notice, to sell the property and make themselves eligible for the full pension. Both pensioners are over 70 years of age. They have informed me - and I have no reason to doubt them - that they bought this block of land at Wyong, which is 70 or 80 miles from Sydney, many years ago with the object of building a home or a week-end house on it. At the present time, the land is valued at only £190. Actually, it was their children who built the house on the land, and for that reason they do not wish to sell the property. They feel that it really belongs to the children. Their daughter and two sons are all married, with families of their own, and it is as much as they can do to look after themselves, without assisting their aged parents.

I wrote to the Wyong municipal council concerning the matter and was informed that the value of the property, which the owners had thought to be £850 had, three years ago, increased to £950, and that it probably would rise to £1,050 at a revaluation now due. Each time the value of the property rises, the owners lose some of their pension. They live in a rented home, for which they pay rent of £1 12s. a week. They receive no income at all from the property at Wyong. Even if it were physically possible for these aged people to visit the property, they could not afford to pay fares, lt is time that the Government considered the position of people of this kind, and in my opinion this is a suitable case for the exercise of the Minister's discretion. ( might add that the rates and taxes on the property amount to approximately £14 a year which, of course, is a considerable sum for pensioners to pay. Because they own this property, these people are losing 14s. each a fortnight. As I say, they receive no rent from it.

I now wish to refer to another matter, which I took up with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). Although the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Repatriation have not completely closed the door on these two cases. I seem to be making little headway. The repatriation case concerns a man who served for four and a half years during World War 1. and who lost the sight of an eye through a mortar bomb explosion. He receives a pension of approximately £2 17s. a fortnight for the loss of the eye, and I understand that his wife receives an allowance of 17s. a fortnight. In later years, he gradually lost the sight of the other eye and he is now blind in both eyes. For the last two months I have been making representations on his behalf to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). The last letter that I received from the Minister stated that as the evidence stood at present he could do nothing to assist, but thai he was prepared to re-open the matter if further evidence were available. Two doctors have given certificates to the effect that they can find no other cause for this man's total blindness than the injury he suffered on active service which caused the loss of the sight of one eye. It is disgraceful that in a country like this there should be quibbling by Ministers or anybody else about the entitlement to a pension of a totally disabled man who fought for his country. This man's wife, who is aged, would accept employment, but cannot leave her totally blind husband unattended. They are living in poor accommodation. In another instance, two pensioners, who live in two-storied accommo dation in Surry Hills, for which they Pa. 22s. a week, are, because of their physical condition, unable to go upstairs and so sleep on stretchers inside the front door. They own a home which is revalued every three years, and the municipal council charges higher rates upon each successive revaluation, which reduces the net amount received from the pension. Taking into consideration the fact that they have to pay rent for the premises they occupy, they are receiving virtually nothing from their ownership of property. However, because of the value of the property which they own, the Department of Social Services has reduced the amount payable to them in pensions. 1 wish now to refer to the provision of homes for the aged. This Government may well take credit for its legislation on this subject. I was the first person in this House to congratulate the Government upon providing money for homes for aged persons, although I then said that £1,500,000 would not be sufficient to provide necessary homes for aged persons throughout the Commonwealth. Experience during the twelve months operation of the legislation shows that organizations which care for aged persons are not able to comply with the requirement of the act that they must provide 50 per cent, of the money required for the construction of homes. It is of no use for the Government to say that it is doing something to provide homes for the aged, if it says to these organizations, " You have to provide £1 for every £1 of proposed subsidy, before we give you anything at all ". The Sydney City Council is prepared to provide homes for the 5,000 or 6,000 pensioners in Sydney who need accommodation, if the Commonwealth will advance the money, lt stands to the credit of the Australian Labour party and of its leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) that in the 1954 general election campaign he proposed the abolition of the means test, f feel sure that if the means test were abolished aged persons would be able to live in a greater degree of comfort. The very persons who oppose the abolition of the means test support child endowment and social services payments, but say that this Government could not pay increased pensions.

Mr.ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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