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Thursday, 2 May 1957


Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) . - I take this opportunity to refer to a social services matter which has been raised in this House many times. As the current sessional period of the Parliament probably will end within the next few weeks, this is perhaps the last opportunity I shall have before then to speak on this matter. It will be of little use to come back here in August or September, when the Parliament has re-assembled and when the budget has been framed, and say what should be done in the social services field. In the meantime, the Treasury will have decided what increase, if any, is to be given to pensioners, of whom there are many in my electorate. It may be that my remarks to the Government will fall on deaf ears. I point out, however, that last Tuesday week, in the Glebe Town Hall, 108 pensioners met with the object of pressing the Government to do something for pensioners generally. The matter was left to Mrs. O'Brien and Mrs. Lambkin, the secretary and treasurer of the branch of the relevant pensioners' organization, to do what they could. Next Saturday week I shall attend a meeting at the Coal-lumpers Hall at Milson's Point, at which there will be an attendance of 120 or 130 people.

The pensioner has four great needs if he is to live and die as a human being. The first is food, the second clothing, the third shelter, and the fourth, which is left to the Treasury, is his burial. Surely all honorable members will agree that from a pension of £4 a week there would be very little left to meet the cost of burial. From that sum, the pensioner has to provide his food, clothing and shelter. Of course, the pensioners are not solely dependent on the Federal Government for assistance. Yesterday, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr., Luchetti), said-

Mi. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.-

Order! Will the honorable member for West Sydney please take his seat for a moment? I have warned the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) about speaking in a loud voice. I can hear his voice over that of the honorable member for West Sydney, who is between the honorable member for Wilmot and the Chair. If I hear the honorable member from the chair again, 1 shall name him.


Mr MINOGUE - In the short time at my disposal, I am trying to stress the point that this is the time, before the budget is presented, to make representations on behalf of pensioners. As 1 have said, the Federal Government alone is not being asked to care for these people. Voluntary organizations also are doing much to help. The Lord Mayor of Sydney has adopted a plan that was introduced by the previous Lord Mayor and is serving " meals on wheels " to pensioners in the Sydney area. The St. Vincent de Paul Society in Sydney provides 14,000 meals each month for people who need them. Every Wednesday, at St. Benedict's Church, in George-street, Sydney, more than 150 people are supplied with meals and with clothing that is available to be given to them. lt is unpleasant for me to have to come here and speak in this manner about Australians who have made this country what it is. We should not need to come to this Parliament and plead in this way if we had a government that was sincere in its wish to do something for the pensioners. Approximately two years ago, the Minister for Social Services introduced legislation concerning the building of homes for the aged. I contend, however, that that legislation is unfair in that it provides that voluntary organizations which are prepared, perhaps, to give 24 hours of the day to the welfare of aged people, must find 50 per cent, of the money for the building of accommodation. The provision of £1,500,000 for the erection of homes for the aged is most laudable. I commended the legislation when it was introduced, and I still support it, but as I say, it should not have attached to it a tag saying that for every £1 provided by the Government the voluntary organizations must go and beg from door to door for another £1. Why not give these institutions a straight-out allotment of the money instead of binding i hem to finding 50 per cent.?

I am glad that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is in the chamber at the moment. If he does not take this opportunity to help the pensioners in the community and make such provision in the forthcoming budget, I think that this will be his last opportunity to do so. The people will not give him another chance. Recently, when the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, was explaining the policy of the New South Wales Government in cases where destitute people die in other people's houses, he said that if a destitute stranger, without relatives, died in some one else's home, the police would arrange for burial at the State's expense. He went on to say that the householder might be liable for the cost of burial if he made arrangements with an undertaker without first consulting the police. That means that people who have rooms to let, in Sydney and all over the Commonwealth, will be dubious about letting those rooms to pensioners, because if a pensioner should die in one of those rooms it could be the responsibility of the householder to bury him. The Federal and State governments should have a definite policy to assist the pensioners, who have worked so hard for this country, and to ensure that they will at least receive decent burial. At the present time, an allowance of £10 is made to meet funeral expenses. It is impossible to buy a grave site in the cemeteries at Newtown, Rookwood, Botany, or anywhere else in New South Wales for that amount, much less meet all the incidental funeral expenses as well.

The Treasurer talks in terms of millions of pounds, and estimates that, in the current financial year, the Commonwealth will have a surplus of approximately £50,000,000, although we know very well that, when the accounts are finally cast, it will prove to be more like £100,000,000, and the Government year after year budgets for an expenditure of almost £200,000,000 on defence. If it can do that, surely it can provide for the needy people on whose behalf I speak. I do not object to the expenditure incurred in assisting Asian countries under the Colombo plan. Australian expenditure under this plan already totals some £30,000,000, and it is estimated. I understand, that, in the next few years, a further £12,000,000 will be spent. If we can undertake that expenditure, well and good. Perhaps we all agree that it is sound, but the Colombo plan should not operate at the expense of the pensioners, and we should not deny a proper burial to good Australians who have reared families and sent sons all over the world to defend this country.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTYSPEAKEROrder! The honorable member's time has expired.







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