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Thursday, 16 May 1957

Mr Webb (STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -

1.   Was it discovered, as a result of a survey conducted by the Western Australian Pensioners League, that many single pensioners with no other source of income are paying from £1 5s. to £2 5s. per week for a room, and that many married pensioners living together with no other source of income are paying rent that amounts to £4 a week?

2.   Is it a fact that pensioners in such circumstances are living an impoverished existence and are not getting the nourishment necessary for a healthy life?

3.   If so, will he recommend to the Government the urgent necessity of increasing pensions without waiting for the budget session?

Mr Roberton - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   I have made inquiries and have been informed that the Western Australian Pensioners League recently issued questionnaires relating to rents to several thousand pensioners. Only a limited number of replies have been received and the information obtained is not yet available. No doubt the league will disclose the results of the survey when it has been completed. As the honorable member is aware, the Commonwealth, by the Aged Persons Homes Act, is making an important contribution towards the solution of the problem of providing suitable accommodation for aged persons, including pensioners.

2.   Until the survey has been completed it is not possible to draw any conclusions on the point raised by the honorable member.

3.   It has been the practice for many years for Commonwealth governments to review the rates of pensioners and other social service benefits each year in connexion with the preparation of the budget. Expenditure from the National Welfare Fund is estimated to reach £227,000,000 in this financial year. Such a huge outlay makes it a major budget item which cannot be considered except in the light of the Government's overall expenditure. The honorable member may rest assured that the question of the adequacy of pensions will receive the careful attention of the Government when social services are again reviewed later this year.

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