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Thursday, 4 May 1961

Mr MAKIN (Bonython) .- Recently, I made representations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on behalf of superannuated Commonwealth public servants, particularly those receiving small pensions, and pointed out the hardships that these people were experiencing. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will give that matter his personal attention, but I am mentioning it here to-day because I hope that my representations will not be snowed under by other important matters that may require his consideration and that of the Cabinet. Representations in regard to this matter have been made to me, and I believe that there is great merit in the claim that retired Public Service officers are experiencing considerable difficulty in making their superannuation benefits meet even their basic needs.

It is with the desire to ensure the sympathetic consideration by the Government and the Parliament of the problem that besets these people that I raise the matter at this stage. These people have rendered great service to the Commonwealth in various ways during their long lives. That is particularly so in regard to former members of the postal service, like postmen, mail sorters, workers in the telegraph branch and postal administration generally, and the great army of former clerical workers who were associated with public administration generally. After giving loyal service, and contributing towards their superannuation rights in their desire to help themselves in their retirement, they have reached the stage of life at which they merit the most sympathetic understanding and consideration of this Parliament. They are not only afflicted by the inadequacy of their superannuation benefits, but also face other difficulties because of the provisions of our social services legislation. During its term of office, the Government has introduced an alleviation of the property means test which affects the recipients of age and invalid pensions. If the Government could see its way clear to give consideration to people who possess capital means in excess of what they need to live on, surely the recipients of superannuation, who during their working lives contributed towards the payments that they now receive, should be exempt from the property means test in the same measure as are age and invalid pensioners.

To-day, unfortunately, superannuation payments received are reckoned as income under our pensions scheme. Since the person who receives superannuation has himself contributed much towards it, I consider that these payments should not be reckoned as income in the assessment of pensions. Certainly, the person who receives some income by way of superannuation has a more direct claim to sympathetic consideration by this House and the Government than have people who receive income from property by way of rent. Yet such people have received more sympathetic consideration from the Government than has been extended to former Commonwealth employees who receive superannuation. The ever-increasing cost of living is making it more and more difficult for superannuated persons to stretch their income over the various expenses that they incur in living from day to day.

We know that all sections of the community have suffered as a result of the inflationary trend during the period in which this Government has been in office, but no section has suffered more than have the people on the lower incomes, and it is for them that I make an earnest plea to the Government to consider, when the next Budget is being prepared, the introduction of a supplementary allowance in order to balance the scales for people on superannuation and enable them to live according to the standards which they expected their contributions to superannuation would ensure for them on their retirement. As a result of recent inflation, superannuation benefits received are worth less than were the contributions made. This is one of the unfortunate effects of this Government's having allowed prices to rise to the inordinately high level that they have attained as a result of this Administration's policies. The Government has a responsibility to correct this anomaly to which many people who gave good, honest service to the Commonwealth are now subjected in the days of their retirement. They have a right to expect from this House and the Government the consideration that they merit as former loyal servants of the Crown.

For the reasons that I have stated, I present this matter to the House in the confident expectation that this supplementation of the representations that I have already made will bring sharply to the Government's notice the great urgency of the need for relief to the people whose circumstances I have outlined this morning.

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