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Tuesday, 29 March 1966

Mr Whitlam m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Has his attention been drawn to a letter stated to have been written by the then Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) in terms quoted by the Sydney "Daily Telegraph" on the 15th September 1965, expressing the hope that the wool reserve price plan would be thrown out and that the referendum would fail.

2.   Did the Minister for Supply write the letter?

3.   If the letter was written by the Minister for Supply, does his action conform to the principles which the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) enunciated in his letter of the 27th July 1962, asking for the resignation of the then Minister for Air?

Mr Harold Holt - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows -

1.   Yes.

2.   I have been informed to that effect.

3.   An examination of the correspondence referred to will show that the circumstances which gave rise to the resignation of the then Minister for Air do not apply in this case.

Pensions. (Question No. 1482.)

Mr Webb b asked the Minister for Social

Services, upon notice -

1.   Does each pensioner of a pensioner couple receive a £5 10s. pension per week?

2.   If one of the pensioners enters a "C" class hospital in Western Australia docs each pensioner then receive £6 per week?

3.   If both pensioners have to enter a " C " class hospital is their pension reduced to £5 10s. each while the hospital charge for each is the same as for a single pensioner?

4.   Is the lower rate of pension paid to married pensioners because they share the expense of running a home?

5.   If so, when both pensioners have to enter a " C " class hospital, will he take action to treat the pensioners as single pensioners for the payment of their pensions as the sharing of home expenses does not then apply?

Mr Sinclair (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Social Services) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows -

1.   The maximum general rate of age or invalid pension that may be paid to a married couple who live together is £5 10s. a week each.

2.   The standard rate pension of £6 a week would normally be paid to each pensioner in these circumstances.

3.   A married couple in receipt of pensions at the maximum general rate of £5 10s. a week each, continue to receive pensions at that rate if they both enter the same " C " class hospital. The hospital charges have no bearing on the matter and arc outside the control of the Department.

4.   The standard rate of pension for single persons was introduced by the Government to offset their comparative financial disadvantage to married pensioners, who share all their expenses, including, but not exclusively, those of running a home.

5.   Successive Governments have taken the view that a requirement for a married couple to be treated as separate entities for pension purposes is that they be living apart.

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