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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2529

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I move:

That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill: 3a. (1) Section 30a of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after sub-section (3.) the following sub-section: "(3a) In computing means as assessed under the preceding sub-section, there shall be excluded from the earnings of a pensioner employed in a sheltered workshop under the provisions of the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act 1970 -

(i)   an amount of four hundred and sixteen dollars per annum; and

(ii)   one-half of the excess of such earnings over five hundred and twenty dollars per annum.".

(2)   The amendment made by sub-section (1) shall not operate until the Parliament has made an appropriation for any expenditure which it may involve.'.

I listened to what the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) said in his reply to the speeches on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I appreciate the difficulties it will involve, but I do not believe that this amendment is justified at the present time. It is true that the application of this provision generally across the supplementary assistance board would result in quite heavy expenditure. The Minister was quite correct in drawing the attention of honourable members to that. On the other hand, I do believe it would be possible to accept this provision with regard to sheltered workshops as the expenditure involved would be absolutely negligible, to be quite candid, and would not be likely to infect, if I can use that phrase, the rest of the scheme in the way in which the Minister has feared, and involve him in the heavy expenditure he fears. I am in agreement with the Minister on that.

The Minister said that he knows that the present provision is a disincentive. It is a very great disincentive. Worse than that, it does sometimes cause unreasonable resentment in the minds of those people who are heavily handicapped. Those who are mentally handicapped perhaps would be unable to appreciate the facts of the situation. I would not like to see anything happen in a sheltered workshop which caused that kind of resentment and bad feeling, particularly among those who are, as I have said, heavily handicapped. The Minister has said that there may be some other solution to this problem. That may be the case. But I should have thought - I do not know the details of what he has in mind - that the kind of solution that is based on the West German experience that he outlined to this chamber would itself be amenable to the same kind of troubles in regard to infecting other supplementary assistance as the one that I have suggested. But, be that as it may, the Minister and I are at one, I think, in that we realise that something has to be done with regard to this matter.

I think the Minister was wrong in saying that I was remonstrating with him. If I gave that impression, I did not mean it in the slightest. Here we have a real and substantial problem. Surely between the Opposition and the Government we can find some kind of solution to it. I appreciate the fact that there are other solutions. But, whatever they are, let there be no delay in implementing them. I still think it is unlikely that the Government will find a better solution than the one which I have put forward in the form of this proposed amendment. The Minister has told me that he cannot accept the amendment. I do not intend to take up the time of the chamber by pressing it to divide on this matter. I am glad, on behalf of the people concerned, that something is going to be done very shortly. Whether it be this solution or another solution, I look forward to what the Minister is going to put forward.

Proposed new clause negatived.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5.

Section 59 of the Principal Act is amended -

(a)   by omitting from the definition of 'child' in sub-section (1) all the words after the words sixteen years'; and

(b)   by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section:

(4)   For the purposes of this Part, a child who is being maintained by a widow shall be deemed to be a child of whom the widow has, and had at any time when she was maintaining the child, the custody, care and control.'.

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