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Thursday, 13 October 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Of my own knowledge the administration of the Repatriation Department by its officials is as fair as the latter can make it. When cases of hardship have been brought under their notice it has been my experience that they have proved willing and ready to quickly rectify them. A sum of £10,000,000 is being allocated in trust for the purpose of paying war pensions for the coming financial year. I think that the war pensions themselves amounted to about £7,500,000 last year. According to the Treasurer's estimate, as set forth in the Budget, a decrease is anticipated which will bring the total volume of pensions payable to less than £7,000,000 - probably to about £500,000 less than last year. I do not know the nature of the financial operations associated with the allocation of the sum of £10,000,000 to a trust fund.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is intended is to give authority to the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) at any time when he may have surplus money,to pay it into that fund.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If a sum of £10,000,000 is to be ear-marked and kept idle in order to pay war pensions for the coming year, I can only comment that that sum is much in excess of the actual total which it is anticipated will be required. If the intention is to provide that surplus credits may be paid into a trust fund up to a maximum of £10,000,000 for the purpose of paying pensions, and if provision has been made so that no interest shall be lost to the Commonwealth, there is nothing further to be said.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is exactly the position. The Treasurer is to be given authority to pay, out of Consolidated Revenue, when he has the money, into the trust fund ; but he will not borrow money to pay into a trust fund and keep it idle there.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Quite so! But, in connexion with the Notes Fund, and the various surplus amounts of money accumulated by the Commonwealth from time to time, I think that a sum equivalent to 2 per cent. upon call is allowed by the Commonwealth Bank. One does not wish to see a large sum paid in over and above what will actually be required, and to have that 2 per cent. lost. The trust fund itself might be deposited with the Commonwealth Bank, and the 2 per cent. so secured. I merely raise the point to have it made clear; and, in view of the Minister's explanation, it appears to me that, so far as the nominal sum of £10,000,000 is concerned, the proposition may be called reasonable and fair finance.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.

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