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Friday, 6 August 1926


Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaVicePresident of the Executive Council) . - This matter was first brought under my notice in a letter that I received from the Premier of Western Australia (Mr. Collier). Something more than an amendment of the act is necessary to give effect to the wish that the honorable senator has expressed. Such an amendment might deal with these particular cases, but it would place the men who receive the benefits of. the Miners Phthisis Act of Western Australia in a more advantageous position than is occupied by a person who in another part of the Commonwealth is suffering from miners phthisis. In the case of the latter, any income earned is taken into consideration in deciding the amount of pension that shall be payable. I do not know whether Senator Needham is aware that under the Miners Phthisis Act of Western Australia, when a man is withdrawn from a mine he is entitled to and does receive the full rate of wage applicable to that calling. He is, therefore, in a better position than are the majority of those in other States, who, unfortunately, suffer from this disease. When I placed the letter of the Premier of Western Australia before the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), he sent me the following reply: -

With reference to your letter of the 2nd February forwarding correspondence received, by you from the Premier' of Western Australia on the above subject, I have to say that this matter has been given careful consideration.

The Miners Phthisis Act of Western Australia provides that all persons engaged in mining operations shall submit themselves for medical examination whenever called upon. If the result of the examination shows that the person is suffering from tuberculosis, he may be prohibited from employment in a mine. In such a case, he becomes entitled to receive from the Mines Department of Western Australia compensation equal to the ruling rate of pay for the class of work on -which he was engaged. This compensation remains payable until other suitable employment is found for him by the Mines Department.

The Premier asks that this compensation be not regarded as income for invalid and oldage pension purposes.

Payments of compensation provided for in the Miners Phthisis Act - constitute income within the meaning of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and in order to comply with the Premier's request, it would be necessary to amend section 4 of the latter act.

There does not appear to be any good reason why payments under the Miners Phthisis Act should be exempt from calculation as income for pension purposes. Such exemption would not benefit the Government of Western Australia, because that Government would still be liable for the full amount of compensation. The only persons who would benefit would be the prohibited miners; but as they are to receive compensation equal to the ruling rate of wages for the class of work on which they were engaged at the time of the prohibition, they would not appear to be in need of invalid pensions in addition. Moreover, as the Miners Phthisis Act contemplates the finding of suitable work for the miners affected, it would seem that these persons are not permanently incapacitated for work within the meaning of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and are, therefore, ineligible for the grant of invalid pensions.

In view of the above considerations, I regret to say that it is not possible to take action on the lines desired by the Western Australian Government.

Later the Premier of Western Australia again wrote to me and said he had been informed that differential treatment was meted out to miners in Broken Hill. I forwarded that letter to the Treasurer on the 23rd July, with the comment -

If, as stated in Mr. Collier's letter, these exemptions arc allowable under the Workers' Compensation (Broken Hill) Act, and Miners'

Accident Relief Act 1000, of 'the State of NewSouth Wales, it seems somewhat invidious, that they are not allowable in the case of. Western Australia. I would urge that the matter be reconsidered.

The reply which I received on 29 th July reads as follows: -

With reference to your letter of 23rd July, copy herewith, forwarding correspondence from the honorable the Premier of Western Australia on the above subject, 1 have to say that I have given consideration to the matter.

The Premier has requested that paymentsmade under the Miners' Phthisis Act to certain miners who are unable to work be exempted from the income provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In support of his request, the Premier has referred to the Workmen's Compensation (Broken Hill) Act and the Miners' Accident Belief Act of New South Wales.

Payments under the Workmen's Compensation (Broken Hill) Act are not exempted from the income provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. On the contrary, these payments constitute income for pensions purposes, and are taken into account in determining claims for pensions.

Payments under the Miners' Accident Relief Act are exempted from calculation as income. The reason for this is that these payments were exempted under the New South Wales Pensions Act prior to the transfer of pensions to the Commonwealth. This exemption was omitted from the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908, with the result that, in a small number of cases, transferred from New South Wales, the payments were maintained as income, and the pensions were thereby affected. In order that these few pensioners should not- be placed in a worse position under the Commonwealth Act than they were under the State legislation, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was amended in 1909 to provide that payments under the Miners' Accident Belief Act should not be computed as income for pension purposes.

There are probably now very few eases in which pensions are being paid to persons in receipt of assistance under the Miners' Accident Belief Act, because that Act was repealed when the Workmen's Compensation Act of New South Wales came into force in 1917. Moreover, the amounts which were paid under the Miners' Accident Relief Act were comparatively small.

In these circumstances, I regret to say that, it is not possible to exclude payments under the Miners' Phthisis Act of Western Australia from the computation of income for invalid and old-age pension purposes.

Those letters make the position clear. I regret that the case presented by Senator Needham cannot be met in the way he suggests.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.

Report adopted.







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