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Friday, 21 November 1941

Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) . -I am glad to know that invalid and old-age pensioners are to receivea greater sum each fortnight in. future. The additional amount which will be paid to them is small, but there is some consolation in the knowledge that the first payments will be made before Christmas. I had hoped that it would be possible to increase the pension to 25s. a week forthwith, but although that is not contemplated, I am pleased that early in the New Year that will be the rate of the pension. I am pleased too, that the Government has decided that certain Lebanese and other Asiatics will in future be eligible for pensions, and. I hope that when legislation is introduced in the new year to increase the rate to 25s., Australian aboriginals living a civilized life also will be included. These people are entitled to more than 25s. a week.In his policy speech as Leader of the Australian Labour party (non-Communist), the present Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) said that he hoped that a Labour government would be able to increase the pension to 30s. a week.

Senator McBride - He is now a member of the Cabinet.

Senator AMOUR - Even 30s. a week is not sufficient, in my opinion. 1 should like to see every pensioner receive an amount equivalent to the basic wage. On three occasions composite United Australia party and Country party governments gained control of the treasury bench because ofa promise to expend £20,000,000 on housing, but they never attempted to spend one penny in that direction. Can honorable senators opposite point to a worse example of political trickery? Yet honorable senators opposite jibe at the present Labour Government because of its promises to the pensioners. I am confident that among honorable senators opposite there are some who object not only to the pension being increased, but also to paying any pension at all to these oldpeople.

Senator McBride - Nonsense !

Senator AMOUR - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said that the present time is not opportune to increase the invalid and old-age pension. That always has been, and always will be, the cry of men like the honorable senator whenever an expansion of social services is contemplated. I rejoice that on the 11th December next the pensioners will receive 23s. 6d. a week, and that early in the new year that amount will be increased to 25s. a week. The McKell Labour Government in New South "Wales has gone farther: it has extended to invalid and old-age pensioners the right to travel on railways, tramways and omnibuses at half rates.

Senator Allan MacDonald - They do not, travel about a great deal.

Senator AMOUR - I thought that the honorable senator was sincere when, at the commencement of his speech, he referred to the invalid and old-age pensioners. Doeshe not know that many of these people have to visit, hospitals for treatment because they cannot afford to pay a doctor to visit them in their homes? In the aggregate, these people travel thousands of miles each year in order to receive treatment in various hospitals throughout Australia. Moreover, the Government of New SouthWales provides an attendant to accompany pensioners to hospital in certain circumstances. The privilege of travelling at half rates enables pensioners to take an occasional trip by tram orbus to places of interest. I do not think that the pensioners will appreciate what Senator Allan MacDonald has said about their money being expended in buying beer. After meeting necessary expenses for food, rent and clothing, there will not be much money left out of their pensions with which to buy beer. I imagine, too, that the consumption of tea by these old people will have to be considerably reduced in the future. Various organizations have written to me and to other members of this Parliament asking for support of the Government's proposal to increase the pension. .

Silling suspended from 1845 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator AMOUR - The members of the invalid and old-age pensioners' organizations throughout Australia are as decent and reputable citizens as are to be found in any other organizations. I am confident that they will appreciate the value of the assistance rendered to them by the Government. I trust that the day is not far distant when social services of all kinds will be extended and that the means test will be abolished. I look forward to the day when the qualifying age for the receipt of old-age pensions will be reduced, in the case of men to 50 years, and in the case of women to 45 years, and when the wealthy sections of the community will be subjected to a special tax in order to provide the revenue required to meet the pensions bill. A precedent for the abolition of the means test has already been established in the child endowment legislation passed by this Parliament recently. I trust that the Government will see its way clear not only to increase the pension rate still further but also to bring down a scheme of widows' pensions on lines similar to that which is now in operation in New South Wales.

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