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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Senator BRAND (Victoria) .-I support the bill. Those who will benefit by the proposed increase are, in the main, the pioneers of the industrial development of this country. Owing to misfortune, ill health., loss of employment, and other factors over which they have no control, many of them find themselves in necessitous circumstances, and I am sure that no person with a spark of humanity desires to see another man or woman in his or her declining years, in want. I.f does not matter which government first introduced the system of old-age pensions. The first hill providing for invalid and old-age pensions was passed in 1912, without opposition, and since then the pension has risen from 10s. to £1 5s. a week. In view of the purchasing power of the pension paid 30 years ago, the proposed new rate is not excessive. What concerns thinking people is not so much the increased rate, as the alarming increases of the number of pensioners. During the past twenty years the number has been doubled. At present 26 persons out of every 100 are of pensionable age, but only half of that number qualify for a pension. If the birth and death rates are unchanged 40 years hence, 54 out of every 100 persons will be eligible to receive a pension. That is a staggering prospect. Neither this nor any other country could meet such an overburdening social commitment and yet remain solvent. A non-contributory old-age pension system like that operating in Australia depends for effective functioning on the recipients constituting a decided minority of the population, and drawing an. amount that will not make the scheme a financial incubus. If this country is to keep solvent, the only fair way, so far as the old-age pension is concerned, is to make it contributory on the lines proposed in the national insurance scheme which, I. suggest, might even now be reintroduced since unemployment is negligible. The old-age pension schemes, in Britain and New Zealand are on a contributory basis.

It is time that those spendthrift people in the community realized that the nation cannot go on indefinitely increasing the old-age pension, whilst they spend their earnings on beer, betting, and on extravagant non-essentials. Thousands of young and middle-aged people have forgotten, if they ever knew, the saying, " Put a little bit away for a rainy day ". Their motto is: "Make merry now; the nation will keep us when we are too old to work ".

With regard to the invalid pension I make no comment except to say the temporarily abandoned national insurance scheme, when in full operation, would ensure better health all round.

I take this opportunity to place before the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, a plea on behalf of the widows and widowed mothers of deceased service men who gave their all in the last war, and in the present conflict, to safeguard our freedom and liberty. I claim that these people who might be in necessitous circumstances are entitled to an increase of their pensions just a3 much as are invalid and old-age pensioners. Many of them have remarried and so are no longer in need of assistance, but, hundreds are still battling along, rearing and educating their children and denying themselves little extras which they need for their health and comfort. They have not a strong association to plead for them or to threaten the Government with action at the polling booths if their representations be ignored. The cost of living has increased, but the pensions of these splendid women have remained static for some years. I hope that Senator Cameron will bring this plea to the notice of the. Minister for Repatriation.

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