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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Senator KEANE (Victoria) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The chief object of this bill is to extend the benefits of the Maternity Allowance Act to aboriginal mothers who are living under civilized conditions, and are suitable in character and intelligence to receive the allowance. Where the aboriginal mother is exempt from the provisions of the law of a State or territory relating to the control of aboriginal natives, she will be eligible for a maternity allowance. At present such exemptions arc granted under the laws of the States of South Australia and Western Australia. In other States the Commissioner will exercise his discretion in deciding whether it is desirable that any aboriginal mother should be granted an allowance, and in doing so he will have regard to the same standard of character, intelligence and development as that adopted in those States where exemption is granted. It is proposed to give the Commissioner power, where he considers it desirable, to direct that payment of the maternity allowance shall be made to an appropriate authority or person for the benefit of the aboriginal mother. Opportunity is also being taken to remove from the act an anomaly which occurs in some cases in the assessment of income. In determining the total income of the claimant and her husband for the stipulated period of twelve months preceding the birth of the child there is no power to exclude any earnings of the mother prior to her marriage. This operates unfairly in those cases where a child is born within twelve months after the marriage. Where, as the result of this anomaly, a claim which would otherwise have been granted has to be disallowed under the act, it is usual to pay the mother an amount equivalent to a maternity allowance from a special vote. The bill removes the anomaly by excluding from consideration any earnings of the mother prior to her marriage. It is estimated that the cost of the concessions contained in the bill will not exceed £5,000 per annum.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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