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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- Some of the definitions in this clause require further safeguards. The definition of" widow", for instance, includes a de facto widow and a deserted wife. A de facto widow must first have been a de facto wife. The bill also provides that a woman who is in receipt of a pension shall cease to be entitled to a pension should she re-marry. I should like to know what will happen if a de facto widow again becomes a de facto wife. As it stands, this legislation may be subject to abuse.

Senator Arthur - Has not the Commissioner discretionary powers?

Senator LECKIE - Only in certain cases of bad character. Paragraph c of the definition of "widow" provides that a woman whose marriage has been dissolved and who has not re-married shall be entitled to a pension. Will she be entitled to retain her pension should she, instead of re-marrying, become a de facto wife?

Senator Courtice - She has to live with a man for three years as his de facto wife in order to be entitled to a pension.

Senator LECKIE - In the case to which I have referred the woman is already in receipt of a pension. This provision may be a direct encouragement to divorce, because under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act a woman is not entitled to a pension until she reaches the age of 60 years, yet under this legislation a divorcee may obtain a pension at the age of 50 years. Such a provision may lead to collusion resulting in divorce in order that a woman may receive a pension of 25s. a week. I direct attention to these matters with a view to the insertion of a provision giving to either the Minister or the Commissioner power to take the circumstances into consideration. As the bill stands, it is a distinct encouragement to divorce, or to a woman living with a man to whom she is not married. My purpose is to avoid abuses.

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