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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) . - I wish to raise two matters on lines similar to those mentioned by Senator Cohen.

The CHAIRMAN - He was asking for information.

Senator ORMONDE - I will be asking for information, too. I should like to know what the Department is doing to find those members of the pensioner class who do not come readily within the ordinary categories of pensioners. Recently the personnel conducting the " Four Corners " television programme spent about half an hour interviewing pensioners who were in dire circumstances. I know that members of Parliament were critical, of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for allegedly picking out extreme cases and trying to make out that they were typical of pensioners generally. Of course they were not, but the A. B.C. did give four or five what I might call classical cases of people who were really in dire circumstances. They were people living in Sydney in flats or garrets, who had no contact with the outside world and no members of their families around them. I gained the impression that apart from sending them their pension cheques, as far as the Department was concerned these people did not exist. The officers of the Department of Social Services do good work and are very understanding. I suppose that within the ambit of the Public Service regulations they do all they can, but I have always thought that a type of field work should be carried out. I would like to know from the Minister whether the Government is considering the development of field activity. As we know, hospitals have almoners who search out people who are in a bad way and try to do something for them.

I wish to refer to another matter which concerns publicity of the rights of pensioners. I want to know whether the Government has considered-

The CHAIRMAN - -The honorable senator should know that most of the matters to which he is referring should have been dealt with when we were debating the Social Services Bill recently. He should confine his remarks, as far as he can, to the estimates under discussion.

Senator ORMONDE - Very well, Mr. Chairman. I would like to know whether the Government is doing anything about this matter. About a fortnight ago the " Daily Telegraph " newspaper ran a series of articles in which it asked pensioners to communicate with it in order to discover what their rights were under the various pension acts. I went to the office of the "Daily Telegraph". I thought that only politicians received queries of this type, but the " Daily Telegraph " was inundated with mail from pensioners seeking information on their rights in relation to pensions. If the Department could allocate finance for the establishment of an information bureau where people could be informed of their rights, it would be of great assistance to the people concerned and, of course, would do a lot of good for the Department itself.

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