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Wednesday, 11 November 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) .- I move-

That the Bill be now read a second time.

During the debate in the Senate in September last on the Seamen's War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1964, my colleague the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) indicated that the Act would be amended a second time during this session of Parliament. This is the Bill now before us for consideration. The purposes of the Bill are twofold. It makes certain administrative adjustments to the existing Act which are covered in clauses 3 to 5, and clause 6 provides an additional benefit of medical treatment at Commonwealth expenses to certain mariner pensioners.

It has been found to be necessary in the light of recent legal advice to insert in the Act a definition of step-son and stepdaughter and this is covered by clause 3. The definition will ensure that for the purposes of the Act " step-child " will be confined to a step-child of a mariner where the previous marriage of the mariner's spouse has been dissolved by death, or otherwise than by death and the child is in the custody, care and control of the mariner, or is being maintained by him, or in the case of his death was in his custody, care and control or was being maintained by him at the time of his death, or after his death is in the care, custody and control of his widow. Appropriate wording is included to cover cases where the mariner is a female. Clause 4 ensures that in cases where the marriage of a pensioner under the Act is dissolved otherwise than by death, the wife of the pensioner ceases to be eligible for payment of pension uder the Act.

Section 53a of the Act requires that where a mariner or any of his dependants is entitled to receive a war pension, etc., under the law of another part of the Queen's dominions the amount involved is to bc taken into account in assessing the rate of war pension, etc. payable under this Act. Clause 5 amends the Act to provide that such amounts should continue to be taken into- account where the country concerned ceases to bc a part of the dominions of the Crown, so that there will not be the advantage in such cases of such payments not being taken into account in the assessment of entitlement under the Act.

Clause 6 proposes the provision of medical, hospital and surgical benefits at Commonwealth expense for illnesses suffered by mariner pensioners who are receiving the full general, 100 per cent., rate pension, or a higher rate of pension, where such illnesses are not directly attributable to war injury, to the same extent as is now provided to ex-servicemen. It also inserts a power authorising the recovery of the cost of medical treatment for disabilities not due to war service for certain classes of seriously disabled mariners where the mariner has a right of recovery against some other person by way of damages or compensation. As well as effecting minor administrative amendments the amendment will provide substantial medical benefits for seriously disabled mariner pensioners. I commend the Bill to all honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.

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