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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr O'KEEFE (Denison) .- I should like to direct the attention of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to the need for elasticity in the administration of this Act. If this cannot be provided for in regulations, the Deputy Commissioners in the various States should be- vested with sufficiently wide powers to be able to deal with individual hard cases on their merits. I have in mind several instances in which, owing to the inflexibility of the regulations, considerable hardship has been inflicted upon pensioners. I have no doubt that other honorable members have had' similar cases brought under their notice. I may, perhaps, be permitted to mention one case to illustrate what I mean. I refer to an invalid pensioner suffering from what is known as chalky rheumatism. He has a wife and family of young children. Being totally incapacitated, he received a pension of 15s. a week, which was totally inadequate to provide for their needs. To meet the situation, his wife obtained employment as a cleaner in the Post Office, and in the course of time, through working longer hours, she was able to earn £2 3s. 9d. per week. Because she had supplemented the family income in this way, the Pensions Department, acting under the regulations, reduced the pension payable to the husband from 15s. to 7s. 6d. a week. The Deputy Commissioner, whom I interviewed, was quite satisfied that this was one of the hardest cases that had come under his notice, but under the regulations he was powerless to do anything. This is an anomaly that ought to be rectified. It is, I think, typical of many similar cases throughout Australia. I impress upon the Treasurer the necessity for giving the Deputy Commissioners of the various States sufficiently wide power to administer the Act with discretion.

Dr Earle Page - I will look into the matter mentioned, and if it is not possible to correct the anomalies in the way suggested, we shall consider the question of an amendment of the Act.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.

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