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Wednesday, 19 April 1972
Page: 1253

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (Minister for Air) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Government's proposals in the repatriation war compensation and service pension fields, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) on 11th April. Many exservicemen suffering from very serious incapacity, or the more severe loss of limbs, as a result of their war service, will benefit from these proposals. All war widows who lost their husbands during, or as a result of their war service, and all service pensioners, will also benefit.

These increased payments are further evidence of the Government's concern that those eligible for war related compensation, and those eligible for service pension, receive consideration consistent with the general economic situation and their needs. It will be appreciated that the proposed increases will benefit those who are very dependent on repatriation payments.

I shall now proceed to explain the proposed changes in more detail, giving the new weekly amounts and an estimate of the numbers who will benefit. Honourable senators will be aware that repatriation war compensation payments are free of income tax.

Special T & PI Rate

This will be increased by $2 a week to $44.50. This amount is payable to: Those who are totally incapacitated from war related disabilities or tuberculosis; those who are blinded; those suffering from the more serious double amputations; and those who are temporarily totally incapacitated.

Approximately 21,800 will receive an increase of $2 a week because of the increase in the Special (TPI) Rate; but the new weekly payment of $44.50 should not be looked at in isolation. Additional amounts or allowances designed for specific purposes are also payable, separate payments are made to wives and children, and many receiving the Special Rate or its equivalent are also eligible for service pensions payable under repatriation legislation.

Single ex-servicemen in receipt of the Special Rate can now qualify also for up to $1 a week service pension under the changes being introduced at this time. Because the restrictions which applied to the 2 service pension increases in 1971 are being lifted, married ex-servicemen receiving both the Special Rate and service pension will receive an increase of up to $2.25 a week in their service pension in addition to the $2 a week increase in war compensation - these combined increases represent an increased payment of up to $221 a year.

The Intermediate Rate

This is payable to those whose incapacity from war-related disabilities or tuberculosis enables them to work only parttime or intermittently, and who are consequently unable to earn a living wage. It will be increased by $1 a week to $31.25. There are some 1,800 recipients of the Intermediate Rate or equivalent who will all receive this increased benefit and, additionally, those of them who are receiving service pensions will also be eligible for an increase in those pensions.

Single ex-servicemen in receipt of both the Intermediate Rate and service pension will qualify for up to $2.25 a week more service pension, in addition to the $1 a Week increase in war compensation. This represents an increased payment of up to $169 a year. Married Intermediate Rate ex-servicemen will receive up to $2.50 a week increase in their service pension which, together with their war compensation increase, represents an increase of up to $182 a year.

War Widows

There are at present some 50,000 war widows whose basic wai: compensation will be increased by $1 a week to $.18.25. Over 97 per cent of war widows also receive a domestic allowance of $8 a week and, additionally, some 19,000 of them will also receive an increase of up to $2.25 a week in their age or invalid pension. Thus, a war widow also receiving age or invalid pension will benefit by up to $.169 a year.

Honourable senators will, of course, realise that war widows with children of school age receive considerable repatriation assistance for the education of their children, right through to completion of tertiary studies. Free medical and related treatment is also provided for war widows and their children, as well as other fringe benefits.

As I stated earlier, service pensions are payable under the repatriation legislation. The rate of these pensions is the same as the age and invalid pensions. There are over 57,000 service pensioners who will all receive an increase, and an unknown number will become eligible for part service pension for the first time.

Single service pensioners on the maximum rate will receive the $1 a week increase, but those receiving less than the maximum rate could receive as much as $2.75 a week. The same range of increases applies to a married service pensioner whose wife also receives a service pension, and a service pensioner whose wife receives an age, invalid or service pension in her own right will receive an increase ranging from 75c a week to $2.25 a week. For service pensioners therefore, the increase will vary between $39 and $143 a year.

To summarise the effect of these proposals let me say that:

A single ex-serviceman in receipt of the special rate pension will receive an increase of $2 a week war compensation and could also qualify for up to $1 a week service pension; a married exserviceman in receipt of the special rate pension will also receive $2 a week increase in his war compensation and up to $2.25 a week increase in his service pension; a single intermediate rate exserviceman pensioner will receive an extra $1 a week war compensation and up to $2.25 extra by way of service pension, but if married, the extra service pension could amount to $2.50 a week; a war widow will, receive an additional $1 a week in her basic payment and, together with domestic allowance and age or invalid pension, could receive a total of $36.37 a week as against $33.12 a week previously. A war widow with 2 children will now receive $40.25 a week from repatriation plus education allowances and fringe benefits; and if she happens to qualify for age or invalid pension, a further $27.12 a week could be payable; all service pensioners will receive an increase and, depending on various factors, such increases will range from 75c to $2.75 a week.

Honourable senators will be interested in the fact that, since July 1970, that is, in less than 2 years, increases in the basic payments for Special (T & PI) Rate beneficiaries have amounted to $8.50 a week, or $442 a year; and that, additionally, very worthwhile increases have been made in supplementary benefits, such as Attendant's Allowance and Service Pension. In the same period, most war widows have had their repatriation payments increased by $3.75 a week, or $195 a year; while a war widow with 2 children has benefited by $8.10 a week, or $421.20 a year since July 1970. Additionally, of course, asI said earlier, education assistance, medical treatment and other fringe benefits are provided.

The Bill appropriates the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent necessary to provide during the current year the additional payments to which it gives effect. The foregoing amendments will come into force on the pay day following the day on which the amending Act receives royal assent. The measures I have outlined reflect the Government's continuing interest in, and concern for, those who have suffered loss or severe incapacity because of the demands of war service, or whose means are such that they qualify for service pension. Cost-wise they will add almost $1,500,000 to repatriation expenditure for this financial year. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Motion (by Senator Poyser) agreed to:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:

That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.

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