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Wednesday, 19 April 1972
Page: 1255

Senator POYSER (Victoria) - These Bills have been introduced at very short notice. Despite the fact that I have not seen the second reading speeches or the details of the Bills, the Opposition does not propose to oppose them or to delay their passage through the Senate. But we have an amendment which we wish to submit to the Senate in relation to the Repatriation Bill 1972. It is in almost identical terms with the amendment that we moved during the Budget debate. I move:

At the end of motion add - but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government has failed to restore the relative value of Repatriation pensions, in particular the general rate pension.

The PRESIDENT - I ask the honourable senator to deliver a copy of that amendment to the table when he is finished.

Senator POYSER - 1 apologise to you, Mr President, and to the Senate for the fact that I have not been able to circulate copies of the amendment because of the manner in which the Bills have been introduced.

The PRESIDENT - The honourable senator is not required to circulate a copy in the Senate, but he is required to deliver a copy to the Clerk at the table. I want that done now so that there will be an opportunity administratively for it to be circulated.

Senator POYSER - We on this side of the House are still very concerned that although ostensibly the Government has increased the rate of repatriation pensions in the case of invalid and age pensions, it has not given full justice to all those who at the present time are receiving war pensions or are entitled to receive them. We get back to the fact that the Government has increased the general rate pension by exactly nothing for persons receiving less than 75 per cent of the pension rate. It has again completely ignored the persons who are dependants of persons receiving the general rate pension, other than those who are eligible for the special rates between the 75 per cent and 100 per cent pension rates. So, the position remains the same.

Child dependants of persons in receipt of the general rate pension and the TPI rate pension have not received any increase since the early 1950s. I cannot understand the thinking of a government that will introduce legislation in the panic manner in which this Government has on this occasion. The Government believes that the way out of the morass that it is in is to press the panic buttons and to introduce a mini-Budget. It believes that the people will fall for the cynical bribery that it offers in that mini-Budget.

Whilst supporting this legislation v/e add our protest against the attitude of the Government to the dependants - that is, the wife and children - of persons in receipt of the general rate pension and the TPI rate pension. The Government has failed to increase the rates of those allowances. From memory - I quoted these figures in my speech when legislation of a similar type was before us previously - since 1964 or 1965 the allowance of the dependant wife has not been increased. The situation now is that those in the upper echelons of pension payments are to receive increases - and quite rightly so - but the Government is refusing to assist the person in receipt of the lower pension rate. The TPI pensioner, who is a person who has suffered to the extent that he is no longer able to be employed in the community, will receive approximately half or less than half of what is accepted as the average weekly wage in the Australian community. The TPI pension is increased to $44.50 a week. The average wage today is in excess of $90 a week. The pension paid to a person who has suffered war injuries rendering him no longer able to follow any kind of employment is set at a level much lower than the average weekly wage despite the fact that if that pensioner continued to enjoy an earning capacity in the normal flow of his working life he may have earned at least as much as, and indeed in many cases much more than, the average wage.

The Government says to him that in spite of the sacrifices that he has made it will pay him a pension of $44.50 a week. On the present standards established by the Department of Social Services this is less than the amount required to stay above a poverty level of existence. The Government has adopted this line with respect to all social service payments, even in relation to widows, aged persons and ex-servicemen. The stage has been reached where their pensions are being reduced to below the poverty level despite the sacrifices that they have made on behalf of this country.

By way of the amendment that I have moved the Opposition now protests most strongly against the fact that, related to the average wage, a comparison between pension rates today and pension rates 10 years ago shows that they continue to decline. Pension rates today are far lower proportionately than they were 10 years ago and are reaching the lowest level in their history. The Opposition has moved this amendment to bring before both Houses of the Parliament the fact that, while giving passage to this legislation, it is totally dissatisfied with the way in which the Government has neglected the general rale pensioner and the dependants of those in receipt of war service pensions. I refer particularly to the children of such dependants. To add to our protest, we ask the Senate to carry this amendment.

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