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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) .- The proposal contained in this clause is the first to have excited any controversy during the consideration of this bill to liberalize the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act; the second reading was agreed to on the voices, all parties equally supporting it. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) believes that in all probability the hospitals will benefit materially from the amendment proposed in this clause whereby it will be no longer incumbent upon the Government, after a pensioner has been in hospital for more than 28 days, to pay to the hospital a proportion of the pension. If the present arrangement were to continue on the new basis of a pension of 25s. a week, a pensioner inmate of a hospital would, after having been in hospital for 28 days, receive 8s. 6d. a week of his pension and the hospital the balance of 16s. 6d., but the hospital would receive nothing at all for the first 28 days of his inmatecy, and the Government would hold the pension for payment to the pensioner in a lump sum after his discharge from hospital, under the proposed new system the pensioner will receive his pension in full, irrespective of whether he is in hospital or not, and if he is in hospital it will be for the hospital itself to make arrangements with him as to payment on a voluntary basis, if at ail. According to a statement by the Minister for Social Services, not more than 30 per cent, of pensioner inmates of hospitals remain in hospital for more than 2S days, and, accordingly, hospitals are paid in respect, of only 30 per cent, of the pensioners whom they treat. It is believed that under the proposed new arrangement the hospitals will benefit by reason of the arrangements that they will be able to make with the pensioner patients. Accordingly, I support the clause because the arrangement for payments, if any, by the pensioner will be voluntary. J am unimpressed by arguments in favour of the retention of the old system, because hospitals are worthy of assistance and the invalid and old-age pensioners, in appreciation of treatment, will, if circumstances permit, be glad to make a contribution towards their maintenance. In any case, the Minister bas given an undertaking that if, after having been tried for six months the proposed new system is found to be inequitable, it will be reviewed.

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