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Tuesday, 14 September 1971
Page: 1286

Mr COPE (Sydney) - I wish to refer to an action taken by one of my Party colleagues, the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun). However, I hasten to point out that the honourable member is completely unaware of what I am about to say and I believe I can safely presume that he would not want me to mention the matter because this action was not taken to obtain publicity or self-aggrandisement. The honourable member for Kingston, as all would know, is a medical doctor. During the major epidemic of cholera in Bengal, particularly among the refugees from East Pakistan, he spent 3 J weeks in that country rendering a medical service, treating the afflicted and doing everything possible to prevent the spread of this killer disease. The honourable member would, of course, have used a return travel warrant from his home city of Adelaide to Darwin. However, the cost of the air fare from there to India and all other incidental expenses was borne by the honourable member, although from what I have heard reliably it is the intention of the South Australian branch of the Australian Labor Party to assist in meeting a portion of the cost at a later stage. Such meritorious action is, I believe, worthy of the highest commendation. It shows the honourable member as possessing a desire to assist in such humanitarian work of this nature without expecting or wanting one cent in payment for his services. I repeat that this is not a put up job to obtain political advantage or publicity tor the honourable member for Kingston as I can assure the House that he did not even tell me of his worthy action in the first place. The information came from another source. In addition, the honourable member had no idea that it was my intention to mention this matter as I have done tonight.

I should now like to refer to a very serious anomaly which exists in respect of the supplementary allowance of $2 a week as applicable to those pensioners employed in sheltered workshops. I will quote one case which 1 believe fully illustrates this anomaly. An adult female invalid pensioner who is mentally retarded is employed in a sheltered workshop in Redern Street, Redfern, which the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) opened some time ago. The case in question was referred to me by a relative of the invalid pensioner and confirmed by the manager of the workshop. This person receives $2.50 a week as an employee in a sheltered workshop. This workshop does an excellent job for these people. It keeps them fully occupied and I should say it is one of the finest institutions in my electorate. But the fact is that by receiving this $2.50 a week in effect she receives only 50c a week supplementary pension. If she did not work in the workshop she would receive $2 a week supplementary pension. In other words, she is working for 50c a week. I believe it is incumbent upon the Government to do something about this.

I know the Minister is sympathetic towards this section of invalid pensioners but this anomaly should be placed before Cabinet for review so that these people may be exempted from the means test which is applicable in relation to the supplementary pension. We all know that the maximum income allowable, including the $2 a week supplementary pension, is $3 a week. Hence, by earning $2.50 a week she would receive a supplementary allowance of only 50c a week. I do not think that there would be any honourable member in this House who would oppose a Bill which was brought in to exempt such people from that particular section of the means test which is applicable in relation to supplementary pensions.

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