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Wednesday, 4 December 1935

Debate resumed from page 2412.

Senator COLLINGS(Queensland) [3.15 | . - The Opposition gladly supports this bill. However, there are one or two points upon which I should like an explanation from the Minister. The bill gives protection to widows and widowed mothers of soldiers who died since the 1st February, 1935. But there are widows in difficult circumstances whoso soldier husbands had died before that date. We think that such widows should bc given protection similar to that to be extended to the wives of returned soldiers who become widowed after the passing of this measure.

This measure empowers the Minister to decide what a widow can afford to pay when her occupancy of a war service home is being considered. There is a possibility that the Minister will take into account the amount of money coming into a home. To state a hypothetical c;i»e. a widow may have three children of employable age. If each of these three children should be earning, say, £1 a week, can the Minister assure us that in assessing the income of the widow, the income of these children will not be taken into account as actual earnings of the family! That income cannot be considered as an asset. In the first place, the children themselves will require some of that money, and, further, the acceptance of any of this money by the widow would be a liability because she would have to keep and clothe her children, and their earnings would hardly be sufficient to enable her to do that. I raise this point because trouble in this respect has occurred in the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In assessing the income of applicants, the department has taken into consideration the total income coming into a home with the result that many applicants have been precluded from receiving the full amount, of relief to which under the act they arc entitled. We want to safeguard soldiers' widows in the circumstances which I have indicated. I should like to add that the Government is proceeding in the right direction in introducing this measure. Promises we're made to the soldier that he and his dependants would be looked after. Although perhaps some of us may feel that the Government could have been more liberal in honouring this promise, and could have tackled it earlier, that is no argument against a bill of this character being introduced at this stage. The Opposition welcomes the bill.

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