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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2450

Senator MACKLIN(11.22) —I move:

(4) That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment:

After sub-clause 13 (4), insert the following new sub-clauses:

``(4A) Where a person who is a dependant of a member of the Forces within the meaning of the Repatriation Act 1920 was, prior to the commencement of this Act, in receipt of a pension under Part III of that Act, and the Commonwealth, but for the operation of this sub-section, would not be liable to pay a pension to that person under this Act, the Commonwealth is liable to pay a pension to that person as if the Repatriation Act 1920 were in force after the commencement of this Act.

``(4B) Where a person entitled to pension under sub-section (4A) elects to receive, in lieu of that pension, a payment equal to the amount of pension payable to that person during the period of 5 years following that election, such an amount is payable to that person in lieu of that pension.''.

This amendment relates to the area of dependants' pensions. The Minister has maintained that none of the benefits available to veterans prior to the passage of this Bill will be removed. One of the reasons that the Government has announced for dealing with the matter as it has dealt with it in this Bill-that is, on the basis of a three-year period-is that the rates are so low. I must agree that the rates are low. In fact, the rates have not been changed in most of these areas for a considerable period; hence, one finds that some cheques are being written for as little as $1 and possibly even less.

The point must be made that dependants' pensions are compensatory pensions. They are not provided to the dependants of a veteran who is a pensioner for income maintainance but as compensaaion for what that family has lost-a father or a mother-or their ability to perform the normal operations. For example, veterans may have been bedridden or have suffered from some disease which was war-caused. They are not the only ones to suffer; their families have suffered also. Indeed in many circumstances probably the most care and attention has been provided to the veterans by their families, which is as they would wish it to be. Previous governments have determined in this area that some small payment by way of compensation to the spouse for the care that must be given to the husband or wife in many cases saves considerable sums of money that otherwise would have to be provided in institutional care for those people.

If one wants to take the cost argument it is now recognised that the care provided by the family has been of enormous benefit, not only to veterans but also to the community as a whole. I believe that the item ought to be dealt with in a more generous way-that is, that people should have the option to maintain those benefits if they so desire. If they do not desire that, the second part of my amendment states:

. . . in lieu of that pension, a payment equal to the amount of pension payable to that person during the period of 5 years following that election, such amount is payable to that person in lieu of that pension.

I acknowledge that it is a more generous provision and if the Government finds that the second part is too costly, I believe that the first part ought to be able to be opted for by the veterans so that they can continue to receive those payments. I believe that cost savings can operate in this area, not on the level of the pensions but on the level of the administration of the pensions, which I would be happy to expound at any time if anyone were interested. I think it is fairly obvious that those cost savings could come about because there is no need to have these payments administered as separate items from other pensions and pension-related payments.