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Wednesday, 5 September 1928

Mr THOMPSON (New England) . - I do not intend to disregard the ruling of Mr. Speaker that honorable members may not discuss generally the Old-age Pensions Act; but a certain amount of latitude appears to have been allowed to those who have preceded me, and I therefore propose to refer to one or two matters that I consider should be brought to the notice of the Treasurer. We do not often have the opportunity to ventilate old-age pensions grievances.

I wish to refer first to the great difficulty that confronts an honorable member when he endeavours to approach head-quarters with a complaint that cannot be dealt with by the Deputy Commissioner of Old-Age Pensions. In a number of instances that have been brought to my notice Deputy Commissioners have made recommendations that have been turned down by the Commissioner in Melbourne, and those honorable members who were interesting themselves in the matter were not supplied with reasons for the action taken. Our dealings are principally with the Deputy Commissioners. The Commissioner is not so conveniently accessible, especially to those of us who do not live in Melbourne. The procedure could be simplified so as to give the Deputy Commissioners a little more discretionary power to deal with matters without reference to the Commissioner.

I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer the case of persons who become inmates of benevolent institutions. It sometimes happens that a person who is receiving a pension is convicted of an offence against the law. Frequently it is a paltry offence, such as drunkenness or disorderly conduct; but occasionally it may be a criminal offence. In some cases the offender is given the benefit of the provisions of the First Offenders' Act, while in other cases a fine is imposed by the court of petty sessions. The result of such a conviction, however, is that the pensioner is deprived of his pension, and it is almost impossible for an honorable member to get it restored to him.

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