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Wednesday, 5 September 1928

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) .- It . gives me very great pleasure to support this measure, because it introduces certain reforms that I have advocated for years. The Treasurer is well aware that I have always contended that the payment of 4s. to inmates of charitable institutions was not sufficient. The Rockhampton Benevolent Society, a body of philanthropic women who devote their leisure hours to attendance upon the sick and needy, waited upon the Treasurer in my presence early in July, and urged that a greater sum should be paid for the maintenance of the aged and infirm people who are so very well looked after in that institution. I strongly supported their request and am pleased that something is being done to meet their wishes. This subject has no direct personal interest to us; but any liberalization of our pensions legislation must have the effect of benefiting thousands of needy persons in the community who all their working lives have received only the basic wage, or a little more than it, and have found it impossible to provide for their later years. Many of them would be dependent upon cold charity but for the pension. Consequently, I believe that whenever we are engaged in improving our pensions legislation, we are doing useful work. I regret that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) claimed that a Liberal government had introduced or only they had. improved our pensions legislation. His statements were not in accord with facts, for I find that on the 19th March, 1908, Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was then the member for Wide Bay, moved a motion on supply respecting old-age pensions - Hansard, page 9300 - to the following effect : -

That all the words after the word "That" be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words "Whereas the electors have thrice returned a large majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament pledged to provide a Federal system of old-age pensions, and whereas the State Parliaments of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania have made no provision for the payment of old-age pensions, this House is of opinion that the passing of a measure to give effect to the expressed will of the people is an urgent public duty.

On the 3rd June of that year Senator Mulcahy made these observations in the Senate -

I am prepared to give the Labour party every credit in the matter, and I assert that if a scheme for the establishment of old-age pensions is approved in this session the whole credit for it will be due to the Labour party, and not to the Government.

Senator Mulcahywas a Liberal, and not a Labour representative. As a matter of fact, everybody knows that one of the conditions upon which the Labour party supported the Deakin Government in those days was that it would introduce an old-age and invalid pensions bill. Had the Government not done so, it would not have received the support of Labour. I approve of the amendments proposed to be made in the principal act by this bill. I am wholly in favour of returned soldiers being granted the full pension, irrespective of their income as pensioners under the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act. Many returned soldiers still suffer from war disabilities, and are obliged to spend considerable amounts weekly upon medical attention. Some of them being invalids are even more needy than ordinary soldier citizens who reach the age of 65 who still retain, in a large degree, their physical and mental vigour. I trust that other amendments will be inserted in the bill in committee to give the pension to invalid soldiers, irrespective of their war pension. A comprehensive measure to amend the principal act should have been introduced to remove many of the anomalies which at present exist. We cannot blame the officers of the Pensions Department for the existence of these anomalies, for they are, generally, painstaking, courteous and efficient, and do their best for the pensioners. I should like to see a provision inserted in the principal act that persons entering institutions should be made some allowance during the first 28 days of their residence therein. At present they get nothing during that period.

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Treasurer has promised to make an alteration in that regard.

Mr FORDE - I am .glad of it, for if these deserving persons had a few shillings available during that period they would be able to obtain some small delicacies which otherwise they must do without. There should be a provision in the act to meet more adequately the case of persons suffering from miner's phthisis. They should receive the full pension irrespective of the allowance which they receive as sufferers from phthisis, for they have to buy brandy and other medicines or nourishing mixtures necessary for their complaint.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable member is not entitled under this bill to enter upon a general discussion of our pensions legislation.

Mr FORDE - I shall not pursue the subject further than to say that I sincerely hope that the Government will remedy some of the defects to which I have referred, and others to which I am not permited to refer at this stage. I trust that before long we shall have submitted for our consideration a bill to provide necessary comprehensive amendments in the pensions law.

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