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Thursday, 23 June 1949

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Labour and National Service) . - in reply - The amendments of the sections of the principal act to which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has referred are necessary because the allowance payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner is to be increased from 20s. to 24s. a week for herself and from 5s. to. 9s. a week for one child under sixteen years of age. The exchange rate does not affect the position.

Mr Lang - Will an Australian pensioner who goes to New Zealand for temporary residence be affected by the difference between the value of the Australian pound and the New Zealand pound ?

Mr HOLLOWAY - Persons who come to Australia from. New Zealand for permanent residence will be paid at the same rate as Australians. Persons who go from Australia to New Zealand for permanent residence will be paid at the same rate as New Zealanders are paid. Persons who go from Australia to New Zealand or vice versa for temporary residence will receive the benefits that they were receiving in their own country.

The desirability of a reciprocal pension agreement 'between Australia and the United Kingdom, has been raised previously by the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). I stated two or three weeks ago that the Australian Government had tried very hard, and in fact, is still trying, to secure a reciprocal agreement covering all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Mr White - When I raised the matter, the Minister was rather hostile. He said that we did not want old people here.

Mr HOLLOWAY - I do not think I said that.

Mr White - One Minister said it.

Mr HOLLOWAY - I think I said that the new reciprocal agreement with New Zealand covers all social services benefits, whilst the existing agreement covers only age and invalid pensions. I said further that we had sent delegates to Great Britain to discuss with representatives of Great Britain, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand an

Empire-wide reciprocal agreement in relation to social service benefits. We have not yet succeeded 'in working out a satisfactory formula, but negotiations are continuing. Therefore, it is not right to blame the Australian Government for not doing anything in that direction. The other question that was raised by the honorable member was not in order, because it had no relation to the subject of this bill. The bill deals with allowances for children up to the age of sixteen years. The honorable member for Balaclava, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, said that he wanted invalid pensioners between the ages of 16 and 21 years to be able to stand on their own feet financially, and not be a burden on their parents. The honorable gentleman has raised this subject previously. The Government has altered the provision for this class of pensioner from time to time until, although they are not paid a 100 per cent, pension, the application of the means test is so liberal that very few parents in Australia in anything like straitened circumstances would be obliged to contribute towards the maintenance of a child in that category. The basis of the means test in this instance is an allowance of 60s. a week for every adult member of the family and 30s. a week for every member under 21 years of age. A family man with an average family would haw to earn between £8 and £9 a week before payment of the invalid pension to a child between the ages of 16 and 21 years would be subject to the means test. I agree with the honorable member that it. would be much more satisfactory if such pensioners could be entirely independent, and probably that situation will be brought about by the Government in the near future. I thank the Opposition for allowing the bill to pass through this House to-night so that the wish of thchonorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and others will be gratified and the increased rates will become payable on the 30th June.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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