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Tuesday, 25 October 1949

Mr BARNARD (Bass) (Minister for. Repatriation) . - The matter raised by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) is, of course, not new. Since I have been Minister, representations have been made, to me on a number of occasions about pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated men. The 36 points referred to by the honorable member have been considered by the Prime Minister, to whom they were presented, as well as by myself. Several of the claims had been approved or approved in part before the case was presented to the Government. The funeral allowance . was increased from £15 to £20, although the claim of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia was for £25. It is evident that the organization was not strongly impressed with the strength of all its 36 claims, since it has now reduced the number to 33.

Some of the claims will be conceded in due course, and the organization has been informed to that effect. I appreciate the honorable member's tribute to me. The Government has made every effort to treat fairly all sections of exservicemen. It is true that in these days of rising costs, all persons on fixed incomes, including, pensioners, are finding themselves in some difficulty. However, men on the 100 per cent, rate, or on a percentage of that rate, receive percentage increases in accordance with variations in the cost of living. The honorable member referred to totally and permanently incapacitated special rate pensioners on £5 6s. a week. He said that h» did not ask that the pension of such persons should be related to the basic wage, but he went on to say that the basic wage had been increased, and was about to be increased again. He failed to draw attention to the fact that, in one instance, he quoted the rate paid to a single pensioner, and then drew a comparison with the basic wage which provides for a man, his wife and at least one child. The only fair comparison would be to take into consideration the amount paid to the pensioner on a special rate.

Mr Turnbull - I mentioned that. Mr. BARNARD. - Yes, but the honorable member did not mention the figure, which is £6 10s., and not £5 6s. Pensioners on the special rate are entitled to an income from their own personal earnings amounting to -a small proportion of the basic wage. If a man is unable to supplement his income at all, he is entitled to a special allowance for transport, or for an attendant. Therefore, the position is not so bad as the honorable member suggested. This subject was discussed fully when the Estimates were before the House. The Government has examined the matter very sympathetically, and adjustments have been made and anomalies removed. The lot of the pensioner has been considerably improved. Approximately £3,000,000 more is now being distributed in war pensions than when I became Minister. The remarks of the honorable member will be taken into consideration. I point out that the ex-servicemen and their dependants are not being treated less generously by this Government than by previous governments.

Motion (by Mr. Scully) agreed to -

That the question be now put.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

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