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Thursday, 25 September 1958

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- In speaking to this Repatriation Bill, I want to say first that we acknowledge that some increases have been granted to those pensioners who are provided for under the second schedule to the act. Increases have been granted to war widows. The domestic allowance has been increased, and certain other increases have been provided, as referred to by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I shall refer to pensioners who are classified under the second schedule of the act, which includes not only the totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen but also the blinded ex-servicemen and those who suffer from tuberculosis. The honorable member for Parkes made it perfectly clear that, although the Government has indicated that it is prepared to increase and will, under the legislation which we are now debating, increase the rate provided for that section by 10s. a week, only a very small number of T.P.I, ex-servicemen will in fact receive the increase.

This was made perfectly clear when similar legislation was introduced last year. Because the Government was not prepared to raise the ceiling limit from £15 15s., which applied in that year and which now applies, the 25s. a week increase granted under that legislation would not apply at all to T.P.I, ex-servicemen. In fact, it would apply to a very few of them only, because those who received pension benefits under the second schedule of the act were in receipt of a service pension. The only people who benefited from the 1957 legislation were the single pensioners and those who had private incomes or were in receipt of superannuation benefits. On that occasion, no information was given to the House as to how the 25s. a week would apply, but it was perfectly obvious that unless the Government was prepared to raise the ceiling limit, only a very small section of those people would benefit from the increase which the Government had granted.

It is pleasing to note that, in the secondreading speeches of both the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) and Senator O'sullivan, who introduced the bill in another place, reference has been made on this occasion to the ceiling limit. The Minister has said that he makes no apology for the fact that the ceiling limit has not been raised. I believe that in fairness the Government should make some apology for not having raised the ceiling limit. Fiftythree per cent, of the T.P.I, ex-servicemen are in receipt of a service pension. That means, in effect, that no less than 53 per cent, of these people who are completely dependent on their pension will not receive the 10s. increase. The honorable member for Parkes referred to the number of persons who are receiving the pension under the second schedule to the act. After all, there are not very many left who are receiving a pension because they are permanently incapacitated. The vast majority of them served in the 1914-18 war. This Government should have raised the ceiling limit on this occasion, as it should have done last year, if it wanted to provide a real benefit for this section of pensioners.

I shall quote from the report of the Repatriation Commission which gives the number of ex-servicemen who are receiving a pension under the second schedule to the act. From the 1914 war, only 11,951 are receiving a benefit. From the 1939 war, there are 5,311. There are some female members from the 1939 war, as well as from the Korea and Malaya operations. The total number of recipients under the act is 17,456. Obviously, an increase of 10s. a week to all of those members would not involve the Government in very much expenditure.

I regret that the Treasurer was prepared to announce in the Budget that there would be a general increase of 10s. a week for the special rate pensioner when in fact 53 per cent, of those who are receiving that pension rate will not be eligible to receive the increase. We owe a great debt to these people. Because of their war services, they are no longer able to engage in normal activities. After all, many of them suffer permanent injuries and they cannot be provided with medical relief to enable them to play a normal part in community life. The Government should have recognized their disabilities and have raised the ceiling limit to enable all T.P.I, ex-servicemen to receive the increase of 10s. a week.

I shall now give some figures because the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has indicated that in his opinion tremendous strides have been made in the benefits given to these pensioners. In 1948, when the basic wage was only £5 16s., the T.P.I, rate was £5 6s. a week. The pension rate was only 10s. a week less than the then prevailing basic wage. In 1958, the unpegged basic wage is £13 15s. a week. The pension rate to-day is £1 15s. a week less than the basic wage. It could therefore be said that the Government has not applied itself as it should have applied itself to the benefits that the T.P.I, pensioners deserve. I do not deny that additional allowances have been provided for all classes of pensioners, but the fact remains that the ruling rate in each case, whether it is for the T.P.I, ex-serviceman, the 100 per cent, pensioner or the war widow, has lost value.

I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.

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