Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 25 September 1958

Mr LESLIE (Moore) .- I want to dispel a completely false impression which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) might have conveyed to some people in his remarks in connexion with the ceiling rate as applied to the increases being made in pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and to 100 per cent, disability pensions. I want you to bear in mind, Mr. Speaker, that for several years before 1954 returned soldiers organizations, with which I have been associated very closely, urged the previous government and this Government to remove an unjust anomaly in connexion with pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. I refer to the dual penalty that was imposed on pensioners. On the one hand, a means test limited the amount of income they might receive, whilst on the other hand they were penalized by the application of a ceiling rate provision. The combination of these two penalizing provisions meant that the family of a married totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner in many cases received less in T.P.I, pension and social services pension than did the families of other exservicemen who were on 100 per cent, disability pensions or even less, but who were also receiving social services pensions. After some pressure by the returned soldiers movement the Government removed that ceiling rate injustice in 1954 or 1955. This meant that a T.P.I, pensioner was placed in the situation that was proper to his circumstances.

I want to remind the House that when I came here in 1950, in the first speech I made on repatriation benefits and service pensions, I suggested that there was only one way in which justice could be done to pensioned ex-servicemen. The Government has not an inexhaustible ocean of money to draw upon so, when money is to be made available for pension increases, first consideration must be given to those to whom the pension is the sole means of livelihood. Then consideration can be given to those to whom a war pension is a compensation for war-caused disabilities. I suggested that the reasonable, humane and proper thing to do was to classify war pensions in two parts. One classification would be an economic pension; that is a pension payable to the T.P.I, man who has to live on it and is unable to earn other money. Those are the people who are justly entitled to first consideration if there is any increase in the money available for pensioners. The second classification should be a compensatory pension; that is a pension payable because of disabilities or injuries received during the war. That pension, because of conditions implicit in the Repatriation Act, has no relationship whatever to the capacity of the person to earn income. I suggested that the compensatory pension should be treated as a separate matter entirely. It was unjust, I argued and I still argue, to say to all pensioners, " Here is an extra few shillings a week ", when, to most of them, those extra few shillings, would not be of material benefit, whereas those extra few shillings, doubled, trebled, or quadrupled, and paid only to ex-servicemen to whom the pension is the only means of livelihood, would be of tremendous importance. This Government has applied reasonable thinking and rationalization to the distribution of money to war pensioners.

Mr Haylen - What about the ceiling?

Mr LESLIE - I have referred to that. Under the ceiling which applied when the Labour Government was in office, the 100 per cent, pensioner could receive more in pension and social service benefits than could the T.P.I, man who was limited to his T.P.I, pension and his social service pension and was not allowed to earn more. There is no limit on what the 100 per cent, pensioner can earn. There has never been any limit on what the man who receives less than the T.P.I, pension can earn. The pension paid to a T.P.I, man is assessed on the basis that he is totally and permanently incapacitated from earning a living or otherwise adding to his income. That is not a factor which is considered in connexion with the rest of the pensions. Therefore is the T.P.I, man not entitled to be lifted up as far as possible? There was a means test which meant that T.P.I, men, many of whom had family responsibilities, had to rely solely on the T.P.I, pension plus whatever social service benefits they could get. Yet the 100 per cent, pensioner, and others receiving a lesser pension, were able to derive, with social service benefits, a total income greater than that of the T.P.I, man. They were able to add unrestrictedly to their income. This Government removed an obvious injustice to the T.P.I, man. I am not saying that the pensioners get enough. I am not going to argue that point. As I have said in the House before, whenever we ask for money we never get enough. I do not think we shall ever be satisfied, no matter what we ask for or what we get.

But it must be borne in mind, as I said earlier, that the Government has not an unlimited ocean of money from which to pay benefits. Whatever the Government, in its judgment, believes the country is capable of paying, it has a responsibility to make certain that the additional benefits are distributed to the most deserving people. That is what has happened in this case and there can be no query in that connexion whatsoever.

I want to dispel an impression that the previous speaker may have created in the minds of honorable members and of those who may read his remarks. Far from placing a disability on the T.P.f. man, this Government has removed the disability which existed. It has provided him with additional benefits. It has made certain that those who most need help will get that help. That is the purpose of the legislation before us, and I cannot see how any member of the Labour party can possibly question it. Surely it is in line with their professed policy to help those who are less privileged and less able to help themselves. As Opposition members are reluctant to give the Government credit for believing in that policy and applying it, they should sit down, keep quiet and let the bill go through.

Suggest corrections