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Thursday, 19 February 1959

Mr WILSON (Sturt) .- As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has chosen to use my name in this debate, I feel obliged to make a statement about this matter. First, I would like toinform the honorable member that at no time have I given such information as he suggests. Such information as I have given to the aged has been advice on their rights under the Social Services Act. Such aged persons as I have been able to assist have in all cases received the utmost courtesy from the Department of Social Services and have received the full pensions to which they were entitled.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh has got himself into difficulty because, for the purpose of trying to win votes for himself, not of helping the aged people, he had some 10,000 copies of a circular distributed throughout his electorate, suggesting that if any person wanted a pension he could come to the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who would, virtually, obtain it for that person. Unfortunately for the honorable member, this has rebounded upon him, because apparently he did not study the act. He was not aware of the repeated statements made by various Ministers for Social Services dealing with this matter.

There is nothing new in this at all. The honorable member suggests that something new has arisen all of a sudden. The act itself permits a person to dispose of his capital, and it permits him to purchase an annuity. Provided it is a real and proper business transaction, and the annuity is adequately secured so as to enable the aged person to receive the benefit of that security, it is open to the aged person to secure a pension consistent with the provisions of the Social Services Act.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have a copy of a letter written by you to these people in which none of these stipulations is set out.

Mr WILSON - If the honorable member has a copy of a letter written by me on this matter, all I can say is that if he had followed the terms of that letter instead of writing the foolish circular that he distributed in his electorate, he would have been all right. The difficulty has arisen because in almost every hotel and every house these circular letters have been distributed, giving entirely false hope to the aged people. The Social Services Act is perfectly clear, and the procedure is clear. Provided the property is sold on a business basis and an annuity purchased on an actuarial value and adequately secured, there is nothing the Minister can do to take a pension away, because it is in accordance with the act that this Parliament has passed.

The Social Services Act, properly interpreted and administered, as it is, is capable of providing tremendous benefits for the aged people. If, for example, an aged person has been living in his or her own home and is suddenly forced to go to hospital, he or she is able to sell that home and use the money so obtained for the purchase of an annuity from an insurance company or from any person who provides adequate security and makes it perfectly certain that the aged person will get the full benefit. There must be no mere evasion of the legislation which may have the effect of depriving the aged person of the property. I suggest that if the honorable member for Hindmarsh studies the act and tries to help the aged people, without simply using this question for political purposes, he will be doing a service to the community and not a disservice.

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