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Thursday, 19 February 1959

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Any imputation against the honesty or integrity of a member or a Minister is out of order. The word " tricky " is definitely out of order. The honorable member will withdraw his remark to the effect that the Minister is a tricky Minister.

Mr WARD - Very well, 1 withdraw it, and I shall say that he is a completely unsatisfactory Minister for Social Services. Although the Standing Orders and Mr.

DeputySpeaker's ruling will not permit me to describe the Minister as I would like to describe him, let me say that I have evidence to prove that what I originally said and was forced to withdraw is accurate and true.

Let me turn to the matter of the supplementary allowance, which is called a rental allowance. If ever there was a trick put over an unfortunate section of the community, it was this supplementary allowance. How many pensioners get it? For a start, the only persons eligible are single pensioners. Then there are other conditions that must be satisfied. The pensioner must be paying rent. Then there is a means test. Let me give one or two illustrations of the way in which the means test operates. If a pensioner has a miserable income of 10s. a week or more above his pension, no rental allowance is paid. If he has assets of £200 or more, no rental allowance is paid.

Let us examine the position of the people who are denied the allowance. Pensioners who own their own homes are obliged to find money for repairs and the payment of rates. Every one knows how valuations have been increased in recent years, resulting in greatly increased rates that have to be paid by these unfortunate people. They do not get the supplementary allowance because they are not paying rent. I have a case to cite to the Minister regarding a widow who was left in a will a small property at Smithtown, in New South Wales. It has been valued by the department at £250. That gives some idea of the kind of property it is. But its value is over the £200 mark. The woman in question does not get any income from it, because there are. aged relatives, in impoverished circumstances, who occupy it and are unable to pay any rent. All they do is to meet the rates and keep it in repair. But- because this unfortunate person has been given that property as a legacy, she is denied the supplementary allowance of 10s. a week.

Many of these people reside in industrial areas where property owners wish to dispose of the dwellings in which these people have lived for a life time and are giving their tenants the opportunity to purchase them. Many of them are pensioners who have to take the hat around to gather from their relatives enough money for a deposit because they cannot provide it themselves. But as soon as they become purchasers - and they buy the property only because they are afraid it will be sold to some one else and they will be faced with eviction - they find that the instalments they have to meet are much higher than the rent they previously paid. They also find themselves in the position that they cannot own the property in their own lifetime. They undertake to purchase it on terms only because in that way they get some security of occupancy. But because, legally, they become owners of the property they aredenied the supplementary allowance.

I have before me the case of a widow who receives a war pension of 17s. 9d. a week, but no supplementary allowance. Another war widow is purchasing a home through the War Service Homes Division. She receives a war pension of £3 lis. a fortnight, and her blind daughter receives an invalid pension. That is their total income except for the earnings which this widow receives when she takes casual employment. But she receives no supplementary allowance.

But the gem of all these cases is that of an ex-serviceman who is in receipt of an invalid pension and also a war pension of 10s 3d. a week. Because his total pension is 3d. more than the permissible income he is denied the supplementary allowance. Unlike the honorable member for Sturt, I try to give some practical advice and assistance to these people. When this ex-serviceman came to me and explained hrs problem he told me that he could not work.' He is dependent entirely on his invalid pension and a small war pension and he is obliged to pay £2 5s. a week for a room. Honorable members can soon calculate how much he has left on which to live. I suggested that he should apply to the Repatriation Commission for a reduction of 3d. a week in his war pension; and on my advice he did so.

Honorable members can recollect case after case in which attempts have been made to secure an increase in war pensions and the Repatriation Commission has fought strenuously against such requests. But when this ex-serviceman asked for a reduction in his war pension, the Commission replied that a matter of policy was involved and it would advise when a decision was reached. This ex-serviceman made his application away back in November last. The repatriation authorities in

Sydney said that it was a matter of policy which they could not decide but would have to refer to the Repatriation Commission in Melbourne. No decision has yet been received. Several times the Sydney office has told me that I would receive early advice as to a decision, but the repatriation authorities find themselves in the predicament that they are unable to face up to the situation. Why should not this ex-serviceman, who is living on a miserable income, be able to enjoy the benefit of this legislation? If the Labour party had been returned to office this would have been one of the tricks perpetrated by this Government that would have been rectified. We were determined to give ex-servicemen some relief from anomalies of this kind.

Whenever members of the Opposition raise matters of this nature the Minister sneers and suggests that we do it only for party political purposes. I have heard honorable members say that they do not blame the Minister; but I do blame him and I will give the reason. I was a Minister in two governments. Any one knows that the Minister in charge of a department is the person who makes recommendations to Cabinet for its consideration. The Minister now administering the Department of Social Services has never at any time believed that these social services should have been provided at all. He always talks about the necessity for people exercising thrift during their working lives in order to provide for the time when they are too old or too ill to work. That has always been his attitude, and it is a crying shame and a disgrace to this Government that we have a Minister so unsympathetic to the needs of these people. He always says, " I have no discretion; this is what the act says ". Why does he not recommend to the Cabinet amendments to the act? Or does every member on the Government side share the opinion of the Minister that only a few of these people should benefit as a result of this amendment of the act while the many other deserving people to whom I have referred should be deliberately denied this benefit? T feel that what the former honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) said in this chamber described the general attitude of the Government.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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