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Wednesday, 21 September 1960

Mr PETERS (Scullin) .- Mr. Temporary Chairman,I was impressed by the arguments of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). After all, why has the Government decided to increase pensions? Was this decision made because the cost of living had decreased, because it had remained the same or because it had increased? If the reason was that the cost of living had increased, the higher pensions should be paid from the time within the current financial year from which the cost of living had risen. I may point out that the last announcement of cost-of-living figures revealed that in the quarter to which they related the cost of living in Victoria had increased by 18s. a week. The increase in the cost of living which presumably was responsible for the decision by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Government to increase pensions should also determine the date from which the increases are paid. The Government should not pay pension increases made as a result of an increase in the cost of living dating from July as late in the financial year as it possibly can.

Mr Ward - Do you not think that you are wasting your time? Look at the Minister's face.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Scullin should be allowed to make his speech without interruption.

Mr PETERS -I am probably wasting my time with respect to the Minister, but the people outside this Parliament expect us to do what we can to induce those who enjoy the abundant good things of this land, and who live in the lap of luxury and occupy positions such as that occupied by the Minister, to do something for the people who are less able to look after themselves. As the honorable member for Batman pointed out, a government's attitude smacks of hypocrisy when that government increases the emoluments of those who support it and of its Ministers and back-dates the increases but refuses to back-date increases in pensions. This Government increased travelling allowances for some Ministers to £12 a day and dated the increases back Cor a considerable period. It also increased the Prime Minister's salary by about £60 a week and dated the increase back for a similar period. I point out, too, that we recently increased the salaries of higher-paid public servants and said that they were entitled to receive the increases retrospectively. We gave some of them increases of £20 a week and made all the increases retrospective to the time of the increase in the cost-of-living. The attitude was that this would give justice to those public servants. If that was good enough for them, the same sort of thing is good enough for the pensioners.

No amount 'of argument or quibbling about what has been done in the past will exonerate the Minister. I know him and I know the Ministry. When the Government decided to make the increases in parliamentary allowances retrospective - and it will take the same attitude when those emoluments are next increased - it was not concerned about whether or not previous increases in those allowances had been paid retrospectively. It just said, " We shall make these increases retrospec tive ". It was quite entitled to do that, and it had the power to do it. It has the power to pay these increased pensions retrospectively, but it will not exercise that power. It will not pay these increases retrospectively, because it represents the vested interests in this community. It serves only those interests and it is out to protect its own privileges and conditions as well as those of the predatory capitalistic gang that supports it and maintains it in office. The Government's attitude towards pensioners, and especially age pensioners, is neither honest nor honorable.

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