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Wednesday, 21 October 1970

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - 1 want to address a few remarks to the estimates of the Department of Social Services. However, before doing so might 1 ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) if he has yet had an opportunity to investigate the case 1 raised the other night of a migrant who, on the present basis, will be 109 years old before he gets an age pension. I presented an application form to the Minister and he indicated that for anybody 100 years old he expected to be able to waive the general conditions and make available a pension. No-one knows how long this migrant will live. He is 105 now and he cannot wait much longer for a pension. 1 ask the Minister whether he has investigated it, what can be done and whether he can remove this anomaly in the legislation so as to avoid a similar situation arising in the future?

I also wish to speak about the Government's recent increase in the Budget of 50c for pensioners. Without being extravagant in my language I would say (hat would be one of the most miserable increases in the time T have been in the Parliament. The full cost of the increase was $27m. The Government says there is no money for pensions, no money to provide for people who have no other income. About 200,000 people exist on $15 a week. The Government says that higher pensions could not be afforded because of the need to balance the Budget. But without any effort, in order to placate the Premiers on the eve of the Senate elections, out of the air S50m is grabbed. No money for pensioners but plenty to placate the States - the Boltes and people like him. If the Government can find money in that way it should make it available to provide assistance for more than 1 million people dependent on social welfare. There was no shortage of money when the Government wanted $400m to spend on Fills. There was no problem at all when it wanted to buy more Phantoms. There is plenty of money for Vietnam. If the Government is in trouble tomorrow in respect of some other economic matter with the States more money will be provided. I do not quibble at money being provided for essential services but I do say that the Government's priorities in social welfare are completely upside down.

The first consideration of any government should be for the aged, the sick and those people in the community who cannot care for themselves. How the Minister for Social Services, whom I know from past experience has great sympathy for these people, can stand in this Parliament and justify this miserable and contemptible increase is beyond me. The reaction of the public on these matters has been very sensational, considering how pension rises or the conditions of the pensioners are generally forgotten. But the public from all sections of society have been shocked by this meagre increase in pensions. The increase takes a single man to the princely sum of $15.50 per week. If he is a pauper he gets up to $2 a week extra, making a maximum income of $17.50. If my memory serves me rightly, and I believe it does, it means that the maximum amount a man in that category can get is $17.50 per week at a time when the average income of Australians is about $75 to $80 per week. A man can leave work today that is bringing him in, say, $50 and tomorrow is expected to live entirely on $17.50 per week. It is scandalous. It is a disgrace to Australia, a disgrace to the Government and a disgrace to anybody associated with it in this time of affluence and prosperity for big sections of the community. Of course, it is still a sin in the eyes of the Government to be married. Only $27.50 a week is granted to a married couple. That has never been changed. It is discrimination of the worst kind against married pensioners and it is being continued by this Government.

Instead of making substantial payments to those who are in need and discontinuing its discrimination the Government grabs out of the air some amount. It has always intrigued me how in granting pension increases, the Government never assesses by any method what is necessary. Why is 50c decided upon? Is it just pulled out of the air? Why could it not be 70c, 80c or 90c. The real answer is that it is all guesswork done only for political purposes, lt should be taken out of that category and based on some reasonable proposition in line with the cost of living. As 1 said a moment ago I am prompted tonight to remind the Minister that so shocked have the public been by the treatment given to pensioners that a pensioners' little budget campaign has been launched at 67 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, in Victoria. I received a copy of a letter dated 20th October 1970 which read:

I would like to draw your attention to the Pensioners' Utile Budget Campaign which believes that many Australians are concerned at the meagre pension increase of 50c given at a time when most sections of the community have benefited from wage increases, improvements to hospital and medical benefit programmes and were further assisted financially by tax deductions. The Campaign has already received substantial support in Victoria. The Presbyterian and Methodist Conferences and the Anglican Synod have endorsed the proposals and the Press has given prominence to the Campaign with news reports and editorials.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are you supporting the pensioners little budget campaign?

Mr DALY - I think there should be an immediate introduction of a new budget to provide, if for no-one else, for those in this section of society. The sponsors of this campaign are people from a wide range of organisations. The sponsors include Professor R. R. Andrew, Mr Robin Boyd, Sir James Darling, Mr R. C. David, Mr S. M. Gilmour, Professor B. S. Hetzel, Mr R. G. Hobbs, Professor the Rev. Davis Mccaughey, Professor Jean I. Martin, Mr Eric Pearce, Mr Leslie M. Perrot, junior, the Rev. Gordon Powell, Rabbi Dr I. Papaport, Miss Elizabeth Sharpe, Rabbi Dr H. M. Sanger, the Rev. John Westerman and the Most Rev. Dr Frank Woods. The Organising Committee comprises Mr David Scott, the Rev. D. Dargaville, Mr Walter Lippman and the Rev. P. Hollingworth. In a splendid little document the campaign lists chapter and verse the failure of this Government in respect of social welfare. On the first page of this letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) of 8th October 1970 it states: 1 am writing to you on behalf of the Pensioners' Little Budget Campaign Committee which consists of people who are not themselves pensioners but who have joined together in a voluntary capacity to urge upon your government new initiatives in the field of pension and post retirement welfare, following the introduction of the recent Federal budget.

This in itself shows the shock the public received from this meagre increase. Then the letter condemns the 50c increase in pension which only brought some pensions up with the increased costs of last year. The letter to the Prime Minister goes on to outline how a person on $200 per week receives $5.50 reduction in taxation, and a person on $140 a week receives a S3 reduction under the Government's proposals. But pensioners, who have to catch up with an 8 per cent increase in the cost of living in the last year, receive a miserable 50c per week or 7c a day. As 1 mentioned in a previous speech, they can buy a newspaper 4 or 5 days a week to find out how the cost of living has gone up and then they find they have spent their increase. The letter goes on to say:

The 50c increase provided for pensioners in the budget will cost the Treasury $30m for this year. The lax concessions to the middle income groups -

Those in the middle income group get up to $30,000 a year. This is a pretty successful middle income grouper - will cost S228m or seven times more than the increase in the pension payments.

This is a scandalous state of affairs, ls it any wonder that those people, destitute and desperate, sick and aged and alone, have lost faith in the Government and the protection that it should give to them. Time does not permit me to run right through this letter written by David Scott to the Prime Minister, lt no doubt has reached the Minister for Social Services. If any justification is needed for a pensioners' little budget it is outlined in this letter in clear and unmistakable language and in a way which indicates the sincerity of this wide range of people who feel interested enough at this stage to do something for the pensioners whom the Government has neglected. I suggest to the Minister that he should take notice of what has been written by men in a position to know, all of whom would be on substantial salaries and realise how difficult it is to make ends meet particularly if people are only pensioners. I suggest to the Minister that he should immediately review the situation and do something in the spectacular way we thought he would do things when he came to the Ministry. He should get up in the

Parliament and say: 'For once the Prime Minister has listened to me and 1 am willing to introduce a little Budget Let him give a stimulating approach to social welfare, not the old decadent approach be has brought to the Ministry which we thought had gone when he was elevated. He should in that way do something m a practical way for these people who really need it, those dependent for their existence on SI 5.50 a week or, if they are married, $27.50 a week. Tt is too low for any section of society, lt is too low particularly for the aged and the sick and 1 urge the Government to do something about it in line with what has been suggested in that letter.

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