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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 2961

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct my question to the Minister for Social Services. Does the Housing Commission of New South Wales provide single pensioner accommodation at approximately S3 per week, thereby leaving $17 for other needs? Is it a fact that there is now a waiting period of 6 years for pensioner accommodation in New South Wales? Are not many thousands of pensioners paying either private rents or rates and taxes on small homes, being left with as little as $7 a week for the necessaries of life and compelled to rely on charity to survive? As a matter of equity and urgency will the Government grant to all pensioners such rental and rate subsidies as may be required to ensure that every pensioner has a minimum of $17 a week for necessaries of life.

Mr WENTWORTH (MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that it is the case that in New South Wales some houses from the Housing Commission are available at the price which the honourable member has mentioned. But I think that the House and the country will realise the tremendous strides that have been made towards accommodation of pensioners under this Government. I remind the House that our aged persons homes legislation, for example, is now giving accommodation to not quite 45,000 pensioners throughout Australia. I remind the House of the subsidies which are being given to the State governments, I think through the operations of my colleague, the Minister for Housing, for the accommodation of age pensioners. We hope that this programme which is already so successful will be continued and accelerated. I remind the House also that the principle of supplementary assistance for rent was introduced by this Government, if my memory serves me correctly, in about 1958. I think the honourable member will realise that if a pensioner is paying even $5 or $6 a week for rent that pensioner, who gets supplementary assistance also, is very well off by the standards which existed when this Government came into office.

I am not saying that the Government is satisfied. I think that the Prime Minister described social services some time ago as permanently unfinished business, but I remind the House of the rise in the living standard of pensioners and other people which has taken place during the lifetime of this Government. I can remember the strictures produced by honourable members of the Opposition when they were campaigning in elections to the effect that the Australian standard of living was falling under this Government. Such strictures were of course entirely nonsense put forward for electioneering purposes. I am not for one moment suggesting that we will not raise standards consistently higher and continually higher. I will not suggest that we are satisfied with the standards as they are, but I suggest to honourable members and to the House that some consideration should be given to the great improvement which has taken place.

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