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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 1267

Mr GRIFFITHS (SHORTLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Has the Minister yet studied the contents of the survey by the Police Bureau of Crime Statistics which, according to the New South Wales Minister for Justice, reveals that there are areas of real poverty in and around the electorate of Shortland and elsewhere? Does the honourable gentleman remember that constantly I have been bringing to his notice cases involving people who are chronically ill with diseases such as varicocele, arthritis and hypertensionsion about which medical practitioners are unable to certify their patients as being 83 per cent incapacitated? In view of the fact that most employers will not employ persons incapable of a maximum work effort, will the Minister consider reducing the 85 per cent incapacity that is required under section 23 of the Social Services Act to something like 50 per cent or 60 per cent to enable these folk to receive an invalid pension? Will the Minister also eliminate the anomalies that prevent single mothers under 16 years of age and deserted wives with young children receiving pensions immediately after their desertion, thus removing the possibility of many people becoming known to the police?

Mr WENTWORTH - The honourable member has asked a number of questions and I will try to answer them as briefly as possible. Firstly in regard to deserted wives, the position is not that they do not get a pension for the first 6 months of their desertion. Rather the position is that the pension is administered by the State during that time and not by the Commonwealth, so during that time the responsibility lies with the State and not with the Commonwealth. Therefore it would be preferable for the honourable member to see that these representations were directed to the State authorities. Secondly, I think I would be right in saying that the honourable member's mind is directed to the Windale area. Is that correct?

Mr Griffiths - And around there.

Mr WENTWORTH - This is a matter of great concern. What is in question there is not entirely the level of monetary poverty. These are newly settled areas where there is a great lack of community facilities and community spirit. I would not issue any directions on this matter but I would think it not improbable that this kind of problem would be included in the survey to be conducted by Professor Henderson. The honourable gentleman has made a real and substantial point but I think that the problem is more a nonmonetary one than a monetary one. Lastly he referred to invalid pensions. Again tha point he raised is substantial and it causes me no small amount of anxiety. The present criterion of 85 per cent has been in the Act for a very long time. Its precise meaning is not always clear. It seems to me that the time is ripe for some complete reassessment of this position. I do not think one would consider giving the whole of the invalid pension to those people who were less seriously incapacitated. I simply say without making any commitment at the moment that it may well be that, just as we have partial war pensions, we will be giving some consideration to the question of partial invalid pensions. This would meet the kind of thing that the honourable gentleman has in mind. He has raised a real problem and one that cannot be solved simply by reducing the present qualification for the invalid pension.

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