Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 21 September 1972
Page: 1834


Mr BARNARD (Bass) - It is very rarely that I rise to speak in a third reading debate, but this is the second occasion I have done so this week. I would not be doing so if it had not been for the reply given by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten). He made a definite statement during the course of his reply in the second reading debate that he was not sure and the electors of this country would not be sure where a Labor government would stand on the question of repatriation pensions. I thought I dealt with this matter very adequately this afternoon. If the Minister wants to issue a challenge I will repeat what I said this afternoon. Since I have been in this Parliament - at least since 1954 - the Labor Party has consistently made statements concerning special rate pensions which have been repeated in every subsequent policy speech by this Party. We have said that we will increase the special rate pension to totally and permanently incapacitated persons to at least the equivalent of the minimum wage in this country. As I demonstrated to the House this afternoon the special rate pension has been allowed to deteriorate while this Government has been in office. In 1949 it was equivalent to the basic wage.

There is no justification to accept a situation where certain persons whose disabilities qualify them to receive a special rate pension - that is a total and permanent incapacity pension - as a result of service to their country receive an income that is less than the minimum wage paid to a worker. The Government accepts this situation. If the Minister issues a challenge to me as the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party to state what the rate would be for a special rate pensioner I say to him without any equivocation at all that it will not be less than the minimum wage.

I turn now to the other important aspects of repatriation pensions. I refer to the 100 per cent general rate of pension which is paid to ex-servicemen for partial incapacity. I do not think that I have to deal with the circumstances in relation to the general rate of pension. It is implied that, as they are not permanently incapacitated, exservicemen in receipt of the general rate oi pension are entitled to supplement their income by employment. What has happened to the general rate of pension under this Government? The plain fact is that the general rate of pension under this Government has been allowed to deteriorate to the point where it represents approximately 19 per cent of the minimum wage. When this Government came to power the general rate of pension was about 50 per cent of the minimum wage paid to a worker in Australia. The same situation applies in relation to the widows' pension. That pension has been allowed to deteriorate in terms of purchasing power under this Government.

So, these are the 3 rates of pension - the special or TPI rate for the totally and permanently incapacitated, the 100 per cent or general rate pension and the war widow's rate pension. If I may recapitulate what I said in this House this afternoon, a Labor government would look at these 3 payments for ex-servicemen and their widows on the basis that the TPI rate would no: be less than the minimum wage, and we would state that it was our objective to bring the general rate pension and the war widow's rate pension at least somewhere near 50 per cent of the minimum wage paid in this country.


Mr Holten - That is your objective.


Mr BARNARD - If the Minister questions me on this, I say yes, this is our objective. The great problem in relation to the general rate pension - the Minister ought to appreciate this - is that when this Government came to power it was approximately 50 per cent of the minimum wage but it has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that it would not be possible for any government in one Budget to lift that pension rate back to approximately 50 per cent of the minimum wage. Let me re-state our position so that there will be no misunderstanding on the part of the Australian electorate and, I suppose, more particularly, so that there will be no misunderstanding on the part of the RSL and those who represent returned servicemen's organisations in this country. The Minister may smile. He has met the National Executive of the RSL: so when I mention the RSL I see no reason why he should smile. The fact is that the RSL represents approximately 270,000 ex-servicemen in this country, and it is entitled to put the point of view of the ex-servicemen of this country to this Government.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order!I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that this is a third reading debate and that he should keep within the schedules of the Bill. This is not a second reading debate.


Mr BARNARD - Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; but the Minister has been provocative. I was referring to the RSL and merely pointing out that when I spoke of the National Executive of the RSL the Minister smiled. Quite frankly, I have had meetings with the National Executive of the RSL, as has the Minister, and I believe that it is entitled to put the point of view of ex-servicemen in this country. The RSL has put it to the Minister that the Government ought to be able to provide a reasonable explanation for the deterioration in the rates of pension paid to ex-servicemen in this country. How does the Minister justify the fact that this Government has not increased the 100 per cent or general rate of pension, for example, for the last 8 years until this Budget?

The Minister may argue that in the interim the Government has provided the special compensation allowance. I have dealt with this matter in the House before and asked: 'Why is the special compensation allowance paid?' The special compensation allowance which was introduced by this Government is paid to those exservicemen on a pension rate between 100 per cent and 75 per cent. The report of the Repatriation Commission shows that the great majority of ex-servicemen in this country who are in receipt of a repatriation pension receive a rate below the 75 per cent rate. I have put to the Minister on other occasions that in order to reduce ils expenditure on repatriation the Government applies an increase to the general rate of pension for those on rates between 75 per cent and 100 per cent. Let there be no argument about this, because it will not be very long before the Government determines that the intermediate rate pension no longer has a reasonable application in the pension system of this country. As I have demonstrated, the intermediate rate ultimately will be eliminated by this Government. If it is not, then I indicate at once that it will be eliminated by the next Labour government. I have dealt with these 3 rates of pension and I think I have given to the Minister some indication of what will be the attitude of the next Labor government.







Suggest corrections