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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 2126


Mr COPE (Sydney) - I seek leave to make a statement without any restrictions.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I rise on a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, whereas I am not at all averse to the honourable member for Sydney speaking, on several occasions you have indicated the names of those who have been rising to speak and you appear to have failed to recognise me on each occasion. I take the opportunity to remind you that I am also seeking to say a few words.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I pointed out that the honourable member for Sturt rose before the honourable member for Sydney. That did not mean that I did not notice the honourable member for Hughes also rising.


Mr COPE - The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) raised a point on which I sought clarification. I wrote him a note when he answering a question during question time. His answer to the question was abbreviated because of a ruling from the Speaker. My question at that time was about the payment of pensions. The Minister said that all new pensioners applying for a pension would be paid the pension from the first pay day after eligibility had been proved. What he said is different from what actually happens. It is not the payment but the entitlement that dates back to the first pay day.


Mr Wentworth - That is what I said.


Mr COPE - The Minister did not say that at question time. That is the matter on which I seek clarification. I should like to make it clear that on numerous occasions in this House I have mentioned that people who apply for pensions are to a certain extent being robbed of part of the pensions when they receive their first cheques. For example, the next pension day is Thursday of next week. If anybody applies for the pension on Wednesday or Thursday next week and qualifies for the pension it is granted from next pension day. In other words that pensioner will then get the full fortnight's pension. But if a person applies on Friday week he will miss out on a fortnight's pension. I believe that instead of having to wait a fortnight after application people should have to wait only one week. I know that a demarcation line has to be drawn somewhere for office purposes, but the Department is working under a computerised system at the present time and there should be no problem.

The illustration I have just given means that if a person applies on Wednesday or Thursday of next week he will get the full pension, but if a person applies on the Friday for a single pension it will cost him $40 for the fortnight. If he happens to be entitled to the supplementary pension it will cost him $48. It will cost a married pensioner couple $69, and if they are entitled to the supplementary pension it will cost them $73 because of a difference of one day in lodging an application. A demarcation line has to be drawn somewhere but a fortnight is too long to wait in these days of automatic data processing when it is quite simple to make payments from week to week instead of from fortnight to fortnight.

The Minister has just stated that it is now possible under the present means as assessed provision for a married couple to receive up to $103 from a part pension and other income. But that is provisional upon the qualification that they have no more than $839 in the bank. I do not know any person in this House who knows of a married couple of pensionable age in receipt of $90 to $100 a week who would not have more than $839 in the bank. I guarantee that not 500 couples in Australia would qualify for the top amount. But why does the Minister emphasise the top amount all the time? He should tell the people they can only qualify for it if they have less than $839 in the bank and be truthful about the matter. People have come to my office and said: 'But the Minister said this in the House'. They do not understand what the phrase 'means as assessed' means. I have to tell them that they can qualify for this amount only if they have less than $839 in the bank. The Minister in his statement is not being truthful to the people. He should explain the situation fully to the people so that they understand that when he talks about this top amount of $103 he means that people can qualify provided they do not have $839 in the bank. Although I have not backed a winner since Old Rowley won the Melbourne Cup, I am willing to bet that not 500 people in Australia would qualify for this top amount.


Mr Wentworth - Could I make a brief statement in reply?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your advice. Will the Minister's reply close the debate? If so, has he deliberately set out to exclude me from saying a few words?


Mr Wentworth - I think the time of the House will require that the debate on this matter be closed now. I would like if I may to reply to the points raised by the honourable member for Sydney.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -The point is that the Minister has leave to make a statement.


Mr Bryant - He has leave to make a statement if the honourable member for Hughes has leave to make a statement. Nobody gave him leave.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - As always, when leave is sought to make a statement there are no stipulations by the Chair. An honourable member simply asks leave to make a statement.


Mr Bryant - The Minister has not been given leave. Mr Deputy Speaker, you did not ask whether leave had been granted on this occasion. I am sorry about that. I do not like correcting you.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I asked whether the Minister had leave to make a statement and nobody said no. I admit nobody said yes, but nobody said no.


Mr Bryant - Mr Deputy Speaker, I am saying that you should ask that question again. If he is prepared to let the honourable member for Hughes have his say, the Minister can save his say, as far as I am concerned. After all, it is not his private Parliament.


Mr Wentworth - If the House does not want to give me leave to clarify the points raised by the honourable member for Sydney that is fair enough; I will not clarify them.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I seek leave to make a short statement.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted?


Mr Chipp - No.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Leave is not granted.


Mr Wentworth - Does the House wish me to clarify the points raised?


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No.


Mr Wentworth - All right.







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