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Thursday, 31 October 1912

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - Senator Sayers, in speaking to the motion, has claimed that the Government should do certain things under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I sympathize with the desire expressed by Senators Chataway and Sayers to protect improvident persons in receipt of invalid or old-age pensions. If provision had not been made in such cases under the Act the motion would have been more worthy of attention. I suggest to Senators Sayers and Chataway that they should read the Act. If there has been any laxity in connexion with this matter it is not the fault of the Act, because it sets out in the clearest of language what should be done in such cases. If Senators Sayers and Chataway are aware of any laxity of administration it would be better that they should direct the attention of the authorities to it, ''o that the provisions of the law may be fully enforced. Section 43 of the Act provides - (1.) Whenever the Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that, having regard to the age, infirmity, or improvidence of a pensioner or any other special circumstances, it is expedient that payment of any instalments of the pension be made to any other person, a warrant to that effect shall be issued by the Deputy Commissioner, and transmitted to the person authorized therein lo receive payment. (2.) Subject to the regulations and to the directions and limitations, if any, contained in the warrant, the person named therein shall be entitled on its production to receive payment of the pension.

Senator Sayers - How many old people looking for pensions are able to fill in the application form? Many must get some one else to fill in the forms for them.

Senator NEEDHAM - That question has nothing whatever to do with the motion before the Senate. I am aware that there are old people who are unable to fill in the form of application for a pension, and they have to get assistance to do it. But. I understand that Senator Sayers' complaint is that some improvident pensioners spend their pensions in a way in which they should not spend them. Some protection should certainly be provided for such persons, and it may be provided under the section of the Act which I have quoted.

Senator Sayers - The honorable senator's argument would be all right if people applying for old-age pensions could discuss the matter as he is doing.

Senator NEEDHAM - That is not the question. The honorable senator has asked that the Government should provide means to prevent a pensioner spending his pension improvidently.

Senator Sayers - The honorable senator would not object to that?

Senator NEEDHAM - No, I am in sympathy with the idea of the motion, but I say that it is entirely unnecessary. I have shown that there is a section of the Act providing all the machinery necessary for the protection of the interests of improvident or incapable pensioners. The Deputy Commissioners in each State are vested with the necessary authority to deal with such cases.

Senator Sayers - They may be thousands of miles away from where the pensioners reside. What can the Deputy Commissioner for Queensland, who resides in Brisbane, do for old-age pensioners in Charters Towers and Townsville?

Senator NEEDHAM - I can inform the honorable senator that the Deputy Commissioner in Perth has the same powers as the Commissioner of Pensions in Melbourne. The powers are delegated to him.

Senator Sayers - The Deputy Commissioner at Brisbane told me that, in certain circumstances, he could give pensions; and, in other circumstances, the matter would have to be remitted to Melbourne.

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator is again getting away from the subject-matter of the motion. We are not discussing the merits of an application for an old-age pension. That is a question to be determined by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner. The object of the motion is to secure protection for the improvident or incapable pensioner, and I say that there is machinery provided for the purpose in the Act.

Senator Sayers - I wish it to be enforced, and it is not enforced.

Senator NEEDHAM - I believe that it is enforced. I have had considerable experience in connexion with the matter in Western Australia, and I know that pensioners have nominated other persons to receive their pensions for them in order that the money may be judiciously and wisely expended for the benefit of the pensioners. If the Act is not working well in Queensland, it would have been better for Senator Sayers to make representations to that effect direct to the Commissioner in Melbourne. The Act is not as perfect, perhaps, as we could desire; but under section 43, provision is certainly made for the protection of improvident -and incapable pensioners.

Debate (on motion by Senator St. Ledger) adjourned.

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