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Tuesday, 6 April 1971

Senator MAUNSELL (Queensland) - I support the 3 Bills we are taking together - the Social Services Bill, the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen's War Pensions and Allowances Bill. They provide as an interim measure for increases in pensions. These Bills cannot properly be likened to the Bills brought down to implement Budget provisions when the whole gamut of our economic policy is considered. At that time we examine those fields in which to make alterations or to give added assistance. We are' now considering measures to provide interim relief and as such I welcome them. In this debate speeches have ranged all over the field but not much has been said up to date about repatriation benefits.

Senator Bishop - You have not heard Senator Mulvihill yet.

Senator MAUNSELL - I am glad that someone on that side of the chamber will take an interest in ex-servicemen. Probably one of the main' reasons why no honourable senator opposite has taken much interest up to date is because Australian repatriation benefits are considered to be amongst the best in the world. They have been increased time and again since this Government has been in power. Fringe benefits are not mentioned by honourable senators opposite when dealing with pensions or repatriation payments. In some areas of repatriation benefits have been increased since 1949 by over 400 per cent and in other areas by over 600 per cent.

Senator Bishop - Have you heard about the plan of the Returned Services League?

Senator MAUNSELL - Yes, I have. The Minister for .Repatriation (Mr Holten) dealt with that in his speech to the other House. Someone has to pay for all these benefits. It is all very well for members of the Opposition to say that the Government should spend millions of dollars on this and millions on that. Unfortunately, it is the taxpayers who have to find it. A responsible government will ensure that the taxpayers' money is effectively used in whatever direction it thinks necessary. In a debate such as this honourable senators opposite argue to hand it all out in repatriation benefits or pensions. If tomorrow we are discussing hospitals they will want a few more millions spent in that direction. It is the same old story when we debate education measures. Who is to pay for it? I believe that this Government has shown responsibility in all these fields and that is why it has been in office for over 20 years and will remain there for some time to come.

There has been a great deal of talk tonight about social service benefits. It is interesting to note that the Opposition has traversed the whole field of social services without taking into consideration the fringe benefits which are available. The Opposition wants to get rid of the means test. We all know that a considerable sum would be involved in doing so. Some of the people who would be entitled to pensions would be millionaires and others would be the people Senator Georges mentioned who operate on the stock exchange. It should be remembered that those in most need in this community are the pensioners who, through no fault of their own, do not own their own houses but have to pay rent.

Senator Little - What about the superannuitants?

Senator MAUNSELL - I am talking about the pensioners at this stage. I do not think that I should go over the whole field of retirement income. The pensioners who are paying rent have to pay out quite a substantial part of their pension to meet this commitment. These people are in extreme difficulty. If the Government had $ 10Om to spare I think it would be better spent on providing accommodation for these people - putting a roof over their heads - rather than on an across the board payment to others in less need.

Senator Cavanagh - But the Government is not doing either.

Senator MAUNSELL - The Opposition wants the means test abolished and across the board increases.

Senator Cavanagh - It wants justice. Is the honourable senator opposed to abolishing the means test?

Senator MAUNSELL - It is a question of abolishing the means test at a time when the nation can afford to do so. It is probable that the means test could be abolished tomorrow if the productivity of this nation were increased. It is, as an honourable senator mentioned earlier, the dissipation of productivity by strikes and other tactics that is responsible more than anything else for the fact that pensioners are not getting the full value from their pensions. Surely the pensioners need security more than anything else. The security of having a roof over their heads and not having to worry about any sickness is the greatest assistance we can give them. Anyway, as I said earlier, these bills are merely interim measures to enable people who have been caught up in inflation to receive special benefits. They do not deal with the whole gamut of things which are debated at Budget time. For this reason I do not think that I should cover the whole field of social services. I support the legislation and congratulate the Government on bringing it down.

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