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Tuesday, 14 September 1971
Page: 1291

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Although the word is not unparliamentary, it is completely undesirable for words such as that to be used.

Mr JAMES - Well, a sponger. 1 withdraw my first word in view of your remarks.

Mr SPEAKER -I did not ask the honourable member to withdraw it. 1 just suggested that it should not be used.

Mr JAMES - What is meant by the word 1 first used is more generally known than the meaning of the word I have used in substitution. I would say that it is fitting to the situation, but in view of what has been suggested I will withdraw the word. However, Australians regard a person as such and he gets a feeling that he is an impost on his wife. He feels that if he wants a packet of cigarettes or a glass of beer he has to depend on his wife to buy them for him. This breaks down his morale, distresses him mentally and militates against his recovering normal health. I display to the House the photograph of this man which was taken at his bedside in Newcastle Hospital. Probably the Minister for Social Services has special powers under the Social Services Act to relieve the great mental strain of this couple so that they will not go ahead with their intention to have their marriage annulled in order to get what might be regarded as proper justice from the Department of Social Services.

I make no complaint against the administration of the Department's officers in Newcastle. I have found Mr Beazley to be a very courteous and co-operative man but apparently he is following out the instructions of the Government and the legislation of this Parliament for which the Minister and his Government are responsible. This man's pension has been reduced from $20 to $9 which virtually would not buy cats food, and we know that that is reasonably priced. I hope that the Minister will bring some degree of satisfaction to this couple -who should not have these worries at their time of life. Mr Waters is over 60 and his wife is 54. From what I gather he has been an outstanding Australian citizen, an honourable, noble and highly regarded man. He is embarrassed to think that his pension has been reduced because of his wife's earnings at the canteen at the Cardiff railway workshops. I know the Minister will give sympathetic consideration to this matter and do whatever is in his power to take the mental load off this distressed truly Australian couple.

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