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Thursday, 24 May 1973
Page: 2577

Mr HOLTEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. I preface it briefly by reminding him that the Australian Labor Party's pre-election policy speech stated that the Labor Government would ensure that the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen would equal the minimum wage, that the general rate pension would be adjusted to 50 per cent of that wage and that other pensions and allowances would be adjusted proportionately. As the minimum wage recently was raised by $9 a week and in order to keep faith with that pre-election promise, will these 2 major pensions - the TPI and the general rate - and other pensions and allowances be adjusted forthwith? Has the Minister any idea how much these adjustments would cost?

Mr BARNARD - In Opposition the Government expressed the view, which of course was restated in the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister, that the total and permanent incapacity rate, the special rate pension, would be adjusted in line with the minimum wage in this country. The honourable gentleman, as the former Minister for Repatriation, will know that one of the first actions of the first Whitlam Ministry was to adjust the TPI rate to that figure. Incidentally, the honourable member for Indi was the Minister who presided over a department that left the 100 per cent general rate pension unaltered for about 8 years. There has since been-

Mr Holten - We are talking about the future now.

Mr BARNARD - I ask the honourable member to show some patience. I know there is not a great deal of understanding of these matters, but he will know that there has been an increase in the minimum wage. Obviously the Government will consider what attitude it should take to raise the rate of pension to the new level of the minimum wage. Surely no one would expect that this ought to be an immediate decision, but naturally since it is a policy matter it is now under consideration by the Minister for Repatriation. Again, in line with other decisions relating to social security and repatriation benefits generally, this will be part of budgetary decisions when these matters are under consideration in the very near future.

The former Minister for Repatriation also asked me whether I was aware of the actual cost of increasing the special rate of pension to the new level of the minimum wage. I indicate to the honourable member that this is a matter that would naturally be considered by the Minister for Repatriation. I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honourable gentleman and provide him with an answer.

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