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Thursday, 31 October 1912

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . - There is not one member of the Senate who would offer a word, against the main idea underlying this motion, but certain considerations lead me to think that even if carried it would be practically useless. The Act contains some very wise provisions for the pensioners. Where pensioners have relatives, those persons are naturally regarded as their guardians. I know of a good many cases where the old-age pensioner is very well looked after indeed; but in the case of a pensioner without relatives we are up against another set of circumstances. Many men do not like to go into an institution, and feel quite vigorous enough to look after themselves outside. They believe that they are fully justified in using the pension just as Senator Sayers and I consider that we are entitled to use our monthly allowance. I think that the pensioners have a right to feel that the money is theirs, and that they are at liberty to use it as they choose. Senator Sayers desires that incapable pensioners should be cared for. We all desire that. The first step to take in caring for them is to see that they secure their pensions. If they are unfitted to be at large by themselves the Commonwealth is not in a position to enforce the law upon them, because the police are servants of the States. The State authority is the one to set the police in motion.

Senator Sayers - The police report in all cases to the Commonwealth authorities.

Senator HENDERSON - If a policeman saw an old-age pensioner incapable on the street he would not report the matter to the Commonwealth authorities before he took steps to place the pensioner in safe custody.

Senator Sayers - When ' people apply for ola-age pensions the police report upon their applications, and at the same time report upon the capacity of the applicants.

Senator HENDERSON - In thousands of cases the police know nothing whatever of the applicants for old-age pensions. There are thousands of people receiving old-age pensions to-day with whom the. police have never come in contact until they have made their appearance in a Court to get their pensions.

Senator Sayers - I think the honorable senator is in error. I know hundreds of cases in which reports have been received from the police.

Senator HENDERSON - That may be so, but there are a very great many people who go to the Courts to make their own applications. I know of cases in which lawyers have appeared to present the claims of applicants for old-age pensions. It would be well if that course were more often followed, as it would prevent applicants very often from being put to a great deal of trouble.

Senator Sayers - Where would they get the money to PaY a lawyer?

Senator HENDERSON - I may inform the honorable senator that I have paid for scores of them myself, and I am not the only person who has done so. If an incapable is found in any State the State authorities will look after him. How should we differentiate in this matter? Who is to decide whether an old-age pensioner is unfit to be at large? That is my difficulty in connexion with the motion. I really do not see how the carrying of this motion would alter the existing position in the slightest degree.

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