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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 1366

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -BROCKMAN- Yesterday Senator Keeffe asked me a question without notice on what he referred to as the discrepancy in pension payments to be paid under the Repatriation Act (No. 2) 1972 to widows of service ranks higher than those of captain in the Navy, colonel in the Army and group captain in the Air Force. He referred to the first schedule inserted in the principal Act by the amending legislation as providing for fortnightly payments which are 10c more than the uniform rate and asked if I could advise whether the discrepancy was caused by a printer's error or whether the variation to the uniform pension will continue until such time as the Act is again amended.

I pointed out to Senator Keeffe that 1 had endeavoured to answer his question during the debate in the Senate on Tuesday but I would look into the matter again and obtain a detailed answer for him. The answer is as I had outlined on Tuesday night, however for Senator Keeffe's information, I shall set it out in a little more detail. The Principal Act, namely the Repatriation Act 1920-1972, prior to amendment by the Repatriation Act (No. 2) 1972, prescribed different levels of war widows' pensions, depending upon the ranks which their husbands held on service. These levels varied from $36.50 a fortnight for widows of ex-servicemen who had held ranks below those of lieutenantcommander, major or squadron leader up to $40.10 a fortnight for widows of exservicemen who had held ranks higher than captain in the Navy, colonel or group captain.

As I mentioned in my second reading speech on the amending legislation, the different pension levels for rank have been abolished in respect of ex-servicemen themselves and, consistent with that policy, and with a view to eventually abolishing all distinctions of this nature, all pensions payable to war widows at rates below S40 a fortnight have been increased to that level. The previous highest pension of S40.10 remains unchanged, as I mentioned on Tuesday, and this last existing distinction in respect of war widows pensions will be abolished next time there is an increase.

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