Opinion No. 1886
WHETHER COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENT MAY ENACT LEGISLATION TO PROVIDE SUBSIDIES TO CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS FOR ACCOMMODATION FOR AGED PERSONS: FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO STATES TO SUBSIDISE CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS FOR THE AGED: WHETHER A LAW PROVIDING FOR SUBSIDIES FOR CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS FOR THE AGED WOULD BE A LAW WITH RESPECT TO OLD-AGE PENSIONS OR BE SUPPORTED BY s 51(xxiiiA) OF CONSTITUTION
CONSTITUTION ss 51(xxiii), (xxiiiA), 96
26 May 1950
Senator the Honourable W.H. Spooner, Minister for Social Services
I refer to your note, dated 11 May, 1950, requesting advice as to whether Commonwealth legislation could validly provide for subsidies to be paid out of the National Welfare Fund to charitable institutions for the aged to enable the institutions to increase their accommodation or whether it is a matter for the States.
As you say in your note, section 96 of the Constitution would plainly authorize grants to the States for subsidising charitable institutions of the kind you have in mind. But I gather that in your opinion action along these lines must be ruled out on practical grounds.
Section 51(xxiii) of the Constitution would not, I think, be available for the purpose as it relates only to invalid and old-age pensions and a law to give effect to the present proposal, although designed to make it unnecessary to increase pensions to old-age pensioners who live in institutions, would not, I think, be a law with respect to old-age pensions.
Section 51(xxiiiA)—the ‘social service’ amendment—does, I think, offer some possibilities. This paragraph authorizes the making of laws with respect to the provision, among other things, of ‘sickness and hospital benefits’ and ‘family allowances’. The particular proposal that was mentioned to you seems at first sight to relate to aged people as such, without regard to any considerations of sickness or health, and without regard to their family status. For this reason, I do not think that paragraph (xxiiiA) would support the proposal you mention, at any rate in its present form. On the other hand paragraph (xxiiiA) would probably authorize the provision of grants for buildings for hospital treatment, and even, it may be, for aged couples.
Without expressing any concluded views at the present stage, I have wondered whether some knowledgeable representative of the church body that you have in mind might think it worth coming to Canberra for discussion with officers of our two Departments, and possibly with ourselves, so as to permit of an examination of the practical possibilities in more detailed form.
[Vol. 39, p. 150]