10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.,- and read prayers.
Criticism by Auditor-General.
– In reference to the questions I asked the Treasurer yesterday, will the honorable gentleman state definitely whether the surplus for 1926-27 was £2,635,597, as stated by him, or only £134,806, as declared by the Auditor-General ?
– Undoubtedly, the surplus stated in my budget speech was correct. The accountancy methods in the Treasury have been investigated in the light of the Auditor-General’s report, and the procedure outlined by me yesterday was adopted, and the decision will later be submitted to the House.
– As the vintage is now in full swing and grape growers and wine makers are waiting to learn the prices for 1928, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs’state when the price- list will be made available?
– It will be made available within the next few days.
Transfer to Canberra
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Library Committee decided, in accordance with a proposal by the chairman, that an overtime allowance be paid to certain members of the staff for additional work and loss of holiday leave in’ connexion with the packing and removal of the Parliamentary Library from Melbourne to Canberra? Has any such extra allowance been paid? If not, why not?
– No suggestion was made that the officers of the library should be paid for overtime. The payment of a bonus was suggested, and the matter is now the subject of correspondence between the committee and the Treasurer.
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
Willhe inform the House whether the question of affording assistance in the transport of stud stock from overseas has been considered, and, if so, with what result?
– The Empire Marketing Board has made an offer to the Dominions to provide assistance for the carriage of stud stock up to £50,000 per annum for two years. Any contributions from this fund will be conditional upon an equivalent amount being contributed by or through the oversea Government concerned. In response to the request of the Empire Marketing Board for a scheme to be submitted, the Commonwealth Government has already formulated proposals and placed them before the State Governments and the representatives of the oversea shipping companies for consideration. As soon as I am in a position to do so I shall be pleased to supply the honorable member with further information on the subject.
Assembly Hall - Cotter Dam - Duntroon College - Sanctuary for Australian Fauna
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice.
American Oregon; that the joinery, skirting and architraves are made from Pacific maple (produced principally by black labour), and that the three-ply for panelling is Japanese oak?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it a fact that when the Cotter Dam was designed provision was made for sluice gates, and when being constructed openings for same were provided?
Is is a fact that these openings were later filled with concrete, and that no provision for sluicing now exists?
– The design for the Cotter Dam did not make provision for sluice gates. Openings were temporarily left for constructional purposes only, and were later filled with concrete.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s ques-. tions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to-, the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1.It has already been decided to create a reserve for the purpose mentioned.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is the aerial mail service from Adelaide to Perth established? If so, will he give consideration to such service carrying mails to and from Eyre’s Peninsula en route, landing on each side of Eyre’s Peninsula on each trip, and thus affording these parts, that have inadequate service at present, additional . mail services ?
– The aerial mail service from Adelaide to Perth has not yet been established. Consideration will be given to the suggestion of the honorable member.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has the report yet been received from Captain Burgess, of the Defence Department, on the question of a site for the establishment of the proposed aerodrome at Bundaberg, and, if so, when will a copy of this report be available for perusal?
– The Minister for Defence advises that he will have inquiries made, and the honorable member will be furnished with a reply as early as possible.
Transfer of Marine Board Officers
asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, 3 4. See answers given to these questions on 7th March by the Minister for Markets a.nd Migration on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the amount of the excise collected on fortifying spirit for wine from 1918 (when the rate was raised to6s. ) up to date?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The 1918-19 figures above are at Cs. only. £3,418 was also collected at 8d. per gallon.
Assistance to State Boards
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
Whether the Government has considered the introduction of legislation to assist the State Dried Fruit Boards to deal with the question of quotas for local consumption. If so, in view of the urgent necessity to make the position of the boards satisfactory, can the Minister state when the bill will be brought in?
– The matter is at present receiving the consideration of the Government.
– During the sittings of Parliament last year, several honorable members asked me whether I could indicate when the . Government proposed that effect should be given to my statement that a local option poll on the question of the sale of liquor in the Federal territory would be taken. At that time I was not in a position to give the desired information. I am now, however, able to inform the House that the Government proposes that the poll shall be taken at a convenient date, which has yet to be determined, during the present year.
– I lay on the table -
Copy of the documents relating to the proposed Anglo-Egyptian treaty of alliance and friendship.
I ask the permission of the House to make a short statement on the subject. (Leave granted.) The documents concern negotiations which have been in progress between the governments of Great Britain and Egypt since July of last year. The aim of those negotiations was the settlement of certain outstanding points which were not dealt with in the agreement between the British and Egyptian Governments in 1922, when the independence of Egypt was recognized. In view of the very great interest that all questions affecting Egypt must have for the people of the Commonwealth, because the Suez Canal, which is the great artery of our communication with Great Britain, runs through Egyptian territory, I have laid the papers relating to those negotiations on the table, and’ similar action is being taken in the House of Commons. So far as practicable, the documents are being made public in both Great Britain and Australia at the samemoment.
In February of 1922 a communication was sent by the British Government to the Egyptian Government. In that communication the independence of Egypt was recognized, but four points were reserved for future negotiation and settlement. These- were : -
Australia, of course, is most vitally con.cerned in the first point. The security and protection of the Suez Canal are matters . which were examined exhaustively at the two Imperial conferences which I attended in 1923 and 1926. The British Government has, certainly since the war, been fully conversant with Australian^ ‘ sentiment regarding the importance of securing the safety of the Suez Canal, and has done everything in its power to ensure that the interests of Australia would be recognized and fully protected. Ever since the communication of 1922, the British’ Government has been seeking a final settlement with Egypt on the four reserved points. In 1924 the matter was taken up by Mr. Ramsay McDonald, then Prime Minister of Great Britain, but unfortunately his efforts to secure a settlement were unsuccessful. Honorable members will .probably remember the very definite and firm action which he took at that time. During last year a further opportunity presented itself in the visit of King Fuad and his Prime Minister, Sarwat Pasha, to Great Britain. After a general discussion with the British Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister of Egypt submitted a draft treaty dealing with outstanding questions, and that draft is embodied in the documents which are being laid on the table. The draft was examined, the dominions - Australia in particular - were informed of its contents, and a counter-draft was prepared by the British Government, with the terms of which the Commonwealth Government entirely concurred. Sarwat Pasha returned to Egypt with the counter-draft. He went again to Great Britain in November, when certain amendments were made in the British draft, and a final agreement was arrived at between Sarwat Pasha and the British Government as to the terms of the draft treaty. Sarwat Pasha returned to Egypt with this draft treaty, and at that time it was considered that there was every prospect of the agreement being acceptable to the Egyptian Parliament. The main question at that stage was, whether, in view of the political position in Egypt, the parliament of that country would agree to the treaty. The majority in the parliament is composed of the Egyptian Nationalist party, of which Zaghlul was the leader until the time of his death. That party is commonly known as the Wafd. According to the proposed treaty all the outstanding questions with Egypt, with the exception of the Sudan, were to. be settled on the following principles: -
First. - An alliance between the two countries; Egypt not to adopt a foreign policy incompatible with the alliance, aor conclude with any foreign power an agreement prejudicial to British interests. In the event of Egypt being attacked, Great Britain, subject to the provisions of the covenant of the League of Nations, to come to its assistance; in the event of Great Britain being involved in war, Egypt to furnish the former in Egyptian territory with facilities and assistance, including the use of ports, aerodromes and means of communication.
Secondly - So far as the protection of the Suez Canal is concerned, Egypt to authorize the maintenance on Egyptian Territory of such forces as the British Government considers necessary for this purpose, the presence of such forces not to be regarded as an army of occupation or to prejudice the sovereign rights of Egypt.
Thirdly. - Great Britain to use her good offices to have Egypt admitted as a member of the League of Nations.
Other matters were dealt with, such as the protection of foreign interests in Egypt, the Egyptian army, the employment of foreign officials and the capitulations, but these matters I do not intend to discuss now. I have given the main provisions of the Treaty.
When Sarwat Pasha returned to Egypt in November last he found that it was impossible to get the Parliament to accept the treaty, and on the 4th March the Egyptian Prime Minister formally notified the High Commissioner, Lord Lloyd, that he was not prepared to sign thetreaty. As I have indicated, the information we have in our possession is that the Wafd was not prepared to support the signing of the Treaty, which, of course, made it impossible for the Prime. Minister to sign it.
The only other point that I desire to emphasize is that throughout these negotiations the Commonwealth Government, has been kept fully informed, and there has been the fullest measure of consultation and co-operation between it. and the British Government. It is, of course, impossible to say what the developments in Egypt will be in the near future. Britain, has long pursued a policy of the utmost patience in an endeavour to arrive at an amicable settlement of the four outstanding matters which I have mentioned.. I am confident that Britain will continue to pursue this course of action, and I hope that at some future time - a timenot too distant - a further opportunity will be afforded of re-opening the negotiations. I trust that when that timecomes there will be a predominance in Egypt of the more moderate elements, and’ that they will accept the overtures of Britain, and allow a lasting settlement; of these most difficult matters. I hope also that there will be in the minds of the Egyptian people an appreciation of the fact that because of Egypt’s geographical, situation, their interests and the interests of the British Empire are so closely interwoven, that it is imperative that some satisfactory arrangement be made to remove the present difficulties. If at a later stage I. am able to give further information to the House, I shall do so.
.- (By leave) - The statement of the Prime Minister is one of the utmost importance, because the matters dealt with vitally concern Australia. The safe navigation of the Suez Canal is of the greatest moment to Australia. Other matters’ are also involved, and this Parliament should have the fullest information regarding them. The Prime Minister says that he has given us all the information that is in his possession at the moment, but I suggest to him that in view of its importance he should take steps to have the paper printed- and circulated.
– It has been printed and will’ be available to honorable members.
The following papers were presented : -
Documents relating to the proposed AngloEgyptian Treaty of Alliance’ and Friendship: Arbitration- (Public Service.) Act- - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
Nos. 3 and 4 of 1928 - Amalgamated Postal’ Workers’ Union of. Australia.
No. 5 of 1928 - Commonwealth Storemen and- Packers’ Union;.
Northern. Australia. Act -
Central- Australia - Ordinance of 1928 - No. 2- Brands.
North Australia - Ordinance of 1928; - No. 2 - Brands.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for year 1926-27.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That so much, of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended’ as. will enable notice of motion No. 4, general business to take precedence for this day.
.- I much appreciate the action of the Prime Minister) in submitting the motion to whichthe House has just agreed,to enable the motion of which I had given noticeto receive the fullest consideration.
I feel sure that all honorable members will recognize the pressing need for the removal of the disabilities from which any section of our returned soldiers may be suffering. I move -
That all ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who served overseas and have since developed tuberculosis shall be deemed to be suffering from a war disability and be eligible for pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
I am confident that little argument is required to convince honorable members on both sides of the chamber of the justice of the complaint that I am about to ventilate. The war is now a memory. So far as the majority of the people of Australia are concerned, it is a matter of history; but little stretch of the imagination’ is required to visualize the’ conditions that obtained when the war broke out and during the period that preceded actual hostilities. A claim was made upon the flower of the manhood of Australia. Nobody then had any idea how dreadful’ was the vortex into which our menwere askedtorush, but, notwithstanding’ the lack of knowledge of the risks they were taking, and the dangers they would haveto face, they did their duty well. Having regard to the smallness of Australia’s population, compared with that of the whole Empire, she contributed generously to the fighting, forces. The best and the youngest, those’ whose physique madethem most capable of standing the rigours’ of warfare, enlisted and went overseas. Their doings at the front are matters of history- history of which Australia is now more than’ proud. I consider that the men, on whose behalf I am pleading, are entitled to everyconsideration, because the offer made by them at the outbreak of the war was greater than that of the soldiers of those’ countries that had standing armies trained” to war, and with- previous experience- of actual hostilities. The call was answered in a manner which made us- all’ feel proud, andourmen went overseas: No doubt honorable members will require ‘some adequate’ reason to be advanced-, why special’ treatment- should bemeted out to acertainclassof men: It will be conceded that’ the- hardships associated with an army existence- were capable of underminingeventhestoutestconstitutions.If a constitution had a weakness that weakness would probably be discovered by the arduous and different life that the former civilian was compelled to lead. I submit this motion on behalf of every soldier who contracted tuberculosis, whether he went overseas or not. Many men did not get as far as the front line, but they still had to undergo the rigours of active service. I admit that those who had followed vigorous callings in civil life, such as navvying and shearing, were somewhat inured to “ roughing it,” but many men who joined the Australian Imperial Force had never slept out prior to enlistment. Our expeditionary force was drawn from all classes of society, and every man had to suffer the inconveniences and dangers associated with active service abroad, which he cheerfully did on behalf of his . country. I shall give my own experience, which must have been similar to that of many who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. My civil life did not impose many hardships upon me, but I was not afraid of “roughing it.” Possibly my physique was more rugged than that of many men of similar appearance to myself. My first night in camp was spent in the old Exhibition grounds in Adelaide. I slept in a cattle stall in the open air, with only a thin tin fence about 6 feet high between me and the gardens. It was bad enough to have to lie on that hard ground and endeavour to sleep, but I was robust and slept successfully. The sparrows had me up at daybreak, and I had a nagging head as the result of my first night in camp. I had spent one of the most unhappy and uncomfortable nights of my life, and that sort of thing went on for a week. Then, came the terrors of long route marches, with heavy boots, and subsequent sore feet. That sort of experience, thrust unexpectedly upon a civilian, is likely to reduce his powers of resistance, and did so in many cases. Many men had to “ go sick” after they had been in camp only two or three days, and I am confident that the tubercular germ discovered weaknesses in the constitution of a number of those men, even though they did not go .overseas. I have in mind a case which I hope will come within the purview of this motion. This man had not the fortune to reach France. He got as far as England, served there in a useful capacity, and was returned to Australia when hostilities ceased. After his return he developed tuberculosis and is now in the Angorachina Hospital in South Australia. The distressful part is that his wife and little girl are forced to go to work to maintain the family. Undoubtedly the hardships of active service ruined that man’s constitution. Even when I was shifted from the Exhibition camp in Adelaide to Mitcham, and then to Maribyrnong, in the cold months from May to November, I still felt the rigorous training that I had to undergo. One was compelled to leave his bed at daylight and to go through the daily routine whether he liked it or not. Certainly he could “go sick”; but that would merely bring him a “number 9,” or a gargle, according to the diagnosis of the medical officer. It is logical to conclude that every man who was accepted for active service was fit and well when he enlisted, and so must have acquired the tubercular germ subsequently if suffering since from tuberculosis. There are many men who cannot show any war injury; but I hope honorable members will realize that those who enlisted and are now suffering from tuberculosis must have acquired it on active service. I shall put’ a suggestion that may be challenged by the medical fraternity. It is that inoculation did not suit every system. Perhaps the medical fraternity was right in insisting upon compulsory inoculation; but it is very likely that many men were adversely affected thereby. Again I shall instance my own case. I was particularly unfortunate in the army, in that my name began with “Y,” and I came practically last in every queue. If anything was being served out, I usually received the remnants. I went to Francein size 8 boots, because there were nosize Vs. Frequently I was compelled to wear oversize underpants, because stocks of my proper size were depleted, when it came to my turn to draw my issue. The members of my draft were-, inoculated at Heytesbury on the night, prior to embarkation for. Le Havre. Nodoubt honorable members are aware that, inoculations were entered in the- soldier’s. pay-book. Again I came last, and probably the clerk had become tired when my turn came. At any rate my inoculation was not entered in my paybook. On the morning following our arrival at Le Havre we were lined up in the snow and my name was called out, among others. Upon questioning the sergeant I was informed that I had to be inoculated. I told him that I had been inoculated the previous day. He replied that it was not entered in my pay-book. I drew his attention to my punctured and inflamed arm ; but “ red tape “ regulations prevailed, and I had to suffer a second inoculation. Fortunately I Was a fairly robust person; but I often wonder what would have happened had a person with a weak constitution received that- double inoculation within a period of two days. It might have undermined his health. Many others must have experienced treatment similar to mine. T do not wish to debate the efficacy of vaccination; but it must be conceded that the practice is harmful to some constitutions, and may even render them susceptible to a tubercular germ. I feel confident that many returned men who are now suffering from tuberculosis contracted that disease as the result of inoculation or vaccination.
Then we come to the war itself. Every man who was there must admit that it was one of the most trying experiences that one could pass through, or that any constitution could undergo. “We know well that many men suffered from trench feet. . I do not know what the complaint was, because I did not see it myself, but I was taught in camp how to soak my socks so that I should not get sore feet, and, I presume, render myself liable to suffer from trench feet. We know that it was a very distressing, complaint and, no doubt it contributed towards weakening the sufferers so as to render them susceptible to more serious diseases. The year 1917 was a record in France for the severity qf its winter. It was found impossible to shift the guns in the ordinary way, and we had to get pickaxes to clear them. The diggers from sunny Australia, used all their lives to warm and temperate climates, had to endure one of the most severe winters experienced for years. Men who were on guard had to get up from their warm rugs or overcoats and trapse up and down in. the cold for two hours; then in another four hours’ time they had to get up again. When a man was out on S.O.S.i guard, half a mile from the battery, he had to wait in the rain and slush with nothing to do but to watch and wait, biting his lips and smoking his pipe. During the winter there was as much wet weather experienced as fine. It was possible for a man to get wet through, have his clothes dry on him, and then get wet again several times during the same day. Any one who remembers the Malincourt “ stunt “ can tell tales of this kind. We were in a place called Reilly. near Mericourt. We got out at 1 o’clock in the morning, and went back to Blangy Tronville, where there was an old brewery. There was no shelter for us, and we slept under the guns in the rain. At 5 o’clock in the morning I was one of the unfortunate ones called up to go to VaUx, behind Amiens, and I sat on the gun in the cold and rain for hours. There was a further delay while the gun was being calibrated, and then we had to change the buffer on the gun because it was wrong. We stayed “outside Amiens to change the buffer, and we did not get back to the wagon lines until 9 o’clock at night. When we arrived back the Sergeant told me that I ought to be up at the pits. I told him that I had been on the pits the previous week, but he said that that made no difference. I asked the No. 1 on the gun whether I should go, and he told me to get back to bed. The next morning I was on the “ mat “, and I was told that I had to get ready for the pits that evening. When I reached there my battery was already in line, and I asked my superior, McDonald, where my dug-out was. He told me that it was over in a certain direction. It was an old Boche position, and I found the dug-out to be a hole about 6 feet long, with a sheet of iron on top, which did not cover it properly, and there were 4 inches of water at the bottom. I told McDonald that I could not sleep there on account of the water, and he informed me that I could bale it out, although it was still raining, and so continued throughout the night. I asked him where he was’ sleeping, and he pointed out his dug-out, a shelter covered by a tent, where they proposed to sit up all night. I said that I would sit up with them, and there I passed the night. The next day I spent helping to get the guns ready, and the following morning was the hop-over of the 8th. That was only one patch of my experience of conditions in Prance, and my experience was not very extensive. Conditions must have been much worse for those men who were there for two, three) or four years, and who had not, perhaps, the comforts provided for those in the artillery. Such conditions placed a greater strain on the constitutions of the men than they could stand, and many of them are feeling the effects of it now. I hope I have demonstrated .to the members of this House that these men when they become ill, have a fair and just claim to be considered as war. casualties, even though there is . no concrete evidence that they picked up the germ of their complaint in France. They are entitled to be considered war casualties, because the strain to which they were subjected while on active service undoubtedly contributed towards their contracting the disease at a later time. Very severe and painful casualties were suffered by soldiers during the war, such as double amputation, the loss of an arm, a leg or an eye, and these men will carry the mark of their sacrifice upon them for the remainder of their lives ; but while we sympathize with them, and recognize their claims upon us, it is nevertheless true that the extent of their sacrifice is already known, and their disability can be gauged. They know the full effect of the burden they have to carry, and can prepare themselves for it. When a man contracts tuberculosis, however, he is, in effect, under sentence of death, and his medical advisers can tell him, within a few months how long he will live. It is the worst complaint, outside of cancer, from which a man can suffer. I am not suggesting that we should be parsimonious towards those who have suffered ordinary war injuries, but I say that, whatever we give to them, we cannot give too much to the man who is under sentence of death from his complaint, and who, in some cases, has to support a’ family. This complaint is one of the most distressing ‘known to the human race; consequently I hope that honorable members will give every consideration to the representations that we are making. It is deplorable that in some cases the rives and children of ex-soldiers who are suffering from tubercular trouble have had to take over the burden of’ maintaining the family, because their husband0 and fathers have been denied pensions. I have already mentioned one case of that description. Was that intended when we made such definite promises to the men of Australia to induce them to enlist? I do not think so. May I say in passing that I learnt to admire beyond all expression the wonderful courage of the men of the A.I.F. Nothing that we could do for these men would be too generous. I have seen men laugh and joke when they have been surounded by death. I have heard them say, as a shell whizzed over their heads, “I wonder whether mine will come tomorrow I “ ; or, “ I wonder when the one with my number on it is coming across ? “ I have seen them bob down to avoid shells, and the next moment bob up again with a joke on their lips. I did not think it possible for human beings to preserve such nonchalance in the presence of such grave and incessant danger. The people of Australia generally have shown some appreciation of the dangers through which their soldiers passed, but I feel sure that if they were made aware of the need to do more than they have done to meet necessitous cases, they would- gladly da it. They recognize that the nation is under an obligation to care for every man who served it in its hour of extremity. I have received from the secretary of the South Australian Tubercular Soldiers’ Aid Society a copy of a letter which is issued annually with the object of raising funds to carry on the work of the society. It stings me to the quick to receive such communications. These men and their dependants should, not have to rely upon charity. The first paragraph in this letter reads: -
In the course of four years of relief work among soldiers suffering, from tuberculosis and their dependants, the Committee of the Tubercular Soldiers’ Aid Society has been faced with a steady increase ‘ in the number of children of these men. This increase is due -to the newly developed .. cases . with families; - for instance, a man who has recently been declared tubercular’^ has ti family of ‘ eight children.;
The newly developed cases have brought up the number of children of tubercular soldiers to something like 350.
I submit with all earnestness that our tubercular soldiers and their dependants should be granted the full pension by the Repatriation Department. In reply to a request which I sent to the secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of South Australia for particulars of the tubercular cases among its membership, I have received the following particulars - I shall give the number but not the names of the men concerned - ‘ 1978, Private, 10th Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted December, 1914, discharged November, 1916. Service abroad 1 year; married man, 1 child. 178, Private, 43rd Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted 17th January. 1916; discharged July, 1919. Service abroad 3 years 21 days; married man, 2 children. 6072, Private, 27th Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted 27th September, 1916; discharged 26th March, 1919. Service abroad 2 years 110 days; married man, 7 children. 2456, Sergeant, 11th Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted 15th April, 1915; discharged 27th June, 1919. Service abroad 3 years 315 days; single man. 4813, Private, 50th Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted 2nd November, 1915; discharged September, 1917. Service abroad 1 year 197 days; single man. 7112, Private, 10th Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted 4th October, 1916; discharged 25th December, 1919. Service abroad 2 years 328 days; married man: 4475, Private, 27th Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted 4th January, 1916; discharged 18th February, 1917. Service abroad 219 days; married man, 1 child. 15389, Private, Home Service, enlisted 13th August, 1918; discharged cessation of hostilities. Married man (widower)., 3 children. 2357. Private, -3rd Light Horse, A.I.F., particulars not available. Married man. 4861, Private, 32nd . Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted 11th February, 1917; discharged 11th October, 1918. Service abroad, l1/2 years; single man. 1660, Private. 3rd Light Horse, A.I.F., enlisted 29th July, 1915; discharged 12th June, 1916. Service abroad 114 days; married man, 5 children. 9621. Sapper, 11th Field Company Engineers, enlisted 31st January, 1916; discharged 22nd March, 1918. Service abroad 1 year 258 days; married man. 606, Private, 27th Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted January, 1916; discharged December., 1917. Service abroad approximately 14 months; married man, 2 children. 20535, Private, A.M.C., A.I.F., enlisted 26th December, 1917; discharged 11th February, 1920. Service abroad 1 year 166 days; married man, 2 children. 6976, Private, 10th Battalion, A.I.F enlisted 1916; discharge not known. Service abroad not known ; do not know if married or Bingie. 10388, Private, 19/27th Battalion, A.I.F., enlisted January, 1917; on account of contracting meningitis in camp at Mitcham he ‘ was. discharged from A.I.F.; married man, 2 children.
The last-mentioned case is that of a man who did not even get away from South Australia. Probably the Minister in charge of Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) will remember the outbreak of meningitis which occurred at the Mitcham camp.
– If this motion is agreed to, that man would not be -eligible for a pension.
– I am aware of that; although I think that the Minister would be able to find a way to make a pension available to him. The point is that these tubercular men are entitled not only to the nation’s sympathy but to its practical support. I am aware that Australia has done far more to repatriate and care for the men who fought her battles than probably any other country in the world; but some circumstances have not been met, and this is one of them. The men who are suffering from tubercular affliction are indisputably under sentence of death, and we should do everything that we can to help them. It may be said that the war has been over so long that it is hardly reasonable to provide at this stage a new class of military pension. The Minister, being a medical man, knows as well as anybody that not even the greatest experts can dogmatize as to what will happen to a man who underwent the arduous experiences and hardships of the war. I have in mind one case which illustrates this - I have mentioned it on previous discussions when speaking about war pensions. Upon my return from Rabaul about eighteen months ago, I was interviewed one Saturday morning by a young fellow whom I had last seen in France. He had grown, and was a very fine specimen of manhood. He told me that he returned from the front fit and well,- required nothing of the Repatriation Department, and resumed his . trade as a carpenter. Some time prior to interviewing me he began -to feel ill; . but an Adelaide doctor was unable to diagnose his complaint. Dr. Vercoe, who stands very high in the medical profession, was called into consultation, and, after an exhaustive examination of the patient and inquiry as to his previous life, he asked him whether he had been gassed at the front. The young fellow replied, “Not to the extent to having to report sick; but, like every other digger over there, I got my issue.” Dr. Vercoe thereupon declared that this fellow was suffering from a tumour of the stomach, originally caused by poison gas. The patient being unable to pay the expenses of the operation that was ordered, applied to the Repatriation Department, but without success. However, I place it on record to the credit of the department that, after I had put the circumstances before the Minister, I was advised that the young man had been accepted as a war liability, and would be treated at Keswick Hospital, and placed on the pension list. I am satisfied that medical men would declare that many of the cases of tuberculosis which have developed since the war are the after effects of war service. If a man has been a soldier, and subsequently develops lung trouble, it is only fair to conclude that the rigours of war undermined his constitution and made him susceptible to pulmonary disease. In this regard I quote our most eminent soldier - a man who distinguished himself in the field and understood thoroughly the privations which the diggers had to suffer. In Christmas greetings to the diggers published in the’ Duckboard of 1st December, 1924, Senator BrigadierGeneral “Pompey” Elliott made this statement -
Your country will, I believe, prove more generous still when the knowledge shall have penetrated to the minds and hearts of the people that the sufferings and exposure to the elements and horrors of warfare for such a long period have insidiously undermined many constitutions, and that many men, apparently sound upon discharge, are rapidly failing in mind or body directly or indirectly as a consequence of their war service.
That is the opinion of a brigadiergeneral, and generals, so far as my knowledge of the fare of officers goes, certainly had the best of the deal - rightly so, because, when the leaders are knocked over an army becomes merely a rabble. Brigadier-General Elliott knew and understood the conditions under which his men served. I quote also from the Perth Sunday Times, which published an article under these captions - “Repatriation Red Tape, Doing the Diggers out of their Rights, A Tragic Position which must be Altered.” In that article this Parliament and the Repatriation Department are severely censured for not doing a fair thing by the soldiers. Such things should not be said of this nation’s treatment of those who proved themselves heroes in the hour of trial.
– It -should not be possible to say them truthfully, I admit.
– The criticism is based upon what the writer evidently considered a good foundation. I quote the passage which dealt particularly with the possibility of returned men developing tuberculosis as the result of the rigours of war -
Several men, slightly gassed, did not realize at the time that it was serious, and never reported for medical attention. As we write we have before us a case of the kind. A man returning to Australia apparently in the best of health has developed T.B. He has no proof of treatment for gas while in the army, but that he was in a gas area, and inhaled the poison is shown in sworn declarations made by those who were comrades with him in the war. One is signed by his O.C., and it makes most interesting reading.
Commenting on the splendid physique of the man (a one-time famous footballer), -which was a factor in his selection for non-commissioned rank, and whose health and conduct in France were excellent, the O.C. takes oath that the man went through some severe gas bombardments - six in particular behind Villers Bretonneux, the company at the time suffering a great number of casualties through the gas. He suffered all the usual soaking and hardship of the campaign in France, and was evacuated, at one time with trench fever, and on recovering contracted influenza. The Repatriation Department refuses to listen to any argument respecting the probability of the man’s present T.B. condition being attributable to the war - because there is no official proof that he was ever gassed.
The- three eminent medical men of the Eastern States to whom final appeal has to be made, apparently have no conception of the farreaching effects of the poisonous gases thrown by the enemy at our troops in France. Back in 1920 The Sunday Times published the opinion of a leading overseas medical man that it would take years for the poison to work through some men to the extent of permanently impairing their health. It is interesting to recount a supporting opinion voiced by Sir Donald Ross, Director of Medical Services in Canada.
Dr. Eoss has pronounced the opinion that the cases of T.B. directly attributable to the war, and particularly, enemy gas, will yet become apparent up to ten or twelve years of the cessation of hostilities. This high medical authority is also reported to have said that the constituents of gases used by the enemy being unknown to medical science, may produce or provoke ailments which the medical people were yet unaware of. That is the point which the Australian Repatriation authorities decline to grasp.
The Minister will see that the criticism of the Sunday Times is not without foundation. There we have an instanceof an athlete who was gassed in France; but, so far as he knew at the time, was unaffected. The Minister has stated that the department is prepared to accept such cases as war liabilities; but I am not satisfied that a man should be required to prove his claim by sworn evidence. I doubt whether I could find one man in my battery who would remember the occasion when I lost my voice for a week through gas. I did not report to the doctor; but I was allowed to remain in my dug-out for a day and resumed duty next morning; but for fully a week I was voiceless. So far as I know there is no lung trouble in my family; no man could feel fitter than I feel to-day, but if I were to develop tuberculosis later, what origin would be more likely than my war service ? I have stated the position of the tubercular soldier as I see it. I propose to. read now extracts from the report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended the 30th June, 1927. If members will read that report they will endorse the view of Dr. Ross, the Canadian specialist, that we may never know the full effects of gassing, and that the majority of postwar tubercular developments are due to that cause. Upon the subject of pulmonary tuberculosis the Repatriation Commission says -
In several of the commission’s annual reports space has been devoted to the subject of pulmonary tuberculosis and much important data has been recorded.
This year an effort has been made in Victoria to produce a comparison between pulmonary tuberculosis as affecting the civil population and that following war services in men of military age under active service conditions. Considerable difficulties were experienced mainly because statistical records did not admit of a direct comparison, and it was necessary to evolve some means to over come this initial difficulty. Records of military cases, particularly during the early stages of the war, are unfortunately incomplete and absolute accuracy was difficult to obtain. However, even though a certain amount of estimation was unavoidable, no effort was spared to eliminate sources of error, and the following statement may be accepted as a reliable and representative attempt at comparison between these two groups of cases in Victoria.
Enlistments from Victoria in the Australian Imperial Forces were 112,399. From these the immediate casualties totalled 1G,8C3, leaving as exposed to risk of contracting pulmonary tuberculosis, 95,536 men. From a representative batch of 1,000 enlistments age grouping was obtained and’ applied proportionately to the total number “at risk.” This gave an estimate of the total numbers in the various age groups throughout the military forces as follows : -
I have quoted that to show how thorough was the medical test applied to members of the A’.I.F. The report reads: -
The number of deaths amongst soldiers and ex-soldiers from phthisis over a period of eleven years from July, 1916, to July, 1927, was 757. Accurate details as to age grouping could be had in 467 cases only, and this was again applied proportionately to the total number of deaths.
The age groups are then given, and the report continues -
From the Victorian Year-Book, 1925-26, was obtained the mortality per 10,000 of each sex in age groups at the last two census periods, i.e., 1910-12, and 1920-1922. These figures wore used as a basis of comparison, and resulted as shown in the following table: -
– Are those figures based on tubercular mortality only?
– Yes. The Repatriation Commission has been fairly just in its report, because it says : -
For the purpose of -comparison, the 15 to 20 and the 45 to 55 groups were neglected as being incomplete and non-representative, and, therefore, it was found necessary to work from the middle groups from 20 to 46. These groups gave a death rate per annum of 27.20 for the military, as against 30.01 for the civilian figures at the latest census period.
It will be noticed that the Repatriation Commission, in making its comparisons, left out the 45 to 55 group, and had this been included, the figures for the military would have shown, an increase of ten.
– It must also be remembered that the members of the AXE. were picked men.
– The report refers to that. It reads -
It would appear from this comparison that the military death rate was very little below that of the civilian, and considering that the A..I.F. was a picked body of men, all subject to medical examination before enlistment, it was evident that some factor was present influencing this comparatively heavy mortality. One outstanding feature of the above table also was that in the age group, 25 to 35, i.e., the most active fighting age, death figures for the military forces were actually over two per 10,000 higher than the civilian rates. The inference to be drawn from these figures appears to be that the military forces should have shown a lower death rate than the corresponding civilians, but that the stress and strain incidental to active service produced an increase in pulmonary tuberculosis which brought the two death rates more closely in approximation.
In an endeavour to ascertain exactly what this stress and strain consisted of it was decided to examine a series of 1,236 cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, passing through the Repatriation Sanatorium at Mont Park, with particular regard to the disabilities suffered from prior to the development of pulmonary, tuberculosis. It was found that 40.5 per cent, of cases analysed were suffering from injury or illness incidental to and inseparable from ‘ their war sei- vice. The remainder de-‘ veloped phthisis, in one or other of the accepted forms of incidence common to civilian life.
The report in addition contains a graph showing the incidence of tuberculosis, and a table setting out the pre-tubercular disabilities of 1,236 cases. Two of the disabilities under the war group are - gas, hospital, 13.7, and wounds, general, 5.8. Those are the greatest percentages, and shows what effect gas had upon the soldiers. The report continues -
Fairly definite pre-existing tuberculosis was admitted in 3.56 per cent, of cases only, lt is not proposed to discuss this in detail, and it would appear to be sufficient to suggest that the definite war group of injuries and illnessesdid exercise ‘a substantial influence in the subsequent development of phthisis.
In quoting that report and my own experience I have tried to visualize the sufferings of our returned soldiers who are afflicted with tuberculosis. If the outside public were appealed to they would willingly agree to shoulder the liability incurred in respect of tubercular returned soldiers. The liability is small and also declining. It is the nation’s responsibility to protect these unfortunate soldiers, and this Parliament will be failing in its duty if one of them is neglected. I commend the motion to honorable members, and I hope that it will be carried by this House.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). I have brought numerous cases under the notice of the department, and to be fair I must admit that in a . number of instances my efforts have been successful. One man appealed again and again to the department, but his claims were rejected on the ground that he had not incurred his disability while on war service. After strenuous, efforts on my part the department granted him £134 arrears of pay and a pension of £2 a week. The Returned Soldiers’ Association of Ballarat took up another case, but could not get the department even to admit the sufferer to the Caulfield Hospital. I approached the department and after some delay the returned soldier was admitted to the hospital, and a few weeks later was granted a pension of £2 a week. The point I wish to makeis that it should not be necessary for any returned soldier suffering from tuberculosis to appeal to a member of Parliament to obtain justice. I admit that the department under the control of Colonel Semmens although it; has acted, perhaps,, somewhat late in the day, has administered the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act as generously as possible. B.ut we are to an extent breaking the promise made prior toenlistment that permanently incapacitated soldiers should receive a pension of £2 a week. I find from thestatistics that on the basis of the purchasing power of £1. in 1914, a pension of £2 a week is now worth only 23s. in purchasing value. The returned soldier whoreceived £134 arrears of pay has a wife and five children, and for many months- his wife was at the washtub five days a week trying to support her husband and little children. In 1914 we promised him ?2 in value, but to-day he is receiving only 23s. in value. The subject of pensions requires immediate and complete revision. When war broke out I was a member of this Parliament. “We imposed taxation upon wealthy people for the purpose of meeting war expenditure.. It was left to this Government to remit, taxation to those individuals. It remitted ?1,700,000 in income and land taxation, despite the fact that that taxation was imposed for the purpose of ensuring that those who did not go to the war and whose property was being protected, should at least pay something towards the cost of the war. I ask honorable members to contrast this Government’s leniency to the wealthy landowners with its niggardly treatment of returned soldiers in respect of pensions. I propose to quote one other case, that of a man named Collins. He had 715 days’ service abroad, and he had. his ankle smashed at Bullecourt. Prior to that he was gassed. Every returned soldier knows that thousands of the men got a whiff of gas, and some of them were gassed to rather a serious extent; but they did not desire to go into hospital on that account. The injury was not regarded as sufficient to justify sending them to “ Blighty,” and so they were prepared to carry on.. Therefore, they did not report to their medical officers the fact that they had been gassed, and no record appeared on the medical sheets to show that they had ever been affected, by it. Collins was one of those cases, and he had letters from two of his comrades certifying that they remembered his being gassed. He received a pension of 7s. a week on account of his injured ankle. He was discharged as medically unfit, and, later, the pension was increased to 10s. 6d. ; but finally it was reduced to 5s. 3d. He has been unable to do a day’s hard work since returning from the war. He engaged in shearing and other occupations prior to enlistment. Physically he was one of the best types of manhood that left Australia. There was no sign of tubercular trouble among the members of his family. Two years . ago he was unable , to do any work. He appealed to the department for an increase in his pension; but he was sent to the Caulfield Hospital, where he was treated for ten weeks. They admitted that he was suffering from tuberculosis ; but the department said that the disease was not due to his war service. He took the case to the court, and it was heard at Ballarat a fortnight ago before Judge Wasley. I shall read extracts from the report of the case, commencing with Collins’ crossexamination by Mr. D. C. Robertson, who, instructed by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, appeared for the Repatriation Department -
To Mr. Robertson. - Hehad trouble with his lungs ever since he came home in 1918.
Why did you not mention it when you put in your claim for pension ? - I was only too glad to get away from the army. If I had known the trouble was there I would certainly have made the claim. It was not till June, 1926, that I found out what was wrong.
What was the pension increased for? - It came automatically with the passing of the new act.
What had you worked at in the- interval? - I tried fruit picking and shearing, but had to give up both.
But you did not give up light work? - Not altogether till the last.
Were you married in April, 1923? - Yes.
And save for your ankle you thought you were all right? - That was so..
His Honour. - Are you getting a pension for that ankle? - Yes; it is very weak and will not stand any weight.
Mr. Robertson. How long have you been troubled with the cough? - Since 1918, and next year I sought medical advice, and was given a prescription, which I had made up.
You say that you were suffering from a chest ailment? What were the symptoms in June, 1926? - Dull pains, sleeplessness, night sweats, &c.
You saw Dr. Williams about it? - Yes.
Were you a lodge patient? - No.
I think that, that was an unnecessary question, the implication being that, as a lodge patient, Collins would merely have received cheap medical advice.
On l’5th September, 1926, you received a letter notifying you of the result of your appeal for an increase of war pension, which was not allowed ? - Yes.
Have you been notified that your present pension has been fixed indefinitely, and cannot again be reviewed ? - Yes, but not indefinitely.
You were gassed in the second stunt at B.ullecourt. Did you have on your gas mask ? - Yes.
What had that to do with the matter? Whether Collins had his mask on or off, this country is liable for the injury he sustained -
And did you wear the mask all through? - We took them off when the gas stopped.
There is evidence that you got a few mouthf uls of gas ? - Yes,- so I did.
His Honour. - A few mouth f uls would be quite enough? - One is quite enough.
Mr. Robertson. Did you report to the officer at the time? No.
His Honour. - Why should he? He has sworn that he was gassed, and I do not suppose any one will contradict him.
Dr. H. F. Sleeman, Creswick, said that he had had experience of tubercular diseases extending over many . years. In March, 1927, he found that Collins was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis.
– If Collins was gassed in 1918. would that affect him later? - If he was gassed at any time it would predispose him to pulmonary trouble.
His Honour. - In what way? - Anything that affects or damages the lung predisposes to such trouble.
Would not some lungs throw it off? - It would leave some effects on them.
What particular gas would be the worst? - All are alike in that way.
You have examined Collins since? - Yes, and ho is unfit to work.
Mr. Robertson. In 1919 Collins had a severe cold. Would not the present condition be the result of that ? It might ; but the effect of the gassing would be a predisposing factor to the disease.
– And if he had not had a severe cold he might still be predisposed to tuberculosis as the result of gassing? - Of course.
Dr. Strachan, repatriation officer at Creswick, stated that he examined Collins last week, and found that he had tuberculosis in both lungs, and was unfit for work. Had he been gassed in 1918 he would be predisposed to tuberculosis, as indeed would every soldier who was gassed. It was more than probable that even while the disease did not appear at first it had arisen as a result of the gas, or that gas was a contributing cause.
Mr. Robertson. Does not measles affect the lungs? Yes; Collins had measles on the transport going home, and had not felt well since. Measles would predispose to pulmonary tuberculosis.
– Apart from - legal argument that is Collins’ case.
His Honour. - Is Mr. Robertson submitting any medical evidence?
Mr. Robertson. No; only the official reports, which make no reference to tuberculosis until June, 1926. The reason for giving the pension was the injury to the ankle.
His Honour. - Mr. Lazarus will have to prove that the pulmonary trouble was directly due to the war. This man had had a bad cold and cough after he returned from the front.
– The evidence showed that he may have been predisposed to it by the war injuries.
His Honour. - He may, but you must show that he was, and you evidently cannot do so. There will be judgment for defendant.
Mr. Robertson asked for a certificate for pleadings.
His Honour. - I do not suppose that the board will go for its costs in such a case.
Mr. Robertson. Probably they will not, but
His Honour. - Oh, well, you can have the certificate.
Surely the department would not claim costs against the unfortunate soldier?
– Did it do so?
– I do not know. Next day the Ballarat Courier commented on the case in these terms: -
It is doubtful whether the authorities can say that in the case heard before the Ballarat Supreme Court last week sympathetic consideration was extended to the applicant. At present the man is receiving a pension of 5s. 3d. a week, and he applied to the court for a declaration that he was entitled to a full pension. The facts as stated in court were that his service extended over 715 days. He contracted measles on a transport, and in the second big fight at Bullecourt was gassed. Later his ankle was smashed. For this injury he receives the small pension of 5s. 3d. a week. Years after his return he developed pulmonary tuberculosis, and is now unfit for work. The Medical Board claims that the complaint is not due to war service. A medical man, one with many years experience of tubercular diseases, deposed that the fact that the soldier had been gassed predisposed him to pulmonary trouble. In this he was supported by a colleague who was also the repatriation officer. The Court held, however, that it had to be proved that the pulmonary trouble was directly due to the war, which was tantamount to proving the impossible. But while the evidence may not have been conclusive enough for the court, that the presumption is there is incontestable. From the evidence to say that the soldier’s unfortunate condition to-day is the aftermath of the war is a reasonable supposition. Where there is, as in this case, a strong probability a soldier should not be forced to go to law in a futile endeavour to prove what is almost impossible to prove. The public expect him to receive more sympathetic treatment than this.
If that is the law, and I understand that it is, in view of two decisions of Judge Weigall, and if a soldier must prove that he contracted a disease such as tuberculosis in France or Gallipoli, then the sooner we alter the law the better it will be. An ex-soldier has no means of appealing to higher courts. It should be the onus of the department to prove that Collins did not contract tuberculosis abroad; it should not devolve upon the ex-soldier to prove that he contracted it on active service. Even if the motion be not carried, I urge that at least an alteration in the law in that regard should be made. Many returned soldiers are in a similar predicament to that of Collins. I have received the following letter from the secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League: -
There are close on 1,000 T.B. ex-soldiers in New South Wales alone suffering from this dreaded disease.
At the present moment there are about 65 on their backs in the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick ; 30 at “ Bodington,” Wentworth Falls; 70 at Lady Davidson’s Home, “Turramurra “ ; 20 at Malahide Home, Pennant Hills ; and about 20 at the Waterfall Sanatorium. Then, on top of all this, there is a very great army of very sick T.B. men, who, metaphorically, speaking, are walking around half dead. The deaths average about four a week in this State alone. Of the number who continue to exist, a big percentage are married men with children, whom they are endeavouring to support, and in many cases the little children are T.B. With regard to the question of pensions, there are close on 200 T.B. ex-soldiers in this State alone who receive no pension whatever from the Federal Government. The Government’s statement in connexion with these cases is that they have not absolute proof that T.B. is due to war service. The position is that these men were strong and healthy prior to enlistment, and T.B. was not known either to them or their families prior to the outbreak of war. No one who was at all familiar with the conditions existing in the trenches during the last war will doubt that, of these men suffering from T.B., such T.B. is due to war service.
The honorable member for Adelaide spoke of the number of times that soldiers were inoculated when abroad, and the many occasions on which they received a . whiff of gas. It is too soon after the war for any member of the medical fraternity to pronounce definitely that gas had’ no effect on the soldiers’ lungs. There had never previously been a war in which gas was used and in which inoculation was practised to such an extent as in the last conflict. I have been told by some returned soldiers that they were inoculated as often as 36 times. How do we know the effect that inoculation has on the heart, when a man has been inoculated so many times in a short period? One dreadful tragedy, due to inoculation, has come under notice in Australia in the last few weeks, and I do not propose to discuss that matter to-day.; but it must raise doubt in the minds of honorable members as to the after-effects of inoculation. The department should not require an exsoldier to prove that he contracted his disease while on service abroad. That is a most unfair attitude to adopt. Think of 200 cases of tuberculosis in New South Wales alone! Even little children have contracted the malady. Mothers have to work on behalf of soldiers who are suffering from it. Yet the department says, “Prove your case in the law courts of this country. Prove that you contracted the disease abroad, or starvation is the lot of you who offered your bodies and your services freely for your country in its hour of trial.” I venture to say that the people of Australia will not stand for such treatment of their ex-soldiers. Australia is a very wealthy country. This Government has found it convenient to make to its wealthy supporters remissions of taxation amounting to £1,750,000 in one year. Yet side by side with that we have unfortunate returned soldiers, suffering from tuberculosis, unable almost to get one penny in pension, whose wives and children have to work at the wash-tub and elsewhere to keep the family from starvation. We should consider the advisability of a revision of our war pensions scheme. Where we promised £2 a week, the returned soldier concerned should receive £2. It has been customary to pay disabled soldiers one-quarter, onehalf, or three-quarters of their pension, according to the finding of a medical board. The idea is that a man receiving only a portion of his full pension may seek work in order adequately to maintain himself and family. Employers have to compete in the markets of the world, and they cannot always afford to be sympthetic. It is unfair to ask them to employ incapacitated men. As to the case of Collins, which I have quoted and proved, I care not what the Minister for Health (Sir Neville Howse) or his department may garner from their files. I cannot accept their evidence that Collins did not contract tuberculosis abroad. I adopt a common-sense view. I have examined the history of Collins and his family, and have been unable to find a trace of tuberculosis in any other member Of the family. It has appeared only in this returned soldier, who for 715 days served the Empire faithfully and well, fighting its battles overseas. I can visualize Collins, .returned to Australia, in a weak condition, too proud to admit that he was suffering from a bad cold, eager only to rid himself of his uniform, tq join his family, and resume civilian life. Because he did not then report his illness, and because a year or two elapsed before tuberculosis manifested itself, the department adopts a castiron attitude, and insists that the unfortunate man shall prove that he contracted tuberculosis abroad. It intimates that he will not be granted a pension unless he is successful in doing that. I hope that every honorable member will adopt the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and myself. When our men enlisted they were assured that they would have every sympathy, and were promised that they would receive more than fairness when they returned. Those men never dreamt that, in 1928, the wives of some of them would be compelled to turn to the wash-tub to earn a pittance for themselves and their children, whilst their husbands languished in hospitals suffering from tuberculosis. If we are going to make mistakes, let us err on the side of generosity; let us be more than generous to these unfortunates, pitiable in their distress. There is no more dread disease than tuberculosis. Doctors are able to pronounce almost to a day the time when sufferers from it will finally collapse. Day by day those men live with the certain knowledge that within a few years they will be dead. We know little about the effects of inoculation and vaccination, but we do know that these men are suffering from a disease hitherto unknown in their families. I plead with the Minister, and with honorable members, to remember the services rendered by these men, to treat them not merely generously, but in like manner to that in which the Government treated wealthy people when it remitted their taxation, individuals who declared that they could not go to the war, but were prepared to submit to additional taxation to assist to carry it on. When the war was over, the Empire saved, and the world “made safe for democracy,” men who made the greatest sacrifice by going abroad to fight, are called upon to do what is impossible, and are cast upon a cold world to starve. I plead with every honorable member to support the motion of the honorable member f ot Adelaide, in order that the fair name of Australia may not remain tarnished as it is to-day; I urge them to grant to the men suffering from this dreadful disease the pension that they are now denied, and so mete out tardy justice to those’ who suffered heroically and severely to save Australia.
– I appeal to honorable members on both sides of the House carefully to analyse the motion moved by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) this afternoon. It is rather difficult for me to answer the statements which the honorable member made in support of -it, because he gives no logical reason for taking the action which he has; he relied entirely upon a sentimental appeal. He asks that tubercular men who served overseas and are now incapacitated, shall be entitled to a pension, irrespective of the cause of their malady. The motion, therefore, proposes to introduce two entirely new principles into our pensions legislation. The first is that a pension should be granted to men suffering from tuberculosis, whether the disease is due to war service or not, the only restriction being that the exsoldier shall have served overseas. Secondly, there is the principle of discriminating in favour of one particular type of disease - tuberculosis - against other diseases of a chronic nature. Every country which was involved in the war has instituted a pension scheme, and each scheme has adopted, as a principle based upon equity and justice, the requirement that the disability entitling a sufferer to a pension must have been caused or aggravated by war service. If one examines section 3 of the War Pensions Act 1914-16 and sections 23 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, he will find it laid down clearly that every claim under those acts must be based on a disability caused by war service. I hoped that the honorable member for Adelaide would have been able to assist the House when he claimed discrimination in regard to sufferers from tuberculosis; and that he would give the grounds on which he disregarded even worse diseases. The medical profession knows perfectly well that there are diseases worse than tuberculosis, and soldiers, as well as civilians, suffer from those diseases.
– Are they more deadly than tuberculosis?
– Yes. A far worse malady is chronic Bright’s disease. The honorable member must be familiar with the painful and pathetic experiences associated with that disease.
– Do not more die from phthisis than from Bright’s disease?
– Yes. In discussing this matter, it is interesting to examine the grounds on which the honorable member for Adelaide claims that war service increased the susceptibility of individuals to tuberculosis. Statistics disclose that the male death rate for the disease between 1915 and 1921 was peculiarly high. That is evidence that war service affected tuberculosis. But since 1921 the male death rate from tuberculosis has resumed its normal course of decline. The official return of the Commonwealth Statistician indicates that the incidence of tuberculosis has resumed normality, and is not now affected by war conditions. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) quoted from the report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1927, and gave a set of very interesting figures. I am certain that the honorable member had no intention to. omit the completion of his quotation from page 14 of that report, but he failed to refer to the five main deductions arrived at after a review of the year’s statistics. They are -
– I did not wish to weary the House. I knew that honorable members had received copies of the report.
– Those conclusions sum up all the data that the honorable member gave to theHouse, and I have quoted them, as I felt confident that the honorable member would like to have placed on record the conclusions arrived at. It is quite clear, from all available statistics, that the percentage of tuberculosis among returned soldiers to-day is not greater than that among civilians who saw no war service. It is useful to know the Australian tubercular deathrate among males per 100,000. It is -
Those figures correspond approximately with those for the surrounding years”.
The motion before the House is perfectly clear. If it were accepted, the logical sequence would be that every man who served in the Australian Imperial Forces, and became incapacitated after his discharge, irrespective of the disease from which he suffered, would be entitled to a pension. The honorable member for Adelaide must have had that in his mind, and I am sure that he will admit it. On page 1132 of Hansard, volume 112, dated 25th February, 1926, the honorable member is reported to have made this statement, again disclosing his interest in our returned soldiers -
In such circumstances, I should be disposed, if I were dictator in this country, to rule that all chronic ill-health suffered by ex-soldiers should be set down as having been caused by their strenuous war service.
I give the honorable member credit for his great interest in our returned soldiers, and I think that every other honorable member entertains an interest for those men who are my comrades as well as the honorable member’s; but I rather regret that the honorable member did not to-day include that statement in his motion.
– I should have, had I thought that the House would accept it, but I wished to make sure of at least something.
– May I point out to the honorable gentleman that when they did make dictators centuries ago, they gave them control of life and death, but were very wise in their decision not to give them charge of the public money. Therefore, had he been raised to that exalted position - and I myself would have been very glad to support him - it would have been of no benefit, because he would not have been able to bring his proposals into effect. I do not see how honorable members on either side of the House can reasonably support this motion unless they are prepared, like the honorable member himself, to go the “whole hog,” as he indicated last year, and confer a pension on every man who suffers from any disability after having been overseas. I do not know what is meant exactly by “ overseas,” but in the act it means embarkation. I take it the honorable member is prepared to accept that. He knows, of course, that it would be necessary to introduce legislation to make the alteration, because such a provision is not included in the Repatriation Act, nor could the commission give effect to it without legal sanction even if it wished to do so. It is extraordinary that the honorable member has approached this question without recognizing its serious ramification. Just think for a moment; no fewer than 30,000 members of the Australian Imperial Force who went oversea did not see any service, owing to unfitness or the -fact- that the Armistice was signed before they could join their unit. When the Armistice was signed there were 19,227 men in camp in Egypt and England, some of whom, of course, had seen service. It has been stated by the honorable member that inoculation and sleeping in the open may have’ contributed towards the men contracting this complaint. As a matter of fact, all hygienists claim that sleeping in the open is one of the most effective means of evading tuberculosis. They claim that if all people slept in the open, and had decent housing and living conditions, tuberculosis would practically disappear.
– Does the right honorable gentleman call the conditions endured by the men at the front sleeping in the open?
– What else can it be called?
– Sleeping in a wet and stuffy dugout is not sleeping in the open.
– It may be argued by the honorable member that the perils of the sea, and the life in camps, added to the possibility of developing tuberculosis. I cannot support that view. He can make the statement, but it is merely a fine, sentimental appeal. It is an appeal to the heart, not to the brain. In addition to those men en route to join their units at the time of the Armistice there were 13,507 men who returned to Australia for medical and other reasons, and who were discharged without seeing one day of field service.
– They may have suffered from the effects of inoculation.
– I regret that my friend should support that view. It is good to see him supporting his colleague, but he cannot, in the light of his professional knowledge, support that contention. What ‘ would be the position if every ex-soldier who subsequently suffered disability were to receive a pension ? Take the case of the boy of eighteen who went overseas - and many went only as far as South Africa. They had the trip and then came back to Australia. Now for a period of 40 or 50 years such a boy might enjoy perfect health,- and then be stricken with tuberculosis. Would the honorable member say that even under those circumstances that person would be entitled co receive a pension? That is not an unlikely case. The number of people who contract tuberculosis at 50 years of age and over is very large in Australia. The honorable member has been speaking as if tuberculosis was not a serious factor in the last decades of life. As a matter of fact it is.
– Is that not stretching the position?
– It is not. I have not all the statistics with me, but it is a fact that in Australia tubercular infection occurs at a later period in life than in many other countries. Those who contract the disease between 60 mid 70 years of age contribute 12 per cent., or one-eighth of the total deaths from tuberculosis, while those who contract it between 70 and 80 years contribute 3 per cent. Altogether one-third of the total deaths from tuberculosis take place after the age of 50 years. These figures aPPly to our male population. In such cases there has often been a period of 30, 40, or 50 years without a day of illness. I have observed it in my own experience while a medical practitioner in Orange. I have seen men develop tuberculosis at the age of 50, 60, or 70 years without there being any possible reason to explain it. These facts are interesting, because they bear a close relation to the subject we are discussing. I should say that a sea voyage and camp training would be of distinct benefit to the men, and tend to prevent them from developing tuberculosis at a later period. I can sympathize with the tubercular men. Honorable members opposite are not alone in sympathizing with these men, and they have no right to claim that they are. Everybody has the same sympathy, and our sympathy is not reserved for the tubercular men only. I protest very strongly against this differentiation between one particular class of disease and the others. Successive governments, in their wisdom, have shown very clearly that they have practical sympathy with tubercular men. Every ex-soldier suffering from tuberculosis, accepted as being due to war service, receives a special pension of £4 a a week, and something extra if he has a wife and children. If he is able to engage in suitable employment, he may be paid less, but the pension is never below £2 2s. In 1926 the Government decided, as evidence of its sympathy, that a pension of £2 2s. a week should be paid to all ex-soldiers proved to be suffering from tuberculosis, and it was made retrospective to July, 1925. This means that an ex-soldier with a wife and three children on the 1st July, 1925, who is suffering from tuberculosis, receives a pension of £4 5s. a week irrespective of his earning capacity, or of his subsequent improvement. A certain amount of trouble has arisen in regard to this pension, and honorable members have asked me, both verbally and by a letter, why claims have not been proved. There has been much difficulty, however, over some of the cases. Many were diagnosed as tubercular, or treated for tubercular symptoms when in the forces, or by the Repatriation Department subsequent to discharge, and they demand that they should now be granted the pension of £2 2s. a week. That was never the intention of the Government. I have a very clear recollection of this discussion of the matter in Cabinet, and drafted the minute on which the present practice is based, and I remember that it had to be proved that there was tuberculosis present subsequent to the date specified.
– A man might have had it before, and have been cured.
– That is possible. This led to a great number of claims, and most of them have been met. I have been asked by honorable members whether I could do anything to hasten proof of tuberculosis, and I have promised to-day to make some effort to hasten, if possible, a decision as to whether claimants are suffering from tuberculosis. There is difficulty, however, in coming to a definite decision. While at Orange, which is a health resort to which many people come, I was, during my twenty years’ practice, frequently made conscious of the difficulty of coming to such a decision. Sometimes it was not possible to say definitely for one, two or even five years whether or not a person was suffering from tuberculosis. It is quite easy to prove a definite, straightforward case, but even when you have clinical indications such as a slight flattening below the collar bone, a slight cough, or a small loss of weight, it is sometimes difficult to prove the presence of the disease within three or four years. These claimants are not suffering any disability during the time their cases are pending, because they receive a pension and treatment if their condition is accepted as due to war service. They are not proved tubercular cases, and therefore cannot be awarded a permanent pension. If they got their £2 2s. a week for life, they might consider themselves happy. I know that I should have been in my early life.
– Is that not rather callous ?
– The honorable member may be quite sure that I shall not say anything unjust against . my comrades, and they are my comrades, and not his. There is not a man in this House who can say that I have not lived with them, defended them, and given them a . fair deal. Definite instructions have been given by the Repatriation Commission regarding the proving of tuberculosis. The document containing these instructions goes very fully into the position, and I ask leave of the House that this statement be incorported in Hansard. The Commission’s instructions are as follow: -
Notwithstanding the foregoing provision in this paragraph a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. per week will be paid to all ex-members of the Forces proved to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis on or subsequent to the 1st July, 1925, as a result of war service, or as a result of a pre-existing condition having been materially aggravated by war service. These pensioners are to be medically examined periodically in order that they may be advised as to their condition, and for re-assessment of pension where necessary, provided that the pensions in such cases must not be reduced below £2 2s. per week.
The Commission considers that nearly all ex-soldier patients, who have completed sanatorium; treatment and are on Second Schedule pension for pulmonary tuberculosis, will be found to be suffering from proved pulmonary tuberculosis. In a small number of cases the Second Schedule pension may have been granted without the Medical Superintendent of the sanatorium and the Departmental Medical Officer or T.B. Consultant being satisfied that pulmonary tuberculosis actually existed, i.e., that the pulmonary tuberculosis cannot be considered proved. Those few cases should be reinvestigated according to the standard of investigation set out in this memorandum.
In order that these signs and symptoms may be clearly and completely ascertained, it is desired that each case be investigated on the following lines: -
State recent variations, if any.
X-ray report - routine procedure.
Appearance of heart aid aorta.
The order of description and type of report that is desired is set out in. tabulated form and attached herewith,
Summary and diagnosis: (Consultant opinion to be obtained if required). It is especially desired that ambiguity should be avoided in recording dates or periods as well as in stating causation of unemployment, absence from work, and of medical attendance.
I shall have no hesitation whatever in explaining to honorable members anything which they may wish to know regarding the administration of the Repatriation Department. Every man who applies for a tubercular pension goes through a certain and specific course, and the system followed ought, I think, to be placed on record. This is what happens to the applicant -
The ex-soldier’s attestation paper, military record in detail and all medical reports and medical board papers are obtained, together with a statement from the man himself, giving his reasons for attributing his condition to war service, particulars of employment, medical and hospital treatment subsequent to discharge, also names and addresses of employees, friends, &c, who might be in a position to give information in support of his claim. The Repatriation Commission at its own expense obtains statements from friends, employees, &c, and clinical notes from medical men and hospitals. The ex-soldier himself is medically examined, and when considered necessary is admitted, to a Repatriation Hospital for investigation. All the evidence obtained is reviewed by medical officers, particular attention being given to the nature and extent of service, his illnesses, wounds, and the probability of gassing. The opinions of specialists are obtained where it is thought advisable. The case is then reviewed by the branch office concerned, and forwarded to the headquarters in Melbourne for determination. If considered necessary at repatriation headquarters, the case is placed before the medical advisory committee, consisting of four eminent independent specialists with wide experience both on active service and in civil practice.
Where a reasonable doubt exists, the benefit of it is always given to the claimant. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) is perhaps waiting to ask why applicants are not personally examined. There could be no possible advantage in such an examination. I have perused hundreds of files in the Repatriation Department, and I accept without hesitatation the statements on them as to the presence of the disease. I could not do more, even if I examined the men personally. There can be no question about the case that the honorable member for Ballarat submitted to the House. The man is undoubtedly suffering from tuberculosis.
– The trouble is that doctors differ. One doctor may find that an applicant is suffering as the result of his war service, while two others may decide differently.
– That is not the result of the examination, but of the disease. The investigation facilities available in the Repatriation Hospital are complete in every detail. They include X-ray apparatus which permits of both screening and skiagraphic examinations, observation by trained and experienced nurses and doctors, and also such laboratory tests as are likely to reveal the true pathological condition of the patients. The investigation is conducted on routine lines, and its thoroughness is unexcelled. The practice is to ascertain the condition of all tracts, digestive, urinary, &c, even though the patient may complain only of his respiratory system. Whilst this practice takes time, it ensures that every possible opportunity and assistance is given to the ex-soldier to further his claim. As soon as an application is lodged, every official of the department recognizes that it is ‘his duty to endeavour to connect the ex-soldier’s disability with war service. No expense is spared, and nothing is considered too great a trouble in searching for evidence to substantiate a claim. I assure honorable members that ever since 1 accepted control of the department, in 1§25, I have endeavoured in every possible way to connect every ex-soldier applicant’s disability with his war service. I believe that I can honestly say that that is also true of every person on the staff. I am not able to answer for what occurred previously.
It is important that honorable members should realize that, while in Australia we accept gassing as being responsible in a degree for the physical condition of our ex-service men, that is not done in any other country in the world. The British Ministry of Pensions appointed its consulting physician as a commission to study the effect of gassing upon ex-service men, At the same time a scientific research was being conducted into the subject in Germany, France, and I think, Austria. But in not one of those countries is it considered to-day, in the light of the reports that were submitted, that gassing is an important factor in connexion with any post-war disease. The following statement was made on the matter by the consulting physician of the British Ministry of Pensions -
As regards the question of the relation of T.B. to gassing, my experience concurs closely with those published in France by Archard, and by other observers, such as Hunt and Price Jones in England, that there is only a slight connexion between the two conditions. In only about 1 to 5 per cent, of cases that have been gassed, has T.B. subsequently been noted.
This Government has shown the greatest sympathy with; and has tried ia every conceivable way to provide pension benefits for ex-service men. In Australia, cases of tuberculosis that are now coming under observation are accepted as having been caused by war service, if any illness or condition occurred during active service that could possibly be regarded as factors in its causation. For instance, in cases where men on service contractedpneumonia or pleurisy, and afterwards developed consumption, no question is raised as to whether the tubercular condition arose during war service. The concrete case mentioned illustrates the view that the department takes. For four years after his return to Australia a man has suffered from no illness. He then develops an attack of pleurisy and pneumonia. Two years afterwards he develops consumption. It can not be said that his tubercular condition was the effect of war service. Exservice men who contract pleurisy and pneumonia two, three or four years after their return from abroad, and later show indications of tuberculosis, are in the same position.
On the 30th June, 1927, the number of ex-soldiers in receipt of pensions on account of tuberculosis was 2,675. The honorable member for Ballarat said something about men receiving a pension of 7s. 6d., or 5s. per week. I gathered from the expressions of sympathy which his remark caused, that some honorable members are under the impression that such a pension was being paid because of some tubercular infection. That is not the case. Many men during their active service fractured an ankle or broke a small bone in their arm or leg, and were treated for the casualty. Quite often those injuries were not the result of gunshot wounds. At the time the men were injured they were granted the full pension. After a period, the amount paid to them was reduced. Other reductions followed, until the pension amounted to only 7s. 6d. or 5s. a week. Men in civil occupations frequently fracture an ankle or a small bone, but within a few months are back at Work. Such accidents are quite common on the football field, and the sufferers recover so quickly that sometimes they are able to resume football during the same season, and no practical . disability is felt by them. Of the 2,675 tubercular men who receive a pension, 1,047 are in receipt of £8 per fortnight, 322 £5 per fortnight, and 1,306 less than £5 per fortnight. That is their personal pension, and does not take into account any amount that may be paid to their dependants.
– Do the men who receive less than £5 per fortnight do any work ?
– I sincerely hope so. I trust that many of them are generally recovering their health and strength. During the last twenty years the Australian, death rate from tuberculosis has improved by 55. I trust that many of my former comrades-in-arms are among the cases which have shown improvement. In the year ended 30th June, 1924, that is, six years subsequent to the cessation of hostilities, 281 cases of tuberculosis were accepted as due to war service. New cases are occurring every day. Whenever a new claim for a pension is submitted, every effort is made to investigate the cause of the applicant’s condition in the hope that some evidence may be found to justify its connexion with his war service. I estimate that out of every five claims received, only one is rejected. That also is surely evidence of the sympathetic treatment which the Government is giving to all applicants.
It is generally recognized to-day that the claims being received from ex-soldiers present, almost without exception, purely medical problems. In the examination that
I have made of hundreds of departmental files I have tried without exception to find some evidence that the applicant’s condition is due to a disability, which he suffered while on active service. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) admit that an effort was being made to assist all applicants. During the last three years I have given up the bulk of my time as Minister of the Crown to a personal investigation of these cases. In this circumstance, what practical purpose could an appeal court serve? It could not possibly give to applicants the consideration that they receive under the present arrangement. It would have to keep strictly within the four corners of the legislation under which it was appointed, and I am quite convinced that it would not be able to bring to light a single fact which is not revealed by the present investigation. I have not the power to grant pensions. It is fortunate that I have not. ‘ I trust that no Minister in charge of Repatriation will ever have that power.
– The Minister has considerable persuasive power.
– That may be so. I respectfully suggest to the honorable member for Adelaide that if he wishes to serve the best interests of our comrades, it would be advisable for him to seek leave to withdraw the motion. The payment of war pensions has never been, is not now, and never should, become a party question. It has been said that I was an onlooker at the war for four or five years, that I was never in any danger - I am thankful to say that I was not - and that I was happily safe while other men were going to their death every day-
– I did not suggest that.
– It has been suggested. I ask honorable members to keep this subject out of the hurly-burly of party politics. Every politician should do his utmost to this end.
– I hope that the Minister is not suggesting that I have introduced this motion to gain an advantage for my party. Nothing is further from my mind. I feel very strongly that many of the promises that were made to the men who enlisted and to their dependants are not being honored.
– Let us restate the promises that were made. We assured the men who enlisted’ that they would be given fair treatment while they were on active service. That was surely done. We promised them that they would be provided with medical attendance at least the equal of that which they could receive in civil life. That promise “was undoubtedly fulfilled, for with very few exceptions the ablest medical practitioners in Australia volunteered for service abroad. No civilian who remained in Australia during the war years was able to obtain such expert medical attention as the soldiers who went overseas. Those who enlisted were also promised that if they suffered from any disability in consequence of their war service, or if any disability was aggravated by such service, they would receive compensation. I believe that that promise is being fulfilled. If I were not permitted to do my best to honour it I would not continue to administer this department for another day. I propose for the whole time that I remain in charge of the department to carry out the policy which is at present in operation. I shall personally examine, with the same meticulous care that I have exercised in the past, all claims submitted to me. I shall spare no effort to give every applicant a fair deal. It may fairly be said that there is a good deal of truth in the statement that was published a day or so ago th/it, at least, since 1925, all applicants for pensions have received scrupulously fair and even generous treatment. In making that statement I do not reflect in any way upon the administration of the Repatriation Commission. It was charged with the administration of a certain act of Parliament, and I believe that it administered it faithfully. It is probable that since I have been in charge of the department I have stretched the provisions of the law, but I have always been guided by the principle that every applicant must be able to show that his disability was either caused or aggravated by his war service. Let us look for a moment at the manner in which our pensions bill has grown. In 1925 it totalled £7,146,000. In 1926 it was £7,347,246, an increase of £200,382. The increase in 1927 was £211,313. It is estimated that in 1928 the minimum increase will be £135,441. The total increase during the period 1925 to 1928 will therefore be not less than £547,136. Notwithstanding the deaths of pensioners, of which there were 2,391 last year, the re-marriages of widows, and the adolescence of soldiers’ children, the pension bill has increased since 1925 by £547,136. If the administration had not been sympathetic the payments would have decreased instead of increased. The number of pensions in force at the 30th June las; showed an increase of nearly 10,000 over the figures for 30th June, 1926.
– How many were for women and children?
– A great many, of course. I hope for’ the sake of the country that Jill the widows will marry and have children. The desire of the Government -is to continue to administer the Repatriation Act liberally, and I feel certain that the cost of pensions will increase each year until either 1930 or 1931, when I estimate that it will reach its peak.
While speaking on the subject of war pensions, I wish to acknowledge the great assistance given to me by the Repatriation Commissioners and their officers, who have loyally supported my efforts to give to the soldiers all that they were entitled to. I thank, also, honorable membei’3 on both sides of the House who have repeatedly brought to my knowledge information which I have been able to convey to the department, the Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Imperial League, which has been able to afford me most valuable help, and many men and women all over Australia who have written to me and brought under my notice the circumstances of soldiers who, in their opinion, were not getting a fair deal. I have in mind a specific Queensland case which was recently dealt with. For years a man who was suffering from tuberculosis had been refused a pension. The league was able to supply to me much information which that claimant had not divulged, and which was a very important factor in ultimately getting for him a full pension.
It must be clear to every honorable member that if this motion is carried it will be necessary to enact that all claims shall receive similar consideration. That cannot be given under the Repatriation Act,, which is governed by the vital condition that disability must be due to war service. I suggest to the honorable members for Adelaide and Ballarat that they have tackled a most difficult problem without giving it full consideration. The proposal now before us is Utopian; first, because it could not be carried into effect without a grave injustice to those suffering from other malignant diseases, such as Bright’s disease, cancel-, and rheumatoid arthritis, and, secondly, because it is impracticable. The “ expenditure upon pensions in 1927 was £7,558,559, and the estimate for 1928 is £7,694,000. If this motion were agreed to, I estimate that the pensions bill would be increased by £5,000,000 in the first year, and the increase would be progressive until it reached between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000 a year.
– That would not be the actual increase.
– That, is an estimate of the increase if this motion were adopted and pursued to its logical conclusion. I remind the House that the honorable member for Adelaide said on the 25th February, 1926-
I would be disposed, if I were dictator in this country, to rule that all chronic illhealth suffered by ex-soldiers should be set down as having been caused by their strenuous war service.
Obviously, it would be grossly unfair, and, indeed, dishonest, to single out tubercular cases for special treatment, and to leave sufferers from other malignant diseases subject to the limitations of the existing act. The logical consequence of carrying this motion would be that every one of us who has seen active service would be drawing a pension before, we died ; certainly, every .one of us who is within hail of the palsied seventies would become a pensioner.
– Persons are entitled to a pension before arriving at that age.
– Yes, but not under the Repatriation Act, which allows a pension only in respect of a disability due to war service. The intention of the Government is to faithfully carry out the desire of every honorable member, and, I believe, of every person in Australia, that full consideration should be given to each application, and every effort be made to connect the disability with war service. I can say truthfully that I have never approached this problem halfheartedly, but have at all times had a sense of my responsibility as Minister in charge of Repatriation, and a clear recognition of the duty of the Government.
– What is the procedure in connexion with “ arrested “ cases - cases in which the disease has been arrested through the soldier receiving the full pension and he has been able to return to work which, in conjunction with his fear of the disease, has again undermined his health?
– -If his disability is proved, he receives a pension of £2 2s. a week for life. If he is able to earn anything in addition, so much the better. I have heard of very many pensioners who were drawing £2 2s. per week for life, and were in good light employment. There is no reason why such a pensioner should not earn a reasonable income at light work.
There are very many cases resembling closely the one mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat. Only last week a very interesting one was brought to my notice by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who was able to assure me of his personal knowledge, that the applicant had been a sufferer for some years without having made any complaint or application for assistance. I carefully investigated the case. This man enlisted in 1916 at the age of eighteen, and did good service until he was wounded on the 1st September, 1918. and evacuated to England. His wounds were not serious, and seven weeks later they had healed, and he was discharged from hospital. On the 6th December, 191S, he was examined by a Medical Board, and declared fit for general service. He returned to Australia, and was examined by a Medical Board in Sydney, which reported him to be in perfect health. He was accordingly discharged on the 4th April, 1919. Later, he developed a cough and other symptoms, and, in an application for a pension in September of last year, he stated that he was unable to work owing to war injuries’ and the effects of gas.- He was admitted to hospital and found to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, but in the absence of a continuous history of illhealth since his discharge, it was considered that there were no reasonable grounds for accepting his ailment as. due to war service. However, the Leader of the Opposition was able to help me by his personal knowledge of the applicant, and ultimately the disability was certified as due to war service, and the man is now receiving a full pension.
The case mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat is a very unfortunate one. This man enlisted in the 7th Battalion in 1916, and went overseas late in the same year. He served in the field for about twelve months, and when route marching in Prance slipped and fractured a small bone in his leg. He wap ‘ti hospital for some time, and drew a full pension, which, as a result of medical examination, was subsequently reduced to one-fifth. On the 23rd November, 1925, he was medically examined for pension purposes, and his heart and lungs were found to be clear. His incapacity in respect of the ankle injury was assessed at one-eighth, and to that rate the pension was reduced as from the 10th December, 1925. On the 28th June, 1926, he appealed for a higher rate, on the ground that he was suffering from chest trouble. That was the first occasion on which he had mentioned chest trouble, although he had been repeatedly examined.
– Is the Minister certain that the doctors examined his chest when they were examining his ankle?
– I am not. and I do not say that they did; but an entry appears on the file that his heart and lungs were found to be clear. In June he was examined by the local medical officer at Clunes. In addition to the ankle injury, he complained of loss of weight, anorexia, insomnia, and night sweats. The local medical officer, after examination, recommended his admission to the Caulfield Repatriation Hospital for investigation of the chest condition. He was accordingly admitted to Caulfield on the 20th July, 1926, and was found to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. The fullest inquiries were made to discover whether this disability was related in any way to war service. In view, however, of the replies received, and the medical opinion, the commission on the 8th September, 1926, refused to accept responsibility. As the chest condition could’ not be accepted under the act- as due. to service, the pension could not be increased. In October, 1926, an appeal was lodged in which Collins claimed that he had been gassed, and that he had suffered from a cough since 1917. He alleged that the cough very slowly got worse, and that about October, 1925, the worst symptoms developed. The case was reviewed, and the principal medical officer minuted the files as follows : -
In view of his medical reviews since discharge, it seems to be unreasonable to attribute his present disability to service.
In view of that report, the appeal was disallowed on the 22nd December, 1926. In the following March, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) made representations to the Treasurer, and the case was referred to the Medical Advisory Committee, whose finding was -
As there was evidence that general health was good until 1925, the medical advisory committee did not consider it reasonable to attribute proved pulmonary tuberculosis as being duo to war service^ and resolved to recommend rejection of the claim.
On the 18th July last, the honorable member wrote to me to ask if anything could be done for this man, and stated, “I feel so strongly on this case that I have instructed Mr. Lazarus to issue a writ on the department, and I think this has been done.” The result of the honorable member’s action was that on the 12th July the Crown Solicitor advised the department that a writ had been received. On the 2nd August, 1927, I advised Mr. McGrath of the whole position, and pointed out that as the matter was before the Crown Solicitor, I was unable to personally go through the relative files, but as soon as the legal position permitted I would again go into the matter. On 11th January, 1928, Mr. McGrath forwarded two letters from Collins’ comrades in support of the statement that he had been gassed. In view of this, the files were obtained from the Crown Solicitor, and the case re-submitted to the medical advisory committee on the 14th January, 1928. The medical advisory committee did not dispute the statement that Collins was gassed, but did not consider that gas was the cause of his tuberculosis, which was considered to be an acute condition. The committee did not see any reason to alter its previous recommendation. On 17th January, 1927, Mr. McGrath was accordingly advised, and that the .commission was unable to vary the previous decision. Notwithstanding all this, the legal action was persisted in, and the case was heard in the Supreme Court at Ballarat before His Honour Mr.. Justice Wasley. Mr. Justice Wasley stated that, apart from any other consideration, he was not satisfied ou the evidence that the plaintiff had shown that his incapacity was due to war service, and he accordingly entered judgment for the defendants, with costs, including pendings. The commission, however, in view of all the circumstances, decided not to press for recovery of costs. That is a perfectly clear and concise account’ of the circumstances of the case, and it demonstrates that the man concerned is not entitled to a pension under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The law contains a definite and fixed principle, which must be embodied in every act inthe world relating to war pensions. There is no need for me to . consult my honoured and learned colleague respecting the provisions of an act. All that would be required to give effect to the motion now before the House would be proof of embarkation and disability. There is no difficulty about proof of disability. I do not suppose that there is one honorable member in this chamber who has not some disability, and if he has not, I am perfectly certain that he imagines he has. A disability in a tremendous source of comfort to mankind. Sir John Lubbock once said that if we take away all real or imaginary ailments from the human being, we deprive him of 95 per cent, of his pleasures, and I, as a member of the medical profession, should be the last to wish to do that. I appeal to honorable members to consider the motion with an unbiased view. I understand that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) purposes taking drastic action.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in one case submitted the evidence of people who for some years had known the returned soldier concerned. Would the Minister reconsider the case of Collins if 1 obtain similar evidence?
– Why has not the honorable member obtained it before?
– The Minister was away at the time.
– I have been back in Australia for some considerable time. Although the Leader of the Opposition was successful in his appeal in one case, he has not been so successful in others. He has brought innumerable cases under my notice, and in many instances has received a reply similar to that which .the honorable member for Ballarat said at one time was extremely courteous but did not supply any food. I regret very much that I have had to go into these details, but I trust that I have explained the position to the satisfaction, at all events, of our soldiers, my comrades, and the Government which I represent. In the interests of those whom we are anxious to serve I appeal to the honorable member for Adelaide to withdraw his motion.
.- The motion moved by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) is of grave importance. It concerns those who served overseas, and therefore should be considered from a non-party standpoint. I realize the difficulties of the Minister in respect of the legislation which this Parliament has passed, and it is to overcome those difficulties that the honorable member for Adelaide has moved his motion, his object being to obtain an expression of opinion from this House respecting the administration of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and the payment of pensions to tubercular soldiers. The motion provides that all ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force, who served overseas and have since developed tuberculosis, shall be deemed to be suffering from a war disability and be eligible for pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The carrying of that motion would be tantamount to a declaration by honorable members to the Government that our tubercular returned soldiers were suffering from many injustices. The act makes it imperative that any person applying for a pension must prove that his disability is due to war service. I submit that it is most difficult for anyone to prove that. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) quoted figures which were substantiated by the Minister, to the effect that the percentage of tubercular returned soldiers is about the same as that of tubercular civilians. The men who enlisted were the pick of Australia. They were in perfect health, and therefore not so liable to have the germs of tuberculosis in their lungs: They obtained a clean bill of health. Yet when they returned ‘ and were discharged a large and unusual percentage developed tuberculosis. There must be some special reason for that. Had they never left Australia, many of them would now be in perfect health. It is, therefore, only logical to conclude that they are. suffering from tuberculosis as the result of war service. Some consideration should certainly be given to them. The Minister has been good enough to quote a case that I brought under his notice. I am prepared to admit that he is most sympathetic in his consideration of these cases, and that he is doing everything possible to assist the returned soldiers, but his hands are tied by legislation. “We are responsible for that, and if any relief is to be given to these returned men, it must be brought about by this Parliament. If the. motion were carried, it would be a direction to the Government that, in the opinion of honorable members, better provision should be made for the payment of war pensions. The Minister has deprecated this course on the score of increased expenditure, and I confess that he staggered me - and I have grave doubts whether his information is correct - when he said that if we granted pensions to all returned soldiers suffering from some disability it would mean an increased expenditure of £8,000,000. I can hardly believe that possible, although I admit that a great number- of returned soldiers have contracted diseases.
– About 75,000 have contracted diseases.
– I do not think that all of them would be entitled to pensions. Pensions should be granted only in necessitous cases. Generally these cases are brought under the notice of honorable members, who, in turn, bring them under the notice of the Minister, whose hands are tied because of the drastic provisions of the act. I submit that it is most difficult to prove that tuberculosis has been caused through war service. A soldier may have received a whiff of gas, setting up the germ of tuberculosis in his lungs. He may have served a couple of years after that and returned to Australia, apparently in good health. May I say that it is to the credit of those men who served overseas that they had no desire to be placed on the medical list. Their only object was to get back to their homes and to re-commence work. The germ of tuberculosis may lie dormant in a person’s lungs for years, providing that he is sufficiently healthy to keep it in check. Then he may develop influenza, or some other ailment, which reduces his vitality. His constitution is weakened, and immediately the germ becomes active. It develops, and the sufferer discovers that he is afflicted with tuberculosis. If I were a returned soldier, and had developed tuberculosis four years after returning to Australia, how would I be able to prove that my complaint was due to war service? I listened closely to the honorable member for Ballarat when he described Collins’ case, and it seemed to me that the judge gave his decision reluctantly, because it was obviously impossible for the ex-soldier to prove that his disease was contracted overseas. Should we penalize men who give their services freely in the defence of their country? I have always contended that Australia would do justice to its returned soldiers. Much is to be said in favour of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Ballarat when the Minister pointed out that the cost of the proposal embodied in the motion would be too great. If the Government is not prepared to go so far as the honorable member desires, why not amend the act and place the onus of proof that the disease was not contracted on active service on the department? Why an applicant for a pension should be compelled to prove that he contracted his disease abroad is beyond my comprehension. Many of the cases that come under our notice from time to time are heart-rending. Only to-day a letter reached me from a woman who writes on behalf of her husband, who suffers from tuberculosis following ‘ war service. She points out that he spent four years at the war, and on his return was suffering from the effects of gas. There are six children, and my correspondent reminds me that a few years ago I was instrumental in getting her husband a pension. She states that this amounts to only £2 3s. 9d. a fortnight, and is insufficient to keep the parents and six children. After being in hospital for seven months, the husband improved in health, and on his return home he secured light employment ; but to-day he is a sick man. Part of the letter reads -
Sir, - I have to tell you we are very poor. We don’t mind being poor, if my husband was only better and strong again. God knows he is all I have, and, at the rate he is going, he won’t last long; so something must be done. He has been four years at the war. I am sick of living myself. It is nothing but hard work for me, when he can’t work, and I have to go out and do the work in order to get sufficient to keep the family going.
As’ the honorable member for Ballarat remarked, when the war pensions were fixed, the purchasing power of money was greater than it is to-day.
– That soldier’s pension is actually worth only about £1 5s. a fortnight.
– Yes. The mother should not have to go out to work. Provision should be made to enable her to rear her family in decent comfort. A yoting family requires parental care, and that -cannot be bestowed upon it if the mother has to go out to the wash-tub four or five days a week to a life of drudgery. If the law is so framed that justice cannot be done to our returned soldiers, we are merely evading our liabilities by casting on the applicant the onus of proving that his disability is due to war service. Tuberculosis is as prevalent among our returned men as it is among the rest of the community, although when our soldiers went abroad they were in the prime of life. After serving at the front for two, three or four years, they returned to their homes, and, within a couple of years of their discharge, ill-health overtook many of them. How can we say that the diseases from which they suffer are not due to war service? Many of them are married men with families, and their condition is deplorable. It is imperative that we should do something to meet these cases. The motion is not submitted in a party spirit. The Prime Minister was good enough yesterday to agree to having the motion fully discussed. I take it that he desires a decision upon it by this House. The subject is of national moment, and if theHouse is of the opinion that somethingfurther should be done, the Government should be given a direction to that effect. How can that be done without carrying the present motion, or a similar ona? If the Government cannot accept the motion in its present form, we should at least throw upon the department the responsibility of proving that the diseases from which the soldiers suffer are due to war service.
Sir -Neville Howse. - We have tried in every possible way to prove that they are disabilities arising out of war service..
– It is a most difficult thing for a soldier to prove that his disability is consequent upon war service.
– We try to help him all we can.
– I recognize that; but if the House expressed the opinion that the present legislation should be made more liberal, something tangible could be done in the interests of these unfortunate men. If the Government does not accept the motion in its entirety, cannot a member of the Government offer a suggestion for the liberalization of the present pensions? I am personally acquainted with many returned soldiers who have contracted disease since returning from the war, and they are unable to do any work. I know one who lives near my home, and- he has done no work for three years.For about twelve months he has been in a sanatorium, and he has received no assistance from the Government, because he cannot prove that his disability is due to war service. If we can do anything to alleviate the suffering of such men, we should not let half a million or a million sterling stand in the way. I would give the benefit of the doubt every time to those who went overseas, and are now stricken by disease.
– So would I.
– Then we should not allow the onus of proving that the disability is due to war service to rest entirely on the ex-soldier. No matter how sympathetic the Minister may be, the department is bound by the terms of the present act. If another national crisis arose, we could not expect men to give their services willingly unless we treat ex-soldiers well in cases when disease has overtaken them. I hope that the House will indicate that it is dissatisfied with the present act, and that honorable members will carry this motion or, as an alternative, that the Government will make some provision to liberalize war pensions. Honorable members on this side wish to make no political capital out of the motion. Every one of us is actuated by the one desire, to help the men who went overseas in the interests of their country.
:- The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has moved -
That all ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who served overseas and have since developed tuberculosis shall ba deemed to be suffering from a war disability, and be eligible for pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
I wish to congratulate the honorable member on the sentiments which prompted him to move that motion, but the subject is one that cannot be settled very easily, as it bristles with difficulties. The statistics enumerated by the gallant and distinguished gentleman who presides over the Department of Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) were illuminating, and his remarks compel us to acknowledge that we have in him a Minister who has stretched to the very limits the existing regulations to assist those afflicted. “When reviewing the incidence of tubercular infection amongst returned soldiers subsequent to the war, it is necessary to have regard also to its effects upon the civilian population for the very reason that this question revolves round the infection of returned soldiers now in civil occupation. Data of a very high statistical order regarding that infection is available, and it is interesting to note that, not even excepting cancer, tuberculosis has the highest death rate in the world. Reliable authorities estimate that at least one-seventh of the deaths in . the world may be attributed directly to the ravages of tuberculosis. Cancer has, if I may so express it, the grace to lay its incontinent hand upon those who have attained a comparatively adult or even advanced age, but tuberculosis generally puts its withering hand upon the flower of the flock, frequently upon those who have not even attained adult life; before they have an opportunity to render service to the nation. In that regard it may be considered to be a greater economic menace than cancer. By dissecting the available statistics we find that every five years, in Great Britain alone, 300,000 people die from tuberculosis, an average of 60,000 a year ; whilst in New South Wales at least 2,000 die every year from tuberculosis. While that indicates the mortality of the disease, it is not indicative of its morbidity, which is seven times greater, and the consequent economic loss in efficiency cannot be computed. That is explained by the simple reason that a number of people who contract tuberculosis either systemically, or pulmonary, do not give . . any indication that they suffer from the infection ; some continue until they approach the sere and yellow of old age without manifesting any indication of tuberculosis. If we were to examine the bodies of all who died, the results would be extraordinary. Continental scientists have studied the disease closely, and post-mortem demonstrations leave no room for doubt that 80 per cent, of the civil population are actually and actively at one time infected with definite tubercular disease, even though that was not the actual cause of death. Further investigation would disclose that the percentage is . even higher. Cases apparently following pneumonia, pleurisy or bronchitis, are frequently tuberculous from the onset. The honorable member for Adelaide outlined the many trying conditions under which we had to serve abroad. He told of .the hardships, the sufferings, the endurance and the submission to anxiety complex associated with active service. It is difficult to believe, when viewing those conditions retrospectively, that they could be survived by human, beings. I had- the privilege of serving three and a half years as adjutant of a combatant battalion, and was frequently impressed, when looking over the battalion ranks, by the outstanding physique of some men, individuals who promised to stop at nothing, who, one imagined, could overcome any physical tests of endurance to which they were subjected. Again, one saw individuals whose physique caused one to wonder whether they would stand the stress and strain of active service. It was extraordinary to me, professionally trained and possessing qualifications for observing such facts, to see many with shallow chests and angular shoulders displaying cavernous holes about the collar-bones, withstand the exigencies of the campaign, and develop into remarkably robust men. On the contrary, some of the apparently robust fell by the way. So that, while active service left many in a debilitated condition - suitable hosts for tubercular infection - it built up the constitution of others;, who, had they continued’ to pursue their sedentary civilian occupations, would probably have been subjected to an infection of tuberculosis in the ordinary course of their civilian lives, and this infection would possibly have proceeded to a fatal termination. Military discipline, the enforced regularity of our lives, and possibly the absence of opportunities for over-indulgence in stimulants, served to make many robust. That indicates that the arguments as to the effect of active service are conflicting indeed, and it is a matter of great difficulty to maintain a sense of proportion and assess their significance.
Next, we must consider the effect of poison gas as a cause of tuberculosis. Chlorine and formalin gases were employed only to a limited degree in the Russo-Japanese war, but were extensively used during the great war; and it is interesting to read the opinions of prominent medical practitioners upon their effect. I have here a medical tome dealing with the effects of gas. It is an authoritative text-book, compiled by the leading physicians of the world, among whom I may mention such people as Sir Thomas Horder, Dr. Arthur F. Hurst, Sir Maurice Craig, Dr. R. A. Young, Dr. Langdon Brown, Colonel Harrison, and Sir W. H. Willcox, medical authorities known throughout the English-speaking world. In referring to the effect of gas as an aetiological factor in the development of tuberculosis, those authorities say -
In certain cases, the inhalation of poisoned gases causes rapid activity and spread in latent disease, or it may possibly prepare the ground for re-infection; but it is not a factor of great aetiological importance.
This considered opinion of the foremost medical practitioners and surgeons was compiled since the war. The compilers of the book and its editor, Dr. Frederick Price, had access to all available data and literature on the subject, together with their own actual experience in thousands of cases, and they consider gassing is not of great significance as an aetiological factor - and their all-important statement deserves record. Whilst on this phase of the matter, I wish to recall to the mind of the Minister the attitude adopted by his department to many cases which were said to be of pulmonary significance and attributed to gas. I was approached by a professional man, a dentist, who had lost his voice some four years after returning from the war. In France he had been in an area which was supposed to have been gassed, and, claiming a war disability, he approached the Department of Repatriation in an endeavour to come under the pensions benefit. His claim was turned down. I approached the Minister on his behalf and further inquiries were made. A medical officer who had been in the vicinity in France at the time verified the man’s statements as to gas, and he received his pension. That is illustrative of many other cases which I have had the privilege to bring before the present Minister for Repatriation.
– The honorable member’s medical authorities did not count for much in that case.
– No; that is why I mentioned the case, for I should like the honorable member to realize that, despite what the greatest medical authorities in Great Britain have said as to gas being of little’ ^etiological significance, the department interpreted the regulations liberally and met that case, as they did many other cases.
– Why cannot the department treat Collins similarly?
– Apparently the honorable member was ill-advised to “ rush in where angels fear to tread.” Was the honorable member referring to the case which went to law?
– Then the honorable member apparently knows very little about it.
– I know that, after fighting for two years, Collins was turned down.
– This problem bristles with difficulties. I am confident that no honorable member desires to make political capital out of the motion. Certainly I do not view the question as a party one. I believe that it is the genuine desire of all to do their best to ratify the promises made to the soldiers at the beginning of the war and frequently reiterated since. But in doing those things we must endeavour to keep within the realm of practical politics, and I do not see how we can draw a line of demarkation between different diseases, however distressing and sad the cases may be. I can speak from my own personal experience as superintendent of a hospital in North Queensland. Take, for instance, cardiac cases, than which there is “no more distressing complaint. There is no outlook for the sufferer beyond patient resignation to the inevitable. Why should we grant a pension to the person suffering from tuberculosis, and refuse it to one suffering from heart trouble? There are many other diseases of the kind beside cardiac cases. There are, for instance, the border line mental cases - no more tragic or pitiable cases exist. The patient is able to conduct his affairs, and pursue the ordinary avocations of life for a time, but under the stress of earning his living, he breaks down. He is, perhaps, admitted to a mental hospital, and is later discharged from it as cured. Upon meeting with the competition of the world, he again breaks down, and his life is one long succession of nightmares. Why should such a person be left out of the proposals? The question is such- a . large one that we cannot, in .fairness to the returned men, draw invidious distinctions, picking out one disease and giving the unfortunate people who suffer from, it certain benefits which we are not prepared to grant to the others. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if this House cannot go the whole distance with pensions, we should, whenever opportunity presents itself, liberalize them as far as possible. I hope that during this debate there will be submitted a suitable amendment that will go some way towards meeting the requirements. No one will say that a T.B. soldier trying to earn his living has much opportunity of improving his condition. The disability is ten years old now, and the same thing applies to those suffering from gun shot wounds, fractures, &c. Their pensions should be altered and adjusted to meet the ever-growing percentage of inefficiency that will be their lot as they approach the end of their allotted span. Therefore, I think that while we are in thorough sympathy with the ideals of the honorable gentleman, he would be well advised to devise an amendment to the act, rather than advocate so sweeping a change as this. It is impossible for us to meet in full the requirements of or our obligations to the returned soldiers. If they were to get their just dues, this country would be impoverished for ever. As we are unable to meet their requirements in full, we ought to do the best we can for all classes of returned men, and not pick out those suffering from one particular disease, however prevalent. At the present time, world-wide attention is being focussed on tuberculosis. If onehalf, or even one-hundredth of the number of people had died in New South Wales from plague or smallpox as die each year from, tuberculosis, the country would have spent millionsto put an end to it; but because tuberculosis makes its insidious progress without drawing general attention to itself, little notice is taken of it. I had hoped that the Minister, even if he was not able to accept in toto the suggestions of the honorable member for Adelaide, might be able to submit to the House some scheme for liberalizing the existing pensions. I would suggest that a review should be made of every case of any disease or disability that has been turned down in the past. I know that they are always open to be reviewed on individual representation by members, and personally I have never met with a refusal to have a case reviewed. There are many cases, however, where men have gone into hospital as suspects. While there they have received the £2 2s. a week pension, but when a complete diagnosis was made they were said not to be suffering from tuberculosis, and they were discharged, frequently to return again and again and yet never able to obtain a permanent pension. If I read the amendment which I would propose, . it might assist some honorable members who follow me in the debate, to evolve a workable provision which would meet the situation. The amendment I would suggest is as follows : -
All ex-members of the Australian Imperial Forces who served overseas, and who have, since their return from active service, been accepted by the Repatriation Department as suffering from tuberculosis due to, or aggravated by, their war service, shall bo deemed to be suffering from war disabilities, and shall be eligible for a pension under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
In this suggested amendment I have endeavored to make provision for those cases not covered by the existing act. I have here a letter from the New South Wales Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Tubercular Association, which says -
I have been instructed by our branch of the above association to get in touch with you and endeavour to enlist your sympathy regarding the matter of permanent pensions for tubercular soldiers. There can be no doubt that when this act was passed, it was intended by members of the House to grant all men who have been proved by medical evidence to be suffering from tuberculosis due to war service, a permanent pension. The act now reads “All men proved to be,” which is a totally different matter. Under the present reading of the act, a soldier who is only proved, once since 1st July, 1925, is eligible, while men who have consistently proved for eight years prior to the passing of the act, and have, through clean living, &c, become an arrested case, though still unable to either follow or consistently follow any occupation, ave not eligible. We appeal to you for your support in this matter, which requires immediate attention. Our members look to you, sir, to right, what we consider, a grievous wrong, and give us what was first intended when this act was passed, viz. : - A permanent pension to all soldiers who have, since their return from active service, been accepted by the Repatriation Department as suffering from tuberculosis due to or aggravated by war service.
That was why I made an effort to frame an amendment that would cover those cases which do not come within the provisions of the existing act. The Tubercular Association has been doing great work in the interests of tubercular returned soldiers, and they appreciate the shortcomings and incompleteness of the existing regulations. We know the efforts that are being made by the Red Cross Society to deal with the problem of tuberculosis, as it exists’ among the civilian population, and the society is also including in its activities a certain and definite measure of work on behalf of returned soldiers. We should realize, therefore, that when we receive a request from the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Tubercular Association for an amendment of the regulations, we should take some cognizance’ of their request, and endeavour to have something done. It is evident, in spite of the remarks of the Minister for Health, that many individual cases are not getting the benefit of the doubt. This is not the fault of the Minister, but is due, no doubt, to the fact that their cases are not being presented to the Minister or the Repatriation Department in the proper way. But why should action be delayed until personal representation has to be made to the Minister? The honorable member for Adelaide, dealing with the medical examination, said that it was fair to assume that because 400,000 men were sent abroad after having been passed as medically fit, those men were at that time free from tubercular disease. That assumption cannot be allowed in the light of recorded facts regarding tubercular infection of the masses. Unless the examination took the form of submitting each man to a chemical test as well as an X-ray examination, it would not be possible to detect latent evidences of disease. The Minister told the House that it would cost something like £4,000,000 a year to meet the claims which would be made if the proposals of the honorable member for Adelaide were agreed to.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it would take £4,000,000 extra ?
– The Minister said so. I have not worked out the probable percentage infection or future probable infection in returned ‘ men and cannot dogmatize in that direction.
– The existing pensions cost only £7,000,000 a year. There would need to be a great many tubercular cases amongst soldiers to bring the pensions up to another £4,000,000.
– It would take as much to meet the claims which would follow as a logical result of accepting the proposal advanced by the honorable member’ for Adelaide, namely, that no matter what the disability, the sufferer would be entitled to receive a pension, it being necessary only to prove enlistment and subsequent disability.
– And £4,000,000 is the whole amount which it would cost?
– No; the sum would go on increasing gradually until the peak amount was reached, when the cost would be between £15,000,000 and £20,000,000 annually.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– After giving dispassionate consideration to the motion of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), I have decided that I cannot support it in its entirety for it is too comprehensive, and would result in an invidious distinction being drawn between exservice men who suffer from one disability and those who suffer from another. The literature at my disposal, and the knowledge that I have of medical matters, is sufficient for me to say that under existing conditions it would be impossible to prove iu many instances that the tubercular condition in which an ex-service man may be found to-day is the result of a war disability. If we were to grant ex-service men the relief proposed, we should also have to grant a similar concession to many munition workers as well as soldiers who were called upon during the war to discharge duties which might have added considerably to the possibility of their becoming victims to this infection as well as other diseases. This matter was debated some little time ago and speeches were made on it by both the honorable member for Adelaide and the Minister in charge of Repatriation. It was shown at that time that the highest incidence of infection from tuberculosis was at the age of from one to five years, but it must be recognized that bone and systematic tubercular disabilities would affect more persons between the ages of one and five years than between the ages of 20 and 45 years, for the reason that more persons of the lower age are alive and liable to infection. It is clear from the figures that have been placed before us that ex-service men are not more prone to tubercular infection than ordinary civilians. I submit that the Government has done nearly all that it could be reasonably expected to do with the funds at its disposal to assist out returned men. “We have been extraordinarily fortunate in having as- Minister in charge of Repatriation a gentleman who is familiar with every phase of this question from the medical, as well as the political stand-point. We may not always have such a Minister. It is, therefore, necessary that we shall frame our legislation in such a way that it will not be ambiguous, and that succeeding Ministers may not be able to administer it simply to suit their own personal views. The amendment that I forecast before the adjournment; and which I intend to move, would, I think, meet the wishes of the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association at the same time. It would enable a number of ex-service men who are at present u:.able to obtain relief, to secure a permanent pension ; and, consequently, I commend it to the favorable consideration of honorable members. I again direct attention to the third paragraph in the letter from the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association that I have already quoted. I move -
That the words “ developed tuberculosis “ be omitted, and that the following words be inserted in place thereof: “their ‘return from active service, been accepted by the Repatriation Department as suffering from tuberculosis due to or aggravated by war service,”.
.-While we may find some small consolation in the admission of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) that the pro visions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act should be amended - he has made such an admission by moving his amendment - I must say that the concession he is willing to grant is almost negligible. At- the same time, I am amazed at the change of front of the honorable member. His view now appears to be quite different from that which he expressed prior to the dinner adjournment. I disagree with his statement that the amendment will meet the wishes of the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association, as set out in its circular letter of the 6th March, which, possibly, has influenced him. I consider that even if we carry the amendment, we shall not materially help our tubercular soldiers or their dependants. I regret that the motion of the honorable member for Adelaide has not been received in a more sympathetic fashion. Its object, it appears to me, has been deliberately distorted. We should have accepted the motion, for it amounts to nothing more than an instruction to the Government. It is not binding as to procedure, but merely declares that honorable members are of the opinion that the. treatment of tubercular ex-service men should be liberalized. As a matter of fact, it is in the nature of a compromise. During 1926 the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) moved in this House a motion to the following effect:-
It is the opinion of this House that no soldier who was accepted after passing his examinations, and who actually went to the front and satisfactorily performed his allotted duties, should be refused any rights under the War , Pensions Act for himself or his dependants through certain present medical experts giving as their opinion the causes arose from pre-war causes.
It is also the opinion of this House that all nien who offered their lives, and passed the above scientific examination, should be considered perfectly healthy men from that date; and that discretionary power be vested in the .Repatriation Commissioners to grant pensions and other benefits where sufficient incapacity exists which did not appear at the time of enlistment - such discretionary power to be executed in the light of the character of the service rendered by the soldier.
I have not given the complete motion, but the part of it that I have quoted is sufficient to indicate that it was comprehensive. It was strongly supported by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr.
Prowse), the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes),, and honorable members on this side of the chamber, but was defeated. The honorable member for Adelaide has framed this motion in much less comprehensive terms, and I say in all seriousness, that it should not have been met with captious opposition on party political lines. Let me analyze the proposal. The motion mentions two requisites - (1) That the soldier must have had overseas service, which means that he must have passed through the testing period that followed enlistment and the rigors associated with training, transportation to England, and possibly further intensive training in a severe winter on Salisbury Plains; and (2) that the soldier is suffering from tubercular disease. The only objection that can be raised to the motion is that no time limit is prescribed within which a claim may be made. That objection is not serious, because the carrying of the motion would be merely a direction to the Government to submit to Parliament a measure to liberalize the Repatriation Act. The Minister, and other honorable members opposite, have asked, however, why we should discriminate in favour of ‘tubercular cases. Why should we not? Even the Minister has admitted that there is always an element of doubt as to the extent to which illness or other circumstances during ser- vice contributed towards tubercular infection, and that detection in the early stages is difficult. The honorable gentleman told us that years might elapse before the disease made itself evident, although all the time it was insidiously increasing its grip on the system of the victim. Plenty of soldiers had been subject to chronic colds and other ailments for years, and never realized the significance of . their symptoms until a serious hemorrhage occurred.These facts are known to the Minister, and he should give. due attention to them. I have brought to his notice many cases which, but for persistent agitation, would have been deprived of their pension rights. In one instance I had to agitate for four years before a pension was> granted. The man had been wounded badly, and returned to Australia debilitated by his war service. Subsequently he caught a cold and contracted tuberculosis, from which he died. His widow was awarded a small pension because her husband had lost an eye, but the department refused to admit that there was any evidence that the tubercular infection had been caused by war service. The claim for a full pension was repeatedly before the department, the Treasurer, who was then administering repatriation, and the present Minister for Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse), who ultimately granted it. If the unfortunate widow had not had somebody to represent her claims to the Minister, she would still be slaving over a wash-tub. Such obstruction and delays are wrong. Another case brought under my notice a fewweeks ago was that of a man v/ho, upon his return from the front, developed tuberculosis. Evidence of a pre-war infection was found .by the doctors, who admitted that war service had aggravated his weakness. He was granted a pension for a fixed period. The term of aggravation having ended, in the opinion of the doctors, the pension was terminated. To-day that man is dying in Auburn of tuberculosis, and the department still absurdly disclaims liability. The decision in these cases should not be left to the discretion of a Minister. I agree that the gentleman who is at present in charge of repatriation has been fairly generous.
– The claims are not left to the discretion of the Minister. They are dealt with by the commission.
– But often the Minister has to intervene in behalf of a claimant or his dependants to influence the commission and its advisory boards to give further consideration to a case. The honorable gentleman admitted today that he had stretched the act to its limits. I believe he has done so, but that is wrong in principle. If the act is faulty, it should be amended. Justice in pension affairs should not be dependent upon the sympathetic predisposition of any individual or group of individuals who happen to be administering the law. I do not suggest that the present Minister would show favoritism, but in the absence of a specific direction by
Parliament, there is a danger that some future Minister may be swayed by considerations of party or friendship to give a favorable decision. The responsibility of determining the pension rights of the soldiers belongs to Parliament, and this matter should be decided free of any attempt to make political capital out of it. I feel sure that there is in the House a majority of members who, if free to deal with the matter on its merits, would support the principle which the motion enunciates.
I stress the unfortunate position of hundreds, and, possibly, even thousands of men, sufferers from tuberculosis and other war disabilities, who in spite of the reforms in the Department, which have been a feature of the present Minister’s administration, were refused pensions, and are now living in asylums and hospitals in various parts of the Commonwealth. Visiting the State hospital at Lidcombe, which is in my electorate, I saw in the chest war.d 60 or 70 patients of all sorts and conditions - returned soldiers, black fellows, Chinamen, and whites - in all stages of tubercular infection ; some were dying and others were in the intermediate stages of the disease. I did what I could to assist those poor chaps financially and otherwise, but no doubt amongst them are some who, if they were aware of the more liberal administration of the Repatriation Department, could establish a claim for a pension which would give to them greater comforts for the brief remainder of their lives. In regard to tuberculosis one broad principle has to be borne in mind. The disease is insidious in its development, and pitiful in its consequence. It requires the most careful treatment, the best nutrition and most skilled help that are available, and the victims are entitled to the maximum degree of sympathy from this Parliament. The tendency of the legislature has been steadily to liberalize the treatment of tubercular soldiers, and that is the justification for the motion.
Reference has been made to the probable financial consequences of a more generous treatment of tubercular cases. I have a letter from the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association in Sydney, in which it is stated that about 200 consumptive soldiers are receiving no pension from the Federal Government. No doubt they are left to wander about and make the best of things; and no one is prepared to accept responsibility for the maintenance of their wives and families. A man who becomes infected with tuberculosis is’ more or less a leper ; only one other disease has more dreadful social consequences to the victim.
I join issue with those honorable members who stated that war service generally increased the stamina of the soldiers. Possibly it did so in many cases; some of us undoubtedly felt- the benefit of the training and military life; nevertheless, exposure, hardship, malnutrition, sordid surroundings, slush, sleet and snow in one climate and enervating heat in another combined to undermine the resistance of many men and to send them back to Australia debilitated. In the Repatriation Commission’s report reference is made to the slow progress of tubercular infection amongst soldiers and their diffidence in approaching the department for medical treatment. According to a return contained in the report, out of 72,388 pensioners, 24,936 suffered from diseases of the respiratory organs, and other diseases which are invariably the outcome of exposure; there were 2,675 tubercular victims, 5,829 suffering from asthma, bronchitis, pleurisy and pneumonia, and 16,432 sufferers from rheumatism, debility, gas poisoning, nephritis, and other diseases. In other words, more than onethird of the total number of pensioners owe their disability to exposure and hardship during war service. Next in the list were the heart cases, also due to exposure, which numbered 6,561.
The Minister took credit for the fact that the number of pensions has increased during the regime of the presentGovernment. That is due to the liberalization of certain pension schedules, but the number of soldier pensioners has not increased. According to the commission’s report, in 1920 there were 90,389 incapacitated members of the expeditionary forces. In 1927 the number had decreased to 72,388 ; but the number of dependants had increased in that- period from 86,000 to 147,000. The whole increase has been in respect of soldiers’ wives and children, and other dependants. The number of soldiers is declining all the time; possibly 20,000 members of the Austraiian Imperial Forces have died since the end of the war, and the Commonwealth’s liability in respect of the soldiers, apart from their dependants, has been considerably diminished. The motion moved by the honorable member for Adelaide speaks for itself, in spite of all the hair-splitting and quibbling which have been indulged in during this debate. It is simply a broad direction to the Government, and if it is accepted by honorable members in the spirit in which it has been moved, it can do no harm. It will simply give the Government a direction to introduce further amending legislation during this session. If the House is not prepared to accept the motion, it should certainly be prepared to submit some alternative. The onus of proving a war disability should be thrown not upon the soldier, but upon the department. If honorable members are not prepared to accept the motion they should certainly fix the period during which tuberculosis, in the absence of contributing causes, can be reckoned as being caused through war service. It is no use rejecting this motion and accepting in its stead the amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert, which can achieve nothing. It would simply re-affirm the present administration of the act, and would certainly not meet the requirements of the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association. That body complains that when it was decided to give a permanent pension to tubercular soldiers, the general impression -was that it was a generous concession that would apply to the whole of them, but when it came to a matter of administration it was decided that all men proved to be tubercular on 1st July, 1925, were to receive a permanent pension at a minimum rate of £2 2s. a week, and, of course, a proportionate allowance for their wives and other dependants. That concession has created an anomaly. All the men who suffered from tuberculosis prior to July, 1925, and whose disease possibly had then been arrested but who are just as much disabled as those whose disease has since been arrested, are not covered by this concession. They are not covered by the administration of the act, nor, unless I am mistaken, would they be by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert. These men will always be disabled. Their disease has had a detrimental effect on their general health and mental condition, yet because their disease was arrested prior to July, 1925, they are not entitled to the pension. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert provides for no protection for these men. The Minister suggested that the establishment of a war pensions, appeal board was unnecessary so long as he administered the department. I would direct the attention of Government supporters to the fact that the establishment of an appeal board is now part of the policy of the Returned Soldiers’ League of Australia. I mention that because it indicates dissatisfaction with the Repatriation administration, with the policy that the returned soldier has to prove his case, and with the policy of refusing him the right of access to his medical file. It also indicates resentment of the fact that doctors can disagree in their diagnosis of a complaint, and yet the returned soldier concerned is not able to put his point of view. I have looked through the medical files, and discovered that in the case of a man suffering loss of voice, one doctor decided that the disability Avas due to venereal disease. Two other doctors disagreed with that diagnosis, but the soldier himself had no knowledge of the conflicting opinions. As a result of a strenuous fight that man received a pension. Appeal boards have operated successfully in New Zealand and Canada. A man should have the right to go before a board and argue his case, proffer medical testimony, and, if necessary, engage a legal advocate. The board should be well balanced, consisting of representatives of the public, the returned soldiers, and the medical officers. Every phase of thought could be represented on it. A board - of that description would end these everlasting appeals to the Minister, and frequent ventilation of cases on the floor of this House. The returned soldiers would feel that they were getting a full measure of justice. The work of the department itself would be lightened and dissatisfaction would be brought to an end. It is wrong in principle for any Minister to say that he will give personal attention to the cases that are brought under his notice. I am concerned about hundreds of returned soldiers who are ignorant that they can approach a member of Parliament and have their cases ventilated in this House. Some time ago the Opposition in another place were responsible for the appointment of a select committee which overrode the determination of the Repatriation Commission, and as a result, £1,000, as arrears of pension, was paid to the returned soldier concerned. These men should know the nature of the evidence tendered against them. It is against all the accepted principles of British justice to allow a man’s case to be heard by a board and he personally not to come into contact with it. The practice of referring files to a Medical Advisory Board in Melbourne, whose duty it is to examine the documents only, and not the individual, is utterly wrong. I apologize for taking up so much -time in discussing this motion, and possibly preventing others from speaking. This subject has been debated in the House before, and I hope that the motion will be carried in the spirit in which it has been submitted to the House.
.- I have listened with the keenest interest to the speeches which have been made by honorable members upon the motion of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). I have always maintained - and the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members have expressed the) same opinion - that party politics should play no part in a debate affecting repatriation. It seemed to me that the Government in accepting the recommendation of the royal commission which was appointed in 1925 to investigate matters affecting repatriation and pension payments - that ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force suffering from tuberculosis due to war service should be granted a permanent pension - fully appreciated the peculiarly distressing circumstances and conditions under which unfortunate men suffering from tubercular exist. I am sure that we all sympathize with the position of the returned soldier who is suffering from heart, kidney or other troubles mentioned by the Minister and the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) this afternoon; but the most tragic figure of all to me is the man who left these shores strong and healthy, and on returning from active service, and rejoining his family, was presently struck down by this dread disease. In many instances a man suffering from this disability cannot obtain employment even if he is able to work, and he is always oppressed by the nightmare that he is probably a menace - to the members of his own family. I know that the Government had that in mind when it accepted the recommendation of the royal commission. Not long ago, at the request of the T.B. Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association of Queensland, I asked the Repatriation Commission to make the position quite clear in connexion with the pensions paid to certain ex-members of the Australian Imperial Forces, who are suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, and I received the following reply: -
There is noact which provides for a permanent pension of £2 2s. a week for men suffering from tuberculosis. Cabinet, however, approved of such a pension being paid, but the ‘provision is restricted to those who are definitely certified to be suffering from proved tuberculosis. Although the cases which have received sanatorium treatment, and have subsequently been paid a special rate of pension, are nearly always found to be “ proved tuberculosis “ cases, and are consequently entitled (under the Cabinet decision) to a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. per week, there may still be rare cases, which, on the tests being applied, cannot be medically certified as “ proved tuberculosis,” and, therefore, may be liable to reduction below the £2 2s. rate, should the medical assessment of the disability be less than 100 per cent.
I should like also to quote from the report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ending 30th June, 1926, which I do not think has been circulated among honorable members. The commission in that report says: -
The Government decided that a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. per week should be paid to all “ members of the forces “ proved to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis on or subsequent to 1st July, 1925, as a result of war service, or as a result of a preexisting condition having been materially aggravated by war service.
This important decision necessitated a review of all cases diagnosed as suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis and other chest complaints. On the advice of the medical advisory committee, the commission decided that, in order to establish proof or otherwise that the ex-soldier was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, each case was to be investigated on the following lines: -
Brief clinical history (including all postwar illnesses, mode of life, habits, occupation).
Signs and symptoms -
b ) Expectoration.
Temperature variation - daily,
Temperature responses to exercise.
Effort response to exercise.
Response to diagnostic tuberculin. ( To be used with great discrimination, and focal as well as constitutional reaction noted. This test is not of paramount importance.)
Appearance suggesting toxemia,
Weight (coat and vest off). State recent variations, if any.
Sputum tests. Nature and number of tests to be stated. Repeated bacteriological examinations to be made, and concentration method is to be used where necessary. Animal injection (guinea pig) in cases of pleurisy with effusion.
Inspection. Local evidence from physical examination.
X-ray report - routine procedure.
Screen examination - to investigate -
Movements of diaphragm.
Normal clearness or otherwise of bases, presence of pleuritic adhesions (costo-phrenic symphisis), fluid, &c.
Presence and distribution of gross densities.
Appearance of heart and aorta.
Transverse 10 x 12 film of upper half of thorax includes essential parts, if fluoroscopy shows and basal abnormality an additional 10 x 12 film should be taken at upper border of clavicle on affected side.
Summary and diagnosis. (Consultant opinion to be obtained, if required.) It is especially desired that ambiguity should be avoided in recording dates or periods, as well as in stating casuation of unemployment, absence from work and of medical attendance.
Out of a total of 2,160 cases suffering from diagnosed or suspected pulmonary tuberculosis, 1,140 cases had been reexamined up to the 30th June, 1926. Of this latter number it was found that 811 were suffering from “proved” pulmonary tuberculosis. The annual liability of the Commonwealth had increased by £20,000 in respect of the pension of 284 ex-soldiers, of the 811 cases, being raised to £4 4s. per fortnight, with resultant and corresponding increases to their dependants. But, of course, their pension could not be increased to £4 4s. until it had been proved that they were suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis on or after 1st July, 1925. These figures show that when the re-examination took place of the 1,140 sufferers, who up to that time had been diagnosed as suffering from the disease, about 300 cases were reported “unproved.” As far as I can understand the amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), these 300 cases, some of which have, no doubt, since been proved to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, would be met, since it could not be shown under the regulation as it now exists that they were entitled to receive a permanent pension of £2 2s. a week. It seems to me that the amendment, if acceptable to’ the Minister, would meet the wishes of the honorable member for Adelaide.
– Oh no! That is practically the present law. What about those who would get no pension at all?
– The present law is quite clear. It provides that those examined on or after the 1st July, 1925, and proved to be suffering from the disease, would be entitled to receive a permanent pension of £2 2s. a week. That does not include, for instance, the 300 out of the 1,140 exmembers of the A.I.F. who were reexamined after 1st July, 1925, and who were found to be not then suffering from proved pulmonary tuberculosis. But the amendment would bring them in, and I take it that they would be entitled to £2 2s. a week for life, and, if the medical decision warranted it, £4 4s. a week. If appears to me that there has been misunderstanding even in the variousbranches of the Repatriation Department throughout the Commonwealth in regard to the instructions about tubercular cases, and I doubt whether uniform action has been, taken in the various States. Apparently years sometimes pass before it can be established beyond doubt that an exsoldier is actually suffering from this disease. In one case that has come under my notice it is stated that the man was employed, on his discharge from the Australian Imperial Force in 1919, in the Accounts branch of the Repatriation Department. He had been ill since February of that year. I believe that he suffered a severe hemorrhage in the office of the department. He was examined by a medical officer in Brisbane and was sent on to a medical board. He -then had to go before another medical officer, and, finally he was examined by the “ T.B “ officer of the Queensland Government, who certified him to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. He was sent to Kyoomba Sanatorium, near Stanthorpe, in March, 1919, and was discharged in the following July. He was in receipt of the full pension to June, 1921. He then had three-quarters, and half pension, which was subsequently increased to the full pension in 1923. He was accepted by the Repatriation Commission in December 1922, as suffering from tuberculosis due to war service. He was sent to the Kyoomba Sanatorium again in January, 1923, and was discharged in the following April at his own request. He received the full pension at each review since 1923. His disability was then disclosed by the Principal Medical Officer of Queensland as not proved pulmonary tuberculosis. That is the position of this man after five years of treatment. His malady is still regarded as not proved as being due to war service. I think that the Minister could do a great service to those unfortunate sufferers, if he would issue instructions at the earliest possible moment that all outstanding cases that were not accepted as “ proved “ be again examined without delay. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) quoted what appeared to me to be an astounding case. I did not quite understand whether he said that he had asked the Minister to investigate it.
– The Minister was away at the time.
– Why should the honorable member have to take the case to the Minister?
– I feel sure that if it could have been shown to the Minister that there was any connexion between the man’s disability and his war service, he would have received the pension long ago. I have had a number of cases under my personal notice, and one, in particular, to which the Minister referred. It was that of an unfortunate married man who never got as far as France or any theatre of war. He landed in England in midwinter, and had to remain in one of those camps which, as some of my friends know, imposed rather a severe test on the men, and there his trouble began. He did not hear a shot fired, because his health did not permit of his being sent into the field. For some years after his discharge he carried on in Australia without tubercular trouble appearing; but in the last two or three years he has suffered from it. The Minister investigated the case and personally interviewed this ex-soldier, who is now in receipt of a full pension. He has a wife and child, and he received a considerable sum as back payment for the years during which it was finally decided that he should have been in receipt of the pension.
– I have a similar case before me,, and the Minister will not look at it.
– Speaking as a layman, I think that this case was finally proved because it was shown that before the man left Australia in 1917 he was in camp for two years on home service. He was not fit to go into the field; but, apparently, in 1917, when it was difficult to get recruits, he was accepted for service in the field. But the day before he went aboard thetroopship seventeen of his teeth were removed, and it was impossible for him to take the food provided. He was not provided with artificial teeth, and I think that it was agreed that owing to the hard time he had experienced in camp, together with the loss of his teeth, his general health was affected.
-i looked at the papers in that case, and the board indicated that the man was to be given the benefit of the doubt. I know another case identical with that quoted by the honorable member, but the Minister will not give the man the benefit of the doubt. The man’s wife and child are now earning their own living.
– I agree that that should not be necessary; but if it is possible to establish any connecting link between an ex-soldier’s disability and his war service, there certainly should be no hesitation in granting the pension. I know that the members of the Medical Advisory Board that sits in Melbourne are eminent members of their profession, who give their services voluntarily, and in cases of tuberculosis, particularly, they are anxious to give exsoldiers the benefit of any doubt that may exist. Another case that I have under my notice is that of an ex-member of the service suffering from tuberculosis. Years after the war ended he developed this complaint, and he was not granted the pension until he was able to bring definite prpof, certified by two or three members of his regiment, that for three nights while serving with his unit in the field he had a most gruelling time, and suffered from a heavy cold; The honorable member for Adelaide has given us a vivid description of some of the nights that he experienced during his term in the Aus tralian Imperial Force, and this man had very similar trials. He spent nights in mud and slush, and that alone was sufficient to justify the granting of the pension, on the ground that his disability could be connected with his war service. I feel sure that every effort is being made by the Commission and the Minister to give the soldiers the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.
– What benefit would result from the acceptance of the amendment?
– It appears to me that it would cover the men referred to in the letter that all honorable members have received from the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association in New South Wales.
– Will the honorable member read that letter?
– The letter reads -
Sir, - I have been instructed by my branch of the above association to get in touch with you and endeavour to enlist your sympathy regarding the matter of permanent pensions for tubercular soldiers.
There can be no doubt that when this act was passed, it was intended by members of the House to grant all men who have been proved by medical evidence to be suffering from tuberculosis due to war service, a permanent pension. The act now reads - “all men proved to be,” which is a totally’ different matter.
Under the present reading of the act, a soldier who is only proved once since 1st July, 1925, is eligible, while men who have been consistently proved for eight years prior to the passing of the act and have, through clean living, &c, become an arrested case though still unable to either follow or consistently follow any occupation, are not eligible. We appeal to you for your support in this matter, which requires immediate attention.
Our members look to you, sir, to right what we consider a grievous wrong, and give us what was first intended when this act was passed, viz., a permanent pension to all soldiers who have, since their return from active service, been accepted by the Repatriation Department as suffering from tuberculosis due to or aggravated by war service.
I take it that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) covers those men who, prior to 1st July, 1925, had been accepted as having contracted tuberculosis during war service. The motion, as amended by the honorable member for Herbert, will read -
That all ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who served overseas and have since their return from active service been accepted by the Repatriation Department as suffering from tuberculosis due to or aggravated by war service shall be deemed to be suffering from a war disability. . . .
I should like to place on record the statements of the Minister for Repatriation made on the 21st August, 1925, to this effect -
We come now to the crux of the whole question. Honorable members, I know, are anxious to ascertain the views of the Government with reference to tubercular cases. The commission recommends -
A permanent pension in some degree be paid where tuberculosis has resulted from war service.
The Government has decided to accept this recommendation, and it will be given effect to from the 1st July last.
– What will be the basis of the permanent pensions?
– I am about to explain. Ex-members of the forces proved to be suffering from tuberculosis as the result of war service will be paid a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. a week, but will be required to present themselves for periodical medical examination in order that they may be advised as to the progress of the disease and the necessary treatment. There will be no right or authority for the pension to be reduced at any time, but it can be increased if the disability has become worse.
– Are they to receive two guineas for life whether they are cured or not?
– Am I not speaking clearly enough? Each of these men will receive at least £2 2s. a week independent of his condition as disclosed on re-examination.
He will only be re-examined for his own benefit, so that he will know what progress he has made, and be told the line of treatment he should pursue. The pension will not be reduced under any circumstances.
I also wish to quote the following passages from a report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1926:-
The remarks published in former reports regarding treatment in sanatoria can be reiterated, but it is noted that patients are now more willing to return for treatment when occasion warrants. There is a definite improvement in the attitude of patients to graduated work, and a vast increase in the amount of useful work performed. On the whole, the majority of -patients who enter sanatoria now are really desirous and willing to co-operate with the medical officers in their treatment. There has, of course, been considerable interest provoked by the reported “ cures “ for tuberculosis. Numbers of individual patients have approached the commission’s medical officers for information on the subject, and on being informed that there was no proof as yet that any of the cures had definite value, seemed quite satisfied to let it rest at that and carry on with slow routine treatment.
The following portion of the report relates to the difficulty experienced in diagnosing tuberculosis : -
The provision of a permanent minimum pension of £2 2s. per week for ex-soldiers suffering from proved pulmonary tuberculosis since the 1st July, 1925, has not been in operation for a sufficient length of time to enable any dogmatic statements to be made concerning the results. It has certainly emphasized the difficulty of establishing a diagnosis be- - yond doubt in many cases of pulmonary disability. The diagnosis of clinical tuberculosis on which many patients have been admitted to sanatoria for treatment has, in several cases, required revision after a period of treatment, and observation in such institutions has failed to establish proof that the tubercle bacillus was the infecting agent. It is recognized that the associated signs and symptoms justify the diagnosis of clinical tuberculosis.
If the Minister would immediately issue the definite instruction that all cases which are still outstanding as doubtful should be re-examined, including particularly those cases which prior to the 1st July, 1925, had been accepted as suffering from tuberculosis due to war service, much of the anxiety which now exists would disappear. These unfortunate men in many instances have lived in hospitals for long periods, and suffer great anxiety and uncertainty about their condition. We have the assurance of the
Minister that it takes a long time to decide whether a person is actually suffering from tuberculosis. As an ordinary layman I must express amazement that it should take years to arrive at any definite diagnosis in such cases.
The Minister referred to the request of those who advocated the appointment of a federal appeal board. I must plead guilty to being one who advocates such a board. I believe thata federal appeal board, constituted on the lines of the appeal boards appointed in Great Britain and Canada, would advance the interests of ex-soldiers incapacitated through war service. I agree that while the present Minister for Repatriation remains in that office individual cases will probably receive better treatment than they would get from any appeal board, but after considerable study of the subject I am convinced that, speaking generally, an appeal board would be most advantageous for the men concerned. Once that board was appointed it would be improper for any ex-member of the Australian Imperial Forces to apply to his parliamentary representative to take up his case; the decision of the board would be final. I do not desire to cast any reflection upon the Medical Advisory Board which now sits in Melbourne. That board has rendered excellent service, but after all it is an advisory board, and the Repatriation Commission is prone to qualify a number of its decisions by stating that the board was consulted, thus throwing the onus for the rejection of an appeal on the board. The Canadian Pensions Act provides that -
There shall be a board known as “ The Federal Appeal Board “ consisting of not less than three nor more than seven members appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice.
The , majority of the members shall be persons who served in the naval, military or air forces, of Canada during the war.
Each person shall devote the whole of his time to the performance of his duties under this act, and shall not accept or hold employment inconsistent therewith.
At present much of the trouble and distress is attributable to doubt, and to the long delays to which many cases are subjected, and I am confident that a similar board in Australia would best meet the needs of our returned men.
.- Like many other honorable members, I have been approached by a number of returned soldiers suffering from tuberculosis who have asked me to use my influence with the Minister for Repatriation to secure pensions for them, and I have been a successful advocate on several occasions. While I appreciate the courtesy and consideration which have always been extended to me by the Minister in charge of Repatriation, I realize, as the honorable gentleman stated, that he is not all-powerful in the matter; that the Repatriation Commission has the discretionary power and can turn down applications for pensions. I could cite quite a number of such cases, but shall confine myself to one, of which I hope the Minister will take note. It is the case of a man named Carmody, the son of John Carmody, of Camboon, in Queensland. That man contracted tuberculosis after returning from the war, and spent a considerable time in a private hospital in Rockhampton, where he was treated by the doctor for tuberculosis contracted during war service. After spending about £400 on - medical treatment, and hospital expenses, Carmody died, fully believing that the department would pay the amount, or would, at least, pay him a pension to enable him to meet his obligations to the hospital and to his medical advisers. The department,- however, dilly-dallied over the matter. To-day his father, who is not in a good position financially, is expected to pay the hospital expenses and the. doctors’ fees, amounting in all to about £400. That is unjust, and although that case has been before the Minister in charge of Repatriation, we are still awaiting a favorable reply. The Government should at least pay the hospital and medical expenses incurred by this man. I can see no objection to the motion moved by the honorable member for Adelaide. I think that it is reasonable, and if it is carried it will be an indication to the Government that honorable members, irrespective of party, believe that more liberal treatment should be meted out to tuberculosis sufferers who are returned soldiers. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) does not go far enough. . The amendment says that in order to be eligible for a pension applicants must be “ accepted “ by the Repatriation Department as suffering from tuberculosis, brought on by war service. There are many cases in which applicants have not yet been accepted by the department as suffering from tuberculosis due to the effects of ‘ war. The honorable member for Ballarat has one case in mind, while the case I have brought up is another. The department questions the truth of the statement that these people are suffering from tuberculosis as a result of war service, or that their condition was aggravated by war service. There are many men in that position to-day.
– Would .those people not be accepted now ? If they were accepted, or certified, as suffering from the disease, would they not get the pension?
– Not if their complaint was arrested before the 1st July, 1925. They would get it when their case was proved. The amendment would cover a certain number of cases at present excluded, but it would leave out other cases. The honorable member for Ballarat mentioned a case in which the Repatriation Department would not ac. cept the claim of a man suffering from tuberculosis.
– What does “ accept “ mean?
– I take it that it means when the department recognizes the man’s claim that he is suffering from tuberculosis due to a war disability.
– My point is that they get the pension now. If the .department says that they are suffering from tuberculosis owing to war service, they get the pension at the present time. Therefore, what does this amendment do?
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert does not go far enough. It includes certain men who are at present excluded, but it would not cover other cases.
– Does the honorable member know that the amendment covers all that the Tubercular Association is asking for?
– There are a number of cases in which the department has not accepted the applicants’ statement that their disabilities were caused by war service. I admit that the amendment will cover some of the cases quoted by the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association, but cases like that quoted by the honorable member for Ballarat will not be covered. Why should there be any doubt about this matter ? It is better that there should be nine cases of imposition than that one just claim should be disregarded. I take it that all those who are prepared to support the amendment of the honorable member for Herbert will also be prepared to go still further, and to support the motion moved by the honorable member for Adelaide. I am reminded that the last alteration of the practice of the department was authorized by Cabinet minute. Cabinet can accept this amendment, and give effect to it in the same way. What we have to consider is whether the Repatriation Act is being administered in a sufficiently generous way. The fact that returned soldiers’ associations in every State are asking for the establishment of appeal boards to review pensions shows that there is a good deal of discontent and dissatisfaction among the returned soldiers themselves. According to the report of the Repatriation Commission 2,671 tubercular cases were treated last year. Only 1,047 tubercular soldiers are receiving the special rate pension of £4 a week, or £8 a fortnight. If the whole 2,671 were granted the special rate pension of £8 a fortnight it would cost £555,000 a year, as against £217,776 a year at present paid to 1,047 pensioners. When we consider the matter fairly, it is evident that the increased expenditure would be negligible ; quite a small amount, comparatively speaking. If the Government would only accept the motion of the honorable member for Adelaide it would satisfy some hundreds of soldiers who to-day are not accepted by the department as suffering from war disabilities, and who, in many cases, are practically starving. As the honorable member pointed out in his speech there are cases in which the wives are going out washing in order to earn enough money to keep their children and their tubercular husbands. The amendment of the honorable member for Herbert does not touch those cases at all.. The Minister himself admitted in the course of his speech that there were many cases in which the department previously refused pensions that were subsequently granted after he had had inquiries made. That shows clearly that the Repatriation Commission, which is really all powerful, and which can even disregard the Minister’s advice, if it so desires, has on the Minister’s own admission, made mistakes in the past. He has been able, by making suggestions to the commissioners, to induce them to change their minds. The Government should deal most generously with applicants for pensions. These men gave their very best, and suffered all kinds of hardships in the course of their war service. Their constitutions were so impaired that they became an easy prey to this dread disease. The Government has reduced taxation in many cases, thereby conferring benefits on a large section of wealthy people. These people own property, and had a great deal to lose if Great Britain had lost the war. Taxation on these people was reduced, but if it had been continued at the previous level until justice had been done by every applicant suffering from war disabilities, there would be ample money in the Treasury to pay the pensions to which the men are entitled. The Commonwealth income tax collection for the year 1921-22 was £16,790,000. In 1925-26 it had fallen to £10,858,000, due to reductions made by this Government in taxation that fell largely on the shoulders of the wealthy members of the community. The Government has reduced taxation for this year by £1,800,000. That sum would more than meet the increased cost of the pensions now asked for. There are other ways in which the Government ought to economize than by refusing pensions to those who are entitled to them. The very best we can give these sufferers would not compensate them for what they have been through. The Minister, in his reply, quoted statistics to show that the annual mortality per 10,000 of males in Australia was about the same amongst civilians suffering from tuberculosis as amongst soldiers suffering from that disease. There are, however, certain figures relating to males between the ages of 45 and 55’ which show that while the annual mortality amongst civilians was only 13.94, that amongst returned soldiers was 27.10. I do not think that there is any one who will say that the returned soldiers to-day are get ting pensions which are too high, or which are nearly high enough. If we consider the increased cost of living, and the depreciation of the purchasing power of money, we shall find that taking the pre-war period from July of 1914 to the corresponding period of 1927, the prices of many commodities have increased by more than 50 per cent. The figures show that the cost of living increased by at least 50 per cent, between July,” 1914, and May, 1927. The average index figure taken by the statistician for all commodities in July, 1914, was 1,000. By May, 1927, it had risen to 1,524. In other words, a pension which was worth 20s. in 1916 or 1917 is worth only 10s. to-day. I submit that, in view of all the facts, the Government should liberalize the pension conditions. Whether the maximum amount of pension payable be increased or not, exservice men who are suffering from tuberculosis should be given the benefit of the doubt and paid the pension. Instead of obliging these persons to prove that their condition is due to, or aggravated by, war service, the onus should be on the Government to prove that it is not so. Many returned men who appeared to be iri their usual health and strength after their return from abroad became victims to influenza and other pulmonary complaints soon after they settled in civil life, and later became infected with tuberculosis; but it is extremely difficult for them to prove that their condition is due to or aggravated by war service. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to accept the motion.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), for it does not deal clearly with the position which has arisen. The honorable member appears to have moved his amendment in order to meet a situation which is outlined in a circular issued by the metropolitan branch of the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association of New South Wales.
– Not entirely.
– At any rate the honorable member used- the circular to substantiate his case. The association, in its letter requests honorable members to support the contention that it was the intention of Parliament when it fixed the permanent pension for tubercular soldiers, which came into operation in 1926, to grant a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. a week to all soldiers “who, since their return from active service, have been accepted by the Repatriation Department as suffering from tuberculosis due to or aggravated by service.” In the early stages of our repatriation activities many men were sent to sanatoria for observation, often for their own ‘protection. Some of them were found to be suffering from tuberculosis, but many cases were diagnosed otherwise. It is true that in July, 1925, the Government made provision for a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. per week to be paid to men whose pulmonary tuberculosis was proved and was attributable to war service. This was done not by act of Parliament but by regulation. Instructions were issued to the deputy commissioners of repatriation to adopt the best possible means to discover whether or not the men who submitted themselves for examination were tubercular. But the letter which I have mentioned asks, in effect, that, because some persons who, prior to 1st July, 1925, were treated for tuberculosis and granted a permanent pension are still in receipt of it, though not now under treatment, all men “who, since their return from active service have been accepted by the Repatriation Department as suffering from tuberculosis due to or aggravated by war service “ should be granted a pension, though they may not now be under treatment. I have discussed this matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and I am now able to intimate that the Government is prepared to re-examine every ex-soldier who applies for re-examination, in order to ascertain whether he is suffering or has ever suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis as a result of war service. There can be no doubt that the man referred to this afternoon by the honorable member for Ballarat is suffering from tuberculosis, but it is not possible to grant him a pension because it cannot be proved that his condition is due to or aggravated by war service.
– Is not this a new departure ?
– It is te some extent; but the Government is anxious to clear up the matter. It will add to the examining board a leading specialist to carry out these examinations.
– Will the persons who are re-examined be obliged to prove that their condition is due to or aggravated by war service before they will be able to obtain a pension?
– That will be decided by medical testimony.
-It is purely a matter for medical opinion.
– Even under this arrangement would there not still be a discrimination between two classes of arrested cases - those who were declared to be tubercular before 1925 and those who have since shown infection?
– A number of men might be penalized, but even men who have completely recovered from their infection, and are able to do light work, would still show signs of their tubercular condition. There would be a general dullness and a falling away about the clavicle. The trouble is that many men who were treated for tuberculosis prior to 1925, and discharged as being free from infection, still seem to consider that they have the right to a pension. The Government hopes that the arrangement which it is now prepared to make will clear up all cases in which any doubt exists.
.- Even if the Government were prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), it would not carry us far. I have no hesitation in saying that the present Minister in charge of Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) is the best that we have yet’ had. My experience of some previous Ministers in charge of this department was most unsatisfactory. One honorable gentleman designedly destroyed papers from an official file in order that they could not be produced in court, and he so far forgot himself that when he was in the witnessbox he did not tell the truth. These are serious charges, but I have made them repeatedly both inside and outside the House. They take us back to the Gunner Perry case. Although I am. willing to admit that the present Minister has done good work, I regret to say that the speech that he delivered this afternoon might have come more suitably from an equity barrister whose chief concern was to win his case, than from a Minister in charge of Repatriation. Reference has been made to the fact that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) while on active service had to lie in a waterhole all one night, and was obliged to spend another night lying in mud. I presume that the Minister would not suggest that that kind of open-air treatment is good for anybody, or that it would do other than make the person who had to suffer it more susceptible than he would otherwise be to an attack of tuberculosis. I am not much impressed with the reports which certain continental and British authorities have made- on the effects of gassing. The older countries of the world have not sufficient money to provide pensions for their soldiers on the scale that we have been able to provide them for ours. I recollect a hero of the Balaclava charge who came into the London hospital in which I was working for his seventeenth operation, and I and others had to canvass sixpences from the students to purchase for him a little vehicle in which he could wheel himself about. He had lost both legs and- his pension was ls. a day ! The majority of the heroes of that charge died in the workhouse ; therefore, I do not look to the United Kingdom for an example in the treatment of soldiers. The parsimony of the Old Country is caused partly by the limited amount of money available for distribution amongst so many soldiers, and until recent times very cruel notions prevailed regarding what was due to the common soldier. To his eternal honour, Sir John Madden, then the Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, stated publicly that he regretted that his lips had been made to utter promises to our soldiers in the South African war that were afterwards cruelly broken. I thought it right to obtain a letter from him setting forth the promise that had been made so that there could be no doubt about it. He honoured me with a long letter in reply which is still in my possession; the facts to which it relates are recorded in the Hansard of the Victorian Parliament. I gladly own that the soldiers in the last Great “War were treated better than those who served in South Africa, but I deny the Minister’s statement that the promises made to the men who went overseas between 1914 and 1918 have been kept. I was a member of the Victorian State Enlistment Committee, the only member who continued with it from its formation until it was disbanded, and I know that the promises made from a thousand platforms to the soldiers have not been honoured. T admit that they could not have been. One promise was that the dependants of those who went to the front would never be in trouble, but every honorable member knows what happened. Why should a soldier who has risked his life for his country have to undergo the degradation of asking a member of Parliament to endeavour to get for him a pension from a Minister? I acknowledge that the present Minister for Repatriation has given more attention than did any of his predecessors to the cases I have brought under his notice^ and while he remains at the head of the department much may be forgiven it. But, after all, what is sympathy? I heard one man say recently, “ Everybody has a lot of sympathy for the unemployed. I do not know what sympathy is worth, but I shall give ten vessels of soup to ten hungry men.” We are asking from the Government practical sympathy for the soldiers who are ill. The vilest criminal in court is considered innocent until his guilt is proved. Treat the soldier in the same way. When he claims a pension, let the onus of proving that he is wrong be on the department; do not throw the responsibility on the unfortunate sufferer.
Reverting to Gunner Perry, that unfortunate was eleven days in the court, and if ever I suffered the pangs of Hades, it was while I was fighting his case, for I had been told by one Minister that the attack was directed against me and not against him. Ultimately after six months in a lunatic asylum he was granted a pension, and the foolish Defence Department re-engaged him as a recruiting agent in Queensland. Perry, who was a married man, persuaded a foolish girl to marry him. Later, when she discovered that he was already married, she made trouble, whereupon he gave her a thrashing and she disappeared. Three days later Perry also disappeared, and has never since been heard of ; he has never drawn his pension. I am not concerned with him, I believe him to be dead; but I hold that his real wife should not have been deprived of a pension because she cannot prove that her husband is deceased. The Defence Department has branches in every State; why cannot it find out what became of Perry, instead of throwing the responsibility upon a poor, weak, nervous woman ? In addition a police warrant has been issued for his arrest on a charge of bigamy.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect that case with the motion ?
– It illustrates the way in which the soldiers are treated. No honorable member will deny that Mrs. Perry was wrongly deprived of her pension. Some poor soldiers have been inoculated 36 times. It is little wonder if adverse developments occur later. I shall quote from the evidence I gave before the Vaccination Committee. While a parliamentary party was in quarantine at Thursday Island, its members were inoculated with vaccine from the Government health office at Townsville. Two of the officers of this Parliament, the late lamented Mr. McGregor, who was then Clerk of the Records, and Mr. Admans, of the Hansard staff, were inoculated with Japanese lymph on one arm, and American lymph on the other. Senator Givens, Mr. Bamford and I, feeling patriotic, elected to have the Australian lymph, which I declared subsequently was nothing but filth. Senator Givens nearly lost his life; his temperature rose to 1041/2.
– What has this to do with the motion before the House ?
– Lymph has been mentioned repeatedly in this debate, but . if you, sir, rule that this incident is irrelevant, I shall pass on. In 1926 I moved the following motion: -
In view of the facts -
That, when the Australian men offered their lives to fight for their country, the Defence Department had the choice of the greatest surgeons and physicians to examine such men;
That they had the advantage of the Health Department and the
Health Scientific Department to assist them in deciding whether the men volunteering were in a state of health or not;
That hardships of war make more acute and observable latent and obscure weaknesses;
That soldiers who are refused pensions are not permitted to see their files and are thus deprived of the opportunity where injustice is done to disprove the evidence upon which pensions, &c, have been refused; and in view of the many and generous promises continually reiterated from the multitude of enlistment platforms - it is the opinion of this House that no soldier who was accepted after passing such examinations and who actually went to the front and satisfactorily performed his allotted duties should be refused any rights under the War Pensions Act for himself or his dependants through certain present medical experts giving as their opinion the causes arose from pre-war causes.
It is also the opinion of this House that all men who offered their lives, and passed the above scientific examination, should be considered perfectly healthy men from that date; and that discretionary power be vested in the Repatriation Commissioners to grant pensions and other benefits where sufficient incapacity exists which did not appear at the time of enlistment - such discretionary power to be executed in the light of the character of the service rendered by the soldier.
I may decide to move that motion as an amendment to the proposal now before the House. The men in the Repatriation Department would gladly welcome such a declaration by this House, because it would relieve them of a lot of administrative difficulties. Not only is the sympathy of Colonel Semmens proved conclusively by his treatment of the many cases I have brought to his notice, but I believe all officers in the department would be more just and generous in the discharge of their duties were they not trammelled by the present law and the regulations made thereunder.
A great deal has been said to-day about war pensions. I find that in the United States of America the same amount of pension is paid to a private as to a fieldmarshal. In England the man on the lower rank gets a lower pension. In regard to insurance, in America no medical examination was necessary if the soldier had been accepted for service, and he could be insured up to 2,000 dollars without paying a premium and if he chose, could be insured for 10,000 dollars for a premium of £15 a year. It cost less to insure him for £2,000 than it cost me to insure two men who were at the front for £250 each. The widow or parent could receive a minimum pension of £16 3s. per month and a maximum of £27 12s. per month. The pension for total disablement with insurance benefits ranged from £18 5s. to £36 15s. a month. The Minister will- agree that that provision is more generous than ours. I than’k the Minister for Repatriation for having obtained for me .information in regard to the generosity of America to its soldiers. Under date of the 1st February of this year he wrote to me -
Dear Mr. Maloney, t
Adverting to the question asked by you in the House of Representatives on 18th March, 1927 (page 688 Hansard No. 6) inquiring as to whether the Government of the United States of America had decided to classify all soldiers’ diseases from the date of enlistment only and had eliminated the “ pre-existent “ excuses for non-payment of pensions; i.e., that all men who were accepted for service were to be regarded as having been fit at the time of enlistment, and that in future the question of aggravation of a pre-enlistment disability would not arise, I have to say that information on the question has now been received from the United States Veterans’ ‘Bureau, Washington. The provision referred to is contained in the World War Veterans’ Act and reads as follows: -
That for the purposes of this Act every such officer, enlisted man, or other member employed in the active service under the War Department or Navy Department who was discharged or who resigned prior to July 2, 1921, and every such officer, enlisted man, or other member employed in the active service under the War Department or Navy Department on or before November 11, 1918, who on or after July 2, 1921, is discharged or resigns, shall be conclusively held and taken to have been in sound condition when examined, accepted and enrolled for service, except as to defects, disorders, or infirmities made of record in any manner by proper authorities of the United States at the time of, or prior to, inception of active service, to the extent to which any such defect, disorder, or infirmity was so made of record.
Such a provision, if incorporated in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, would prove very effective. I hope that the Minister, in view of what America has done in regard to soldiers’ pensions, will take steps to see that the Australian soldiers receive benefits similar to those conferred upon the American soldiers. Certain honorable members supported the motion that I moved in this House two years ago; but, when it came to a vote, it was made a party matter. Certainly the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) spoke in favour of the motion, and, had he been present at that division, I am sure that he would have voted for it. There is one point concerning which I think the Minister was in error. Our soldiers were the pick of Australia. The examination for enlistment was _ so severe that many Australians who were rejected went to England and were immediately accepted for active service. I personally know three men who did this, one of them having been rejected five times in Australia. I wish honorable members to get into their minds the fact that our soldiers were the flower of the manhood of Australia, and that the percentage of tubercular sufferers amongst them in the ordinary course of events should certainly not equal that of tubercular civilians. When the horrors of war had disappeared these nien had a long voyage during which to recuperate, so that the percentage of tubercular men amongst them is certainly the penalty of war. Yet we have these, miserable and wretched statements respecting the increased cost of pensions.- Did we count the millions during the: war? We expended over £300,000,000’ for war purposes, and would have spent” double that amount had the necessity arisen. These men fought for us, and they are now reaching out their hands to every honorable member in this chamber asking not only for justice but for generous treatment, knowing that they offered their greatest asset - their lives - for us in our time of stress. Honorable members must not forget that the children of the 60,000 dead, whose bones lie across the seas, are helping to pay the interest on our war debt. Does any honorable member think that, if it were put to the vote, the people outsidewould refuse to assist our returned men who are suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases? Not for one moment. The good heart of the people of Australia would carry such a vote by a huge majority. The Minister, when speaking on the motion, mentioned other diseasesbesides tuberculosis. One was Bright’s disease, which he will agree, although it is bad in certain stages, does not carry the danger that tuberculosis does to the dependants of its victims. Bright’s disease is not so infectious as tuberculosis, and in that sense is not so dangerous. On second thoughts, I have decided not to move an amendment to the motion. I draw the attention of the Government to the following extract from a letter received from the Tubercular Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association of New South Wales : -
There can he no doubt that, when this act was passed, it was intended by members of the House to grant all men who have been proved by medical evidence to be suffering from tuberculosis due to war service, a permanent pension. Thu act now reads - “ All men proved to be “ - which is a totally different matter. Under the present reading of the act, a soldier who is only proved once since 1st July, 1925, is eligible; while men who have been consistently proved for eight years prior to the passing of the act, and have, through clean living,, &c, become an arrested case, though still unable to either follow, or consistently follow, any occupation, are not eligible. We appeal to you for your support in this matter, which requires immediate attention.”
A court of appeal should be established. The returned soldier has been refused the right that the criminal has of having his case tried in the courts of the country. When evidence is given against a criminal he may bring evidence in rebuttal. A cross-examination can be undertaken by legal men, which oftentimes discountenances the evidence against the criminal. But there is no cross-examination of the evidence against the returned soldier. He is refused permission to see his file. I do not accuse medical men of doing wrong, but I know of one instance in which three surgeons of the highest standing in Collins-street decided that a certain soldier’s disability had been caused through the war. Another man sitting in a room, which might be called a star chamber, decided otherwise, and his decision stood. Had that case been heard by an appeal board, the evidence of the three doctors would have been accepted. The soldier is not permitted to know what charges have been made against him. His only opportunity to obtain redress is to approach a member of Parliament ; but, after ‘ all, there are only 76 members of this House as against 370,000 returned soldiers. It is, therefore, impossible for members of Parliament to obtain justice for all returned soldiers who are suffering from war disabilities. My wish is that, so long as this Government remains in office, the Minister may continue to hold his present position; but he would earn the gratitude of many honorable members if he would do justice to those unfortunate men who are holding out their hands to this Parliament for assistance.
. - It appears to me that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has made out a case that every honorable member will find it difficult to answer. I should be surprised to learn that anybody is satisfied with the treatment now meted out to ex-members of the Australian Imperial Forces who are suffering from tuberculosis. The amendment of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) which, I understand, was submitted at the request of the New South Wales branch of the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association, no doubt does something to improve the position. ‘ I gather from the remarks of the honorable member, who was good enough to explain the object of his amendment to me, and from the statement of the Minister (Sir Neville Howse), that it would cover some of the cases which have been discussed, but not all. The Cabinet decision of July, 1925, provides for a permanent pension, and it. is a permanent pension that the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association wants. Therefore, I wish to know if it is to be understood that if we carry the. amendment the men covered by it will receive a permanent pension?
– I think that the honorable member for Herbert intends that to be the effect of his amendment, although he has not said so.
– Reading the amendment and the motion, there would certainly appear to be some doubt about the effect of what is proposed. I should be glad if the Minister would make it clear whether those who vote for the amendment are voting to give the persons covered by it the full permanent pension.
– The Minister has refused to accept the amendment.
– I said that the Government is prepared to re-examine all the cases, calling into consultation for that purpose specialists in lung disease, with the object of determining whether they are tubercular, and where tuberculosis is found, they will receive a permanent pension.
– Will that apply to persons not covered by the amendment?
– It will cover all persons whose war service was the cause of the disease from which they are suffering. If we agreed to anything else we should be adopting ‘the motion of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates).’
– With the exception of the last speaker, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), the Minister (Sir Neville Howse), and the mover of the amendment (Dr. Nott), we are all laymen, and we would like to be told - and the people generally would like to know - how war service is to be proved to have been the. cause of a disease so baffling, and so universal as tuberculosis. If the Minister were in a position to hold a post-mortem on the members of the Opposition - for him an inspiring and almost exhilarating prospect - in 98 per cent, of them he would discover the bacilli of tuberculosis or the cicatrices made by the disease. Practically every man who went to the war had within him the germ of tuberculosis of the lungs, and all that was required for the propagation : of the disease was favorable conditions. The conditions of active service were emphatically favorable to the development of the disease. Suppose that a workman were to bring a case against his employer in the civil courts, and to say to the court, “ When I went to work for this man I was strong and healthy; I am now suffering from consumption. The conditions under which I worked are responsible for my ruined health. Many and many a night I was up to my waist in icy cold slush. Month after month I slept unsheltered and exposed, to the rudest blasts of winter. My sleep was disturbed by horrid visions, by night bombing, by high explosives, by gas attacks. For months and years I lived in hell.” Do honorable members doubt that any jury on such evidence would not find “ There is no reasonable doubt that the plaintiff’s condition of health is due to the hardships he endured in the course of his employment ?”
A man needed to be made of iron to go through the war and remain as he was before it. An ex-soldier, a man about 42 years of age, saw me last Tuesday. He was suffering from disease of the optic nerve, and he was both deaf and blind. He had been a seaman, and had served in the Great War. When he returned he had gone to work for Palings, as a caretaker. Last October his sight failed him, so that he was unable to attend to his duties, and he went to the Randwick Military Hospital. He received attention, but the authorities decided that his blindness and deafness Were not due to war service.
This unfortunate man .is suffering from a disease which is incurable - I have seen the certificate - but, as I have said, the authorities declare that it was not due to war service. To what, then, is it due? He would be a bold man that would claim that the nervous system could be exposed to the fearful strain which the men of the Australian Imperial Force endured, and that the optic, aural or any other nerve would maintain its pristine vigour. The onus of proof must be shifted from the returned soldier to the department. Nothing will satisfy the people of Australia that this man Collins received a fair deal. It is infamous that any returned soldier should be. treated in this fashion. How can he prove that his disability is due to war service? How can the department disprove it? Put the finest athletes in the country at the front from six to twelve months, and let them undergo what our returned men experienced. How many of them would emerge from that ordeal with the vigour and vitality of youth unimpaired? Not one ! While I shall be very glad to accept any advantage that is offered by the Government, the promise of the Minister leaves things very much as they are. It is no concession to pile one expert on another. It is not mere experts that are -wanted, but simple justice. If experts were heaped on experts until the topmost reached the clouds, what would result? Nothing. How can any man say that tuberculosis in ex-soldiers was not due to or aggravated by war service? When these men went abroad they were certified as being fit - now they are wretched invalids. They are said to have had tubercular parents. They could have had no other, since none is free from tuberculosis. When they went away with our expeditionary forces they were pronounced healthy. Nothing was said about blood tests. But when they returned, the latest discoveries of science were utilized to prove that their disabilities were not due to war service. The disease from which they suffer was attributed to this or that cause - to their misconduct- to any cause except the war. They were told that their disability is not due to the war. If it is not, let the department prove that that is so. The mere fact that additional experts will be employed to inquire into the problem will not satisfy any one. These men were healthy when they went away; they are now diseased. Who brought them to that pass? I do not for one moment claim that there may not be cases of malingering, attempted gross deception
– Very few.
– Very well. No one can pretend that the Collins case is not a deserving one. Let us alter the law. We have a majority, and all should vote to benefit our returned men. I shall vote for anything that will give them relief, no matter how much or how little it is.
.- (By leave.) - I should like to have from the Minister for Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) an assurance that there will be a complete review of this matter, as indicated by the honorable gentleman, and that the review will be conducted by specialists apart from any departmental control, in order to make permanent any recommendations resulting from that review, which shall be final and binding.
– Do I understand that the honorable member desires to withdraw his amendment?
– On certain conditions only.
– It can be withdrawn only unconditionally.
– I rise to a point of order. I take it that the honorable member for Herbert cannot withdraw his amendment without the unanimous leave of honorable members.
– He has not asked leave to withdraw it.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the motion (Dr. Nott’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- The most1 despicable criticism advanced against the motion was that it was political propaganda. I want everybody to strip his mind pf such ideas. I formulated the motion after the honorable member for Melbourne could not get his wider resolution through. I did not ask one member of my party what he thought of it, nor did I canvass for it in any way. I felt that I could justify my case in temperate language. What I have heard since has made me feel that honorable members opposite were merely indulging in a little camouflage when they were making promises to the soldiers, and they now accuse me of indulging in political propaganda when I make an effort to have those promises honoured. I have never asked for any concession for any man who is fit and well. I consider that when he was paid off and received his gratuity ho obtained full payment for his services. I maintain, however, that no man can sell his health, because that does not belong to him, especially when he is married. If he has people depending on him be cannot barter away his health. Even if he is single he cannot do -so, because he then becomes a charge on the State or on his friends. Honorable members opposite are showing how honest they were when they made promises to the soldiers. The cry that what we put forward is made as political propaganda, and is raised on every occasion in order that the Government may evade its responsibilities. The wealthy men suffering from tuberculosis will not apply for a pension. It is the poor men who have come to- honorable members of the Labour party and told them of their condition, asking for some measure of relief. Yet, when we come to the House and try to get what we have proved right up to the hilt is the right of these poor men, we are met with the unvarying ‘ reply that we are doing all this as. political propaganda. Even if that might be said of other motions submitted in this House, it cannot be said of mine, because mine is an attempt to secure some small measure of justice for men who did a mighty lot for the nation, and for those who made a mighty lot out of them. They were heroes. They went overseas and faced the horrors of the war in Trance. The full tale of what they suffered will not he known until the last man of them is ‘dead. I am not the only one who says that. In a foreword to the Diggers’ Christmas Magazine, General “Pompey “ Elliott said that the chances were that the disabilities of the soldiers would not he known until the last man had gone. I was prepared to give what’ little succour I could at the request of the returned soldiers in Sydney, but honorable members opposite have turned down that request, and have used aU sorts of specious arguments to evade the responsibility that clearly rests on the community.
– Honorable members opposite made a party question of the motion.
– Any one who watched the face of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) to-night could see that he was more concerned over this motion than he has ever been before? It was not an easy matter for him to induce honorable members to vote on the side of the Government. It is a disgrace that the political exigencies of the moment should far outweigh the rights of returned soldiers. The strongest argument advanced by the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) was that we would not know where to draw the line, because, he said, many men developed heart complaints. The Minister for Health referred to cancer, malignant growths and Bright’s disease. If any man who suffers from those complaints has been a soldier, I regard it as the duty of the nation to succour him. I confined my proposed help to tubercular soldiers, because, according to the report of the Repatriation Department, they are the greatest problems. I should like the Minister to let us know how many men are suffering from cancer. 1 should do my best to help in fashioning the legislation of this country so that every man would get the full measure of what was promised to him during the war. After all, how much would it cost the country? The Minister had the audacity to tell us that during the peak period the war pensions would rise from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000. They are not costing more than £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 now, and if they ‘amounted to £10,000,000 I should say they would go no higher. “When money was wanted for the war we were told on placards all over the country, “Money is a good soldier. Contribute to the War Loan.” Can I be shown one money soldier who was maimed? I should like to know what this country is paying to the money soldier that did not take one scintilla of risk in the Great “War. Can any one tell me the annual interest bill on the money that was borrowed to send men overseas to sacrifice their health, if not their lives? It is probably much nearer £18,000,000 than the £7,000,000 we pay to thesoldiers who did so well for us in France. This is a crying shame and a disgrace. I am sorry to have to Speak in this way. In moving the motion I was temperate. But if the people of Australia could only assemble here to see what we have done to-night, I do not think that1/2 per cent, of them would agree with those honorable members who have turned down my request. Small as the proposed pension expenditure involved might be, it would be a big thing to the tubercularsoldiers, some of whom have large families to support. I do not care whether the unfortunate sufferer is singleor married, if he is stricken with tuberculosis, from the bottom of my heart I say “ God help him !” I do not say that these men were actually forced to enlist, but we know how they were asked, “Why is it that you have not enlisted?” “How old are you?” “Are you a married man?”and so on. When they went to’ France there was . not a day, if they . were anywhere near the fighting line, when they knew they were likely to live over the morrow. They lived through all the vicissitudes I outlined in my opening speech, and, above all, they sacrificed their health for the benefit of the nation. They accepted the word of those who pleaded with them to go. They went on promises of fabulous treatment. on their return. Monuments in every conceivable shape have been erected to the memory of those who perished, but monuments to the fallen are of little value so long as some material help is not given to enable the man who is living to keep the wolf from his door. I do not put forward this plea with any idea of making political capital. I do it because I admire these men, who have not been justly treated. If this motion is not. carried the sin committedand the shame of it will rest for all time on the heads of the present Government.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280308_reps_10_118/>.