23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Can the Minister say why the interim report of the Commonwealth Department of Health covering the period to 30th June, 1960, makes no reference to the advances being made in the psychiatric treatment of mental illness in Australia? In the light of the tremendous advances being made by medical science in the treatment and cure of mental illness, will the Minister examine the possibility of now treating this matter as one of national importance, with the object of planning the eradication of mental illness, guided by the experience gained through State and Federal co-operation in the eradication of tuberculosis and adopting in this instance similar methods for the eradication of mental illness?
– The reason why the report makes no reference to this subject is that the report deals only with the activities of the department itself. Most of the work on mental health is done by either State departments or institutions outside the Commonwealth Department of Health. The honorable gentleman asks whether some plan could be elaborated similar to the tuberculosis arrangements. I think the answer is that the complete eradication of mental disease is not really a proposition; but my department is giving attention to questions of mental health, and whatever can be done I am sure will be done in the future.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer. Has any recent assessment been made of the potential use of electronic computers for the Public Service and Government departments as a whole? In view of their very heavy cost, does any central departmental machinery exist to rationalize the installation and use of computers by individual departments? What steps, if any, have been taken to exploit the potential economies of centralizing the electronic recording, storage and supply of information of interest to two or more Government departments?
– The use of electronic computers is under active consideration, particularly by the Public Service Board. A good deal of progress has been made in that field. Discussions are going on constantly between the Public Service Board and the Treasury and other departments for a more extensive use of such computers. I agree with the implication in the question of the honorable member, but I can assure him that this is a matter which reaches me as a result of certain steps that have been taken quite regularly.
– My question is addressed to the right honorable the Prime Minister. I ask the right honorable gentleman: What arrangements does the Government at present make for tendering advice to the Governor-General concerning the weeks when the Houses of Parliament will be sitting and when bills will be ready for his assent? I further ask him: Will he see that arrangements do not again break down in a way which compels honorable members to sit too late and spend too short a time in debating bills which usually attract more speakers than any others?
– I am at all times kept informed in advance of the projected movements of His Excellency the Governor-General who, after all, in his representational capacity has a very large continent to cover in the course of a year and must therefore, unhappily for him, be a great deal on his travels in Australia. But there is no mystery about what his programmes are. We are well aware of them. I have never believed, nor has any predecessor of mine, that it is the duty of the Governor-General of Australia to be in Canberra all the time and every time that the House is sitting. If he were he would be extraordinarily limited in making contact with the people of Australia and getting to know the problems of the continent. That is the point of view which has been maintained during the whole time I have been in Canberra, lt is not peculiar to the present distinguished occupant of the office of Governor-General.
When the honorable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition makes some reference to a break-down in arrangements, all I can say is that I am not aware of what the breakdown is. I have not heard of any breakdown. I would like to remind honorable members, as the gentlemen opposite have occasionally reminded us, that we are not living in the horse and buggy days. The fact is that for years now there have been facilities for air travel at the disposal of the Governor-General, which means that at any time he is within no more than a few hours flying distance of this city. It is therefore quite absurd to suggest that there has been some break-down of arrangements, and that the distinguished Governor-General has some responsibility for it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. By way of preface, I point out to the House that for some years a total embargo has been placed on the importation into Australia of all cattle and sheep, other than from New Zealand, as a precautionary measure against the possibility of introducing an obscure livestock disease, blue tongue, into Australia. Can the Minister tell the House whether veterinary research overseas or in Australia has so far made available information which supports this embargo or which, alternatively, might indicate that under proper safeguards importations, which are of great importance to the stockbreeding industry as regards both beef and meat production generally, could be resumed?
– The disease known as blue tongue is a very widely prevalent and serious disease among stock overseas, and some time ago - my recollection is that it was about two years ago- it was considered necessary to place an embargo on ruminant animals coming into Australia from any country. This has now been done and, 1 believe, has the strong Sup port of the pastoral industry. This disease is carried by ruminant animals, but its worst effects are felt among sheep; and it would be a very serious danger indeed to the wool industry if it were introduced into Australia. It is a virus disease, transmitted by small midges, and there is no known method of treating the disease once it gets established. The only hope of preserving the pastoral industry from its ravages - I use that word advisedly - is by strong quarantine measures which will keep the disease from becoming established in Australia. Because the disease is widespread, a total embargo on ruminant animals is necessary. So far there is no information here or from overseas of any other method of dealing with this disease.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, and it relates to the re-conditioning of the railway from Townsville to Mount Isa. Has agreement been reached between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government with relation to the financing of the work? Has the necessary loan money been raised? If so, was the loan raised in Australia or overseas? If the loan was raised overseas, what interest will the Queensland Government have to pay on the money, and by what date will the loan have to be repaid?
– Agreement in substance on this matter was arrived at some time ago. The preparation of the formal document is still under discussion, one or two minor points having arisen, but I expect that before long all will be in order. The Commonwealth recognizes that it has entered into substantial obligations in relation to the work. The rate of interest has been ‘agreed, but do not ask me to give offhand the precise figure. So soon as the agreement has been completed, I will be very happy to table it in the House so that all honorable members, who are very properly interested in this great development, will be able to see it.
– Can the Minister for Trade indicate whether there has been any recent change in Australia’s trade with the two major Communist powers?
– Since the resumption of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Soviet Union, there has been a very substantial increase in the purchases of Australian wool on behalf of the Soviet Union. The value of those purchases last year was £12,500,000. By contrast, Australia imported £500,000 worth of goods from the Soviet Union. There has been an increasing interest by mainland China in the purchase of Australian wool through the auction system, and last year, such purchases were greatly increased. Other commodities were purchased also, and the total value of our exports to that country last year was £16,000,000. As against that, Australia bought from mainland China about £4,500,000 worth of goods last year. In both cases, there was obviously a quite useful contribution to our overseas balances.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has he received a communication from the Premier of New South Wales requesting him to call an all-States conference on the question of re-introducing uniform prices control? Is it a fact that the New South Wales Government would offer to hand over to the Commonwealth its present power to control prices? If other States took similar action, would there be any need for a referendum to give the Commonwealth power to control prices? As Commonwealth control of prices is evidently the only effective method, will the Prime Minister call the conference suggested by the New South Wales Premier and seek this power from the States in order to prevent further increases in the cost of living?
– In communications with the State Premiers I have always meticulously observed this rule: WhenI write a letter to a Premier I do not publish it until I know that he has received it. This seems to me to be elementary courtesy. This practice, I regret to say, is not always followed by other people. I have read about this matter in the newspapers. I had not, as at the time of entering the chamber this morning, received any letter from the Premier of New South Wales dealing with this subject.
– My question to the Prime Minister relates to the proposal of the New South Wales Government, acting under instructions from the outside Australian Labour Party executive, to hand over the State’s present power on price control to the Commonwealth. Is it not characteristic of a socialist State government that it should wish to transfer powers which legitimately belong to the State, but which that government is afraid to exercise because of possible economic and political repercussions? Would the present proposal of the State Government not inevitably result in corrupt black-marketing and underthecounter practices? Is it not correct that prices control, which was repudiated by the electors in 1948, would be ineffective without a series of other controls?
– Not only do I say “ Yes “ to each of the aspects which have been put by the honorable member, but also I subscribe to the implications to which he has referred.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him that recently in the Parliament I said that I held the opinion that at one time he had advocated complete control of education by the National Parliament. The right honorable gentleman replied that he had never advocated any such thing. I said that if I found that I was wrong I would apologise to him. I have consulted my records and I find that I was correct in my statement. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether he remembers writing an article for the Melbourne “Herald” on 7th April, 1943, in which the following appeared: -
I have for years advocated full industrial power-
– The honorable gentleman is basing his question on a newspaper report.
-Order! I think that the Leader of the Opposition is being somewhat lengthy in his question.
– He is basing it on a newspaper report.
– Order! I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that although it is customary for him to enjoy a certain tolerance from the Chair, certain other honorable members may wish to emulate him.
– I hope that I do not give too many bad examples. If the Prime Minister will tolerate this question-
– I have been tolerating you for a long time.
– And the toleration has been mutual. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he remembers writing these words -
I have for years advocated full industrial powers for the Commonwealth. I am a strong supporter of national control of education.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I put it to you that this question is out of order, and I remind you that the Leader of the Opposition took a similar point of order when recently I asked a very reasonable question.
– Order! As I have said, a degree of tolerance is usually allowed to the Leader of the Opposition. However, I think it is prudent to ask the Leader of the Opposition, who is very familiar with the Standing Orders, to assist the Chair and not to create an unfavorable atmosphere.
– The remainder of the extract is in these terms -
I would myself be quite prepared to adopt a constitutional system like that of South Africa, in which delegated powers are exercised by the States.
Does the Prime Minister hold the same opinion to-day as he held in 1943? If not, why not?
– I am sorry to say that I do not remember writing the article to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred.
– Here is a photostat copy of it.
– That does not prove a thing. The Leader of the Opposition ought to know perfectly well that the fact that the “ Argus “ stated that somebody had said something is prima facie evidence that he had not.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. In view of the outstanding success which has attended the Australian exhibition at the Swiss National Trade Fair in Lausanne, will he consider transferring to London after the fair is concluded such of the exhibits as are readily transportable so that we may present this new-look display at Australia House, where at the present time it is sorely needed?
– According to all the evidence that has come to hand, apparently the Australian display at Lausanne has been a magnificent success. It has attracted very great interest and is achieving the purpose intended. I have had a series of advices from our colleague, the Treasurer, who opened the Australian pavilion, and from many other people, that we ought not to allow this exhibit to be dismantled completely and used no further. Suggestions have been made that there would be immense interest in this display in Australia if it were returned to this country. I am having these various suggestions, including that advanced by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, examined, and I shall see how practicable and how valuable they may be, and what would be the cost entailed. The honorable member can rest assured that his proposal will be studied.
– I address to the Minister for Trade a question concerning the dependence of the Australian economy on the production and export of wool and other agricultural and primary products. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that Australia would be well advised to enhance its economic stability by expanding, as a matter of urgency, the development of its metal resources. Is it a fact that over the past four years receipts from the export of Australian metals have not increased at all? Is it a fact, also, that to some degree this condition is a result of limitations on output imposed by international agreements? Will the Minister state what action the Government is taking to promote the development of our metal resources and to ensure adequate supplies both for our domestic needs and for export?
– The Government has been very, very active in taking those steps which are calculated to expand the production of metals within Australia and, where possible, to facilitate the export of metals. The Bureau of Mineral Resources of the Department of National Development has been active and constructive in the search for additional resources. The Government itself has invited the Parliament to legislate - and it has done so - to provide protection and, indeed, cash assistance in certain circumstances for the production of copper in this country. As a result, Australia has been transformed over the last few years from a net importer of copper into a quite important exporter, besides becoming selfsufficient in the production of its own requirements. The fluctuating demand within Australia for iron and steel results in this country changing from time to time over the years from being an important exporter to being an important importer of iron and steel products. This is related entirely to the internal demand. I think that the honorable member’s question perhaps relates principally to the lead and zinc items of metal production.
Nothing could contribute more to diminishing the incentive to produce any basic primary product than do very low prices. There are many examples of this. It is true that over a period there has been a series of international discussions in which the Department of Trade has joined on every occasion. Indeed, we have one of the most senior officers of the department overseas at the present time largely for the purpose of establishing such a price stability in world values of lead and zinc as will permit a continued volume production of these metals in this country and exports to the markets of the world. It does not always follow that some temporary constriction of production in order to relate availability to the demand will in the net result diminish overall production. On the contrary, there are many illustrations that this sort of action ultimately provides an incentive to greater production.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement made recently in a broadcast by Major-General Dougherty, who is in charge of civil defence in New South Wales, to the effect that if a nuclear bomb were dropped on the metropolis of New South Wales approximately 10 per cent, of the popula tion might survive? Major-General Dougherty said that the idea, in the event of such a happening, would be to rush bodies of trained workers in from the countryside to assist in rescuing the 10 per cent, fringe of population left in the city. Having regard to the fact that so many of our people and our industries are centred in such cities as Sydney and Melbourne, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Government has formulated any policy for transferring more people out of the danger areas so that more people might be able to rush in to rescue the residue of the city’s population?
– No. I have heard suggestions of this kind, but I believe that, somehow or other, one of the troubles about moving a large number of people out of houses in which they now live in the cities would be that other people would rush in to take their places, and I do not know that the over-all effect on the problem would be very great even if the suggestion were adopted.
Contractors for Government Building Projects
– I ask the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works: Has his attention been directed to a number of recent cases in which contractors or subcontractors working on governmental projects have failed financially^ leaving wages due to staff unpaid and leaving unpaid also accounts for material supplied by retail and wholesale firms? I ask the Minister: Will he consider framing some form of protection to apply in those circumstances? In particular, will he consider altering the terms of the contracts entered into by the two departments he administers so as to make payments for materials supplied and payment of wages a first charge against the costs of a project, and thus something that would be paid from progress payments made to the head contractor? Or, possibly, would he consider legislation on the lines of the Liens Act which would give protection to the two classes of people I have referred to?
– Occasionally it does happen that a contractor carrying out work on behalf of the Commonwealth gets into financial difficulties. It is very hard to determine in all cases whether this is due to the job he is doing for the Commonwealth or to a faulty tender on his part, or whether it is due to other works which he may be carrying out for private business people. In any event, the whole principle of contractors tendering involves the acceptance of the idea that they should be free to get their materials from what sources they please, and not from sources nominated by government departments. Consideration is given to the financial status of tenderers before tenders are accepted. An endeavour will be made to persuade contractors to meet their obligations in regard to accounts for materials supplied, out of moneys due to them by the Commonwealth, if any supplier of materials claims that he is having difficulty in getting payment. Generally, however, it is not regarded as advisable to interfere too much with the freedom of contractors, but as far as possible we ensure that suppliers to contractors have their accounts paid.
– Sub-contractors in particular?
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware of a recent statement by a member of the Western Australian Industrial Development Advisory Committee, Sir Russell Dumas, that nuclear power would not be available for commercial use before 1975? Is this view held by the Department of National Development? Could the Minister tell the House, some time in the near future, what progress is being made in Australia in the field of nuclear power for peaceful purposes?
– I shall refer the honorable gentleman’s question to the Minister for National Development and obtain a reply from him. If the Minister feels that the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question should be answered in the House I will obtain a statement and make it here.
Agriculture - Bankruptcy Proceedings
– Can the Minister for Territories inform me whether the Forster committee has completed its investigation into the future of agriculture in the Northern Territory? If so, has its report been presented and studied, and when will it be available to members for their information? If the report has not been received when does the Minister expect it to be in his hands?
– I understand that the members of the Forster committee are at the moment engaged in the final drafting of their report. I look forward to receiving the report either at the end of this month or early next month.
While I am on my feet, Mr. Speaker, may I refer to the fact that on Tuesday the honorable member for the Northern Territory asked me a question about certain bankruptcy proceedings in Darwin and representations that were said to have been made to me? I informed him then that I had not received representations, but I have now received from the parties interested in the matter a letter which is receiving attention.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the fact that at least one of the large woolgrowers’ organizations has realized that an increase in wool sales promotion is essential and has asked the Government to treble the levy on its members for this purpose, when will the Government seek to implement this request? Will some of the capital of the very considerable fund for wool research be used to step up technical advances in the woolmanufacturing industries?
– I have been requested by woolgrowers’ organizations to amend the regulations to increase the promotion charge from 4s. to 5s. a bale and I have complied with that request. I do not know that there is any concerted request by the industry as a whole to increase that charge further. Considerable discussion is still going on as to whether the charge should be on a percentage basis or on a bale basis, but I do not know that the industry has quite made up its mind on the total budget. Some of the capital - I think that was the term used by the honorable member to describe the amount of £8,000,000 odd that is in the Wool Research Trust Fund - is being expended on wool textile research. The Australian Wool Bureau’s total budget for the year for promotion in Australia and overseas is about £2,000,000.
– Is the Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer aware that, despite the fact that local government bodies are granted the right to borrow certain amounts from time to time by the Australian Loan Council, considerable difficulty is always experienced in persuading financial institutions to make loans available? Will the Prime Minister use his undoubted influence in the financial world to help local government and semi-government bodies to get the financial accommodation authorized under the gentlemen’s agreement?
– I am grateful to my friend for his indication that I have great influence in the financial world. In my life, I have usually had to exercise it on the bank manager to keep the overdraft alive. But you cannot answer a question like this with detail for the very good reason that you cannot follow out the transactions of each individual local government authority without having an enormous mass of material. The fact is that when the position of the local government authorities was last canvassed by the Premiers - and that was early this year - we were told very confidently that there was more money available for the local government authorities from financial sources than the amount which they were at that time authorized to borrow. It was for that reason that we extended the authorization.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Is he aware that the rifle range at Williamstown, Victoria, has since long before the turn of the century been the venue of many of Australia’s most important rifle shoots, including competitions for the King’s and1 the Queen’s prizes? Does the Minister know that the Victorian Rifle Association and riflemen everywhere desire it to be retained for this purpose? Can the Minister give an assurance that the Commonwealth Government has no intention of disposing of that area of land known as the Merrett rifle range at Williamstown?
– I am well aware of the long and historic association of the rifle club movement with the Merrett range at Williamstown; but quite apart from the needs of the rifle clubs, I have investigated this matter very closely, and the range is essential for the use of the Regular Army, the Citizen Military Forces and, indeed, cadets for their training. It is also used’ to a minor degree by both the Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. I have tried to find some other area because I appreciate fully the pressure that is being exerted to get this area of land for housing development. However, it has been impossible to find any other area sufficiently conveniently placed that would suit the purpose. Therefore, we have had to determine to retain the Williamstown range.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been directed to the investigations that are being carried out by the Victorian Government and the New South Wales Government into the affairs of vending machine companies in their respective States? Will the Prime Minister consider appointing a committee of inquiry to investigate the activities of vending machine companies throughout Australia? Action of this nature seems to be necessary in view of the move made by the Government of New South Wales and the Government of Victoria.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member is at the moment no more than a headline. I saw a reference to it in the newspapers. I will find out what is the nature of the proposed inquiry, and will then consider the points put forward by the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will the Government take immediate emergency action to assist primary producers in Queensland who are suffering disaster as a result of one of. the worst droughts in the State’s history?’ Will the Government consider instituting a bank credit policy to assist producers to keep their stock alive? Will the right honorable gentleman consider the despatch of a Commonwealth officer to Queensland to examine the situation in the drought areas and make recommendations for Commonwealth assistance? Will he also discuss with the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization the possibility of using a rain-making aircraft in Queensland to promote rainfall in any regions where the possibility of doing so successfully exists?
– I am aware of this most regrettable drought and of the losses that it has inflicted on various primary producers. There is a well-established procedure to be followed in these matters. If a State Government proposes that the Commonwealth should come to the aid of the State in particular circumstances it communicates with me, and certain patterns of procedure that have been laid down are then followed. I would not say offhand what they are in the case of droughts, because I should need to refer to applications that were made by South Australia when that State experienced a disastrous drought a year ago. As to the other aspects of the honorable member’s question, they involve very important matters of policy, and I would not be disposed to offer the view of the Government on them offhand.
– Are you praying for rain?
– I am prepared to do that. . ‘ >*;”)
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that 200 miners employed at the J. and A. Brown colliery at Abermain have received a week’s notice that their employment will terminate to-morrow? I may add that these dismissals have been brought about through no fault of the miners themselves. Will the Minister do everything in his power to see that these true Australians are found alternative employment immediately somewhere in the Newcastle coalfields area?
– It is true that on 9th September dismissal notices were issued in respect of 120 employees at Abermain No. 3 colliery. Already in respect of, I think, 63 of those men we have been able to refer them to employment or have found employment for them. Of a further sixteen, eleven will not take jobs in Newcastle and five will take jobs only in Maitland. I assure the honorable gentleman that we are working on this problem and we do not think it is a difficult one. We have great hopes that it will be solved shortly. I may mention that in New South Wales as a whole the number of persons registered for employment is less than 1 per cent, of the total work force, and there is certainly an unfilled demand for various kinds of labour in the Newcastle area.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. By way of preface I may say that there is a proposal to call a new post office in my electorate Campbelltown North Post Office. The name of the district in which the post office is situated, which dates from historic times, is Leumeah. Will the Minister consider using this name for the post office, because it is quite a pleasant one and has the added attraction, in these tense and worrying times, of meaning “ resting place “?
– I shall certainly be glad to consider the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Macarthur. In general, I Would say that if there is a desire in any particular district to have the name of the post office or postal district changed, the department is always prepared to consider favourably any requests that are made . along those lines. Occasionally we find that there are conflicting interests, and I ask the honorable member to give me, for presentation to the department, an indication of the extent of the desire in this district for the change that he has mentioned.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. In the recently signed weapons agreement with the United States of America the term “ free world “ is used, and we are committed to the defence of it. In answer to a question this week the right honorable gentleman admitted that he did not know whether Saudi Arabia was a part of the free world - indicating, in other words, that the term has no meaning. Why does he permit such imprecise statements to be used in a document so important to our national survival?
– The honorable member will discover in due course, I hope, that there is a good deal of imprecision in international agreements. It is a , jolly good thing that there is, because otherwise we would be involved in a snarl of legalisms, and the whole spirit of many agreements would disappear. So I am all for imprecision in such documents. If the honorable member wants a broad definition of what is the free world, I would say that it is that part of the world which is not under the influence or control of the Communist powers. It may very well be that certain countries are on the borderline because they may not have any more than a rudimentary form of government, and they are the object of controversy and of infiltration by other countries. Therefore, there will always be a few countries, unfortunately, in the twilight zone. But one of the great objects of democratic association, such as in Seato and in the agreement that has been referred to, is to prevent people, as far as possible, from passing into the twilight zone or into the Communist area - a very good objective. If it is to be achieved by words that lawyers cannot argue about, so much the better.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas, to the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) on the ground of public business overseas, and to the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) on the ground of ill health.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the government of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 1035), on motion by Dr. Donald Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is an extremely important measure, and before I commence my remarks in relation to the bill generally, I want to express the disappointment of the Opposition at the fact that only a limited time will be made available to discuss the bill. I understand that both the second-reading and committee stages must be concluded to-day. That means in effect that honorable members, particularly those on this side of the House, who want to address themselves to important aspects of the bill, will be restricted. If the new rates provided in the bill are to be paid at the end of next week, surely it would be possible for Parliament to continue discussing the bill next week and still allow an opportunity for the GovernorGeneral to give assent in time for the payments to be made. Last year, the Opposition had exactly twelve hours in which to discuss a similar measure. The time allowed is not sufficient. After all, this is an extremely important measure. It affects repatriation benefits paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, service pensioners and war widows generally. The Opposition should have an opportunity to impress upon the Government that the pension rates are below the rates that the Opposition believes should be paid.
I would like to foreshadow several amendments that the Opposition proposes to move in the committee stage. The first amendment deals with section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which is the onus of proof provision. This matter has been raised on each of the last three occasions that a measure of this nature has been before the House. We make no apology for that, because we believe that the onus of proof provision should be revised. We believe that the provision is not being applied in the way that the Parliament intended originally. The second amendment provides for medical treatment for ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 World War and for veterans of the Boer War. We have moved similar amendments on other occasions, and the opportunity will again be taken during the committee stage on this measure. A further amendment relates to medical entitlement benefits for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Honorable members will recall that, prior to the means test which was introduced by this Government in 1955, wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen enjoyed the same privileges as age and other pensioners in respect of medical entitlement cards. Another amendment will seek to have cancer automatically accepted as a war-caused disability in the same way as tuberculosis is accepted for war pension purposes. 1 do not propose at this stage to suggest any definite increase that should be provided for the various classes of repatriation pensioners. We stated quite clearly in our policy speeches in 1958 and earlier that we believed that the minimum rate for a totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman should be the equivalent of the basic wage. Apart from that, I do not intend to suggest any specific increases, but I intend to take this opportunity to show that some of the increases proposed are, in our view, inadequate. I acknowledge that in this measure the Government has proposed some increases for recipients of repatriation benefits. On this occasion it has provided for an increase to the totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman and for an increase in the war widows’ rate of pension. The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are completely dependent upon this Parliament to ensure that the rate of pension is sufficient compensation for the disability which they have suffered as a consequence of their war service, and as the great majority of them are unable to earn any income at all apart from what they receive as an entitlement under the Repatriation Act, this Parliament should make adequate provision for them. Many of these T.P.I, ex-servicemen are unable to take an active part in the community life of this country as a consequence of the disabilities they have suffered.
The present rate of pension for the totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman is £12 5s. per week, which will be increased, under this legislation, to £12 15s., an increase of 10s. per week. In 1949,
T.P.I, pension rate was £5 6s. per week, and the basic wage was then £6 9s. So the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman’s rate was then £1 3s. per week less than the basic wage. In 1960, the basic wage, averaged over the six Australian capital cities, is £14 12s., so the totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman’s pension is now £1 7s. less than the basic wage. I acknowledge that there are additional benefits for a married man, but what we are discussing at this moment is the rate applicable to the totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman. I believe that is the only matter with which this Parliament should concern itself at this period. Additional benefits paid to the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen have nothing to do with the rate that is applicable to these ex-servicemen themselves. That is another matter entirely. This Parliament should concern itself with whether the rate paid is adequate, having regard to the tremendous increase in the cost of living and whether there has, in point of fact, been a decline in the living standards of the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman. If the T.P.I, pension rate to-day, measured in terms of the basic wage in 1949 and again in 1960, can be shown to be much less than it was in 1949, there has been a general falling-off in the standards. I have no desire at this stage to pursue that matter further.
I want now to pass to the general rate of war pension - that is the 100 per cent, pension paid to an ex-serviceman who has a disability which, in the opinion of the Repatriation Department, entitles him to a payment of pension on a graduated scale. Under this measure there will be no increase granted to the 100 per cent, pensioner. In 1959 he received an increase of 7s. 6d. a week. In 1958, there was no increase for the 100 per cent, pensioner, and to-day there are 209,722 pensioners classified under the 100 per cent. rate. They will receive no increase at all under this measure. If what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has said in respect of the prosperity of this country can be taken as factual, surely it should have been possible for this Government to have given some increase at least to the 100 per cent, rate pensioner. After all, the great majority of these people suffer from disabilities - particularly the 100 per cent. pensioner himself - which prevent them from pursuing a normal civilian life. As a consequence of their disabilities many of them are unable to continue actively in normal civilian life. We know from experience that because of their disabilities many of these people lose a great deal of time from their employment. This Parliament should recognize that they are entitled to be compensated for their disabilities; but on this occasion the Government has refused to grant any increase at all to the 100 per cent. pensioner. In those circumstances it is only right that the Opposition should at this moment make a most emphatic protest against such treatment of the 100 per cent. pensioner.
Before I turn to further serious aspects of pension matters, I desire to direct my attention to the position in respect of the ceiling limit. Honorable members will no doubt recall that the ceiling limit was adjusted in 1955, bringing the pension of the totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman into line with the amount which could be earned by various classes of recipients of social service pensions, and particularly age and other classes of pensions. In that year the ceiling limit was adjusted to enable the T.P.I. ex-serviceman to supplement his pension, which in that year was less than the amount which would have been paid to the recipients of social service pensions, and I refer to age pensioners-
– The ceiling limit was removed, not adjusted.
– The Minister has corrected me and I accept his statement that the ceiling limit was removed. But the fact remains that it has been pegged since that date, whether it was removed on that date or not. I think I can explain to the Minister what I am trying to prove in that respect.
In 1955, age pensioners were entitled to receive the full pension and, in addition, an income of £7 per week, which meant, in effect, that their pension - should they have an additional income from superannuation - would have been in excess of that payable to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman as well as the allowance paid to his wife. In that year the ceiling limit was removed, but that position has not been altered by this Government since then. In 1957, for example, the T.P.I. ex-serviceman received an increase of 25s. per week, but because the ceiling limit remained at the figure set by this Government the great majority of those pensioners did not receive the increase of 25s., but, in point of fact, an increase of only 15s. That was because the ceiling limit remained the same as that applicable to the recipients of social service payments. In 1958, the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen received an increase of 10s. per week, but again the great majority of them received an increase of only 5s. I refer to those T.P.I. special rate pensioners, married, whose pensions were supplemented by the service pension. They received an increase of 10s. per week, but there was a corresponding reduction of 5s. in the service pension. Tn 1959, age and other classes of pensions were increased by 7s. 6d. per week, and so the ceiling limit was increased by 15s. Therefore in that year the 15s. granted to the special rate pensioner meant, in effect, that there was no reduction in the service pension in that year. In 1960, under the measure which we are now discussing, the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman’s rate will be increased by 10s. per week. The ceiling limit has again been increased by 10s. as a consequence of the increase that has been granted to age and other classes of pensioners. The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who is married and who is now supplementing his pension with the service pension will receive the full benefit of the increase of 10s. But what will this mean in effect? The Minister has said that the ceiling limit has been removed in that, between 1957 and 1960, four increases totalling £3 have been granted to the special rate pensioner. But the great majority of those who are married and who are in receipt of the service pension have not received that increase of £3 over those years. In actual fact, they have received an increase of only £2. If the Minister wanted to remove the ceiling limit, surely it should have been possible to remove it in such a way as to enable totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen to receive the full benefit of the service pension. Their position has not improved; the rate has been increased merely to bring it into line with the increases which have been granted to recipients of social services benefits.
I pass now to the position of war widows. Under this legislation, the pension for war widows will be increased by 5s., from £5 5s. to £5 10s. a week, and the domestic allowance also will be increased by 5s., from £2 15s. to £3 a week. Thus, war widows will receive a total increase of 10s. a week. I have always believed that the war widow has a right to look to this Parliament to ensure that the amount that she receives will be adequate to enable her and her children to live happy and contented lives. But I do not believe that there has been any great improvement in the position of the war widow. For example, the entitlement for children under the Repatriation Act has not been increased since 1955, if my memory serves me correctly. We were told by the Minister himself that only 90 per cent, of the war widows receive the domestic allowance to-day. That means that approximately 10 per cent, of the war widows are in receipt only of the war widows’ pension to-day. They have no other income to supplement that pension. I submit that the rate of £5 10s. proposed for war widows under this legislation is certainly far less than this country can afford to pay, when we take into account the buoyant state of the national revenue.
The allowance paid to the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman, the allowance paid to the wife of a 100 per cent, pensioner and the allowance paid to a war widow in respect of children have remained static since 1955. This Government has made no attempt to increase them in any way at all. I believe that even the Minister will agree with me that since 1955 there has been a tremendous increase in the cost of living in this country. That being so, surely the children’s allowance paid to a widow now should be greater than that paid in 1955, to enable her to meet the increase in the cost of living. I am certain that the Minister would protest most emphatically if he were told that it would be possible for him to maintain his children on approximately 17s. 6d. a week. It would not be possible for him to do that.
Let me compare the rates that applied in 1939 with those which will be applicable when this bill becomes law. During that period of 21 years governments of all political colours have been in office. I emphasize that I make no excuse for what has been done or has not been done in the past; I am concerned only with what I believe this Parliament should do in 1960. In 1939, the pension for a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman was £4 a week, while the basic wage was £3 18s. a week. In other words, the pension exceeded the basic wage by 2s. In 1960, under this legislation, the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman’s pension will move to £12 15s. a week, whereas the basic wage, averaged over the six Australian capital cities, is £14 12s. a week. In 1939 the pension exceeded the basic wage, but in 1960 it is £1 13s. below the basic wage.
In 1939, the 100 per cent, pension was £2 2s. a week. In 1960, under this legislation, it will be £5 10s. a week. Over those years, the 100 per cent, pension will have increased by 161 per cent., but there has been an increase of no less than 295 per cent, in the basic wage in the same period. If the 100 per cent, pension were to have the same ratio to the basic wage in 1960 as in 1939. it would be. not £5 10s.. but £8 3s. a week.
– The basic wage is not £14 12s.; it is £13 16s.
– I come now to the war widows. In 1 939, they received £2 1 6s. a week. In 1960, they will be receiving £5 10s. a week. Their payment has increased by 78 per cent, in those 21 years, but, as I have indicated already, the basic wage has increased by 295 per cent. Apparently there is some difference of opinion as to the present basic wage. For the benefit of the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), I point out that I am referring to the unpegged basic wage as averaged over the six Australian capital cities, and that rate is £14 12s.
Let me turn now to the service pension, which, under this legislation, will be increased by 5s. to £5 a week. Under the Repatriation Act, the service pension is paid to two classes of applicants - those who are 60 years of age and those who are permanently unemployable. Many of the recipients of service pensions to-day are eligible for them because they are permanently unemployable.
If a service pensioner is permanently unemployable and his wife is under the age of 60 years, she receives from the Repatriation Department a special rate pension of £3 10s. a fortnight. That pension, too, has remained unchanged during the time that this Government has been in office. The wives of invalid pensioners are in the same position. They receive an income of £3 10s. a fortnight. A service pensioner, who probably has a disability which may or may not be due to his war service, but which has not been accepted by the repatriation authorities as war-caused, is entitled to a service pension on the ground of permanent unemployability. As a consequence of that disability, his wife receives an income of £3 10s. a fortnight which, under this legislation, makes their combined income £6 5s. a week. This Government could and should have increased the allowance that is now paid to the wife of a disabled ex-serviceman.
I am sure that many honorable members on the Government side appreciate that many ex-servicemen who receive a service pension have a disability for which they receive a part-pension, as well as other disabilities which have not been accepted by the Repatriation Commission but which make them, in effect, permanently unemployable. In those circumstances the wife of the pensioner will receive not more than £3 10s. a fortnight. Surely Government members must realize that this amount is far too low in the circumstances. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has stated on other occasions that the Government parties consist of a majority of ex-servicemen. If there is an ex-servicemen’s committee on the Government side surely it should have given attention to this matter. The Government has allowed this benefit to remain unchanged during its period of office. The service pension should have been increased.
The 44th annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which was presented in 1959, suggested that the service pension rate should be increased from £4 7s. 6d. a week to £5 10s. Of course, we have no indication of the submissions which were made by the executive of that organization to Cabinet in 1960, but I should think that it would have suggested that the pension be increased to a far greater extent than the Government has provided for in this legislation. All of the rates which were suggested by the R.S.L. in 1959 were far higher than the Government has provided in its legislation in 1960.
I wish to turn now to other aspects upon which the Opposition will propose an amendment to this legislation. The first point to which I refer deals with section 47 of the Repatriation Act relating to the onus of proof. I indicated at the commencement of my remarks that this is a matter which has been placed before the Government by the Opposition on many occasions over the years. Government members are silent on this issue. The fact that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) indicated, in reply to a question which was asked of him by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) a few days ago, that he had made available his interpretation of this section of the act to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), suggests to me that there are some Government members who are interested in the onus of proof provisions of the legislation. I do not believe that this section of the act is being administered in the way in which it should be administered. I think that many Government members would agree with that statement. The Opposition will take the opportunity to state its point of view when the proposed amendment is before the committee.
I wish to deal now with the question of medical entitlement cards for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen to which I referred a short time ago. In 1955 the then Minister for Health, no doubt with the concurrence of the Government, applied a means test which prevented a medical entitlement card being issued to the recipient of either a social services pension or a repatriation pension if the income, apart from the pension, exceeded £4 a week in the case of a married couple or £2 a week in the case of a single person. To-day some T.P.I, ex-servicemen have the benefit of a medical entitlement card which enables them to secure treatment for their wives, but there are others in exactly the same circumstances who do not have a medical entitlement card.
What was the position that applied in 1955? According to the information which was supplied to me by the T.P.I, exservicemen’s organization, the then Minister promised the organization that all T.P.I, exservicemen would be advised of the proposed means test. The Minister for Repatriation inserted an advertisement in the daily press and, 1 understand, also wrote to the headquarters of the organization. The individual members were not circularized, so many T.P.I, ex-servicemen did not make application for their medical entitlement card. Thus we have the position to-day in which of two T.P.I, ex-servicemen who live next door to each other, one may have a medical entitlement card, because he secured it prior to 1955, and the other may not. In other words, one receives the benefit of free medical attention for his wife and the other does not. Ex-servicemen who received the T.P.I, rate after 1955 do not enjoy the benefit. We claim that the wives of all T.P.I, exservicemen should have a medical entitlement card.
The Government would not be involved in any great expense if it met our request. Probably 18,000 T.P.I, ex-servicemen require medical treatment, and probably 75 per cent, of that number are married. This means, in effect, that only about 4,500 T.P.I, ex-servicemen would require medical entitlement cards for their wives. Even at this stage the Government should reconsider its attitude to this very important matter which affects this section of the community.
The third point to which I wish to refer, if only briefly, relates to the extension of medical treatment in repatriation hospitals to ex-servicemen of both the 19.14-18 war and the Boer War. This was one of the planks in the Australian Labour Party policy platform at the elections in 1955 and 1958. It is true - I concede at once - that the Government has met part of our request in that it now affords free medical treatment to service pensioners, but that is going only part of the way. Many ex-servicemen of those two wars require medical attention now. We believe that they are entitled to receive that medical attention free because they do not receive any service pension on account of their disabilities. Surely the Government, even at this late stage, could amend this legislation and meet the Opposition’s request, that has been made on so many occasions, to provide free medical treatment for ex-servicemen who served in the First World War or the Boer War.
I could direct attention to many matters which the Government has overlooked in this measure, Sir. I could mention the entitlement to repatriation pensions that should be given to the various people in receipt of social service pensions. Some improvements will be effected by this bill, and that is acknowledged by the Opposition. Our quarrel with the Government is that on this occasion it has not gone far enough. It has been parsimonious towards totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. It has completely overlooked the needs of the 100 per cent, pensioner. It has ignored the wives of service pensioners, who with their husbands have no incomes apart from the service pension and the allowance granted to the wife. That matter has been completely overlooked. I could mention other matters such as the onus of proof and the automatic acceptance of cancer as a repatriation responsibility in the way in which the Government already accepts tuberculosis. Those are matters to which the Opposition will direct further attention when this measure reaches the committee stage. I have no doubt that other speakers on this side of the House will deal with these matters which I have mentioned only in passing.
We believe in all sincerity that the Government ought to consider earnestly the points that I have raised. They concern matters which are vital to the welfare of the ex-servicemen of this country.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, nobody would deny that it is the right and proper function of any member of the Parliament, whether he is a Government supporter or an Opposition member, to point out to the Government what he believes to be necessary in the best interests of any section of the community. That is one of the functions that the Opposition performs. If one studies the speeches made by honorable members on both sides of the Parliament over a series of Budget debates, one finds that everything that any government could possibly do has been covered. As a result, when a government does something about a matter, having studied all its aspects, there is a ready opportunity for somebody to say, “ That was my idea, and you have only adopted it. You have done nothing else but adopt my ideas. Why do you not now do some of the other things that I and my colleagues suggest ought to be done? “
It would be an interesting exercise to study the speech made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and estimate the cost of implementing all the suggestions that he made.
– All the money that was wanted was found when the war was on.
– That is true. That argument is used by many people. If somebody wants to spend £100,000,000 on a developmental scheme in a State, he says, “ We could find money in time of war, but we cannot find it in time of peace “. It is true that money can be found in time of war. The reason is obvious. In time of war, the people will invest their money in the nation because they believe that their safety and security depend on it. They will even submit to heavy taxation for the same reason. But the outlook is totally different in time of peace.
I do not suggest that we should count the cost when the ex-serviceman gets his due. We should not. But I do not think that any one can honestly criticize the Government’s efforts in the field of repatriation. Some people may be inclined to criticize it for not having done certain things, but any one who looks at this Government’s record honestly will agree that it is one of which the country can be proud.
The honorable member for Bass said that there had been no increase in repatriation pensions, in real terms, over the last ten years, and he used basic wage figures in an attempt to prove his point. I do not think he was entirely correct. We all know how the C series index is calculated. Let us take it as the basis for a comparison of repatriation payments in 1950 and 1960. The honorable member for Bass gave special attention to the total and permanent incapacity rate pension. In 1950, with the C series index at 1643. the special rate was £7 a week. In the March quarter of this year, the C series index stood at 2756. At this figure, the special rate pension equivalent of the 1950 rate is £11 14s.10d. a week, whereas the actual pension under the terms of this bill will be £12 15s. a week. This represents an increase of £1 0s. 2d. a week in real values calculated on the basis of the C series index.
The honorable member also singled out war widows. I think everybody will agree with him that war widows merit the Government’s special consideration. I am sure that nobody would argue about that. In 1950, the war widow received a pension of £3 10s. a week, and the 1960 equivalent of this calculated according to the C series index is £5 17s. 5d. a week. Under the terms of this bill, the war widow will receive £5 10s. a week - 7s. 5d. a week less in terms of real values. But the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) makes it clear that we must take into consideration also the domestic allowance paid to war widows. The Minister pointed out that approximately 90 per cent. of them receive this allowance. In 1950, the rate of the domestic allowance was 10s. a week, and the present-day equivalent of that on the basis of the C series index is 16s. 9d. a week. However, the rate of the domestic allowance payable under the terms of this measure will be £3 a week - £2 3s. 3d. a week more in real terms. So it is not correct to say that on the basis of the basic wage there has been no increase in repatriation benefits in terms of real values.
– The domestic allowance paid to the war widow will now be about 400 per cent. greater than that paid in 1950.
– That is right.
– The honorable member is side-stepping the fact that the 1950 determination was unjust.
– That determination was a legacy from the previous Government. The honorable member’s statement does not alter the facts. In effect, he says, “ If my argument is wrong and you prove it is wrong, you also are wrong “. That is naive.
– This is an argument, not about governments, but about facts.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Peters).Order!
– It is all right, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is most interesting. All I am saying is that these things are agreed on by a majority of the exservicemen in this country.
– Indeed they are.
– I am quite certain they are. 1 challenge the honorable member to go to any sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in his electorate and raise the question of pensions. Let him see what reaction he gets and how many resolutions are moved. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) made a complete tour of one State, and not once was he told that this Government is giving too little to war widows and totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen.
– No. He was duchessed.
– The honorable member knows what 1 am saying to be true. There is no room for argument on this issue, and Opposition members know it.
The honorable member for Bass also mentioned the subject of treatment in repatriation hospitals for all ex-servicemen of the Boer War and World War I. I thought that we threshed out that issue completely when, earlier in this sessional period, the Government allowed the honorable member to bring on a motion under the heading of general business, and I do not intend to go over again the ground that I covered on that occasion. However, I do want to mention several points in relation to the hospitalization of exservicemen. The Minister for Health, in his second-reading speech on this measure, said -
The Government’s decision to provide medical benefits for service pensioners whether their disabilities are due to war service or not marks a significant step forward in the care of aged ex-servicemen.
That is absolutely true. An ex-serviceman who receives a 10 per cent, disability allowance receives lis. a week. The 5 per cent, rate is 5s. 6d. a week. An ex-serviceman in receipt of either of those rates is not greatly interested in the fact that the Repatriation Commission is paying him lis. or 5s. 6d. a week. What he is really interested in is the certainty that if his disability gets worse and he requires hospital treatment he will be entitled to treatment in a repatriation hospital. He will be completely covered.
I think it is probably too late to do anything about this matter now. We were wrong when we originally decided to grant disability allowances at these lower rates. Instead of doing that, we should have guaranteed ex-servicemen treatment in repatriation hospitals, in the manner of the American pattern, for any disability. We should have treated them, and finished there. The payment of disability allowances at the rate of 10 per cent., 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, means that we absorb in the repatriation vote enormous sums of money which could be put to better use. We could achieve the same results as we now achieve by assuring our ex-servicemen of treatment in repatriation hospitals. That would be to the advantage of everybody instead of being perhaps to the disadvantage of a few, as is the present arrangement. The new scale of payments to 100 per cent, pensioners, which will be £11 a fortnight, will be received by 20,000-odd members, and cost nearly £6,000,000. Payment to a 10 per cent, disability pensioner is the equivalent of 22s. a fortnight and will be paid to some 33,000 members at a cost of £1,250,000 or £1,500,000.
The amounts paid to those suffering up to a 35 per cent, disability is hardly worth collecting in many cases. It is only one or two shillings a week, but allowances for dependants are also involved, and the total paid out comes to a considerable sum. For members whose liability ranges between 10 per cent, and 35 per cent, the annual liability is £6,206,102. Combined with this there are dependants’ allowances, which represent a considerable sum of money. It is obviously too late to start now what I suggest should have been done originally, but somebody has to give thought to a system whereby an increase in the rate for the top disability cases - the 100 per cent, disability cases - does not automatically mean an increase in disability payment to men with a 10 per cent, disability. It seems to me that the main thing is to guarantee hospital treatment to those with accepted disabilities. This would be a sort of insurance policy for these men, and I do not think the adopt/on of such a system would meet with much opposition if it were made known to the people now entitled to hospital treatment that the scheme was being extended to the others in an effort to help them. It must be realized that the man with a 50 per cent, disability now is a potential T.P.I, pensioner, so that to do what I suggest would be to look to the future.
The Government has decided to extend treatment in repatriation hospitals to exservicemen who are service pensioners. It has already decided to give such treatment to World War I. nurses and Boer War veterans. Speaking from memory, I think that the graph of possible use of repatriation beds shows a rather steep rise until about 1971. There will be a tapering off then, but later, with the ageing of returned servicemen of the Second World War, there will probably be a gradual rise thereafter.
The fifteenth report of the Public Accounts Committee, which deals with that committee’s inquiries into the Repatriation Department, was presented to the House on 13 th April, 1954, and gives some interesting information in relation to bed use, availability of beds, occupancy of beds, Sca., in repatriation hospitals. The hospitals dealt with in the report are those at Concord, New South Wales, Heidelberg, Victoria, Greenslopes, Queensland, Springbank, South Australia, Hollywood, Western Australia, and Hobart, Tasmania. The report shows the percentages of empty beds, to beds erected, for a period of six months in each of the four years from 1950 to 1953 inclusive. In the Concord Hospital the percentage was 10.3 in the first half of 1953, and the percentages for the remaining hospitals were as follows: - Heidelberg, Victoria, 11.3, Caulfield, Victoria, 31.3, Greenslopes, Queensland, 19.1, Springbank, South Australia, 26.0, Hollywood, Western Australia, 22.3 and Hobart, Tasmania, 9.4. I understand that something has been done about the repatriation hospital in Hobart, which had an acute bed shortage a few years ago. The percentages that I have given average out at 15.1.
It is obvious that a repatriation hospital must at all times have empty beds available because of the very nature of the hospital’s functions. Adding up some figures before me very roughly, I think that, even excluding T.P.I, pensioners and war widows, there are about 184,000 people in receipt of pensions for from 10 per cent, to 100 per cent, disability, every one of whom is entitled to treatment in a repatriation hospital, and every one of whom is a potential occupant of a bed in a repatriation hospital.
The number of T.P.I, pensioners was given by the honorable member for Bass, but I have forgotten it. Under this legislation war service pensioners are to be entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals, which means that the demand on beds will be fairly solid. I can foresee a situation where beds in all repatriation hospitals - if we go on the figures by the Public Accounts Committee - will be in short supply. That will mean that there will have to be a rebuilding programme for repatriation hospitals right throughout the country. That is a matter of simple arithmetic.
– Does the Minister agree with your estimate that there will be a shortage of beds?
– Quite honestly, I do not know, but I should like to hear the comments of the department on it.
– Those figures were official figures issued by the department.
– Another factor which varies in repatriation hospitals throughout the country, and to which the Public Accounts Committee gave attention, is the occupancy of beds in repatriation hospitals. The figures in the committee’s report show that the average stay of patients in repatriation hospitals is about 30 days. This means that there is a pretty frequent turnover, but the problem has to be looked at in conjunction with the figures relating to bed availability, which do not vary much as between one repatriation hospital and another. So I can see some problems arising out of this legislation, worthy as I consider it to be.
I have often thought that our first responsibility should be to those with accepted disabilities. At present our responsibility starts at the T.P.I, pensioners and the 100 per cent, pensioners, who are completely covered. Those pensioners are treated in repatriation hospitals regardless of their disabilities. I think that that principle was introduced in 1943 as a result of a report made to the then government by an allparty committee. Nobody would quarrel with that provision. However, when there is a dividing line you always find cases of people who are just unfortunate enough to be on the wrong side of that line. A younger man with a 95 per cent, or 90 per cent, disability attributable to war service has perhaps a stronger claim to a bed than a man of the age of 65 or 60 years. That, of course, is something that can be considered in relation to future legislation. I think that most ex-servicemen believe that repatriation hospitals were built for the prime purpose of treating disabilities incurred as a result of war service, and that is where the first responsibility of the Government lies.
I want to compliment the Minister and the Government on the action they have taken in this legislation, because I believe that ex-servicemen throughout Australia agree that the legislation will bring relief to many of them. It will also serve a most useful purpose for returned servicemen’s organizations which maintain veterans’ homes, and have always found the hospital treatment of members a problem. It is possible to provide a ward for sick people in an institution built under the Government’s scheme for subsidizing the building of homes for the aged on a £2 for £1 basis. In doing that, the organization which builds the institution loses the subsidy. Therefore, most war veterans’ homes where all the inmates were above 60 years of age had this problem of finding hospital beds for the men whom they were caring for. Sometimes it threw a very severe burden on the local hospital. This legislation, of course, will cure all that because every inmate of a veterans’ home is a service pensioner and will be entitled to full treatment in a repatriation hospital. For that, I should imagine, there will be sighs of relief throughout Australia. I commend the legislation to the House. I noticed with great interest that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has foreshadowed the moving of amendments at the committee stage. There fore my remarks on the onus of proof and the other matters that he mentioned I will reserve until that stage is reached.
.- I often wonder, when engaging in debates on repatriation - a task which I have undertaken for many years in this House - why the supporters of the Government who have great individual records of their own always play the stooge for the Repatriation Department and never come out in any hard-hitting way for the things that have yet to be done in regard to repatriation. The greatest living example of this behaviour, of course, is the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) who is the most mealy mouthed advocate for the Government on all counts. Therefore his attitude to repatriation can be no more worthy than any other attitude that he takes. Claiming to speak for exservicemen throughout the whole of Australia, he said, in effect, “I am quite satisfied they are happy about their pension situation “.
– I did not say that.
– You also challenged the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to go to his local branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League and be assured that its members are all more or less satisfied with repatriation pensions. That is complete and utter rubbish. We do not want to leave these matters in the airy-fairy atmosphere of conjecture. We want to bring Government supporters down to hard facts. Here is some hard reporting from a Sydney newspaper which was published a few days after the Budget was released. This Ls what the congress of the Returned Soldiers League in New South Wales said on the matter which has been raised. The report reads -
The N.S.W. branch of the R.S.L. yesterday declared the Federal Government had shown “ callous indifference” to war pensions in drawing up the 1960-61 Budget. The branch asked the national office of the league to protest strongly to the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. A. A. Calwell, over the disregard shown to the R.S.L. pension plan submitted to the Government before the Budget was brought down.
The honorable member for Perth said that everybody was happy! Everybody was satisfied! According to him, we are living in the best of all possible worlds. The kind of statement that he made completes the feeling of diggers generally that the Repatriation Department is a barnacle-encrusted bureaucracy that cannot be penetrated. It is tougher than the Maginot Line. It is tougher than the Hindenburg Line. In order to drive this point home to the honorable member for Perth, 1 shall quote the final part of the report to which I have referred. It reads -
The resolution to seek the protest was carried by almost 400 delegates . . .
Those delegates would represent quite a number of branches on the doors of which the honorable member for Lalor might go tapping and saying, “ What do you think of the Menzies scheme for diggers? Is it as good as his scheme for immigrants or other people? Are you satisfied that it is all right, because, if you are, I want to go back and tell him so.” Let us have no more of this nonsense that everybody is happy. It is not so.
What are the facts in relation to repatriation? When the present Opposition formed the Government of this country it had a repatriation committee of which the honorable member for Lalor was a member and we redrafted the whole of the machinery of repatriation. The Opposition believes that many wonderful things have been done so far as pensions and other important aspects of repatriation are concerned. There is a quarrel with the standard of payments, but the machinery is there. Generous provision has been made in the past by all governments, but certain fringe jobs have not been completed. There is the problem of the need to pay the basic wage to the totally and permanently incapacitated man. There is the poor old fellow with cancer tottering into his sixties. There is the question of medical benefits for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. Somebody says, “ You will crowd the hospitals “. Is that not what doctors are for?
Why does the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) who is a most generous man with regard to health, become a pernickety, pecksnifiian doctor and a regimentalist on repatriation matters? That has been part of his training. This is part of the encrusted bureaucracy which I hate so much and which we on this side of the House are trying to kill. What do honorable members think of the conditions of these men on the fringe? When they were asked to join in the war to stop all wars and to fight for a free world they were told, inferentially, that they would be looked after when they came home. Details of how they would be looked after were well hidden.
I make no comment about the brilliant officers of the Department of Repatriation. They are the victims of the encrusted bureaucracy as much as we are. We should kick free from it. An old-timer comes along after many years to get a pension. He has no records, no A46, and all his wartime mates are dead. The medical board which looks after such matters meets in committee. Nobody cares. It might well be said, “ Abandon hope all ye who enter here “. The old-timer has no chance of getting a pension. What does he do? Does he have a merciful death? No. He goes from board to commission, from commission to entitlement tribunal, from entitlement tribunal to appeal tribunal - round and round the mulberry bush. Year after year, in our electorates, we continue to meet these fellows who are “ in process “. They are in the hands of a board, or of the Repatriation Commission, or the Legal Services Bureau may be trying to have their entitlement established. On it goes. They move in a world of bureaucracy smothered under a cloud of “ onus of proof “, ceiling limits, A46 forms, second schedules, entitlement tribunals and repatriation boards.’
Surely we can do something about that. This is the point which was made in the brilliant speech by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who led this debate for the Opposition. I am not speaking now of the general plan of repatriation in the formulation of which the Labour Government was proud to participate. But what has happened to the fringe? What has happened to those insoluble cases which beat themselves out on the walls of the Repatriation Department? How many letters are in our files on this subject? How many wasted miles of tape and typewriting and appeals to the Minister have we seen because some one runs up against a solid wall of bureaucracy.
It is not an adequate reply for the Government to say that this is a good scheme and that there are bound to be border-line cases. Why does the Government say that it cannot house sick old diggers because it cannot build hospitals? Build some! There is plenty of money. Words about our much vaunted prosperity drool from the lips of every Liberal member. They say, in the Yankeeism, “ You have never had it so good. Look at all the money that we have and look at the level of employment.” If that is true and we live in a golden age, let the Government build a few hospitals for sick diggers and let them be treated with their mates instead of telling them that their sickness is not due to war service or that because they have only a gunshot wound they should line up at Prince Alfred Hospital or some other public hospital and wait in the long, weary civilian queue. That is not necessary and it is completely wrong.
The Opposition feels that the procedure in relation to pensions has become ironclad. It has fallen into categories. The Government does not seem to have a clear answer to the problem and we feel that we should make some recommendations to it. How many times have we thundered about the onus of proof in this House? Everybody knows that the onus of proof provision in repatriation legislation has been subverted by the bureaucrats. The Government has been defied by bureaucracy. It has not the guts to say, “We are in charge of this country and we shall lay down the interpretation of the onus of proof “. The opinions of a present learned judge of the Industrial Court and of the Queen’s Counsel who was recently appointed as Minister for External Affairs which I have looked at hurriedly support the contention of the former Leader of the Opposition, Dr. H. V. Evatt, that it is necessary to have an appeal court. You must not leave it to the doctor. You must leave it to that dreary bit of fustian called the Entitlement Tribunal. If there is anything that is at the end of the road it is the Entitlement Tribunal with its members nodding over their red tape and their dusty files. They say, “ Don’t you say anything. Leave it to me. You will only put your foot in it.” Then your advocate usually says nothing, some one nods and says, “ All right, you will get a note in a couple of days “. But 66 per cent, of the cases are out; and that is what goes on. Then the ex-servicemen come to us who are members of this Parliament and say, “ Can you do something else? “ Of course, something else could be done. We could get a High Court judge or a judge of the Supreme Court in this Territory to look at the legal side of the evidence. They should look at it and give the man another chance. He gave us plenty of chances and this is something we demand of the Government and will press for in an amendment.
We have pressed this matter before. But why does not the Government wake up? Why does not the Government realize that everybody wants this? It is only a bit of common justice. Is the Government frightened of the lousy amount of money involved in this world of prosperity? Of course not. The Government does not like to accept an amendment from the Opposition, and it is destroying the true instincts and the true idealism of the parliamentary system by not accepting such proposals. I know it is done by all governments, but the onus of proof provision as applied to the ex-servicemen has been driven into the hearts and minds of everybody in Australia. The problems associated with the onus of proof can only be corrected by getting a judge to look at this matter. Preferably, but not essentially, he should be a returned serviceman who would understand the implications. There are men on the bench who have declared for that sort of treatment. The Government could appoint one of them, and it would not hurt any one’s feelings. Rather would it be doing a great deal of good for the soldier, who is the victim of the onus of proof requirements, by burning a bureaucratic interpretation. The honorable member for Lalor and others have told us again and again that the act was made so that you had to bend over backwards making sure that no disability was created. The onus of proof rests fairly and squarely on the Repatriation Department and not on the man concerned. But does anybody take any notice of that? The bureaucrats row their boats round and round this chamber. They count the hours. They say, “ In six hours Haylen, or Jones, or some one else will be finished “; and away we go, metaphorically speaking. Then, of course, they go to sleep for another six months.
To-day we want to stir up things. What is wrong with the Government that it should be so lousy about a medical card for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated servicemen? How many T.P.I, pensioners are there in this country? There are 19,798. They are done. They get the full pension and that is less than the basic wage, which is a disgrace. Apart from that, what about their wives who are their nurses? They are their hour-by-hour and day-by-day nurses, and they get nothing. They do not even get a miserable medical entitlement. How much would this prosperous Commonwealth of Australia lose if it made that provision? Why do not the services people, the Prime Minister and the Minister concerned have a reasonable look at that? Is it something that should be cast aside? These men are dying at the rate of twenty a week in repatriation hospitals, in homes, in Anzac retreats and other places. Their numbers are being slowly diminished. It would be a good thing and a pleasant thing to be able to say that the Government was giving them something that we demand - the medical entitlement.
Reference has been made to cancer, and that is something about which I think the Government is sympathetic. The Government has not met its responsibility to these people and until it does we will press these amendments. We are proud of them. We think they are strong amendments, and the Government and its supporters will have to stand up and fight us back because this does not only concern us on the Opposition side; it concerns the great body of public opinion and the people outside who are watching and judging us all on our attitude to repatriation. The Government cannot get out of it by foreshortening the hours for the debate. We can get our message over within ten or twenty minutes because we know the old weary track.
I wish to turn aside now from the miserliness and the niggardliness of the Government and the barnacle-encrusted Repatriation Department which ought to shake itself up, too. It is bound by protocol and by its vote, but it is not bound to be so bureaucratic about hardship or so paper-minded. Wrapped up in red tape it could well become the first living mummy in the King’s Hall when we start to decorate the hall with real atrocities from the Australian scene rather than those we have there at the moment. I want to direct the Minister’s attention to what appears to be a case for a pension outside the pension entitlement. There ought to be - and I know there is - in the act provision for some act of grace whereby a pension could be given to the widow of some man who has been of service to his country over and above the call of duty. I do not mean the pension or the small amount that is given, for example, to a winner of a Victoria Cross. I refer to the rugged case of those who have done everything for their country and have been granted a niggardly pension. When they die their wives who have done their duty to them get no pension at all. I want to refer to a case in my electorate which is so horrible that every time I think of it I burn with anger. I will not mention this soldier’s name because his family are modest, retiring, courageous and patriotic people. I doubt whether they are of my political persuasion, but I am very proud to represent them in what I think is a shocking and tragic case.
The man concerned was a sergeant in the First World War. He served in the Boer War, the Zulu War - the Zulu rebellion - and the Second World War. In his lifetime of 79 or 80 years, he has given ten years of gallant active service or near active service. He was a farmer - and that should appeal to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), and he was a man who would not go near the Repatriation Department until his wounds made it necessary for him to do so. All his life he was fighting for his eligibility for a gunshot wound in the chest. The Repatriation Department did its little fandango dance again - 10 per cent., 20 per cent., 70 per cent, or 100 per cent, if you are lucky and Bob’s your uncle, and your Prime Minister. What a ridiculous thing for a man of that calibre. What happened? When he died, he was getting 90 per cent, pension. He got some other little extra amount because they found some other disability towards the end of his life. This man had a record which should commend itself to everybody in this House. If, for instance, the gunshot wound was not pensionable and if the wonderful family record is not worth anything, surely on this man’s citation alone there ought to be an act of grace payment of pension to a man like this or to his dependants after his death. This man had two sons in World War II. His daughter was a nurse who performed conspicuous service for her country. The family are shocked, disappointed, dispirited and angry. They are patriotic, middle-class people and they went to base records and threw their medals back in the face of the red-faced colonel at the base and said, “ If that represents all you can do for our father, we do not want your decorations “.
I invite honorable members to listen to this man’s record. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal - in my view he should have been awarded the Victoria Cross - in the Beersheba campaign in the First World War. To quote from the citation which I have read by courtesy of his wife, the decoration was awarded for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Single-handed, he captured a machine-gun with its crew of five in a strong enemy redoubt. This gun was the means of holding a strong position and the citation states -
By his prompt and gallant action, under very heavy fire, he thus materially assisted in the successful assault on the objective and saved many lives. His courageous conduct was most exemplary.
For his action he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. H. S. Gullett, a former member of this House and a war historian whose son also rendered distinguished service in this House, in the Official History of the War in Palestine and Sinai, wrote of this digger who could not get 100 per cent, pension -
While the fighting was proceeding at the trenches Sergeant . . . saw a machine gun being dismounted from a mule by its crew. In a minute it would have been in action at close range- with terrific damage to the troops nearby.
He dashed at the party alone, bluffed them into surrender and took 40 prisoners.
What a wonderful record! There are other cases of a similar nature, no doubt, but this, I submit, is certainly a case for an actofgrace pension, for a bit of realism and a bit of sincerity. Remember the father who served in the Boer War, the Zulu Rebellion, two World Wars, and who was discharged as being over age when he wanted to go to New Guinea. Remember his two sons who served with distinction in World War II., and remember his only daughter who was a nurse, and his antecedents who were among the great missionaries in the times of depression in this country, people whom I have been proud to know because of the magnificent efforts they made on a Christian level to overcome the difficulties of the workers in those terrible years. Those people were and are great citizens, and this man particularly was a great man in his own right. He struggled on and recently died, and there was no pension for his wife, who was a good deal his junior. She has come up against what I might call the barnacleencrusted bureaucracy. She knocks at the door of Heartbreak House and some gabbler says to her, “ According to section 26, sub-section 22, paragraph 2a, you cannot have it “ and that is an end of it. Surely if a decision on the matter were made by referendum, the grateful people of this country would grant the pension without question.
I know that there are many other such cases. Many honorable members have told me of cases in which men have performed actions above the call of duty. They have told me of families whose devotion has been quite magnificent. They have not been ecstatic about these cases, but have just given the bare facts, and in many cases the facts are quite moving. Surely we can shake some of these shackles off us. Surely we can get rid of some of this fustian atmosphere that surrounds us in this House. Surely we can forget the half sheep’s heads and all sorts of other paraphernalia with which we have become so obsessed, and act as if we realize we are living in 1960. Let us streamline some of our actions and say, “ Here is a case in which we can do something for a man who has done a most meritorious deed for his country, or in which we can do something for the family of that man “. Would it not be a nice gesture for the Minister, instead of looking away, as he is now, as if he were seeing his list of patients diminish, much to his discontent, to go to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) and shake him out of his lethargic calm and say, “ Look here, what about an act-of-grace payment in this case before it is too late? “
Look at the old ladies, the widows of men such as this, who are living in the suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne or Perth, or in the country, battling it out, with a record behind them of great valour on the part of their menfolk, neglected by their own country. It speaks well for them that they do not even squeal about it. The most they do is to see their local members of Parliament and ask them to try to do something. I believe every honorable member knows of a case or cases equally as deserving as the one I have mentioned. We should disentangle ourselves from the fustian that surrounds us and devise some satisfactory arrangement to meet such cases, so that the Minister will make appropriate act-of-grace payments. If a man has a gunshot wound, who is going to say what other condition he may be suffering from? Who is going to say what causes arthritis? If you go to a private surgery you are treated with great friendliness. The medical man will sit you down and will tell you quite frankly that the causes of many diseases are not known. But if you go to a repatriation doctor, you will find that he knows one thing above all - the war did not cause it! He will say, “ I do not know how you got cancer, but the war did not cause it “, or “ I do not know how you got arthritis, but the war did not cause it “. How damnably silly! How absurd and stupid! The medical profession should be made to stand up and answer for these things.
– When they do stand up the medical men do not give satisfactory answers.
– When they do stand up they fall down again, because they have not the moral courage to face these charges.
These are important matters, and I have only a few minutes left in which to deal with them. 1 speak forcibly, but I know the Minister realizes that 1 speak with respect, because we have to do something to make our repatriation service the real thing that it ought to be. We are allowed only a few hours to debate this legislation. The Opposition has a team of speakers much more eloquent than I waiting to join in the debate. They hope to make their speeches later on, and some of the sycophantic followers of the Government will get up and make their apologies, but they, of course, have no concern for the matters I have been speaking of. Therefore I want to try to impress my views upon the Minister.
I say again that we press one point: Do not tell us lies about this matter. Do not tell us that nobody is worried about the pensions. I have before me some comments made by an ex-servicemen’s organization in the most populous, progressive and powerful State in the Commonwealth, New South Wales. That organization says: “ We hate the sight of your pension scheme. You have not looked at the recommendations made to you by the congress of the Returned Servicemen’s League.” Too many of the leaders of that league tootle along the corridor of this House to see the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and not enough tootle along the other corridor to see the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). They, in their turn, will have to try dividing their appeal so that they may fare a bit better, and I say that to my own comrades with respect.
What has been said by the honorable member for Perth is completely wrong. There is a problem concerning standards, and there is inflation, and, of course, the pensioner feels the effects. As the honorable member for Bass has said with his characteristic clarity, we base our case on four main amendments, which we shall move and fight for. The first one concerns the onus of proof provision. The second asks for medical treatment for ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war and the Boer War. The third seeks medical treatment for wives of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen, and the fourth amendment proposes that cancer should be automatically accepted as a war-caused disability.
Our plea on this side of the House is for a little bit of consideration and kindliness, not for mercy but merely for justice for these fellows who have done a good job for us. We are not being romantic about it. We do not want to put our plea out of court in that fashion. We suggest that the things we refer to are things that have not been cleaned up by the bureaucracy. We will all have to work together to knock some of the chips off the Repatriation Department. I do not refer to personalities, because I believe that individuals are caught up in a vicious system. As in all longestablished departments, they get used to the rule of thumb, the rule of rote, and they fight their way through the annual debates and then go to sleep for another twelve months. But we will try to keep them awake, and on the points I have mentioned we will battle until we are gagged out of the debate on the legislation.
I repeat my appeal that we should have a good look at the Repatriation Act. It is twenty years since the honorable member for Lalor the late Speaker of this House, Mr. Cameron, and others went through the Repatriation Act, line by line and clause by clause, and remoulded it nearer to what was thought desirable in those days. It might be necessary, in this streamlined age, to cut some more of the cackle that surrounds our repatriation procedures. Surely there is some way of getting away from the practice of piling up these little tribunals and these little tyrannies, one on top of the other. Consider again the case of a digger who, perhaps after 30 years, finds himself suffering from a disease which he thinks is due to war service. He remembers the day on which he received the injury that started it all. He tries to get his evidence together and he experiences terrible frustration. He cannot find Bluey or Jack or Curley who saw him blown up or injured in some other way. He goes to the Repatriation Department and is told, “ Fill in this form; fill in that form “. It is a great place; you can fill in any form you like there. They will not stop you, you can keep on writing. Then he is caught up in this awful processing churn. He goes to the Repatriation Department first, then to one tribunal and then to another. At some stage he enlists the services of the Legal Service Bureau. Then he comes out as he came in, like the man in Omar Khayyam’s poem, completely unchanged. From 68 per cent, to 80 per cent, of these men never get a chance. Something has to be done about them.
Let me suggest, finally, that the Government should take another look at the matter of granting special pensions for the courageous men who performed deeds above the call of duty. I do not refer particularly to the man T mentioned earlier. He died the other day, but his widow is waiting for something to be done for her by a grateful country. After all, she stood by while her man served in the Boer War, the Zulu Rebellion and in both World Wars. She stood by while her boys were trained and performed service themselves. Here is honour and performance above the call of duty, and if the Minister were to give an actofgrace pension to the widow, there is not one person in the community who would suggest that she was getting a special privilege that should not have been granted to her. We would all say, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant, for the job you have done for this country and for this community “.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like your guidance. At what stage of the proceedings to-day would I be in order in making a personal explanation on a matter on which I have been misrepresented by two honorable members on the other side of the House? Would now be an appropriate time?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member can make his explanation at the conclusion of the debate on the bill.
– I raise a point of order, Sir. Will you give me your advice on this matter? I understood - perhaps I am wrong and I seek guidance on this - that if an honorable member has been grossly misrepresented, he has the right to raise the matter in the House at the first opportunity after he has heard of the misrepresentation, and to ask that he be given an opportunity to make a personal explanation.
– Order! The words are “ the first convenient opportunity “. I think that at the conclusion of the debate on the bill would be quite an appropriate opportunity.
– May I again stress that, in view of the urgent nature of the matter that the honorable member for Grayndler has submitted, it ought to be discussed at once?
– Order! The honorable member is not in order. I have already ruled on this matter.
– Would you let me argue on the elasticity-
– No. The honorable member would not be in order.
– I think it is rather-
– Order! The honorable member is canvassing my ruling.
– I dissent from the ruling.
– In that case the correct form has to be followed.
– That is to write a note?
– If the honorable member has a desire to dissent from the ruling of the Chair, he knows the appropriate forms of the House.
– We will dissent from your ruling. If you advise me how, I will do it.
– It is not my obligation to advise the honorable member of what he should do. I call the honorable member for Lilley.
.- Before the suspension of the sitting, we were regaled with a speech by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). It is unfortunate that those members of the general public who may have been listening to him on the radio do not know him as well as members of this House do. His speech was full of inaccuracies and I am certain that some of it was completely untrue. Let me give an example. The honorable member tor Parkes concluded his address in this chamber by making an appeal on behalf of an aged gentleman whom he claimed had served ii all wars since, and including, the Zulu War. He claimed that this gentleman had won certain decorations; yet his appeals to the .Australian Government had been m vain. I believe that this one case is sufficient to show what type of consideration should be given to these claims that so often emanate from the honorable member for Parkes. He claimed that this gentleman had served in the Zulu War. We remember that the Zulu War commenced on 22nd January, 1879. I hope that the honorable member for Parkes does not attempt to alter his speech in “ Hansard “, because every one in the chamber heard him say the Zulu War.
– The Zulu Rebellion. That is not the Zulu War, and do not be so smart!
– The Zulu War started on 22nd January, 1879. If the gentleman to whom the honorable member for Parkes referred had reached the great age of ten years when he served in this war of 1879, he would have been 70, or perhaps 71, years of age at the outbreak of World War II. I do not think that there were many strapping young soldiers of 70 serving in World War II. But, to be reasonable, this man must have been somewhere about 18 years of age when he served in the Zulu War. This would have made him 78 years of age at the outbreak of World War II., and, since there were really no Australian soldiers serving at the outbreak of World War II., his minimum age must have been 79 or 80 years. How could this man possibly have enlisted for service in World War II., even if we accept what the honorable member for Parkes has said as true? He said that this strapping young man, who must have been nearly 80 years of age at the time, was accepted for service in World War II. If he suffered a disability as a result of his service with the British Army, surely it is the British Ministry of Pensions to whom this problem should be referred and not the Australian Government.
The honorable member for Parkes said that in his opinion the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) should bring himself up to date on the problems of exservicemen, that this was the year 1960. The honorable member for Perth has the most meritorious service of any member of this Parliament with returned servicemen’s organizations. He served as State president of the Returned Servicemen’s League in Western Australia. He keeps a very close and intimate check on what is happening in returned servicemen’s organizations, and he has continued his efforts since he became a member of this Parliament. The ideas of the honorable member for Perth are closely related to the ideas of the R.S.L. We have only to refer to the 44th annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, issued by the National Executive in Canberra and received by honorable members only a few days ago, to learn that the opinions of the honorable member for Perth are right and those of the honorable member for Parkes are wrong. The honorable member for
Parkes claimed that the R.S.L. could get nowhere with what he described as the solid wall of bureaucracy of the Repatriation Department. Yet, at the very beginning of this report, we find these words penned by the national president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia -
At this stage I should like to pay a warm tribute to the courteous and friendly way in which all League representations are met. Where refusals have to be given to specific requests, the Ministers or the Departments concerned go to great pains to point out the reasons for them. There is no arbitrary out of hand rejection of representations made officially on behalf of the League from time to time, and always the door is open to further negotiations.
But the honorable member for Parkes complains that the returned servicemen’s organizations cannot break through what he described as the solid wall of bureaucracy. He went on to suggest that if we are really to deal with the problems of the exservicemen, we must ensure that the rates of pension will be greatly increased. It is the honorable member for Parkes who should bring himself up to date on the problems of ex-servicemen. His remarks show that he is living in the past. Again let us refer to the latest report received from the R.S.L., the pre-eminent returned servicemen’s organization in Australia. On page 7 of the report, under the heading “ Repatriation “, we find that the National Executive had this to say -
However much importance is placed on the direct money value of pensions, it would be wrong to place importance on this aspect out of all proportion to other benefits which are not of direct monetary nature.
In other words, this report, which was published before the bill now before the House was brought down, is a clear indication that the very things that the ex-servicemen’s organizations wanted to be implemented have been implemented in this measure. What could be more convincing than the fact that, taking these very points into consideration, this Government has now made available to all service pensioners full rights of treatment in repatriation hospitals for any disability, whether war-caused or otherwise? These are the very things that the returned soldiers’ organizations wanted. It is no wonder that the attempts of the Labour Party in the past to meet the demands of the returned soldiers evoked no sympathy from the general public or from the exservicemen or their relatives, because it lived so far in the past that its members were unable to keep up with what was actually needed.
This Government has been most fortunate in having the services of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), who maintains the closest possible liaison not only with higher heirarchy of the returned soldiers’ movement but also with the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the subbranches of which he has continually visited. He has not confined his activities to meeting the State and federal executives of the returned soldiers’ organizations, but has frequently visited the R.S.S.A.l.L.A. sub-branches in the suburbs and country towns and has heard the problems of the ordinary digger from all sources. That is why to-day Australia can claim to have the greatest repatriation system in the world. I believe the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will agree that no country in the world has a repatriation system that can compare with ours. 1 pay tribute to the contributions made by the honorable member for Lalor. There is a considerable number of amendments in the legislation which came about as the result of the committee of which he was chairman. Let it not be doubted that to-day we have the greatest repatriation benefits and the greatest repatriation system that exists in the world; and thai is something which every member of this Parliament can be proud to proclaim.
Let me now deal further with the comments of that out-of-date politician, the honorable member for Parkes who has tried to make an appeal to the exservicemen in his area and make them believe that perhaps he knows something about these problems. He put forward an eloquent plea that a judge should be appointed to the appeal tribunals; and he said to members on the Government side of the House, “ Why do you not wake up? These are the things that the returned soldiers require.” If we refer again to the 44th annual report of the R.S.S.A.l.L.A., which has been issued and distributed to honorable members of this Parliament, and go through all the items listed in it we find among them a “ Summary of repatriation requests “. If we glance at each and every one of those requests, nowhere will we find any reference to suggest that a judge should be appointed to a repatriation tribunal. Nowhere in this report are we able to find anything at all that coincides with the suggestions put forward by the honorable member for Parkes. Therefore, Sir, we are entitled to disregard completely any suggestions or any appeals that he may have made.
If we are to do the best we can in the field of repatriation, we can do that only by paying close attention to the returned soldiers’ organizations, which maintain close contact with all ex-servicemen and know their problems intimately and channel their requests to individual members of this Parliament, to the Repatriation Department and to the Minister for Repatriation. One of the things which has given the greatest concern to honorable members on this side of the House - and probably to some honorable members on the other side - has been the great number of ex-servicemen who have lodged appeals to entitlement appeals tribunals but have found that the hearings of those tribunals have been set down for some date well and truly ahead. In some cases the condition suffered by the ex-serviceman deteriorates rapidly and he is unable to get before the tribunal to have his case heard so that it can be determined whether or not the disability from which he suffers is due to war causes.
In Appendix 3 of the report issued by the Repatriation Commission we find that a total of 3,337 appeals to the entitlement tribunal are still outstanding and have not been dealt with. There were 943 appeals by World War I. veterans outstanding as at 30th June, 1959, and as at 30th June. 1960, the number of appeals outstanding was 1,270, an increase from 943 to 1,270. If we look at the figures for ex-servicemen from World War II. we find that at 30th June, 1959, there were 1,257 appeals to be heard by an entitlement appeals tribunal and the number outstanding at as 30th June, 1960, was 2,031. For ex-servicemen of the Korea and Malaya operations the number of appeals outstanding at 30th June, 1959, was 32, and at 30th June, 1960, the number was 36. That makes a grand total of 3,337 exservicemen who urgently require to have their cases fairly and justly considered by an independent entitlement tribunal. This is a matter of very great concern to all exservicemen.
I have not heard it announced officially, but I believe that a decision has been reached by the Government that an additional tribunal will be appointed in an endeavour to overcome that backlog. However, I have some doubt whether one extra tribunal could possibly consider the number of cases that are to be heard and bring the waiting time down to a minimum. My reason for making that statement is based on the number of hearings dealt with each year by the tribunals. We find that the number of World War I. cases heard in a year working at full speed was about 2,300. Hearings of World War II. cases numbered about 3,000. In the ensuing twelve months there will be an increasing number of appeals to entitlement appeals tribunals because, as the age of the ex-servicemen increases so too do their disabilities and their health deteriorates. However, it is reasonable to suggest that the appointment of one additional tribunal will have a very considerable impact, and credit and congratulations should be given to the Minister and the Government for having taken this action. I sincerely hope that one extra tribunal will be able to meet the demands made on its time. I hope it will be possible in some way to speed up hearings, and that not only will the backlog be overcome but also that most of the delay in hearings will be avoided.
One other point I want to make in regard to this report from the Repatriation Commission has to do with the number of appeals heard and the number upheld. Of a total of 2.300 appeals by ex-servicemen from World War I., 275 were allowed and 2,061 were disallowed. Here let me point out that it is customary for honorable members opposite to use figures such as those to suggest that the independent tribunals are not doing their jobs. I completely disagree with that opinion, and I intend to explain my reasons for disagreeing with it. 1 believe that these figures, published as they are, indicate that the system is working satisfactorily.
In the first place, these are independent entitlement appeals tribunals, and when we say they are independent we mean that they are independent. They are not subject to any political pressure; they are not subject to any political interference; nor will they tolerate, in any circumstances, interference from the Repatriation Department or its officers or anybody else. They sit as tribunals, each composed of three highly reputable individuals. They hear the cases submitted to them and, with complete impartiality, being guided by the terms of section 47 of the act, they determine whether the ex-serviceman’s disability is or is not the result of his war service. Section 47 of the act is the one relating to onus of proof, and here I emphasize that it must be clearly understood that the element of doubt, if any, is not such a doubt as may be in the mind of the appellant, his advocate, the members of his family or his friends. Nor has it any relation to any element of doubt in the minds of the Repatriation Department or even of the members of the medical profession who have tendered their opinions. The doubt must be in the minds of the three men who are sitting impartially in judgment of the case. If, as a result of the evidence placed before those three men, there is created in their minds such a doubt as would suggest that the disability being suffered by the ex-serviceman could reasonably have been caused by his war service, then, invariably, they give judgment in favour of the ex-serviceman.
I suggest that the figures I have cited indicate clearly how well the system has worked. If we found that 100 per cent, or even 80 per cent, or 60 per cent, of the appeals that went before the independent entitlement tribunals were upheld, we would have cause for alarm, for that would indicate that our system was completely wrong T say that because it has to be remembered that when the ex-serviceman first lodges his claim for acceptance of a disability with the Repatriation Department consideration is given to it first by the board. Sitting on that board is a representative of the local State branch of the returned soldiers’ organization, a man appointed by the soldier’s friends. This man sits in judgment, with others, to determine, whether the disability was caused or aggravated by war service. If the board rejects the case, the ex-serviceman then appeals to the Repatriation Commission. Surely if the disabilities were associated with war service, they would be automatically accepted as such by the board, in the majority of cases. The case goes to the commission after it has been rejected by the board, and again with complete impartiality the circumstances are considered fairly, honestly and sincerely by the members of the Repatriation Commission. There have been many cases rejected by the board and accepted by the commission. When I say “ many cases “ I do not mean an exceptionally high percentage. There have been cases which indicate that the commission has conducted additional research and obtained evidence or information that might not have been put before the board. The commission considers the opinion of the board, the opinion of the ex-serviceman and the opinion of members of the medical profession. Frequently, the commission seeks further information from leaders of the medical profession in order to ascertain whether it is possible that the disability is due to war service. If, after those two tribunals have considered the case, the application is rejected, the ex-serviceman has the right of appeal to the independent entitlement tribunal. Now, some people are suggesting that, after at least two appeals, there should be another tribunal to which still another appeal may be made. What if such a tribunal were established and again there were 98 per cent, rejections, as there most certainly would be? Because of the small percentage of acceptances, there would be a clamour for still another tribunal, and so on ad infinitum until eventually the exserviceman had available to him the right of appeal to the Privy Council. Nothing could be more ridiculous.
I believe that the ex-serviceman now gets a very fair go indeed in the hearing of appeals. First his case is considered by the board. All the evidence is summed up and everything favorable to him is considered. Next he has the right to approach the Repatriation Commission, and finally he may appeal to an independent entitlement appeals tribunal. I pay my respect and tribute to the officers of those tribunals for the very great work they are doing. They certainly have my most sincere respect.
I should like now to make some reference to the question of the acceptance of cancer, in the same way as we have accepted tuberculosis. I first raised this subject in the House in 1956, when I suggested that there was an alarming increase in the incidence of cancer amongst ex-servicemen. I then asked the Minister whether he would supply figures showing the percentage of deaths of ex-servicemen which were due to cancer. I obtained what was available from him, but the information was not accurate. The Minister told the House at the time that it could not be accurate because all the required statistics were not available. He said at that time that an attempt would be made to appoint a committee to carry out investigations in the hope that accurate statistics could be made available to members of this Parliament, members of the medical profession and others who were interested to know what was the real incidence of cancer amongst ex-servicemen. If we are to make a determination on a sound basis, those figures are essential. I deplore the fact that in the report we have obtained from the Repatriation Commission there is no indication of how much progress has been made in obtaining those statistics. I do not agree with the suggestion that has been, advanced by the Opposition that we should blindly accept all cases of cancer in exservicemen as being due to war service. A great many cases of cancer have been accepted by the Repatriation Department as possibly having been due to war service. But if we are not prepared to accept the disability as being caused through war service, a great many of the cancer victims should be accepted under that section of the act which applies to tuberculosis sufferers. To support the action that we, as a Government, take in using taxpayers’ money to finance these things we should make clear to the taxpaying public the reasons why we accept cancer in this manner. But before we can do that we must be fortified by the statistics that we require.
The only place from which we can obtain the relevant figures is the Repatriation Department. In providing these figures it is about time that the department smartened itself up. When speaking on the Estimates in 1959 I had incorporated in “ Hansard “ a table which showed the incidence of death in ex-servicemen as a result of war-caused disabilities. The figures which the Repatriation Department provided showed that the incidence of death in ex-servicemen due to cancer was less than that in the civilian population. I cannot believe that that is true. I should think that the incidence of cancer amongst ex-servicemen would be the same as, or greater than, it is in the civilian population. I just cannot believe that the incidence of death in ex-servicemen of all age groups due to cancer is lower than it is in civilians. When we obtain the necessary statistics from the Repatriation Department, it will be essential to have them divided into the various age groups so that we will be able to compare deaths among exservicemen due to cancer with deaths of civilians in the same age groups. 1 suggest that when the Repatriation Commission presents its next report to this Parliament it ensure that this information is given.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired..
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation because I have been grossly misrepresented by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight).
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes has the right to make a personal explanation in relation to that portion of his speech in which he claims he was misrepresented.
– I shall be as brief as possible. During my speech before the sitting was suspended for lunch 1 referred to an ex-serviceman who had served in a series of wars and who had died when he was 79 or 80 years of age. The honorable member for Lilley - inadvertently, I hope, but too gleefully for my conception of good manners and good intent - tried to point out that I had said that this man had served in the Zulu War. The honorable member said that the man would have been about ten years of age at that time. That was a very shabby thing to say. The man to whom I referred is now dead and his widow is pressing a claim for assistance. She is a constituent of the electorate of Evans, and is a personal friend of mine. I mentioned the case of her husband to illustrate a point that I was making. I referred to the Zulu Rebellion, not the Zulu War. Whoever are the honorable member’s research officers, whether they come from the Repatriation Department or from his own inadequate public relations organization, I stand now ready to correct him.
The correction is based on the authority of page 993, volume 23, of “ Encyclopaedia Britannica “, which refers to the Zulu Rebellion in this way -
In 190S a poll tax of £1 on all adult males was imposed by the Natal legislature; this tax was the ostensible cause of a revolt in 1906 among the natives of Natal. After a hard campaign the rebellion was crushed by July, 1906. In all about 3,500 Zulus were killed and about 3,000 taken prisoners.
This incident is referred to in the index as the “ Zulu Rebellion “. I have consulted my notes and have found that I had typed in three places the words “ Zulu Rebellion “. The honorable member for Lilley, because of his magpie-like propensities, picked out one word of my speech. I used the words “ Zulu Rebellion “. There was, therefore, no need for” the honorable member to make a cheap joke at the expense of a serviceman who is no longer alive.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has ably pointed out that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) is weak, not only in history, but also in logic. I should like to take up some of the points of the honorable member’s speech at which he was almost moving towards our point of view. But, first of all, there was his apologia for the Repatriation Department and for the Government. I do not know whether this is part and parcel of the inside running for the next Cabinet vacancy, but surely justice is not done to any one, nor is help given to the ex-servicemen by an honorable member coming into this place and becoming an apologist for administrative procedures that are failing to carry out the objects and purposes for which the Repatriation Department was set up. No one on this side of the House claims that adherence to these procedures is necessarily the duty or the obligation of any public servant. We claim that the system is breaking down, that the approach to the problem is incorrect, and that the arrangements should be altered. That is where Parliament comes in.
Parliament has the responsibility to discuss this matter as freely and as impartially as it can, to try to resolve any administrative difficulties that exist and, if necessary, to create new legal systems to overcome them. That is why at this stage we have proposed a judicial or a legal appeal tribunal to be superimposed upon the present system. As the honorable member for Lilley pointed out, this may appear on the surface to be creating further complexities, but the necessity for major alterations in the act and a major change in thinking appeals to us on this side as being quite logical.
We believe that the onus of proof clause, as it is known, is not being administered in the spirit in which it was written into the act in the first place, and that the only approach to this is to deal with it in the vein in which the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has dealt with it on occasions when replying to questions which have been asked of him in the House. He has said that he will look into the questions of law associated with it.
The general tenor of the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley indicated that he approached this question from the aspect of our duty to the taxpayers. He suggested that we must not, on any account, do anything which might be looked at askance by the taxpayers, and that we must be careful lest some one receive a little more than that to which he is justly entitled. That point of view was expressed by the Minister in his second-reading speech. His first words were -
Despite the general need to limit expenditure . . .
That is a half-hearted approach to a social and a national duty. This is where I feel that the system has broken down. It is not our duty to look to the taxpayer; it is our duty to look to the human being. Unfortunately, if you dilly-dally or delay in the cause of repatriation, the person for whom you are making the judgment may have passed beyond your care or help before you come to a more just decision.
Here is an illustration of the tragedy of it: Not so long ago I was speaking to a man who had recently retired from a senior position in the Repatriation Department. He said, “ If only we could turn back the clock and pick up the men whom we rejected 20 or 30 years ago! “ This officer felt that there was some distance to go in the administration of the act, and he had spent a long time administering it. We know of many cases where justice has not been done. A man comes to us and says that his application for a pension was rejected ten years ago; we say, “ There is a new spirit abroad now, let us have another go “. Eventually people in that position will break through, but they should have broken through when they first made their applications. That is the tragedy of the person who has missed out. We believe that thousands of the men who served with you, Mr. Speaker, in the First World War have missed out and great injustices have been perpetrated. This Parliamen has a duty to rectify the position.
We are inclined to look at the matter from the viewpoint of legalisms, Treasury directions, and so on. That is the wrong angle from which to view it. We should be looking at this question from the angle of what the man has, and it can be taken from him only when you have proved that he is not entitled to it. That is the way in which the onus of proof provisions should be applied. It is not a matter of who is going to pay or whether you will crowd the hospitals. It is not a question of whether there is a doubt; it is a question of where our duty lies. In all matters that relate to human beings you should start with the assumption that the man should get something and then let some one prove that he ought not to have it.
I turn now to the onus of proof problem. The honorable member for Lilley dealt with this and used the word “ doubt “. Section 47 of the principal act has become known as the onus of proof section. Nowhere in sub-section (2.) of that section can I find the word “ doubt “. I turned up the speech that was made by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) some weeks ago when he was answering the arguments advanced by the Opposition in a debate on this very matter. He then said that the point is whether the tribunal has a doubt, and I think he used the expression “ reasonable doubt “ or at least implied that the question of reasonable doubt was involved. The provision in the act is specific. Section 47 (2.) reads - lt shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal but the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal determining or deciding the claim, application or appeal shall be entitled to draw, and shall draw, from all the circumstances of the case, from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, applicant or appellant, and in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed.
What does that mean? When you reduce it to ordinary administrative terms, it means that the applicant should not have to appear before the tribunal and submit evidence by a doctor that his condition is due to war service. He having proved that he had war service and that he is ill, it should be an administrative matter to establish that he is not entitled to have his application granted, if that is the position. He should not be on the receiving end. The Repatriation Commission should be required to submit itself to questioning on the issue. It should be on trial, not the applicant. I say that the logical construction to be placed on this provision in the act is that every person who served in war and who is ill has only to establish those two facts to succeed in his claim. The commission should then have to satisfy the onus of proof and establish that the man’s condition was not caused or aggravated by war service if the claim is to be rejected. 1 know that to adopt this extreme interpretation would be to make a radical change in the present approach to the problem, but I believe that this new approach would be logical enough in the present spirit of the age after 40 years of struggling to develop some kind of system that would solve the problem.
That is the first challenge that we issue to the Government on this measure. We feel that the most appropriate way to tackle the problem is to adopt a logical legal approach to it and to consider whether or not the spirit of section 47 of the act has been applied in the way in which it should be applied. I know that the people who serve on these repatriation tribunals are dedicated and public-spirited men who are devoted to their task. But they have their duty to do under their charter. Perhaps we ought to re-write their charter. We must indicate exactly what we mean by section 47 of the act. In effect, we must reverse the present situation and make it clear that every ex-serviceman who is ill is entitled to be regarded as a repatriation responsibility unless it can be proved that there is no possibility whatsoever of his condition having been caused or aggravated by war service. As I have already said, that would represent a change in emphasis and a complete reversal of the present procedure. But it seems to me to be a logical development of the trend of administrative procedures and attitudes in these days. More and more people are making a breakthrough. The Repatriation Act is a measure of great complexity and the whole repatriation system is very complex. There has been a continuous struggle over 40 years to develop some system which will give us the answer to the question: How can we do justice to the men who served in the two world wars? The note which appears on the first page of the act indicates that about 40 amendments to it have been made in the 40 years of its existence. This act is perhaps a symbol and a signpost, if I may use that term, in the struggle carried on by this Parliament to give social justice to people whose needs demand our attention.
The question is not whether this act is the best in the world. If it is not the best in the world, it ought to be the best. We can apply only one test to it: Is it the best act possible for the welfare of exservicemen? So, every now and again, we make another major break-through. We have made a major break-through with respect to repatriation benefits for service pensioners. We on this side of the House have advocated something of that kind for some time. We have been opposed, of course, by some of the apologists on the other side of the House who have continually said, “You will jam the repatriation hospitals. Think of the poor taxpayer “. The Australian taxpayer, however, is a humane, mature sort of person with an adult outlook on these matters, and he is inclined to think that justice is the first charge on the country. I am sure that when the taxpayer is faced with this question he will willingly agree to foot the bill.
– It will be just another case of the taxpayer footing the bill.
– Yes. We say that the official interpretation of the onus of proof section of the act has been bedevilling the repatriation system. The response by the Minister for Health to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) a few weeks ago, when the subject was discussed as a matter of urgent public importance, implied a legal attitude of mind in the members of repatriation tribunals which is not implicit in the act. I say that one can draw only one logical conclusion from section 47 of the act. Only one logical construction can be placed on its wording: If a person can prove that he had war service and that he is ill, the Repatriation Commission has to satisfy the onus of proof if it wishes to establish that the application should be rejected. As I say, my attitude is possibly a radical and extreme one.. But when we are dealing with matters of social welfare and with human beings who will pass this way but once, we ought to take the logical and extreme view. It is of no use to weep in three years’ time for the people who died this month while their applications were still undetermined or were being rejected and while the new spirit of the age was seeping through to the administrative tribunals.
The honorable member for Lilley made an interesting point about the delay in obtaining decisions from repatriation tribunals. I shall not take up that matter. It is an administrative question to which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) should have addressed himself long since. Unfortunately, he has very little discretionary power under the Repatriation Act. Some say that this is a good thing and some say that it is a bad thing. I am inclined to think that Ministers ought to have discretionary powers somewhere along the line. As the honorable member for Parkes has said, it would be a good thing if the Minister for Repatriation were able to pay repatriation pensions as an act of grace. I do not suggest that he should have discretionary power to take anything from ex-servicemen, but perhaps it would be a good thing at times if he had power to accept the responsibility of paying pensions in cases in which officials who have a different kind of responsibility are prepared to falter. The Minister for Repatriation has much less discretion under the terms of the Repatriation Act than the Minister for Social Services has under the terms of the Social Services Act in matters such as these. I think that something of the spirit of the Social Services Act should be written into the Repatriation Act so that the Minister for Repatriation will not have to send back to us the kind of stereotyped replies that he so consistently gives us.
One of the matters to which we must address ourselves is the particular plight of ex-servicemen of the First World War. I do not think their plight can be brought before the Parliament too often. The Opposition has indicated that it will at the committee stage propose an amendment designed to insert the following new provision in the principal act: - 123a. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the forces as denned in Section 23 of this Act and for a person to whom Section 120 of this Act applies.
In other words, we propose that exservicemen of the 1914-18 war and of the Boer War shall be entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals. The Government has taken some cognizance of this need by agreeing to give treatment in repatriation hospitals to service pensioners, and extension of the same treatment to ex-servicemen of World War I. and the Boer War will be but a tardy recognition of the fact that they, and especially those who served in the First World War, did not get a fair go. I am very much concerned about this matter. There is the case of the person who puts his point of view in these terms: “ I served in France and I was knocked about, but the Repatriation Commission will not accept me. The fellow down the road who served in the Second World War did not leave Australia, but he is accepted for benefits.” The man from the First World War, in those circumstances, feels that he is not getting justice, and I think that he is entitled to feel that way. This is not simply a question of statistics. I have put this to the House on a number of occasions already, and I simply want some one to give me a proper answer and not just to quote me official statistics and administrative arguments in an attempt to establish that the case I am putting is not sound.
The honorable member for Lilley mentioned the matter of appeals to entitlement appeals tribunals, and he dealt with the number of appeals allowed and disallowed. I have not had time to work out the percentages. But we can get some valuable information from table 3 in Appendix 3, at page 26 of the report of the Repatriation Commission for 1959-60. I congratulate the commission on having the report in our hands, inadequate though it may be in some respects, at this early stage after the close of the financial year to which it relates. I hope that other official bodies will go forward and do likewise.
The report shows that 275 appeals from First World War men were allowed and 2,061 were disallowed - a ratio of about 1 to 7. The number of appeals from Second World War men allowed was 599 and the number disallowed was 3,160 - a ratio of a little more than 1 to 5. To come closer to the present time, thirteen appeals from men who served in the Korean and Malayan operations were allowed and 64 were disallowed - a ratio of a little less than 1 to 5.
Then I turn to another page of the report, and I quote some statistics from it. 1 mink that we sent about 330,000 men overseas to fight in the First World War. Some 314,000 of them became casualties. Ninetyfive per cent, of the men who served in the First World War became casualties, lt was a very rough and dangerous sort of enterprise, that war. Now I look at the figures in the report which show the number of pensions granted at various times. The maximum number of pensions granted for incapacity in respect of the 1914-18 war was 90,389 in 1920. It rose consistently over the next few years, and between 1921 and 1925 a total of 72,128 pensions for incapacity was granted. Between 1926 and 1930 the number was 74,578, and between 1931 and 1935 it was 74,998. The number reached another peak between 1936 and 1940 of 74,462. Logically enough, it is now falling. From 1940, 22 years after the conclusion of hostilities in World War I., as perhaps a large number of the men involved were getting farther away from the time of their service and were less able to prove their cases - or were dying - the number has fallen.
But what is the position as regards the Second World War? Nobody would claim that the Second World War was as tough or as dangerous as the First World War. Nearly 1,000,000 men and women served in the Second World War. I do not know exactly how many of them sailed from Australia, but I think that we suffered something between 170,000 and 180.000 casualties, which included sick, prisoners of war and so on. I think that in the First World War between 56,000 and 60,000 men were killed, and about 169,000 received wounds in actual battle - a fantastically high casualty rate. I understand that Australian forces in the First World War had the highest casualty rate, proportionate to the number of men serving, of any allied nation. That is one reason why our repatriation system ought to be the best. It has the heaviest burden to carry.
We had 1,000,000 people serving in the 1939-45 war, and about 180,000 became casualties. What is the picture in regard to these people in their struggle through the administrative system of the Repatriation Department? Either because they had more skill, or were a more sickly lot and therefore more liable to become casualties, somehow, by 1945, 535,766 of the people who served in that war had qualified for pensions. Between 1946 and 1950, 108,922 qualified, and between 1951 and 1955, 134,979 qualified. The peak was reached between 1956 and 1960, when 155,534 qualified. More people have got pensions from the Second World War than were actual battle casualties. At the very peak of the first war the ratio of pensions to the number of wounded was never better than one to four. For every four wounded perhaps one became a repatriation beneficiary. But in regard to the Second World War the number of people receiving repatriation benefits of one sort or another is higher than the number of people who were actual battle casualties. I am not complaining about that. A man does not need to be in actual battle to become a casualty. There were plenty of places where a man could serve and become ill as a result. However, the figures prove to my satisfaction, as I think they would prove to the satisfaction of any reasonable person who examined them closely, that the returned man from the Second World War has received a better go than the man who fought in the First World War. Something ought to be done about this, and the logical thing to do about it at present is to receive into the arms of the Repatriation Department, as a responsibility, all people who served in the First World War. They should be eligible for medical benefits in the same way as nurses from that war have been made eligible. This seems to be only common logic and humanity. It is not some thing which would break this wealthy nation, the prosperity of which the Government is so proud.
As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) pointed out in his especially fluent and eloquent way, if we need more hospitals we should build them. The first charge is on us, and the answer is yet to be given. As I said before, the statistics show that the men from the Second World War have received a better go than the men from the First World War. Perhaps it is logical enough that the statistics should show this because, after the First World War, returned servicemen were anxious to get out of the services as quickly as possible without waiting for medical examinations. Also, in the years between the wars the administrative system of the Repatriation Department was not so highly developed as it is now. The improvement in the whole establishment did not come until 1941, when Labour was in office, and we had men like the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) giving new emphasis to the need for repatriation benefits. So, between 1920 and 1940 it was harder for a man to prove that he was entitled to repatriation benefits than it has been between 1945 and 1960. I have here a letter concerning a case which has been before me for a long time. The man concerned is an old man. The letter reads -
I desire to acknowledge your personal representations . . .
In reply you are informed– received a war pension in respect of Malaria which was subject to periodical review.
In the light of medical evidence that the incapacity from Malaria has ceased to exist, the Repatriation Board on 12/5/38cancelled the pension from 8/6/38. An appeal by– against the Board’s determination was disallowed by the Assessment Appeal Tribunal on 18/7/38.
On 27/3/56 a claim was received from– for acceptance of Perceptive Deafness, Arthritis of the Lumbar Spine and Emphysema. The claim was medically investigated, and the Repatriation Board on 13/9/56 refused the claim as evidence disclosed the conditions were not related to- ‘s service in the 1914-21 or the 1939-45 Wars. An appeal to the Repatriation Commission was disallowed on 5/11/56.
Finally, a later letter states that the appeal - can only be reopened on the production of further evidence which is material to, and has a substantial bearing upon, the claim.
That is more or less in the terms of the relevant section of the act. The onus of proof is on the man, according to the last reply received. But we say that the onus is really on the Repatriation Department. If this man received a pension for years up to 1938 it is logical to believe that anything from which he suffers now, even though he is verging on 80 years of age, is directly derived from illnesses he had as a result of his war service. So we say that the department has a special responsibility to people who served in the First World War. And it is simple enough. To do what is needed requires only a change in spirit and attitude, so what is needed ought to be done forthwith. We do not want to wait for the next ten years for someone to produce the statistics to show that after all these people about whom I am speaking really were entitled to benefits. That would do no good for the man dying of cancer to-day. lt would not help him to say, ten years hence, “ Poor old Joe should have been in it “. We feel very strongly on the cancer issue, because we believe that the medical profession has yet to show what the cause of cancer is. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has said on occasions that he is pretty certain that he knows what cannot have caused cancer. He is shaking his head now. I withdraw my imputation that the Minister for Health knows what cannot have caused cancer. Perhaps he was just shaking his head to test it. The medical profession cannot prove that cancer in an ex-serviceman could not have been caused by service in the First World War or the Second World War. So, logically, the benefit of the Repatriation Department’s welfare system must be given to the exserviceman who has cancer. The administrative system in relation to tuberculosis has been of great benefit to people who served in operations and we should be able to do the same thing with respect to cancer.
– If the community wants it, why resist it?
– That is right. Why struggle against it? What is the Government afraid of? Why cannot the members of the Government be big Australians, for once, instead of little administrators? These are simple, straightforward human questions. The Government is being pettyfogging in the extreme with regard to repatriation. This attitude is expressed by the Opposition, not for any political purpose, but because we feel this way. The socialist attitude puts human welfare first and looks at the cost afterwards. This is a simple matter of emphasis. On our side of the chamber humanity is the first charge upon the community. On the other side, material things and profits are the first charge. This is a difference in degree.
– Are you suffering from a war-caused disability?
-Yes, I am. But that is one of those accidents of chance. The Repatriation Department happens to have accepted me. I did not have anything like the struggle to prove my claim that some people who have come to my office and whose cases have been, in my view, proved, have had. If a man who served in France, or Mesopotamia or on Gallipoli has a couple of bullet holes in him - the human frame was not designed to take bullet holes - and there is something wrong with him now which is a logical consequence of his war service, something should be done about it. The honorable member for Wide Bay has helped me emphasize the Second World War man’s advantage over the First World War man. I am one of the beneficiaries of the Repatriation Department. I am not ashamed of it. It is part of the system. Repatriation coverage is a very good coverage to have. It is about the best coverage that any one can have. If we could supply a similar coverage to every person in Australia we would be making some advance towards the socialist objective.
The Government is not facing up to the questions that I have raised. Concerning cancer, there is a clear-cut doubt, but no steps are being taken in this regard. As the honorable member for Lilley said, even the simple step of making a statistical survey is not being taken. The First World War man, because of the dangers of his service and because of the way in which the act was interpreted between the two great wars, has a case for special consideration. The wives of T.P.I, servicemen have a special case. Some of them get medical benefits and some do not. Even amongst servicemen themselves there arc anomalies created by the divisions put between them. There are still parts of the repatriation system which should be revised.
I am always puzzled by the schedule ot the act which provides different rates for different ranks. This is shown on page 3 of the bill. This applies not only to the people who have themselves served but to their dependants. In respect of all ranks and ratings below the rank of leadingseaman, corporal and related ranks £4 10s. a fortnight is payable to a widowed mother on the death of the member. But all ranks higher than captain in the Navy, colonel in the Army and group-captain in the Air Force get £8 6s. They were all equal in sacrifice. There should be no differentiation in pension rates. The Opposition believes that every step, administrative, legal and legislative, should be taken to remove any anomalies or injustices. I do not know whom the honorable member for Perth meets when he talks about repatriation questions, but if he comes to my office some time, he will have a different experience.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, before the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) commenced his speech he heard that I was to follow him and he said that he wondered on what grounds we could agree. I can assure the honorable member now that he can go on wondering. He raised the question of the onus of proof. Every Labour member in these debates has continually stressed that question. I think that, in examining the onus of proof if Opposition members brought some proof of their contentions they might have a case.
I enjoyed very much the carefree description of the average taxpayer as seen through the eyes of the honorable member for Wills. He said that the taxpayer was a big-hearted man who was prepared to pour out his taxes in order to help every sort of kindly act. That is not in accordance with my idea of the taxpayer. Whether that is because I am a supporter of the Government,I do not know. Nor do I know whether it is because I have a swinging seat and the honorable member for Wills has not. He asked that the Repatriation Department should be given wide discretionary powers in relation in every approach made to it. Can honorable members imagine any government depart ment - and this is a particularly good one - using such discretionary powers? Can you imagine the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) allowing postmasters the discretion to sell 5d. stamps for 4½d.? Discretionary powers cannot be given in a case such as these. The department has to administer the act in accordance with the law and it does that with great sympathy.
I am sorry that I missed the speech of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who, with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), is recognized as a more authoritative spokesman on the Opposition side on the subject of repatriation. I heard the speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). While making allowance for the fact that he is a radical and a poet I am surprised at some of the statements that he made. He read from a press cutting a resolution of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia claiming that the Government was very callous in its approach to these matters.
I would ask the honorable member to cast his mind back to the time when Labour was in office. Scathing attacks were made by the league on Labour’s administration of repatriation. Has the honorable member ever heard of the general acceptance of a wage determination? Has he ever heard a trade union saying, “ This is a splendid award. It is more than enough “? No; the trade union always says that it is not enough because it is the negotiator. If you buy something the price is always too much and if you sell you do not get enough. Normal human factors come into these matters. The Returned Servicemen’s League is a negotiating body in these repatriation matters.Its membership depends to a great extent on the work that it does for its members. The league has remained a strong body during the last ten years. That means that it has had great success in dealing with the present Government.
The major criticism has been directed against the amount of the increases proposed in this bill. Nobody gets his desserts in this life.I commend that fact to the Opposition. Its members should be very thankful that they do not get their desserts. I feel that in all these debates on social services and repatriation too much emphasis is placed on the pecuniary side. Money is vitally important. There is no question about that. But there is also the humanitarian side. Not nearly sufficient attention is given by the Opposition to this side of repatriation. The change that has been made in repatriation provisions in the Budget has resulted from the Government’s recognition of the old soldier - particularly from the First World War. I say “ old soldier “ in a kindly sense because sometimes the term is not used in a kindly way. Provision has been made for the aged soldier in this Budget. As honorable members will know, previously only pensioners with a 100 per cent, pension received full medical benefits. All those on a service pension will now qualify for medical benefits which previously were denied them.
This is a very fine provision because their condition need not necessarily be associated with war service. Very often their condition is the result of advancing years, and in consequence this provision will be of great assistance to them and their families when they are ill. They will obtain hospitalization and all the benefits, which include the general medical practitioner service from a local medical officer of their own choice, the services of a specialist when required, a full range of pharmaceutical benefits, provision of surgical aids and appliances, including spectacles, and dental treatment. They will be admitted to repatriation hospitals when they need hospital treatment. This is an important step; and the Government has made these provisions at the request of members of this House who have felt that such a provision was urgently needed because of the advancing age of veterans of the Boer War and the First World War.
Service pensioners will also benefit from the merged means test which is to be introduced into the Social Services Act and will take effect in March. That provision again will improve the position of old soldiers. Another provision shows that the nation recognizes its responsibility to help ex-servicemen and their families in time of need. In a reference to the education of soldiers’ children, the report of the Repatriation Commission states -
The Commission is considering changes in procedure which will allow the State Soldiers’
Children Education Boards greater discretion to deal with individual cases within the broad framework of the scheme.
This is an important move which will be of great advantage to the children who come under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme. Instead of being treated en masse, much greater discretion will be allowed so that individual children may have their latent qualities improved to the greatest extent. At present there are 7,963 children receiving assistance under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme.
On the question of rehabilitation, the approach has been on the humanitarian side. The fact that a man is being paid a pension does not necessarily make him a useful member of society. Some people think it is a fine thing simply to get a pension. I do not agree. I do not think it is sufficient. More and more attention should be paid to the psychological side of the human being. After all, we are dealing with human factors, and rehabilitation is a very important factor. The training of disabled persons is very important. Under the rehabilitation scheme, people can be made effective members of society; they do not have to rely always on pensions only. They can take their place in society in an occupation of their own choosing and become independent. These are important features of repatriation activities, but not sufficient attention is given to them.
We have heard continually from the Opposition of the harshness of the treatment accorded to deserving ex-servicemen. It is just as well to see who are responsible for determining whether a man is entitled to repatriation benefits. Every member of each of the Repatriation Boards in each State is an ex-serviceman. There are three members in each State so there are eighteen members altogether in the six States. There are three Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, each having three members, and all of them are ex-servicemen. The chairmen of the Assessment Appeal Tribunals and the two members of those tribunals who are doctors all are ex-servicemen who have had active service. On the question of entitlement, all those who have served must know that there is a bond which links all exservicemen; and one would find it hard to pass through the screening of these tribunals without obtaining justice. I do not think there would be any advantage to the Repatriation Department at all if provision were made for appeals to the High Court of Australia. The independent tribunals which the Government set up following the tribunals which were set up by the Labour Government give ample justice to those who claim assistance. One member of each board and Entitlement Appeal Tribunal and the chairman of each Entitlement Appeal Tribunal is selected from a list of names submitted by ex-servicemen’s organizations. Every effort is made to load the scales of justice towards the ex-serviceman. The chairman of the Appeal Tribunals and the Assessment Appeal Tribunals are also legal men.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) who preceeded me, stole some of my thunder. He referred to claims and appeals. It is frightening to think that so long after the Second World War. last year there were 37,463 claims. Similar figures have been recorded year after year. These claims were determined by the repatriation boards and 17,754 were allowed so that almost 19,000 were rejected. All thos; who have served in the armed forces will realize that quite a number of old soldiers will apply for pensions to which they are not entitled. I recall that one man came to my office. He was hobbling painfully on a stick and was wearing dark glasses. He was depressed and said he had been badly treated by the Repatriation Department. I took particulars of his case. I watched him after he had left as he walked across the street. He struck his sore foot a shattering blow on the gutter but he did not flinch. He was no more hurt than I was. He was one of those who had been rejected when he applied for assistance.
There are some who have no justification for pensions. The figures show that they are receiving reasonable treatment because nearly half of those who apply have their claims accepted. Those who are rejected can appeal. The report of the Repatriation Commission shows that of the appeals made to it, 2,307 were accepted in 1959-60 and the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals allowed nearly 1,000 more. When these people complain that they are not getting a fair deal, it is as well to examine the facts which show that the claims of these people are not borne out. At present, repatriation pensions affect about 650,000 persons. These are formidable figures. People who say that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) is hard-hearted in his approach to these matters have not studied the facts properly or with responsibility. No one will deny that those who have served in war should receive their full and just dues, and no case has been made to prove that they are not receiving justice. We should be proud of our Repatriation Department.
A matter that is exercising the mind of the Government, and will continue to exercise it after the Government is again returned to office al the next election, is hospital treatment for ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) mentioned this question, which has been receiving considerable attention in the Repatriation Department. As time goes on and the ex-servicemen of the Second World War grow older, there will be an increasing number of them who require hospital care. The report of the Repatriation Commission shows that ex-servicemen aged 35 years are in hospital, on the average, for 1.7 days per annum. At the age of 60, the figure rises to 6.4 days per annum. It is obvious, therefore, that there will be a growing need for hospital beds, lt is estimated that in six years we will require 29 per cent, more hospital accommodation than was required in 1959, by 1970 we will need 45 per cent, more, and by 1975 the hospital accommodation requirement will be 63 per cent, greater than it is to-day. The Repatriation Department has these requirements well in mind. It realizes also that more and more Second World War ex-servicemen will, as they grow older, reap the benefits of this legislation, under which all service pensioners will receive free hospital treatment.
I would like to say a few words also about ex -prisoners of war. The commission’s report indicates that the Repatriation Committee on Ex-Prisoners of War has been reconstituted. The names of members of the committee are very familiar to me. They include Sir Albert Coates, Dr. Durham, Dr. Dunlop, Dr. Glyn White and Dr. Carter. This committee was reconstituted to consider whether there was any further need to review problems associated with re-establishing ex-prisoners of war in civil life. The report says -
The view of the Committee, with which the Commission agrees, was that a further general survey was not warranted, having regard in particular to the detailed medical examinations of these men carried out in the course of the earlier survey, and to subsequent “ follow up “ arrangements by the Department in individual cases.
I believe that ex-prisoners of war who were held by the Japanese are probably in a slightly different category from other exprisoners of war. All of them, of course, suffered privations, but under the Japanese the privations were suffered mostly in tropical countries, and there was also a certain amount of mental torture. For these reasons, I think the department should give particular attention to appeals by exprisoners of war who were held by the Japanese. I believe that the position of those ex-servicemen should be carefully watched.
In conclusion let me congratulate the Government on the new provisions it has introduced. I should also like to congratulate the Repatriation Department for the courtesy it has always shown me in my dealings with it, and for the sympathetic consideration it has given to cases that 1 have put before it.
.- At the outset, believe it or not, I am going to extend some small measure of thanks to the Government for what it has done in this legislation. I do not refer to the few paltry extra shillings it has decided to give to certain ex-servicemen; I refer rather to the provisions relating to hospital treatment for service pensioners, which will be of great benefit particularly to veterans of the Boer War and of World War I. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) tells us that there is no unemployment at present, and there may indeed be jobs for practically all who want them, provided they are strong enough. But for the returned soldier of World War 1., who is now about 60 years of age, it is just impossible to get a job.
I am pleased to follow the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) in this debate, because, if my memory serves me correctly, during the last four years when 1 have brought forward four or five cases involving ex-servicemen who I considered should be granted free hospital care, the honorable member has said that he did not believe me. Year after year, he has said to me, “You make the same speech time and time again, and in it you say things that I do not believe “. I am glad to see that the Government has now done something for these returned soldiers, but it would not have been done if the members of the Opposition had not prodded the Government into doing it. In the field of social services the Government has granted small increases to certain pensioners and has liberalized the means test. This, of course, has been advocated by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) for the last seven or eight years. Now the Government, in the last part of its period of occupancy of the treasury bench, has decided to introduce these provisions, in an attempt to save itself at the next election.
I have previously mentioned in this House the case of a man living in Glebe who for two and one-half years lived practically solely on charity. He could not get a job. The honorable member for Hume has told us about the three good and honest men who investigate cases such as that put forward ‘by this man. I can only say that in this particular case they were not honest. They told the applicant that he could get light work. He walked with a stick, and he could not walk at all without one, yet they told him he would be able to get a job: I rang various offices for him. I took him to practically every place in Sydney where T thought he might find employment, but not a job could be found for him. He came to my office last Monday and said, “I feel like committing suicide. I fought for the Government and for the country, and what have I got for it? “ I said, “ I do not think you should take it this way. What would you do if you got this pension? “ He said, “ Well, I would think seriously about getting married “. I said, “ Have you got a sheila? “ He said, “ No, I have not, but if you get me the pension I will join a lonely hearts club and possibly I will be married within six or twelve months “. Well, strange to say, that man got the pension, thanks to the benevolence of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), who has never failed yet to look into a case put before him.
There was another case concerning a man who had his leg shot off at the Dardanelles. He could not walk without the aid of a stick. He had a very small pension. Although he had had some 40 operations he could not get the full pension. I have told the House before about this case, but it is worth mentioning again. The Government has now decided to grant such ex-servicemen free hospital treatment, which will be of great benefit to them. In January, 1959, I rang every hospital or other institution that I could think of on behalf of this man in an effort to have him admitted. He had been put out of the Balmain Hospital because he was too sick. His wife had four ambulances in the one day taking him from place to place. I rang the Yaralla Repatriation Hospital and a friend of mine there told me, “ We have plenty of empty beds, but I am not supposed to tell you that. Nevertheless, he is not entitled to come in here because he is suffering from a condition not connected with war service.” That night he came home. The only bedroom in the house was upstairs. His wife rang me againthe following morning, andI again tried the hospitals. Not one repatriation hospital would have anything to do with him. I had to take him to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who nursed him for four days until he died. I have mentioned this matter before and I repeat it now because this is a disgrace to the country and to those who handle repatriation matters. Incidentally, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) said he did not believe it.
– I did not say that.
– I also had the case of a blind man in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He lost an eye when a mortar bomb exploded in his face during the war. He started to lose the sight of his other eye. He was not able to obtain a repatriation pension. His eyesight became so bad that he did not know whether it was day or night. Again, the Minister for Repatriation came to my assistance and gave that man his rightful pension. I raise these matters because I think it only right that the House should know what is happening. I have received deputations from pensioner organizations and I have told them that it is no good talking about these matters at meetings; the only place to try to pin the Government down is in the Parliament during the Budget debate. Year after year, the Government has neglected returned servicemen and has ignored their needs until this occasion. I have many cases similar to those I have mentioned here, but I do not think we should be compelled to raise them in the House. Talking of these matters is like talking about the age pension. The Government should realize its duty to these men who went overseas to fight for their country.
I shall refer now to the increases that these pensioners are likely to receive.I do not want to mention any figures, because nearly every honorable member who has spoken to-day has told us about the amount of the increase. I shall mention another case in my electorate. I have tried and tried in vain over the past three months to get this man into a repatriation hospital, but again I have received the same rebuff. This man enlisted in 1918. He does not mind my reading his record. The other night when he opened a box to look for some papers, he said to me, “ If I could goto Canberra and see Sir Walter Cooper, I feel that he would not treat me like this “. He knew the Minister for Repatriation when he was serving during the First World War. This man enlisted in 1918 and was discharged on 6th November, 1919. A letter to him from the Base Records Office, Melbourne, reads -
Lieutenant F. Coleman, M.C., C/o S.O.I. & R.S., 2nd Military District, New South Wales.
I have much pleasure in forwarding hereunder a copy of extract from the Second Supplement No. 31583 to the London Gazette, dated 4th October, 1919, relating to the conspicuous services rendered by yourself whilst serving with the Australian Imperial Force.
AWARDED THE MILITARY CROSS.
With reference to the award conferred as announced in the London Gazette, dated 8th March, 1919, the following is the statement of service for which the decoration was conferred: -
Lieutenant FRED COLEMAN, M.C.
For gallantly leading his men against odds and attacking a station outbuilding at Semakh on the 25th September, 1918. He forced his way into rooms, using his fists, after emptying his revolver, knocking down the enemy and dragging others from hiding places. With twelve men, during the march to Damascus, he chargedand captured at the point of the sword 47 prisoners, eight machine guns, two limbers, and twelve horses. He did splendid work.
The above has been promulgated in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. 10, dated 29th January, 1920. 1 have here his discharge, which is dated 6th November, 1919. It reads -
I have to inform you that as you have been found Medically Unfit for further Active Service, the Secretary, Department of Defence, has been notified accordingly.
It has, therefore, been requested that your appointment in the A.I.F. should be terminated on S/l/20 being fourteen days from the date of confirmation of your Medical Board Proceedings. Unless you are notified to the contrary the abovementioned date must be accepted by you as being correct, and same will be confirmed by Gazette in due course.
This notification should be presented by you at the Pay Office, when your Statement of Accounts will be prepared.
This man received the Military Cross, which I have in my hand now. He saved his country thousands of pounds by not seeking an age pension when he was entitled to it. This man is 73 years of age. He worked on the waterfront and did not ask for any pensions. He received a very small pension when he returned from the war - something like 22s. a week - but this was taken from him. All the information that I have given to the House to-day was in the hands of those just men to whom he applied for a repatriation pension. He was told only recently that they thought the best thing for him to do was to get the age pension. He received this latter from the Repatriation Department -
With reference to your application for acceptance of Infection of Gums, Cataracts Eyes, as due to war service, you are advised that, after investigation, the following diagnosis was made: - Dental Caries. Bilateral Cataracts.
The Repatriation Board, after full consideration of all evidence, was unable to accept the abovementioned disabilities as being attributable to your war service.
You are therefore, ineligible to receive medical treatment at Departmental expense or to the payment of a war pension in respect thereof.
You may appeal against this decision to the Repatriation Commission. Any such appeal should be made on the attached form C.A.I in which your grounds of appeal should be stated. This may be supported by any additional evidence you desire to submit.
Here we have a man, 73 years of age, who has saved his country a lot of money if not in military pension then in age pension. Now he is blind and another pensioner who is renting a room from him has to take him to and from hospital. This man also had to stay in hospital to have his teeth extracted.
Yet this Government condemns the Government of New South Wales, which has done more than it has ever done for pensioners, whether they be ex-servicemen or civilians. Certainly, this Government gave the pensioners a Ss. a week rise in the past, and it is providing a similar increase on this occasion. I thanked the Government on the first occasion because it did what I had advocated over the preceding four or five years.
But it should not be thought for one moment that the Menzies Government has done anything for the pensioners solely on its own initiative. It has been forced to take such action by the Labour Opposition, and also because of the fact that an election is to be held next year. The Menzies Government hates nothing more than having to prepare for the next election. It has won elections on the Petrov issue and on the promise to abolish petrol rationing; but no issue in the world can save it at the next election. It will be driven from the treasury bench; and then ex-servicemen and civilian pensioners will have their claims treated in proper perspective. The pioneers of this country who made it what it is to-day will be given the means to live instead of being told that they squandered their money in days gone by when Liberal governments in New South Wales and Liberal governments in this National Parliament gave them employment shovelling sand and paid them Ss. a day, and in some cases 10s. a week, for their toil. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack) knows very well that the Spooner Highway on the North Shore was built in the blood, sweat and tears of people who received a paltry dole of 10s. a week. Their work opened up land and the foreshores on the North Shore and made a fortune for a lot of people who with thenfriends have over the last ten years deprived deserving citizens of a just pension.
.- The bill which is before the House has become in nature an annual measure. The record of this Government has been such that year after year some increase has been granted in the field of repatriation benefits. This year is no different from other years, in that again substantial and real benefits are offered to recipients of repatriation pensions. A number of speakers in this debate, principally on the Opposition side of the House, have sought to use it as a vehicle for political advancement. 1 believe that is an entirely wrong approach to the bill which should be regarded as a non-political measure and one designed to give the greatest possible benefits to repatriation pensioners. That view was asserted by Dr. Evatt when that right honorable gentleman was Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament. He then said he felt that legislation of this kind should be approached in that way and that it should not evoke an element of party political bickering. I agree with that view. I think it is reprehensible on the part of the Opposition that it should introduce party politics into the debate on this measure, because, after all, honorable members opposite should be the last people to engage in that sort of thing.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) who has just resumed his seat, talked about a paltry 10s. and about people being denied their proper rights over a period of years. How different that statement is from that of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) who referred to these men who are now repatriation pensioners as “ 5s. a day conscripts “ and as “ economic conscripts “. In twenty years, from 1939 or 1940 to 1960, honorable members opposite have gone from one extreme to the other. Twenty years ago they were condemning these men. What a shocking thing. The record of these men lives, and it will always be emblazoned in the history of this country as that of the very finest men. I refer to all those who enlisted in 1939 and 1940. To characterize them as economic conscripts was a shocking and distasteful thing to do. And now, twenty years later, for the Opposition to come along chameleon-like and contend that it is concerned with the welfare of the repatriation pensioner is political chicanery of the worst kind.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) entertained the Parliament this morning with a history of repatriation benefits in this country, and I think it was a very fine statement of facts. From those facts one conclusion arises, and that is that the Liberal Government which has been in office since 1949 has done most for the repatriation pensioner. There can be no doubt about that fact, and the honorable member for Bass proved it beyond all doubt.
– Do not forget the Country Party.
– I am not forgetting the Country Party. It has a very strong sprinkling of Vigorous ex-servicemen, men capable of standing up and speaking their minds, just as there are such men in the Liberal Party. It is true that in the Opposition, also, there ate ex-servicemen - men whom I admire. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who is sitting at the table of the House at present, and the honorable member for Bass have my admiration. The proper way in which this bill should be approached is for honorable members to join together and seek the best programme of benefits for the repatriation pensioner. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who introduced his contribution to the debate by describing the back-benchers on the Government side of the House as “ stooges “, assisted in no way to resolve the problems of repatriation pensioners.
The honorable member said that the back-benchers on this side of the House had never urged the Government that it should do something in particular for the benefit of repatriation pensioners. The lie can be given at once to that statement by referring to the last year’s debate on this subject. At that time I urged the Government to consider extending medical benefits to service pensioners. I said that that was something which needed to be done. Those honorable members who have examined the bill and read the Minister’s second-reading speech will find that what was asked for not only by me but also by other honorable members on this side of the House last year is now being provided for in this legislation. It ill-behoves the honorable member for Parkes to cast aspersions on back-benchers on this side of the House, particularly those who are exservicemen. I have in mind the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Chaney), Lilley (Mr. Wight) and Hume (Mr. Anderson) each of whom has a great service record. Only a moment or two ago the honorable member for West Sydney produced a military cross while he was speaking. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) won that decoration. So, to suggest that honorable members on this side of the House are in any way reluctant to criticize the Government or make suggestions to it, is completely wrong.
In the course of his long address this morning, the honorable member for Bass departed from fact on a few occasions. For instance, he said that the basic wage to-day is £14 12s. per week. That is quite wrong, and all honorable members know it to be wrong. By way of interjection, I asked the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) had he not made a mistake. He answered that he had not, that the figure of £14 12s. which he gave as being the basic wage represented the unpegged basic wage averaged over the six capital cities. What he means by “ unpegged “ I do not know. I can only assume that he is talking about a basic wage that is adjusted automatically to the C series index. We have a method of wage fixation - the method of arbitration. Arbitration has been the traditional vehicle for the resolution of industrial disputes, and of wage fixation, a tradition to which the Opposition has contributed. To come along now and alter the basic wage merely to suit his own purposes in an attempt to gain political capital is unworthy of the honorable member for Bass. The truth is that the average basic wage for the six capital cities is £13 16s., not £14 12s. If the honorable member for Bass can be so inaccurate in this one instance, how can we be expected to accept any argument he puts forward? It is a great pity that the honorable member twists so much that we cannot accept anything he tells us.
As I have already indicated, the approach of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to this debate was completely wrong. I do not attempt to find words comparable with his to insult him as he sought to insult honorable members on this side. This is not the sort of bill towards which that attitude should be adopted. This is a bill which concerns repatriation pensioners, to whom the Australian people and the Government owe the duty of providing for them the best possible conditions that the community can afford.
– Where are all your Government supporters while this important bill is being discussed?
– Government supporters were so disgusted by the attitude adopted by the Opposition towards this debate that they could not sit here any longer. [Quorum formed.] 1 referred earlier to the characterization by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) of those who enlisted early in the 1939-45 war. He referred to them as economic conscripts. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has just called for a quorum, and there are now only six members of the Labour Party present in the House. In this instance one might properly use an expression of the Leader of the Opposition and describe them as Wardian quorum conscripts, because that is ali they are. That is all the interest they have in this great national problem. There are now only six of them present, and four of those six answered the bells!
We have been given to understand that three matters will be made the subject of amendments when the bill is being discussed in committee. The first is the onus of proof, the second the appeal provisions and the third the First World War pensioners. I shall deal briefly with each of them. I come first to the onus of proof. The act provides that where there is a doubt that doubt must be resolved in the soldier’s favour. The important word there is “ doubt “. If there is a doubt, it must be resolved in favour of the soldier. If there is no doubt, then that provision of the section is not involved. The obvious question is: What is a doubt? The doubt rests in the possibility that the disability was caused by v/ar service. If there is a possibility that it was caused by war service, then there is a doubt, and that doubt has to be resolved in favour of the soldier. If, in the view of the board, commission or tribunal there is no doubt that it was not caused by war service, then there is no doubt, and the section is not invoked. If one honorable member puts the proposition that black is white and another puts the proposition that black is black, we have a difference of opinion, but there is no doubt as to which is correct. There must be a doubt before the section can be invoked. Although there is a conflict of statement when one person says one thing is the position and another says that it is not the position, it does not necessarily mean that there is a doubt as to what is the position, and that is the most important thing to have clearly in one’s mind before criticizing the onus-of-proof provision. Among other things, it must be remembered that the appeal tribunal is composed of all ex-servicemen, all men who themselves experienced the type of life and conditions cited by the appellant in his appeal. Therefore, any criticism of these provisions necessarily implies criticism of the members of the board, the commission and the appeal tribunal, criticism of men who, over a great number of years, have performed a magnificent job, and I would caution anybody to be reluctant to offer criticism unless he is really satisfied in his own mind that the criticism is deserved. Simply because there is a conflict, it does not mean there is a doubt.
The next matter relates to appeals. The number of occasions upon which the Opposition has suggested there ought to be an appeal is as great as the number of times upon which this Government has improved the repatriation scale - annually. To institute another form of appeal would be merely to superimpose a fourth tier upon a three-tier structure. After appealing from the board to the commission, and from the commission to the appeal tribunal, the next step, according to the Opposition, is to go to a supreme court judge or a judge of the High Court. Which is it to be? Is it to be the Supreme Court first; then, if dissatisfied with the Supreme Court judgment, on to the High Court? Then is the next step from that to be to the Privy Council? Immediately the appeal system is introduced, the principle that legalism will be kept out of repatriation appeal tribunal proceedings must necessarily be completely negated. As soon as the case goes to the court, it is necessary to brief counsel. If the case does get to the court, is the court to act as a court of first instance and completely re-hear the case, or is the court merely to accept a statement of what the evidence is believed to be? In my opinion, it would not be sufficient to provide an appeal merely on a question of law or on the interpretation of the facts. If there is to be an appeal, there must be a complete re-hearing of al! the facts.
The Opposition claims that the majority of ex-servicemen in Australia want their pension applications determined initially before a judge of the Supreme Court, but I should be surprised to find this to be the position. I am certain that the bulk of exservicemen’s organizations are satisfied that the present system is the best system, and that they do not want it to be changed.
Insofar as an appeal proceeding may be alined with section 47, which relates to the onus of proof, if there were any substantial feelings among ex-servicemen that the onus of proof provisions were not being applied properly, ex-service organizations or an individual ex-serviceman could, by prerogative writ, either mandamus or certiori depending on the way in which it was formulated, go to the High Court and ask it to intervene and determine the matter. Do not think that this is an extraordinary procedure. It has happened already. There was a case in 1933 before the High Court in which the former Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, appeared as junior to a Queen’s Counsel. The High Court was asked to determine a writ of mandamus. There is no difficulty getting the matter before the court. The decision of the High Court in the case of The King v. War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, ex parte Bott in 1933 established the fact that an individual can go to the High Court by way of prerogative writ. If there were any doubt as to whether it is possible to get to the High Court, that doubt now has been resolved.
There is only one further point about which I wish to say something. The honorable member for Wills suggested that it is harder for a veteran of the First World War to get a pension than it is for a veteran of the Second World War. He mentioned this matter last year and he spoke about it again to-day. Last year I extracted some figures to rebut the statements that he had made in this regard, but apparently he has not taken any notice of them. They appear on page 1413 of “Hansard” of 24th September, 1959. For his benefit I shall read the relevant portion of my speech which is in these terms -
If you take the year 1930, which was twelve years after the 1914-18 war concluded, and the year 1957, which was twelve years after the Second World War finished, and then have a look at the number of members who served in either of those wars and to whom pensions had been granted the result is most illuminating. In 1930 the number of ex-servicemen who were incapacitated and receiving a pension was 74,578. I think it is reasonable to take as the number of men who were in uniform in the war, 300,000. If you express 75,000 as a percentage of 300,000, you find that twelve years after the First World War, 25 per cent, of the ex-servicemen of that war were receiving a pension. Then if you go to the vear 1957, which was twelve years after the conclusion of the Second World War, you will find that 143,000 incapacitated ex-members of the forces of that war were receiving pensions. If you express 143,000 as a percentage of the 1,000,000 in uniform, the result is 141 per cent. So twelve years after the conclusion of the First World War, 25 per cent, of the servicemen who served in that war were being pensioned; and twelve years after the Second World War only 14i per cent, of the ex-servicemen who served in that war were being pensioned.
This is not surprising because we had conscription during the Second World War. At this stage, do not let us delve into the way in which conscription was achieved by a Labour Government which had an anti-conscription policy, but which achieved conscription by a back-door method. Let us assume it to be correct that every man who was eligible, and was not exempted for a specific reason, was in uniform during the Second World War. This was not so in the 1914-18 war. I think it is equally true - I intend no offence to the average man who served in the Second World War - that the average standard of health of the men who served in the First World War was, on enlistment, probably higher than the standard of health of the men who enlisted in the Second World War.
– But surely your figure of 300,000 men in uniform in the First World War is an under-estimate? The figure of total enlistments which is normally given is’ about 430,000.
– I do not accept the figure of 430,000 as accurate, but even if it were, if you take 430,000 instead of 300,000 and express 75,000 as a percentage of that figure, you will find that the result is still greatly in excess of the 14$ per cent, who were pensioned twelve years after the Second World War. Instead of having 25 per cent, as against 14i per cent, you would probably have a figure of about 19 per cent, as against 14i per cent. There is still a difference of about 5 per cent.
– What about the number of deaths?
– That is something else which should be taken into account, because during the 1914-18 war we did not have penicillin and the antibiotics which were used during the Second World War. A great number of men who died from wounds in the 1914-18 war would have lived had they received the same wounds in the Second World War. So a great number of the men from the 1939-45 war who make up that 141 per cent, would not have been pensioned if they had served in the 1914-18 war because they would not have lived. This outrageous suggestion by the honorable member for Wills that it is harder for a veteran of the First World War to get a pension than it is for a veteran of the Second World War, is to be deplored. He is completely inaccurate and completely mis-states the position.
I have nothing more to say on this bill other than to reiterate my impression that the Government has a record of service to the repatriation pensioner extending over a decade. No matter what attacks the Opposition makes upon the Government, it cannot escape the fact that the Government has acted in a most dutiful and, I believe, in a most generous way towards the repatriation pensioner.
.- The Repatriation Bill which is now before us contains some laudable features. I, together with other members of the Opposition, am happy to acknowledge that it will provide hospital treatment for all service pensioners and Boer War veterans. To that extent, I think that the Government is entitled to claim some credit. But when the Government claims that it has been particularly generous to ex-servicemen, and when it claims, as I heard one Government supporter state this morning, that ex-servicemen generally are particularly pleased and have no worries about the provisions of this legislation, it is time to remind the Government and the House of some of the things for which the Returned Servicemen’s League, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association and other kindred bodies, have been pressing the Government for some time.
With other members from both sides of the House, I was invited to attend meetings of returned servicemen’s organizations to discuss, before the presentation of this Budget, the proposals that those organizations had to increase ex-servicemen’s pensions and to provide other amenities for them. It was apparent to me and, I am sure, to any one who attended those meetings, that the proposals which the ex-service organizations were putting forward were being advanced in a most responsible and, if I may say so, in a particularly moderate fashion. As a matter of fact, the exservicemen themselves made the point that they had to act responsibly. After all, the exserviceman is himself a taxpayer in the community. He has a responsibility to his country not only in time of war but also in time of peace, and he respects the need for national development for the benefit of the community generally. Therefore, ex-servicemen may be expected to put forward proposals which are moderate and responsible.
Let us have a look at some of the proposals which they have put to the Government and at what this bill will do for them in return.
– Has the honorable member ever looked at the proposals contained in the policy of the present Government parties for the 1949 general election?
– It is all very well for the honorable member to talk about proposals that were made in 1949. At present, I am not in the mood to consider what was done or promised twelve, fourteen or fifteen years ago any more than I am prepared to look back to what was done after the First World War. Circumstances have changed. The persons sitting on both sides of this Parliament have changed. The conditions under which our national development must be carried on have changed.
My service in World War II. did not result in my receiving a repatriation pension, but I owe what tertiary education I may modestly claim, as do many other exservicemen, wholly to the post-war scheme of the Labour Government, which enabled many ex-servicemen to attain a decent way of life to which they could not have aspired bad it not been for the generosity and thoughtfulness of that Government. Exservicemen who have participated in the war service land settlement scheme also owe that Government a debt of gratitude, as do many young fellows who came out of the forces and were able to equip themselves to return to industry under the Labour Government’s scheme. When one recalls all those things, one must give great credit to the Labour Government for what it did. However, I do not think that comparisons between governments are valid. Nor do they help us in putting the case that we are putting at present. The only worthwhile comparison that we can make is between what it costs people to live in our community to-day and what exservicemen and their dependants will receive under the terms of this bill.
The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, in its pensions plan, asked for a most moderate increase of 15s. a week in the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The Government has responded with an increase of only 10s. a week. I agree with the Returned Soldiers League that an increase of 15s. a week would have been particularly moderate, especially in the light of the fact that it would not have increased the rate for a single pensioner even to the level of the basic wage. These ex-servicemen are not just receiving a hand-out. They are being awarded compensation, let us say. We see every day in ordinary civil life reports of the award of large sums of compensation to people who are injured at work. But just because there are so many totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, they have to suffer the penalty of compensation on a very much lower scale.
– The T.P.I, rate is £17. a week.
– Yes, for a married couple. That raises another point. Quite frankly, I think it is a mistake to link a social service benefit and a repatriation benefit as is done at present. I think that all ex-servicemen who are totally and permanently incapacitated should get similar compensation for their war injuries. After all, they have all suffered terrible disabilities as a result of their war service. I think that this mixing up of a social service benefit and of a repatriation benefit only complicates the matter. I do not want to retrace the ground that was covered by an earlier speaker on this side of the
House, who pointed out that increases in the T.P.I, pension are often offset by reductions of the associated social service benefit, the net result being that the pensioner and his wife get little or no increase in benefit from this sort of composite pension.
The wives of T.P.I, pensioners receive an allowance of only 35s. 6d. a week. As is well known to everybody, these allowances for dependants have remained unchanged for about nine years now. This benevolent Government, living in this prosperous age, has refused to increase them. The Opposition makes a particular plea on behalf of the wives of T.P.I, pensioners in support of the amendment with respect to medical treatment in repatriation hospitals that will be moved at the committee stage. We have been told that the proposal will not affect a lot of people. We know that many people receive medical and hospital benefits under the provisions of the Social Services Act if they became entitled to the benefits of the pensioner medical scheme before October, 1955, whereas others who receive only the same amount of pension and allowances do not receive hospital and medical benefits merely because they did not become entitled to them before October, 1955.
We must remember that many of the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated cx-servicemen devote themselves - I use that term advisedly - to looking after their sick husbands. Many of them are totally precluded from participating in the ordinary social life of the community. By their charity and humanity and their love for their husbands they save the Repatriation Commission, the Government and the community many thousands of pounds that would have to be spent to maintain their husbands in hospital if they entered hospitals as they are entitled to do. I know a number of these devoted wives. I suggest to the Government that the cost of making provision for hospital and medical benefits for them would not be very great. After all, when their unfortunate husbands pass on, these wives will be eligible for these benefits..
The bar to participation in the pensioner medical service where a single person is in receipt of additional income of £2 a week and a couple receive an income of £4 a week is a sheer farce. People who have investments or bank deposits can withdraw their deposits at any time and apply for acceptance in the pensioner medical scheme. Once they are accepted, they can re-invest their funds profitably and thereby evade the means test provisions. Similarly, people who go out to work and receive an income can discontinue their work temporarily and reduce their earning capacity below the limit of £4 a week for a couple or £2 a week for a single person, obtain the right to the pensioner medical scheme, and then return to work. So long as they keep their income below the limit at which it will eliminate their pension, they can go merrily on and retain the right to benefits under the pensioner medical scheme, because that right is never withdrawn except when the pension disappears entirely.
I put these matters to the Government with all the fervour at my command, having in mind as I speak the circumstances of people that I know who are in great need of benefits but are not entitled to hospital and medical benefits under either the repatriation or the social service schemes, whereas other people just down the street get these benefits and the security that goes with them simply because they qualified for them a year earlier.
Allied to the proposal that hospital and medical benefits should be provided for these people is the proposal by the R.S.L. that the Repatriation Commission ought to provide a home-nursing service, and I earnestly support this suggestion. Such a service would be of great help to the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner in nursing her husband in his home. Not only would it save the cost of hospitalization in repatriation institutions but also it would give the wife security and give balm, if I may call it that, to the ex-serviceman, who would be able to rest content in the knowledge that he could stay with his family in his home where they would be close to him and able to help him in his sickness.
I turn now to war widows. The Returned Soldiers League modestly proposed that they should receive an additional 15s. a week. Instead, they are to be given 5s. a week. The R.S.L. also proposed that the domestic allowance for a war widow who has only herself to care for be increased by 10s. a week and that for a war widow who has three or more children by 35s. a week. Surely this is a quite modest proposal. But instead of what was asked, all that was given was a paltry 5s.
I should like to interpolate here that in making these statements I am very mindful of what members of Parliament, including myself, said last Anzac Day. It is all very well for parliamentarians to espouse great ideals and strike attitudes on Anzac Day, and talk about the glories of the people who made sacrifices in war and of the sacrifice borne by those they left; but the only worthwhile and practical way to put all these high-sounding sentiments into practice is to do the decent thing by people who are in receipt of, or should be in receipt of, repatriation benefits. To my mind no government has yet gone the complete distance in that respect. That is why I strongly support the Opposition’s proposed amendments and I hope that next year’s Budget will pay more heed to the responsible pleas made on behalf of the people affected by this measure.
Now I turn to the position of the dependent children of war widows. We know that nowadays many children stay on at school after the age of sixteen years, which is the upper age limit of dependency in the act and are therefore partly dependent on their mothers. The request made in respect of allowances for the dependent children of a war widow was for an amount to bring the rate for each child to £2 a week. Unfortunately, when next Anzac Day comes around, I will have to face the war widows in my electorate with the knowledge that nothing has been provided for them in that respect.
Now I come to the case of the 100 per cent, war pensioner. In 1920, the Returned Servicemen’s League reminds us, the rate of war pension was 59.1 per cent, of the minimum living wage. In 1960 it has dropped to 38.9 per cent. The R.S.L. points out that this is a drop of more than 20 per cent, in value, and that to restore parity with the pension’s value in 1920 this Budget would have to provide for an increase of 22s. a week. However, the R.S.L. said that instead of an increase of 22s. a week it would be prepared to accept 15s. a week increase, which would go some way towards making up the leeway. But what does this bill give? Search the bill and you will find that there is no increase in it of the paltry pension paid to the 100 per cent, war pensioner. The service pensioner is to receive one worthwhile benefit from the bill and I applaud that. Service pensioners are to have repatriation hospital and medical benefits. However, instead of the requested increase of 15s. in the service pension these pensioners are to get only 5s.
It has been remarked on, at considerable length in the debate on the Social Services Bill, that the dependent wives of service pensioners receive only 35s. a week in allowance. The allowance has stood at this rate for years, and I do not know what made the Government decide that the rate should be pegged at this level. A service pensioner, unable to work in consequence of his war service - and this is acknowledged in the case of the invalid by the granting of the pension to him - is expected to keep himself and his wife on £6 15s. a week. It is generally acknowledged that the working life of the average ex-serviceman has been shortened by five years as a result of his war service, yet such a pensioner and his wife are asked to live on this amount. It is all very well to say that we have the best repatriation system in the world and the greatest prosperity of any country. We have to look pretty hard at the position of those people - and you have to look the people themselves in the face when they come to you and ask, “ How can you say the things you say on Anzac Day, yet do this miserable thing to us now? “
Dependent wives’ allowances have not been increased for nine years. That is to say, the wife of the 100 per cent, war pensioner still receives 35s. 6d. a week. The increase requested was 14s. 6d., in order to bring the allowance to £2 10s. a week. Again, nothing has been given in this case. The same thing applies to allowances for children, in which there has been no change for nine years. The present allowance for each child may be up to 13s. 9d. a week. A miserable increase of 3s. 9d. was asked for, but nothing has been given.
The funeral allowance for ex-service pensioners is now £25, and the request made was that it be increased to £50. The R.S.L. rather pointedly states that in many cases the main reason for the use of a flag at the funeral of an ex-serviceman nowadays is to cover up the paltry box in which he may be buried. Twenty-five pounds from the Government to help pay for the burial of a man who offered his life in the defence of his country!
I turn now to another matter, one which is not mentioned in this log of claims, if one may call it that, submitted by returned servicemen’s organizations. I refer to medical sustenance. If an ex-serviceman who enters a repatriation hospital is receiving less than the T.P.I, pension, he is usually given sustenance at the same rate as that received by the T.P.I, pensioner. This is given to him to compensate him for his absence from work while he is receiving treatment. In most cases, when the man comes out of hospital he is not ready to return to work. Indeed I know of a number of cases in which some weeks have passed before such men could return to work and start to earn their livings again. During this convalescent period they do not receive the T.P.I, pension rate which they received while they were in hospital. They have to go back to a lower level pending an inquiry as to whether they are entitled to a higher rate. I should like to press strongly that the sustenance rate be preserved at the highest level until the man is able to return to work. When he comes out of hospital he may still be sick and unable to work. He and his family suffer insecurity because their earning rate has been reduced. I should say that that fact could interfere with his rate of recovery of health, because of the worry and consternation involved, and the fact that debts to hire-purchase companies and so on will be mounting. Even if he got the full rate he would probably still be receiving less than he would earn if he were working.
We have been reminded of certain taxation anomalies in respect of repatriation, one of them being in relation to the dependent wife’s allowance. This allowance is not taxable, but if she receives more than £65 a year this has the effect of reducing the concessional allowance available to her husband. Instead of being able to claim the full allowance for a dependent wife a 100 per cent, pensioner whose wife receives £93 a year will be able to claim only £56.
Another matter brought to my notice which highlights the existence of anomalies concerns the case of a man who served in both World Wars and was in receipt of a pension from another country. He said in a letter to me -
My case is, I happened to be serving on an Australian ship when the first war started, and was in Vancouver Harbour. Owing to the shortage of skilled men needed aboard the ships in the Canadian Navy, I asked, and was granted, a clearance, and served with this Navy. I was injured by active action, discharged back to Australia.
When the second war started I was again requested to enlist, but this time in the Australian Army, and eventually became a 100 per cent, pensioner. But, owing to the fact I am in receipt of seven dollars SO cents a month, this is being deducted out of my Australian Pension.
The fact that he gets a pension for having been injured in one world war - a pension of seven dollars and 50 cents from the Canadian Government - enables the Australian Government, as he says, to make a profit. When his pension was increased to the 100 per cent, rate it improved his status not a bit because he was already receiving the Canadian pension. This seems to me miserly and paltry.
I have described as quite laudable the provision in the bill to give medical treatment to the service pensioner, but the Opposition has made it clear that it wishes this assistance to be given, as a minimum to all ex-servicemen of the Boer War and of World War I. It is no use the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) trying to persuade me that the servicemen in World War I. have not more difficulty in convincing the tribunals of their eligibility than the ex-servicemen of World War II. As has been often stated in this place, World War I. records were grossly inadequate and were less comprehensive than those of World War II. Often, the pension offered to ex-servicemen of World War II. was small. Some knocked it back, saying that they could not be bothered paying their fares to collect it or submitting to periodical medical tests to preserve their eligibility. Others rejected the pension after a short time.
Ex-servicemen’s organizations learned from this experience. They learned that if an ex-serviceman did not establish his eligibility for a pension when, he was being discharged he was likely to have great difficulty later on in sustaining his case. Because of the circumstances that I have mentioned, I am sure that it is much harder for diggers of the First World War to win their case for a pension than it is for fellows who were in the Second World War. I would very much like to see the provision for free medical treatment extended to all diggers of World War I., regardless of what means test may be imposed in connexion with the service pension.
I am glad that the Boer War veterans will be covered by this provision. I cannot see why they should not be covered by all repatriation benefits. I think it is another symptom of our ungenerous spirit that those people who happened to fight on Australia’s behalf before Australia became a Commonwealth are not accepted as a Commonwealth responsibility. Last Saturday, I attended a function at which there were about 50 Boer War veterans, and I am wondering whether this service provision will cover men who were Canadian or South African nationals at the time of their service and who came to- live in Australia immediately afterwards. I have grave doubts about it. Some of these people have lived in Australia for more than half a century, but they will not be covered if my misgivings are correct. I hope I am wrong.
There is another matter which I wanted to talk about. This concerns the suspension of ex-servicemen’s pensions at regular intervals. A number of ex-servicemen have come to me and said that every six or twelve months the department suspends their pension and they have to go back to the department and establish their claim all over again. These people are suffering from an illness, but the onus is placed on them, every now and again, to sustain their right to a pension. Why should not the onus be on the department to prove that they are not eligible for a pension before suspending it? I know people who are almost petrified with fear as the time for a re-examination comes around. They wonder, “ Will my pension be suspended again? Will I have to go through the whole business of reestablishing my claim? “ Why should we do these things?
Delays in hearings have been referred to. I know of a number of cases in which men have been waiting for up to five months for a hearing.
I hope that the assurance given to the Returned Servicemen’s League of some stepping up in the administrative provisions will lead to a substantial curtailment in waiting time. It is all very well to argue that men who are involved in medical and hospital expenses while waiting for the granting of a pension know that they will be reimbursed by the Repatriation Department if their claim is sustained. But such men go through a lot of worry in that time. The man wonders whether he will be successful in establishing his case or whether he and his wife will have to go out and, somehow, earn the money to pay for the expenses that he has incurred. All this time, he has no money coming in to enable him to meet his day-to-day living expenses.
I should have liked to touch much more fully than I shall be able to touch on the matter of the onus of proof. Cases which continually come to the notice of members of Parliament show that the onus of proof provision is not being interpreted with complete justice. It has been suggested to me - and I am most inclined to believe it - that preference attaches to the submissions of the departmental doctors over those made by doctors from outside the department on behalf of the claimant. It does not seem to matter whether the outside doctors are specialists or not. Some kind of extra status and respect seems to be given to the departmental doctor’s advice. The fact that those doctors cannot be called in to be crossexamined on their crucial and critical evidence burns in the minds and hearts of many ex-servicemen.
I suggest strongly that the onus of proof provision needs to be looked into. I think that, behind the scenes, the Government is well aware of this necessity. The opinion which has been given by the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) on this subject indicates the grave and widespread misgivings that the onus of proof provision is not being administered in the way that was intended. Despite what the honorable member for Bruce has stated, I am quite convinced that it would give a lot more security to ex-servicemen to have a judicial authority to which, in the last resort, they could make their appeal as they can in Great Britain. In Great Britain, this procedure does not seem to produce the administrative chaos that is anticipated by some honorable members on the Government side.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose to attempt to reply to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) on the point of generosity. It is always easy, on the opposite side of the House, to paint attractive pictures of what the Opposition would do if it were in office, but history seems to indicate that as soon as an Opposition gets into office the picture undergoes a great change. I do not want to pursue this matter. Suffice it to say that an advance has been made in this Budget, particularly where generosity was needed, that is in the case of the old soldier from the First World War who will, in future, receive the hospital and medical treatment which, in the past, he has been denied. In other smaller ways, the position of pensionershas been improved. As I have said, it is easy for an Opposition to be generous. It is not inhibited by other claims upon the Treasury - both practical claims that cannot be denied and social service claims which are as moving as those which are now made by the Opposition.
I want to turn my attention to a question that has been argued throughout this debate - the onus of proof and the benefit of the doubt provisions which, it is alleged, have not been interpreted by the repatriation tribunals in the sense in which this Parliament intended. The Opposition has moved an amendment in connexion with this matter with which I do not agree, but I do think that there could be, and should be, some appeal to the courts of the land in these matters. Before I sit down I shall clarify the distinction between the proposal of the Opposition and the proposal I intend to put before the House.
Nobody has any doubt that the onus of proof should rest on the Repatriation Department, and that the ex-serviceman who applies for a pension should be given the benefit of the doubt. Nobody denies that. The whole of the controversy rests on the interpretation that the Repatriation Commission and the tribunals have placed upon those words. I am going to suggest that there should be an appeal to the courts, but an appeal only in regard to questions of law and not the general appeal of mixed fact and law that is contemplated, I believe, by the amendment moved by the Opposition. This, Sir, is not possible at present in Australia.
Despite the argument put forward by the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), I do not believe that, by the process of mandamus, it is possible to have an appeal in point of law from the repatriation tribunals to the High Court of Australia. The case that was cited by the honorable member for Bruce was that of Ex-parte Bott 50 C.L.R., page 228. My reading of that case suggests that the court rejected the argument that a writ of mandamus would lie. I do not propose to attempt any legal argument. I shall merely say that my reading suggests that no appeal to a court of law would lie as a result of the decision in that case.
What is the position in the United Kingdom? I mention this because I believe it is a precedent we might well follow. In the United Kingdom, there are provisions regarding onus of proof and the benefit of the doubt similar to those contained in our own legislation. I shall quote the relevant law in England which is contained in the Royal Warrant published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1946 in Command Publication 6799. This states -
In no case shall there be an onus on any claimant … to prove the fulfilment of the conditions set out in . . . this Article and the benefit of any reasonable doubt shall be given to the claimant.
This, as honorable members will see, is very similar to our own provisions. The English law goes on to provide for an appeal on questions of law and the relevant provisions in the English law are contained in the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act 1943, section 6 (2.), which states -
Where, in the case of an appeal to the Tribunal
Under certain sections of the act - the appellant or the Minister is dissatisfied with the decision of the Tribunal as being erroneous in point of law, he may, with the leave of the
Tribunal or of a Judge of the High Court nominated for the purpose by the Lord Chancellor, appeal therefrom, within such time as may be limited by rules of court to the judge so nominated and the decision of that judge shall be final and conclusive.
It will be observed that the appeal in this case relates purely to points of law and it can be made, not upon the application of the claimant as of right, but only if the tribunal or the High Court judge specially nominated by the Lord Chancellor to hear this type of case, gives leave. The reason why leave has to be given is that the tribunal or the judge, as the case may be, must be satisfied that the case raises a point of law and is not a mixture of fact and law which is apparently contemplated by the Opposition’s amendment.
This is the very thing we need. So long as no such appeal is provided, the argument will range from one side of the House to the other year after year as to whether the repatriation tribunals are, in fact, carrying out the provisions of the law passed by the Parliament in regard to onus of proof and the benefit of the doubt. That is the only way you can bring in the corrective hand of a judge to scrutinize the way in which the tribunals are carrying out their charter so that the House, and the people, can be satisfied that the tribunals are, in fact, operating in accordance with the expressed will of the Parliament. An end should be put to this continual debate that goes on in the House year after year as to whether these provisions are being properly applied or not.
I disagree with the amendment of the Opposition inasmuch as it contemplates, apparently, the setting up of a fourth tier of appeals. Already you have three tiers - from the board to the commission and from the commission to the tribunal. Now, it would appear to me that the amendment of the Opposition suggests there should be a fourth tier, namely, a judge who would hear these cases in all respects as they are heard by the three other organs in this appeal process. That, Sir, would involve time, expense and a quadruplication of careful scrutiny. I believe that an appeal to a judge on questions of law so that the courts could lay down the principle upon which the tribunals should operate in giving effect to these provisions would be very salutary, and might relieve us of this constant argument which goes on here without finality or conclusion. This kind of debate could go on year after year for ever and no finality could ever be reached in it.
If you have an appeal, there is the question of cost. Obviously, if you are going to a judge of the High Court, the case must be properly presented and this involves, I believe, presentation by counsel. Counsel, of course, has to be paid fees, so this kind of appeal is associated with some expense and should not be a daily occurrence, but something which should happen in occasional cases where some lead is necessary in regard to the principles upon which the tribunals ought to exercise their powers and interpret the law. The cost, of course, would normally be borne by organizations such as the R.S.L. in what you might call test cases; and so the cost is not a matter of consideration as it would be under the proposal of the Opposition where apparently it is contemplated that vast numbers of cases would go to the court. It would hardly be practical for inexpert advocates or claimants to present their cases properly to a judge.
This, of course, is no slur on the work of the tribunals. It has been suggested in an earlier debate in this House that to import an appeal to the court is to suggest that the tribunals are not doing their job properly. That, of course, is not the case. Throughout our legal system provision is made for appeals from lower courts to higher courts. It is accepted, and rightly so, that in the last resort there should be provision for appeals and that the work of the lower tribunals should be subjected to the scrutiny of higher tribunals. To provide for appeals from decisions of repatriation tribunals would no more constitute a slur on those tribunals than does the provision of appeals from the decisions of single judges to the full bench of a Supreme Court constitute a slur on those judges. I can see no substance in that kind of argument.
It has also been said in this place on other occasions that if the provisions of the Repatriation Act have not been satisfactory, then it is for members of this House to point to numbers of cases in which there have been miscarriages of justice. This is an argument that has no appeal for me, because, in the first instance, in the cases that honorable members may have occasion to scrutinize, the relevant material is contained in confidential documents, and it would be neither possible nor practicable to produce all those confidential papers in the House. Nor is this House the kind of body to pass judgment on such matters. Time and again honorable members rise in this House to present ex parte cases on behalf of particular ex-servicemen. I think the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is one who makes a practice of this. I feel that it is merely wasting the time of the Parliament, which is a legislative body and not a judicial one. In any case, the facts are presented purely ex parte, and no decision can be reached. All that is intended, presumably, is that the ventilation of these cases should, as it were, intimidate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) or the particular tribunal involved so that special consideration will be given to the particular cases. It seems to me a strange blunt instrument for the achievement of justice in such matters. This is not a place where anything useful can be done to ensure that justice is obtained in a large number of particular cases.
There are, of course, those who believe that the English system is not so good as our own. Either ex-servicemen’s organizations or the Government itself may hold this opinion. Of course, it is possible under the English system, and it is quite fair and reasonable, for not only the claimant but also the Minister to appeal to the court if he believes that the repatriation tribunal has made a wrong decision in point of law or has wrongly applied the law relating to onus of proof and benefit of the doubt. This, of course, could mean that on some occasions a claimant who had succeeded before a tribunal would lose the benefit of the decision he had obtained if the Minister thought fit to take the matter before the court. Do ex-servicemen’s organizations really fear this? Do they think they are doing better as matters stand at present, and that it would be a bad thing if decisions in favour of ex-servicemen were subject to appeal? If they are content with the present system, and if they do not want a provision for appeal because they fear the possible adverse effects, then let them cease to complain about the present system.
Again, if the Government fears that appeals to the court would have the effect of taking out of the Government’s hands the policy with regard to the administration of repatriation law, and the opportunity to make more or less generous the decisions of the Repatriation Commission, then I feel it is a phantom kind of fear. I should like to ensure not only that justice is done but also that it is seen to be done. When these complaints are constantly being made in this place, and when the opinion is constantly being voiced amongst ex-servicemen that justice is not being done and that the onus of proof and benefit of the doubt provisions are not being properly applied, then I believe that an appeal should lie to a court, so that we may ascertain whether such beliefs are rightly held, either in this House or among ex-servicemen.
The system that I have spoken of has been in operation in the United Kingdom for a number of years. To introduce it here would not involve a very great change from the procedures that we already follow. It would simply mean that in a very limited number of test cases the opinion of the court would be sought as to whether the repatriation tribunals were properly following the charter given to them by the Parliament. Much experience in these matters has been gained overseas, and I suggest that there is every reason why the Government should give serious consideration to my suggestion. I am well aware that proposals emanating from this back bench are not often given close attention by the Government - in many cases, I think, to the Government’s loss. But as this controversy has continued in the House for many years, and as there seems to be no other means of bringing the matter to finality, then serious consideration should be given to a reasonable proposal put forward, even by a backbencher on this side of the House, particularly when wide experience of the proposed system has been gained elsewhere, and the proposal is by no means novel or nebulous.
I suggest that the proposal requires careful scrutiny and deserves a reasoned reply from the responsible Minister. I am not referring, of course, to the Minister who happens to be in charge of the House at the moment. I refer to the Minister for Repatriation or, perhaps, to the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick). I do make it quite clear, however, that serious consideration and a reasoned reply should be given. If there are good reasons why the proposal should not be accepted, then let them be stated. 1 believe, however, that such a case has been put forward, upon such good grounds, as calls for a reasoned reply, and 1 hope that one will be given in due course. 1 hope that the Minister at the table will not feel it incumbent upon him to refute immediately all that I have said. I am not for one moment asking him to address himself to the matter on the spur of the moment. This is a proposal that needs mature consideration outside this chamber, and I hope that the Minister will not deem it necessary to damn the proposal without its being given the full consideration in the proper quarters that I believe it merits.
Mr. BEATON (Bendigo) 15.141. - I have no wish to discuss matters that have been dealt with so effectively by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and other honorable members on this side of the House. I join in the debate for one specific purpose, to put before the Government a case of injustice, which could quite conceivably be one of many, and which reflects on the Commonwealth’s treatment of men who volunteered ‘ and served in various theatres of war.
Before I outline the particular matter to which I wish to refer, I would like to add my personal support to the amendments that have been foreshadowed by the honorable member for Bass. Countless cases in which the onus of proof provision has been applied have been brought to the attention of honorable members on this side and undoubtedly on the other side of the House. To the ordinary individual, they appear to contain strong elements of doubt, favouring the applicant. These cases give boundless proof, as does the high percentage of rejected cases, that regardless of what some Government supporters may say in its defence the onus of proof provision is not administered in the spirit intended by the legislators. In the absence of the necessary sympathetic approach, the Government should accept the amendment which has been foreshadowed. This will provide a means of appeal to a court, and in addition the Government should demand that its appeal tribunals should give a freer interpretation of this essential clause. The Opposition has for many years pleaded the cases of the many who fail to get recognition despite the doubts which surround their cases. The Government should not fail in its duty to these unfortunates.
I believe that a letter I have received from the Castlemaine branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League sets out the opinion of the great majority of returned servicemen when it asks me to press the Government to treat ex-servicemen suffer- ing from cancer in the same way as it treats those suffering from tuberculosis. The medical profession freely admits that the cause of this great killer is unknown. Theories have been advanced almost weekly, but none is backed by known and indisputable facts. How then can the repatriation tribunals or any one else say that cancer could not be set in motion by the ravages of war service on an individual! Consequently, I wholeheartedly support my colleagues on this matter.
A glance through the provisions relating to the payment of repatriation benefits, in particular to service pensioners, the wives and dependants of pensioners and war widows, reveals that a poor share of the so-called age of prosperity, to which this Government refers so often, is given to the recipients of these pensions. I grant that the extension of free medical treatment to service pensioners who are Boer War or First World War veterans is commendable. But the further inclusion of all those who returned from active service during those wars is highly desirable. My colleagues have dealt very ably with these matters, and I shall turn to the problem to which 1 referred earlier.
It is probably inevitable that anomalies occur in any legislation dealing with a matter as complex as repatriation, but a deserving former member of the Royal Australian Navy, a constituent of mine, is specifically’ excluded by a section of the Repatriation Act which seems entirely unnecessary. This man enlisted in September, 1946, for a period of two years. It is hardly necessary to say that he went through a rigorous medical examination before being accepted, and he was duly passed as fit for service. He re-engaged in July, 1947, without a break in service, for a term due to expire in September, 1958. He served as a cook in both shore establishments and seagoing vessels. In 1957 and 1958, he served on H.M.A.S. “ Anzac “, a destroyer which visited Malaya, Borneo, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand. During this period, the ship was engaged in shelling Communist shore concentrations in Malaya. Consequently, this man was, in effect, a member of the crew of an Australian warship engaged in an act of war.
During this period, he was subjected to routine medical examinations which included an X-ray at Singapore. Although that X-ray was subsequently found to have revealed tuberculosis, no action was taken to give him treatment and he was not advised of the condition of his health at the time. Clearly, these were unfortunate omissions. A subsequent routine X-ray in 1958 re-discovered his condition. His medical record was examined and negligence admitted on behalf of the Navy by the medical officer concerned. This was more than twelve months after the first discovery of his condition and in the twelfth year of his service. We might ask: Did his service cause or contribute to his ailment? As a cook, the nature of his employment required him to prepare meals and to bake bread in the galley of the ship over a period of approximately six months. The galley was closed for long periods during the baking of bread, when he was necessarily enclosed in a warm and humid atmosphere. As his work was done at night, he was required to sleep throughout the day - not on deck where other ratings sleeping at night grasped some relief from the trials of tropical heat, but in the mess deck, often battened down during calls to action stations, which were quite frequent. Dealing with food and working and sleeping for long periods in a hot and humid atmosphere must surely have contributed to the cause or aggravation of his developing condition.
He lodged a claim for repatriation benefit in September, 1958. However, the board determined in December of that year that his incapacity resulting from tuberculosis was not due to his service from enlistment to 30th June, 1947, the period of service covered by the Repatriation Act, as extended to cover the period immediately following the 1939-45 war. An appeal was disallowed and a further appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal was also disallowed. The tribunal referred to the section of the relevant act which provides, in part - “ Member “ or “ member of the Forces “ means a person who, while a member of the Defence Force, has served on Malayan service. “ Malayan Service “ means, in relation to a member of the Forces, the service of a member, after the commencement of this Act, while-
I come now to the portion vital to this claim - but does not include service as a member of the Naval Forces in the complement of a sea-going vessel.
In other words, if the Communists had replied to the shore bombardment thatI mentioned and wounded members of the crew of the destroyer, they would not have been accepted as the responsibility of the Commonwealth and would not have been eligible for a repatriation benefit. I have no doubt that there are others who are adversely affected in a similar way.
Subsequently, this former member of the Royal Australian Navy applied to the Commonwealth Compensation Commission claiming some compensation rights in respect of his employment by the Commonwealth as a member of the Navy, but he was refused on the ground that the nature of his employment did not contribute to his incapacity. I am happy to say that this former serviceman has recovered after treatment, but if the disease recurs, as it well may, he has no redress, whether by way of repatriation benefit or compensation. I ask the Government to recognize its responsibility and not to allow its faithful servants, because of obvious anomalies in the legislation to suffer through no fault of their own.
.- lt is not my intention to deal with all aspects of repatriation, as has been done throughout this debate to-day. I should like to direct the attention of the House to a few aspects of what this Government has done since it has been in office. Before doing so, I pay a tribute to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), who, I believe, has done a magnificent job in that role. It is due to his ability and sincerity that the returned serviceman has what he has to-day. It is well that one should also pay a tribute to the Federal President of the Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (Sir George Holland), who, as honorable members are aware, is about to complete quite a long term in that office. That gentleman has given almost his full time, since the First World War, looking after the needs of ex-servicemen, and I think it is well that we should recognize that fact.
Let us examine some of the benefits that the ex-serviceman has received during Sir George Holland’s presidency of the R.S.S.A.f.L.A. and the term of the present Government. One learns from the league’s report that not fewer than twelve Ministers received a deputation from that organization, and I think that fact indicates quite clearly just where this Liberal-Country Party Government stands as far as exservicemen are concerned. Let us look at some of the advantages that the exserviceman has gained over the last ten years. First, the free car allowance, and free cars for double amputees, were provided by this Government. Sustenance in repatriation hospitals was increased to the full, war pension was excluded as income in respect of unemployment and sickness benefits, and repatriation treatment was provided for 100 per cent, war pensioners suffering from other disabilities. All these concessions were provided by this Government. Then, the property limit for the means test was progressively increased from £750 to £2,250, and under the present legislation, with the merged means test, that figure will be almost doubled. The personal car and the pensioner’s home will be disregarded as property. We have the supplementary allowance of 10s. a week made available to service pensioners who pay rent or board and lodging; and this applies also to the age and invalid pensioner. Tribunals have been given power to authorize the payment of up to four years’ arrears of pension in certain circumstances. Then there is the subsistence allowance paid for travelling in connexion with medical treatment and attendance at appeal hearings, together with loss of wage payments. Might I suggest that the Government should give consideration to the provision of a subsistence allowance for people who are in self-employment and have not a fixed salary or wage? Next we have repatriation treatment for nonwarcaused disabilities being granted to 1914- 1918 war nurses. We have free treatment for war widows extended to include country hospitals, out-patients’ clinics and nondepartmental institutions, instead of requiring all such free treatment to be provided in repatriation hospitals only. We have an increase in the maximum war service homes’ financial allocation from £1,750 to £2,750. One could go on enumerating the advantages that the ex-serviceman has received under this Government.
Members on the Government side of the House appreciate what has been done. The diggers of both world wars are getting older and, because of mechanization, things are inclined to change. Needless to say, there are possibly other needs of the exserviceman that have not been granted, and 1 shall mention a couple of items which I believe should be given high priority. One, as I said earlier, is an allowance to the selfemployed ex-serviceman while he is attending for repatriation treatment or in hospital. This is perhaps not so much a case for loss of wages as for loss of time. I believe the Government has been somewhat neglectful also in respect of the dependant’s allowance. On looking at the record we find that in 1 949, under a Labour Government, the allowance to the wife of a 100 per cent, pensioner was £1 4s., while in 1950, when the present Government took office, that was increased to £1 10s. 6d., and in 1952 it was increased further to £1 1 5s. 6d. Unfortunately, it has not been increased since that date. In 1952, when the present rate was allocated to the wife, the general rate was £4, whereas to-day it is £5 15s. Yet we do not see any increase in the wife’s allowance. If it was good enough to increase the serviceman’s pension to £5 15s., that is an indication that it was needed. It was based more or less on the single man, but although two people can live more cheaply than one, where we increase one man’s income by, say, 5s., as in this case, surely consideration must be given to increasing the figure for a married person by an amount greater than 5s. That is one aspect to which the Minister and the Government must give a lot of consideration. Under this measure we see a big advantage particularly to the service pensioner, and it has been estimated that there may be in the vicinity of 25,000 service pensioners who will receive some benefit from this legislation. They will benefit in three ways. First, they will receive an increase of 5s. a week; next, they will benefit from the merging of the means test, for which the Government is to be commended, and thirdly, they will enjoy medical and hospital benefits. No doubt it will be asked why other sections of the community do not receive these benefits, but I suggest that the mere fact that a man is a service pensioner entitles him to the utmost possible consideration.
It is not my intention to delay the House by discussing matters that have been dealt with so forcefully by honorable members on both sides, but I do ask the Government to consider reimbursing those self-employed ex-servicemen who are either attending a repatriation hospital or attending the department for interviews. I also ask the Government to consider increasing the allowance for dependants.
.- This debate has revealed that there is great difference of opinion amongst honorable members on the Government side on the adequacy of the benefits received by recipients of repatriation payments. I support the bill because it seeks to give effect to proposals contained in the Budget for increasing certain classes of war pensions, although those proposals do not go nearly so far as we believe they should. I shall support the amendments that the Opposition proposes to move when the bill is being discussed in committee.
But this bill provides ample opportunity for honorable members to criticize the shortcomings of the Government’s proposal, as well as the defects in the Repatriation Act itself. It gives us an oppor tunity to discuss in full the shortcomings of the onus of proof provisions of section 47. They have been under constant criticism for years. Whenever increases in pension rates are granted to either civilians or war pensioners, whenever the means test is modified, or whenever something else is done to assist those who are incapable of providing for their dependants and themselves, the spontaneous congratulations of the community should go to the Government for its efforts.
Although many people will benefit from the bill under discussion, there are certain sections of the community to whom the Government proposes to give something with one hand and from whom it proposes to take something with the other. For instance, although the totally and permanently incapacitated pension is to be increased by 10s. a week, the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner will lose 5s. a week from her age pension. Under both the present and the proposed merged means tests, the maximum income, including both pension and supplementary earnings, is £17 a week. At the moment, the T.P.I, pensioner of World War I. receives a pension of £12 5s. and his wife is paid an allowance of £1 15s. 6d., making the total payment £14 0s. 6d. Without the proposed increase in the T.P.I, pension, that pensioner and his wife would be entitled to earn a further £2 19s. 6d. a week between them. It is true that the T.P.I, pensioner and his wife will receive between them the same maximum pension as another pensioner who has a supplementary income of £7 a week, but the Government, hoping to appear big-hearted, is telling the world that it has raised the T.P.I, pension, when the fact is that it has done so by relieving the Department of Social Services of some of its expenditure. In other words, the Government is performing what might be termed a sleight-of-hand trick.
If the Government really wishes to avoid criticism in connexion with this matter I challenge the Minister to amend the proposal before us so as to make the increase free of any means test at all, thereby allowing the T.P.I, pensioner and his wife to enjoy the full benefit of it.
The Government also claims that it has provided free medical and hospital treatment for service pensioners. The Minister has explained the meaning of the term, “ service pensions “, but the legislation before us makes no provision whatever for free medical and hospital treatment for service pensioners. I know it is argued that provision for this will be made in the regulations, but I submit that provision for it should be made by way of legislation, for it is much easier to alter regulations than it is to repeal legislation. Again, what about the pensioner who, although an exserviceman, is receiving an age pension? Is there any assurance that the regulations will be so worded as to ensure that he is not forgotten? I ask the Minister at the table (Dr. Donald Cameron) to note that his second-reading speech makes no mention of medical and hospital services for ex-service age pensioners.
It is to be noted that once again this year nothing is being done by the Government to assist the wife of a service pensioner to obtain a wife’s allowance in cases where the pensioner is not 100 per cent, incapacitated. Under the Repatriation Act as it now stands, the wife of a service pensioner does not qualify for an allowance unless the ex-serviceman is totally unfit for employment; in other words, he must be 100 per cent, incapacitated before she can qualify; whereas, under the Social Services Act a person who is 85 per cent, incapacitated qualifies for an invalid pension, and his wife receives a wife’s allowance. Again, if the wife of an age pensioner is under pensionable age, and the pensioner himself is over 70 years of age, that wife automatically receives a wife’s allowance. I ask the Minister to review this obvious anomaly with a view to seeing whether something can be done for the women for whom I plead.
Here I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) upon his initiative recently in launching a debate on repatriation, when he placed on the business paper of this House a motion purporting to inform the Government that, in the opinion of this House, that section of the repatriation law relating to the onus of proof is not being administered in a proper way. Apparently, the remarks of the honorable member for Bass on that occasion provoked the Minister for Health into challenging the honorable member for Bass to prove his case. I want to take up the Minister’s challenge now, and presently I shall quote some of his remarks so that the House may appreciate my argument.
I shall endeavour to show that not only are some ex-servicemen and widows of exservicemen not being given the benefit of the doubt, but that they are actually being robbed of their entitlement. Ex-servicemen can lose their entitlement to war pension in a number of ways. First, ex-servicemen from World War I. can be deprived of their entitlement because of the disgraceful state of Army and repatriation records.
Many servicemen fail in their fight for a pension because they are unable to give a full and thorough account of their service disabilities and ailments. Many others have been content to suffer from their disabilities silently and without attending doctors. They visit chemists and quacks who prescribe for them, until the time arrives when they are compelled to seek proper medical attention. This applies especially in rheumatic, arthritic and nervous disorders. Because many servicemen said that they were O K when being discharged in 1919, some 30 or 40 years later their condition is not accepted as being due to war service. I only hope that every ex-serviceman of World War II., and those who may serve in any future war, will, when they become ill, attend a doctor to see whether their condition could be due to military service. That is the only way in which an ex-serviceman will receive justice in the future.
Experience shows that it is unwise for an ex-serviceman to delay for any length of time a visit to his doctor once he feels unwell. My brother-in-law served in France during the winters of 1917 and 1918. After his return from service he told me on many occasions that he had a toothachelike pain in the legs, arms, thighs, feet and other joints. But he was a farmer and could take things easy and have a spell occasionally. He did not have to get up and go to work at a fixed time as men in industry have to do. Honorable members in hillbilly corner know that to be correct because they work only when they are harvesting. To-day, my brother-in-law suffers from chronic osteo-arthritis which, I am sure, is the result of his war service. Knowing what has happened to other exservicemen he still has not made a claim on the Repatriation Department.
So that I may develop my argument regarding the onus of proof, I now turn to the speech which was made by .the Minister for Health in the House on 18th August last when replying to the remarks of the honorable member for Bass. He said -
If the honorable gentleman is going to make a claim that the intention is not being carried out, then I submit that there is only one way in which he can do so. That is by examining in detail the results of the decision - perhaps not in every case that is rejected-
Admitting that the tribunals may make mistakes in some cases - but in a statistically significant number - and establishing in each of these, beyond reasonable doubt, that the board, the commission and the appeal tribunal did not act in a reasonable way. . . . If the honorable member for Bass is going to establish the claim he has made and show that the whole apparatus which administers this section of the act is not -doing its job, he must, in particular and in detail, convince the House that in fact these bodies are not doing so. . . . The doubt must be a doubt in the mind of the tribunal. … It is perfectly natural when, in many instances people have appealed, they should feel that when they made the claim there was not any reasonable doubt.
At a later stage in the speech the Minister said -
It is not the function of the tribunal to give evidence. The tribunal listens to evidence. . , . But if the tribunal decides to reject the claim, then, quite obviously, the tribunal has no doubt.
But the Minister has never said whether the tribunal can make a mistake and, if it does make a mistake, what the Government or the repatriation will do about it.
The Minister’s speech fell into three parts, first, whether or not section 47 is being properly administered and, to establish that it is not, the Opposition will have to provide the proof; secondly, that there may be isolated cases where the intention of the act is not being exercised, and thirdly, there was the Minister’s declaration that it is not the function of the tribunal to give evidence but to listen to evidence.
Dealing with the last point first, it is my view that because tribunals only listen and are not themselves cross-examined, and because they do not sift the evidence of an applicant, they fall down on their job. To show how hopelessly wrong the board, the commission and the entitlement appeal tribunal can be, I shall refer in detail to the case of Mr. Hugh McQueen Knight which will indicate how rotten the repatriation and military records are so far as World War I. soldiers are concerned. Hughie Knight was a stretcher-bearer. He was in the thick of the attack most of the time. Eventually he was badly gassed. On his return to Australia he, like most of the servicemen, got out of uniform as soon as he could. For as long as I can remember, Hughie Knight wore dark glasses, apparently to shield his eyes from the light. Over the years his eyesight became worse and, at the age of 55, he was compelled to give up his work in the railway department. He applied for a war pension in 1950 and was rejected by all authorities. In 1957, after having seen Dr. Stuckey at Newcastle, he again applied for a pension, and this time his application was granted and he received the handsome pension of 10 per cent, of the full rate. Still later the pension was increased to 20 per cent, and then to 50 per cent.
I wonder, Mr. Speaker, what explanation the repatriation authorities have to offer for their reversal of form in this case. If the tribunal was right in 1950, it was wrong in 1957 and again in 1960 when it further increased this man’s pension. I wonder how they feel about their treatment of this soldier. I wonder how proud they are of the fact that Mr. Knight has been robbed of a pension for at least six years - a pension which he earned on the field of battle - because they refused to sift the evidence that must have been glaringly plain, and then set about discharging the onus of proof against this man. I wonder whether the same authorities, which have now granted Mr. Knight a 100 per cent, pension, plus £1 16s. a fortnight, under the Fifth Schedule, as the result of the loss of an eye, are proud of the fact that they are still torturing him by not granting him a totally and permanently incapacitated pension. Maybe the Repatriation Department will grant my constituent a T.P.I, pension after he has passed on. For record purposes, I wish to read some extracts from the clinical records of the department. The first is in these terms -
Mr. Knight was gassed on 25th August, 1918, and on 29th August, 1918, was evacuated to England and admitted to Alexandra Hospital. On 8th October, 1918, he was transferred to 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital.
There are no clinical notes available regarding treatment in France and Alexandra Hospital, but the following are extracts from the member’s service records.
The Minister’s letter then gives certain information. Where are these clinical notes? For 44 days this serviceman was blind, but there is no record to indicate to what extent he was supposed to have been affected. In the absence of this information, what right had any of the repatriation tribunals to disbelieve this man who had been blinded by gas for a long time? I have here the evidence that he was gassed. On 9th September, 1918, Mr. Knight’s wife received the following letter from the officer-in-charge of the Base Records Office at Melbourne -
Dear Madam, I regret to advise you that Private H. McQ. Knight has been reported gassed, classed as wounded.
This letter was available to the department and the three tribunals in 1950, but this man’s application for a war pension was rejected. And the department and the Government talk about the onus of proof being discharged at all times in favour of the appellant! The clinical notes show that on 8th October, 1918, Mr. Knight was admitted to No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital. He was blind for seven days, his left eye was watering but he had good vision. If a man who is blind for seven days and whose left eye is watering has good vision, I am a Dutchman. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– The honorable member may proceed, but he must confine his remarks to the subject of his personal explanation.
– At page 1177 of “Hansard” of 21st September, the honorable member for Canning referred to the National Welfare Act 1952, and he is reported as having said -
The honorable member for Grayndler accused this Government of seeking to destroy the National Welfare Fund . . .
I took the opportunity to consult the Clerk of the House while the honorable member was speaking and I looked up the record of the proceedings. I fould that a vote was taken on this issue on 18th September, 1952. The Labour Opposition had called for a division, and bless my heart and soul, on looking through the names of honorable members who voted on that occasion, I could not find the name Daly! I thought that possibly he was away from Canberra, so I looked further among the names of honorable members who were absent at the time, but the name Daly was not included among them . . .
He was so interested in maintaining the National Welfare Fund, which was introduced by the Chifley Government, that he was not prepared to come in and vote when this Government was proposing an alteration in the arrangements.
I, too, looked up “Hansard” of 18th September, 1952. At page 1772, a division list appears, showing the record of the vote on the second reading of the National Welfare Fund Bill 1952. I find that the tellers for the “ Noes “ on that occasion were F. M. Daly and T. Sheehan, and the tellers for the “ Ayes “ - the Government side - were C. W. Davidson and H. B. S. Gullett. I accordingly correct the statement made by the honorable member for Canning. I voted on that occasion, and the honorable member was in error when he said that I did not.
In view of the inaccurate nature of the speech in which the honorable member made this statement, and in the light of the fact that he has served in this House since 1946, I find it difficult to take the view that his error was accidental. I correct his misstatement and suggest that he apologize.
I had a bad night last night, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was misrepresented also by the Minister for Social Services, and I shall deal briefly with that misrepresentation. At page 1214 of “ Hansard “ of yesterday’s date, the Minister is reported as having said -
I mention the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) with a great deal of disfavour. A great many members have expressed, in a variety of ways, their pleasure and delight at the introduction and prospective passing of this piece of legislation, but no honorable member has expressed greater delight and shown more enthusiasm than the honorable member for Grayndler. He is excited at the prospect of the improvement in the social services scheme of our country which will result from the passing of this legislation. Both he and his staff come to my office every day, pleading for additional copies of the explanatory documents which I provided when the Budget was introduced, pleading for additional copies of my second-reading speech, and on every occasion expressing great personal satisfaction at the prospect of the passing of the legislation.
The Minister’s statement is not correct. These are the facts: After the introduction of the Social Services Bill 1960 by the Minister, a constituent of mine who is secretary of a pensioners’ organization with many branches asked me to obtain a number of copies of the explanatory documents and the Minister’s second-reading speech for this organization to distribute. I understand that these were required because of the complication of the new means test proposals and the lack of understanding of them. In accordance with the wishes of my constituent, 1 telephoned the Minister’s office in Sydney, and I subsequently received a number of explanatory documents. I did not receive any additional copies of the Minister’s second-reading speech. Furthermore, neither I nor my secretary has ever visited the Minister’s office in Sydney or Canberra in connexion with this matter, and never at any time have we expressed any satisfaction or delight at the prospect of the passing of the bill.
These facts must have been known to the Minister. Therefore it is apparent that his statement was deliberately false, misleading and contemptible.
– 1 wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Grayndler to-day directed my attention to the “ Hansard “ record of the vote which he has mentioned. I immediately took the opportunity to check the division list recorded in the “ Votes and Proceedings “ of this House which I had incorrectly read yesterday evening, and I noticed the name “ Daly “ listed on the side as one of the tellers. 1 told the honorable gentleman that I should be quite prepared to apologize. In view of the harm that I may have done to him by making the incorrect statement which he has mentioned, I have not the slightest hesitation in offering him my sincere apologies.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Hasluck, and read a first time.
18.01. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Papua and New Guinea Act, which this bill proposes to amend, is, in its nature, something like the Constitution of the Territory. This bill, which seeks to amend those divisions of the act which relate to the Legislative Council and the Executive Council, is therefore a proposal for the first major consitutional change in the history of the Territory, lt marks an early but very important stage in the advance of the Territory towards self-government.
In a statement to the House on 23rd August I described to honorable members the present situation in the Territory and the factors which shape Australian policy. The motion for the printing of that statement is on the notice-paper, and will provide occasion for a general debate on the Territory. I would therefore ask honorable members, in confining their attention to the subjectmatter of this bill, to remember the broader background which was sketched in the earlier statement. In confidence that they will remember that broader background it will be sufficient for me now to repeat only that we have dedicated ourselves to the political advancement of the people and that, in deciding what is best to do, we will apply the test of the welfare of the people rather than the satisfaction of a theory.
I am sure that all members on both sides of this Parliament want the political growth of the people of Papua and New Guinea to have strong roots deep in the soil of their own country. Democracy cannot be delivered like a parcel. It has to grow. We have worked purposefully for some years at the task of political advancement through local government, taking as our starting point the village or the group of villages that has hitherto been the true centre of the life of the people. As a result of that work we are now able to go farther, and by the reforms proposed in this bill we are trying to lift the thoughts of the people to cover the whole Territory, and to widen their political interest from local to territorial affairs. In doing so we seek to give political opportunity for all the inhabitants of the Territory, both indigenous and nonindigenous.
In that connexion I want to say quite clearly at the outset that the Government, in working for the political advancement of the Territory, sees the future of all its inhabitants as a single future. We will not work to perpetuate racial groupings. AH those who find a permanent home in the
Territory will seek their future in partnership with one another, respecting each other’s rights and serving the common good. This means, in the case of the Legislative Council, that the eventual goal will be an equal and universal franchise exercised by voters on a common roll. It is our policy to work towards that end. Any seeming departure from that objective is temporary and transitional and designed solely to help ensure that the objective is reached by the smoothest and surest path.
I should also emphasize, Sir, that what is now proposed is only one of many steps to be taken. We will progress one step at a time. This means, if honorable members accept that view, that we are committing ourselves to a frequent and periodical review of the Papua and New Guinea Act by this Parliament. It is the thinking of the Government that in perhaps five or six years a further review will be necessary although, in making this statement, we do not seek to bind future governments to precise dates, for the responsibility will remain of watching closely the changing situation and making amendments when they are needed and when they will be useful, rather than on a day previously marked on a desk diary.
The proposals contained in this bill are the result of a long period of study. The penultimate stage in the preparation of the proposals was a tour which I undertook in the Territory last July in order to have discussions with citizens of all races and with representative organizations, again of all races. For the sake of the record I will summarize briefly the main points on which both native and European deputations in the Territory expressed their views. There was a large measure of agreement by Territory residents that the official majority in the Legislative Council should be retained, but reduced to no more than one or two votes. The number of elected members should be increased. The eventual objective should be a common roll for all voters throughout the Territory, but in the present stage it would be necessary, for practical reasons, for the native people to elect some members and for non-natives to elect nonnative members. In the election of the native members use should be made of the local government councils, but the method adopted should also have regard to those advanced communities not within the council system. The total number of elected native members should be the same as the number of elected non-native members. The Government should take the responsibility of providing additional native members to speak for the people in the backward areas who could not at this stage take an effective part in any system of election. The number of nominated non-official members should be reduced, but there were differences of opinion about the way in which the reductions should be made. The nominee positions, both official and nonofficial, should be regarded as open to native nominees as well as to non-native. Some deputations asked that elected members as well as official members should be appointed to the Executive Council, but there was some doubt expressed about the functions appropriate to the Executive Council. That is a fair summary, Mr. Speaker, of the views expressed in the Territory. As will now be seen, the bill gives effect to most of those views.
The bill before the House proposes to increase the membership of the Legislative Council; to reduce the official majority; to increase the proportion of elected members; and to provide, for the first time, for the election of native members by the native people themselves. The body known as the Executive Council will be abolished and replaced by an Administrator’s Council, formed of both official and non-official members and having defined powers in regard to the administration of the Territory.
In introducing those changes we are taking care to set them out in a way that will admit of progressive development. For example, the clauses relating to the Legislative Council will remove any distinction between categories of members and distinguish only the method by which they attained membership - that is, by election or by appointment. This will leave the way clear in future years for a simpler form of amendment under which the number of appointed members can be reduced and the number of elected members increased. We also propose to avoid, as far as is possible, any distinctions between indigenous and non-indigenous members and to leave the way open for persons of any race to be either elected or appointed to any vacancy, thus establishing a course of change which will end with a common roll and the occupancy of official positions by persons of either race. The clauses dealing with the Administrator’s Council have been drafted so that the council may become the starting point for progress towards representative government and, eventually, responsible government.
I shall now describe the proposed amendments in greater detail. The Legislative Council at present consists of 29 members, including the Administrator. The bill proposes a council of 37 members including the Administrator. At present there are seventeen official members, including the Administrator and there are twelve nonofficial members. In the new council it is proposed that there should be fifteen official members and 22 non-official. At present, the twelve non-official members include only three elected members. In the new council it is proposed that there should be twelve elected members and ten non-official appointed members.
In the old council all members except three native members appointed by the Governor-General were Europeans. In the new council, all appointments, whether of official or non-official members, will be open to natives as well as non-natives, and it is stipulated that not less than a certain number of native members shall fill the vacancies. If this bare minimum is filled there will be eleven native members, that is five appointed and six elected out of a total of 22 non-official members. That is the stipulated minimum, not the stated maximum.
Because of the reduction in the number of official members to a total of fourteen, plus the Administrator, out of a total council of 37, the Administrator in future will not be able to rely upon the cut and dried majority that is supplied to him by the preponderance of official members, but will have to obtain the support of some of the elected members or some of the non-official appointed members in order to have a majority in the council.
I shall now turn to the provision of the bill regarding elections. The bill says in clause 8 that the membership of the council shall include twelve persons elected by electors of the Territory. In sub-clause (3) of the same clause, it is provided that until a date to be fixed by or under an ordinance as the date on and after which natives are eligible to be enrolled as electors, subject to the same conditions as apply to other persons, six of the twelve will be elected on the electoral roll established by the Legislative Council Ordinance of the Territory and six shall be elected by natives.
When honorable members have studied the bill with care they will see that these provisions in clause 8 make it clear, first, that the separate elections are only a temporary expedient; that a single election and a common roll are the objectives set by this Parliament, and that, in due course, both can be put into effect without further amendment of the Papua and New Guinea Act. In future - one cannot predict with certainty how long it will take - when it is possible for the native electors to go on the normal roll for the Territory without suffering any disadvantage, the way will be open for them to do so. For the time being, in order to meet the conditions at present existing in the Territory and to avoid delaying any reform until such time as single elections could be held, an ordinance of the Territory will provide for one method of election for those on the normal roll - if I can use that expression for the existing roll - and another temporary method of election of native members will be provided for the native community.
This aspect of our proposals was discussed by me at some length with leaders of the native people in the Territory last July. Not one of them was in favour of a popular vote at this stage. They said, in effect, that their people did not know much about voting and that as they live in groups isolated from one another they would not know much about any candidates who might offer. Some day they should all vote as the Europeans did, but they had no confidence that at present that method would produce good results. For the time being, they favoured a system based on the local government councils.
In addition to this clear expression of opinion from the leaders of the native people I had the advice of the administration regarding the practical problems of enrolment, taking of votes, and the state of knowledge and interest in village communities. This advice supported the view that the native people themselves had expressed. Therefore, for the present, we will use a method of indirect election to produce the native members, because the visible, immediate, and on-the-spot election system that works so well with local government councils could not be used for elections for the Legislative Council over wide areas among tens of thousands of village people.
After considering the views expressed by the native leaders in the Territory as well as the comments of Administration officers, the Government proposes that the method of electing native members to the Legislative Council during the transitional period should be as follows: - There will be six electorates, each returning one member. When an election is to be held the chief electoral officer will call for nominations. The nomination of native candidates will be free and open to individuals. The nominations will pass into the keeping of the chief electoral officer who will have the responsibility of summoning an electoral conference in each of the six electorates at a designated time and place and calling on all local government councils to send delegates to it. The councils entitled to take part in an electoral conference and the number of delegates that each will be entitled to send will be set down in regulations under the relevant Territory ordinance. The chief electoral officer or a divisional returning officer will preside over each electoral conference and, after opportunity has been given for discussion - and that period of discussion will be most important, as I am sure will be recognized by every one familiar with the community up there - and after an opportunity has been given for addresses by the candidates, a vote of the delegates to the conference will be taken by secret ballot, each delegate voting individually. Because in some parts of the Territory there are groups of advanced native people who have no opportunity of forming local government councils, provision will be made by regulations under the Territory ordinance for those groups of advanced native people who are not in local government councils to have the right to send a stipulated number of delegates to an electoral conference.
As I have tried to stress up to date, it is intended that this method should be used only during a transitional period. When the native people gain greater confidence in their own ability to take part in a general election, and some of the other problems of electioneering and of taking and scrutinizing the count have been overcome, a change will be made. Having regard to our objective to establish a common roll in the Territory, we would prefer to see a change direct from this electoral college method to a common roll, rather than to change to another intermediate stage in which we would have two rolls for the two races, even for a brief period. I think it is quite logical to say that when the time comes at which native people are found to be competent to carry out the normal processes of enrolment and voting, the need for any special and separate arrangements will end and they will be able to take their place on the normal roll like any one else.
If I may digress a little, 1 would like to make some personal observations about democratic procedures. I would say to honorable members, let us not be too inflexible or too hasty in trying to force other people to adopt our own methods. Although we in British countries have evolved, in the course of more than ten centuries, to the idea of popular elections, universal franchise, the ballot-box, and “ one man one vote “, should we insist that other people must get to the same point in ten years? Should we think that this is the only method by which democracy can be served? Other communities living under other conditions than ours may have and, in fact, do have well-tried methods of their own for picking good men. In their village life in New Guinea simply by sitting around and talking about it and even by being silent about it for long periods, they do not do a bad job of finding leaders whom they can trust. That surely is the important thing. Tt is not enough for any honorable member in this House or in any other Parliament to be satisfied by saying, “ I am the man whom the people have elected “. Surely he also ought to be able to say, “ I am the man whom the people trust”. The village method usually reached that sort of result where they picked some one in whom they had confidence and some one they could trust. Their village method usually reached that result and was probably subject to no more errors of judgment than comes from the demagoguery of the hustings.
Therefore, do not let us despise too hastily the method of indirect election in communities different from our own, and let us wait until the people themselves see the advantages and the applicability of our method before we force it on them. The most disturbing thought I have personally about the people who criticize me most in these matters is that so often they wish to apply a formula of their own choosing to situations with which they are obviously unfamiliar. The lessons of Africa to-day are not that we have to gallop madly along a path of political change, but that we have to choose wisely and carefully a path of change which really satisfies the needs of, and provides opportunities for, the people and the country with whom we are concerned.
I turn now to the provisions made for the election of six non-native members of the Legislative Council. Very little explanation is required. In place of three elected members, in future there will be six members elected in six separate electorates, each returning one member. The roll of electors will be formed on the same claims for eligibility as are provided in the existing laws of the Territory.
At this stage, and before leaving the question of elections, I should mention that during my inquiries in the Territory in July, I asked every deputation I saw for its opinion on a common roll. Without exception, I was informed by European deputations that they recognized that a common roll was appropriate and they raised no objection to it. The only doubts raised concerned the practical problems set by illiteracy and the question whether, if the native people were placed on a common roll too soon, their votes might be won too easily by extravagant promises or doubtful persuasions from the poorer type of candidate.
I turn now to the provisions of the bill in respect of 1’ic ten appointed members other than the official members. The bill provides that not less than five shall come from the trust Territory of New Guinea. This repeats a provision in the existing act. It is also stipulated that not less than five of them, whether from Papua or from New Guinea, shall be native members. Beyond this, it is not proposed to divide the appointed members into categories. Part of the reason for this is that it was considered logical to designate members according to the method by which they obtained membership - as officers by election or by appointment - but not to say whom they were to represent.
Further, as the next step forward will be another increase in the number of elected members at the expense of the number of appointed members, it would be raising an unnecessary impediment to change if we continued to encourage any section of the community - missions, commerce, planting or mining1 - in the belief that it had established a right to sectional representation on the council. Hence, the bill simply says that there shall be ten members appointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Administrator; that not less than five shall come from New Guinea and that not less than five shall be natives.
Having said that, however, I should add that it is the intention to instruct the Administrator to use his powers of nomination in this transitional period so as to provide at least two native members who can speak for those people in backward areas who cannot take part in any system of election at this stage. Secondly, he will be instructed to use his power of nomination to assist in giving membership to some of those advanced leaders of the native people who may be debarred from becoming candidates for election because they are in Administration employment. It is a fact that in the Territory to-day, some of the most outstanding of the native people - the best educated, the most articulate and broad-thinking people - are those in Government service. Because they are in government service and politics there is not a full-time, fully paid job, but only parttime, they are debarred from election. It is intended to use the power of appointment to ensure that some of these, at least, will obtain membership of the Council as appointed members.
Thirdly the Administrator will be asked to consider the nomination of two persons from the Christian missions in the Territory, having regard to the fact that since the inauguration of the council, the missions have had three statutory places. Until such time as all the native people are fully represented by their own members, one hopes that the missionaries will be additional spokesmen for them. With all respect to the mission representatives, I think it is doubtful whether the retention of special seats for missions could be justified for members who were only spokesmen for missions and defenders of the interests of missions; but there is a recognizable case for voices that will be raised for sections of the population whom missions can claim to know more closely and understand more clearly than others do.
The effect of the changes I have attempted to describe can be best illustrated by taking two separate tables, and I have included these tables in my speech. In the first, 1 compare the methods of appointment between the present council and the new council. In both councils, there is provision for one Administrator. In the present council there are sixteen official members and in the proposed council there will be fourteen. There are three elected members in the present council compared with twelve in the proposed council. In the present council, the appointed non-official members number nine in separate categories. In the new council there will be ten appointed non-official members without stipulation of categories. The total number of members is 29 in the present council, compared with 37 in the proposed council.
The second of my tables attempts to illustrate the difference in the representation of the two races in the council. I take first the non-native members. There are six appointed non-native members in the present council and in the proposed council there will be a maximum of five. Elected non-native members now number three and in the new council there will be six elected. So far as native members are concerned, in the present council there are only three appointed members and no elected members. In the new council there will be a minimum of five appointed native members and six elected native members. There are seventeen official members in the present council and that number will be reduced to fifteen. These official places will be open to all regardless of race.
I turn now to the proposals in the bill regarding the Administrator’s Council. The act provides at present for an Executive Council for the Territory to advise and assist the Administrator. It consists of officers of the Territory and is presided over by the Administrator who alone submits matters to it and who is not bound to accept its advice. There is no doubt that the Administrator has tried to make the Executive Council as useful and effective a body as he can, but it is certainly not an executive body except in a very limited sense, and its very title is a misnomer. There has been a tendency, too, for its functions to become confused so that at times it appears as nothing more than a meeting of senior officers, at other times as a party meeting and at times as a body formally sharing the Administrator’s functions with him.
The proposal presented in the bill now before the Parliament is to repeal the whole of Division 2, thus abolishing the Executive Council, and to create a new body to be known as the Administrator’s Council. This will consist of the Administrator, three official members of the Legislative Council and three other members of the Legislative Council, none of whom shall be an official member, and of whom at least two shall be elected members. This Administrator’s Council will have the function of advising the Administrator on any matter referred to the council by the Administrator, and - this is the more important part - in accordance with an ordinance, of advising on any other matter. That is to say, by an ordinance of the Territory, certain functions can be confided to the Administrator’s Council.
Consequential on the passing of this section of the bill, which is almost identical with similar provisions in respect of the Northern Territory to which this Parliament agreed a year ago, legislation will be passed in the Territory to confide to the Administrator’s Council a number of precise administrative functions. The establishment of this council will directly associate the Legislative Council with the daily tasks of administration, for only Legislative Councillors can be members of the Administrator’s Council and, through the membership of elected members of the Council, it will introduce the first measure of representative government to the Territory. In the future, one foresees that its functions will grow and its membership become more representative.
For reasons which have already been stated, it is not intended to distinguish between members of the Administrator’s Council on grounds of race. We do not say in the bill that so many members shall be of this race or of that race. It is intended that the positions on the council shall be open to all, irrespective of race. But, as we recognize the realities of the present position, a direction will be given to the Administrator that at the beginning he should use his power of nomination to ensure the presence on the Administrator’s Council of at least one native member of the Legislative Council. He may appoint more if more are available.
The constitutional reforms which I have attempted to describe have been shaped with close attention to the particular circumstances and the prospective needs of the Territory. They are introduced with confidence that they fit the current situation, and - and this is more important - that they will work in practice, and that they can be readily adjusted in the future to keep pace with progressive change. The Government has been influenced more by a close examination of the Territory situation than by any consideration of any model constitution for colonial territories. We see this as only one step in the progress towards self-government. We look forward to receiving the co-operation of the people of the Territory of all races in helping to work out their own political future in successive stages, and such progress can come only if each step is within the compass of their stride.
The passing of this bill by the Parliament will leave the way open for the introduction of associated legislation in the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea in its October session. After the passing of the Territory ordinances and the making of regulations under them, it will devolve on the Administrator to make arrangements for the first elections under the new system. Our tentative expectation is that these elec tions can be held next February or March, and that the reformed Legislative Council, with the structure thatI have described, will hold its first session shortly thereafter.
It is almost certain that comparisons will be made between what it is proposed to do in the Australian Territory of Papua and New Guinea and what may be proposed elsewhere in territories of a similar kind. In making any such comparisons close attention should be paid to the powers and functions of the bodies which are being compared. The Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea, while subordinate to this Parliament, has full legislative powers and the complete structure of a parliament. It passes its own budget. It makes its own standing orders, has full control of its own business and appoints its own committees on any subject within its competence. For example, it would be within its competence to have a public works committee or a public accounts committee similar to the committees functioning in this Parliament. It will be directly represented on the proposed Administrator’s Council.
If we compare the proposed legislative machinery with the Parliament at Westminster or the Parliament in Canberra, it may seem modest, in the same way as a young plant may seem a small thing beside a fully-grown tree. But we must remember that the health and vigour of the fully-grown tree do not come from an instantaneous act of creation, but from an upward growth through the years. Each one of us looks forward to continued growth from the small beginning and towards the day of self-government for the Territory. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1284).
.- Before the suspension of the sitting this evening I was referring to the Repatriation Department’s clinical notes in the case of on ex-serviceman who in 1950 had been refused a war pension for mustard gas keratitis, but who was granted a 10 per cent. pension seven years later. The Repatriation Board, the commission and the appeal tribunal had all rejected his claims, even though they knew that he had been blind for a period as a result of a gas attack. A perusal of these clinical notes shows how easy it is for the wrong impression to be gained by the tribunal having the responsibility to discharge the onus of proof.
On 15th October, 1918, according to the notes, Mr. Knight was admitted to No. 4 Australian Convalescent Depot. The notes then reveal the following history: - . 15.10.18 Conjunctivitis otherwise well. 23.10.18 Eyes still sore. 6.11.18 Left eye infected. 20.11.18 Eyes still sore left red. 27.11.18 Slight conjunctivitis and blepharitis
The notes then go on - 5.12.18 . . . Disability - Gas Poisoning.
Present Condition: No disability. Recommend fit General Service.
Disability - Gas Poisoning on 25 August, 1918 whilst on active service.
Present Condition: No disability at all now.
Yet on 20th March, 1919, about five weeks later, he was discharged as being medically unfit. On 11th July, 1950 he made an application for a war pension in respect of the eye trouble and a coronary occlusion. In that case the doctor, whoever he was, diagnosed refractive error and presbyopia. At that stage nothing had been said about lens opacity. On 17th October, 1951, the tribunal disallowed the appeal.
On 11th September, 1957, Mr. Knight lodged a further claim for a pension. He had been receiving an invalid pension only, and he had consulted and been treated at considerable expense, by Dr. Stuckey of Newcastle, who diagnosed mustard gas keratitis and senile lens opacity. While the department accepted the diagnosis of mustard gas keratitis, it rejected that of lens opacity. For the information of the House I may say that lens opacity means non-transparency, darkness and obscurity. I want to know how any tribunal, especially one composed of persons who are not medical men, can reject a doctor’s diagnosis of lens opacity or say that the condition was not the result of the gas attack, particularly when, as I have pointed out, there are no clinical notes to show that for the first 44 days of this man’s illness he had been blind. I have placed that case on record so that people in the community generally will know how hopelessly wrong the Repatriation Commission can be and how the onus of proof provision works against ex-servicemen on whom the axe falls.
I now turn to a more recent case. I appeal to honorable members to listen to these details because, for the life of me, I cannot understand why the tribunals have rejected the claim of the widow for a war pension for herself and three children. This is the case of an ex-serviceman who has been in receipt of a 20 per cent. war pension for a condition affecting his eyes. He was admitted to Concord Repatriation Hospital on 16th July, 1958, for an operation to his eyes and for other investigation. While in hospital, the patient developed a state of depression. This was so acute that he told people that he would not get better and that he wished to be cremated when he died. He was a man who loved his family and adored his wife; yet he wrote to his wife telling her not to allow his children to visit him because the atmosphere of the hospital was depressing and the surroundings were depressing him. The letter he wrote to his wife shows that he had no intention of taking his life. In part of it he said -
I don’t want you to come down again until I come out and under no circumstances are the kiddies to come again as the atmosphere is too depressing particularly for impressionable kiddies like Jan and Pete. It depresses me so it must have a worse effect on their minds.
I can imagine pet just what a nightmare trip you must have had on your way home. You were never out of my thoughts. I love you all so very much and that’s why I feel so badly about being away from you for so long. Keep your chin up pet and be real good pals with Helen. She is far from perfect darling but she is no worse than others of the same age group. I know that there are times pet when you don’t feel the best but by saying that there are thousands worse off than yourself it will help to keep the home cheery.
The depressed condition had developed even though the operation, I understand, had been considered to be successful, and there can be no doubt that it was abundantly clear to the hospital authorities whilst he was a patient in the hospital. He was threatened by the doctors that he would be put into Ward 12, or the psychiatric ward, if he did not behave himself. On 12th August, the patient was discharged from hospital and on the same day he rang his wife from Sydney - he lived in the country - and told her that he was not going home any more.
She pleaded with him, eventually found out where he was, and raced to Sydney by car to get him. He returned home and the next day he went to his doctor, who prescribed a sedative and medicine to try to calm his nerves and to make him sleep. Unfortunately, the treatment did not seem to improve him. He went to his place of employment and told his superiors to take him off his job. They told him that they would look after him during his period of illness.
For about three weeks, he did literally nothing. One day he was missing from his work and was not found for another three weeks. He was then discovered locked in a room in Sydney with a firearm by his side. He was taken home and placed under Dr. Moore, a psychiatrist at Newcastle. He was admitted to hospital and had four shock treatments. Again, he was missing from his bed in the hospital. Some days later, he was found dead; he had taken his life by his own hand whilst of unsound mind. Since that day in 1958, the widow and her children could have starved so far as the Repatriation Commission was concerned. I have been told that the board and the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal have dismissed the widow’s application for a pension. I know the authorities will say that they have applied the benefit of doubt and there is now no doubt, because they have discharged it. If that is so, and it appears to be so, all I can say is that it is high time the act was torn up and reframed to ensure that justice is done by all ex-servicemen
It must be evident to honorable members that something is wrong with the act if the claims of the dependants of deceased ex-servicemen can be dismissed in the way that the claim that I have just mentioned was dismissed. As I see it, the exserviceman in this case died as a result of a state of mental depression, following an operation for an accepted disability. Death was most certainly the result of a greatly aggravated mental state of mind, which in all probability had been built up over the period when his eyes were bound and he feared that he would go blind or would not get better. I understand that at least four doctors - two of them psychiatrists, one a general practitioner and the other a specialist physician - have expressed the opinion that death was caused by an accepted disability arising from war service. As far as 1 am concerned, Mr. Speaker, the authorities at Concord Repatriation Hospital are not in the clear in relation to this case. The patient should never have been discharged when he was. The authorities must have known that he was not fit to be discharged from hospital on the date that he was discharged. Therefore, there are many reasons why this person’s death should be accepted as war-caused and his widow and children granted a war pension.
I have written to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) on the subject and I now appeal to the Minister of Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is at the table, to see whether something can be done to have this widow’s case re-opened. The admission of the Minister for Health that mistakes can be made in cases that are rejected shows that the tribunals are not infallible. This is borne out time and again. It is because mistakes can be made that the Opposition has been pressing for the creation of another authority, such as an appeal to a judge of the High Court or a Supreme Court on matters of law. Cases of which we know and others like them could then be put beyond doubt.
It has long been my view, in the light of the distressing cases that I have seen and with the knowledge of what occurred when First World War soldiers returned home in 1919 after service abroad - thousands of them literally threw their uniforms aside to get back to their wives and families - that on reaching the age of 60 years every ex-serviceman should be automatically entitled to a basic war pension, aside from any service pension, age pension or invalid pension. I hope that in the future such a pension will be provided. The board, commission and tribunals grant pensions even now, 40 years after the end of the First World War, to some ex-servicemen and their dependants for heart conditions, but at the same time reject others.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am delighted to join my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who led for the Opposition in this debate and who has foreshadowed several important amendments, which characterize the Opposition’s representation of exservicemen over many years. We have constantly drawn attention to the issues which the honorable member for Bass has raised once again and we sincerely regret that on this occasion, as on other occasions, the Government does not seem to be impressed. Opposition members have put forward instances showing the plight and dilemma of ex-servicemen. We particularly have regard for the need to amend the Repatriation Act so that cancer will be accepted as a war-caused or aggravated disability. Most honorable members know of exservicemen suffering from cancer who have been given treatment in hospital at great expense, but 1 doubt whether any one has been able to say with certainty that such a condition was not due 10 or aggravated by war service. It may be said that it cannot be established that the disability was war caused, but under the general onus of proof provision of the act there is a clear obligation on the Government to accept liability. In our amendments we deal with a number of vexed questions, including the general problem of onus of proof, and suggest that the Government should make provision for some appeal to the High Court or a Supreme Court. Such a system exists in certain countries of the world. If that were done, I am sure that ex-servicemen throughout Australia would be impressed to see the flag being kept flying in regard to this issue. The third amendment referred to by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) relates to medical treatment of members of the Forces who were engaged in the 1914-1918 war. It is true that some progress has been made towards that end, but it is insufficient; and the difference between what the Budget has achieved and what we propose should be done is comparatively trifling from a financial point of view. It is something which could be taken in its stride by a government which really had the best interests of the ex-servicemen of this country at heart.
But this Government prefers to quibble about matters in which only a few pounds arc involved. Throughout the Budget debate we heard the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), other Ministers and members on the
Government side referring to the state of prosperity which prevails in this country. They said that Australia is a mecca for big business and that its enticements are such that overseas investment is hurtling into this country at an unprecedented rate. We know that £100 invested in Australia attracts at the present day what are probably unprecedented profits. We know that this Government has been lucky and has benefited as a result of good seasons and very good wool clips and wheat crops. We know that it has had the benefit of a fair degree of industrial peace, and we have heard it contend on many occasions that Australia is on the march. “ Australia unlimited “, members of the Government say, is the order of the day. What a sorry state of affairs it is that in the face of all those circumstances, in this year of grace, 1960, we are still able to point to a number of vital social service and repatriation matters where much still requires to be done.
There is indeed prosperity in this country, but unfortunately it is not being distributed fairly among the underprivileged people in our community, and it is a matter of great regret that we have to reiterate that fact. We do not like going over the old worn tracks where these things are concerned, but there is an obligation on the Labour Party to keep these matters constantly before the Government. Although Labour has not been in office for about ten years there is no doubt that the fact that Labour exists and goes to the people with a positive and progressive election programme every three years is the reason why we have had some progress - reluctant though it may be - from the Government. We know members of the Government well and truly to be status quo people, with no burning enthusiasm or zeal for social reform in their hearts. The purpose of this measure is belatedly to give effect to some of the paltry provisions outlined in the Budget. Of course, every benefit provided for ex-servicemen is of value to them but, overall, the benefits here provided are not of great substance.
We must face up to the fact that the Returned Servicemen’s League has rejected the Government’s overtures almost out of hand. We know that at the New South Wales conference of the league there were expressions of great regret that the Government had not acceded to the requests made to it. Members of the Opposition take every opportunity to visit sub-branches of the league to discuss these things. The honorable members for St. George (Mr. Clay), Barton (Mr. Reynolds) and West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) and I have attended such conferences. Indeed, we have forsaken social functions in our electorates in order to become au fait with the things that the R.S.L. is anxious to obtain-
– Did you know what they were talking about?
– Let me tell the honorable member for Lilley that on each of these occasions, although a general invitation had been extended to both Government and Labour members of Parliament, there was not one Government member present with the exception of one honorable senator. That was last year; and in the preceding year there were expressions of regret by the R.S.L. at the fact that Government members appeared to be uninterested in these matters. The league is not an irresponsible rabble; it is an organization of people who serve their country. At any sub-branch of that organization it will be noted that its members comprise people who have acquitted themselves well in their personal and daily life. They include businessmen and men from all sections of the community.
If one looks through the annual report of the R.S.L. one finds that no less than seven members of its national executive have been honoured by this Government. So, why should some honorable members opposite contend, in effect, as one honorable member from Western Australia did this afternoon, that if one goes around the R.S.L. subbranches it will be found that they are not unhappy about the repatriation provisions brought down by this Government? Of course, the league is unhappy, and that is why it has brought down its pensions plan year after year. That is why the State conference of the R.S.L. in Sydney, soon after the Budget debate, expressed great regret that the Menzies Government had failed to honour its obligations to exservicemen. I will refer now to some of the Budget provisions. First, the special rate war pension for T.P.I, pensioners has been increased by 10s. a week. That might sound reasonable enough. That pension has been increased to £12 15s. for the single man, but it is still below the basic wage. Can one imagine, with troops sailing from Sydney Harbour, some one representing the Government saying, “ Farewell chaps. You have nothing to worry about. If you get bowled over and can never work again we guarantee to give you a wage substantially under the prevailing basic wage”? Can honorable members imagine such a situation?
Whether or not the Government would stay in power in such circumstances, it is now virtually putting such a proposition to the T.P.I, pensioners. Under the Budget the T.P.I, rate will be £12 15s. per week for the single man.
– You have not read the Budget; it is £17 a week.
– What rubbish. That applies to some T.P.I.’s who, in certain circumstances, get every benefit that is available, but it does not apply to some single pensioners. War widows are to get an increase of 5s., bringing their pension to £5 10s. per week, and the domestic allowance payable to widows with children under 16 years is to rise by 5s. to £3 per week. All these figures fall well short of the R.S.L.’s pension plan. Service pensions are to rise by 5s. to £5, and there is provision for medical treatment to service pensioners, that is, those who have attained the age of 60 years. An interesting observation on the Budget provisions is that whilst the things I have mentioned might seem impressive on the surface, there are not very many people involved in the various categories. The totals shown in the Repatriation Department’s annual report indicate that some of the categories are very restricted. An interesting summary of the repatriation principles of this Government is found in the fact that the cost of all these benefits for this year is only £1,700,000 out of a £1,700,000,000 Budget, or £2,300,000 in a full year. So, how can honorable members opposite make a fuss about what is done in the Budget for ex-servicemen?
– That figure is the increase. Be fair.
– I am saying that that is the cost of the additional provisions. I hope the Minister does not attribute deception to me, any more than I would attribute it to him. I am here to put the case for the ex-serviceman. The fact is that out of a £1,700,000,000 Budget the Government is going to spend £1,700,000 extra this year to provide these additional benefits. That is a clear indication that the Government has failed badly. When I look at that figure, I cannot help but recall the promise made by the present Prime Minister in his policy speech in 1949. This is what he said- -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
That was ten long years ago, and we are still waiting for some indication of this speed. The Government’s present speed can hardly be said to be what is desirable in this jet age. It is not doing justice to the exservicemen. So far as I can see, the Prime Minister was in a reckless and irresponsible mood when he made that statement in 1949. I submit that the Government has treated miserably the 19,000 T.P.I, pensioners in this country, for we could sweep all their problems away without any trouble. They are obviously our first obligation. It has always been a source of amazement to me that when we of the Opposition seek to put forward a case in this Parliament for exservicemen, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) becomes very concerned. He is an ex-serviceman himself and I cannot understand how he justifies the attitude he adopts.
We all know that under present conditions it is extremely difficult for an exserviceman to qualify for the T.P.I, pension. It is heartbreaking to see them going through the process of establishing their claims. An examination of the figures will disclose that they are having an extremely difficult time before the various entitlement appeal tribunals. I was very interested to see the figures for last year. They disclose that entitlement appeal tribunals considered applications from 54,900 ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war. Of that number only 8,163 were allowed. In that same year, 42,241 exservicemen of the 1939-45 war made application and only 6,023 were successful in establishing any entitlement. It is tough going to get any sort of entitlement, as these figures indicate, and I sincerely hope that honorable members opposite know something of these things.
When we come to the assessment appeal tribunals - the bodies which consider the amount of pension being paid and which conduct investigations to ascertain whether pensions should be increased - we find that of 66,200 applications from 1914-18 exservicemen, only 28,000 were allowed to some extent. Again, of the 100,169 applications from returned servicemen of the 1939-45 war, only 56,000 were allowed. I emphasize that I am quoting official figures. When we realize the rat-race these men have to go through to get to the T.P.I, level, it is only fair to suggest that they should receive justice.
Let me state Labour’s attitude towards T.P.I, pensioners. We made no equivocation about it in the policy we put before the people during the last elections. At that time, we said -
We are specially concerned about the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated returned soldiers. This will be raised immediately to the basic wage as an irreducible minimum.
Having aroused the enthusiasm of the very reluctant members on the Government side and having, I hope, stimulated their interest in the welfare of exservicemen for the first time, I will pass to another aspect. Before that, however, let me say that I hope that we shall not see the spectacle again of two Labour representatives speaking in succession on a repatriation debate. I have followed immediately after the honorable member for Shortland because no honorable member on the Government side was prepared to stand up and speak on behalf of the ex-servicemen of this country. Now that honorable members on the Government side are interjecting, I hope some of them will have the courage and interest to stand up and support the exservicemen after I have concluded my speech, but I am afraid that it is more likely that the Minister will rise to close the debate. There are many of my colleagues who are prepared to dive in and put their point of view in discharging their obligations to the ex-servicemen of this country. Let us see how many member on the Government side follow me. I hope I have stirred them into doing that.
Let me refer now to another important aspect - the wives of T.P.I, pensioners. It might interest honorable members to know that there was a time when medical benefits were available to all T.P.I, pensioners, just as they were available to all age and invalid pensioners. But in 1955 this Government imposed a means test on medical benefits and this affected not only age and invalid pensioners, many of whom were deprived of medical benefits which they previously enjoyed, but also a number of T.P.I, pensioners’ wives. To-day, some wives of T.P.I, pensioners are able to obtain medical benefits but those who did not apply before 1955 are deprived of that right. It seems to me that this discrimination against certain wives of T.P.I, pensioners in connexion with medical benefits is completely illogical and absolutely unjust. It would not cost much to correct this anomaly. I suggest to some of those honorable members on the Government side who are starting to show a little interest now that they give consideration to this important matter.
Then there is the question of allowances to the wives of T.P.I, pensioners. The fact that the allowance of £1 15s. 6d. has stood for some considerable time must surely be a matter for great concern. These women are unable to go to work. They have a fulltime job looking after their totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen husbands. Incidentally, they save the Government and the country an enormous amount of money because, but for their loving care and devotion to their husbands, these ex-servicemen would have to go into hospital and become a charge upon the community. These women are something akin to professional nurses as a result of their devotion and application to the service of their sick husbands. They are unable to take employment and find it necessary to develop certain skills. For instance, they learn handicrafts, occupational therapy and things of that type. And all this Government can provide for those wives of T.P.I, pensioners is £1 15s. 6d. a week! This matter certainly should be looked at closely.
I want to make reference to one other subject, and perhaps many more if I have the time. The funeral benefit has been mentioned. We do not like talking about this subject a great deal, but the fact is that the funeral benefit for ex-servicemen has not been altered since 1952, despite the fact that funeral costs have increased considerably since that time. The present rate is £25. Recently, the Returned Servicemen’s League conducted a survey to ascertain the average cost of a reasonable funeral - not a high-class one - and discovered that it is in the vicinity of £72 to-day. I do not think any one could say that is an unfair statement. In its pension plan, the R.S.L. asked for an increase in the funeral allowance, but this has been dismissed out of hand by the Government. The cost of a burial site these days is between £20 and £25, and this alone almost eats up the whole of the funeral grant. The Canadian Government giants exservicemen a funeral allowance equivalent to £114 lis. 8d. Australian. We should give serious consideration to our allowance in the light of that example. I suggest that it be increased to at least £50, which would make it something like comparable with the amount paid to a civilian widow whose husband lost his life as the result of an accident during the course of his employment.
I have already mentioned a number of matters and do not wish to delay the House unduly, but I should like to make some reference to war widows. The Budget contains provision for an increase of 5s. in the war widow’s pension. It will now be £5 10s. The Budget also contains provision for increasing the domestic allowance by 5s., to £3. The R.S.L. asks for £6 a week or an increase of 15s. for widows. It also asks for a variable domestic allowance related to the number of children a widow has. It wants a domestic allowance of £3 5s. if they have no children, £3 10s. if they have one child, £4 if they have two children and £4 10s. if they have three or more children. Obviously, this is a fair thing. A discriminatory pension for widows with children could be justified quite easily because, after all, it is not what you give the children that counts; it is how the widow with children can manage to look after them in the proper way. Obviously, the widow who has children needs more assistance than does the widow who has no children. We must remember that child endowment has been static for about ten years. This
Government has killed it. If the Government continues to ignore in the future, as it has in the past ten years, our appeals for an increase in child endowment, the war widows, who are in the low income bracket, will suffer. The Government should provide some assistance for war widows with children.
I understand that in 1949 the war widow’s pension, with the domestic allowance, was 53 per cent, of the basic wage. It is true that there has been some increase in that payment; to-day it is 59 per cent, of the basic wage. There is a tendency to look at 1949 as the year in which the Labour Party had reached the zenith, the very ultimate of its aims in relation to repatriation and social services. Why, we were only on the threshold of our endeavour to build a great welfare state in which people would enjoy real social security. We were only making a start in 1949.
Do not forget that we had endured a very trying and difficult time in office since early in the war, when those who now sit opposite voluntarily vacated the treasury bench. We had had to fight a war. We had initiated a large number of social service and repatriation benefits, and were in the process of accumulating a very substantial welfare fund to which everyone contributed. All honorable members no doubt recall the special social services tax which Labour imposed so that we could build up our reserves for a rainy day, thereby ensuring social security for the people of Australia. But all this Government does is to grant a miserable increase in the war widow’s domestic allowance. That is not good enough. We shall continue to press the Government as often as we can until it wakes up out of its lethargy and gets on with the job of giving justice to exservicemen.
I wish to refer now to self-employed exservicemen who go into repatriation hospitals for treatment but do not receive compensation at the T.P.I, rate. I do not know the reason for this. I should think that a government that stands for private enterprise - as this Government claims to do - would be inclined to encourage a man to stay in business. An ex-serviceman may have a small retail store or he may be a self-employed plumber or a carpenter, but when he goes into a repatriation hospital he is not assisted by the Government to the same extent as other people are.
The speech of the Minister for Repatriation on this aspect is interesting. He said that paid sick leave is a normal wage cost which is borne by industry, and that the Government considers that the businesses of self-employed persons should bear this cost in the same way as do larger organizations which employ managerial and other staff. I do not think that that point of view can be fairly and squarely sustained by a Government which claims to stand for private enterprise. Obviously, these self-employed persons have to bear the cost of sick leave. Often they are ill with ordinary ailments, such as influenza, which they do not attribute to their war service. They have a day off work and have to engage labour to take their place and, of course, they pay through the nose for a casual employee.
I sincerely regret that in the five years in which I have been in this place I have not heard one member of the Government parties raise his voice on this aspect. In fact, Government members now are so reluctant to take part in this debate that Opposition speakers are following one another. My colleagues and I would like to debate this aspect if we had the opportunity.
The claim has been made by the Returned Servicemen’s League that the general rate pension should be related to the basic wage. This claim is, to my mind, fair enough and should be taken into account by the Government. Over recent years the general rate war pension has declined as a proportion of the basic wage. Do Government members understand that? Do they accept that? Are they happy about that? In 1949 it was 43.8 per cent, of the basic wage, but in 1959 it was only 40.59 per cent, of the basic wage. No provision has been made in this Budget for an increase in the general rate, but Government supporters are quite content to remain silent about that. The number of ex-servicemen who receive the full general rate pension - I have the precise figures here - is declining steadily, but honorable gentlemen opposite give the impression that they could not care less about it. No one can deny the facts and figures. I suggest that honorable gentlemen opposite should raise these matters in the party room with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in an endeavour to encourage him to honour his election promises.
I think that the Government has made some progress by providing hospital treatment for service pensioners.
– You only think that?
– That is right, 1 think it has; but the Government’s gesture is by no means as generous as some people on the Government side consider it to be because many of these service and age pensioners are entitled to free hospital treatment in a public ward of a hospital in any case. Do not get the idea that the Government is doing something generous. I have already stated the total cost of the repatriation proposals that were incorporated in the Budget. The Government has gone a certain distance by providing hospital treatment for service pensioners of the 1914-18 war. It is merely splitting straws in denying this benefit to the remainder of the diggers of that war, because there are not so many of them left. When they are ill and have to go into hospital they like to be with their old mates with whom they served. For the sake of a few miserable thousands of pounds, which the Government could raise in one thousand ways, it is denying these old diggers that small pleasure. This is another matter which the Government should consider.
The Boer War veteran is not receiving very much consideration from the Government simply because it contends that the Boer War took place before federation in 1901. The Government claims that the Boer War veterans are the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government. It is absolutely incredible that this Government should make the Boer War veterans line up for some consideration from the United Kingdom Government. I hope that this Parliament in this 20th century will wake up to itself and realize that these veterans are deserving of a lot more consideration than has been extended to them.
I understand that no honorable gentleman from the Government side will reply to any of the points thatI have raised. I regret that, because the interests and the welfare of the Australian ex-serviceman deserve a great deal more consideration than they have received. I sincerely hope that the Government will be encouraged to provide for ex-servicemen in the next Budget more generously than has hitherto been the case, and that it will honour the 1949 election promises which it made. If it is not prepared to do this, it should vacate the treasury bench and let Labour get on with the job.
.- I shall not detain the House for very long. I merely wish to assure the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) that his statements will not go unanswered.I point out to him that if the Government wished to take advantage of its numbers in this House, we would not hear from the Opposition for a considerable time. It is a shame that this national Parliament should become a bidding market for votes and not a place for the discussion of legislation.
I should like to bring to the notice of the honorable member for Hughes a peculiar coincidence. I spent part of this afternoon looking through “ Hansard “, which is a habit of mine, and I came upon a number of speeches by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to which I shall not refer now but which I suggest he should re-read to recall to his mind what his feelings on certain subjects were in the period when he was a member of the Labour Government.
This afternoon the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) read a portion of the 1959 annual report of the national president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia which was presented to the forty-fifth annual congress in October of this year.I should like to read that portion of the report again. It is in these terms -
At this stage I should like to pay a warm tribute to the courteous and friendly way in which all League representations are met. Where refusals have to be given to specific requests, the Ministers or the Departments concerned go to great pains to point out the reasons for them. There is no arbitrary out of hand rejection of representations made officially on behalf of the League from time to time, and always the door is open to further negotiations.
I should like to read a few brief extracts from successive annual reports of the Returned Soldiers League, copies of which are available to honorable members if they wish to use them. The federal president of the league, at paragraph 3 of his report to the 32nd annual congress, in 1947, stated -
Unhappily, however, we have found that some of the promises made to the fighting forces have not been honoured. But I say the League is the hope of the war veterans, and the fight will go on to ensure that their valiant deeds shall reap a just reward in the difficult post-war period.
That was in 1947, when the Labour Government was in office. The same gentleman, in his report to the 33rd annual congress, in 1948, under the heading, “ Bitterly Disappointed “, said -
Frankly, your Executive is bitterly disappointed at the present attitude of the Government. In some quarters there even appears to be a resentment that the League should make representations on behalf of ex-service personnel, and we have noticed that the attitude is: “ Why should we do anything further for these people; after all the war is over.”
I shall not read further, but the report continues in that strain at some length.
– Who was Minister for Repatriation then?
– Unfortunately, I was not a member of Parliament then and I do not know.
– Was it not Mr. Claude Barnard?
– It could have been. The federal president of the Returned Soldiers League, in his report to the 34th annual congress, in 1949, under the heading, “ Budget Repatriation Increases “, stated -
The Federal Executive was keenly disappointed in that portion of the Federal Treasurer’s Budget relating to war pensions.
The matter is then dealt with at some length over a number of pages. The report of the federal president to the 35th annual congress of the league, in 1950, under the heading, “ Prime Minister’s Policy Speech “, contained the following passage: -
Following publication of the Prime Minister’s policy speech the following telegram was forwarded to Mr. Chifley: - “Federal Executive R.S.L. unanimously expresses dissatisfaction meagre proposals your policy speech specifically promising only review of ex-service pensions. Will sincerely appreciate public statement regarding Government’s firm in tentions towards war pensions, particularly League request that basic pension be increased to 70/- to offset reduced purchasing power of pound.”
That is of interest. To continue -
Mr. Chifley’s brief reply indicated that he was not prepared to make any promises about ex-servicemen’s pensions other than statements in his policy speech.
I should like Opposition members to compare those statements with the statement made by the federal president of the R.S.L. in his report to the 45th annual congress, made available to honorable members this week.
Over the years, this Government has given to ex-servicemen, not all that honorable members would like them to be given, but all that can be given without straining the economy of the country. I am sure that this Government will continue to do as much as it can year by year and will refrain from making promises, as does the Australian Labour Party, without any intention of keeping them, or knowing that they cannot possibly be kept.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (First Schedule).
.- I want to point out to honorable members the anomaly that exists in this clause. I have made mention of this matter before. I will mention it again in the hope that the Government will do something about correcting the anomaly. I refer to the differential in rates of pension in accordance with rank. The existence of this differential is, I think, against the general principles of repatriation and all it stands for. The rates of pension paid to the higher ranks ought also to be paid to other ranks. I think that this is a matter to which all honorable members should turn their attention.
I have in mind, particularly, the rate of pension paid to widows of deceased exservicemen. While there may be some justification for paying different rates of pensions, according to rank, to the exservicemen themselves - although I cannot think of any reason why a general, a major, a sergeant or any other officer or noncommissioned officer should get more pension than a private - there seems to me to be no justification for applying this differential to their surviving dependants. In the first instance all service personnel made an equality of sacrifice, but the pension paid to surviving dependants is not based on the service of those dependants. There is no justification for the continuance of such an anomaly, andI hope that honorable members will turn their attention to it and give some thought to up-grading everybody to the highest rate, thus removing the differential.
.-I completely agree with the principle mentioned by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), that there should be no differential in the rates of pension paid to ex-servicemen whatever ranks they may have held during their service. I should like to point out that, so far as I know, since this Government has been in office every attempt has been made to try to bring the rates of pension to equality, in that when increases have been made in the general pension rates, nowhere in the various pieces of legislation has there been any suggestion that an additional amount should be paid to the holder of a certain rank. I believe - and I would be subject to correction on this by the Minister - that in the eleven years that this Government has been in office, and in the ten amendments to the act that it has introduced, the differential has been gradually reduced. I sincerely hope, as does the honorable member for Wills, that the time is approaching when the differential will cease, and the sacrifice made by all ranks will be regarded as having been equal.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Second Schedule).
.- This clause sets the rate for totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners at £25 10s. a fortnight - £12 15s. a week. On that rate are determined all sorts of ancillary rates - dependants’ allowances, special rates for blind ex-servicemen, and so on.
I have always approached the subject of repatriation in a non-party spirit. I do not think I have ever breached that practice. But, unfortunately, this afternoon I have heard, particularly from the Government side, comparisons of what is done now with what a Labour government did during the time when this country was emerging from the war, and that Labour government had to meet the problems of the immediate post-war period. Despite war-time and post-war problems the Labour Government did something real in regard in regard to repatriation. Yet I hear, bandied about this chamber, statements about what the Liberal Government is doing now, what the Labour Government did, and what somebody else ought to do. Let us get down to hard-bitten present-day facts. We are proposing to pay a T.P.I, pensioner £12 15s. a week in this day and generation.
Since 1939, when World War II. broke out, we have had six years of war, seven or eight years of Labour government, and about thirteen years of anti-Labour government. Yet the people on the Government side have to resort to asking what the Labour Government did thirteen years ago. They do this as a means of defence of an inadequate award of pension.
During the Budget debate we heard a lot from the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) about the average earnings of the Australian worker. It was pointed out from this side that the basic wage to-day was only £13 16s., and would be £14 2s. if cost of living adjustments had continued to be made to it. However, let us take the average basic wage of £13 16s. as a start. We pointed out that that is an inadequate basic wage and that the Prime Minister of this country went into the court, with all the power of law behind him, advocating that the wage remain at that figure. What did we get from the Treasurer? We got thrown at us this statement that the average wage of industrial workers in this country is £21 per week. So the Government accepts £21 a week as the standard for a worker. That is the figure shown by the Commonwealth Statistician in the Government’s own publications. That is the standard on which to fix rates of pension.
Never mind what a Government did thirteen years ago. We are talking about what this Parliament ought to be doing to-day. The Government proposes to pay a T.P.I, ex-serviceman £12 15s. a week in pension, but that is only about 60 per cent, of the £21 which the Statistician says is the average wage of a worker to-day. And you blow out your chests and talk about what a Labour Government did in the war and in the immediate post-war period! I say that I am not concerned with that, and neither is the ex-serviceman. All I want to know is what this Parliament is prepared to do in this day and generation. It is true that with the lapse of time £21 is the average wage. Honorable members opposite claim that substantial social benefits, reduced hours for workers and a better standard of living for all of us are also the order of the day. And the best the Government can do for the T.P.I, pensioner is to give him 60 per cent, of the wage earned by the average worker to-day. This is the wage earned by people who have suffered no disabilities as the result of war. The Government expects the man who has suffered all the way - the 100 per cent, pensioner - to jog along on £12 15s. a week. Get off it! Do something decent. If honorable gentlemen opposite have any elements of decency in them, they should cease making political capital out of repatriation.
What the returned serviceman and his dependants want to know is: What is the Government going to do for them now? They do not care about the past. There is all the vaunted wealth of which Government supporters have spoken - great salaries for parliamentarians and Cabinet Ministers and great expense sheets. We think little of £12 a week; yet the Government expects a soldier to live on £12 15s. a week if he is single, and, if he is married, it throws in a few extra shillings which hardly amounts to pounds, for his dependent wife and children. It is a national scandal which reflects no credit on this Government.
If honorable members opposite want party politics thrown in their faces let me remind them that it was their Prime Minister who, when the war broke out, enlisted men to fight for their country with a dependant’s allowance of eighteen pence for a wife. It was not until the Labour Government came to office that that sad and sorry state of affairs was remedied. I appeal to the decency of the Government, even at this late hour, to move its own amendments to the bil] or to postpone consideration of the measure for the moment so that it can do the right thing by all repatriation pensioners.
.- It is true that, during the course of the debate this evening, the game of party politics has been played rather hard. When I spoke after the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) in the second-reading debate I quoted certain figures relating to the C series index in answer to a set of basic wage figures which he had quoted. I did this, purely in answer to his argument - a course which I believe every honorable member is entitled to take.
With regard to clause 8, I do not think that it is a valid argument merely to cite the case of a totally and permanently incapacitated single man and say that the sum of £24 10s. a fortnight is all that the Government is prepared to pay. If you are going to compare the total and permanent incapacity pension rate with the average wage, which is about £20 a week, according to statistics, certain other things must be taken into consideration.
– The average wage is just on £21 a week.
– Accepting the average wage as £20 or £21 a week, first of all, taxation reduces that amount considerably. Let us remember also that the average wage-earner would have a wife and children to support. Of course, if his wife is working a different set of circumstances arises. But the married totally and permanently incapacitated man, in addition to his pension of £12 5s., receives an allowance of £1 15s. 6d. for his wife. If he has two children he receives 13s. 9d. for the first and 15s. for the second, and an education allowance of £1 6s. 6d., which brings his income up to about £17 10s. He may receive other benefits. If he is in a position to buy a car - and I know plenty who are - he gets it free of sales tax. By dividing the amount of sales tax that he would otherwise have paid by the number of years in the car’s life, one can obtain a figure which can be added to his annual income.
He also receives complete medical treatment. Admittedly, the totally and permanently incapacitated man is liable to need more medical treatment than the ordinary healthy person. That is obvious. But in addition to treatment for his accepted disabilities he receives treatment for other ailments. If at the age of say 45 or 50 he requires a complete set of teeth, which might otherwise cost £60, he has no financial worry on that score. He does not have to put money aside for that purpose. So, in comparing his income with the average wage it is necessary to consider all these things. Nobody can be compensated with a payment in cash for total and permanent incapacity through war service. After looking at all the benefits for this man under the Repatriation Act you might say that he is still not receiving enough. That I am not prepared to argue. But you cannot say that he has been totally neglected by this or any other government if you consider everything that is done for him in the field of repatriation.
.- I think that we should set the record straight so far as payments to totally and permanently incapacitated men are concerned. It is quite all right, for political purposes, if you are in Opposition, to quote the base amount of the totally and permanently incapacitated pension. But let us look at a typical case of an ex-serviceman of World War II. who has a wife and two children. Let us surmise that his children are twelve and fourteen years of age, which I would guess would be about the average age of children of ex-servicemen of World War II. What actual payment is received by this family from the Government as a recognition of the service performed and the disability suffered by the exserviceman? I would urge the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to compare this amount with the wage to which he referred.
The ex-serviceman will receive a war pension of £12 15s. plus an allowance of £1 15s. 6d. for his wife. They will receive a service pension of £2 19s. 6d. for the member and his wife plus 14s. for the children. For his first child he will receive a war pension of 13s. 9d. and for his second child the same amount. They receive an educational allowance, between them, of £2 ls. 6d. So the total income of the family is £21 13s. This comes from the public purse, from the taxpayer, in genuine appreciation - and one that is well warranted - of the services of the totally and permanently incapacitated soldier. But as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) pointed out, there are a great number of other benefits to which the exserviceman is entitled and which we are glad to see him have.
I think that the suggestion by the honorable member for Lalor that the Government has not given fair recognition to the totally and permanently incapacitated soldier would not meet with the general agreement of members of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association. Honorable members are circulated regularly with the booklets that are published by this organization. Members on this side of the chamber and, I believe, on the other side mix frequently with these ex-servicemen at their meetings. The general feeling among the totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers is that they have had a fair go. They feel that this Government is doing justice to them and they have no real criticism to make of repatriation payments.
– I join issue with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). I referred previously to the single man who is being paid the munificent sum of £12 15s. a week.
– You said that a few miserable extra shillings were paid in respect of his wife.
– The honorable member for Lilley has come up with a diversionary move. He has said, “ What about the totally and permanently incapacitated soldier who has a wife and; children? He will receive £21 a week.” Does the honorable member suggest that approximately £8 a week is an adequate compensation for a woman to nurse and care for a man on £12 15s. a week who is incapable of earning any income whatsoever? That brings you up to the total average earnings of £21 a week quoted by the Government and recorded in the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. The honorable member for Lilley seems to be unconscious of the fact that many of the men who receive £21 and a few shillings and who have a wife and children could not obtain a housekeeper for the extra £8 a week. Where can any one get a housekeeper to-day for £8 a week to look after an ex-soldier? Is the honorable member for Lilley unaware of the fact that many of the men who are handed a miserable £12 15s. a week might have been members of this Parliament with an income of nearly £3,000 a year if they had retained their full physical and mental powers? Many would have qualified for the medical profession or the legal profession. They might Have become captains of industry or men with high artisan skills taking home £30, £40 or £50 a week as many professional and trained men do to-day. They have been robbed of those opportunities and yet the best the Parliament can do is to give a man with a wife £21 a week, the average earnings of an artisan.
The honorable member’s explanation is naive, lt explains nothing and it is meaningless. It only helps to highlight the fact that this Parliament considers that an extra £8 a week on £12 15s. is compensation for a man who, in the service of his country, lost his opportunity to work and earn as much as or more than employees in industries. I do not accept the explanation of the honorable member”.
.- I sincerely accept everything that has been said by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I say most emphatically that all honorable members on the Government side and all members of the Opposition would like to give the disabled exservicemen everything that could possibly be given to them.
– Why do you not do it then?
– It is easy to say that when you are on the Opposition side. When the honorable member for Lalor was a member of the Government, he obviously recognized that anything that was done must be within the confines of the economy. I do not know what the cost of all the promises and suggestions of the Opposition made during this discussion and in the Budget debate in this connexion would be, but it would be well worth somebody’s while to total them. I wish to direct attention to one pertinent point. The National Executive of the R.S.L. and its pensions sub-committee gave long consideration to the formulation of the 1959 pension plan. We are giving £12 15s. a week to the T.P.I, pensioner and the pensions subcommittee of the R.S.L. ask for only £13. Personally, I would have given the pensioners an extra 5s., but the fact is that the R.S.L. asked for only £13. If the honorable member for Lalor would keep his proposals within reason we would all be impressed, and so also would the exservicemen.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 3a. -
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “ 3a. Section thirty-seven of the principal act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1.) after the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘, the words ‘ or cancer ‘; and
by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (3.) the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis or cancer’.”.
This is the first of the proposed amendments to be moved by the Labour Opposition to this bill. I am sure it will foe clearly recognized that this is a special case relating to the onus of proof provisions which have been mentioned quite frequently during the discussions on the bill. All I want to say at this stage is that the onus of proof provisions indicate a clear obligation on the Repatriation Commission to be clear in its mind, without any reasonable doubt, that the condition of the ex-serviceman concerned was not caused by war service before it can decide on his application for a pension. I understand that the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has just reiterated this point in a communication to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper). This was to the effect that if there are several reasonable inferences to be drawn on the facts available to the commission or tribunal, even when there are several reasonable inferences and even if the inference that favours the serviceman is not as attractive as the other inferences, then the tribunal is obliged to accept the inference that favours the serviceman.
What we have been saying is that, in the case of cancer, no medical authority has yet been able to say what is or are the causes of cancer. It seems logical that if you cannot say what the causes are, you cannot say that war service, with all its variations of experiences and all the uncontrollable elements involved was not the cause of cancer. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) representing the Minister for Repatriation has said that just because you cannot say what the causes of cancer are, that is not to say that you cannot declare that some things are not the cause of cancer. That seems a fairly obvious proposition to make, but does that imply that war service is of such a nature that you can say that it did not cause cancer or that some war-time experiences were not directly the cause of cancer or had created conditions which led to a predisposition to cancer?
In a question directed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), on 7th April, 1959, to the Minister for Health, the honorable member asked whether the Minister, as a medical man, knew the cause of lung cancer or whether any doctor in the world knew the cause of lung cancer. The Minister replied -
The ultimate cause of lung cancer, or indeed of any other cancer, is not known.
On 11th August, 1959, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), the Minister for Health indicated that up to 30th June, 1958, there were 2,705 applications by living servicemen of the 1939-45 war to have cancer accepted as due to war service. Of those 2,705, a total of 1,307 had been accepted. The Minister added that of 1,326 applications to have death as a result of cancer accepted, 886 were accepted. What teases all of us is this: What criteria are used by judicial authorities to determine that, in the case of the living members, roughly half of them should be accepted while half of them suffering from cancer were rejected on their application for cancer to be recognized as a war disability. What are the criteria? If medical men cannot say what causes cancer, who are the people who provide the answer forthe repatriation authorities? Who gives the advice on which those authorities are able to say that roughly half of the cases of cancer were the result of war service, while the other half are not?
Of course the question always arises: Why do we go through all this tortuous argument anyway? Why do we begrudge a pension for this comparatively small group of most unfortunate people? Do we believe for one moment that the members of the Australian community want us to curtail our expenditure to the extent of refusing to grant assistance to these unfortunate persons? In none of these cases can medical evidence be produced to show what caused the disease, yet, in at least a half of those cases the commission, the boards and the tribunals are able to say, with absolute certainty that war service did not cause it. I am sure that the members of the Australian public do not want the various tribunals to be in the position of having to make a determination in such cases. I think they would want us to say that in all cases cancer should be automatically accepted as a war-caused disability.
Of course it is not only the servicemen themselves whom we are considering in this matter. Even in my limited experience in this Parliament I have had cases put before me in which the unfortunate ex-serviceman has died and has left his wife and family in very straitened circumstances. I know the position in which a man’s family finds itself if his cancer and subsequent death have not been accepted as war-caused. The widow has to be content with a civilian widow’s pension, which is somewhat less than the war widow’s pension. Her children are denied the children’s allowance granted in the case of a war widow. She cannot obtain the domestic allowance of £3 that is provided in this bill in the case of a war widow who has children, or who has no children but is over 50 years of age. She is automatically precluded from the benefits and services provided by Legacy and other such institutions. This is a vital matter not only for the unfortunate exserviceman himself, but also for his wife and children.
Even though there are comparatively few ex-servicemen involved, we put our tribunals in the position of having to make a determination that even medical authorities acknowledge they are not prepared to make. Who would be better fitted to make a determination than the medical authorities? If they cannot do it, who do we believe can reasonably discriminate between some unfortunate victims of cancer and other victims of it? As I have said, I am sure that the community would not want us to follow this policy. It would want us to show some semblance of humanity. The cost would not be very great because, as was pointed out on another occasion by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), these unfortunate men or women have to be treated in hospitals somewhere or other. Their expectation of life is considerably shortened because of the cancer that they have contracted, and acceptance of our proposal would benefit their wives and children more than the ex-servicemen themselves.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) concerning the acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability. The amendment proposes that section 37 of the Repatriation Act be amended so that cancer as well as tuberculosis shall be automatically accepted as a war-caused disability.
During the second-reading debate this afternoon some Government supporters suggested that certain of the proposals submitted by the Opposition by way of amendment had not been asked for by the exservicemen’s organizations. For the sake of the record I think we should put this matter straight. The fact is that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has repeatedly asked this Government to consider the automatic acceptance of cancer as well as tuberculosis. At the 41st annual conference of that league in 1957 the national president had this to say -
I regret to advise that the Minister for Repatriation is still unable to agree to the League’s request that section 37 of the Repatriation Act be amended to include the words “ and/ or cancer “.
The conference passed a resolution to the effect that section 37 of the act be amended to include after the words “ pulmonary tuberculosis “ the words “ and/ or cancer “. Again at the 42nd conference a resolution to this effect was passed, and a similar resolution was again passed at the 43rd conference. At the 44th annual conference, the report of which has only recently been circulated to honorable members, the following resolution was carried: -
The Commonwealth to provide that section 37 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act be amended so as to include after the word “ tuberculosis “ wherever appearing, the words “ and/or cancer of the lung “.
It is quite clear that the returned soldiers’ organizations have repeatedly asked the Government to accept cancer, as well as tuberculosis, as a war-caused disability. The honorable member for Barton has pointed out that it is not possible to say with reasonable certainty how cancer may arise. Indeed the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) as long ago as 1959, in a reply to my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), had this to say -
The ultimate cause of lung cancer, or indeed of any other cancer, is not known.
If it is not possible for the Repatriation Department to rebut an ex-serviceman’s assertion that his cancer is due to war service - and on the word of the Minister himself it is not possible for the Repatriation authorities to show that cancer was not warcaused - then obviously the disease should be immediately accepted as having been war-caused, under the provisions covering the onus of proof.
The honorable member for Barton also referred to the number of cases in which cancer had been accepted as a war-caused disability. It was an insignificant number. The Minister, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, said that the entitlement tribunals could not reasonably say that cancer suffered by ex-servicemen was not duc to war service. So it is not possible to say that cancer is not due to war service and the Minister has admitted that the cause of cancer is unknown. I admit at once that it may be possible to say that tuberculosis is due or is not due to some specific cause; but that does not apply and cannot apply to cancer. In this situation, if the application of an ex-serviceman whose disability has been diagnosed as cancer is rejected by the commission and the board, and ultimately by a tribunal, obviously he has not been given the benefit of the onus of proof provision.
Perhaps the Minister will explain how these cases can be dismissed by the entitlement tribunal. I agree with the honorable member for Barton and with other honorable members on this side of the committee that there is a doubt as to the origin of cancer. For this reason, returned servicemen’s organizations for the past five years have asked that this disease be treated as a war-caused disability. In the past three years, the Opposition has moved amendments to various bills to achieve this purpose. I submit that the amendment now moved by the Opposition should be accepted.
– I can sympathize with the moving of this amendment and with the views that have been expressed, but I regret to say that the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– Why not?
– I will tell you. First, can I put this question: Why is cancer selected as the disease?
– Why was tuberculosis selected previously?
– I will tell you that, too. Just keep quiet; you will hear something if you listen. You have had a lot to say to-night, so please be quiet now.
– I have said very little. You gagged me earlier.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order!
– I did not gag you. If I can come back to what I was saying: I raised the question why cancer was selected as the disease par excellence which should be automatically accepted as a war-caused disability. It would be very easy to suggest other diseases which might also be automatically accepted, but the disease that is always suggested is cancer. That is natural. I suggest that the reason for this is that cancer appears to most of us to be a more dreadful disease than are most other diseases, and it therefore creates a feeling in every one’s mind that some special steps should be taken about it. That is quite at natural feeling, but, if I may say so, not a very logical feeling.
May I say that the argument about the cause of cancer put by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who moved the amendment is a specious argument - I do not use the word “ specious “ in a disparaging sense. He did me the honour of quoting me and said that the cause of cancer was not known. But he was also careful to say that what I had said was that the ultimate cause of cancer is not known, and that is quite a different thing. It is quite possible to say that one does not know what the cause of a disease is, and also to be more specific and say that one does not know what the ultimate cause of a disease is although one has, at the same time, a very good idea of what may be the pre-disposing causes of the disease. That is not a play on words; it is a perfectly logical statement. It may well be that though you cannot say, “ I know the ultimate cause of this disease “, you are frequently in the position of being able to say, “ But I am quite certain that A, B and C are not its causes “. The ultimate cause of cancer is not known, but I put this to the committee: We tend to talk about cancer as if it were a single entity. But it may very well be that it is not. It is certainly not a single disease due to a unitary cause, as tuberculosis is due to the tubercle bacillus and is known in every case to be due to the tubercle bacillus and to no other cause.
– Are you sure of this?
– I am.
There are, of course, pre-disposing conditions for many diseases, and the predisposing conditions concerned with the cause of cancer are very often quite well known. Could I go further in this explanation and say - I think it is a perfectly fair statement - that in all the investigations that have been made into the cause of cancer, it is very seldom that the pre-disposing conditions which have been discovered and are known are anything analagous to the conditions of war service or difficult conditions of living. I hope that this is making clear what the position of cancer is, how different it is from a disease such as tuberculosis, and how different the conceptions of causality in both cases must be.
So, we arrive at this position: We have here a disease or perhaps a complex of similar diseases, in which the pre-disposing cause is quite often fairly well known but in which the ultimate cause - the ultimate disturbance of the cell - is not known. However, in many instances we have a pretty good idea of the types of conditions which do not cause the cell to develop cancer.
– Would gas cause cancer of the lung?
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, it is very easy for honorable members to interject and to keep on asking such questions as this; but I intend to make this speech and to make it in my own way.
Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh will cease interjecting.
– The next thing I want to say is that, while this is really the position and while, in general, there is no scientific reason to consider that conditions under which men live on service are more pre-disposing to the occurrence of cancer than the conditions, either difficult or easy, under which people live when not on service - I think that is a perfectly fair statement - there may be in some instances some doubt as to whether in a particular case there has not been something in the war experience of a serviceman which may have been pre-disposing to his developing cancer. I suggest that the fact that a considerable number of cases have been accepted as being either caused or aggravated or contributed to by war service and repatriation benefits paid in respect of them, is evidence that the onus of proof, about which we hear so much, is being faithfully discharged - and I think even generously discharged - in the case of cancer. I believe that puts the position fairly. There is no real reason, whatever sympathy one may have for sufferers from this terrible disease, for including it automatically to be considered a war-caused disability. In fact all the real evidence is to the effect that it should not be so considered and therefore, although I sympathize with the objective which lies behind this amendment, the Government cannot accept it.
– I am not very impressed with what the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has said in this matter, and I do not think one needs to be a doctor to detect the basic weaknesses in the argument put forward by the learned doctor a moment ago. The Minister said that cancer is one of the few diseases the cause of which is unknown. He shakes his head.
– He said the ultimate cause was unknown.
– He asked “ Why did the Opposition select cancer, of all things? “ The reason is simple. It is because cancer is a disease the ultimate cause of which is unknown; and if there are other complaints, the ultimate cause of which is is unknown, the Minister ought to name them so that when we have the next opportunity of dealing with cases of this kind which ought to be specifically covered in order to meet the spirit of Section 47 of the Act, we will have opportunity to include them as well. We selected cancer not only because it is a dread disease - there are other diseases which are almost as dreaded as cancer is, and whose causes are wellknown - but also because very little is known about it by the medical profession.
To-night we have been privileged to hear from the Minister far more dogmatic assertions about the causes of cancer and the things which do not cause cancer than I have previously read in my life. I think the Minister should be good enough to impart his great knowledge of this subject to those who are spending millions of pounds in order to reach the point of understanding of this disease which apparently he has already reached. The Minister said there are some things which do not cause the disease. That is fair enough. There are some things which do not cause some diseases; but the Minister is wrong - I say this with great respect - judging from the authorities on cancer I have read, to assert that it is possible to say that a particular thing does not cause cancer. It is not possible to say that with certainty. No leading authority has ever yet gone so far as to say that one can identify any particular factor that would not cause cancer. Let me ask the Minister this question: Assuming that he is right in saying that we know that some things do not cause cancer, would he be so bold as to say that a person who was gassed in the war could not possibly contract lung cancer as a consequence? I can cite cases of men who were discharged in World War 1, having been gassed, and who subsequently suffered from cancer of the lung but were refused a war pension. Surely the Minister would say it would be correct for the Repatriation Commission, where it had been proved beyond all doubt from the records of discharge that a man had suffered from mustard gas, or other gas, and subsequently contracted cancer of the lung, to decide that the fact that he had been gassed should be dismissed altogether as a possible cause of lung cancer.
– I have never said anything of the sort.
– I am glad to hear that, but I am saying that the Repatriation Commission has stated-
– You must not say that because one event follows the other in time, they are cause and effect.
– I say that the Repatriation Commission is not discharging the onus of proof under Section 47 in the way Parliament intended it to be applied, because in the instance that I have just cited of a person dying from lung cancer, having been discharged from the services after having been gassed in the First World War, surely the benefit of the doubt should have been given to the applicant. I will cite another case and give the Minister opportunity to deal with it. Would he think it fair if an ex-serviceman were found to be suffering from lung cancer and was able to show through X-rays that he had a piece of shrapnel still imbedded in one lung, that that injury should not be accepted as a cause of the cancer? Could it not be fairly concluded that the injury might possibly have caused the lung cancer?
– It is impossible to answer such a question without having all the evidence.
– Supposing there was no evidence, but the piece of shrapnel in the lung-
– This is simply a hypothetical case.
– It is not. It is the case of a person at Port Augusta who is walking about to-day with a piece of shrapnel in one lung and both of whose lungs are riddled with cancer. If there were no other factor than that one, would it not be reasonable to say that he had proved eligibility for an entitlement? But his application has been rejected. The Minister says that cancer is not due to any single cause. Perhaps not, but I have cited two examples to show where it is surely reasonable to assume the cause of cancer. And that is all that is needed - to show that it might have been the cause of the cancer. The Minister says that some types of cancer have been accepted by the Repatriation Commission for entitlement. I have asked him to inform me of the types of cancer which have been accepted for entitlement, because if I find lung cancer among the types which he says have been so accepted in the case of people gassed in the First World War, I will want to know why certain other people suffering similarly have been refused entitlement.
What amazes me is that here we have a Government which for eleven years has been playing up to the returned serviceman, and members of which have been proudly displaying their badges in this Parliament, as they have every right to do, but when a measure of this nature is debated only about one-quarter of them bother to listen to the debate at a time when this important proposition is being put to the Parliament. I venture to say that when a division on this amendment, moved by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), is called for, we shall see these great stalwarts and defenders of the exserviceman vote against the Labour Party’s proposition that those who lost their health and strength in the defence of their country should at least be given the benefit of the doubt.
I propose to extract from “ Hansard “ the voting list for the next division and to supply it to every ex-servicemen’s organization in Australia. These so-called fighters for R.S.L. members can stand up, be counted and show where they stand on this imporiant matter.
– What a silly little threat!
– It is not a threat at all; it is a promise. The R.S.L. has repeatedly asked for this amendment by resolution of its various sub-branches and branches-
– How would you know?
– I know because the members send their literature to me. They know it is of no use sending it to the Minister because they know from the way he votes on these issues that he takes no notice of what they decide.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-I shall not detain the committee very long, but 1 am prompted to rise by the concluding remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). The honorable member has endeavoured to bluff his way through on this question by threatening honorable members on the Government side to obtain a copy of the voting list and circulate it to all exservicemen’s organizations. 1 trust that at the same time as he sends that list to those organizations he will send an extract from “ Hansard “ containing the very nasty comment he made about my colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), when he spoke in this chamber some time ago, so that the members of the exservicemen’s organizations can judge for themselves just what sort of gentleman is endeavouring to bluff the Government parties into doing something to bolster his vanity.
.- The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), in his capacity as spokesman for the donothing policy of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), makes continual references to these things in extremely vague terms. For instance, he says he has “ a pretty good idea “. That is hardly precise enough for this kind of question. The facts are that cancer is one of the great killers, that cancer is accepted as being of unknown origin and that cancer can occur in all sorts of people. The Repatriation Department is charged with a responsibility to the people who served their country in war. Because of the great doubts about the origin of cancer, because of the hardships endured by many servicemen during war, and because of the change that has occurred in the general attitude to repatriation, we say that the department ought to accept what we suggest as the natural, logical and humane thing to do.
But perhaps it is useless to appeal to the humanity of a Minister who will continually produce in this chamber arguments based not so much on logic as on semantics. He is worried more about the meanings of words than he is about the welfare of human beings. On this side of the committee, it is not a matter of crawling for votes; it is not a matter of looking around to see what we can use to harass the Government; it is a matter of a logical, humane attempt to make another breakthrough for the welfare of ex-servicemen. Whenever we have discussed these questions in this chamber, the Minister for Health has continually used words such as “ specious “. That is not a very nice word to use in describing a person’s arguments. It implies that they are shallow, superficial and insincere.
On the point of sincerity, we challenge the Minister. We on this side are just as sincere as he is. I presume that one of the great difficulties from which the Minister suffers is that he was not long enough in the ranks of the ordinary members of Parliament to have people wandering into his office with their stories and to have widows coming to his office seeking his aid in lodging appeals with the Repatriation Department. In fact, he is out of touch with the demands of the ordinary people in these matters. The Minister has pointed out that so far as many diseases are concerned, their origin is unknown. Cancer is just one of them. We have chosen cancer as an issue on which to challenge the present administration of the Repatriation Act. It is in relation to cancer cases that there is the clearest, the most obvious, departure from the provisions of section 47 - the onus of proof provision, as it is called. This provision has been read out many times during this debate and on previous occasions. It is -
It shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal . . . and in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed.
The Minister tells us that although he does not know what causes cancer - as the honorable member for Hindmarsh pointed out, he is a little more dogmatic about it than anybody else in the field of medicine - he has “ a pretty good idea “. We think that “ a pretty good idea “ is a little too imprecise for us to accept as a principle to guide us in doing our national duty in connexion with a matter relating to the humane treatment of people in general.
There is one seriously neglected group of people. I refer to the widows of servicemen who died before the administration of the Repatriation Department became liberalized, mainly as a result of the work of the committee of which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was the chairman. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of women in the community to-day whose husbands, if they were alive to-day, would be regarded as suffering from war-caused disabilities if their cases were re-submitted. These anomalies are part and parcel of the administrative system that has developed, of the background of neglect, or, shall we say, of the illiberal policies followed between the two wars. We assume that the people of Australia, who have to foot the bill, would regard it as logical, right and proper to accept cancer in ex-servicemen as being war-caused. Because cancer is a great killer and because its cause is unknown, we submit that it is logical for the department to accept full responsibility for those ex-servicemen who die from cancer. If it is good enough to accept tuberculosis, it is good enough to accept cancer.
We do not accept that our arguments are specious, or anything of that sort. I am waiting for the day when the Minister will give us, in reply to the questions we pose to him, the kind of scientific answers which we believe that he, with his training and professional background,’ ought to be able to give, instead of saying to us, as he did to-night, that he has got a pretty good idea.
.- It is a pity that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) have not studied the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds). Nowhere in the proposed amendment is it suggested that cancer shall’ be accepted as a war-caused disability. What is suggested is that we amend section 37 of the act, particularly sub-section (3.). The proposed amendment to sub-section (!.) of that section is only consequential upon that proposed to sub-section (3.). Subsection (3.) of section 37 provides for the payment of pensions to ex-servicemen who have served in a theatre of war and who, at any time after discharge from the forces, became incapacitated or died from pulmonary tuberculosis. That sub-section specifically says - as if the incapacity or death resulted from an occurrence that happened during his war service.
I do not think there need be any suggestion that we should ask the Government to accept cancer as a war-caused disability. There may well be grounds for the Govern ment’s amending section 37 (3.) by adding a provision that cancer be treated on the same basis as tuberculosis. There may also be reasons why the Government should not do that. Section 37 (3.) of the act was inserted in 1943 as a result of an investigation carried out by a joint committee appointed by the Parliament, which served under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). That committee carried out an exhaustive investigation into the incidence of tuberculosis and as a result of its investigation the act was amended.
I suggest that if we are to be responsible members of a parliament carrying out our obligations to the taxpayers of this country, we have an obligation similarly to investigate the incidence of cancer in exservicemen and whether it is necessary for the Parliament to consider amendments to section 37 (3.) of the act. I think honorable members will agree that the Repatriation Department is the most competent body to carry out such an investigation. I am surprised to learn that the department has not kept statistics which would indicate the causes of death of ex-servicemen so that we in this Parliament would be able to know, as we should know, the percentage of ex-servicemen who have died as a result of cancer, in the various age groups. It is essential that this Parliament obtain from the department figures, in respect of the various age groups, which will show honorable members how many ex-servicemen in each of those age groups died as a result of cancer and how many died from other causes. I believe that those figures should be tabulated.
When I raised this matter in 1956 and subsequently in questions, the Minister for
Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) did something about it. I have been informed that one doctor and two clerks of the department have been allocated to the work of trying to find out those statistics. The years are passing, and I think everybody including the Minister will agree that the percentage of deaths caused by cancer is increasing every year, not only in Australia but also in other countries, and that that increase is not confined to exservicemen. From the meagre information we have been able to gather, the figures for 1958 indicate that the percentage of deaths do that. Section 37 (3.) of the act was about 12i per cent., whereas in the civilian population the percentage was 1 5.4 per cent. In other words, from those figures the incidence of death caused by cancer appears to be higher among civilians. That suggests that it is very credible that the Repatriation Department’s figures are completely inadequate. In fact, when the Minister supplied an answer to the question I put on the notice-paper, he admitted that all the facts and information that were required were not at his disposal.
I suggest that the Parliament would be acting irresponsibly if it accepted at this stage the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition. However, I suggest that the proposal of the amendment has done a considerable amount of good in that it has brought more forcibly to the notice of the Minister the fact that there is a great desire that further information as to the incidence of this disease be made known to the members of this Parliament and also ex-servicemen generally. When that information is available to members of this Parliament, in cold judgment and sincere honesty we may be able to make a definite statement about the incidence of cancer among ex-servicemen and whether it should be accepted before some other disease, or whether we should completely forget any suggestion of its inclusion in an amendment to section 37 (3.) of the act.
I sincerely hope that some consideration will be given to using the punch card system that has been introduced into the department in Melbourne to assist the three officers who were appointed to ascertain the information to which I have referred, so that when the next report of the Repatriation Commission is circulated to members of this Parliament we will have the information we desire before us and we will be able to debate an amendment such as this intelligently and armed with sound knowledge.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Reynolds’ amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 3b -
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “ 3b. After section forty-seven of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 47a. - (1.) Where a claimant, applicant or appellant under this Act considers -
that, in hearing, determining or deciding his claim, application or appeal, the Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal or an Assessment Appeal Tribunal did not give to him the benefit of any doubt in respect of a matter or question referred to, in paragraph (a) or (b) of sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section; or
a person or authority who contended that his claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed did not discharge the onus of proof placed on that person or authority by sub-section (2.) of that section, the claimant, applicant or appellant may appeal to the High Court, or to the Supreme Court of the State or Territory of the Commonwealth in which he resides, against the determination or decision of the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal, as the case may be, on the ground that he was not so given the benefit of a doubt or that the person or authority did not so discharge the onus of proof. “ (2.) Jurisdiction is conferred on the High Court, the several Supreme Courts of the States are invested with federal jurisdiction, and jurisdiction in conferred on the several Supreme Courts of the Territories of the Commonwealth, to hear and determine an appeal under this section. “ (3.) The jurisdiction conferred on, or invested in, the High Court or a Supreme Court by this section shall be exercised by a single Justice or Judge, as the case may be, of the Court. “ (4.) The Court hearing an appeal under this section may make such order with respect to the appeal as it thinks fit and that order shall be final and conclusive. “ (5.) An order as to the costs of an appeal under this section shall not be made. “ (6.) The regulations may make provision for the furnishing to a Court to which an appeal is made under this section of any records in the possession of the Commission which relate to the appellant.’.”.
The question of the application of the onus of proof provisions of section 47 of the Repatriation Act has been raised on many occasions by the Opposition. We raise it again now because we wish to have inserted in the act a means by which an exserviceman, if he feels that the onus of proof has not been discharged at the hearing of an application by the entitlement tribunal, will have the right to appeal to the High Court or to a State Supreme Court.
Honorable members from both sides of the chamber dealt with this matter extensively during the second-reading debate, and all honorable members expressed some doubt about the application of the existing onus of proof clause. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) dealt with the matter in great detail and, at least to a point, was inclined to agree with the Opposition that it might be necessary to give the ex-serviceman the right of appeal to a court. We believe that section 47 of the act is not being administered in the way that this Parliament originally intended.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has referred to the committee which was established by the Curtin Government in 1943 of which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was the chairman. As a result of the findings of that committee the present section 47 was written into the act. The intention was that in all cases where there was any doubt - in other words, where it could be shown that the Repatriation Department could not overthrow the assertion of the exserviceman that his disability was warcaused - the Repatriation Department should accept the ex-serviceman’s contention. What is the process to-day? An ex-serviceman who has a disability which he believes is due to his war service can submit an application to the Repatriation Commission. His application is considered by the commission and if it is rejected the exserviceman has the right of appeal to the Repatriation Board. If his appeal is rejected by the board, he has the right of appeal to one of the entitlement appeal tribunals. As I pointed out before, in all cases before an entitlement appeal tribunal it is the ex-serviceman who has to prove his case.
On other occasions in this Parliament Attorneys-General have given their interpretations of section 47 of the Repatriation Act. Senator Spicer, now Mr. Justice Spicer, gave an interpretation of this section. His interpretation was accepted by the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt. I understand that recently a third interpretation has been given by the present Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). I suggest that the fact that the new Attorney-General has seen fit to give an interpretation of section 47 indicates that some doubt still exists in the mind of the Minister for Repatriation (Sir Walter Cooper), as well as in the minds of honorable members on the opposite side of the House, as to whether section 47 is being applied in the way that this Parliament originally intended.
The amendment proposed by the Opposition will give every ex-serviceman the right - in cases where the entitlement tribunal is of the opinion that a legal point is involved - to submit his case to a further appeal. This again is something that has been requested by a returned servicemen’s organization. A motion was submitted at the recent New South Wales conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to the effect that an ex-serviceman should have a right of appeal where his case had been dismissed by a tribunal and it was considered by the ex-serviceman that the onus of proof had not been discharged by the tribunal. The motion held that the appeal should he to the High Court of Australia or to the Supreme Court of a State. The Opposition is satisfied that the onus of proof is not being discharged. Honorable members on this side of the House have frequently cited cases in support of that contention.
It is not suggested that the tribunals are not doing their best in these matters. I have said before in this chamber, and I repeat, that I believe that the tribunals are constituted of the most sympathetic people. Honorable members who have appeared before tribunals know that every consideration is given to the ex-serviceman in the presentation of his case. However, I do not believe that sympathy is sufficient. If an entitlement appeal tribunal rejects the appeal of an ex-serviceman, obviously the tribunal, having heard the evidence, should be able to show why it dismissed the appeal submitted to it by the ex-serviceman or by an advocate on his behalf. Section 47 clearly provides that the benefit of the doubt must be given to the ex-serviceman, but I do not believe that that section is being applied in the way that was originally intended by the committee that was set up by the Curtin Government in 1943.
Any honorable member who takes the time to study the figures contained in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission will see that the percentage of appeals rejected by entitlement appeals tribunals is certainly far too high. Those figures have been quoted by honorable members from this side of the House. Section 47, I repeat, clearly lays down that the benefit of the doubt should always be with the exserviceman, and that the onus of proof is on the department. We do not believe that the entitlement appeal tribunals are discharging the onus of proof provision in the way that this Parliament originally intended they should.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am rather amazed at the amendment, and I should like the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) to tell the committee who framed it. Surely, if the honorable member for Bass is concerned about whether section 47 is being administered as was intended, this amendment would be the last thing he would want included in the Repatriation Act. I venture to say that, regardless of the interpretation of section 47 by the commission, the board and the tribunals, if every case submitted to those bodies had been decided on a purely legal basis, not one-third of the people at present in receipt of repatriation pensions would have them.
The honorable member for Bass said that anybody who studied these figures would naturally come to the conclusion that the act was not being administered in the correct way. Let me give a classic example, which I believe occurred, of the kind of case that could arise if this amendment were agreed to. A man went to an R.S.L. re-union. On his way home he was hit by a motor car. He claimed that the disability he thereby suffered was due to his war service. His argument was that if he had not been at the war he would not have been at the re-union. That is obviously an extreme case, but if this amendment is agreed to that man would have a right of appeal to the High Court.
According to figures set out in the report of the commission, a total of 43,997 cases were listed in one year for action. The Repatriation Board - which is the first body to which an ex-serviceman can appeal - upheld totally or partially 17,000 appeals and rejected 19,000. Surely those figures cannot be quarrelled with when anybody can make a claim based on any evidence whatsoever. There would be some frivolous applications among the 19,848 rejected claims that could go to the High Court of Australia if the applicants so required.
– What page of the Repatriation Commission’s report is the honorable member referring to?
– I am referring to appendix 3 at page 26 of the report for 1959-60.
– Those figures relate to assessment appeal tribunals. Deal with entitlement appeal tribunals.
– There are the following headings: - “ Claims received and determined by Repatriation Boards and Commission “, “ Appeals to Commission “ - they represent the second step - and “ Appeals to entitlement appeal tribunals “. Those are the ones to which the amendment relates, are they not? Sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 47a, which the amendment is designed to insert in the principal act, states -
Where a claimant, applicant or appellant under this Act considers -
that, in hearing, determining or deciding his claim, application or appeal, the Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal or an Assessment Appeal Tribunal did not give to him the benefit of any doubt in respect of a matter or question referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) of sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section; . . . the claimant, applicant or appellant may appeal to the High Court, or to the Supreme Court of the State or Territory of the Commonwealth in which he resides . . .
So 1 do not think that I am misquoting anything. That is the provision that the amendment is designed to make.
I do not think that the system of courts that we have set up in this country could handle all the cases that would arise if everybody were given the right to appeal in this way. I believe that the present system has proved itself. After all, it was instituted by the Government - I do not know in which year - as a result of representations by ex-servicemen’s organizations. I believe, too, that legal authorities in the States - I do not know the proper name for them but I think they are called legal bureaux - have repeatedly brought pressure to bear in an attempt to have legal representation before these tribunals allowed. This pressure has been steadfastly resisted by ex-servicemen’s organizations. I believe that we are not here concerned with a matter of legal interpretation or legal argument or of briefing counsel. We are concerned here with independent tribunals composed of exservicemen, with a legal authority as chairman, which are charged with the job of determining these claims.
I think that if honorable members examine the statistics with respect to claims, they will find that in itself the system has been on the whole successful. I do not doubt that individual honorable members can produce cases of interpretations by tribunals which they cannot understand. I myself have had such cases brought to me, and I have referred them back in the hope that they would be reconsidered. But we cannot establish principles on one or two isolated cases. We have to look at the overall picture and study all these figures.
I believe that the insertion in the principal act of the proposed new section embodied in the Opposition’s amendment would be a retrograde step.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, it is not intended that a court of judicial appeal of the kind provided for in the amendment shall be resorted to by a great many people. I do not think it would be likely to be so used. I am sure that ex-servicemen would not use such a court of appeal frivolously. On the other hand, I think that even if the present three tribunals - the repatriation boards, the commission and the entitlement appeal tribunals - are retained, there would be distinct merit in having a judicial body to which an appeal could be made in the final resort. For a number of reasons, the existence of such a court of appeal would be more satisfying and more convincing to ex-servicemen and would give them a feeling of greater security. First, I presume that a judicial body of this kind would have to state the reasons for its judgments. That is not required under the present set-up, and this is a disturbing thing. A short time ago, we discussed the acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability.
– Why not get the present tribunals to give their reasons and avoid all this other bother?
– If the Government would care to change the present set-up in that way, we might be able to come to some sort of agreement. But I can see no indications of any disposition on the Government’s part to require the existing tribunals to give the reasons for their decisions. In fact, the Government has steadfastly refused to require the tribunals to do this. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia asked the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) to require the tribunals to give the reasons for their decisions, and the answer that it received was that this would be impracticable.
The second reason why I say that a judicial appeal tribunal of the kind proposed would have great merit is that it would provide an opportunity for the crossexamination of witnesses. Everybody knows what a sore point there is in respect of the cross-examination of witnesses. The departmental medical officers are seldom available for critical questioning about their medical opinions before the tribunals. Indeed, there seems to be a great reluctance to put these medical officers who give evidence against appellants on oath to give their evidence and to stand up to any conflict of that evidence with evidence presented to the tribunals on behalf of the appellant by medical officers from outside the Repatriation Commission.
So there would be two very distinct advantages in the existence of a judicial appeal tribunal. First, it could be required to give reasons for its determinations. Secondly, there would be opportunities for the cross-examination of witnesses. That is one of the reasons why, as I said earlier, I do not think such tribunals would be used frivolously. Appellants would know that just as the commission would be required to present its case under oath and submit to crossexamination, they also would be liable to cross-examination under oath, as would the witnesses who supported them.
I should like to have some idea of the extent to which comparable bodies are used in Great Britain in a frivolous manner, but I know nothing about that.
– The system in Great Britain is entirely different.
– I am not prepared to engage in any discussion on the point, because I am not as fully informed on it as I should like to be.
A third virtue of the kind of judicial appeal tribunal proposed is that it would exercise - I say this with due respect - a disciplinary influence over repatriation boards, the Repatriation Commission and entitlement appeal tribunals. The knowledge that a decision could ultimately go before a judicial appeal tribunal and that the evidence presented by doctors and others in opposition to the claim could ultimately be subjected to a judicial inquiry would, I think, have a disciplinary effect on people giving such evidence.
So I suggest that the Opposition’s proposal has the virtue that ex-servicemen would derive greater satisfaction from the knowledge that their claims could be prosecuted through the ultimate processes of the law. I do not think that there should be continuing judicial appeals. There would be just the one court of appeal, and that would be the end of the matter. I think that the existence of such a judicial appeal tribunal would give great satisfaction to ex-servicemen and would have the disciplinary effect that I have mentioned.
Government supporters suggest that the statistics indicate that if such a judicial appeal tribunal existed not as many applicants would get through the onus of proof provisions as at present. That is a pretty big assumption to make. I have talked to representatives of the Returned Soldiers League and other ex-servicemen’s organizations, as have other members of Parliament. Ex-servicemen’s organizations seem to be overwhelmed with people who have what on the face of it is pretty solid evidence in their favour.
I can give particulars of one case, and there are many others that I could mention. This is the case of a man who served as an officer in the forces - a very respectable fellow. He has made a claim in respect of bilateral deafness and heart trouble due to war service. He served for 24 years in the Australian Regular Army and for seven years in the Australian Imperial Force. One of his former commanding officers fully supports his application and describes the circumstances in which he served in an anti-aircraft unit and the heavy imposition on his health made by his service with the unit. The commanding officer also states that the unit suffered from a great shortage of men in service under the most trying conditions, and he points out that the claimant collapsed under the strain. All this happened some years ago, and the heart complaint was suspected by the medical authorities at the time.
As I say, this man served for 24 years in the Regular Army. He is a most conscientious fellow. For the information of Government supporters, I point out that he stood as a Liberal candidate in Queensland. He is now utterly exasperated because he cannot convince any of the tribunals under the repatriation system that he is entitled to anything in respect of the two disabilities from which he suffers. He is completely convinced of his entitlement, as is his former commanding officer. The medical authorities whom he has consulted also are convinced. They, support his claim categorically. Yet he cannot get any consideration. He is just the kind of man who would be prepared, I think, without any frivolous intention or disposition, to go before a judicial body and put his case on oath, with all the safeguards that that would provide. As the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) reminds me, we all know of cases of this kind.
I call into question the assumption that not as many claims would get through if such a legal process were adopted. It is not possible to make any real judgment on such an assumption, because it is something plucked out of the air. As I have said, the adoption of the suggestion I have put forward would enable the judicial process of cross-examination under oath to be invoked, if necessary, which would impose a very satisfactory element of discipline on our tribunals. I think the proposition has a lot to recommend it.
– The reason for which this amendment was moved has been quite plainly stated to us, not only at the committee stage, of course, as being that the Opposition is satisfied that the pre sent apparatus for deciding whether or not a disability was war-caused is not functioning properly.
– That could be so, too.
– Yes, that is obvious, even to the Opposition. In other words, the Opposition is saying that the present arrangements are not functioning properly and that it therefore proposes to add a fourth layer or fourth tier on top of the three that already exist.
– Or pull one of the others away, if you like.
– That is not what the amendment states. The amendment proposes to add a fourth tier, so that if an appellant is not satisfied he may go to a court, and there would then be all the attendant court procedure and expense. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) says, “ Oh, but only a few people would do that, anyway “. But according to the Opposition, the amendment has been proposed because a large number of people are not getting satisfaction now.
The Opposition says, on the one hand, “ A large number of people are not receiving what they ought to receive “, and on the other hand, it says, “ Very few of them would accept the solution that acceptance of our amendment would give them “. What sort of an amendment is it that the Opposition has proposed? If honorable members opposite want to have the present procedure altered, clearly they have to do two things. First, they must produce some evidence in support of the charge they make that the present procedure is not working properly. With great respect to the mover of the motion, I say that they have produced hardly any evidence at all. As my friend the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has pointed out, it is futile to quote only one case. You have to quote a statistically significant number of cases. You have to produce real evidence if you want people to listen to you. That is the first thing honorable members opposite have to do. The second thing they have to do is to produce a workable, acceptable and sensible alternative. I am afraid they have failed completely to do either of those things.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Barnard’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 6a. -
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “ 6a. After section one hundred and twentythree of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 123a. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the forces as defined in Section 23 of this Act and for a person to whom Section 120 of this Act applies.’.”.
Because of the construction of the act, the proposed amendment may appear to be a little involved. Section 23 of the act defines a member as somebody who served in the “ present war “, and then defines the term “ present war “. For the purposes of the proposed amendment, it relates to servicemen of the First World War.
From time to time the Opposition has canvassed reasons why the First World War servicemen should receive special treatment. This evening, the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), I think, by looking at statistics different from those from which we on this side had quoted, attempted to show that we had taken a wrong turning and that, in fact, the ex-servicemen of the First World War had received justice comparable with that received by the exserviceman of the Second World War. By interjection, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out that the honorable member for Bruce was changing the statistics. About 400,000 men were enlisted in this country for service in the First World War and about 330,000 sailed from these shores. In the Second World War about 990,000 men enlisted, but the number that sailed from our shores is hard to determine. Consequently, the Opposition has chosen as a basis for comparison the relative casualties in each of the two wars. These are not open to question.
In our view, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the First World War servicemen went through a more arduous period of service - statistically speaking anyhow - than those of the Second World War. The ratio of casualties to the number who served overseas in the First World War was extraordinarily high. Nearly 95 per cent. of those who served became casualties. The number killed was 60,000 and there were about 180,000 battle casualties. Taking into account the number of people who became sick, well over 90 per cent. of the force that sailed became war casualties. We think that on those figures there is a strong case for regarding the First World War serviceman as a special case.
The ratio of casualties to pension eligibility shows that the First World War men have received less justice than the men of the Second World War. Some 150,000 exservicemen of the Second World War have already qualified for pensions. That is not the number qualified for medical benefits. It is the number qualified for some sort of financial benefit. That is a pretty high percentage of the number who served in operations and so on. About 314,000 servicemen became casualties in the First World War, and after the peak of 90,000 in receipt of pensions in 1920, I think that the maximum number receiving pensions was between 70,000 and 74,000 - a very small percentage of the number of First World War casualties.
Simply looked at from the point of view of statistics, there is a case, which has not yet been answered from the other side of the chamber, for giving the First World War man special treatment. I suggest that he should be given medical benefits equal to those which have been extended, mostly as a result of advocacy from this side of the chamber to the service pensioner. There are many reasons why this should be done. No justice can stem from the approach to this question which was adopted in the early 1920’s. It is logical to believe that in 30 years the approach to this matter has changed a good deal. The people who came back from the First World War had less chance of proving their cases. During the 1920’s and 1930’s many ex-servicemen had their repatriation benefit entitlements withdrawn, or, to put it in the vernacular, they were scrubbed. The relevant figures have been quoted and can be read in “ Hansard “. I think that before 1930 the numbers were about 4,000 a year and in 1931-32 they suddenly jumped to 12,000. All kinds of circumstances militated against the receipt by the ex-servicemen of World War I. of anything like the same treatment as the exservicemen of World War II. received. The records of the first war were not so well kept. There are plenty of ex-servicemen of World War I. who cannot prove their service, who cannot produce evidence that they were ill on such and such an occasion. They stayed in the line when they were gassed, and all that kind of thing. There is plenty of evidence that many of the men who returned from the First World War dashed out of the services as quickly as they could.
The Second World War man benefited from having been taught or trained by his father, his uncles, his cousins or the man next door, all of whom said, “ See that you are looked after when you get out. Make sure that you are protected.” The Repatriation Department had the benefit of four or five years’ administration by a Labour Government which had a socialistic and humanitarian sympathy for the welfare of ex-servicemen. These are, we believe, simple, straightforward and logical points which justify the first war man being given, at this late stage, special treatment as regards medical benefit. It would be a kindly gesture at this stage to extend the right to treatment in repatriation hospitals to people who regard it as a badge of service. It confers upon the recipients something of a status and it is good for their morale. Honorable members opposite are so concerned about the financial welfare of the nation that they are inclined to overlook their duty to their fellow men unless these can produce evidence. If the statistics that we have quoted and the arguments that we have put forward are not regarded as valid, we shall continue to press the claim. I hope that eventually some kind of break-through will occur and that the benefits which have been extended to service pensioners will be extended to exservicemen generally of the First World War.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Bryant’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 6b. -
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “ 6b. After section one hundred and twentythree of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 123b. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide for the wife of a person in receipt of the Special Rate of pension under the Second Schedule to this Act such medical benefits as she would receive if she were the wife of a person eligible for medical benefits under the Pensioner Medical Service.’.”.
The effect of this amendment would be that the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman, that is, an exserviceman in receipt of a special rate pension, would qualify for a medical entitlement card. Honorable members will no doubt recall that in 1955 when the ceiling limit was removed, as the Minister pointed out this afternoon, the T.P.I, ex-serviceman immediately became eligible for a service pension, or if his wife was over the age of 60 years his income could be and probably was supplemented by the age pension. In either case the wife of the special rate pensioner immediately qualified for a medical entitlement card. In 1955 the Government also applied a means test which, in effect, prevented the recipients of social service benefits from receiving a medical entitlement card if their income from other sources was, in the case of a married couple, in excess of £4 a week or, in the case of a single person, in excess of £2 a week. That amendment came into force on 19th October of that year.
Only a week later the then Minister for Health told honorable members that the Government had decided, and the British Medical Association had agreed, that all pensioners would be entitled to receive free medical treatment provided they had been entitled to the pensioner medical service prior to 31st October, 1955. I am pointing out to honorable members that on 19th October of that year the Government removed the ceiling limit and that it then applied a means test which came into effect on 31st October - only twelve days later. In that period, of course, the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman had the right to apply for the service pension to supplement the special rate pension. Immediately he applied for a service pension his wife became entitled to medical treatment and a medical entitlement card was issued.
I point out that only twelve days were available in which totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen could make that application. I have been led to understand by representatives of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association that they were informed that all married T.P.I. ex-servicemen would be advised by the Minister that they were entitled to this benefit provided they applied for it before 31st October, 1955. But in fact, no married totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman was informed of the matter by letter. It is true that the Minister caused to be inserted in the daily press an advertisement to the effect that the means test would be applied after 31st October and that a similar announcement was broadcast over the major radio networks, but there were many totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen who did not have the advantage of seeing the press advertisement or of hearing the broadcast announcement.
Approximately 40 per cent. of the T.P.I. ex-servicemen of this country have a medical entitlement card which entitles their wives to medical treatment. There are approximately 18,000 totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen in Australia, 75 per cent. of whom, it is estimated, are married. Therefore, it is estimated that approximately 13,500 exservicemen will become eligible for this benefit if the amendment is accepted by the Government. But approximately 4,500 of those ex-servicemen are already receiving the benefit. So, if the amendment is accepted, an additional 9,000 T.P.I. exservicemen will receive a medical entitlement card. The total additional cost, at an average of £15 per head, would be only £135,000. That is a quite insignificant sum when measured in terms of our national income.
In my opinion, the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen should receive special recognition from this Government in regard to medical treatment. Surely everyone will agree that an anomaly exists when the wife of a T.P.I. exserviceman does not receive free medical treatment unless a medical entitlement card has been issued. But if her husband dies, she immediately becomes entitled to free medical treatment. Surely it is possible for the Government to concede that the wives of married totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are entitled to free treatment. I am sure the Minister of Health will concede that insufficient time was given to these ex-servicemen in 1955 to lodge their applications. We now have a situation in which the wife of one totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman may receive free medical treatment while the wife of another such exserviceman in the same street in the same city may not, simply because in the latter case the Government is not prepared to issue an entitlement card. We make a special plea to the Government on behalf of these people. I hope it will be supported by honorable members opposite.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am not quite sure what is meant by one part of the amendment, and I should like the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) to enlighten me. I refer to the following words: -
The honorable member referred to the issue of a medical entitlement card to the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman. Does the amendment mean that these people should be admitted to the pensioner medical service?
– Now that we have that clear, let me say a few things about the amendment. The first thing I want to say is this: The pensioner medical service does not operate under the Repatriation Act, and no amendment of that act can give anyone the benefit of the pensioner medical service. The honorable member tells me he wants these people to come under that service. If he does, then it is not the Repatriation Act that he must have amended, but the National Health Act.
– But they apply through the Repatriation Department now.
– But an amendment of the Repatriation Act cannot bring them under the pensioner medical service. The only way they can be brought in is by an amendment of the National Health Act.
I do not know whether it is necessary for me to say anything more, because in fact no amendment of this act can operate to extend the benefits of the pensioner medical service to anyone. Let me simply make this comment: The pensioner medical service is limited not only for wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen but also for wives and families of persons who are not ex-servicemen at all. The fact that the wives of some T.P.I. pensioners are eligible for benefits under the pensioner medical service, through the provisions of the National Health Act, and some are not, is purely a matter of chance. What happened was that when the ceiling limits were removed this automatically enabled the wives of T.P.I.’s to become eligible under the National Health Act. But it was found quite separately, and approximately at the same time-
– Twelve days later.
– Yes, but quite independently and by another department - which only reinforces my argument - it was found that it was necessary to introduce a limitation on the eligibility of persons for the pensioner medical service - not of wives of T.P.I.’s in particular, but of people in general.
These two events occurred at an interval of twelve days. So, those who were aware of what was happening and took advantage of the lifting of the ceiling limits were able to apply and have their applications granted. Those who were not aware of it were not able to apply because of the amendment made to the National Health Act. The fact that some now enjoy the benefit and some do not is purely a matter of chance, and surely the honorable member would not want me to take the benefit away from those who now have it.
– No, I want them all to get it.
– The honorable gentleman has made it perfectly clear that the purpose of this amendment is to have the wives of T.P.I.’s admitted to benefit under the pensioner medical service. I must again point out to him that no amendment of the Repatriation Act can achieve this result. The only act that can be amended in order to bring this about is the National Health Act. Therefore the amendment proposed by the honorable member is quite pointless.
Friday, 23 September 1960
.With respect to this amendment the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has replied, in a most bureaucratic way, to what is a purely human question. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who led the debate for the Opposition, pointed out with calmness and a great deal of truth that an anomalous situation existed, made even more anomalous by a time factor introduced by the Minister, who put some sort of an advertisement in the paper, saying, “ Get in out of the rain.
If you apply within twelve days you can get this benefit.”
We have pointed out that the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman has a very difficult role to play. She has to act as a nurse in the home. She has a very difficult job to do in looking after a sick ex-serviceman. The Minister agrees that some of the people involved managed to make the required application within twelve days and, to use his own expression, get in out of the rain, while others, who did not appreciate the situation, were kept outside. What sort of a dusty answer is that to give to this very human question? These T.P.I, pensioners are sick men. They are dying at the rate of twenty a month. Their wives must look after them continuously. They must sit by them at night and nurse them. They have to ring the Repatriation Department when necessary, get a doctor when one is required, and generally be on the qui vive all the time. Surely, we should not give those wives a dusty bureaucratic answer and say that they should not be assisted.
The Minister makes me feel ashamed when he talks about the National Health Act and the Repatriation Act. It is merely a case of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, because there must be some way of acting under these two associated pieces of legislation to do something for a very worthy section of the community. Is the Government going to tell us - and I am asking the members of the Government to answer this question - that it is not going to accept this proposal? If so, is it going to give as its only reason the fact that, because of a miserable decision in 1955 by the then Minister for Health, some people were excluded from the medical service scheme - and this decision, let me add, operated in a most ungenerous way in respect of the wives of many T.P.I, exservicemen - and that it is not now proposing to correct what is, after all, an anomaly?
I get back to what the honorable member for Bass said. If this is a prosperous community, and if we have the money, why can our proposal not be accepted? We are tired of the stone-walling and the stupidity on the part of the Government, which has decided that the best way to get rid of this bill is to put up a solid front and to say “ No “ to everything. Well, it cannot say “ No “ to this, because a very serious injustice is being done to a most deserving section of the community.
Will any member of the Government stand up in this Parliament and say, “ I will not give a benefit to a poor tired old lady who is nursing a sick digger in the last days of his life”? After all, without being dramatic about it, those are the people we are pleading for. When the Minister says that he can escape his responsibility by telling us that it is a matter of amending the National Health Act, we say that his reply is simply not valid. We pin him on this. He can amend the Repatriation Act or the National Health Act just as he wishes, but we are going to press this proposal. We will press it to a vote in this Parliament, and we will remember that vote when we go to the hustings. The Government would not commit itself in any way by accepting our suggestions, though it is purely a matter of correcting an anomalous position. Some of the wives concerned have the benefit, and some have not. The Government admits the justice of the claim and the right of the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner to have this medical service. But all it does is to throw out some bureaucratic dust.
The Minister should have a second thought on this matter. We will press it to a vote, because we do not think there is any validity in his argument. Worse still, we suggest he displays a cynical attitude to the whole matter when he says, “ I cannot do what you suggest by amending the Repatriation Act, and the only amendment that would help is an amendment of the National Health Act”. One or the other we will press for, if not at this moment, then later as the sessional period develops.
.- I reckon I have now seen and heard everything. Here we have the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) saying that it is purely a matter of chance that some of the people in question enjoy this benefit. Here we have the masterly champion of private enterprise, the man who runs the health services of the nation, saying that this is purely a matter of chance. If this is something that can be corrected by an amendment of the National Health Act, is he not the Minister for Health? This is another example of an anomaly created by the purely capricious approach of this Government to human problems. The anomaly exists because of a decision made five years ago by one department and not by another, and the Minister now says that our request for a correction of the anomaly is pointless. That is one of the most disgraceful utterances I have heard in this Parliament. Are the supporters of the Government going to stand by that kind of statement?
The issues are quite simple. Until October, 1955, the wives of men receiving the T.P.I. pension were entitled to participate in the pensioner medical service. Because of a change in the system and a slight lifting of the ceiling limit they became ineligible to participate in that scheme. All those who were eligible before October, 1955, and made application were still able to enjoy the benefits, but those who applied after that time were refused. The sum of money involved is small compared with the total amount of the Budget. The cost of all the increased repatriation benefits proposed in the Budget would not amount to onethousandth part of the Government’s expenditure. This injustice that has existed for five years and which is eating into the hearts of T.P.I. pensioners would cost a miserable £130,000 or £150,000 to rectify - about one-sixth of the cost of a Viscount or one-quarter of the cost of maintaining our security service.
In a street in my electorate two T.P.I. pensioners and their wives live on opposite sides of the street. One of those pensioners has become totally incapacitated since October, 1955. His wife waits on him all the time. His friend across the street was totally and permanently incapacitated prior to 1955. That man’s wife is able to receive free medical attention, but the wife of the man who became incapacitated after October, 1955, cannot receive such attention. How can the Government justify a continuation of an anomaly of that kind? If the Minister maintains that nobody is entitled to these benefits, let him say so. We believe that these capricious anomalies should be corrected. We do not think that departmental considerations should prevail where the demands of humanity urge that these anomalies should be rectified.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Barnard’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. WARD (East Sydney) [12.19 a.m.l. - I want to raise a matter of some importance. If I do not obtain some satisfaction from the Government I propose to return to this matter at the first opportunity when the House resumes. Recently, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs, questions regarding statements that were made in a weekly news digest in Sydney called “Things I Hear”. I propose to read the question to the House. It was not my purpose to mention names or to smear anybody, but I thought that this matter was of sufficient importance to warrant some action by the Government. I give notice that if the Government does not do something about this matter, I will take further steps to see that it is ventilated. Whatever responsibility there may then for smearing any one will be the responsibility of the Government for having failed to investigate this matter. Here are the questions I asked the Prime Minister -
The Prime Minister’s answer to the first question was, “ Yes “. He bracketed questions 2, 3, 4 and 5 together and stated -
That must be a typographical error, because the date on which I made the state ment to which he now refers was much earlier than that - the honorable member for East Sydney, speaking of “Things I Hear”, said (“Hansard”, Volume 207, page 3212): “My opinion, and the opinion of all other decent-minded people in Sydney, is that the journal is neither more nor less than a blackmailing sheet. It is used for the purpose of blackmailing decent citizens “. These being the views of the honorable member, I can only express my astonishment that he should now wish to expose a very fine civil servant to publicity and persecution on the authority of the journal referred to.
I do not regard that reply as being completely satisfactory. I do not deny having made the earlier statement to which the Prime Minister referred. But let us examine what has happened. Recently, Mr. Somerville Smith was prosecuted. He had been castigated by me and by other members of the Parliament, but that did not prevent the Government from taking action against him when he published some libels against members of the Parliament.
In my opinion, sufficient answer is not given to the allegations made in this sheet merely by saying that on a previous occasion I had referred to it as a blackmailing sheet. I have seen letters - I have no reason to doubt that they are genuine letters - which in certain respects seem to support the allegations made in this sheet. What I ask is this: Is a senior diplomat any different from, or has he any lesser rights than those enjoyed by, a member of Parliament? If the Government is disposed to take action against Mr. Somerville Smith for publishing libels against members of Parliament, why does it not take action to protect senior diplomats, if it regards these accusations as being without foundation? That seems to be a fair and reasonable proposition.
This situation seems to me to be most extraordinary. I do not know whether honorable members have read the papers in which these allegations are made, but I can say that they are very serious allegations. I understand that these papers can be secured from the library. Whether the letters that have been shown to me are genuine or not - they have the appearance of genuineness - I say that the matter should be investigated. I do not argue that what appears in this digest is correct or not correct; I do not know. But I do say that the allegations are serious enough to warrant some action by the Government. It is of no use saying that Mr. Frank Browne, who edits and circulates this paper, is a man of no consequence. On a previous occasion he, with Mr. Fitzpatrick, was sent to gaol by this Parliament because of things he had said about a former member of the Parliament. The Government, therefore, must admit that he is not a man of no consequence. On the contrary, in the past it has taken notice of what he has said. Mr. Frank Browne is a well-known journalist and radio commentator, and not a man of no substance at all. He makes these allegations in these papers and he has invited the Government to investigate them and to take some action. When he issues that invitation to the Government, surely the Government should investigate the allegations and, in fairness to the senior diplomat, if it intends to investigate the allegations it should make its findings known. If the diplomat is exonerated and if there is no basis for the allegations, let the Government say so and take action against Mr. Browne. I understand that Mr. Browne would welcome action by the Government; he evidently feels certain that what he has said on these occasions has some basis.
That is all I intend to say at this stage, because I want the Government to investigate the allegations. I am not satisfied with the reply that has been given to my questions. If the Government wants to protect this man against what it terms a smear, it should take some action. I do not want to smear this man; I merely want the allegations investigated. If the Government does not move, I intend to return to this subject. The name of the senior diplomat has been published in “ Things I Hear “. I say quite frankly that I do not propose at this stage to mention the name, because I invite the Government and the Prime Minister to have the matter thoroughly investigated. However, I give the undertaking that I will not be wiped off with the type of reply that has been given to what I regard as a serious question. If the Government does not treat this as a serious matter, it may force me to name the diplomat concerned in these allegations. I do not want to do that, because I am not setting myself up as a judge. 1 merely say that these allegations are serious enough to warrant inquiry and action by the Government. If the allegations are incorrect, the diplomat should be exonerated and action taken against the person who made the allegations. On the other hand, if they are correct, the diplomat should be removed from the position he now holds. If the allegations are true, in my opinion they could do more than anything else to damage Australia’s reputation in the countries in which this man has recently served. What is the use of our having representatives in these countries to build up goodwill when stories such as this about a senior diplomat can be circulated? I leave it there and I hope that some action will be taken by the Government. If this is not done, I will have to return to the subject later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.28 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration.
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
What percentage of the revenues of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration was contributed in 1959 and will be contributed in 1960 by - (a) the emigration countries; (b) Australia; (c) other immigration countries; (d) the United States of America; and (e) other sympathizing countries?
– The following answer to the honorable member’s question is based on information contained in official documents of the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration. For convenience it is proposed to deal separately with each of the years 1959 and I960:-
The percentage of the committee’s revenues contributed by Member Governments in respect of the committee’s Operational Budget for its Euro pean Programme for the calendar year 1959 was as follows: -
The balance was subscribed by migrants and/or their sponsors and from other sources. According to latest estimates, the percentage of the committee’s revenues that will be contributed by member governments in respect of the committee’s operational budget for its European programme for the calendar year 1960 is as follows: -
The committee expects that the balance will be subscribed by migrants and/or their sponsors and from other sources.
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600922_reps_23_hor28/>.