25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question regarding a legal aid plan in Commonwealth courts. I understand that the Law Council of Australia wants a scheme in which all persons, irrespective of financial position, will be able to approach Commonwealth courts through a legal adviser of their own choice. The AttorneyGeneral is no doubt aware that the States provide such legal defenders through the Public Solicitor’s office under the Poor Prisoners Defence Act. Has the AttorneyGeneral considered making such legal aid available in Commonwealth courts? If not, will he consider making such a provision?
– The question raised by the honorable member unfortunately interlinks two or three different aspects of this matter. It is not easy to answer without separating each aspect. First, different States have different legal aid schemes. Some States follow essentially the legal aid scheme which was evolved in South Australia. Victoria now has a scheme which essentially follows the South Australian scheme but excludes from it some very important areas of jurisdiction. Discussions are going on at present among the professional bodies to try to evolve a common scheme, but as the State Governments are part and parcel of the scheme it involves moving beyond the professional bodies to the State Government levels as well. So one should not think of this as a problem that can be easily solved. As to the areas of Commonwealth jurisdiction, these have to be separated into two types. There are, first, Commonwealth courts in the Territories of the Commonwealth, the High Court, which is a Commonwealth jurisdiction, and the Commonwealth Industrial Court; then there are the State Courts where States are exercising invested jurisdiction from the Commonwealth. My own view is that it is undesirable to have a legal aid scheme applying in a State court when it is exercising Commonwealth jurisdiction separate from a legal aid scheme in the State court when it is applying its own jurisdiction. This is a problem that is engaging my attention and also the attention of the Law Council of Australia. I assure the honorable gentleman that the matter is not being overlooked. However, I do not give the honorable gentleman any indication that the problem is about to be solved.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. Has the Minister seen widespread reports suggesting that the rates of pay for native people who joined the Public Service of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea will be lowered? Can the Minister say whether there is any truth in these allegations and, if not, what the actual position is?
– The Press report relates to an ordinance passed by the old Legislative Council in November last year. That measure was designed to provide eventually a Public Service for the Territory consistent with its circumstances rather than a Public Service consistent with conditions elsewhere in Australia. It was designed to provide also for the growing need and the ambition of the local people to serve as officials in the Public Service. Some day these people may want independence. That will be a matter for them to decide. But if they become independent and are saddled with a Public Service suitable, not to their economy, but to that of some other country they may not be able to support that Public Service and this would be a serious matter. The present arrangement provides for local people to be paid salaries lower than those paid to expatriate public servants. However, I would point out to the honorable member that no local public servant - that is, no indigene - will suffer a reduction in pay as a result of the new measure, although new recruits to the Public Service will, of course, be on a lower scale.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. The Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board has spoken of difficulties preventing the diversion to India of ships carrying Australian wheat to Britain. In view of the grave famine situation now existing in India, will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will do all in its power to remove any difficulties in the way of the diversion of these wheat ships to Indian ports? Will the Government give all assistance possible towards meeting India’s pressing need for wheat at this critical time?
– I am not sure that this question would not be more appropriately directed to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, under whom the Wheat Board operates. However, I can say that the basis of trading in wheat between Australia and India was reached as a result of negotiations between the Australian Government and the Indian Government several years ago. In those negotiations, the United States of America, as a principal supplier of wheat to India, also participated. The result has been a rather tripartite arrangement which has been satisfactory, I am sure, to the Indian Government. As I understand the present situation, there have been some straight transactions arranged by the Wheat Board with United Kingdom buyers and a suggestion has been made that the ships carrying the wheat which is the subject of those transactions should be diverted. The wheat is not our property and the ships are not our property. Therefore, any diversion of the ships is obviously a matter for negotiation between the principals involved. I can undertake to say that the Australian Government will study the situation and use its good offices to the extent that it can to facilitate the meeting of the needs of the Indian people and the Indian Government.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a photograph which appeared in a Canberra newspaper today depicting a one piece handset receiver-dial telephone which is now available on the Continent? The caption stated that this type of instrument would not be available in Australia for some years. Can the Minister say whether the Post Office has any plans to introduce this type of telephone to Australia in order to bring this country into line with overseas countries?
– I saw the photograph in this morning’s Press. The statement in the caption, of course, was incorrect. This instrument is known as an Ericofon. A considerable time ago the Post Office ordered about 13,000 of these sets. We commenced the installation of them in Sydney and Melbourne in February last year and in the other State capital cities and Canberra in June this year. So far we have installed about 2,600 of them. My commercial instincts encouraged me to have a sample in my office. If any honorable member is interested in these sets and would like to see and perhaps purchase one, I would be very happy to show him the one in my office.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether there has been a marked increase in the stevedoring work available at Port Augusta, South Australia? Would the honorable gentleman agree that if A class status were granted to this port, that would improve efficiency? If so, will he give the House any information he has about when a decision on this matter will be taken and the approximate date when the decision will be implemented?
– A decision has been taken already, or will be taken shortly, to upgrade Port Augusta from B class status to A class status. The Executive minute on this matter should be promulgated within the next few days, if that has not been done already. As the honorable gentleman said, this action has been taken because of the considerable increase in traffic going through Port Augusta and because the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority believes that the increase in traffic will be continued. I am sure that the honorable gentleman would like to know that this decision will mean an improvement in the working conditions of the men at this port, because they will become eligible for the full benefits of long service leave and attendance money without the qualifying conditions applying to B class ports.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Industry assure the House that Government incentive schemes designed to encourage the manufacture of cars with a 95 per cent. Australian content will not prejudice the ability of Australian exporting primary industries to maintain and expand export markets, and that there will be no sacrifice of the interests of primary producers and the general public on the altar of bigger and better profits for car manufacturers?
– I can assure the honorable member and the House that the Australian Government, as the Government of one of the great international trading nations of the world, carefully weighs the balance on any issue of policy. The declared policy of the Government is to sustain manufacturing industry in this country as a basis for the employment without which we could not continue our plans for expansion and our great migration programme. It is no less necessary that we should sustain our export industries, which are great in themselves, upon which Australia predominantly depends for its foreign exchange earnings and upon which manufacturing industry depends for the importation of so much of its raw materials. I can assure the honorable member that a careful watch is kept on these balancing interests and that what is done is done after full consideration and with full knowledge of the implications.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. What qualifications are demanded of young women who are desirous of being employed as air hostesses with Trans-Australia Airlines? Are air hostesses expected to be charming, courteous, efficient and holders of at least a first aid certificate? Is the commencing salary of young women recruited as air hostesses in the vicinity of £16 a week? Is there a great deal of dissatisfaction among the air hostesses employed by T.A.A. with their poor salary and conditions? Will the Minister undertake to investigate this matter and to see whether a salary commensurate with their qualifications, ability, charm and efficiency can be paid?
– I am afraid that the honorable member knows much more than I do about the qualifications required of air hostesses on Trans-Australia Airlines. I do not know whether any monetary value can be placed upon their charm and beauty. I will refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister in another place and see that he is given a reply.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Territories. It relates to a recent visit to New Guinea by two United Nations observers, Dr. Nabavi of Persia, and Mr. Natwar Singh of India. Will the Minister tell the Parliament why these observers refused to attend a conference at Rabaul called by the native political leaders? Is it true that they left Rabaul two days before their scheduled time of departure and that on their departure they complained of a built-in racial discrimination against the constitution of the new House of Assembly?
– I have no official information about the matter raised by the honorable member. I have seen a Press report, but I would not care to comment on the alleged reasons for the non-attendance of the observers at the meeting and for their early departure from the Territory. The two gentlemen were invited by the Australian Government to make a tour of Papua and New Guinea. I know that they were given every opportunity to view the whole of the operations, to see everything that could possibly be seen and to inform themselves on the political needs and the desires of the people in the Territory.
– I ask the Minister for Territories a question. What stage has been reached in the negotiations between the Nauruan people and the British Phosphate Commission to increase the royalties on rock phosphate payable to the Nauruan people? Is it true that the Commission at present pays only about one-sixth as much a ton for rock phosphate in the Trust Territory of Nauru as it pays in the British possession of Ocean Island? As Australia is a partner in the Commission, will the Minister ensure that it promptly pays proper and comparable royalties to the Nauruans?
– Negotiations in regard to the royalties paid to the Nauruans are continuing. Certainly Australia has made an offer of increased royalties. It is completely ridiculous to suggest that the royalties paid by Australia to the Nauruans should be related to those paid for phosphate from Ocean Island, because the situation is different in Ocean Island. We take, I think, 250,000 tons of phosphate from Ocean Island compared with li million tons from Nauru. To my knowledge, there are only about 200 indigenous people on Ocean Island at present. Most of the royalties paid on phosphate from Ocean Island are used for the administration of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, which have a population of 50,000 people. The situation in Nauru is altogether different from the situation in Ocean Island.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the walk-off reported on the Sydney and Melbourne waterfronts the backing of the Australian Council of Trade Unions? Is the walk-off intended to improve the conditions of the waterside workers or is it purely political?
– There has been a series of walk-offs on the Australian waterfront. They have been concentrated mainly in Melbourne and Sydney. The reasons given in most cases by leaders of the waterfront, in the absence of Mr. Fitzgibbon, for these walk-offs is that they are carrying out the policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on apartheid. In other words, they are placing an embargo on the movement of cargoes to and from South Africa, deluding waterfront employees into believing that this action is consistent with A.C.T.U. policy. The 1963 congress of the A.C.T.U. did not make a decision in those terms. It decided that there would be a consumer embargo on commodities imported into Australia from South Africa. It did not place an embargo on the movement of freights. I would like to add this comment: The Sydney and Mel bourne waterfronts and other waterfronts must understand that if they hold up the movement of ships to South Africa they must of necessity hold up the movement of ships to east and west coast ports throughout the whole of Africa, including places such as Tanganyika, Liberia, Ghana and Kenya. If waterfront workers succeed in cutting down exports from South Africa to this country and reducing our prospects of exporting to Africa they will prevent workers in those places which I have mentioned obtaining a satisfactory standard of living.
The action on the Australian waterfront is another illustration of the Communist influence in the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. Its attitude is political. Its objective is to disrupt Australian trade and particularly to destroy the reputation of Australian traders in those countries to which they export.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the marketing recomendations of the Marketing Committee of the Australian Wool Board have been described as involving a major change in Australia’s existing wool marketing system? Does the Minister believe that implementation of these recommendations will involve a major change in the existing system?
– I am not sure what the honorable member has in mind but as far as the Government and I are concerned, we think that the matter is of sufficient importance to warrant a referendum being held among the growers.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Is it a fact that a Cabinet subcommittee has decided or is about to decide the form of amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act which are considered necessary to satisfy the agreement reached by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Country Party concerning redistribution of electoral boundaries? When is the legislation likely to be introduced?
– I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to a question asked by the honorable member m the first sessional period earlier this year, when I said that legislation to amend the Representation Act and the Electoral Act would bc introduced within a year from that time.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service also refers to the recent unauthorised stoppage on the Melbourne waterfront, instigated as a protest against South Africa’s apartheid policy. As Labour leaders have always expressed resentment of political interference in trade union affairs, such as utility tickets, will the Minister say that ‘in pressing for economic sanctions against South Africa because of its racial policy the trade unions are adopting a policy that is the reverse of the attitude against which they have hitherto expressed resentment?
– I rise to order. What has this question to do with the administration of the Minister’s Department? The honorable member for Maribyrnong is seeking the Minister’s opinion on trade union policy, which has nothing to do with the Minister’s Department.
– Order! Lately many questions have been asked that have not come completely within the jurisdiction of the Minister concerned.
– In view of your admission by implication that the question is out of order, will you now rule it out of order?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– It is true that some sections of the trade union movement and of the Australian Labour Party strongly argue that there should be no political interference in the activities of the trade union movement and the movement fights strenuously to maintain this principle. It seems peculiar that when a political issue is raised some sections of the trade union movement are prepared to use politics in order to prevent the movement of goods from Australia to overseas ports. This is but one further illustration of the policy of the
Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, which will adopt any pretext it can to stage a strike in Australia and stop the free movement of goods.
– I again rise to order, Sir. Is the Minister entitled, iri answering a question that has nothing to do with the administration of his Department, to canvass the opinions of the Waterside Workers Federation?
– Order! The manner of replying to a question is a matter that rests with the Minister himself.
– I have finished my answer to the question, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I ask the Postmaster-General a question. Are more than 70 telephone exchanges in New South Wales without the equipment necessary to provide new telephone services? Does this situation result from a failure to place early orders for the supply of telephone switching equipment? Were penalties for late delivery provided for in contracts for the supply of such equipment? If so, have they been invoked? To what extent is delivery now overdue, and when can it be expected? Will the Government institute a crash programme to overtake the lag of 52,000 outstanding applications for telephones in New South Wales?
– The matter is not merely one of delay in the provision of equipment. The total allocation of funds to the Post Office for capital works last financial year was spent, and nobody expects that the £77 million allocated this financial year will not be completely expended. The situation in New South Wales is not easy to remedy. This financial year, we shall spend in that State approximately 37 per cent, of the £77 million available. I believe that most people will regard this as a reasonable apportionment to that State. I should like to make the point that the terrain adjacent to Sydney Harbour and the Hawkesbury River creates problems in the installation of telephone services in the Sydney area which are quite different from the problems that arise in the other capital cities in Australia. The cost of installation in the vicinity of Sydney is relatively higher. At the same time, we believe that it is not reasonable to allow other places to suffer. At present they receive no preference in the allocation of funds.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that about 40 per cent, of Australia’s population is concentrated in Melbourne and Sydney, and the fact that more than 54 per cent, of the Australian people live in the six State capital cities, thus indicating that decentralisation policies pursued up to date have not achieved the desired results, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will consider the establishment, within one of the existing departments, of a Federal division of decentralisation having as one of its main functions regular consultation on this subject with various State government departments and agencies concerned with decentralisation. If the formation of such a division is found to be impracticable, will the Prime Minister consider the establishment of a national decentralisation advisory council to perform similar functions of co-ordination with the States and also to keep the Federal Government informed of the needs of Australia in this vital matter of the development of industry and the expansion of population outside the capital cities?
– I do not find myself very enthusiastic about having another advisory commission. I can assure my friend, the honorable member for Indi, that the problem of decentralisation and the impact upon it of the policies pursued by various departments are matters that are always in our minds. In fact, we have done a great deal of work on those matters, as the honorable member knows, and I can assure him that we are not likely to neglect them in the future.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Do the agreements imposed by overseas firms on their Australian subsidiaries restraining export sales constitute restrictive trade practices? Are monopolies and/or monopolistic practices promoted through foreign takeovers of Australian industries? Is the Government’s delay in implementing the promised legislation to deal with monopolies and restrictive trade practices due in any way to pressure by foreign investors such as was applied in Canada when legislation dealing with foreign capital was envisaged in the Canadian Budget, or is the delay due to other difficulties in curbing the operations of foreign companies?
– The legislation dealing with the subject of restrictions on competition will be introduced into this House as soon as that can be done. The limiting factors are the physical factors associated with drafting the legislation. The drafting of legislation of such a complex kind brings with it a multitude of small decisions that have to be taken step by step. When a decision is taken it necessarily involves looking at previous decisions to see whether they remain valid. Consequently this is a most complicated task. When the legislation is ready it will be introduced.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Having in mind Australia’s need to establish new markets, as well as to expand existing markets, does the Government plan to send abroad any trade missions or trade ships during the current financial year?
– The Government, through its Trade Commissioner Service, is searching unceasingly for new markets and for the further development of existing markets, but the Government has not itself sponsored trade ships. These have been sponsored by private organisations such as the Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers of Manufactures. However, the Government has given every assistance in preparing the itinerary, reception at the destination and so on, and will continue to do so whenever private organisations originate such a proposal.
There are some major trade fairs at which the Commonwealth Government undertakes to promote Australian trade. The Toronto Fair and the recent Osaka Fair come to mind. More recently another voluntary body has been established which encourages departments to stimulate the projection of the Australian trade scene by promoting trade fairs. Here again, the Commonwealth Government assists, and to some extent uses this private body as an agency. In short, what I am pointing out is that there is no single track towards the objective. We are following every track that we can find.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Territories been directed to Press reports stating that Nauruan leaders claim that attempts were made to bully them into accepting conditions of resettlement that were not acceptable to them? Are these reports true? In proposals for the resettlement of Nauruans on Curtis Island was one condition that mineral sand rights would be leased to a private firm and that the Nauruans would have to work in partnership with the firm concerned? If this condition were stipulated, was it a factor in the rejection of Curtis Island by the Nauruan people, particularly in view of their experience of mining operations by outsiders on their own island of Nauru?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I saw the Press report alleging bullying of the Nauruans. To my knowledge, this certainly did not take place. Australia is responsible for the resettlement of the Nauruans. In negotiations, we offered them a future which, probably, no minority group in the world would have. We offered to bring them within the scope of the protection of Australia’s laws and defence and into an area with one of the highest standards of living in the world. Incidentally, as far as we are concerned, the negotiations have not been completed yet. We have promised the Nauruans to rc-open this matter whenever they are prepared to come and negotiate. We pointed out to them that we realised that this was a very important decision which affected their future.
The last portion of the honorable member’s question was in relation to mineral sands. In the interviews I had with the Nauruans mineral sands were not mentioned at all. To my recollection, this subject was not brought up in the negotiations with my officers. There are other allegations also of racial discrimination. It is very hard to say from where these allegations came. Apparently they are Press reports of local incidents. Representative bodies of central Queensland made very great expressions of welcome to these people. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the honorable member for Capricornia who as the local Federal member took a trip to Nauru - a great effort on his part - in order to point out the situation which exists and to extend a welcome to the people of Nauru.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to his association with the financial considerations of tertiary education and also the provision of funds for the Australian National University. I ask: Will the Prime Minister examine the value to Australia of, and the justification for, expenditure on the project announced this morning by two members of the A.N.U. who made an analysis of public reactions, before and after being subjected to a television presentation in which he appeared, to his own right honorable personality? Will the Prime Minister see whether an opportunity can be given to these gentlemen to occupy their time with a more profitable exercise? Alternatively, if these investigations should discover some elusive yet compelling secret likely to explain his obvious popularity amongst Australian electors, will he determine that this secret shall be made freely available to the several aspirants for leadership among honorable gentlemen opposite?
– The other night I took the opportunity of delivering a lecture on, among other things, academic freedom. I am a great believer in this. I stand firmly by the right of these gentlemen to occupy their time in this strange fashion if they think fit. After all, “scholarship” takes all sorts of forms.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Has the attention of the Western Australian Government been drawn to the position of Western Australian Aborigines described by the Minister yesterday as being people amongst whom “ malnutrition is a very serious matter “, and suffering from “ a severe shortage of food and water “, and with “ malnutrition existing amongst their children “? I thought I heard the Minister say “ starvation “ but “ Hansard “ reports him as saying “ malnutrition “. In view of the fact that Aborigines in the same drought stricken area constantly move away from Department of Supply patrols, as described by the Minister for Supply in a letter dated 5th August to the honorable member for Fremantle, has the possibility that they also suffer from malnutrition been taken into account? Why do Commonwealth patrols enter Western Australia? May this be taken to presage Commonwealth action to assist Aborigines in the States?
– It would be very difficult to say under what jurisdiction these particular Aborigines come. As 1 stated yesterday, they are nomads. It is probably far easier for the Northern Territory to minister to the needs of these people than it would be for the Western Australian Government to do so. I also pointed out yesterday that they wander across the border. I believe - I emphasise that this is only my assessment of the position - that these people have now been catered for in this direction.
– Have you told the Western Australian Government about it?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he can indicate the schedules that will operate for flights between Perth and other Australian capital cities when the Boeing 727 jet aircraft are brought into service later this year?
– I understand that the first two 727 jet aircraft are due tocome into service on Australian routes early in November, but I believe that up till now no schedule of any sort has been worked out. I shall discuss the matter with my colleague in another place. Perhaps the honorable member also might like to discuss the schedules, to ensure that when they are finalised they will suit itinerant politicians such as himself.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social
Services, by pointing out that some Commonwealth agencies, such as the Commonwealth Electoral Office, enclose postage paid envelopes in correspondence calling for a reply. Will the Minister give consideration to adopting this practice in connection with departmental questionnaires and other correspondence sent to pensioners and other recipients of social service benefits in order to relieve them of a small but unnecessary burden?
– I am quite certain that this matter has been given very careful consideration in the past, that the pros have been weighed against the cons and that a decision has been taken that no useful purpose would be served by providing the facility suggested by the honorable member. It is more in the interests of the Australian community that the Department of Social Services should be decentralised and that the community as a whole should have access to the officers of the Department from day to day. That is being done wherever possible.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs: Is it a fact that some months ago, when building alterations were being made to the American Embassy in Moscow, it was discovered that 40 listening devices which had escaped detection on a previous examination were buried in the walls, so that conversations taking place in the Embassy could be monitored continuously by the Soviet authorities? Has there been a detailed examination of the Australian Embassy in Moscow? If so. with what result?
– Some publicity was given to a story to the general effect stated by the honorable member. I have no means of knowing whether that story was true or untrue. It is common knowledge that the Russians do attempt to penetrate embassies in Moscow with listening devices and other means. It is not customary in this strange sort of world where nations watch each other for those who detect anything to say explicitly what they have detected. I can assure the honorable member that the Australian Government is aware of the danger -and is taking suitable security precautions.
– by leave - In answering a question asked by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) I probably gave the impression that the Australian Government acted alone in negotiations for resettlement of the Nauruans. I should add that the Australian Government is associated in this matter with the Governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
– Is there joint ownership?
– There is joint responsibility.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir John McLeay) and to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) on the ground of Parliamentary business overseas.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) and to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) on the ground of Parliamentary business overseas.
Motions (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) and to the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) on the ground of Parliamentary business overseas.
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) owing to his absence from Australia.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1964.
Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1964.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1964.
Customs Tariff (Papua and NewGuinea Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1964.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business tomorrow.
.- I do not intend to place an obstacle in the path of this motion, but I do want my honorable friend the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) to accept my assurance of my determination to press to a vote the matter standing in my name under Notices of Motion. I simply want to say that in regard to this notice of motion timing has become quite critical. When the matter was last before the Parliament I vouchsafed the view that the Parliament had been treated in a very shabby way. I said that this was a matter that was very properly in the hands of the Parliament, a matter upon which members were, very properly, entitled to vote. I hope the honorable gentleman will facilitate on the next general business day an opportunity for members of this House not merely to speak on the matter but also to vote on it.
– As I see it, the first item of general business tomorrow is the notice by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) that he intends to present a bill for an act to provide for the striking of an Anzac medal for members of the Australian Forces who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. Am I to understand from what was said by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) that he wishes the Government to give his notice of motion precedence over this matter on the next day of general business? As I read the notice paper, the business in the name of the honorable member for Moreton comes very low on the list of general business. The Opposition has no objection to the honorable member for Moreton or any other private member bringing forward any business that he wants to introduce. As a matter of fact, we think more use should be made of the day which is devoted to items of general business. All I -want to see is that the business in the name of the honorable member for Capricornia is not displaced.
– in reply - I assure the House that no question of the order of items of general business has been considered by the Government. We have one thought only in mind. At this time of the year it is customary for the debate on the estimates to proceed. The estimates debate, for very good reason, has been held up for several sitting days while matters of more urgent priority have been considered. It is now our view that the House should proceed, and we believe that it would be the view of the House that it should proceed, as quickly as possible, to debate the estimates. The estimates debate gives a great deal of liberty to members to talk on a wide variety of subjects.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 830), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- I wish to deal with the salient points of this Bill and to rebut certain statements by the Opposition. I should like to say first that in the debate on the Budget I did not hear any valid argument against it as a measure gauged to continue the stability of the economy of Australia. Members of the Opposition and Government supporters in speaking to the Budget spoke from two viewpoints: One was the overall influence on the economy and the other was on the detail. The detail comes out when we begin debating the bills which will give legislative authority to the programme given in the Budget. Therefore, we are dealing with certain details now.
Although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) moved an amendment to the Appropriation Bill 1964-65, the Opposition allowed the Bill to be passed on the voices - without calling for a division. I repeat, after the amendment had been defeated the Opposition did not call for a division but allowed the Bill to pass on the voices. That appeared to me to be tantamount to a vote of confidence in the measure. I have been told that the Opposition will move amendments to the Bill which is now before the House, but the real test will come when the second reading of the Bill is put to the vote. Will the Opposition oppose the second reading? If it does not do so, that also will be tantamount to a vote of confidence in the measure.
I have been delighted to hear honorable members opposite speak about the great prosperity in this country say how since 1949
Australia has gone ahead in leaps and bounds with great exports and great production. If I were an outsider who listened to the debate when members of the Opposition were speaking I would have said immediately to myself: “ What a wonderful Government this country must have had over all those years, to bring about all those things”. Of course, the Opposition did not mean to give that impression. It has the happy knack of changing its mind as to whether Australia is prosperous or otherwise, according to the point that it wishes to make. The point it wishes to make this time is that the Government has not been giving enough in pensions to ex-servicemen and others and that, as the country has been so wonderfully prosperous, it should have done so. I generally make most of my speeches in rebuttal of what has been said before.
– There is no doubt about that.
– That is very true. I find I have any amount of material to deal with. It generally does not take long to dispose of the different statements made by Labour members which have no foundation or are completely inconsistent one with another. Let me have a look at a few things that have been said and produce the answers to them. The first speaker, to whom I listened very attentively, was the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). However, I shall deal first with the speech of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). It is a remarkable fact that although the Government has brought this Bill down and it has, therefore, the support of all honorable members on this side, from the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) down to the beckbenchers, now that the Bill is being debated and the Opposition is trying to find fault with it, we do not hear from the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) or the member who may in the future become Minister for Repatriation. The only member in the shadow cabinet who has spoken - and I am open to correction on this - is the honorable member for Lalor.
– What’s wrong with him?
– Well, everyone knows that if Labour, by some chance or other, came to power, the honorable member for Lalor would not become
Minister for Repatriation, because he is the only man the Labour Party has who can take the job of Minister for Primary Industry. Therefore, when he speaks on this Bill dealing with repatriation be is speaking of legislation that he would not have to administer if Labour came to office. As the other speakers have all been backbenchers, they have been in the happy position of being able to say to themselves: “We can say what we like because we will not have any responsibility in the future”.
I want to engage in one or two flashbacks, as they are called on television. I want to go back to 1949. We have heard honorable members saying time and time again what wonderful conditions the exservicemen enjoyed in 1949 and how those conditions have deteriorated over the years until the ex-serviceman today is in a very poor position. The honorable member for Lalor asked for leave in incorporate in “ Hansard “ a graph prepared by the National Executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, showing movements in wage levels and pension rates. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) opposed the granting of leave. The honorable member for Lalor then said -
The Minister in charge of (he Bill is afraid of this evidence, which was produced by the National Executive of the R.S.L. and not by me, who could be called a political partisan - a member of the Opposition party endeavouring to extract some benefit from it. The Minister is afraid that there shall go on a record a chart prepared by the National Executive.
Then other honorable members including the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) also suggested that the Government was afraid to have this graph incorporated in “ Hansard “, because it would place on record some evidence against the department and the Government.
– That is right. There is no doubt about that.
– Well, we must have fair play. It is said that fair play is bonny play. I have a copy of “ Hansard “ which gives us our flashback to 25th October 1949. J want to refer to a speech that I made, in which I said -
The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has summarised its recommendations in 36 points, consideration of which by the Government is being sought. 1 ask permission to have those 36 points incorporated in “ Hansard “.
Mr. Deputy Speaker then asked whether leave was granted, and the Labour Minister for Repatriation said: “ No,” and leave was not granted. I then had to try to read the 36 points into “ Hansard “. I got as far as No. 21 when Mr. Deputy Speaker told me that my time had expired. Many honorable members who are in this House now were not here at that time and so I cannot find fault with them on this aspect of the matter. But where was the honorable member for Lalor on that occasion? Why did he not get up and protest as he did yesterday? Simply because he has a certain policy when he is in opposition and a completely different policy when he is in government. The honorable member said yesterday that he had always considered that this Parliament had not given the returned soldiers their full due. But he did not say that when he was in government and when we, who were then in opposition, were fighting for things that we thought should be done for exservicemen. He was strangely silent.
These facts should be pointed out because the honorable member for Lalor said: “I do not want to be political”. Dear me, is any other man in this House more political, or party political, than the honorable member for Lalor? I do not know of any. The Returned Servicemen’s League is very political. The Country Women’s Association is very political.
– Leave them out of it.
– If you do not think they are I will show you some of the letters I get from members of that Association. The honorable member for Lalor makes the same mistake as has been made by the R.S.L. and the C.W.A. When he says he is not political he means he is not party political. After all, if an organisation is no’ political it is not of much use to anybody in this country. One encounters politics in every aspect of community life, and “ party political “ is used in only one special sense. The honorable member for Lalor meant that he was trying not to be party political, but it was a pretty weak effort and lasted for only about three sentences, after which he got back to the old line.
– What party are you in?
– I know I am party political, and I will admit it. The honorable member for Lalor will not. The honorable member for Bass speaks very well on subjects such as this and I appreciate his speeches. But he made a definite mistake of which I am very conscious because I made the same mistake when I was a fairly new member. The honorable member for Bass, however, has been here long enough now to know that he was wrong, particularly as I have corrected him in this connection on at least three occasions. Other honorable members followed the same line as the honorable member for Bass, their argument being that the special rate pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen is not now and has not been through the years equal to the basic wage. I want to refer again to “ Hansard “ for 25th October 1949. After I made my speech on repatriation, the Labour Minister for Repatriation said -
The honorable member referred to totally and permanently incapacitated special rate pensioners on £5 6s. a week. He said that he did not ask that the pension o£ such persons should be related to the basic wage, but he went on to say that the basic wage had been increased, and was about to be increased again. He failed to draw attention to the fact that, in one instance, he quoted the rate paid to a single pensioner, and then drew a comparison with the basic wage which provides for a man, his wife and at least one child.
Then the Labour Minister said - and it is quite true and T readily admit it -
The only fair comparison would be to take into consideration the amount paid to the pensioner on a special rate.
Then I interjected: “I mentioned that,” and the Minister said -
Yes, but the honorable member did not mention the figure, which is £6 10s., and not £5 6s.
Added to the £5 6s. was the amount for the wife and one child. The honorable member for Bass and his colleagues have been saying that through the years and right up to the present time the rate for the T.P.I, pensioner has been below the basic wage. The six capital cities basic wage at present is £15 8s. A single T.P.I, pensioner gets £14 5s., but the wife of a married pensioner gets an additional £2 0s. 6d., so that a married T.P.I, pensioner and his wife receive between them £16 5s. 6d. a week. That, of course, is far higher than the basic wage of £15 8s. After Labour went out of office, the predecessor of the present Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, lifted the ceiling. Labour had imposed a special ceiling in addition to the means test. Senator Sir Walter Cooper left the means test, but lifted that ceiling. That gave all pensioners - 100 per cent, general rate pensioners, other general rate pensioners and special rate pensioners - a great rise in their pensions. The rise was so welcome that, although I did not think people would grasp the significance of it straight away, the first day after I went back to the Mallee electorate two men came to me and said: “ Will you please congratulate Senator Cooper on what he has done for us?”.
Mr. TURNBULL__ That is the truth.
I did congratulate Senator Sir Walter Cooper. The lifting of the ceiling as applied this year has given an additional 17s. 3d. to the man who is in receipt of a service pension, as he is if he watches his finances. His wife also is eligible for a pension. So the total amount is £18, compared with the basic wage of £15 8s. If the pensioner has one child, he receives an additional 13s. 9d., and an education allowance of 19s. a week is available for children over the age of 12 years. Labour did not have that provision in its programme.
I do not need to go into any more detail to show that the argument that the pensions paid today are not equal to the basic wage is a distortion of facts. These are the kinds of things that should be said in this House in order to reveal the distortion.
– I did not say that.
– If you did not, that is all right; I will forgive you.
– I did not say that.
– I did not say that you did. I said that the honorable member for Bass said it. The honorable member for Lalor is very sensitive. He says that he did not say it. Of course he did not. But the honorable member for Bass did, and he was supported by other members of the Opposition. It is a distortion, and the honorable member for Lalor’s interjection is proof to me that he knows that it is a distortion. The interjection is the best evidence I have heard that it is a distortion.
I want to bring honorable members up to date on a news item. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) is quite an estimable fellow, but he makes some wild statements. In today’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “, under the heading, ‘* R.S.L. Tamed With Honeyed Words,’ Labour M.P. Claims “, we read -
Canberra, Tuesday. - The Federal Government had tamed the R.S.L. with “ honeyed words “ and by “ handing out knighthoods and C.B.E.S “, Mr. F. E. Stewart (Lab., N.S.W.) said tonight.
That is an allegation against the integrity of the representatives of Australia’s chief cx-servicemen’s organisation.
– Don’t be silly.
– The honorable member for Grayndler says “ Don’t be silly “. Does he not consider that that is an allegation against the representatives of the R.S.L.? I do. If the honorable member wants to treat things like that lightly, I do not. I think the honorable member for Lang should be given an opportunity to deny that allegation.
– He cannot deny it if he said it.
– Of course he cannot; but he oan withdraw it, or retract it and apologise.
– Simply because it is a slur on the integrity of the League. The Labour Party builds up its case by saying: “ We have received representations from the R.S.L.; they should be given attention “. Then one of its members says that the integrity of the R.S.L. is so low that it oan be made into a tame cat organisation - that expression is typical of the words used by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) - by the Government giving knighthoods and C.B.E.’s. If that is not a very serious allegation, I have never heard one. I would like this matter to be straightened out as quickly as possible, because the allegation is completely wrong. It was my intention today, if I had received the call at question time, to ask the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to take note of the allegation and ask the honorable member for Lang whether he would withdraw it and make an apology to the R.S.L. on behalf of the Parliament for the slur that was cast. All through the years the League has worked for ex-servicemen.
When the Labour Government was in office the League made certain proposals which that Government could not implement. The Government has found itself in that position too. But there are certain pointers that give us an idea of which Government has given the R.S.L. the best deal. Everyone who knows anything at all about the history of these matters knows that when Labour was in office the Minister for Repatriation sat in what has become known as the hot seat. He did not last very long in this House; he lost his seat. The last two Labour Ministers for Repatriation both lost their seats. Why did that happen? It happened simply because the R.S.L. and Hie people generally were not satisfied with what was being done for ex-servicemen. I sympathise with those Ministers who lost their seats. I hope honorable members will bear with me while I read what I have said about these matters. I am reported in “ Hansard “ in 1949 as saying -
The following is an extract from a letter that was written to me by the Secretary of the Victorian branch of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia: -
My executives request me to place before you the economic position of totally and permanently incapacitated personnel who receive a special pension of £5 6s. a week, which is inadequate to cover the present cost of living.
I went on to say -
Representatives of these men have visited Canberra and have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) but without success. They expected some relief in this year’s Budget but were disappointed.
I continued -
I am not attacking the Minister for Repatriation. I have always claimed both inside and outside of this Parliament that the Minister for Repatriation is sympathetic to ex-servicemen, and particularly to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. I believe that he will do what he can to have these pensions increased, but I am afraid that he does not have the backing of caucus or of the Government. I repeat that these men should have more consideration.
That was what I said in this Parliament back in 1949. To show that it is quite authentic, I only have to turn to the speech of the then Minister for Repatriation. He said -
I appreciate the honorable member’s tribute to mc.
The feeling between us was very good. But every time the Minister tried to do something for ex-servicemen he came up against the barrier of the Cabinet and he could not do anything at all. That Minister and the previous Labour Minister for Repatriation lost their seats simply because of the Labour Party’s inactivity in increasing repatriation pensions and benefits.
– Read what you said about the R.S.L. being a pressure group.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, is it right for the honorable membar for Watson (Mr. Cope) to move out of his seat and come right over beside me, interjecting all the time?
– Order! The honorable member for Watson will come to order.
– I have been asked what I think of the special rate pension increase. I think it is good and I am supporting it.
– What about the T.P.I, pension itself?
– I think it is good. The T.P.I, pensioner receives his pension and his wife and child can receive additional benefits.
– What about the T.P.I, pension only?
– The single T.P.I, pensioner is entitled to receive £14 5s. I am well satisfied with that. I have met many T.P.T. pensioners, and they have told me that they are satisfied with the pension rate. When I first became a member of the Parliament I received dozens and dozens of letters - I would be exaggerating if I said I received hundreds - from exservicemen all over the country who asked that the pension rate be increased. In the past twelve months I have not had one letter that I can remember, that complained about the pension rate. Thi is a statement that can easily be denied by any of my constituents should they have written to me. The pensions were low in the past but they are good now, and we cannot do anything but support the action taken by the Government.
The honorable member for Lalor suggested that a special all-party committee be set up to consider repatriation benefits. He said that a similar committee was set up in 1943 and that it did very good work. The previous committee of this type was formed in the early 1920’s some 20 years earlier. Why was this special all-party committee formed in 1943? The answer is that we were in the middle of a war and it was apparent to everyone that before very long a great many men and women would need repatriation pensions and other benefits. At that stage, this special committee was formed to consider the repatriation pensions and the assistance generally that could be given to people returning from the war. But conditions are quite different today. I read a statement in the newspapers recently - I am not supporting this - that repatriation would just about cease in 1980, that is 15 or 16 years hence. At this late stage, the honorable member for Lalor wants a special committee set up. I do not think that this could be justified in any way and I suggest that he give further consideration to the subject.
Another honorable member suggested that the men receiving the 100 per cent, pension should be paid the T.P.I, pension.
– Not all of them; some of them.
– Yes, some of them. I also hold this view. I have spoken to men who receive the 100 per cent, pension. They have said: “ We are on the 100 per cent, pension, but we think we should be on the T.P.I, pension.” I have thought so, too. But who determines these questions? Repatriation officials have told me that the doctors decide whether the incapacity is due to war service. I venture to say that not one Opposition member and probably only one member on the Government side of the House would know the meaning of the terms used by the medical men who examine the ex-servicemen. I do not know the meaning of them and I do not think the honorable member for Watson would know either. The doctors make the decision. This has been the cause of some of the (rouble in the past, although I have not experienced this trouble lately. Exservicemen have said to me: “Do you think that I should get a pension? I served early in the 1914-18 war in France. I was in the trenches and 1 was gassed.” I have honestly thought that such men should receive a pension, but when I have put these cases before the repatriation officials they have been rejected. Appeals have also been rejected. The reason given all the time is that the doctors decide whether the incapacity is due to war service.
Some Opposition members have said repeatedly that these men should be on the special rate pension. I would like the next Opposition member who speaks in this debate to say who should decide these questions if the doctors are not to decide. Should I have the right to decide? Should an Opposition member have the right to decide? Should the Government have the right to decide? A plank of Labour’s policy is that the Government, especially if it is a Labour government, should fix hours and wages. Should a Labour government, or any government, have the right to say, on wholly political considerations, who should receive a pension and what the rate should be? I have no argument with the contention of the repatriation authorities that the doctors should decide. This is a basic point that cannot be altered. The doctors have the knowledge with which to form a decision. Now and again an honorable member may meet a doctor who is not sympathetic, but I have not had that experience. I have been a patient in Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital on several occasions and J have spoken to many men in the hospital. I have also visited the hospital and I have spoken to men who have been in the hospital. I have met them when they were returning by train. I speak only of Heidelberg because, as a Victorian, that is the repatriation hospital of which I have had most experience. All of the men with whom I have spoken have referred in glowing terms to the treatment they received while they were in the hospital. I have also found that the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Victoria has always done his very best to assist any ex-serviceman I have referred to him. If he has been absent, his officers have done their best.
I have almost exhausted the time allotted to me, but before I finish my speech
I would like to say that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), an ex-serviceman himself, has always given a sympathetic hearing to any case I have put before him. I have obtained good results on quite a few occasions. Whenever I- have put to him a case that I thought was genuine be has looked into it, and mostly the outcome has been successful. We should keep in mind all that is being done for ex-servicemen. We know that the doctors make the decisions and, though we may be dissatisfied with this procedure sometimes, no-one has been able to put forward a better idea. I ask the Opposition member who follows me to give his views on this subject. Labour members often say: “ Stand up and be counted “. I am always willing to stand up and state my attitude towards the exservicemen of this country.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) made it quite clear that if ever he has to lead in a debate he will be in real trouble. He said that he bases his speech on what has been said before.
– In rebuttal.
– I am surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Mallee. He had a good war record, but he made a vigorous attack on the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). After all, the honorable member for Lalor was commissioned in the field following an incident in which his men were cut to pieces. Men who have proved their mettle should be on their feet today saying that the present Repatriation Act is not good enough for the conditions of 1964. I will tell the honorable member for Mallee why I say this, because he has invited me to do so. He said that an ex-serviceman’s right to a pension should be decided purely by the doctors. At the conclusion of his speech he said that when he had taken cases to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) the Minister had been able to correct injustices. I do not know where the honorable member’s thoughts would lead him. If the Minister has been able to decide in favour of an applicant, the doctors should have done so. I pay a tribute to the Minister and to those who held this portfolio before him. I think this is the most difficult portfolio of all to administer.
– Most of the former Ministers for Repatriation lost their seats.
– Yes, and I am not sure ‘that this Minister will not suffer the same fate when the people have an opportunity to show at an election how they react to the provisions of this Bill.
– The Minister has increased his majority.
– He has yet to face an election with provisions such as this before the voters. The honorable member for Mallee may be satisfied with the present position, but I am not. I am not prepared to leave the situation as it is, although the honorable member apparently is willing to let the doctors Lave the last word on every application by an ex-serviceman for a pension. In my opinion, in the conditions of 1964, the doctors should clearly state their reasons for rejecting claims made by ex-servicemen who have been told by their own medical advisers that they are entitled to benefits under the Repatriation Act. This is a situation which the Government must face. The honorable member for Mallee said that he chooses to base his speeches on speeches that have been made earlier or events of the past. I have often wondered why, in view of his long service in this Parliament, he has never made ministerial rank. Evidently the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has concluded that the honorable member must have the speeches of other honorable members in front of him before he can make his own speech. This is rather regrettable because I would have hoped that the honorable member, with his fine war record, would seek to do something, today and in the future, for the many thousands of returned servicemen who are the lost boys in the wilderness and for whom this Government and the Minister for Repatriation have done almost nothing.
I was struck by the second reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation, who said -
In accordance with accepted practice the Government this year has again reviewed the operation of the repatriation system-
I hope that the honorable member for Mallee will bear this in mind - and has concluded that in the light of established principle, and the needs of the pensioners concerned, a number of increases in pension rates are warranted.
The Minister attempts to leave with returned servicemen and members of this Parliament the impression that the Government has reviewed the repatriation system. Last night the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) pronounced our repatriation system the best in the world. Coming from Tasmania and not being faced with the same volume of problems as honorable members from New South Wales and Victoria - New South Wales in particular - face, the honorable member may be excused for feeling as he does, but I rather wonder whether the honorable member is in touch with the real problem facing thousands of ex-servicemen who today have no homes. Many ex-servicemen are not much concerned about having to spend a weekend in Long Bay because if they do they get a clean-up there. But if they do go to Long Bay for the weekend, this Government makes no provision for them on their release on Monday morning other than to find another few shillings for them. One would think on looking at this legislation that the Government, by granting an increase of 5s. in repatriation pensions - not forgetting the increase of £1 in the basic wage - had done something remarkable for the ex-servicemen of this country. In my opinion, to grant an increase of 5s. in repatriation pensions when the basic wage has only just been increased by £1 is to offer an insult to repatriation pensioners.
– By how much would you increase the pension?
– The honorable member for Mallee referred to the committee set up in 1943 by the Curtin Government to investigate the needs of returned servicemen. That committee was set up because there were changed factors in the economy at that time and changes in standards. If the present Government were to face realities it would concede that conditions in 1964 are different from conditions that existed in 1943. Later in the pro*ceedings the Opposition will test Government supporters to see how genuine they are in 1964. I trust that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), who interjected a few minutes ago, does not want a repetition of the attack just made by a returned serviceman of the calibre of the honorable member for Mallee - a man who might well be proud of his war record - on another returned serviceman, whom he tried to belittle but who does not display his war record, although he has every reason to be equally as proud of his record as the honorable member for Mallee is of his. I say to Government supporters that our repatriation system is not the best that we can afford. We have lost our sense of balance and our understanding of what is best for the returned servicemen of this country.
Let me deal more fully with my claim that real grounds exist for a complete overhaul of our repatriation system. The Minister has indicated that the Government has reviewed the system. Let me take first things first. I would have liked to hear the honorable member for Mallee refer to these matters. I have before me the 1962-63 report of the Repatriation Commission. The 1963-64 report is not yet available. The 1962-63 report shows that in that year 952 ex-servicemen, including 336 from the First World War and 582 from the Second World War, are being treated in State mental institutions. This is not something new. If we go back to 1955 we find that at that time 964 ex-servicemen were receiving treatment in State mental institutions. In New South Wales the patients are being treated in institutions at Orange, Goulburn and Parramatta. What happens when they are released? They may be 14 days or 14 weeks in the Goulburn institution, 15 days or 15 weeks at the Parramatta institution or 16 days or 16 weeks in the Ryde institution or the institution at Orange, but what happens when they are released on a Monday morning? They are released without having a friend in the world. Their comradeship has been destroyed.
After 15 years in office this Government still does nothing for the ex-serviceman who is released from a mental institution. This is not good enough in my book. It is not good enough to be treating 900 or more men in this fashion each year. Another 1,000 men are in a different category, and I will say something about them shortly. It is not good enough that these 900 men should be treated as the lost tribe. They are ex-servicemen, just as are the honorable member for Mallee and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). These ex-servicemen are human beings. This nation has a responsibility to them. How can this Government stand aside and watch 952 men be treated in a mental institution and released on a Monday morning without some form of rehabilitation - without roofs over their heads? How can the Government allow these men to become members of a lost tribe? I have seen this happen. Every time I see a returned serviceman under the grey gum tree in Hyde Park I shudder, but I do not regard him as a ne’er-do-well or as a man in the gutter. I regard him as a man crying out for urgent help at the national level. This Government should do something to rehabilitate these men, who were prepared to give their lives to save you and me. But there is not one building to shelter them, not a few pieces of iron to serve as a roof. There is no place to which they can turn for succour. What does the Government do with these men in Sydney? It sends them to the Sydney City Mission. The Government is not much concerned whether they go to Long Bay for the weekend because the Government knows that there they will have their suits pressed and be given a general clean up.
If Government supporters can stand idly by in these circumstances and pronounce the repatriation system as the best in the world, all I can say is that they are just plain inhuman. This problem should have No. 1 priority in 1964. Suppose we agree with the honorable member for Mallee that the rates of pension are right and that the tribunals are right. But do not let us leave these men in the lost tribe. This nation owes these men something better than admission to a State mental institution and discharge on a Monday morning with no place to go. What happens to such men? I know that on the following Thursday they may draw their pension but what is there in life for them? They can go down to the hotel again, descend a few more rungs of the ladder and end up once more in Goulburn or Orange. Their comradeship has been destroyed. Their home life is gone. They have no chance of recovery. They are driven back to the grey gum tree in Hyde Park.
Despite that kind of thing, Government supporters rise in their places and say that our repatriation system is the best in the world. The approach that I have just described is a completely inhuman approach to this human problem of returned servicemen who are in this unfortunate position. Surely we should be trying to enable these men to live according to proper standards of life. They would not go back repeatedly to mental institutions at Goulburn, Parramatta and elsewhere if they had some proper habitation where they could live in decent surroundings and have the comradeship of others of their kind. In proper surroundings where they could lead a different life, their outlook would be much improved and they would not be regarded as hoboes. Every time someone describes as a hobo a man who wears a returned serviceman’s badge, I tell myself again that the blot is on the community and on the Parliament, not on the unfortunate individual concerned.
The next point that I want to discuss relates to a matter that I mentioned a little earlier - the large number of men whose pensions are paid into trusts. Section 49 of the principal Act, under the terms of which the Repatriation Commission may retain a war pension payable to an unmarried exserviceman who is a mental patient and invest and expend it for the benefit of him or his dependants, is of great value. This may be shortly described as the trust section of the Act. It is not easily administered, but the Commission has done a good job in its administration of this section. Again, I remind honorable members that here we are not dealing with a small body of men. Regulation 9 of the Repatriation Regulations empowers the Commission to appoint a trustee, or itself to act as trustee, in cases in which it is considered expedient that a pension or allowance be not paid directly to the pensioner.
I refer again to the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the financial year 1962-63, which is laid on the table of this House for every member of the Parliament, including the Minister for Repatriation and the Prime Minister, to see. According to the report, at page 36, on 30th
June 1963 the pensions of 1,081 exservicemen were being retained under the provisions of regulation 9. These represented a total value of £409,188. Section 49, as I have said, relates to cases like those of the men who are repeatedly going back to mental institutions at Orange, Goulburn, Parramatta and elsewhere. Under the terms of that section, at 30th June last year, the Commission was retaining the pensions of 997 ex-servicemen, on whose behalf securities with a face value totalling £4,800,590 were held in trust. Honorable members will notice the close relationship of this figure to the number of 952 exservicemen being treated in State mental institutions at 30th June 1963, as mentioned earlier. Though so much is held in trust for these men, they have not a sheet of iron over their heads on their discharge from a mental institution. Their only shelter is the grey gum in Hyde Park is Sydney.
The great need of our repatriation system today is a complete overhaul insofar at it applies to cases such as this. Let us no longer regard our ex-servicemen who have fallen by the wayside as something less than human. I wonder how many of them, when they left our shores to render the great national service that they gave this country, had never previously partaken of liquor. Perhaps, as a result of the practice of serving men with a tot of rum before they went over the top, they acquired a taste for liquor and some happening in their lives that upset them caused them to retain that taste on their return to this country. Now they are in this unfortunate situation that I have described. Here is the test: I suppose it is safe to say that of the 997 section 49 cases, hardly seven would have roofs over their heads when they were discharged from a mental institution. The honorable member for Mallee may be inclined to say that the pensions paid in respect of these men are too high if the investments made by the Commission on behalf of 997 of them now have a total face value of £4,800,590.
– Do not put words into my mouth.
– I am not doing that. You have already spoken in this debate, and you can speak again on the same subject next year.
– But you are saying that I would say something. I would not say what you have just suggested I would say.
– I would not put into the honorable member’s mouth any words expressing anything like a human sentiment, for he would not understand them. It is all right for him to live the protected life of a member of Parliament who has a nice home to go to when the week’s work is done. His position is vastly different from that of the unfortunate exserviceman who, on his discharge from a mental hospital at, say, Parramatta, has no shelter but the grey gum tree in Hyde Park. That is the kind of situation to which, not all repatriation pensioners, admittedly, but more than 2,000 of them, are relegated. I am talking about the need to help these men by improving our repatriation system, but honorable members opposite are content to say that we have the best repatriation system in the would. The Minister said that it has been reviewed and that, in the Government’s opinion, ours is the best repatriation system in the world.
– Name a better one. That is what we want you to do.
– I want to consider some of these things that the honorable member and other Government supporters talk about but shirk doing. The honorable member has invited me to say who makes the decision about pensions. This is not a question of which notice has been given. It is a question without notice. The honorable member has invited me to tell him, and I shall do so.
– That is fair enough.
– Yes, it is fair enough. I turn again to the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for 1962-63. At page 29, it shows that a total of 16,791 appeals went to the Repatriation Commission for action in 1962-63. Of these, only 2,141 were allowed and 12,091 were rejected.
– On the evidence of doctors.
– Wait a moment. Let me proceed to the next step under this great system that we prate about.
We have a system of passing the buck. If we look at the statistics of appeals to War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, we find that in the same financial year 12,990 appeals went before these Tribunals. This figure is so closely related to the figure of 12,091 appeals rejected by the Commission that I may be excused for saying that the great bulk, if not all, of the appeals heard by the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals are merely transferred from the Commission.
Section 48 of the principal Act lays it down quite clearly that any report that affects a returned serviceman in these matters shall be put on his file. I do not want to make a personal attack on the members of the Repatriation Commission. It is the system that is wrong and not the conduct of the members of the Commission. Not one word is on the files to show the reasons for the rejection of any of the 12,091 appeals rejected by the Commission. Let us go to the next step - an appeal to an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. I have appeared in a number of these cases, and I know what I am talking about. What happens when the Commission rejects an appeal? Very good officers in a special section of the Repatriation Department prepare a summary of the applicant’s medical history. That summary merely states the particulars given by the applicant’s doctor or by me or anybody else on the applicant’s behalf, and adds: “The application was rejected “. An advocate appearing before an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal on behalf of an ex-serviceman receives this summary, studies it and does what he can to upset the Commission’s decision on the appeal. Of 12,990 appeals in 1962-63, only 1,369 were allowed by Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and 7,146 were rejected.
If an ex-serviceman appeals of his own volition to an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal against the rejection of his appeal by the Repatriation Commission, he may appoint a representative of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, or me or anybody else he likes, as an advocate to appear for him before the Tribunal. The advocate, when he calls for the summary that I have described, finds that it contains not one word of the reasons for the Commission’s rejection of the application, but merely the statement: “The application was rejected “. So the advocate argues the matter before the Tribunal and attempts to direct its attention to the matters that in his view, obviously were overlooked by the Commission. I am not saying this in condemnation of the men who compose these Tribunals, but they sit starry eyed and listen to me, if I am the applicant’s advocate, or to the applicant himself. I notice that the honorable member for Mallee is laughing. This is not a laughing matter.
– It appears to be, because the honorable member’s mates are laughing at him.
– It is not a laughing matter. Let us remember that not one word of the arguments adduced in support of the appellant’s case is recorded in any transcript of the proceedings. An applicant, if he is represented by an advocate, is asked, when the advocate has finished presenting the case, whether he has anything to add. But his comments also go unrecorded.
All that goes on to the medical summary is a statement to the effect that the case came before the Tribunal and the Tribunal rejected it. Last year over 7,000 applications were rejected.
What happens then? Under this system which the Government claims to be so good the only basis - or so we are told - upon which this rejected application can be reconsidered is the submission of fresh medical evidence. I do not know whether anyone on the Government side has attempted to reopen a case on behalf of a war widow.
– I have.
– We all have.
– I do not think you have, otherwise you would be on your feet saying the same things as I am saying. If you do not raise these matters you are completely inhuman ‘in relation to the application of the Act. An appellant may say to me: “ Jim, there is no doubt about this. I was all right when I went to war but I have something now and I got it during the war “. So I reply: “ All right, I will have another look at your summary “. When I get the summary I find that there is not one word on it about the reason for the rejection of the application by the Commission or the Tribunal or one word from the doctors who rejected it in the first instance showing Che reason for their action. I then have to face the situation of providing fresh medical evidence without any opportunity to find out what goes on behind closed doors, because the applicant’s history gives no indication of it.
The Repatriation Act should be overhauled immediately by a special committee set up by this Parliament. This is one facet of the application of the Act which calls for the widest investigation by some authority outside the Commission and outside Ministerial control. The Minister is human. Of course he is. He is responsible for administering the Act and I know his approach to it, but all he can do is call for a report from the Commission, and the Commission will recite to him what is on the file - the same matter that I find on the file when I call for the summary.
Of a total of 16,791 applicants who went before the Commission in 1962-63 there were 2,141 whose claims were accepted by the Commission. Of the 12,990 appeals to the Tribunals 1,369 were accepted. So after 12 months work we still had 7,146 applications - more than two thirds of the total - on which we will have to start aft” over again without any possible chance o£ breaking through, because we do not know the reasons why they were rejected. And there is no hope of finding out the reasons why they were rejected until such time as an alteration is made in the system and the reasons for rejection are published in the reports. I suppose other honorable members who, like myself, have appeared before an Assessment Tribunal, have seen a doctor question an applicant for perhaps 12 or 15 minutes, then another doctor crossexamine him for a further 12 or 15 minutes and then finally ask him from what malady he feels he is suffering. No doubt honorable members know what goes on.
One case that I have in mind in which that happened was the case of a man 72 years of age. The record file contained no record of the questions that were asked and the answers given. I call for all the evidence taken before those Tribunals to be recorded. The questions and answers should be transcribed and put on file so that those of us who look at the medical summary later can show any other doctor whom we consult just what the case against the appellant is. My experiences have been completely different from those of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder).
Even accepting the point of view expressed by the honorable member for Mallee that thu rates of pension are satisfactory, let me repeat what I said earlier - the Act and the method of its application are screaming for a complete overhaul, because the methods now being applied are inhuman. I will never rest until this is achieved. The honorable member for Mallee can quote that statement next year if he wishes to do so. If the Minister is as good as the honorable member claims him to be the Minister will find, if he cares to check my statements, that what I have been saying is correct. And next year both the Minister and the honorable member will find that I am still fighting to have the Act overhauled, if that has not been done in the meantime. The Minister has never yet doubted my word. He can choose any case he likes and he will find that the medical summary contains nothing to show why the application was rejected on medical grounds.
Section 48 of the Act has been neglected to a much greater extent than has section 47. The position would be rectified if section 48 were applied thoroughly so that every time an application is rejected on medical grounds the doctor responsible for the rejection were required to state in writing the reasons for it. Then we would have a basis upon which to move to provide the additional medical evidence that is essential to prove the case. Until we get in writing the method of approach used by the doctors and their reason for rejecting an application this weakness will not be corrected.
I point out that this Repatriation Act, good as it is in relation to rates paid to ex-servicemen, is inhuman. I do not think you will find anywhere in the world an Act so inhuman in its approach to these matters that mean so much to the ex-servicemen of this country who are not being looked after as they should be.
– I rise to support the Bill. I am sorry that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) expressed the sentiments that he did about officials of the Returned Servicemen’s League receiving awards to keep them on side with the Government. I have been associated with the R.S.L. for 40 years. I have worked among the people of whom the honorable member spoke. I have been associated with men who have dedicated their lives to the returned soldier movement. When they joined the movement they were imbued with the same high sense of service that induced them to enlist in the 1914-18 war. To hear these men castigated in this way is most upsetting. They do not expect any reward for their efforts on behalf of their returned soldier mates who by representations - I daresay through their own sub-branches - have asked the Government to recognise the merits of their leaders. This is more in evidence when you consider men such as Bill Yeo, Cliff Goodman and Reg Philpot who have dedicated their lives to assisting returned soldiers, the men of whom the honorable member spoke. The efforts of these officers of the R.S.L. are recognised by the community. To have an honorable member of this Parliament suggest by innuendo that these men are given awards to keep them on side with the Government is, I am sad to relate, most unworthy.
Every honorable member would like to see a large increase in repatriation benefits, but this must be balanced against economic conditions. So far as I can gather from what has been said by Opposition members, they would give increases to everyone out of all proportion to requirements so that the increases would become of no value at all.
I was not going to delve into repatriation figures, but since hearing the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland I think I should place some figures on record. The broad principles of our Repatriation Act compare more than favorably with any other repatriation system in the world. We have to remember, although we are all desirous of doing better for our ex-servicemen, to take into consideration many of the conditions that apply at the present time. I have worked with a good many of the 950 men of whom the honorable member for Blaxland speaks. It is very difficult, sad to relate, to assist them. I have contacted them when they have been released from various institutions. I have had ways and means at that special time to assist them, but they prefer to go on .their own without assistance. It is a sad commentary to have to make, but I do not know what can be done about them. They refuse treatment in an institution. They prefer to wander about aimlessly rather than seek treatment. After all, Australia is a free, democratic country and, unless these men are certified, we have no control over them.
I know that the honorable member for Blaxland meant well when he made the remarks he did, but I wonder whether he has studied these men and been associated with them to the extent that many members of returned soldiers organisations have. He may have been. I have told honorable members of my experience with them. I have worked with returned soldiers organisations for over 40 years, and have taken a very active part in them. As President of the R.S.L. in Newcastle in 1929, I went around and saw some of my former comrades. They had been great soldiers. They were only in the condition in which they were then because of their loyalty and their great service to Australia and Australia’s forces during the war. Their condition was brought about through receiving a whiff of gas. Because these men were good soldiers and had not reported that they had inhaled the gas, it was very difficult to have them awarded a repatriation benefit. I had the unfortunate experience of going among these people, who were former members of my battalion. It was because of the difficulty experienced by ex-servicemen such as these soldiers in obtaining repatriation benefits that Billy Hughes, the Little Digger, assisted them by bringing in the onus of proof section. The R.S.L. is very grateful that that section was introduced.
As I said previously, any system of repatriation must be broad and flexible. It must endeavour to meet the needs of exservicemen and to maintain them in a decent and proper state in society. To achieve this, there must be a system of financial compensation by way of pension. There must be allowances for war incapacitated ex-servicemen themselves and, in certain circumstances, for their dependants. There should be medical treatment for ex-servicemen with war caused disabilities. Financial payments should be made to the wives of ex-servicemen who have died as a result of war service. A generous system may also include other payments and benefits, some not directly related to war caused disabilities, but which take account of the stresses of war and the needs and difficult circumstances of ex-servicemen and their dependants. The real advantage of a repatriation system therefore lies in the provision of proper compensation and care for those who have suffered as a result of war. I think that we do that in a general way. Of course, we do strike anomalies. I am dealing with some at the present time. There is the case of an exserviceman with a spinal injury. The Repatriation Commission admits that this injury was caused through war service, but because this man has another ailment which is not caused through war service, the Commission will not give him the pension to which he is entitled in my opinion and in the opinion of his own private medical officer.
The honorable member for Blaxland has evidently had much experience in appearing before the Repatriation Commission. He is to be commended for his efforts. I have not appeared before the Repatriation Commission. I have certain cases before me now where the Commission and various other repatriation tribunals have flatly refused applications for the payment of repatriation benefits for conditions which are alleged to be war caused. However, I have had the papers in connection with these cases sent to me, and I have been allowed to have the men concerned examined by a medical officer not associated with the case in any way, and to obtain a certificate in regard to the examinations. In all fairness to the honorable member for Blaxland, I must say that I have not received any advice from the independent doctor to assist me with the claims by the exservicemen for whom I am acting. Over and above what the honorable member has said, I have carried out what is more or less a gallup poll of ex-servicemen. The great majority of them have said that they are satisfied with the treatment they receive in regard to the payment of repatriation benefits. One exception has been the case to which I have already referred in which the ex-serviceman suffered a spinal injury. In all, since Christmas there were only about four cases that I could find in which the people concerned were dissatisfied with the assessments from the Repatriation Commission.
There are approximately 89,000 electors in the Division of Mitchell. I have a great number of ex-servicemen with whom to deal. I must say that, as a layman, I am almost baffled by some of the cases which have been refused. But, as the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has said, we have to depend on the opinions of the medical people. We must remember, too, that there are, I think, returned exservicemen on all the tribunals. It is not very often that you find a returned exserviceman who is not sympathetic to the case of an ex-comrade. The chairman of each of these tribunals is a legal man and therefore the fairness and impartiality of the tribunals should be beyond reproach. Of course, there is always the element of human error in these matters. I am confident that if a good case were submitted in support of an amendment to the system that would make more certain that justice would appear to be done, the Government would be prepared to agree to the proposal, but, generally speaking, the system has the approbation of most of the returned soldiers with whom I have been associated. I think that, in the main, it works excellently.
Although the new rate of £14 5s. for the T.P.I, pension is not quite as high as we returned soldiers would like, the pension is getting close to the male basic wage. With other fringe benefits and concessions, I think the T.P.I, pensioner will be able to manage satisfactorily.
– You would say that he is well off?
– I do not say that. I say that the new rate meets the needs of the situation. There is no returned soldier who would not like to see the Government give the biggest handouts possible; but, when deciding upon benefits, it must be realised that if they are given to all sections of the community the ultimate gain will be less than it would otherwise have been. It is necessary to strike a balance and decide on an amount that will in fact result in a benefit to the recipients. The basic wage recently was increased by £1 a week, but that increase led to higher costs of production and to higher prices, and the basic wage earner is now much less than £1 a week better off. Immediately after the war people found that they were becoming worse off, despite the extra amounts in their pay envelopes, because wage increases led to increases in costs and prices. We must take the broad view and do what seems to be best for the whole of the community when assessing social service and repatriation benefits. The men in receipt of general rate pensions of from 10 per cent, to 100 per cent, are being compensated for the pain they suffer, and many of them are earning good wages or salaries. They are not debarred from earning, and they are recompensed for the pain and suffering that they have to endure.
I congratulate the Minister upon bringing down this Bill. I made representation on the 1964 R.S.L. pension plan, which I thought was fair and reasonable, and I had very much pleasure in supporting it. I am disappointed that the Government has not been able to give full effect to that plan, but, in all fairness, I must say that I think the Minister and the Government are to be congratulated upon bringing down this measure.
.- After listening to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) there must be many who are amazed that a man who has been an active member of the Returned Servicemen’s League for the past 40 years should be supporting the proposals with regard to repatriation pensions and other benefits that the Government has made in this Bill. The Opposition proposes to move certain amendments when the Bill is being discussed in the committee stage, and the amendments which will be moved will seek to give effect to what has been suggested by the various Returned Servicemen’s League branches throughout Australia. I certainly am amazed to hear a man who has had 40 years experience in the League saying that he is satisfied with what the Government has been doing for exservicemen in Australia.
The honorable member for Mitchell also said that ia his 40 years experience only four pensioners had complained that they were not satisfied with the pensions they were receiving from the Government. All I can say is that the honorable member for
Mitchell is a very lucky man. If he had read the reports of the R.S.L. he would know that hundreds of ex-servicemen have been complaining about what this Government has been doing to them. If the honorable member is sincere and if he has any faith in the League, which represents approximately 60 per cent, of the exservicemen in Australia, he will cross the floor of the chamber and vote for the amendments which the Opposition proposes to move.
During the course of this debate, members of the Opposition have placed before the House many reasons why they think the ex-servicemen of Australia have not been receiving the treatment that they deserve. They have also mentioned many anomalies that arise under the Repatriation Act. We of the Opposition realise that when a citizen is called upon to fight for his country he has a duty to do so, but we maintain that when he returns from the war the country for which he has fought and the colours of which he has carried has a duty to provide for his welfare. We say the Government of this country should look after his welfare, irrespective of the cost. That is why we are endeavouring to bring this Government to recognise its responsibility to increase the benefits payable to all returned servicemen. The amendments which we propose to move relate to matters which we believe are essential. One of the proposed amendments seeks the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee to review the whole of the Repatriation Act, which has not been reviewed for 21 years now. The last review was made in 1943. We feel that, in view of changing circumstances and the many anomalies that have been brought to the notice of the Repatriation Department, a thorough review of the Act is warranted. As I have stated, the last occasion on which the Act was reviewed by a joint parliamentary committee was in 1943. On that occasion, the chairman of the committee was the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard).
– A very distinguished chairman.
– A very distinguished gentleman indeed. I am sure that if he had known then what was going to happen from 1949 onwards, many other amendments would have been made to the Repatriation Act. It has to be remembered, too, that when the Act was last reviewed Australia was going through a period of war, when very few men were being discharged from the Services because of illness. At that time, one almost had to be on crutches before one was released. Therefore, there were very few returned servicemen appearing before the various tribunals to prove their cases. Because no man was discharged from the Services unless he was really unfit, pensions were granted almost automatically. Now, 21 years later, after a great many anomalies have arisen, numbers of cases of hardship are being presented not only by members of the Opposition but also by supporters of the Government.
Some honorable members sitting opposite are not satisfied with what the Repatriation Department has been doing. Government supporters have spoken in this chamber of cases that have been brought to their notice. So how can the Government be fair dinkum? The administration of the Repatriation Department is in need of review and the Government should do something about this. What has the Government to hide? If it does not want the Department to be investigated it must have something to hide. The Returned Servicemen’s League has asked that a committee be appointed to investigate the Department, so if the Government is sincere in its attitude let it set up the committee, hold an inquiry and shed more light on the subject. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have asked that a committee be appointed, and the Government should grant our request.
At the committee stage of the bill the Opposition will move an amendment to provide that full medical treatment be granted to ex-servicemen who served in World War I. Many veterans who served in that war are now reaching 70 years of age. Many fought in the Gallopoli campaign, the 50th anniversary of which will occur next year, and many others spent years in the trenches in France. We all realise the conditions under which they fought and that many of them came back to Australia suffering from the effects of gas, a condition which was not reported or a condition the report on which has been lost. We know that many suffered from rheumatism because of the time they spent in the trenches in France. The R.S.L. has submitted to the Government that veterans who served in World War I should be treated for the condition that they suffer from as a result of that service.
The cost to provide a full medical service to these veterans would be about £2 million. 1 do not think it is asking much to provide the service, because within another 10 years most of these veterans will have gone and the Government will be involved in no expense in looking after them. But for the few years left to them they should be looked after by the Government with free medical treatment and free hospitalisation. Government supporters have stated that they are in favour of this proposal, but I am sure that when the numbers go up those honorable members will not stand up and be counted. They will not come over and vote with the Opposition on the proposed amendments because they would not be game and because they are not sincere. They are prepared to talk, but talk is cheap. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) said, the Government will not give these exservicemen the benefit of free treatment for even the short period remaining to them. Government supporters who favour the suggestion, but are not prepared to vote for it, are types who have the hide to talk about repatriation matters and wear the badges of ex-servicemen’s organisations.
Some constituents in my electorate have complained about the composition of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and have asked why there is no right of appeal from the Tribunals. They have asked why the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) has no jurisdiction over the Tribunals and why he cannot influence, or make recommendations to, the Tribunals. The Tribunals are gods of a sort. They cannot be touched by anybody. They are not courts of law but are merely tribunals. In addition, members of the Opposition claim that the Tribunals do not have to give reasons for the rejection of an application. Each of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals has as a chairman a person eligible to practise law, and the other two members represent returned servicemen’s organisations. The Repatriation Department is protected because it has a member of the legal profession present to look after its interests, but the ex-serviceman is allowed only himself or an advocate when appearing before the Tribunal. Is this true British justice? Even the worst criminals are entitled to legal representation, so why should a returned serviceman be deprived of that right? Why does he not have the right to appeal to a higher authority against decisions of the Tribunal? 1 do not think it would be asking much for the Government to give him that right. The Government could do it and should do it.
– The Government has not the will to do it.
– That is right; the Government has not the will to do it. It has been maintained by some doctors that members of the Tribunal do not take enough notice of the doctor’s recommendation. After all, the Tribunal does not have a doctor as one of its members. The members, who are not medically qualified, have evidence placed before them from doctors, yet have the right to reject that evidence. In some cases three doctors may state that in their opinion the applicant’s condition is not due to war injuries, but another doctor may maintain that it is. In such cases, where there is a doubt, section 47 of the Act provides that the onus of proof rests on the department.
On numerous occasions the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals reject applications which are later approved, so there is some scope for a better approach to section 47. As I have said, in some cases the Tribunals override opinions given by doctors, but the appellant has no right of appeal. Some doctors are amazed at some decisions handed down by tribunals and want to know the reason for the decisions, but no reasons are given. No record is made of the evidence that has been presented, and quite often not a word is spoken by the Tribunal. The only words spoken in some cases were used by the ex-serviceman or his advocate. The Tribunal does not even ask questions. The Tribunal is not a court. Applicants just appear before it and present their cases. Nothing is said, and after the members of the Tribunal have deliberated for a couple of minutes they send out word that the application has been accepted or rejected. Because of this procedure only about 30 per cent, of the applications are accepted by the Repatriation Department. 1 suggest that it costs more to reject these applications than to grant the pensions, because over a period of a year there are about 70,000 applications for benefits.
If the time taken by the Tribunals to hear the applications, to make reports and what have you, were calculated it would be found that a considerable sum of money would be involved in maintaining these bodies. We find also that some exservicemen appear before the Board or Commission five or six times before being granted a pension. Applicants are told that it is necessary to produce new evidence, but after they have appeared before the Tribunal five or six times the claim may be accepted without any new evidence being presented. In most cases that should have been the decision in the first place. Perhaps the Repatriation Department rejects applications on the first and second occasions so as to discourage applicants from approaching the Department for a pension. It is only the big hearts that many of these fellows have that enables them to keep coming back until they eventually succeed. There must be loopholes in the Act, and I suggest that it should be reviewed. A joint parliamentary committee should be appointed to ascertain what has happened and to report to the House on its findings. I do not think that that is asking for too much.
I want now to refer to section 47 of the Repatriation Act. Much has been said about this section and the onus of proof provision that it contains. The Paddington/ Woollahra Sub-branch of the R.S.L. in the electorate which I represent has taken a particular interest in section 47. Over a period of 14 years it has been protesting vigorously at every available opportunity about the conditions relating to onus of proof and benefit of doubt not being implemented according to a proper interpretation of the Act. Many articles have been written by one of its members, Kevin Starr, who has done a lot of research into “ Hansard “ reports and has studied the cases of many disgruntled ex-servicemen who have appeared before the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. These articles have appeared in “ Reveille “, which is the voice of the R.S.L. in New South Wales. This Sub-Branch has protested on many occasions to the State Branch. Many other sub-branches have also protested from time to time to their State branches. The State branches in turn have protested to the National Executive, and as as result of those protests the Minister finally decided - I do not know whether it was out of goodness of heart - to set up a committee. I have asked questions in this House regarding this committee. On one occasion the Minister sat me down, saying that the committee was not a select committee. In any case, this committee was set up at the instigation of the Minister and as a result of representations made by the National Executive of the R.S.L. which put before the Minister eight cases in which it submitted that the onus of proof provision in the legislation had not been properly implemented.
Let us have a look at this committee that was established to inquire into these eight cases. It consisted of two members of the Repatriation Commission itself including the Commissioner appointed from the nominees of the League, the Principal Medical Officer of the Department and two other senior and experienced officers. This was the committee established to decide whether the Repatriation Department was observing the provisions of the onus of proof section of the Act. What kind of a committee was this? Was it an impartial committee? Probably most of its members were returned servicemen themselves but I do not think you could say that it was an impartial committee. I am not doubting the integrity of the members of the committee but I do not think it was a fair dinkum committee.
The Principal Medical Officer was a member of the committee. He had probably seen all the papers in connection with the eight cases and was, therefore, being asked to give judgment on matters that had previously been before ‘him. what was his judgment going to be? What was going to be the judgment of the other members of the committee? It was only natural that the committee would find no evidence that the onus of proof provision was not being implemented according to the spirit of the legislation. As this is the section of the Act that causes the greatest amount of controversy, I suggest that we should establish a special committee to look at this part of the Act only. I shall not read the whole of Section 47, but I remind the House that in part it says -
This is the point that has been brought up on numerous occasions. This provision has caused more controversy over the years than any other provision in the Act and I believe that we should adopt the proposal of the R.S.L. and overhaul the provision if this is found either necesary or desirable. The National Executive of the R.S.L. has asked that the section be amended. The section, as at present framed, continues, after the portion 1 have already read -
Then follows paragraph (b) of the subsection. The R.S.L. suggests a further paragraph in the following terms -
In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability.
If this paragraph were incorporated in the legislation I believe it would overcome many of the present difficulties.
– The Minister wouldn’t do that.
– I do not think he would but if he is sincere he should give it a lot of thought and he should accept it if the Government has nothing to hide, because the acceptance of it would make for a little bit of harmony between the Government and the Returned Servicemen’s League. I have before me a document headed “ A Case for the Amendment of Section 47 “ prepared by a committee of the R.S.L., in which the following appears -
Section 47, as at present constituted, clearly stales that the onus of proof for a claim rests with the determining authority, and that the applicant shall be given the benefit of any doubt that exists in his case. In analysing these benefits the questions that immediately come to mind are: -
What evidence must the determining authority provide to properly discharge the onus of proof, and
What constitutes a “doubt”.
These are the questions that concern most of us, particularly the last question: “ What constitutes a doubt?” As I have said, the Minister did establish this committee which inquired into the eight cases to which I referred. It finally made a report and the Minister wrote to the National Executive of the R.S.L., saying that the cases had been fully investigated, that all relevant facts were before the determining authorities and that the Minister for Repatriation could find no reason for the belief that the authorities did not have regard to the provisions of section 47 of the Act. So, as I said, the Minister instituted bis inquiry but did nothing further about the matter.
Over the years we have heard in this Parliament the views of various AttorneysGeneral and other eminent lawyers, on Section 47 of the Repatriation Act. Senator Spicer, when Attorney-General, said -
Ordinarily the onus lies on the party who makes the claim to prove the facts necessary to support it.In the Repatriation Act, Parliament has completely reversed the normal process.
Mr. Joske, Q.C., who now acts as a Justice of the Supreme Court in the Australian Capital Territory, and who was formerly a member of this Parliament, had this to say -
The proper way in which tribunals administering this Act should apply the law is to follow the opinion of the Attorney-General of the day, which has been put before them by the Minister as a correct interpretation of the law.
Dr. Evatt, a former Leader of the Australian Labour Party in this House, and a former Attorney-General, said -
It has not been given and there Is no way of checking it at present by appeal to any tribunal. There is no way in which doctrine of that character can be given effective enforcement except by the presence of some tribunal. You have not really given the benefit of the section to the ex-servicemen.
We have not heard the version of the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) although he may give it at some later time. 1 feel that he should already have given it so that it may be interpreted by the Appeals Tribunals.
In his letter to the National Executive of the R.S.L. the Minister for Repatriation said - 1 think it may fairly be said of the League’s proposals for amendment of Section 47 that they raise no issues of principle which have not been extensively dealt with in earlier correspondence. The effect of the proposed amendment is, of course, to legislate for the automatic acceptance of all conditions of unknown or uncertain origin, and this has already been rejected by the Government. Again, 1 could not agree that a conflict of medical evidence necessarily implies a doubt; it is the duty of the Determining Authorities to assess the evidence as a whole, and if they are then in any doubt the claim must be resolved in favour of the ex-serviceman.
If a conflict of medical evidence does not imply a doubt, then how can an exserviceman show that there is a doubt? If he has no documents to substantiate his evidence there will be nothing to support his claim. It is up to the Government, at least, to give some thought to the amendments that will be proposed at the committee stage by the Opposition. The Government owes it to the ex-servicemen of Australia because the amendments that we will place before it will be those suggested by the Returned Servicemen’s League.
– In reply - I will take up little of the time of the House because I covered the original points in my second reading speech. However, a few matters which have been raised during the debate require some clarification. The first point with which I will deal is one raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine). Apparently he is complaining that the Minister for Repatriation has no jurisdiction over repatriation tribunals - that is Entitlement Appeal Tribunals or Assessment Appeal Tribunals. That is quite correct. That is the very principle on which this system of appeals was founded.
In the first instance these tribunals were set up at the special request of ex-service organisations, principally the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The Entitlement Appeal Tribunals consist of a chairman and two other members and the Assessment Appeal Tribunals consist of a chairman and two medical officers from the panel. All the members, including the chairmen, who are appointed by the Government, are exservicemen. The chairmen of both of these types of tribunals must have legal qualifications. The chairmen of the Assessment Appeal Tribunals and one member of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals must be appointed from a list of names provided by ex-service organisations. I. believe that that indicates very clearly the efforts that are being made to emphasise to appellants that the people who are considering their cases are ex-servicemen themselves.
– Is it suggested that the exserviceman might have an unconscious bias towards his fellow ex-serviceman?
– At least he has a better understanding of conditions. I cannot speak for too far into the future, but whilst exservicemen are available I assume that the present practice will continue. The basic principle on which these tribunals were established was one of independence, to enable them to apply independent thinking to cases and thereby provide better justice. That point should be made quite clear to the honorable member for East Sydney who takes quite an interest in, these matters.
He also referred to some articles which have appeared in the journal of the New South Wales branch of the R.S.L. under the name of a Mr. Starr. I assume that it is one of them that appeared recently. Most of that article referred to a case in which a decision had been given by the High Court of Australia. I am sorry to say that the first part of the article contained quite a number of half-truths. We have considered this matter and we do not think the article, as it stands, is really worthy of a reply. As a matter of interest, I might say that I understand that Mr. Starr was a candidate for the Australian Labour Party in New South Wales on one occasion. Obvously that makes his articles completely unbiased.
This second reading debate has had three main characteristics. The first was the opening speech made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I am pleased to see that he has been promoted again; he opened the debate for the Opposition on this occasion. I suggest that his speech was very similar to the speech that he made on the Repatriation Bill last year. In fact, very few new matters have been raised. That is understandable under the existing circumstances. The second characteristic was the foreshadowing by most Opposition speakers of five amendments which will be considered very shortly, in the committee stage.
The third characteristic was the rather unusual attack by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) on the largest exservice organisation, the R.S.L. I was very surprised, as I am sure many of his colleagues were, that he introduced the subject as he did. I consider his remarks to be a scandalous attack on members, principally the executive, of this great organisation which has well over 250,000 members, has nearly 3,000 sub-branches throughout Australia and the Territories and is the largest public organisation in Australia. I think his attack was completely unwarranted. I do not doubt that the statements that he made could be answered quite suitably by the people who probably were included in his implications, if they thought his remarks were worthy of comment.
The reason why I refer to this matter is that the honorable member attributed a statement to me. Had his remarks appeared only in “ Hansard “, perhaps I would not have been concerned about the matter. But they appeared fairly prominently in certain metropolitan newspapers today. Therefore, I feel that I should refute the statement that has been attributed to me. I was supposed to have threatened the R.S.L. by saying to it: “ If you do not play the game softly “ - I think that was the expression - “ we will remove this privilege that you have of each year putting your repatriation pensions plan before a committee of the Cabinet “. Of course, that is completely fantastic. This privilege has been extended for some years now. I am sure it is prized very highly by the League. I have mentioned it on a number of occasions at State congresses and so forth merely to indicate the standing of this organisation in the community, and for no other purpose.
– Did you start it?
– No, I did not. It was In operation when I became Minister for Repatriation and I was very pleased to carry it on. I hope that it will continue in the future. I merely refute the statement that was made by the honorable member for Lang to the effect that I had made a statement from which that type of threat could be inferred.
The honorable member for Bass criticised my second-reading speech by saying that it was much shorter than the second-reading speech on the Repatriation Bill last year. Of course, that is quite correct, because in my speech this year I was dealing solely with the Budget proposals, which are financial proposals. As honorable members will have noticed, no other minor amendments were included in the Bil] on this occasion. That matter may be dealt with later. Because on this occasion we were dealing solely with financial proposals, naturally the speech dealt with those proposals and not with the many matters over which this debate has ranged.
I appreciated the references that the honorable member for Bass made to the staff of the Repatriation Department. Those references were supported by one or two other honorable members. But I am afraid they were rather destroyed later by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). Nevertheless, the thought behind those references is appreciated. I have exactly the same sentiments. I appreciate the dedication of the officers of the Department, particularly the senior officers, to their work.
There are many other matters in relation to the various rates of pensions which should be dealt with. Perhaps I can cover that point briefly by saying in answer to the honorable member for Bass that in 1950, when this Government took office, a complete review was made, as had been promised in 1949. New benefits were introduced, restrictions were removed and eligibility was widened. During the years this Government has been in office quite a wide Tange of other amendments have been introduced and new benefits have been included in the Act. I am sure that the honorable member for Bass, who has made a study of the repatriation system, would be the first to acknowledge the changes that have occurred during that time. The honorable member asked to be informed of the number of war widows who were receiving the domestic allowance. At present, approximately 40,500 war widows receive a pension. Of these, approximately 38,000 or 94 per cent, receive the domestic allowance as well as a pension. The remaining 2,500 are principally war widows who are capable of employment, who are under 50 years of age and who have no children under the age of 16 years or who are students. I think that provides the information sought by the honorable member. Of course, in addition to the straight out financial benefits war widows and their children under 16 years of age receive medical benefits, and children under the age of 16 years also receive a war pension.
I think I should refer to one point that I did not mention in my second reading speech because it was not covered by the proposals in the Bill. This relates to our medical organisation. The honorable member for Bass asked why I did not refer to the medical organisation. We are very proud of this organisation and 1 am very happy at the drop of a hat at any time to refer to it. I am vitally interested in it and my intention is to ensure that the service provided is the best available not only in this country but in any part of the world. I think we have gone a long way towards achieving this objective. Our repatriation medical service is the largest integrated medical service in Australia at present. We have 27 hospitals and related institutions and a staff of over 6,000 providing medical services. We also have more than 5,000 local medical officers participating in the scheme. When changing needs demand additional treatment facilities they are provided, and when medical science advances we will be the first to take avantage of the developments.
I was a little disappointed in the honorable member for Bass when he claimed that in this measure, and apparently in the past, the Government had shown little consideration for ex-servicemen. I think they were the terms of his reference. I was surprised that a person of his standing would make such a statement. When we look at the extent of the repatriation system today we get some idea of the service that is being provided. Today, approximately 670,000 pensioners receive war pensions and nearly 62,000 receive service pensions. Some service pensioners also receive a war pension. We are providing for about 732,000 people in Australia. The number of people receiving benefits is a very large part of the absolute maximum number that could possibly be entitled to any form of benefit. Of course, with the widening of eligibility by various means year by year and with other changes, the percentage will increase.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred pretty extensively to the 1943 review and said that we should have another review. I agree that the review in 1943 was far ranging. I think the honorable member for Lalor was chairman of the committee and the committee certainly did a very good job. However, the job at that time was a wartime preparation for a postwar repatriation system. The repatriation system had to be modified to meet the changed conditions after World War II, and this sort of review could not be applied to a peacetime situation. I think I should clear up a point raised by my colleague, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who referred to a Press statement that the repatriation system will terminate in 1980. I want to correct this statement. I gave some information on this point in response to a question asked in the House. Unfortunately, by a most unusual circumstance, my answer was misreported and the Press report stated that the repatriation system would terminate in 1980. That is completely incorrect. What I said was that the peak demand for repatriation benefits would not occur until some time between 1975 and 1980 and even after that the demand would taper off only very slowly. I make this correction, because the statement in the Press was attributed to me.
During the debate it was said that doctors decide who will and who will not receive pensions and, apparently, what the rate of pension will be. I make it quite clear to the House that the determining authorities - the Repatriation Board, the Commission and the Tribunals - make these decisions, and the doctors only provide evidence that is considered by these authorities.
– That is of profound importance.
– It is, yes. Perhaps the most disappointing speech among a group of speeches which” were, I think, fairly moderate on this occasion, was the speech of the honorable member for Blaxland. He has apparently based his conceptions on a misunderstanding. He referred to psychiatric cases that are being handled by my department, and his remarks showed that he is completely confused. Apparently he saw some figures in the annual report for 1962-63. Incidentally, the annual report for the last financial year will be available before the Estimates are debated. The honorable member said that marry exservicemen were in institutions provided by the State Governments. That is quite correct, because our psychiatric patients are in institutions that are administered by the State Governments. We have an arrangement with all the State Governments that they will cater for our patients in this way. In most cases we have our own wards; in some cases we provide our own staff; in some cases other arrangements are made regarding messing and administrative matters, and these arrangements keep the repatriation patients quite separate from patients in the institution generally. In other words, ex-servicemen who are psychiatric patients in these institutions receive special treatment.
I can assure the honorable member that, if we can be proud of any one aspect of the repatriation medical system, we can be proud of the psychiatric work. We undertook a very substantial and extensive survey of psychiatry within the last two years and we are now in the process of implementing the recommendations made as a result of the survey. Although our standard of treatment is as high as the standard of any similar treatment in Australia today, the changes we are making will bring our standard to an even higher level. I point out that a royal commission in New South Wales which investigated the problem of psychiatric treatment and mental hospitals a few years ago commented very favorably on the comparatively high standard of the service provided by the Repatriation Department in its own wards in the State institutions. 1 merely say that the claim by the honorable member for Blaxland that some members of the Repatriation Department staff are inhuman and that they discharge people too early from hospital should be completely refuted. His remarks were in direct conflict with the rather kind remarks of his colleague, the honorable member for Bass. I understand that in Committee the Opposition proposes to move some amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2a.
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “2a. After section twenty-one of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted: -
Part 11a. - Joint Committee on Repatriation.
– (l.) As soon as conveniently practicable after the commencement of this Part, a Joint Committee of nine members of the Parliament, to be called the Joint Committee on Repatriation, shall be appointed according to the practice of the Parliament with reference to the appointment of members to serve on Joint Committees of both Houses of Parliament. (2.) Three of the members of the Committee shall be members of and appointed by the Senate, and six of the members of the Committee shall be members of and appointed by the House of Representatives. 22a. The members of the Committee shall hold office as a Joint Committee until the House of Representatives for the time being expires by dissolution or effluxion of time. 22b. - (1.) Any member of the Committee may resign his seat on the Committee by writing under his hand addressed to the President of the Senate if be be a senator, or to the Speaker of the House of Representatives if he be a member of the House of Representatives. (2.) The seat of any member of the Committee shall be deemed to have become vacant if he ceases to be a senator or a member of the House of Representatives (as the case may be). 22c. Where the seat of any member of the Committee becomes vacant, it shall be filled by appointment according to the practice referred to in section twenty-two of this Act within fifteen sitting days after the happening of the vacancy if the House of the Parliament of which he is a member is then sitting, or, if not, then within fifteen sitting days after the next meeting of that House. 22d. There shall be a Chairman and a ViceChairman of the Committee, who shall be elected by the members of the Committee at their first meeting, or as soon thereafter as is practicable. 22e. At any meeting of the Committee -
Parliament is actually sitting) and in such places, and conduct their proceedings in such maimer, as they deem proper. 22g. The Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records.
*22n. The powers, privileges and immunities of the Committee and of its members shall be those of each of the Houses of the Parliament and of its members and its committees. 22j. The Committee shall examine the Repatriation Act and regulations and, in a report to the Parliament, recommend amendments necessary to be made in the Act and regulations to remove existing anomalies and improve their provisions.’.”.
The amendment proposes the appointment of a joint committee of both Houses of this Parliament to inquire into matters affecting repatriation, to report generally to the Parliament on matters affecting the welfare of ex-servicemen, to suggest how some of the anomalies now apparent in the Repatriation Act may be removed and in particular to suggest improvements to the Act. The amendment has been circulated to honorable members, who have had an opportunity to study the Opposition’s proposal. The crux of the proposal will be found in proposed new section 22J, which reads -
The Committee shall examine the Repatriation Act and regulations and, in a report to the Parliament, recommend amendments necessary to be made in the Act and regulations to remove existing anomalies and improve their provisions.
An amendment in similar terms to that now before the Committee was moved in 1963 when the Repatriation Act was under discussion. The Opposition makes no apology for again submitting the amendment in exactly the same form as the amendment proposed last year. I move this amendment because my colleagues and I believe that the establishment of a committee of the kind proposed is long overdue.
Honorable members are, of course, aware that the last committee appointed by this Parliament in much the same terms as we have proposed in our amendment was appointed in 1943. As honorable members were told during the course of the debate on the second reading of the Bill, the chairman of the committee appointed in 1943 was the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I do not think any honorable member will deny that following the deliberations of that committee 21 years ago improvements were effected to the Act. In 1943 the committee dealt particularly with section 47, which refers to the onus of proof.
Although the committee’s recommendations effected improvements to the Act, this does not mean that further improvements are not necessary at this stage. The Opposition believes that a committee of the type now proposed is necessary. Last year when we proposed an amendment in these terms the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) indicated that the Government was not prepared to accept our amendment, although he pointed out that it had been carefully considered by him, by the Government and by his Department. On that occasion the Minister did not give any valid reason to the Parliament why a committee of this type could not be appointed. The Opposition was not satisfied with the Minister’s arguments in 1963. 1 only hope that today the Minister will be able to agree to the appointment of this committee. I know that some honorable members on the Government side would support our proposal if the Minister were prepared to give a lead.
Even if a committee of the type we propose was not responsible for improving the Act in any way, surely the Minister can see that such a committee could not do any harm. The Minister must be aware that various ex-servicemen’3 organisations such as the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association and the Blinded Ex-servicemen’s Association have made certain recommendations to the Government, particularly concerning the vexed matter of section 47 of the Act. The appointment of a committee would provide these organisations with an opportunity to state their case and to say how they think improvements to the Act may be effected.
I do not want at this stage to deal with section 47 in its entirety. Quite apart from complaints that have been made outside this Parliament, we know from things that have been said during this debate that some dissatisfaction exists among the various exservicemen’s organisations concerning this matter. Those organisations should have every opportunity of placing before a joint committee of this Parliament their recommendations and their complaints.
Twenty-one years is a long time. We all acknowledge that with the growth of the Repatriation Department in Australia in that time it is inevitable that some anomalies will have arisen. The Minister said last year that it was not possible to agree to the appointment of a committee of the kind we now propose. He said that the circumstances which now exist differ considerably from those which existed in 1943 when the last committee was appointed. The Minister overlooks the fact that in recent years the Government has found it necessary to agree to the appointment of other committees, comprised either of members of this Parliament or, in some cases, of persons outside the Parliament. Why was it necessary, for example, for the Government to appoint a committee to investigate constitutional reform? Why did the Government appoint a committee to examine the economic situation of this country? Why has the Government appointed committees to inquire into industrial, social and economic affairs? The answer to those questions is that the Government was obliged to appoint such committees because it felt that improvements were necessary and that recommendations should be placed before it. We believe that the same circumstances apply so far as repatriation is concerned. The Minister has no valid argument against the appointment of such a committee. All he does is adopt the dogmatic attitude that the Government is responsible for its own affairs and, therefore, is not prepared to agree to the appointment of a committee.
We acknowledge that the Government has a sub-committee of ex-servicemen appointed from the Cabinet but that committee deals largely with matters of policy. It does not deal with the broad issues of controversy to which the R.S.L. and other ex-servicemen’s organisations have directed their attention in recent years. The Minister pointed out also that there is an exservicemen’s committee formed of members of the Government parties. That is very good. The Opposition has a similar committee. On the advice of that committee the Opposition has, over the years, submitted recommendations to the Parliament, but none of those recommendations has been accepted.
We say at this stage that if the Government is prepared to accept the amendment and establish a Joint Committee on Repatriation, it may not be necessary for us to proceed with the other amendments that we have circulated. Every one of the proposals contained in the amendments circulated by the Opposition has been sub- mitted to the Government and supported by various organisations representing the great bulk of ex-servicemen throughout Australia. All these matters could quite properly be put before the proposed Committee. Why should not the members of this Parliament, for example, have an opportunity to receive the views of the various organisations responsible for the affairs of ex-servicemen, especially on matters such as the administration of section 47 of the principal Act - the onus of proof section - and the question of whether cancer should be accepted as a war caused disability and of whether free medical treatment in repatriation hospitals should be accorded to the wives of totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen? These are matters that should be considered by a committee of the kind proposed.
The arguments advanced during 1963 by the Minister in support of the Government’s refusal to appoint a Joint Committee on Repatriation were not acceptable to the Opposition. He was not able to advance one valid reason why the Government could not agree to the appointment of such a committee. I point out that we do not intend that the proposed Committee shall trespass on the Government’s proper responsibilities in these matters. We do not intend that the Committee shall deal with matters such as the Government’s policy on questions related to rates of pension. Those are matters for the Government, and we acknowledge that fact. But we believe that there are various fundamental principles which affect the great mass of exservicemen in this country and which can be satisfactorily dealt with by a committee of the type that we propose.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. The reasons for rejecting it are broadly the same as those stated last year. Again, those reasons are rejected by the Opposition. So we are back where we were last year. I know of no Commonwealth act that is subjected to more reviews and examinations or is the subject or more means of consultation than ohe Repatriation Act.
– What about the Social Services Act?
– lt is not subject to these things to the same degree. The imposition of another committee on the existing system of regular reviews of the Repatriation Act would be just a waste of time in the Government’s view. In the Parliament, in the administrative sense, opportunities are provided for honorable members to bring to the attention of the Government all the matters that have been raised in the discussion on this Bill. Those opportunities occur at regular intervals when amending measures of this type are submitted to the Parliament.
We must remember that, for obvious reasons, there has been only one major review of the Repatriation Act, Mr. Temporary Chairman. In 1920, a number of acts then in existence were consolidated to provide a repatriation system adequate to deal with the situation arising after the termination of World War I. The system was extended in the succeeding years, subject to regular reviews by the Parliament. Again, in 1943, in the midst of World War II, as has already been mentioned in an earlier stage of the consideration of this measure, a committee of review was appointed to establish guide lines for the repatriation system to enable it to deal with the changed situation expected to exist after the war. The appointment of that committee is completely understandable and was necessary. In those circumstances, the principal Act was reviewed, quite a number of amendments were made and the Act was consolidated again.
In the years since, of course, we have lived in peacetime conditions and have not been faced with the return from a war of a large number of service personnel who would come within the scope of the repatriation system. In these circumstances, we believe that the present system, with the existing opportunities for review, is quite satisfactory. Let us consider those opportunities for review. When we look at the situation, we find that, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has said, there is within the Ministry a committee which, at regular intervals, reviews the Act. At least once a year, this committee meets a deputation composed of members of the National Executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and discusses the whole of the League’s pensions plan and other matters relating to the repatriation system. The honorable member for Bass suggested that this ministerial committee merely considers a narrow selection of matters associated with the Act, but that is not so. The committee considers the whole of the ramifications of the Act, and matters related to repatriation, at least once each year and, when special circumstances arise, more often. This committee of the Ministry, of which I happen to be chairman, is very important.
In addition, several parliamentary committees examine repatriation problems. We have the Government Members Exservicemen’s Committee under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), whom I now have the honour of addressing as the occupant of the Chair. This Committee meets at regular intervals to discuss repatriation matters and to make recommendations thereon to the Government. The Opposition also has an exservicemen’s committee. I am not certain who is chairman at present, but I think it is probably the honorable member for Bass. I understand that that Committee meets fairly regularly to discuss matters relating to the repatriation system. I shall be very glad to meet the members of the Opposition committee at any time to hear representations from them and to discuss with them any points they wish to raise.
In addition to the reviews of the repatriation system by bodies associated with the Parliament, an almost continuous review is made by various organisations representing ex-servicemen. The Returned Servicemen’s League, which is the principal of these organisations, has a special pensions committee which closely reviews repatriation matters throughout the year and gradually, as a result of resolutions received from the State branches of the League, formulates a consolidated plan. But the formulation of that consolidated plan does not represent the League’s entire work for the year in the field of repatriation. Hundreds of other repatriation matters are submitted by the R.S.L. to the Government each year for consideration. Honorable members should not think that the League contents itself with merely submitting a consolidated pensions plan once each year. Every year, it considers resolutions on several hundred other matters relating to repatriation - many of them minor - which can be dealt with by regulation or by minor amendments of the principal Act if the League’s proposals are acceptable to the Government. Indeed, on numerous occasions its proposals have been accepted by the Government.
In addition to the Returned Servicemen’s League, Mr. Temporary Chairman, all the other organisations of ex-servicemen in Australia regularly write to the Government and consult with us on repatriation affairs. All these organisations hold regular meetings at which such matters are considered before being submitted to the Government. Indeed, a deputation from one organisation is now in this building waiting to see me on a repatriation matter.
So I think I am justified in claiming, as I did at the outset, that no Commonwealth act is subjected more often to review and consideration by the Parliament generally, by members of the Parliament individually and as members of committees, and by organisations outside the Parliament than the Repatriation Act. In these circumstances, the Government regards the amendment proposed by the Opposition as unacceptable.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Minister has given no valid reason for the rejection of the amendment proposed on behalf of the Opposition by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). Indeed, I thought that the Minister, in his closing sentences, added support to the case made by the Opposition when he said that many organisations are continually making representations to him as Minister. I suggest that this makes it clear that many organisations are not satisfied with various aspects of the present Repatriation Act, and I regard this as a substantial reason why the Committee should accept the amendment. The operations of the Repatriation Department arc very wide and complex. In the Minister’s own words, the Department operates 27 hospitals and has a staff of some 6,000.
– That is medical staff only.
– The Department has a medical staff of some 6,000 and has 5,000 local medical officers acting on its behalf. All these people are concerned with the treatment of ex-servicemen.
Ex-servicemen’s needs are changing. There has been so much scientific development in this modern age that we must be sure that the Repatriation Department is keeping up with this development. When I say “ we “, I mean that it is the responsiblity not only of the Government but also of the Parliament to see that the exservicemen get a good deal, that we are keeping up with modern trends and that we are ironing out all the difficulties that arise.
The Opposition does not want the proposed joint committee to usurp the Government’s responsibilities. No-one denies that at Budget time the Government will determine what rates of pension will be paid. Obviously, that is the Government’s responsibility, but it is the Parliament’s responsiblity to see that complaints - there are complaints about repatriation matters - are investigated and that the ex-servicemen get a better deal. I have listened with interest to the second reading debate and it appears that the Opposition has given notice of a number of amendments - amendments which have been proposed on many occasions in the past - which have been suggested by many of the organisations which the Minister states make representations to him. I have heard Government members say continuously that we just cannot do better. In effect, they have claimed that the Repatriation Act and the way in which it is administered are perfect. Of course, that is just ridiculous. The Act is not perfect.
– No-one has even said that,
– As the honorable member for Ballaarat has said, nothing is perfect.
– He is a good example of that.
– The honorable member for Lalor is on the right track. The representations that the Minister has received indicate that the Act is not perfect. It is obvious that the Opposition disagrees with this claim of perfection. The R.S.L. and other organisations like the T.P.I. Association, the Air Force Association, the Navalmen’s Association and others have made suggestions and requests for changes in the Act or for the existing provisions of the Act to be administered differently. We cannot deny that there is some dissatisfaction at the way in which the Act operates. Legitimate suggestions have been advanced by various organisations and by the Opposition for its improvement. Surely it would be a good thing if members of all parties from both Houses of the Parliament got together in a joint committee to take evidence on these matters and to determine what should be done about the continual complaints which have been the subject of debate in this Chamber over a number of years. I refer, for instance, to section 47 of the Act which relates to the onus of proof, surely a matter which causes a great deal of concern to many ex-servicemen who feel - some of them rightly, some perhaps wrongly - that they have not been given a fair deal. It is very important that we see that justice is not only done but is also seen to be done.
There are other aspects relating to medical benefits for the wives of T.P.I, pensioners and the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability that warrant inquiry. These and other matters could be discussed by the proposed joint committee, and evidence could be taken from experts and interested persons throughout the Commonwealth. What has the Minister or the Government to hide? Why do they not want this evidence given? As I have said, we are not endeavouring to usurp the Government’s responsibilities. We ask only that the committee be appointed, that it take evidence and that it submit recommendations. That is fair enough. If the Minister and the Government continue in their present attitude towards our proposed amendment they clearly have something to hide.
The Minister has advanced no valid argument for the Government’s opposition to our proposal. Surely it can be no argument for the Minister merely to say that 1943 is a long time ago. I could say that 1980 is a long time ahead. Many changes will take place between now and then. That is about the year when, the Minister states, there will be a peak demand for repatriation benefits. Surely a joint committee would be the appropriate body to look into the changes that will be necessary. I support the proposed amendment.
.- I cannot accept the attitude of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) on the Opposition’s proposed amendment. It is very naive for the Minister to say in justification of his refusal to appoint an all-party committee to deal with the Repatriation Act that he, as Minister, has all sorts of opportunities to confer with executives of the Returned Servicemen’s League and other organisations. Admittedly he has within the ambit of his department a group of most capable officers. Cabinet sub-committees are common to all governments, and will continue to be common to all governments, but the plain fact is that there are subject matters which this Parliament as a whole would be more able to deal with justly and adequately if, prior to making a decision, it had before it a recommendation from an all-party committee of the Parliament. I think history records as much.
Yesterday the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) stated in the Parliament his belief that ex-servicemen of the First World War should be accepted for medical and hospital treatment without question as to whether their disabilities were due to war service. But when he learned that the Opposition proposed an amendment along those lines he jibbed and said that he hoped this matter would be dealt with in the near future. I make bold enough to say that I believe that if an all-party committee had dealt with repatriation matters last year it is a certainty that that particular problem would have been raised and that the committee would have reached a unanimous decision on it. I have not the slightest doubt that a recommendation would have been made to the Parliament along the lines now suggested by the Opposition, and that the recommendation would have been accepted by the Parliament.
It is possible to obtain agreement among members of parliamentary committees on a wide rang; of subject matters on which, within the Parliament itself, we are unable to obtain agreement because of marked party divisions. That is common to all Parliaments. There have been noteworthy examples of all-party committees working together amicably, agreeing on a compromise and reaching agreement. The 1943 all-party committee on repatriation is a case in point. It comprised some most able and distinguished returned soldier members of this Parliament - the late Honorable Allan MacDonald, the late Speaker of this Parliament, Mr. Archie Cameron, and some equally distinguished members of the Opposition. The committee carried out its work promptly. It had an advantage which the Minister does not have. It was able to call before it departmental officers who, untrammelled by publicity or anything else, volunteered information of a most valuable character. We committee members had the opportunity to examine and crossexamine those officers and to call such, and as many, executives of the ex-servicemen’s organisations as we chose, to give their point of view. The outcome was unanimity and a first class report. I think the Parliament accepted the Committee’s recommendations without question, with substantial advantage to the people concerned.
When repatriation questions are discussed, the hope is expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House that they can be dealt with in an all party manner. But, inevitably, some rancour creeps in. That sort of thing does not occur with all party parliamentary committees. They are successful in avoiding that occurrence. I will give another illustration of this. The question arose, as it was bound to, of the payment of war gratuities. I think I was the member of the Labour Caucus who suggested we should deal with it. The late John Curtin appointed a parliamentary committee to deal with the question of the payment of war gratuities. If a measure had been brought into this Parliament to deal with that question, one side would have attempted to bid the other side out of the market. But an all party committee produced a unanimous report. A most successful proposal was then put before this Parliament and it operated without any trouble whatsoever.
The Minister’s alibi for not wanting to appoint an all party parliamentary committee is that he has information from all sources and that the R.S.L. has subcommittees and all sorts of people dealing with a wide range of questions. That is true enough. However, sub-committees are not infallible by any means. I could demonstrate that fact, if I had the time, and show that they are like any other human institution. The Minister says that the Committee in 1943 might have been necessary but that as we have been dealing with this subject since that time it is not now necessary to have such a committee. I think it is necessary. A great deal more could be done in repatriation matters.
Unfortunately, I, and I am sure other members on both sides of this Parliament, have met a wide range of expressions of dissatisfaction regarding the work of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. I am not prepared to say that they are all wrong. These Tribunals deal with most difficult subject matters. But there is the impression abroad in the community that they are not as courteous to the appellant returned soldier as they might be. I do not know if that is so. I have never appeared before such a Tribunal. I do not do that type of work.
– That is not a very kind statement to make.
– What is not a kind statement?
– That the Tribunals are not courteous.
– I implied that it is alleged to be so. I do not accept the allegation as necessarily being true, but numbers of ex-servicemen appear before War Pension Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and come away aggrieved. I know also that a number of the advocates who appear for these exservicemen before these Tribunals likewise come away aggrieved. Within the last few years, I have brought before this Parliament at least three cases in which first class men were turned down for war pensions by Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. There was no justification for the rejection of those claims. Following my representations in this Parliament and other activities in which I indulged, the men were subsequently accepted as eligible for the payment of benefits.
If an all party parliamentary committee were appointed it would at least have a look at personnel and other features which hinder the operation of some of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. The complaints which are made may be exaggerated. On the other hand, the personnel may not be temperamentally suited to the jobs of which they are in charge. The job is most difficult. It is the general opinion of people who appear before these Tribunals that the personnel may not examine the files as fully as they should. I admit that their job is a terrible one, but these matters are in doubt. We are not going to have the Minister come into the Chamber and tell us that he has examined come complaints regarding the operations of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, that he found the Tribunals wanting, and that he is going to sack them. At least, a joint committee would tend to do justice to people who have complained. They could be asked to come before the committee and tell their story as they see it. We are entitled to endeavour to find out whether there is any manner or means by which the operations of these Tribunals can be improved.
The old question of Section 47 also intrudes into our consideration. I regret that the Government has not seen fit to appoint the suggested joint committee. It is most useful to have departmental officers, who are experts in these matters, come along and disillusion you in regard to some of the ideas you may have; to put a block of evidence before you verbally to convince you that you are wrong and they are right, or vice versa. Where weaknesses showed up, suitable action could be taken by way of a recommendation from the committee to overcome them. The committee would help the departmental officers, the Minister, and the Parliament and would see that justice was done to these men about whom we talk so glibly as being what they are. I leave the matter at that, although I am disappointed in the Minister. I hope, even at this late stage, that he will reconsider his attitude and take some action in another place.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to refer to one or two matters relating to the amendment that has been proposed by the Opposition concerning the appointment of 0 joint committee of both He uses of this
Parliament to investigate the anomalies that we believe arise under the Repatriation Act as it stands at the moment. So far, only the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) has spoken to the amendment from the Government side. One could assume from this either that Government members are not interested in the proposed amendment or that they agree with it. The Minister referred this afternoon to the Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee, which concerns itself with matters affecting the welfare of ex-servicemen in Australia. One would think that there must be one, two or even more members of that Committee who are prepared either to oppose or to support the proposed amendment. But, as I have said, only one person on the Government side has spoken to it. It was left to the Minister to say that the Government was not prepared to accept the proposed amendment. Surely some honorable members on the Government side of the Committee ought to give reasons for opposing it. If they are not supporting it, they are obviously opposing it. Therefore, they ought to be prepared to stand up and say why they intend to vote against it.
Nothing that has been said by the Minister convinces me that the Government has any valid reason for not accepting the proposed amendment. The Committee set up by the Labour Government in 1943 to review the Act suggested, amongst other things, that there should be established a joint committee of the Parliament to deal with matters such as those to which reference has been made during this debate - matters affecting the welfare of ex-servicemen in this country. The Committee which was chaired by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) having recommended that a joint committee be established, moves were made by the Labour Government to set up such a committee, and I understand that members of the present Government parties, who then sat in opposition, opposed its establishment. But we believe that what has happened in the period between then and now makes necessary the appointment of a committee to overhaul the present legislation.
What does our proposal suggest? It Suggets that we establish a joint committee composed of nine members of this Parliament, equally representative of the Government and the Opposition, six to come from the House of Representatives and three to come from another place. As 1 said when moving the amendment, even if a committee of this type were not able to make one suggestion to the Government for improving the present Act, at least it would be a position to hear the views of the various organisations which represent ex-servicemen in this country. In my opinion and in the opinion of all honorable members on this side of the Committee, it is not sufficient that the Federal Executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League should have the opportunity once each year of meeting a sub-committee of the Cabinet. The rank and file ex-servicemen also want an opportunity to place their views before the Government. I suggest that a committee of the type that we propose would be able to hear evidence, not only from the Federal Executive of the R.S.L., but also from any one of the State branches of that organisation. Undoubtedly the need for such a committee does exist.
Earlier this afternoon I mentioned one or two questions that a committee of this type would want to consider. One is the question of the onus of proof. Another is the question whether this Parliament ought to be more generous and accept as being war caused many disabilities which now have to be submitted to the various repatriation tribunals. Then there is the question of the overhaul of the tribunals themselves. Whilst not criticising the tribunals, we cannot dismiss lightly the number of complaints that have been submitted to the Minister and to individual members of this Parliament with relation to the administration of the onus of proof provisions of the Act. We know that there is a great need to overhaul section 47 of the Act. A committee of the type which the Opposition proposes would be in a position to consider evidence concerning not only section 47 but many other matters that have been referred to by honorable members on this side.
I am very disappointed that the Minister has not been able to offer some valid reasons for the Government’s opposition to the appointment of the committee that we propose. As I said a few moments ago, it may be that there are some members on the Government side who would be prepared to support our amendment. Indeed, I think this is obvious from their reluctance to rise and oppose it. Surely there must be some members of the Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee who have some feelings on this matter and who recognise that there is substance in the amendment we have proposed. If they think there is substance in it, they ought to be prepared to stand up and support it.
The Minister has criticised the amendment on the ground that a review is not now necessary. He explained that the last committee to review the Act was appointed during the war years. I suggest there are many circumstances which show that the appointment of a select committee is equally as important today as it was in 1943. I mention, for example, the question of the privileges of ex-servicemen from the First World War. It is now 44 years since the ex-servicemen from the First World War were discharged. During that time, their physical conditions have deteriorated, not improved, and I submit that a committee of this Parliament should have the opportunity of examining that question, together with the other questions to which I have referred. There is a need for a joint parliamentary committee, and I suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider his decision even at this stage and agree to the appointment of a committee of both Houses to consider matters relating to the requirements of ex-servicemen generally in Australia. Such a committee certainly could do no harm. The Minister and many other honorable members have referred to the work of the Repatriation Department in very generous terms. We acknowledge the great work the Department has done. However, the Department is concerned largely with Government policy and has no jurisdiction over the matters to which we have referred. No department - particularly the Repatriation Department - is prepared to deal with matters that are not largely decided by Government policy. On the other hand, if a joint committee had the power to interview officers of the Repatriation Department I have no doubt that those officers, if they had the power and if they had permission to appear before a committee of the type we now propose, would be in a position to support many of the suggestions made by honorable members on this side during this debate. I have no doubt these officers, with their experience of a great many years, could make a contribution in that respect.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said that honorable members on this side should give their reasons for not voting for this amendment. I reminded the honorable member by interjection that I had stated my objection to the amendment during the second-reading debate. I see no reason why I should state my reasons again.
My second reason for speaking at this stage is to say that no government will allow an opposition to take the business of the House out of its hands. If the Government wanted a committee such as the one proposed it would appoint one. These repatriation matters have been considered by the Government, which has reached decisions on them. Now the Opposition and the honorable member for Bass speak as though their proposition were something completely new. I remind the honorable member that he brought the matter up last year and also the year before.
– I am sorry; he brought it up last year. The Government has a programme for repatriation and it is working on it. The Government will not allow the Opposition to bulldoze it into doing something that the Opposition wants. The Government has studied all these things. If it thinks a committee is necessary it will appoint one.
– Are you opposed to the move?
– I will vote against the amendment.
– Are you opposed to the establishment of a committee?
– I will vote against the amendment moved by the Opposition. I would not vote for Opposition amendments if I thought my vote would defeat the Government and put the Opposition in office. That is plain enough.
– Do you agree that it is a good amendment?
– No, I do not. All sorts of propositions are put forward by honorable members opposite, who say that Government supporters should vote for them, but if the position were such that the vote of a Government supporter would put the Opposition in office, it would be much more important that the Government should be kept in office to continue the measures that ex-servicemen have found beneficial rather than allow a Socialist government to come in. Therefore, if I thought that my vote would defeat the Government I would not vote for any Opposition amendment. On this occasion my vote would not have that effect and therefore I could quite easily vote for the amendment if I wanted to. On this occasion my vote would not enable the Opposition to defeat the Government. But it would not have the effect of changing the legislation, the only effect it would have would be to give me publicity of a kind that I do not seek. The only result of my voting with the Opposition would be to get headlines in the Press saying: “ Member for Mallee votes against Government.” I would not be consistent, I would not be genuine in voting with the Opposition if at another time, when the Government had a majority of only one, I would not vote with the Opposition. That is a matter of fundamental principle. On this occasion I will not vote for the amendment on any consideration advanced by the honorable member for Bass. All these things are well known to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who is now in the Chamber, and he realises very quickly the logic of my remarks.
– No I don’t.
– I hope he realised the logic of my remarks at an earlier stage when I said that he and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) had kept well out of the debate, although on the Government side, honorable members from the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to backbenchers were pledged to support the Budget.
– Where are the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister?
– They supported the Bill.
– And then they ran away to their dugouts.
– No, they supported it. The Opposition is proposing the amendment, but not the Leader of the Opposition, unless I can fire him into getting up and saying a few words, or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because both know full well that if the day comes when they are in office - I cannot see them getting into office1 - they would have to implement what they now say, whereas backbenchers have not the same responsibility.
.- I support the well reasoned case presented by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), which was supported so tellingly by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I am astonished at the performance of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) who opened his remarks by saying that if he felt that his vote on this amendment would not defeat the Government, he would vote for it. He made an assessment of the amendment prior to hearing the case presented to the Committee. In fairness, what is the responsibility of the honorable member for Mallee in this place? Is it to preserve the Government or to perform a service for the exservicemen and women of this country?
This amendment proposes the establishment of a joint committee for the purpose of taking the question of justice for those who served this country out of the theatre of the Parliament, taking it away from the rancour of political disputation which occurs year in and year out. It proposes the establishment of the committee to discuss boldly and clearly these matters and try to reach a decision in the best interests of those for whom the legislation originally was provided and whom it serves at the present time. I submit that there are many anomalies in the current legislation. There are many people who feel that they have a very great grievance against the Government. They feel that the nation has let them down because their war caused disabilities have not been recognised by the Repatriation Department. The flood of letters that comes from time to time to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and to the Department bears testimony to the great dissatisfaction that now exists in Australia among sections of ex-servicemen and women. They would like to see a new approach made.
The honorable member for Bass and the honorable member for Lalor both pointed out many grievous anomalies. They referred to the onus of proof, a matter which has been raised time and time again. Although as recently as last week I asked the Minister to give an unequivocal directive to his Department so that it would appreciate the purpose of the law and interpret the law in the interests of ex-service men and women, the Minister declined to take that course. That was an astonishing performance, for the law has been written. Many people who served this country feel that the law is being disregarded and honoured in the breach.
Not one of us can afford to be a member of this Parliament if there is injustice to one ex-service man or woman in Australia. We have a responsibility to see that justice is done, and if the formation of an allparty committee of both Houses of Parliament can more effectively grapple with this matter in the way that the Joint Committee on Public Accounts meets its problems and the various other parliamentary Committees discuss their problems - as for instance the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was able to consider the problems of the Constitution of the nation - surely a committee should be established representing both sides of the Parliament so that these grievous anomalies, these irksome irritations, these feelings that there is not a measure of justice being dispensed, can ail be overcome. Every member of the Parliament knows, because we all receive representations, that there is a great feeling of disquiet. A feeling of disquiet has been expressed by the national organisation of the Returned Servicemen’s League. The State branches have expressed their concern and dissatisfaction with regard to certain aspects of the legislation. Local repatriation committees and local medical officers and various members of the community at large have all expressed, from time to time, a view that although our repatriation law has great virtue and this country is probably one of the foremost in the world in giving a measure of relief to those who served by helping them in time of distress, nevertheless there remain, even though we have this legislation conceived by people with the highest possible motives, some persons who are not receiving the justice to which they are entitled.
I was rather astonished to hear the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) adopt the attitude that he displayed in the Committee this evening. I say to the honorable member: Please have regard to the ex-service men and women. Consider their needs. Consider those who have been overlooked because we have not had perfect legislation and perfect administration. We are all human - and to err is human - but here is our opportunity to block up holes in the Repatriation Act, to make the machinery just a little more streamlined and nearer to the heart’s desire, and to give justice and recognition to those who served this country.
For these reasons, I ask the Minister to have regard to the statements that have been made. I ask the Committee to put to one side any party political prejudices. Disregard any feeling you may have had that you are bound to a decision of the Minister. Place the cause of the people who serve this country first. If you do this you must accept the proposal made by the honorable member for Bass and so ably supported by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) so that an all-party committee may be appointed of patriotic men from both sides of the Parliament, earnest in their desire to see that justice is done. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
.- The committee proposed by the Labour Party would be unnecessary. The proposal is extravagant and wasteful. The Government has the responsibility of placing before the Parliament, from time to time, amendments to the Repatriation Act and of providing the necessary finance to administer that Act. In the field of repatriation, we have already a number of committees operating. There is a Cabinet sub-committee which looks at the Repatriation Act from time to time and makes recommendations to the Government for amendments when they are considered necessary. Government members also have a special committee watching interests of returned men and making recommendations to the Government from time to time. I understand that the Labour Party also has a committee which examines these matters and no doubt its members from time to time express the views of that committee in this House.
As well as these bodies wc have excellent organisations outside the Parliament, such as the Returned Servicemen’s League, the Limbless Soldiers Association, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association and many others. These watch the interests of returned men and make recommendations to the Cabinet whenever they think fit. Therefore the proposal to set up this expensive committee would, if accepted, result only in the addition of something completely unnecessary to the machinery of government, lt would really represent an attempt to pass on the responsibility of Parliament to the committee, which would have to bear the brunt of having to make suggestions to the Government from time to time.
I oppose this amendment wholeheartedly because the committee would be quite unnecessary, would incur a considerable amount of expense and would be more likely to delay the introduction of reforms than to be of any assistance.
– I shall not detain the Committee very long. There arc only seven members in this Parliament now who were here when the amending Bill of 1943 was introduced.
– That is out of 123.
– That is right. The Bill at that time was to give effect to the Pollard committee’s recommendation for a new repatriation and rehabilitation act. That was a joint committee of members from both sides of the House. The present honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was the chairman. The deputy chairman was the then honorable member for Corangamite, the late Honorable Allan N. MacDonald. That committee’s report was unanimously accepted by the Parliament. In the Bill that was introduced in 1943 there was a provision for a joint committee, the very thing for which the honorable member for Bass has moved. But the then right honorable member for Kooyong, who is still the member for that electorate - he was not the Leader of the Opposition at that time although he was sitting on the Opposition benches - opposed the establishment of the committee. The then Prime Minister yielded to the entreaties of the right honorable member for Kooyong not to proceed with that provision of the Bill. The seven of us who were in the Parliament then and who are still here are the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and myself.
The matter was dropped from the Bill but it was never dropped from our minds. Twenty-one years have passed and many things have happened since then. I would not depend entirely on departmental officers to advise on amendments that ought to be made. This is a parliament which has appointed many joint committees and they are important joint committees. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) said that the proposal envisages a wasteful and costly committee. Well, contrast the expected cost of this committee with the cost of the so-called Foreign Affairs Committee. We trail our coats around Asia and Africa and everywhere else when we have a duty to perform at home to the men who served us in two world wars and the Korean War.
We of the Labour Party believe that all ex-servicemen of World War I should be admitted to repatriation hospitals whether the disabilities from which they now suffer were war caused or not. Surely this is a duty we owe to the ex-servicemen of World War I. We think that every ex-serviceman suffering from cancer should be regarded as a war victim, because nobody can tell us what causes cancer - therefore we do not know its cure - and it is just as likely as not that many people suffering from cancer today are victims of that dread disease because of their war service.
Why should we not have a committee of this sort? We have a committee in the Senate which inquires into the development of Canberra. We have had a committee in the Senate to investigate road safety. They have been worthy and proper committees. I see no reason in the world on principle why this proposed committee should not be established and I hope that the Government will establish it in the interests of war sufferers. The Returned
Servicemen’s League has never opposed the appointment of a joint committee.
– Yes, it has.
– No, it has not. 1 am sure that, if it were appointed, the R.S.L. would welcome it. It would function free of political interference, ascertain facts and report to the Minister. That is all we want.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) puts up an extraordinary, corkscrewlike argument tonight and asks me to agree with him. For once I cannot agree with him; but I have to flush him out of the mulga and ask him, because he has a very distinguished record, whether he is doing justice to himself and to his colleagues in refusing, as an influential backbencher, to put pressure on the Government to establish this committee. If the Minister cannot accept this amendment here, perhaps he might think it over and see whether an. amendment of this sort cannot be made in another place.
.- I listened attentively to the case put by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) on why he would not vote for the appointment of a committee. In reality, the case that he put was a strong case for the appointment of a committee. He pointed out that if he voted for the Opposition’s amendment he would run the risk of defeating the Government that he supports, if sufficient of his colleagues would do likewise.
– No. I said that I would not run the risk.
– If the honorable member voted for this amendment he would run the risk of defeating the Government and he is not prepared to run that risk.
– I said that I would not run the risk.
– All I am suggesting is that the honorable member, in his own heart, does not deny that the appointment of a committee would be a good thing; but he would not vote for the amendment because it would involve the disapproval of the Government that he supports and, if the bush fire extended far enough and involved the defection of other members of the Government parties, it might bring about the defeat of the Government. In other words, in reality he is not opposed to the appointment of a committee; all that he is concerned with is his view that the Menzies Government would be a better government than a Labour government. Does he admit that that is all he is concerned with?
– In fact, that is all he is concerned with and he was perfectly frank about it.
I am suggesting that the very purpose of the appointment of a committee is to avoid the party political problems that arise on a measure such as this. I have pointed out -previously that the slight differences that occur between the Opposition and the Government on repatriation problems can not be resolved in the Parliament but can be resolved by the operation of an all-party committee of the Parliament. I was chairman of the 1943 committee. I am no diplomat, but finally we were successful in having six good men and true agree completely on recommendations to this Parliament. The Parliament itself would have been unable to agree on those recommendations; but after the committee presented its recommendations the Parliament said: “These six men in committee, shorn of all their party affiliations, have been able to come to a unanimous decision “. The Parliament then accepted the committee’s recommendations in their entirety.
When the honorable member for Mallee says, in effect, that he believes, in his own heart, in the appointment of this committee but that if he voted for the amendment he might hurt the Government that he supports, he is doing real harm to our returned soldiers. He knows that he has only to announce his support for the Opposition’s amendment to start a bush fire which might spread to other members of the Country Party, and that eventually he might gain other supporters from among his Liberal affiliates. Then the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) might send for the Minister who is acting as Leader of the House and say: “Things look a bit tough; we had better postpone the further progress of this Bill tonight and refer this matter to Cabinet”. If there were a combination of the Opposition and some members of the Government parties in favour of this amendment, the Government might see fit to move a similar amendment in the Senate. The honorable member for Mallee, as a soldier, is good; but in these matters, as a politician, he has a faint heart and a cowardly heart.
Great good has flowed from select committees or all-party committees in the past. Great good flowed from the previous allparty committee on this matter. Great good flowed from the all-party committee on war gratuities. Great good would flow again if only a few members on the Government side of the chamber would see the logic of this amendment, persuade the Minister for Repatriation to report progress and have the Cabinet reconsider the matter, and eventually have presented to the Parliament a satisfactory proposal for the solution of the problems that exist. It is no good saying that everything in the garden is beautiful, because it is not.
I am a member of the Returned Servicemen’s League of more than 40 years’ standing. It has done a magnificent job for the people of this country. Because a member of the Opposition made some criticism of leaders of the League accepting knighthoods and other honours, members of the Government parties have protested. Today I heard the Minister for Repatriation say that members of the tribunals are all returned soldiers and I asked him whether that was because the Government expected returned soldiers on the tribunals to be, even unconsciously, biased towards other returned soldiers. Is it not possible that the leaders of the R.S.L. upon whom honours have been conferred on the recommendation of this Government have an unconscious bias towards the Government?
– Order! I ask the honorable member to return to the subject matter before the Committee.
– Never mind about the subject matter of the amendment. This matter was referred to by the Minister for Repatriation in his reply to the secondreading debate.
– To whom are you referring?
– Anybody you like. I had a great respect for the late George Holland. He became Sir George Holland. Other people who have become Sir this or
Sir that, have, rightly or wrongly, become rather soft in pushing their claims on this Government on behalf of the returned soldiers.
– Do you mean Sir William Yeo?
– Anybody you like; have it your own way. 1 am not reflecting on the honour of these men. Many years ago 1 had occasion to recommend a retired superintendent of police as a Justice of the Peace. He was rejected. When I asked why he was rejected, do you know what I was told? I was told that he had spent his life in the police courts endeavouring to convict people, and although he was an honorable man he had an unconscious bias. People who receive gifts at the hands of some authority tend unconsciously - that is putting it kindly and fairly - to lean towards the authority which bestows the gifts on them. That might be slightly aside from the issue of the appointment of a committee, Mr. Temporary Chairman; but,’ whether you like it or not, that is the truth.
– It is a shocking implication.
– This Government never likes anybody to state the truth as he sees it. I have reflected on no man’s personal honour, but 1 have referred to unconscious prejudice. If the Minister does not believe that people can have an unconscious prejudice, let him consult the Victorian Crown Law Department, which will not appoint publicans or ex-policemen as Justices of the Peace.
Robbing the subject of any further heat, all I can say is that I believe that the Government is on the wrong train and that the honorable member for Mallee is not doing himself justice. I appeal to him to reconsider his attitude and to vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard).
.- I just want to express my profound regret that my friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), has referred to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), in such ungenerous language, as one who has a faint and cowardly heart on this matter. That is a statement which is not only manifestly untrue but also most unacceptable.
– State the language that I used.
– I will state my case with the utmost precision. The honorable member stated his case and we listened to him in almost unbecoming silence. Possibly now he can sit down and take it; he dished it out. The honorable member for Mallee served his country and the Parliament during the last war with great distinction and with great gallantry as a prisoner of war. I say nothing more than this: I resent profoundly the fact that this evening the honorable member for Lalor used the language he did. I only hope that in quieter moments he will regret what he said.
– I rise on a point of order. I submit that the matter with which the honorable member is now dealing has no relation at all to the amendment before the Committee.
Order! No point of order arises.
.- I think it is only right that I should answer the comments made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I do not intend to take any notice of the allegations of cowardice. The Committee knows the honorable member for Lalor very well and knows that when he gets carried away he says things he really does not mean. After all, he is not a bad kind of a chap. At the very outset I gave my reasons for not supporting the amendment. I have given them several times now, but it takes a long time for these points to get through to the Opposition. I am sorry if my explanation has not been clear, but I will try once again to make it clear. I must give the honorable member for Lalor credit for a wonderful imagination. He built up a story which, if put into book form, might be bought by some people. I said, first, that no government would allow an opposition to take the business of the Parliament of the nation out of its hands.
– That is political, isn’t it?
– Of course it is. If the Opposition were in office would it allow the parties that opposed it to take the business of the nation our of its hands?
Certainly it would not. Such a course has never been followed since Federation. During the time I have been a member of the Parliament, I have noticed that Labour has not accepted any amendments when it has been in office. I could refer honorable members to “ Hansard “ to show this.
I gave my reasons very clearly for not supporting this amendment. I then made a statement which has been misrepresented by the honorable member for Lalor. I wrote it out at the time. I do not read any statements as a rule, but on this occasion I wrote out my statement so that I could read it again if any- honorable member raised a question about it. However, my notes have gone down to “ Hansard “ and I cannot read my statement again now. I will try to remember it and explain it. The point is this: If an amendment is moved, I must decide whether it is more important to carry the amendment or to keep the present Government in office. That is plain enough. I do not support this amendment, anyway. I must keep in mind that if I supported an amendment, perhaps not a major amendment, and by my vote put the Government our of office, I would be doing a disservice not only to ex-servicemen but to the Commonwealth of Australia by putting the Socialists into office. I said on this occasion that if I really did think that this was a good amendment and voted for it, the adoption of the amendment would not have the effect of defeating the Government. Therefore, I would be moving over and voting with the Opposition only to give myself some publicity of a kind that I do not seek. That is what I said.
When the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said that most of the men who comprised the Repatriation Tribunals were ex-servicemen, the honorable member for Lalor asked: “ Do you think that because of their war service they are inclined to favour the ex-serviceman?” But the Minister did not say: “Yes”. He said: “I think they have a better understanding.” That is fair enough.
– I did not say that the Minister said: “ Yes “.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) in his speech appealed to patriotism and, pointing at me, said: “ Why does the honorable member for Mallee not have some regard for the suffering of ex-servicemen?” This was said by the big man from Macquarie, t want to be kind about this. If the honorable member for Macquarie had seen a fraction of one per cent, of the suffering of ex-servicemen that I have seen-
– Don’t let them continue to suffer.
– If you point at me and make these remarks, I am entitled to point at you. If you bad seen a fraction of one per cent, of the suffering of eX servicemen that I have seen, you would have the right to speak in this Parliament on the suffering of ex-servicemen. As it is, you should sit in your seat, as you are now, and not get up and make these personal remarks about me. I believe that the honorable member for Macquarie is sympathetic to ex-servicemen. I give him that. But he has pointed at me and alleged that I am not sympathetic to them and that I had no regard for these matters. He claims to have a great knowledge of what is happening all over the place.
– I have seen people denied justice. Do something about it.
– You have seen nothing, and everybody knows it. I oppose policies, not individuals. Therefore, I am not making an attack on the honorable member as an individual. I am , only replying to an accusation he made against me, because the accusation is groundless. I have made my position on this subject very clear. Now another Opposition member will get up and say something else. I would not be surprised if the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) spoke. What more inappropriate member could there be to speak on a matter such as this? If he gets up to speak in this debate, that will cap everything.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). I was one of those who sat in this Parliament in 1949 when the honorable member sat on the Opposition side. When the affairs of ex-servicemen were being debated, he was like a roaring lion. He would tell the Labour Government what it had not done for the ex-servicemen. The fact is that it was not until the Labour Government appointed a committee, led by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), that anything was done for the ex-servicemen. During many years of rule by the Liberal-Country Party Government, nothing had been done for those who fought and bled for their country. The honorable member for Mallee is undoubtedly a distinguished ex-serviceman, but when he sits in Government he apologises for every vote that brings discredit on those who are trying to do something for the exservicemen. He should not get up in this Parliament, as he did tonight, to put in all the political dirt possible and then make a personal attack on the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti).
– I replied to him.
– You would do better to support the amendment which seeks the appointment of an all-party committee to see that justice is done to those people who are entitled to it, and that is the ex-service men and women. The Government has set up a Foreign Affairs Committee, and it decries the Opposition because we will not sit on it. But when we sponsor a proposal to set up an all-party committee to investigate the needs of ex-servicemen and to see that justice is done, honorable members on the Government side apologise for not supporting it. Why does the honorable member for Mallee not cross the floor? He is splitting his ethics. He said that it is better to keep this Government in office than to see that justice is done for the ex-service men and women. What kind of principle is that?
– I did not say that.
– The ex-servicemen can suffer injustices, but an all-party committee will not be appointed because the honorable member for Mallee wants to save his scat at all costs. He is supposed to be a man of principle who stands for the things that all people want.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Is the honorable member for Grayndler allowed to misrepresent the statements of the honorable member for Mallee?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I can understand the honorable member for Gippsland trying to protect the honorable member for Mallee; he needs a few protectors. It is unfortunate that there is little justification for those he chooses to defend him. I rose tonight only to defend the honorable member for Macquarie from a bitter personal attack by the honorable member for Mallee and to point out to the Committee that the honorable member for Mallee is a humbug, so far as this great issue is concerned.
– That is unparliamentary.
Order! I ask the honorable member for Grayndler to withdraw the word “ humbug “.
– In deference to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I will withdraw it.
– The honorable member will withdraw it completely.
– I withdraw it completely. I hesitate to mention this matter again, but on other occasions when the Opposition has submitted to the Parliament proposals for the betterment of ex-servicemen the honorable member for Mallee has criticised those proposals. What is the attitude generally of honorable members opposite? In days gone by they have claimed that cancer suffered by an ex-service man or woman should be treated as a war caused disability but the records will show that the honorable member for Mallee and his colleagues have voted against such a proposal when it has been put forward by the Opposition. When they sit on this side of the chamber they are great defenders and supporters of the ex-servicemen in everything that they want, but when they get on the other side of the fence they stick with the Government at all costs, no matter who may suffer or what the penalty may be.
Tonight I listened to the rigmarole from the honorable member for Mallee. I listened to his excuses and apologies for not supporting the Opposition’s proposals. I was not at all impressed by him. All I can say is that a man who has served in the forces with such distinction should show more sympathy at this time for those people who are suffering as a result of their war service. The honorable member for Mallee pointed to the honorable member for Macquarie as though he had not seen anybody who had suffered from war injuries. Everybody in this Parliament - indeed, everybody in the country - has witnessed the sufferings of exservicemen. The attitude adopted by the honorable member for Mallee does him little justice. His attacks on the honorable member for Macquarie and his belittling of the Opposition’s efforts will not excuse him in the minds of all fair-minded people for denying to ex-servicemen the justice of an all-party committee, which could bring many benefits to them. What is so wrong with an all-party committee? Is our suggestion not reasonable? We have a Public Works Committee and other committees, which do great service, but when the Opposition suggests the appointment of a committee to investigate one of the most human problems of our time - ‘the improvement of the lot of ex-service men and women - ex-servicemen opposite refuse to support us and vote against our proposal.
We often hear it said that the problem of giving justice to ex-servicemen is a nonparty matter - an issue on which we should have a common approach. I subscribe to that point of view. Therefore I am appalled somewhat to find ex-servicemen opposite making this bitter personal issue and saying that no matter what we suggest on behalf of ex-service men and women, it is not good enough simply because the Opposition has suggested it. That is the policy to which the honorable member for Mallee subscribes. It is the policy to which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), who is interjecting, also subscribes. If those honorable members opposite are honest with themselves they will vote with the honorable member for Lalor and other members of the Opposition when this matter is put to the Committee.
I had not intended to speak at this stage, but I could not be idle while the honorable member for Mallee spoke against a proposal that he is on record years ago as sponsoring in this Parliament. Prior to 1949 the honorable member for Mallee and some of his colleagues were most vocal exponents of the things that the Labour Government was not doing. If you study the records since 1949 you will find that every one of the things which the former Labour Government was accused of not doing has been suggested from this side of the Chamber, but on no occasion has any honorable member opposite bothered to support our proposals.
Let us deal with this matter in a nonparty manner, as honorable members opposite have requested. Honorable members opposite constantly wave the flag of patriotism, but when the Labour Party submits proposals designed to improve the lot of ex-servicemen, honorable members opposite claim that our efforts are for political gain and that our proposals cannot be put into effect. I hope that the honorable member for Mallee will tell the R.S.L. and other ex-servicemen’s organisations that he has decided that the ex-servicemen are not entitled to an all-party committee. I hope that the honorable member for Warringah will tell the R.S.L. and other ex-servicemen’s organisations that an all-party committee should not be appointed. I hope that honorable members opposite, a number of whom are ex-servicemen, will, when the time comes, join us on this side of the Chamber and vote for the proposals that we have submitted, because nobody wilh the interests of ex-servicemen at heart can possibly justify opposition to the appointment of a committee that is designed to benefit exservicemen.
– What rubbish.
– Did you ever hear anything like that? I am reminded by the honorable member for Lalor that the honorable member Warringah tonight, like other honorable members opposite, attempted to square off for his opposition to our proposals. He attempted to square off for not supporting them. I cannot help but think that throughout the length and breadth of this country countless thousands of ex-service men and women will be wondering what has happened to the honorable member for Mallee and other honorable members opposite who refuse to support the appointment of committees that are designed to give some measure of justice to ex-service men and women and to remedy many of the anomalies which they suffer.
I notice that quite a few honorable members opposite have been interjecting. They like to say a lot when they are seated. That is probably their most intelligent way of speaking. They now have the opportunity to rise and state their point of view. Let them go on record as opposing the interests of ex-servicemen. Why do they sit there mumbling? They are not prepared openly to state their opposition to the interests of ex-servicemen because they know that if they do so their remarks will be used, as they should be, against them by exservicemen’s organisations everywhere.
I hope that this Committee will support the honorable member for Lalor. Again I express my regret at the passing of a former great advocate for the cause of exservicemen in the person of the honorable member for Mallee. I join with other honorable members tonight in accepting without reservation the apology that he has tendered for his actions in this Parliament on this issue.
.- I regret very much that in this chamber this evening things have been said from the Government side, by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in particular, which must inevitably damage the cause of the needy ex-service men and women of this country. The honorable member for Mallee launched an unbridled, unwarranted and unnecessary attack. When I spoke in the debate - I asked honorable members to bear witness - I made no personal reference to any honorable member. I addressed myself to the amendment before the Committee. I invited the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) to accept the case presented by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I asked that the matters put forward be considered as a case on behalf of those who need assistance. I pointed out, as I thought it was necessary to do, that if a committee as proposed were appointed it would do away with much vicious and malicious bitterness in the Parliament, where the case of the exserviceman quite frequently is made a political football. In a dispassionate way the proposed committee, if appointed, could discuss matters and try to reach a solution.
In the course of his tirade the honorable member for Mallee went beyond a personal attack to say: “What government would hand over its business?” The appointment of the committee would not mean the handing over of the business of the Parliament.
When all is said and done, why are members of Parliament elected to this place? Each and every one of us surely tells the people whose vote he seeks when he stands for Parliament that if elected he will be the spokesman for the people, whether they be ex-service men and women, pensioners or members of any other section of the community. Anybody with the privilege of membership of this place who fails in his duty to speak on behalf of the people who need a voice here is craven and deserts the people whom he should support. He fails in his duty.
On this occasion I am pleased to have the opportunity to join with other members on this side in making a plea to the Government, and in particular to the Minister, to take this matter out of the field of party political disputation, bitterness and heat and put it into the field of the committee so that members from both sides - the honorable member for Mallee or any other honorable member - will be able, in a cool atmosphere, to reach a fair decision and make such recommendations to the Minister as will improve the conditions of Australia’s ex-service men and women who need assistance at the present time.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, anyone listening to this debate must come to the conclusion that the Government is dead frightened of allowing the proposed committee to be established. There is good reason why the Government is afraid to appoint a body to conduct an inquiry at which evidence may be submitted publicly. All honorable members listening to me now, if they were honest - I am prepared to concede that they arewould have to own that they have been inundated, during their term of parliamentary service, by waves of ex-servicemen who have expressed grave dissatisfaction at the treatment they have received in their struggle to h.»ve claims for pensions in respect of war caused disabilities allowed. I shall repeat what has been said before - it merits repetition - about the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. The claims by more than half the ex-servicemen who suffer from cancer - most of them die of it - to have this dread disease accepted as war caused are rejected. I ask honorable members to imagine the number of widows with young children who would go before a public inquiry of the kind envisaged and give their testimony, as they have done before many other bodies only to see it rejected so far. Just imagine how they would come forward and make their final appeal to a body such as the committee proposed.
Only last evening, we were discussing the major claims listed by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in its pensions plan. In the net result, about 80 per cent, of the claims made by the League this year on behalf of exservicemen, in proper modesty and with moderation, were rejected by the Government. The cost of granting all that was asked for would have amounted to approximately f 20 million a year. That may sound a considerable sum, but how far would it go towards buying bombers, aircraft carriers and some of the other equipment that may be needed for the next war? The Government is prepared to spend such large sums on war equipment. I ask: What about doing something for the men who served in previous wars? That is what we on this side of the chamber are particularly interested in. As I have said, the cost of granting the claims made by the Returned Servicemen’s League this year on behalf of exservicemen would have amounted to some £20 million a year. The additional benefits granted in this Budget will cost something like £4 million a year. That means that only about 20 per cent, of what the League asked for was granted.
Let me illustrate the sort of people who would go before the proposed committee. They would be people like some of those whose cases have recently been brought to my notice - people who are totally disabled and unable to work and earn any kind of a living. They may be classed by the Department of Social Services as eligible for the invalid pension, yet they may not be able to get the repatriation authorities to class them as eligible for the total and permanent incapacity rate of repatriation pension.
I have recently dealt with the case of an ex-servicewoman whose pension has fluctuated up and down between the temporary total incapacity rate and the 100 per cent, rate war pension, which is a general rate pension and not a special rate pension like the T.T.I, rate. For the benefit of those who do not know, I point out that, under the Government’s proposals, the T.T.I, rate will be £14 5s. a week and the 100 per cent, general rate pension will be £6 a week, or less than half the special rate. For a little while, this ex-servicewoman receives the T.T.I, pension and then back she goes to the 100 per cent, general rate pension. In an attempt to convince the repatriation authorities that she is totally incapacitated, she lodged with the Department of Social Services a claim for an invalid pension and, without any difficulty, was classed by that Department as eligible for the invalid pension.
So we have confusion not only between the various branches and instrumentalities within the one Department, such as the Repatriation Boards, the Repatriation Commission and the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunals, but also between separate Departments. The Department of Social Services, on the one hand, agrees that this ex-servicewoman is at least 85 per cent, incapacitated. Indeed, I do not know how anybody can have regarded her as anything but totally incapacitated. She has not been able to work for more than four and a half years. She wishes to goodness she could do so but she cannot. Although she was accepted by the Department of Social Services as eligible for the invalid pension, the Repatriation Department said: “Maybe you are totally incapacitated. We shall not, however, regard you as permanently incapacitated. We shall restore you to the temporary total incapacity rate.” Her pension is up and down like a yo-yo in this system.
What insecurity this is for a woman to bear. She is wondering how long it will be before she receives a letter from the Repatriation Department telling her that she is no longer regarded as eligible to receive the total and permanent incapacity rate of pension, that she has been down graded to the 100 per cent, general rate war pension and that, if she is not content with this, the onus is on her to prove, in effect, that she is more than 100 per cent, incapacitated. I am sure that sometimes lay members of the community outside this Parliament wonder what on earth all this is about and how a person can be more than 100 per cent, incapacitated. However, that is just the sort of nomenclature used in repatriation matters.
There is another thing. Honorable members have talked about the Returned Servicemen’s League, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association, the Air Force Association, the Naval Association of Australia and all these other organised bodies of ex-servicemen. Honorable members opposite have said that these organisations are quite capable of making the needs of ex-servicemen known to the Government. I am not a betting man, but I would be prepared to make a wager on this matter. I am sure that many more ex-service men and women are outside these organisations than are in them, and the voice of those who do not belong to these bodies does not get through to the Government. Furthermore, without wishing to disparage ex-servicemen’s organisations, I say frankly that many members of these bodies have voiced dissatisfaction with the organisations that are supposed to represent them because these organisations have not been able to do for their members what their members want them to do. Whether these organisations of ex-servicemen have been fobbed off, bought off or something else is a controversy into which I do not propose to enter. Be that as it may, many ex-servicemen feel that they have been unable to communicate their frustration and intense dissatisfaction over the treatment that they have received after having given their services in the defence of their country.
I am reminded that very few social surveys have been made by governments in Australia. We are very ready to make economic surveys. They deal with material and tangible things from which money can be obtained. These surveys may even seem like investments. We have in progress at present inquiries into education, the economy and a number of other things. So frustrated and dissatisfied were the civilian widows - to mention one other group - at being unable to get their story of misery across to this Government, that they clubbed together and paid part, though not the whole, of the cost of a social survey which was conducted by a distinguished sociologist whom they brought to Australia to make a survey of the needs of civilian widows.
– That was a magnificent survey.
– It was magnificent and very comprehensive. To emphasise how compelling were its conclusions, I point out that they even persuaded this conservative Government virtually to have a revolution in the last year or two in respect of allowances to civilian widows. As a result of that survey, for the first time in this country domestic allowances have been paid to civilian widows of a particular class, primarily those with dependent children. This improvement came out of a survey that should have been made long ago. Many’ attempts were made to persuade the Government to conduct such a survey, but ii refused. I think it should be overcome with a sense of shame because it allowed thi survey eventually to be carried out by the very women whom it concerned and left them to pay for it. As I have said, thaI survey convinced the Government that something ought to be done for widows.
I do not want the same sort of thing to happen in respect of World War I diggers. Most of them are in their 60’s or 70’s. They should not have to employ some outside agency to conduct a survey throughout the community to assess the difficulties and problems of ex-servicemen by taking evidence from various people about their attitude to the payment of higher pensions to ex-servicemen, the provision of more) repatriation services for them and matters such as the alteration of the operation of tha onus of proof clause and the like. This should not have to happen. If honorable members opposite do not think it ought to happen, they will vote for the amendment proposed by the Australian Labour Party.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, a good deal has been imported into this discussion. I very much deplore the fact that some honorable members on the Government side of the chamber have sneered at speakers on this side because they were not entitled to wear the badge of an organisation of ex-servicemen. That implication was quite clearly made by several speakers on the Government side. I think it needs to be answered. From time to time, in this chamber, we on this side have had thrust at us the assertion that the Government benches contain many mora ex-servicemen than sit on the Opposition side. That may be true. It is equally true that any political party, if it chose to elect only candidates who were ex-servicemen, could have every one of its elected candidates a member of an ex-service organisation. I suggest that the argument of Government supporters is unworthy and that the implication thrown across the chamber at honorable members on this side is completely unworthy of the Parliament.
I support very strongly the arguments that have been advanced by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and others for the establishment of an all-party committee to examine thoroughly the Repatriation Act and its administration. I suggest there is not one member in this House who would contend that the Repartiation Act as it stands is a perfect instrument. I suggest there is not one member in this House who would contend that the administration of that Act is perfect. If we admit that the Act itself is imperfect, and if we admit that the administration of that Act is very far from perfect, then surely the case for the establishment of a committee such as has been suggested is most strong.
Allegations have been made by honorable members on the Government side that we, the Labour members in this Chamber, are seeking to make a political football out of this discussion. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the action that is suggested in the Opposition’s proposed amendment would take this matter out of the present atmosphere of political animosity. A committee such as has been suggested could thoroughly review the Act, could thoroughly review the administration of the Act, could hear evidence from all exservice organisations, could hear evidence from individuals who are not members of ex-service organisations and would have an opportunity, in an atmosphere of calm, to see just where this Act is wrong and just where its administration falls down.
I was interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). I know the Mallee fairly well. I was there in the depression years. I was there in the years when wheat farmers - soldier settlers, ex-servicemen - under U.A.P. and Nationalist Governments had to walk off their farms. We are criticised time and again, and I have mentioned the wheat farmers in the Mallee because you people opposite hold yourselves up to be the only patriots. You hold yourselves up to be the only people who care for the defence of this country. You hold yourselves up to be the only people who care for those who serve this country. You wear your badges to have your photographs taken for the Parliamentary Handbook. Where are they tonight?
I think the Parliament would be wise, and I think the Committee would be wise, to accept the amendment that has been proposed and to have a thorough examination of this Act. To quote a case in point, I had mentioned to me only this week the case of an ex-serviceman who has a leg ailment which has been accepted as a war caused disability. He had recently to go to a repatriation hospital for treatment by repatriation medical officers for that leg ailment which has been accepted as a war caused disability. It was determined that the only form of treatment which would be adequate was the use of penicillin. The exserviceman pointed out to the medical officers that he was allergic or intolerant to penicillin, but they said: “You must have it “. So he was given injections of penicillin.
Since the injections, and as a result of the use of penicillin in the treatment of his war caused disability, he has developed a widespread rash-skin trouble, call it by whatever name the medical profession chooses. But the ailment from which he now suffers as a result of the use of penicillin is not accepted by the Repatriation Department as a war caused disability. The Department says: “Your leg ailment is a war caused disability, yes, but the trouble that has arisen from the treatment of your war caused disability by repatriation doctors in a repatriation hospital is not accepted as a war caused disability “. So the exserviceman must pay the cost of the treatment for that. I suggest that that is one illustration of the way in which the administration of this Act falls down.
It is not only the Act that needs overhaul, it is also the administration of the Act that needs overhaul. I am not being critical of individual officers of the Repatriation Department, but the Repatriation Department must work within a budget, and the officers of the Department know that their decisions must be conditioned by the requirement that they keep within the expenditure that is allotted to them.
– I think every honorable member with any conscientious feelings about the welfare of returned servicemen should support the proposed amendment calling for the appointment of an all-party committee. So far, only one member on the Government side has stated that he is opposed to the setting up of such a committee. The only reason he gave was that a committee would be too expensive. Can anyone imagine worrying about expense in matters like this when we have various other all-party committees of the Parliament?
– You are not referring to me, are you?
– No. It was the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) who said that. So far he is the only member in the House who has said that he is opposed to the committee and his only reason for opposing it is the expense. What a paltry reason to give for opposing the formation of this committee!
In the course of his speech the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that if only one vote were required to put a Socialist Government in office he would not cast that vote.
– You can say that again.
– In 1941 the people you support walked out because they refused to carry on the war effort and a Labour government, under the leadership of John Curtin and Ben Chifley, was responsible for carrying the people through the war. When Mr. Churchill took over the reins of a national government in England he sacked all the no-hoper Conservatives and depended on people like Ernest Bevin, Attlee, Cripps, Greenwood and Alexander to do the job for him. Yet here is a man who seems to be afraid that a Labour government will come to office in Australia. Such feelings are ridiculous particularly, as I have said before, when you look at the job that was done by that great Socialist, John Curtin, and his lieutenant, Ben Chifley, in carrying the war through to a successful conclusion and keeping the Japanese out of Australia. Some of the honorable member’s colleagues supported the proposal that the 7th Division be sent to Burma instead of being returned to Australia to defend this country. But thank God we had men like John Curtin and Ben Chifley to carry us through the war.
.- I spoke in this debate prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner, but I rise again only to make two or three points. It is evident, certainly from the Opposition point of view, that no valid argument has been advanced by Government speakers against this proposal. Indeed, we heard the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) say that the last joint committee to deal with this matter was appointed in 1943, and that that is a long time ago. Conditions were vastly different then from what they are today. This is 1964, 21 years later. In those 21 years the needs and problems of ex-servicemen have changed.
In his speech the Minister admitted that the peak demand in the repatriation field will come between the years 1975 and 1980. Surely a great deal of change will take place between now and then, and surely we should be preparing for this peak requirement for ex-servicemen. Surely there is no better way of preparing than to have an all-party joint committee, comprising representatives of both Houses of the Parliament, to determine what can be done about the problems and difficulties which have arisen under the Repatriation Act. It is no good Government members saying blithely that there are no difficulties. There are difficulties. There are deficiencies in the repatriation system now. There have been deficiencies for years, and these have been apparent to every member of Parliament who has had ex-servicemen throughout the country coming to him and stating their problems and difficulties. We know that in certain cases some of the ex-servicemen have not received justice. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to see that they get justice. That is one of the vital matters that a joint committee could examine.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has spoken twice in the debate on this proposed amendment. I must confess that I remain confused. The honorable member’s arguments wandered somewhat, like the Mallee fowl in the Mallee scrub without a feather to fly with. The honorable member went around and around but not once did he say that he objected to the principle of the proposal put forward by the Opposi-lion. He very carefully skirted around the proposal. He did not say he objected to the principle of it. He did not say that he dare not vote for it, but I am quite sure that he meant that.
– I did not mean that.
– You meant that you did not want to bring down your Government. You dare not vote for the amendment. This is a perfectly good argument for all parties getting together to hammer out these problems in repatriation policy. There is no desire on behalf of the Opposition to usurp the Government’s responsibility. We know that the Government will bring down a Budget each year and that it will determine at some time prior to the presentation of the Budget what the pension rates will be for the various pensioners under the Repatriation Act. Fair enough. This is the responsibility of the Government. The Opposition has no part in this matter. We can talk; we can ask; we can plead; but we have no direct responsibility in the matter. We do not want it. But we do ask this Parliament to accept this responsibility and appoint the suggested committee so that ex-servicemen are given a fair deal. All ex-servicemen are not getting a fair deal now. Indeed, only a week or so has passed since I sat in this House and heard some members of the Government parties propose that the Opposition should join in with them in the formation of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. They suggested that we should have a bipartisan foreign policy. Well, let us have a bipartisan policy on repatriation matters which affect the ex-servicemen who served this country in time of war. Let representatives of all parties in both Houses get together and hammer out these problems. The Minister for Repatriation admitted that there are problems and that he receives representations from hundreds of organisations from all over Australia with regard to the difficulties and deficiencies of the Repatriation Act. Let these problems be studied by an all-party joint committee.
.- I support the amendment so ably moved by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I think the Government should have a good look at this amendment. The Opposition is not asking for much. We on this side are asking for the establishment of a committee of nine members, of whom three shall come from the Senate. The Government would have a majority of members as it would consist of five members from the Government side and four members from this side of the House. If as the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) says the setting up of this committee would be too expensive, he need not worry about Opposition members putting in for half a day’s pay for their committee work. We do not want payment for it. If the excuse given by the Government for not establishing this committee is that it would be too expensive, that can he dismissed from its consideration straight away. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that because the amendment does not come from the Government side he could not vote for it. What happened in this House when the late E. J. Ward moved several amendments to a bill concerning New Guinea? The Government accepted those amendments. But now, when the Opposition tries to do something for the men who need assistance, the Government says: “We will have nothing at all to do with this amendment “. I would say this to Government members: When any one of you joined the Returned Servicemen’s League you made certain promises that you would do all that you could for exservicemen. Now Government members are being asked to do something for ex-servicemen. For goodness sake, do not be a five bob Government. That is all the Government can think of. If there is to be some benefit cr pension increased, it will be increased by five bob. That is not good enough. If Government members cast their minds back to the annual report of the Services Canteens Trust Fund for last year, they will remember that everybody’s attention was drawn to the plight of the widows of exservicemen.
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Phillip to groan, but I ‘am making this point to emphasise that this is a serious matter. The dependants of deceased ex-servicemen are in great need.
The men who appear before the Repatriation Tribunals are not the type of men who go to them if they do not have something genuinely wrong with them. They are the type of men who would not appear before those authorities unless they were not 100 per cent. fit. Because they are not 100 per cent, fit now, they go to the tribunals for assistance. It may be wrong, but we say that we want the joint committee to be set up so that it will have the right to look into these matters and to know what evidence was put before the tribunals. Until we get something like this, I am afraid that there is not much hope for the ex-servicemen.
In advocating acceptance of this amendment, the Opposition is putting forward the amendment that the R.S.L. has asked every member of this House to support. If honorable members on the Government side have not received the various communications from the R.S.L., they should get up and say so. These communications were put in the boxes of Opposition members. If they have not been put in the boxes of Government members, we should be told so that we can let the R.S.L. know that the only people to which it has sent its literature are members of the Australian Labour Party. If honorable members opposite did not get these communications, for goodness sake get up and say that you did not receive them.
.- I desire to add my views to those already expressed by my colleagues on this side of the Chamber. I believe that a committee should be set up to consider this problem of repatriation. In my electorate there are a large number of ex-service men and women who are completely dissatisfied with the present repatriation setup. 1 am sure the case is the same in the electorate of every other honorable member. Maybe these people are a bit unjust in their criticisms, but they do appear to have real cases about which to complain. Until a full investigation is made of this matter, this doubt that they are not receiving a fair go will remain in their minds. 1 am sure all of us have had the experience of taking up cases with the authorities and asking for a review of the pensions paid or for a case to be re-opened because a claim for entitlement has been disallowed. We receive the usual very polite reply that the case can be re-opened, but the ex-serviceman concerned has to obtain new evidence. It is almost impossible for him to obtain new evidence. He has gone through the usual avenues. His own doctor has said that, in his opinion, the man’s case entitles him to some benefit. By the time the matter has been taken through the various tribunals, perhaps the decision is still against the appellant.
I dealt with a case not long ago of an ex-serviceman - unfortunately, he is no longer with us - who had a good war record, and received an entitlement for the loss of three fingers in addition to some wounds. He had been receiving a pension for many, man’y years. All of a sudden, he started to suffer from a complaint in his hand.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member is getting’ right away from the subject of the amendment under consideration. He is discussing individual cases which come before the Repatriation Tribunals. This has nothing to do with the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee on repatriation.
– I think the honorable member could generalise more than particularise.
– This was a case in which medical evidence could not prove how the disability was caused. The disease from which he was suffering was, I think, moto-neurone and there was not a shadow of a doubt that the loss of his fingers, for which he received an entitlement, had some connection with it. However, because the medical officers could not say .specifically that his disability resulted from his war service, the Repatriation Tribunal refused to accept it as war caused. I submit that a committee such as the one suggested could set up machinery to investigate such cases. Surely these men are entitled to justice. If it is impossible for appellants like the man in this case to obtain the required medical evidence, there’ should be some committee to investigate the matter and go into the pros and cons.
Are Government supporters satisfied with the present position? If they are, let them be game enough to rise and tell the
Parliament and the nation so. Let them stand up and say that they are satisfied, that they think there is nothing wrong with the present repatriation system. If they do not, they are just a lot of cowards. Why do they not get up and support the proposal to establish a committee to give justice to the ex-servicemen and exservicewomen in the community? We are not asking that a committee be set up to give these ex-servicemen and women something for nothing. We are asking for the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee, comprising representatives of all parties in both Houses, to suggest something better in the way of repatriation - to iron out the problems to which reference has been made.
It may not be true, but the majority of people are beginning to think that decisions are made by the various tribunals according to the amount of money voted by this Parliament for repatriation benefits. The suggested review is long overdue. It is a long while now since ‘the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was responsible for setting up the last committee which reviewed these matters. 1 should like to think that there are many men in this Parliament with sufficient courage to take action to repay the debt they owe to those who carried out a most difficult task for us in our hour of great need.
– I rise to point out that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) is probably one of the most extensive to be placed before us for some time and shows evidence of great study and appreciation of the needs of ex-servicemen and women. The amendment sets out in full the terms on which the proposed committee will function. That proves that this is not a flippant proposal, but rather is one to which great thought has been given. The details incorporated in the amendment demonstrate that we of the Opposition are genuinely concerned to ensure that ultimately more effective and better legislation for ex-servicemen and women will be enacted.
It surprises me that since I have been in the House tonight, with the exception of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) –who launched a personal attack on the motives of the Opposition in moving the amendment - not one Government member, not even the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), has bothered to rise and speak either for or against this proposal. Not one member on the Government side is prepared to get up and say why he opposes the amendment. Surely we are entitled to some expression of view, not so much from the Minister as from the backbenchers on the Government side. Have not honorable members on the Government side some views on this question. Is it not right that after 8 o’clock tonight we could expect an expression of view from some member on the Government side o’.her than the Minister for Repatriation, who, naturally, delivers speeches written for him by somebody else? The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) stated tonight that every member of this Parliament had received correspondence from the R.S.L. on this question. Those who went to the trouble of writing those letters in the hope that they would fall into the hands of members who would have some sympathy for exservicemen will be interested to learn, when they read the report of the debate in this Parliament, that some of those who have posed as great defenders and sponsors of ex-servicemen and their cause have been as silent as the grave on this issue in this Parliament. As I have pointed out, the proposed amendment extends over two pages of typescript. Surely honorable members on this side, who support the proposal, are entitled to hear some explanations from the back benchers on the Government side as to why they believe the proposal is not satisfactory. Can any honorable member on the Government side justify opposing a proposal to appoint a committee that cannot help but bring benefits to ex-servicemen and women? What reasons do many of the exservicemen whom I see sitting on the Government side offer for opposing this proposal?
I can understand the honorable member for Mallee opposing it, because his mind works in weird and wonderful ways. He is opposing it because the Opposition is putting it forward. That is real solid thinking - solid in every way. But I see on the other side a number of highly intelligent aspirants for Cabinet posts. Have they no views on an issue on which they should have profound views - views that it is important that the people should hear? I see sitting opposite members who never hesitate to rise and attack the Labour Party on any issue relating to the internal affairs of the party. Why are they silent on this issue, which ought not to be treated as being in any way political? Why do they not rise and offer some justification for their attitude, instead of sitting dumbly?
I understand that the policy of the Liberal Party is that its members are free to vote as they wish, as their conscience dictates; but I recall one night seeing the spectacle of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) threatening a Government member with fisticuffs because he was going to exercise that right. It was certainly a spectacular scene. I suppose that if it seems possible that members of the Liberal Party will exercise their supposed freedom to vote as they think fit, even on a great national issue that should bc considered on a non-political basis, the great white father will enter the chamber and frown at the members concerned-
– I am explaining why Government members will not vote with us on this issue. It is just a facade when they say they can vote as they wish. If it is the policy of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party that their members can speak and vote as they think fit on great issues in this Parliament, I challenge honorable members opposite to prove it. They could give no greater proof of their sincerity than to vote with the Opposition on this issue tonight. Every member on the Government side has a responsibility to give to those who fought for this country the best that we can give them in peace time. What more effective method could be adopted than that proposed by honorable members on this side of the Parliament? What could be more effective than setting up, not a body like the Foreign Affairs Committee which rants round the country without doing much, but a practical committee which will investigate every aspect of the Repatriation Act in order to give to our ex-service men and women the benefits that we believe it is essential that we should extend to them? If members on the Government side will not speak on this issue, if they will not cross the floor of the chamber and vote with us, every one of them is like the honorable member for Mallee, who prefers retaining his seat to doing the things that have to be done for the ex-service men and women.
I go so far as to say that not many honorable members on the Government side have bothered to read the amendment. It is probable that Government members do not know what we are talking about and that they will vote blindly against the proposal because they cannot go against the vicious machine - they cannot vote as their consciences dictate, whether the issue be great or small. I am depressed tonight to see this lack of independence on the part of members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party. It depresses me to see members tied to their seats on a great issue. It depresses me that they will not vote with us on a proposal to bring benefits to ex-service men and women because they prefer retaining their places in this Parliament to doing the things that are necessary. I would not mind if they took the trouble even to apologise for adopting this attitude. Why do they sit there so silently? Why do they not speak one way and vote the other? After all, we are used to that kind of thing from Government members. Tonight something that ought to be done will not be done because members of the Government will shirk their responsibility. They are more concerned with remaining in the Parliament than with attending to the needs of the people who depend upon them to see to it that they receive justice under the Repatriation Act. I hope the Minister will see fit to speak on the amendment. He at least looks as if he has read the Bill and he will probably have at least some written explanation of the silence behind him. Whatever else may be said, on this side of the chamber we are entitled to know the views of the Government on this issue. The people, those in ex-servicemen’s organisations, and particularly ex-service men and women, are entitled to know why a government which says that it is comprised of a majority of ex-servicemen, tonight walks out on a proposed amendment, refuses to vote for it and refuses to give any explanation for its action. I make these few comments more in sorrow than in anger. I regret the passing .of the great liberal spirit in the interests of seats before principles.
– I had not intended to participate in this debate, but in view of the course the debate has taken I think it advisable to bring the Committee back to the object of the amendment moved by the Opposition. After listening to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) and the completely irresponsible remarks of the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) it is quite clear to me, and to any honorable member on this side of the chamber who has been listening, that honorable members opposite visualise a joint parliamentary committee which would deprive existing repatriation tribunals of power to act on the question of entitlement. While listening to the completely irresponsible speech of the honorable member for Kingston I thought it was just like him to make a little bit of publicity for himself. At the time, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I drew your attention to the fact that the honorable member was getting right away from the subject of the amendment. To my mind it was obvious that he had not read the amendment, which states -
The Committee shall examine the Repatriation Act and regulations and, in a report to the Parliament, recommend amendments necessary to be made in the Act and regulations to remove existing anomalies and improve their provisions.
The honorable member for Kingston, and to a lesser degree the honorable member for Batman, thought the object of the amendment was to appoint a committee with some power to act in regard to the determination of appeals. If the purpose of the amendment were to set up a Parliamentary committee to act in the determination of appeals in respect of repatriation benefits, anybody with any commonsense at all would reject the amendment outright. Perhaps the original thinking was all right, but from the way that the debate has been protracted, when we analyse the thinking of some honorable members opposite we realise why we should be consistent in saying that we support the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and cannot support the amendment.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has woken up and has been able to put forward some views. He at least has the courage to say a few words on this amendment, even if his statements were not quite correct. The Opposition is suggesting that a committee should be set up to provide the machinery to deal with the many anomalies that appear to exist in the Repatriation Act. 1 can think of another very good reason for establishing the committee. At present the Parliament is spending a great deal of money in trying to attract recruits for the Defence Forces. One way of providing an inducement would be to let them know that this Parliament was trying to provide a Repatriation Act wide enough to deal with the very vexed problems that are coming into focus every day because of the existing provisions in the Act.
The honorable member for Corangamite must know of the many problems and difficulties on which even the chairmen of the various tribunals have expressed opinions. The honorable member has said, in effect, that there is nothing wrong with the present Act, but if by that the honorable member means that he is satisfied with the Act and thinks it needs no attention, then that is his opinion. At least he has had the courage to say so. But let us hear from other honorable members opposite. If they do not think that a committee is required they will vote against the amendment, but it seems strange that they do not try to convince honorable members that they have some thoughts on why a joint committee should not be established. It just amazes me, without pinpointing the various members, that those who are always to the forefront in proclaiming that the best should be given to ex-service men and women, or in appealing to young men to join the Forces because this nation faces real problems near our shores, should now remain silent. If they are sincere about those things, let them do something now about the Repatriation Act. The Opposition is giving Government supporters the opportunity to say to ex-service men and women and to ex-service organisations that they are prepared to help them.
– Why seek cheap publicity?
– As you ought to know, honorable members on this side of the chamber would get very little publicity from your friends, the Press. Your supporters control the Press, radio and television, but that does not stop us. When we think that a subject requires justice, or that a matter is urgent, we are prepared to advance a scheme. If you think that what we propose is wrong, why do you not say so? I can assure you that you will get publicity, because you are one of the men sent here by those who control the Press. You will get plenty of publicity, but I challenge you to say what is wrong with the amendment that has been proposed. Go through the amendment clause by clause and show us why you will vote against them. You would not be game enough to do so. You will merely sit idly by.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– He provoked me to such a state-
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– Well, Sir, I know that you will have read the Bill and would know it clause by clause. When the honorable member interjects and claims that I am seeking publicity, I invite him, and I think you would invite him if you thought he had views on this matter, to give us the benefit of his views. If we are on the wrong track he should tell us where we are wrong. If he does not do that we can only believe that there is nothing wrong with our proposition. However, for reasons best known to himself, he has not spoken.
In a final appeal, I ask honorable members to support this amendment, which will give justice to ex-service men and women and will iron out very many anomalies in the Repatriation Act. The Opposition does not intend that the proposed committee should override any existing repatriation tribunals or say that somebody has done something wrong, but it does believe that where it can be proved that the tribunals are not doing the right thing, or something is wrong with the system, machinery can be provided to give justice to the ex-service mcn and women in Australia. This com mittee would be simply another joint parliamentary committee, and if the honorable member cares to read the printed amendment he will find that the committee would consist of nine members, and there is no doubt that five of those members would come from the Government benches.
I suggest that all these parliamentary committees, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Committee, are completely nonpolitical and that their members do not give information to the newspapers. If the committee were formed it would be able to inquire into such matters as the onus of proof provision, the question of cancer being accepted as a war caused disability and the reason why so few 100 per cent, pensioners have been classified as totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. These are the kinds of things that we want the committee to study and about which we want it to make recommendations to this Parliament. When such recommendations are made they can be rejected, amended or accepted, as is the case with all other parliamentary committees. The proposed committee would not be in any way different, from the procedural point of view, from the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Works Committee, the Privileges Committee, the Printing Committee, the Library Committee or any other such committee. It would report to this Parliament and Parliament would have the power to say whether it would accept or reject the recommendations of the committee.
.- I rise to explain my support of this proposal for a joint committee. I think the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) thought I wanted the committee to take over completely from the Repatriation Department and the Tribunals. That is not the case. I would refer him to the proposed new section 22a as set out in the amendment -
The Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records.
I would like to refer the Committee to the case of a diver who served with me during the war. His appeal has just been thrown out by the Tribunals. He was diving around a ship’s propeller at a depth of 30 feet and an accident occurred as a result of which he was tipped off the stage that he was on at the time and fell another 30 feet and was injured. He has applied to the repatriation authorities and has appealed to the Tribunals. Although he was injured at that time his disability has not been accepted for repatriation purposes. He has produced all the evidence possible. I have the documents before me now. There is a letter from the doctor on the ship in question - I shall not mention the name of the diver involved - which reads as follows -
I remember a diving accident to Seaman . . . about the end of December 1939, but of course J have no records of the case.
. was working on the ship’s propeller when he slipped and went down much deeper than intended. Unfortunately, his gear became entangled so that he had to surface much more rapidly than is considered safe, andhe was brought up suffering from an attack of “Diver’s Bends “.
That happened in 1940.
– In the Atlantic. Do you know where that is?
– Don’t be rude.
– I was asked where it was and have said where it was. I am fighting for this man’s rights and I am not going to be put off. This is not a joke. I have also a letter from the principal medical officer of the Navy who sought to explain the matter to the members of the Tribunal, but they did not understand it. If (he Minister or anybody else wants to read about this man’s case he may get the documents from me. I do not know where the Minister’s sympathies are. I do not know whether he is game enough to exercise his right as a Minister or whether he just sits back and lets people be pushed around. I happen to know the man concerned. I served in the same ship as he for three years. I saw the results of his accident and I saw him going down hill. I have also an extract from a report by the Managing Director of Siebe Gorman & Co. Ltd., the firm that makes this diving apparatus.
– Order! I do not think the honorable member is in order in dealing with details of particular cases. The matter under discussion is a proposed amendment to the legislation and I would ask the members of the Committee to confine their remarks to a discussion of the proposed amendment.
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, for your help. I was just referring to proposed new section22g. which is to the effect that the committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records. I did not know that I was going to have in my possession the papers that I have here. They were posted to me and arrived only today. I will just conclude by giving the last paragraph of a letter from a naval surgeon with experience of diving.
– Order! I suggest the honorable member make only a passing reference.
– That is all it will be.
This gentleman said -
It is not possible to say that your heart trouble is a result of the fall unless there is a Repat. precedent.
In other words, if there is no such precedent they will not listen to you. 1 will close on that note.
.- I support the amendment because I believe it is a good one and that the Government should accept it. I am amazed at the great number of members on the Government side who have not participated in this debate and so have not given reasons why they will not support the amendment. Many of them spoke in the recent Budget debate and advocated the re-introduction of national service training so that we could put our young men in the Army and send them overseas to fight wherever required. When we on this side ask for a little justice for the men who did go away and who did something for their country we find Government supporters making a joke of the matter. Many of them at the moment are just laughing and treating the matter as a joke. I do not think it should be treated as a joke and I would be ashamed to be a supporter of a Government that treated it as a joke. I do not think half of you are sincere. You wear the badges of the returned servicemen’s associations.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I must ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– I may say that the amendments that we are sponsoring are those that have been proposed by the Returned Servicemen’s League. That is why I directed attention to the fact that a great number of honorable members on the Government benches wear these badges and why I suggest they should be prepared to support what the R.S.L. has recommended for ex-servicemen.
The Labour Government in 1943 established a committee which inquired into the Repatriation Act. As a result of that inquiry a great number of amendments were enacted, to the benefit of ex-servicemen. The parties which now provide the Government were then in Opposition and they supported the establishment of that committee. Some of their members were on it. When the Labour Party, now in Opposition, puts up the same proposition, the Government will not support it. Honorable members on the Government benches are very quiet. You can hear a pin drop. Why? You will not get up and say why you are opposed to this amendment. You are hiding behind the Minister, and he will not get up and say that he agrees with the amendment because he is not allowed to do so. The wand has been waved and you are not allowed to support the amendment, but if you are honest, sincere and fair dinkum you will support the Labour Party on this occasion. The committee that made the inquiry in 1943 was responsible for the introduction of the onus of proof section into the Act - the section that is now not being properly implemented. For a great many years the R.S.L. has been asking the Repatriation Department why the onus of proof provision is not being implemented. If members of the Government parties are sincere and believe in looking after the welfare of the Australians who went overseas and fought to make Australia secure, they should support this amendment.
– That is your opinion.
– Yes, it is my opinion. Are you opposed to the amendment?
– T will vote against it.
– Of course you will.
Order! I again ask the honorable member for East Sydney to address the Chair.
– The R.S.L., in its report, asked for the appointment of a committee.
– If you read the report you will see it. If you are opposed to this amendment and if you know so much about it, stand up and talk on it. You are very quiet. We have not seen members of the Government parties standing up and speaking. Admittedly they are interjecting. They are trying to make a joke of this matter. They are trying to be funny. But I do not think it is a bit funny, and I do not think any other member of the Australian Labour Party or any returned soldier thinks it is either. I do not think members of the Government parties are sincere. I maintain that if they are decent and sincere they should support the amendment moved on behalf of the Australian Labour Party.
– You are the only decent fellow; you know that.
– I realise that I am a decent fellow. It is a pity that a few members of the Government parties were not decent and sincere, too. It is a pity that many of them do not give even a little thought to returned servicemen. If they did, they would support this amendment. I am amazed that members of the Government parties are not standing up and supporting the Minister for Repatriation on this occasion. One of them is asleep, but he would send Australian troops to fight on foreign soil tomorrow. He would have us at war tomorrow; but at the moment he is snoring his head off. He is not a bit interested in the welfare of Australian ex-servicemen. If I speak too loudly I will wake him up. He will wake up when the division is called. I support the amendment.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Barnard’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L.J. Failes.)
Majority .. … 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 2b.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 2b. 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
The amendment seeks to make the benefits under the Repatriation Act available to returned servicemen who suffer from cancer irrespective of whether their cancerous condition has been accepted as being due to war service. Most of the conditions that attract a repatriation pension today are classified as physical troubles caused by war service. There is one exception. The Repatriation Commission is entitled to pay full repatriation benefits to any ex-serviceman who suffers from tuberculosis, whether his condition is accepted as being due to war service or not. When this wise provision was made by the Parliament some years ago - I think it was introduced by the Menzies Government, which deserves credit for doing so - a precedent was established for the acceptance of other distressing conditions the causes of which are difficult to ascertain.
The Repatriation Act provides that the Commission must accept the responsibility for any war caused disability and, where there is an element of doubt, must decide in favour of the ex-serviceman. I think it can be said in all truth that it is doubtful whether anybody knows the real cause of cancer. In these circumstances, it appears logical to claim that no doctor should say that a cancer from which an ex-serviceman is suffering was not caused by war service; or indeed that it was caused by war service. Therefore, the Commission should apply the provisions of the Act and give the benefit of the doubt to an ex-serviceman suffering from cancer. However, the practice has been to reject cancer as a condition that would warrant the payment of a pension.
Last year and the year before, when bills to amend the Repatriation Act were being debated, the Opposition moved amendments similar to this amendment.
Unfortunately, we were not able to convince the Government that the Act should be amended as we suggested. We are now trying again. I must point out that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has included, in its requests to the Government, a provision similar to our amendment. I think it is a reasonable request and I hope that before the debate on this amendment is concluded the only medico among honorable members will give his views. I refer to the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs), who is a comparatively new member and who is, I understand, a highly skilled man. He is within the precincts of the chamber. He was here during the division which was taken a few minutes ago. This is a highly technical subject. It concerns the welfare and treatment of some hundreds, perhaps thousands, of returned soldiers and the welfare of their wives and children. A member of the Parliament who is also a medical man could throw some light on the subject. If he did so, he would help the Parliamentarians and the electors. I hope, therefore, that before the debate on this amendment concludes the honorable member for Bowman will give us such guidance as he is able to give.
– Is there a doctor in the House?
– He is a doctor and I am told that he is brilliant.
– He would not be able to teach you anything.
– I think that is a very rude and improper remark. It does not hurt me, because I know of the egotism of the honorable member for Wakefield. He has remained silent throughout this debate on repatriation problems, but now he opens his mouth to address a rude remark to me. Of course, I do not mind. I have been here so long that my skin is very thick. The honorable member is magnificent when speaking on tariff matters and I hope that, with his customary courage, he will defy his Party and vote with us on the amendment I have moved.
I have suggested that it would be helpful if the honorable member for Bowman took part in the debate. After all, there is nothing more tragic than the condition of a sufferer from cancer. If ex-servicemen who suffer from cancer were entitled to enjoy repatria tion benefits, the Government would not incur much expense. People rarely live for more than 12 months after this complaint is diagnosed. This means the payment of a pension and the provision of medical attention in a repatriation hospital for 12 months. This would not cost as much as the acceptance of tuberculosis has. The claims of hundreds of sufferers from cancer have been rejected. During the second reading debate I referred to the case of a man who, according to the letter I received from the Commission, had half a dozen different stomach troubles, all of which had been accepted as being duc to war service. At a later date bis condition was diagnosed as cancer of the stomach. He sought to have his condition recognised as an entitlement for a pension.
I submitted this man’s case to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz). The Repatriation Department stated that it accepted the man’s other conditions as being war caused but it could not accept his cancer as being war caused. Can anybody truly say that this man’s stomach troubles were not an irritant causative factor in the cancer that he developed? Can anybody tell either way? Obviously there is a doubt and the legislation is not being administered to give the ex-serviceman the benefit of that doubt. There may be many other cases similar to the one I have cited.
From time to time we see Press reports of advances made towards discovering the cause of cancer. Recently I saw a report claiming that evidence was accumulating to suggest that cancer was caused by a virus. If it is ultimately proved that cancer is caused by a virus, is it an exaggeration to say that a soldier in a debilitated state and suffering from malnutrition was attacked by the cancer virus, which did not manifest itself until later in life? It has also been suggested that some forms of cancer ace caused by rodents. It is said that cancers have been developed in mice and other rodents by the application of coal tar. It may well be that in the case of many soldiers certain irritants - chemicals, gases and all the things with which a soldier comes in contact when fighting a war - caused the cells of the body to run riot in the early stages and years later to develop into cancer. This whole business is a mystery and that being the case surely the benefit of doubt should be given to the ex-servicemen.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Bill presented by Dr. Forbes, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time. In his Budget Speech my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) outlined the Government’s proposals relating to income tax which will be payable by individuals and companies for the current financial year 1964-65. This Bill is designed to give effect to those proposals. For reasons already stated by the Treasurer, it is not proposed to re-enact for the current year 1964-65 the rebate of ls. in the £1 allowed to individuals for the past three financial years. The general rates of tax proposed in the Bill in relation to the incomes of individual taxpayers are, however, the same as those which applied for the 1963-64 financial year.
Consequent on the discontinuance of the rebate, instalments deducted from salaries and wages will be increased. Revised instalment schedules will come into operation on 1st October next. Provisional tax payable in respect of business and professional income as well as income from investments will be varied to accord with the amounts of tax payable under this Bill.
Following the rise of 5s. weekly in the age pension, an increase in the income tax allowance for aged persons is proposed. That allowance is available to men who have attained 65 years of age and women not under 60 years whose incomes are in the lower brackets. At present, no tax is payable by an aged person residing in Australia whose net income does not exceed £48 J. It is proposed to increase the exemption point by £13 to a net income of £494. In the case of a married taxpayer qualified by age and residence who contributes to the maintenance of his spouse, exemption is at present provided if the combined net income of husband and wife does not exceed £910. It is proposed by the
Bill to allow the exemption where the combined net income does not exceed £936. That is, there will be an increase of £26 in the exemption level.
As in previous years, a measure of relief will be available to aged persons whose incomes are not greatly in excess of the new exemption levels. In the case of an aged person whose net income exceeds £494 but does not exceed £574 the amount of tax payable will be limited to ninetwentieths of the excess of the net income over £494. A corresponding limitation will apply to the tax payable by a married aged taxpayer where the combined net incomes of the husband and wife exceed £936 but do not exceed £1,350.
The rates of primary tax payable by all companies are being increased by 6d. in the £1. In consequence of this increase in the rates, the maximum rate of primary tax payable will be 8/6 in the £1 for a public company and 7/6 in the £1 for a private company. These rates will apply to the part of the taxable income in excess of £5,000.
The rates of tax payable by superannuation funds are also being increased by 6d. in the £1 so that these funds will continue to be taxed at the same rates as apply to the mutual income of life assurance companies.
Apart from the features that I have described, the provisions of the Bill conform to the pattern of past legislation declaring rates of tax. A memorandum explaining the provisions, which differ materially from those in the 1963 legislation, will be made available to honorable members. I submit the Bill for the consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr. Forbes, and read a first time.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act in a number of respects. Honorable members will recall that in June the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) announced certain decisions that the Government had taken following a review of Australia’s defence planning. Amongst these was a decision to exempt from income tax the pay and allowances of members of the citizen forces received during part time training. This Bill gives effect to this decision. In providing this exemption the Government has in mind two broad purposes. It considers it important to show in a tangible way its appreciation of the special nature of part time voluntary service with the citizen forces and also to emphasise the importance of the role of these forces in Australian defence. The Government also has in mind that the exemption from tax will serve as an incentive to recruitment and an encouragement to long service in the citizen forces.
Another feature of the Bill, Sir, is the provision of means whereby special income tax treatment may be accorded civilian personnel contributed by Australia for service overseas with an armed force of the United Nations. In broad terms, it is proposed that these people be granted the same income tax concessions as apply to members of the defence forces serving overseas in troubled areas. As honorable members have probably realised, it is proposed that these special provisions will be applied to members of the Australian police unit at present stationed in Cyprus with forces of the United Nations. The provisions will also be available for application in appropriate circumstances in relation to any other civilian personnel that Australia may in future contribute to United Nations forces.
A further amendment proposed by the Bill relates to the secrecy provisions of the income tax law. Honorable members will be aware that the Commissioner of Taxation and his staff are under an obligation to observe strict secrecy about the affairs of taxpayers. Statutory authority exists, however, for the Commissioner to communicate certain information to various Crown authorities for the satisfactory administration of other laws. It is proposed by this Bill to authorise the Commissioner to convey specified information to the Com- monwealth Statistician for the purpose of collecting statistics as to employment in accordance with the Census and Statistics Act. The Commissioner will be authorised to supply the Statistician with information as to the names, addresses and industries of persons who are employers under the group certificate and tax stamp systems.
The remaining matter dealt with by the Bill is provisional tax for the income year 1964-65. The Bill contains a provision designed to ensure that this tax is calculated without allowance of the 5 per cent, rebate which, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated in his Budget Speech, is not to apply for 1964-65.
The provisions of the Bill are explained in more detail in a memorandum to be circulated to honorable members, and I do not propose to comment at any greater length at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Consideration resumed (vide page 900).
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– Will the Minister close the debate?
– Honorable members opposite complained before when I did not speak. Apparently they now want to prevent me from speaking.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, the amendment relates to a matter that has been raised by the Opposition on previous occasions^ - indeed, twice since I became Minister for Repatriation and, in that capacity, introduced measures to amend the Repatriation Act. Precisely the same amendment has been proposed by the Opposition on both those occasions. In each instance, the Government intimated that the proposed amendment was not acceptable and stated some basic reasons for its attitude.
It is interesting to note that the present amendment is related to a section in the principal Act that makes provision for the acceptance of pulmonary tuberculosis as war caused. The purpose is to make similar provision for the acceptance of cancer as war caused. I think it should be clearly understood by the Committee that when the provision relating to pulmonary tuberculosis was inserted in the Act, this was perhaps the most serious disability prevalent among ex-servicemen and treatment then was not nearly so effective as it is today. In other words, the circumstances that led to the insertion of the section in the Act do not exist today, with the development of modern methods of treatment that enable pulmonary tuberculosis to be cured much more effectively than in former years. So, basically, the problem in relation to tuberculosis is different from the problem that existed formerly. The Opposition, basing its efforts on the existing section relating to pulmonary tuberculosis, has endeavoured to link with it a similar provision with respect to cancer. lt is interesting to note that the amendment was proposed by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who, as has been pointed out - I mentioned it during the discussion on the previous amendment and also at the second-reading stage - was chairman of a committee which, in 1943, made a review of the Repatriation Act that led to its consolidation shortly afterwards. From that time until the change of government at the end of 1949, the honorable member had ample opportunity, had he so desired, to persuade the Government of which he was a member to introduce the provision relating to cancer that he has now proposed. But the Act shows no evidence of it and the records indicate no pressure by him, as a Minister, to have inserted in the Act pro.ision for cancer automatically to be accepted as war caused. The honorable member, now that he has not the responsibilities of government, presses an amendment of this kind on every possible occasion.
So I think we should just consider the sincerity of the Opposition in this matter and bear in mind that this amendment has been proposed by the very person who was chairman of a committee that reviewed the Repatriation Act in 1943, and who, as a Minister in the Labour Government, took no action, so far as I can ascertain, to persuade that Government to insert this kind of provision in the Act. The indication is no different as far as the assessment of the disease is concerned. The situation, then, is that this is a test of sincerity. Perhaps it is unfortunate that the honorable member for Lalor was the one who introduced this proposed amendment.
Once again, this is a matter which has been raised by the R.S.S. & A.I.L.A. and by other ex-service organisations It has been raised in this House on a number of occasions in the intervening period since the last amendment to the Repatriation Act, and it has been the subject of discussion by various committees on the Government side and, I do not doubt, on the Opposition side as well. A mass of material on this subject is available to the Government, and I can assure you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that when it was raised for consideration prior to the introduction of the last Budget it received very careful consideration. As a result of the consideration given to this matter it was decided, for a number of reasons which I shall state, that the amendment as it now stands, or its effect, would not and could not be accepted. First, it cuts right across the basic principle of repatriation. Secondly, “ cancer “ is a rather broadly defined term. Perhaps as the honorable member for Lalor has suggested, the medical officer member on the Government side could give a far better exposition than I or he could give in relation to it, but generally cancer covers a wide range of diseases which affect all parts of the body. These cannot all be covered by the simple term “ cancer “. If you are to include cancer as a war caused disability it must cover this wide range of disabilities affecting all parts of the body.
– That applies to tuberculosis.
– No, there is a distinct difference. As I said last year, and as I repeat now, we have given this answer to questions on the subject that have been raised. No precise cause of cancer is known - I think that has been stated already by the honorable member - but a lot is known by the medical profession about its development and, of course, about many factors which do not contribute to the causation of particular cancers.
Whilst the precise cause of cancer is not known, basically it is possible for the medical profession to be reasonably precise in its determination. In addition, no evidence, medical or administrative, is available to suggest any general connection between service conditions and cancer. No evidence is available, medically or otherwise, to show a direct link between the various types of cancer and service conditions.
– Has any case of cancer ever been accepted for pension purposes?
– I will come to that point shortly. I am dealing with these matters in order. I now come to the next point - service conditions. The term “service conditions” cannot be’ applied in a precise sense. It can be applied only generally because, as the honorable member for Lalor knows, the conditions of service that he experienced in the First World War were different from those that I experienced in the Second World War. Perhaps conditions of service were even different in the various arms of the Services. Those who served at home or who were engaged on garrison duties served under conditions which were different from those experienced by personnel fighting in the jungles or on the seas. No precise definition can be applied generally to the term “service conditions”, so all these factors must be considered very carefully.
Of course, this proposed amendment was not before the Government when it considered amendments to the Repatriation Act before the Budget was introduced, but the Government did consider the factors that I have mentioned and it decided, as it has decided in the past and as the Labour Government decided previously, that the most satisfactory and equitable way of handling the situation in relation to cancer is to consider the circumstances of each individual case. That is the basis upon which the matter rests now. That is the basis upon which it rested in the past. That is the most practical basis at this time.
The honorable member for Lalor asked whether any cases of cancer have been accepted. I cannot give the precise number now but before the debate concludes I will state it or give it as a percentage of total acceptances. A considerable number have been accepted. I think they can be regarded generally as having been accepted because of the operation of section 47 of the Act, which provides that where there is any doubt in the mind of the determining authority that doubt must be resolved in favour of the appellant. That has been the principal reason for the substantial number of occasions on which cancer has been accepted as a war caused disability.
– What kind of cancer?
– As I said before, you cannot define cancer, because it appears in different parts of the body and also because there are different types of cancer. I am afraid that the interjection cannot be answered, because I cannot give a break-up of the various types of cancer which have been accepted as war caused disabilities and for which pensions have been granted. We just broadly classify them under the heading “cancer”. The point is that the system has been considered to be satisfactory. Each individual case is considered very carefully on its merits, and there has been acceptance in a substantial number of cases.
In view of those circumstances, the reply that I give to the Opposition on this occasion is the same, I am afraid, as the reply I gave last year - the proposed amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
– I am glad that the Minister has chosen to make this vote a test of sincerity, because that is what the Opposition would like the Government to do. We propose now to do exactly what the Minister has invited the Parliament to do - to make this a test of the sincerity of honorable members on the Government side. It is very significant that although there are some 70 members of the Government parties in the House of Representatives, practically all of those who have been present during this debate have stripped their lapels of their R.S.L. badges, lt should go on record that only one member of the Government parties - the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) - is tonight wearing his R.S.L. badge. After the speech that he made a little while ago he too should remove his badge, because it is obvious that he speaks with two voices. He pretends to be the friend of the returned serviceman. He makes flowery speeches in favour of R.S.L. demands, but when the acid test is put upon members on the Government side to prove their worth and to show whether they are for the R.S.L. and for the ex-serviceman, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will vote against the ex-serviceman when the House divides.
AH honorable members on the Government side have already voted against the ex-serviceman on one occasion tonight. They will vote against him again in a few minutes when a vote is taken. The Australian Labour Party will give those members on the Government side who believe in supporting the demands of ex-servicemen for cancer to be treated in the same category as tuberculosis the opportunity to vote for this proposal if they are fair dinkum and sincere. The Minister has admitted that twice already the Government parties have voted against this proposition. I am prepared to say now that when the acid test is applied it will be found that Government members are not sincere in their pretentions of being the friends of ex-servicemen in relation to this particular matter.
The Minister has chided the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) with the fact that the Labour Party, when it was in office, did not do all of the things which we are now seeking. Of course, the Labour Government did not. That does not excuse the Labour Government nor does it excuse the present Government. Two wrongs never did make a right. If the Labour Government was wrong, then we are prepared, as members of the Labour Party, to admit now that we were wrong. We seek to remedy the wrong. That does not justify the Government, in my view, for saying: “ Well, if you were wrong we intend to be wrong, too.” That is no argument to advance. It is a weak argument and indicates that the Government does not really want to help ex-servicemen. Ex-servicemen’s organisations ought to be in a position to stand up every member of this Parliament, no matter to what party he belongs, and ask: “How did you vote when this vital question was raised? Were you prepared to stand up like a soldier and fight by voting for ex-servicemen and for an improvement in their conditions? “ The Opposition will give honorable members opposite the chance to show where they stand in this matter.
Every one who votes against this amendment will stand branded in the public eye as being against the interests of ex-sei vicemen and against the demands of the Returned Servicemen’s League. If the R.S.L. wants to do its job properly for exservicemen, it should get out and campaign against every member who votes against this amendment. That is what the R.S.L. ought to do. These remarks apply particularly to those honorable members who are members of the League and who are highly placed in the Liberal Party. They ought to get out of the R.S.L. altogether or give their first allegiance to ex-servicemen and work for them irrespective of whether they tread on the corns of the Liberal Party of which they arc members.
– What nonsense.
– It is not nonsense. It is all very well to talk about nonsense. This vote will be a test of the sincerity of honorable members opposite. They will have the opportunity to prove whether or not they are sincere in this regard. The Minister said that there is no evidence that shows a link between war service and cancer. But there does not have to be. The onus of proof is not upon the applicant to show that there is a link. The onus is upon the Government to prove that there is not a link. I challenge any medical man to stand up here and tell us positively what is the cause of cancer. The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) has just left the chamber because he apparently suspected that I was about to throw my challenge at him. Unless you can positively say what the cause of cancer is, you cannot positively say what - is not the cause of cancer. You have no right to say that war service conditions will not cause cancer unless you can prove what it is that does cause cancer.
I have had numerous cases relating to cancer which have proved, to my mind, that the claim by the Minister that each case is taken separately and is treated on its merits is not, in effect, what happens in the Repatriation Department.
– It is.
– It is not. Wait until I finish what I am saying, and I will prove to you that it is not. If you say that the case which I am about to relate to you indicates that the case has been treated on its merits, then all 1 can tell you is that the undertaking you have just given is not worth twopence. The case to which I refer is that of a man who was gassed in the First World War. He was discharged from the Army because he had been gassed so badly from either chlorine or mustard gas - I do not know which one - but in any case, both gases are forms of irritants which attack the lungs. Gas always attacks the lungs. The man died of lung cancer many years after his discharge. His wife was refused a war widow’s pension.
If the Minister is speaking the truth when he says all cases are taken on their merits and that if there is any reasonable doubt, the benefit of that doubt is resolved in favour of the applicant, this surely is a case where the applicant’s claim should have been resolved in his favour. Here was a man whose record showed that he had suffered severe gassing which had irritated his lungs. He was subsequently proved to have been suffering from lung cancer. He died of lung cancer. I handled the case for his widow when she applied for a war widow’s pension. Her application was rejected. How can the Minister say that every case is treated on its merits when nothing of the kind is being done. I believe that it is far better to give 99 people a pension for lung cancer that was not caused by war service than to take the risk of denying a war service pension to one cancer sufferer whose condition was, in fact, due to war service. This principle is applied even to murderers. But we are talking now about men who fought for this country and who put their bodies between our country and the enemy. They were prepared to sacrifice everything. A man who is prepared to sacrifice his life is making the greatest sacrifice of all. At this time when the Government is doing its level best to get Australia embroiled in another world war and the youth of this country would be called upon again to place their bodies between this country and the enemy, it seems to me ill timed on the part of the Government to say in this place: “ We do not care if a man is prepared to sacrifice his life for his country. We are going to make him prove every inch of the way that his complaint has been caused by war service. We are going to seize on every technicality we can to deprive him of his just rights to a pension and deprive his widow of her just rights to a war widow’s pension.”
– That is quite incorrect and you know it.
– It is not incorrect, and you know it is not incorrect. In a few minutes’ time, a vote will be taken. Every member on the Government side will have to be counted. This will show whether honorable members opposite are for the exserviceman, the man who fought for his country, or whether they are against him’.
– It is not nonsense.
– Yes, it is.
– It is not. You will show whether you are for the ex-serviceman or whether you are going to be driven like dumb cattle according to what your Government says, and vote against the interests of the ex-servicemen in this country. The Opposition says quite definitely where it stands. We want honorable members opposite to say where they stand.
.- First of all, I want to register my great disappointment at the attitude of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and the Government in not accepting the amendment put forward by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) on behalf of the Opposition. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) in an interjection put the Minister right on the spot. He said that what we wanted to know was whether the Minister thought our amendment was just. It is my belief that the Minister did not answer that question at all. The Minister went, on and endeavoured to put the honorable member for Lalor on the spot because he had been chairman of an all-party committee on repatriation some 21 years ago. In answer to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) the Minister said that it is not true that the incidence of cancer is greater today than it was in those days. May I point out that the incidence of cancer in those days among ex-servicemen was far less than it is in these days. It is quite obvious that ex-servicemen in those days were a great deal younger. It is a noted fact that cancer is a complaint which develops over a number of years. Indeed, in most cases it is not obvious until latter years of one’s life. Consequently, the circumstances now are entirely different. Statistics show that cancer can occur at an early age, but in most cases it occurs in the later years, in the fifties and the sixties. I repeat that circumstances are entirely different now from what they were in 1943. The purpose behind the Repatriation Act is to compensate for war caused suffering by making provision for ex-servicemen who are ill and for the families of ex-servicemen who die as the result of a war caused disability. lt is the opinion of the Opposition, as indicated by the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), that ex-servicemen suffering from cancer should be automatically accepted for repatriation benefits and treatment.
We believe this because of the uncertainty and lack of knowledge with respect to cancer and its causes, and because of the certainty that some ex-servicemen suffering from cancer have not received just compensation or just recognition. It is clear that medical science, whilst aware of a number of factors or agents which predispose to or cause cancer, is not aware of all of the definite causes. It is apparent that cancer is not one disease with one cause, but, as the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) has said, a disorderly reproduction of tissues caused by a variety of agents. Some of these agents are known and some are unknown. What is largely unknown is the reason for the action of these agents. A shroud of mystery has hung for centuries over this dread and deadly complaint. Science is slowly but surely lifting this shroud, but the plain fact is that many aspects of cancer are matters of conjecture even among men of medical science.
The factors which contribute to or encourage the onset of cancer are many. Broadly, they can be divided into two groups - first, the internal factors, and secondly, the external or environmental factors. There are more than 400 known carcinogenic agents and there are many others that are suspected agents. These agents range from the physical agents - that is radiation and the like - to genetic, bacterial, viral and chemical agents, lt is thought by the medical profession that cancers are not inherited. This is a further indication to me that outside causes, perhaps causes encountered during years cf war service, are the predominant factors in producing cancer. Again, certain types of viruses have been known to cause certain cancerous growths in animals. Cancers in humans, in ex-servicemen, could have been induced by exposure to such a virus while soldiering on service. Is it beyond doubt that this is not so? Of course, we find that in many instances the Repatriation Department says that it is.
It is considered possible by medical science that sunshine is a cancer-causing factor. It is known that light complexioned people have a higher incidence of skin cancer on the exposed parts of the body such as the face, neck and hands than do the darker pigmented races Our lightskinned servicemen served under the blazing suns of the desert and the tropics, and surely service of up to four or five years under those conditions could have started that mysterious process which develops into cancer as the years roll on.
I come now to chemicals. Hundreds of these are regarded as potential inducers of cancer to the human body. It is certain that subjection to prolonged contact with various chemical substances can produce a cancerous growth. For instance, in appropriate doses fumes from benzol - motor spirit contains benzol - fumes from various dyes, chromates, the salts of chromic acid and nickel, as well as many others will induce cancerous growth. This atmospheric pollution by fumes leads me to recall one particular case of a former soldier who served in the Northern Territory for several years. He served as an electro-plater, plating various metallic articles with chrome, nickel, and the like. It was war time and materials were short. This soldier worked in a corrugated iron shed under conditions which would horrify those responsible for the maintenance of proper standards of industrial safety and hygiene. In the heat of the Territory, in a corrugated iron shed with no exhaust ventilation, he was subjected to the action of fumes from chromic acid and the various chromates for prolonged periods. Twenty years later, he developed cancer. Any honorable member who cares to refer to the medical journals available in the Parliamentary Library will fi nd that they all confirm that chromic acid fumes are one of the cancer-producing agents. I handled this man’s case for him, but his claim was rejected and subsequently his widow’s claim was rejected. Apparently the Repatriation Board, the Repatriation Commission and the Tribunal had no doubt that his war service, including electroplating in which he was exposed to fumes, had no relation to his complaint. Quite frankly, I fail to see how they could come to that decision. Surely no-one could claim that there was a complete absence of doubtabout the particular cause of this cancer.
It seems to me that neither the spirit nor the wording of the Act is being administered as it was intended to be by the Parliament. In Australia, one death in six results from the ravages of cancer. May of those who die from cancer are ex-servicemen. It has to be admitted that many of them might have contracted cancer regardless of their war service, but undoubtedly many of them contracted cancer because of war service. So far as I can determine, no medical authority can say with certainty that cancer has not some unknown origin other than the factors and agents that I have mentioned. Consequently, no authority should deny that a cloak of uncertainty hangs over the origin of cancer, and the Opposition considers that the automatic acceptance of cancer would remove this uncertainty. To avoid being unjust to some, as could happen now, the Australian Labour Party would prefer all cases of cancer to be accepted as being war caused.
Ex-servicemen suffering from tuberculosis arc grunted repatriation benefits irrespective of whether the complaint is war-caused or not. Can members of the Government give any reason why ex-servicemen suffering from cancer should not be treated in the same way? In the opinion of the Opposition, no-one can prove conclusively that an exserviceman’s cancerous condition was not caused by his war service. We submit that it would be but a humanitarian act for the Government to accept the proposed amendment and so provide relief from financial worries for those unfortunate people who are victims of this complaint. Certainly it would be a humanitarian act to the families of those victims.
.- I have been drawn into this debate somewhat unwillingly. I regret that circumstances have prevented me from hearing the whole of the discussion, but 1 feel that there are some matters to which I should refer. The first is non-medical. It relates to the very ingenious argument put forward by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), an argument which I am afraid is hardly worthy of him. He looked around the chamber when it was singularly empty and said: “ There is only one Government member here wearing a returned serviceman’s badge.” I regret that I personally was not accepted for service, but I do know that those members on this side who were accepted are not only very proud of their badges but also very proud of what this Government has done for the exserviceman. I believe the Government has an unparalleled record in this field. It is one on which I need not elaborate now.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) gave a very good dissertation on cancer from the laymen’s point of view. He showed that a number of causes of cancer are known and that in many cases a cause can be followed through to its ultimate effect. I believe that what he says only goes to support the Government’s contention that these cases should be decided on their merits. I think they are decided very fairly by the various tribunals. I feel that I must say a little about cancer.
Cancer in adults, which is what we are concerned with now, is something about which we are learning more all the time. We know that there are probably two main causes, chemical causes and infective, causes. Chronic irritation may be taken as a combination of both chemical causes and infective causes. These causes tend to operate more as people get older, because there is more time for them to operate. Therefore, an elderly person is more prone to cancer than a younger person and, consequently, many more ex-servicemen are now developing cancer. In some circumstances these cancers can be attributed to active service. For example, if a serviceman’s nervous condition were accepted as being caused by war service and he developed ulcerative colitis and then a cancer of the bowel, that would clearly be a case in which war service was responsible.
Similarly, if the privations of war service produced a gastric ulcer from which later a cancer of the stomach developed, that would be a case where, clearly, there was an association between war service and the development of the cancer.
– But how much later?
– lt could develop some considerable time later, but the ulcer must be present all the time. I am sure that in this case the benefit of the doubt is always given.
A case involving a chromic acid associaciation was mentioned. This is a very different situation. Chromic salts produce cancer only in certain circumstances. If the association of chromic acid produces an effect which can be identified at the time or soon after, and which is continuing, it could be incriminatory, but if the person developed a cancer somewhere else in the body after exposure to chromic acid that would not be incriminatory. Chromic acid is not a strong cancer producing agent; it produces cancer only as an intensely irritative agent and from its chronic inflamatory effects.
As to sun cancer, that can be extremely difficult to determine. There are very few areas of the world where skin cancer is more prone to develop than in north Queensland, due to its climate. If a man were exposed to intense sun activity while training in that area I believe a case could be made out for him, but I think it would be very difficult to determine in such cases whether his service was responsible. However, if the period of exposure to the sun during service were short it would not be difficult to determine, because it takes very many years for the sun to produce a cancer of the skin, and the effect of the sun must be fairly continuous. A gradual development can be traced by changes in the skin. Although our knowledge of this matter is somewhat fragmentary, we have at least enough knowledge of pre-cancerous conditions - how they develop . and to some extent why they develop - to be able to gain a pretty fair insight into the whole matter.
One other cause of cancer should be mentioned which could have arisen as a result of service in the First World War, or possibly in the last war, is infestation by certain parasites. I refer to the parasite bilharzia which can produce certain cancerous conditions. Exposure to dyes, to produce cancer, must be considerable and carried on for some considerable time. Honorable members must not get the idea that exposure to a cancer producing substance for a short time will produce a cancer; usually the exposure must continue for years. In fact, it can be determined to some extent how many years one must be exposed to each of these substances before a cancer develops. These clearcut cases are very well known, and I am sure that in no circumstances would a person be denied benefits because of a small doubt. As a rule, these matters can be fairly readily determined. 1 think there are very few occasions when there would be doubt as to the exact relationship between war service and cancer in an ex-serviceman.
.- I regret that 1 was not present for the whole of the speech delivered by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) in reply to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition, but I was here long enough to hear the Minister say that he was not certain how many exservicemen had applied to the Repatriation Department to have a carcinoma accepted as due to war service. Perhaps I should , remind the Minister that he said during a similar debate at this time last year that somewhat more than 50 per cent, of such cases had been accepted by the Repatriation Department. Although 50 per cent, may be regarded by the Minister as a , large percentage of the cases that are referred to the Repatriation Department for a decision, the Opposition does not . subscribe to that opinion. We believe that the 50 per cent., or 45 per cent., which have been rejected should not have been rejected. Therefore, I support the amendment, which provides for the automatic . acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability.
I was extremely interested to listen to the dissertation of the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs). It was extremely good, but he dealt largely with cancer itself. Although the honorable member for Bowman suggested that there is sufficient knowledge - I suppose he means from the medical viewpoint - to decide how some cancers originate, he omitted to tell us that at the same time there must be cases in which the medical profession is not able to decide how a cancer originated. For that reason the Opposition believes that this question should not be left to Entitlement Tribunals to decide. On the Minister’s own admission, only 50 per cent., or slightly more than 50 per cent., of the cases submitted to the Repatriation Department for acceptance are in fact accepted. The percentage of rejections is therefore too great.
How do the tribunals decide whether the cancer was caused by war service? Obviously if a tribunal applied section 47 of the Repatriation Act there would be no doubt because, despite What has been said by the honorable member for Bowman, there is very grave doubt among the medical profession as to how the condition may originate. I have never taken the opportunity in this place to deal with individual cases, but I now propose to deal with one particular case. It relates to an ex-serviceman who applied to have a carcinoma on the wrist accepted as a war caused disability. It was accepted by the Repatriation Department, and a short time later he developed lung cancer. Although the Repatriation Department was prepared to accept the carcinoma of the wrist as being due to war service it was not prepared to accept the carcinoma of the lung, a condition more commonly termed by the medical profession as melanoma. I fail to see how the Repatriation Department can distinguish between the two conditions. A doctor has told me that this person is predisposed to cancer. That inference is that the person is predisposed to cancer quite easily. He did develop one, and it was accepted by the Repatriation Department. A secondary condition that developed was lung cancer, but the Repatriation Department said that that was not due to war service. I find it very difficult to follow the reasoning behind this attitude, when the Department can accept one cancerous condition but, shortly afterwards, reject a second. We believe that there is . a case for the acceptance of this condition as a cancer due to war service. This is not the first time that this appeal has been made to the Parliament. It has been made on other occasions by honorable members on this side of the Chamber. Last year, or the year before, this subject was made the subject of an urgency motion. There must be a number of members of the medical profession in this country who would agree with the point of view that has been expressed by honorable members on this side of the House. Most certainly the Returned Servicemen’s League agrees with our contention that cancer should be automatically accepted by the Repatriation Department as a war caused disability.
A short time ago I heard the honorable member for Bowman - and 1 offer no criticism of him in this respect because his remarks were well-intended and, I am sure, most informative to honorable members - say that it was not necessary to prescribe that cancer bring with it automatic entitlement because doctors were able to prove that the condition may have originated from some type of service to which a person may have been subjected. If that is the argument of the Government today, why was it that some of the honorable members who now sit on the Government benches argued in 1943, when they were in opposition, that tuberculosis should be automatically accepted as a war caused disability? Were doctors then not able to say how tuberculosis may have originated? Of course they were. I believe they had a much better knowledge of tuberculosis in 1943 than the members of the medical profession have of cancer in 1964. But in 1943 certain honorable members now on the Government side, but then in opposition, pressed the view that tuberculosis should be automatically accepted as war caused. We believe that the arguments applied in 1943 in respect of tuberculosis can be similarly applied in 1964 in respect of cancer.
I do not think the Minister has answered the case put forward by members of the Opposition. I believe the Minister is quite sincere in this matter and I think that if he were able to make the decision himself he might be prepared to accept the propositions of honorable members on this side. Surely he cannot overlook the fact that the R.S.L. itself has submitted this case to him on numerous occasions. The federal body of the R.S.L. is certainly convinced that cancer, because of the conditions applying in the case of this disease and which have been outlined by honorable members on this side, should be automatically accepted by the Repatriation Department as a war caused disability. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has pointed out, nobody can say with any reasonable degree of certainty how a particular cancer condition developed, where it developed or when. If the Minister can tell us that the department can in every case, with a degree of certainty, say how cancer originated, then he should be in a position to oppose the amendment put forward by the Opposition. But he cannot do this.
Let me make one final remark: It may be said that if the Opposition’s amendment is accepted there will surely be some cases in which ex-servicemen will receive pensions to which they are not entitled. The fact remains, however, that if it is not accepted many ex-servicemen deserving a pension will not be able to receive it. A: case has been made out by the Opposition and by interested persons and organisations outside the Parliament for the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. The Minister has not been able to refute the arguments that have been advanced and therefore the Government should accept the amendment.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has reflected on thehonorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs):: He said, I think, that the honorable member: for Bowman went outside when he was about to challenge him. I think he implied, that the honorable member for Bowman should have been in the chamber to hear what he was about to say, and that the honorable member was lacking in a sense of duty to the Parliament in going outside at that time.
– What are you talking about?
– I will tell you what I am talking about. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is ready to take other people to task but he does not like being taken to task himself. He attacked the honorable - member for Bowman, and the honorable member for Bowman was too modest or too careful to say what happened. He was called out during the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh to give help to a man for whom we have the highest regard and respect, who collapsed just outside the chamber. I am referring to Mr. Gordon Pike. The honorable member for Bowman came back to make his statement and went out again. I tell the honorable member for Hindmarsh that he was wrong in making his imputation against and insinuation about the honorable member for Bowman. Let me say this to the honorable member for Hindmarsh: In future keep your dirty imputations to yourself.
– I told the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that I would check some figures relating to the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. Unfortunately, records were not’ classified separately before 1959, as the honorable member knows. In 1959 an international standard for the classification of diseases was introduced which we have adopted and we have been able to classify them separately since that time. In respect of the 1939-45 war the proportion of acceptances of cancer has been a shade over 50 per cent, of applications.
– What about the First World War?
– For the First World War I have not the figures.
– Are you prepared to make them retrospective?
– We cannot get the figures. They are not classified. ;
.- Most1 members of this Parliament probably left’ their beds at about 5 o’clock this morning. It is now half past eleven. As far as members of the Opposition are concerned,’ nearly every one of them has contributed’ to this debate. A few members on the other’ side have contributed. The honorable mem,ber for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) made a most: useful contribution. He gave certain infor’mation which, having regard to the amendment now before us, requires very careful analysis. It was most useful and most valuable information concerning the causation of cancer and so on, and we should have the opportunity of reading his speech tomorrow and analysing it. He has been most helpful, completely honest and frank. Most members are now rather tired. For myself, 1 am good until 6 o’clock in the morning; ] get very fresh about midnight. There is always the chance, of course, that 1 might develop one of those maladies that the helpful doctor referred to, such as colitis and then cancer, and that would be just too bad. Rather than take the risk of others developing similar conditions, I would ask whether the Minister would be good enough to report progress so that we may refresh ourselves and then go on tomorrow.
– The Minister is not prepared to move that progress be reported, so I move -
That progress be reported.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. N. Drury.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I rise to make a second contribution to this debate. The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) has entered the debate and far from helped the Government. What he said has placed the Government in a more difficult position than ever. He has made it quite clear - on this occasion he speaks as a doctor more than as a member of the Parliament - .that a nervous condition can create a disability which in turn can lead to cancer. I interjected and asked him to state what period of time would have to elapse between the time when the nervous condition brought about the disability and the onset of cancer. He said that it was not possible to specify a time within which this cancerous condition could manifest itself after the irritation was first noticed.
– 1 think he said “ a considerable time “.
– That is right. That makes my case better. He said a considerable time. He did not dismiss the possibility that 20 or 30 years could elapse before the condition manifested itself. The honorable member was speaking as a very learned doctor and as a man with a magnificent medical reputation. He said that if a war condition brought about an ulcerous condition of the stomach, this in turn, with the passage of time, could cause a cancer of the stomach. By the same token, I am certain he would agree with me that if mustard gas or chlorine gas, to which many of our men were exposed in the trenches of France during the First World War, were to cause an irritation of the lungs at the time of gassing, this in turn could create a condition of the lungs which, after a considerable time, could degenerate into cancer. This is exactly the kind of case that I have in mind.
I intend to take the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) at his word. The widow of the man to whom I have referred came to see me again recently. Her husband died in 1952 or 1954. I am not certain of the year, but it is either ten years ago or just over ten years ago. When she came to see me, I said to her: “ It is an absolute waste of time to go to the Menzies Government for anything for ex-servicemen. It could not care less about what happens to exservicemen.” I said to this lady: “ Do you know, madam, that on two separate occasions Labour has moved an amendment in the Parliament with the intention of making cancer a complaint that would automatically give a pension to the sufferer. You may not believe it, but on each of those occasions we have called for a division and every member of the Liberal Party and of the Country Party has walked across the floor of the chamber and specifically voted against the proposition that sought to do no more than to give the benefit of the doubt in cancer cases to ex-servicemen who were prepared to place their bodies between this country and the enemy.” She was shocked; she could not believe it. She said to me: “ Mr. Cameron, I want to make a confession. I have never voted for. Labour before, but from now on I propose to register my vote for Labour and to try to influence my family to vote for Labour.”
Is it- any wonder that ex-servicemen and their families are changing their allegiance from the Liberal Party to the Labour Party? Votes on amendments such as that now before the Committee are making the position clearer to them. At last they are beginning to understand that members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party are completely opposed to them on matters of this nature.
– That is completely untrue.
– That is not untrue. I want those who may read my speech in “ Hansard “ to read on for a few pages until they come to the division list. They will be able to see how the Minister for Repatriation voted. His name is Swartz. When they see whether he voted for or against the amendment they will know whether I am telling an untruth.
The honorable member for Bowman said that certain types of nervous condition can cause a physical condition which in turn will provide the beginning of a cancer. I am putting to the doctor that I would like him to reply to a question I shall ask. If in doing so it means that he must neglect a patient outside I shall forgive him if he does not answer. However, if it does not mean that a patient is to be neglected, would the doctor answer this question: In his opinion, if a person who was gassed during the First World War and was discharged from the Army on account of the severe nature of the gassing, upon his discharge immediately suffered constantly from a bad hacking cough and ultimately died of lung cancer, would there be a reasonable ground to believe that the cancer may have been caused by the gassing of that ex-serviceman in the First World War?
I would like to hear the honorable member’s view because I propose to put this specific case to the Minister. The honorable member for Bowman can now considerably embarrass the Government by rising and expressing his honest view. I do not ask him to say something dishonestly, but I would like to have his honest medical opinion. Possibly he will state that it is a case where cancer was caused by war service. If he believes that, he ought to get up and say so. On the other hand if it is a fact and he does not say so, it will cause considerable embarrassment to a poor unfortunate widow who has to her name absolutely nothing but the ordinary pension.
I believe that this debate will highlight the position that members of the Government parties are taking up in respect to ex-servicemen. I believe it will also highlight the attitudes of some of the leaders of the R.S.L. whose job it is to press the
Government forcibly right to the bitter end. They ought to be pressing the Government on this particular point. Nobody can say any longer that the R.S.L. is not a political organisation. It ought now to be using its political strength to railroad the Government out of office. It is the duty of the leaders of the League on behalf of its members to put this Government out of office. If the League was honest when it submitted the proposition that lung cancer ought to be treated as an accepted war disability - if it is fair dinkum - it will press the Government to the point of its defeat at the next general election for refusing to approve of the proposition.
We can accept the attitude of certain leaders of the RS.L. as being purely political. They do not wish to do anything to embarrass the Government which is supported by a party of which they are members. I do not think that the leaders of the League are going to be-
– Order! The honorable member should return to the clause under discussion and should not continue to discuss the Returned Servicemen’s League.
– I am sorry. 1 did not notice you had taken over the Chair. The last time 1 noticed you, you were interjecting.
– Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh will pay respect to the Chair.
.- We are discussing a proposed amendment to legislation which is among the most important that we will discuss. 1 wish to protest on behalf of the Opposition at the attitude of the Government towards this section of the legislation and towards the Repatriation Act generally. The Government’s attitude is reflected in the time at which the legislation is introduced. I have turned up the records of debates on similar clauses to that which we are discussing and 1 have found that last year the debate was held on 11th and 12th September when proceedings were not being broadcast. We sat all Wednesday evening and adjourned at twenty past one on Thursday morning. I believe the debate was held at that time because of the Government’s express purpose of preventing the Australian electors from hearing of the shortcomings of the present Government. What do we find? Once a year we can discuss cancer treatment.
Order! I suggest that the honorable member relate his remarks to the proposed amendment,
– I am coming back to it. Mr. Temporay Chairman, you are showing a great deal of partiality since you took the Chair.
Order! The honorable member will not reflect on the Chair.
– I now refer-
– I rise to order. The honorable member is reading his speech.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– As a matter of fact I was looking at some second-rate speeches made last year by-Liberal members. 1 have not read them, because they are unintelligible. The amendment before the Committee reads -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 2b. Section thirty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by. inserting in sub-section (I.) after the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘, the words ‘ or cancer ‘; and . . .
I object to being called upon on a Wednesday night at 11.50 p.m. to discuss this amendment which concerns the treatment of exservicemen suffering from cancer. I warn the Government that from midnight on it will know that the Opposition is discussing this matter. From that time on the Committee will be shown in true democratic fashion what the Opposition thinks of being called upon in the middle of the night, on a Wednesday, when the Australian public is not able to hear why the Government will not grant this concession, to debate a matter affecting the treatment of ex-servicemen suffering from cancer.
The amendment proposes to amend section 37by the addition also of the following new sub-clause to proposed new clause 2b-
These are important matters. Tonight the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) referred to matters of importance. I am not reading my speech. I am looking at a speech that was made a few years ago by a former honorable member for Lilley, who is no longer with us - the electors woke up to him in due course. He was constantly referring to this matter. He was a great believer in the principle that cancer should be accepted as a war caused disability, but, in keeping with the Liberal interpretation of justice, whenever the Opposition moved an amendment seeking to have cancer accepted as a war caused disability the former honorable member for Lilley voted against it. On 1st October 1959 - I think it was late on a Wednesday night - the honorable member obtained the consent of honorable members to incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table giving details of the number of deaths from cancer among ex-servicemen. The table showed that in the year ended 30th June 1946 there were 34 recorded deaths from malignant growths and cysts known to the Repatriation Department. The numbers of deaths from the same causes in the ensuing years were as follows -
The total for the thirteen years from 1946 to 1958 was 1,292. A footnote to the table reads -
Not all deaths from cancer known to the Department would necessarily be included in this figure, as some of the members who were recorded as having died of cancer may not have been in receipt of war pension (e.g. death accepted as due to war service though member not in receipt of war pension).
In the course of his speech the former honorable member, who was constantly raising this matter and seeking to have cancer accepted as a war caused disability, used many of the arguments that have been put forward by the Opposition tonight. What do honorable members opposite think of this matter? Will they, like a lot of sheep, vote in a few minutes against our amendment, or will they vote to give justice to ex-servicemen? Will the faceless men who control the destinies of honorable members opposite in this Parliament coerce them into voting not to give justice to ex-servicemen suffering from cancer? Or will honorable members opposite do what they should doassert their independence and freedom to vote as they like on a matter affecting justice for ex-servicemen? I have referred to a few of the arguments put forward in 1959 by a former honorable member for Lilley. In the course of his speech he said -
In studying those figures I was particularly concerned at the fact that the great majority of deaths were apparently among men who served in World War II., but of this we have no proof.
The figures are inconclusive unless they can be broken up into age groups. The department, in making them available, indicated clearly that the statistics available did not enable it to relate deaths to age groups. That is, of course, of major significance in this matter of cancer deaths. All deaths so caused have hitherto been recorded under the single classification, “ malignant new growths and cysts “, and the figures given cannot be taken as applying only to ex-servicemen of the 1939-45 war. The incidence of death from all causes is likely to be greater among certain age groupings.
– Who said that?
– That was the former member for Lilley, Mr. Wight.
– What party?
– He was a Liberal member He was a very great fighter for exservicemen except when he had to vote for them in the Parliament. He had one of those strange arrangements with the Liberal Party: Say what you like as long as you vote with the Party. That arrangement applies particularly to matters of this nature:
This is an important issue which no doubt has at least the mental support of honorable members on the Government side, as well as the support of former members who are ex-servicemen. I record again my protest at such an important matter being debated at this late hour. We should not be called upon to deliberate on this issue at this time of night. The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) made a contribution which the leader of the debate said was worthy of consideration. Yet the Opposition is given no time to consider it. We are asked to deliberate on it in the middle of the night. I would like to register my protest - and the protest of all members on this side of the Committee - by sayingthat I think it is time we adjourned. 1 formally move -
That progress be reported.
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. D. Mackinnon.)
Majority . . ..21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Thursday, 3rd September 1964.
.Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. D. Mackinnon.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Pollard’s amendment) be so inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. D. Mackinnon.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 2c.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 2c. Section forty-seven of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section: - (1a.) In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability.’.”.
This, in general terms, is what is commonly known as the onus of proof provision, or the benefit of the doubt section of the Repatriation Act. I am sure every honorable member will agree that it is a good thing to come on to a non-partisan level - a non-political level if you like. I am well aware that on the other side of the Committee there are just as many members who are as vexed as we are about the tremendous number of anomalies that have existed because of the failure of the appropriate authorities to interpret properly the provisions of the Act. It is a tragedy, as the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has suggested, that we should be debating such an important matter at this late hour. Is it just a coincidence that year after year when there is an attempt properly to clarify section 47, members of the House of Representatives are deprived of the benefit of a radio audience?
– It is disgraceful.
– It is disgraceful, and I hope that honorable members on the other side will not always be seeking to hide behind the forms of the House in respect of these matters but will be prepared to stand up and be counted, and, moreover, provide for themselves, as they have the power to do, an opportunity to let their attitude be known around the countryside. I do not think I will have time to go through all the figures in connection with this matter. When you look at the enormous number of ex-servicemen who are denied a fair go as a consequence of the failure of the Government properly to interpret these provisions, you can see that this is a matter of great urgency.
What I am doing at this moment is something that I am not doing on my own behalf. I am moving this amendment at the request of the Returned Servicemen’s League. I stand here not as a humble citizen and not even as a solitary member of the House of Representatives representing a Federal electoral division in Australia. lt is my privilege to represent on the floor of the national Parliament of this country whatever the enormous membership of the R.S.L. amounts to today. The R.S.L., through its democratic forums, has thrashed this matter out and has ultimately charged some members here - whoever might be prepared to take the responsibility - with the task of putting its case before the Parliament. It is significant that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) is coughing and blushing with embarrassment. He is blushing from the bottom of his chin to the top of his head. This is because, as wc all are aware, this particular amendment which I have moved tonight has already been conveyed to him by the R.S.L. It is printed in the annual report of the R.S.L. Already, he has rejected it.
When I commenced my speech by saying that I am speaking in respect of a matter which is nonpartisan and which honorable members opposite have supported, I did not make these remarks in any lighthearted or off-handed manner. The fact of the matter is that some of the most distinguished members who have represented the attitude of the so-called Liberal Party - and, heavens above, what is liberal about the interpretation of section 47 - and also the Country Party, and who have gained high office in both parties, have drawn attention to this matter. I refer to such people as Senator Sir Walter Cooper, the former Minister for Repatriation, who has been recognised by the Crown for his prowess in this field. He has made his point of view in this regard very clear. I refer also to Mr. Justice Joske, and to Mr. Justice Spicer, a former Attorney-General, who also was very forthright in regard to this issue.
I shall mention what the R.S.L. has to say about this matter. Before I do so, may I point out that we are quibbling a little tonight as to whether we are going to give an ex-serviceman recognition of his war caused disabilities? In the United States of America, every ex-serviceman can obtain hospitalisation and medical treatment. He does not have to prove that his condition is associated with the war. In regard to a pension, he certainly has to follow the same kind of practice as we follow in Australia. But the United States ex-serviceman has the right to receive hospitalisation and medical treatment. Before an ex-serviceman can receive treatment for a disability in Australia, he has to have it accepted as a war caused disability. He has to show it was caused by, contributed to or aggravated by war service. We are quibbling about free hospitalisation and free medicine which, in so many parts of the world are not only the right of every ex-serviceman to receive but also, in many places, the right of every citizen to receive.
We come to some incredible technicalities when we look at the matter in that way. The R.S.L. says-
In analysing these benefits the questions that immediately come to mind are -
What evidence must the determining authority provide to properly discharge the onus of proof, and
What constitutes a “ doubt “?
The Act is very forthright on this point. The Act refers to the “Authority”, and says -
The Authority shall not be found by technicalities, legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give the benefit of the doubt.
Dr. Evatt and Mr. Justice Joske, when he was the honorable member for Balaclava, had a kind of unity ticket on this matter. They both made the point that the Parliament had bent over backwards to put this matter in a different light to that of any other consideration that prevails around the countryside. This is what Senator Spicer said when he was Attorney-General -
Ordinarily the onus lies on the party who makes the claim to prove the facts necessary to support it. Thus, unless otherwise prescribed by Parliament, the onus would be upon the claimant for a pension under the Repatriation Act to establish that the necessary conditions arc fulfilled.
In the Repatriation Act, Parliament has completely reversed the normal process.
After referring to what the Parliament had declared in section 47 he said -
The effect of this is that it is not for the claimant to prove that he is entitled to a pension, but it is for any opposing person or authority to prove that he is not entitled. In every case the question is not: Has the claimant satisfied the tribunal that he is right? but: Has the opposing person or authority satisfied the tribunal that the claimant is wrong?
We have had clear evidence that some tribunals are flouting this decision. Mr. Justice Joske said, when he was the honorable member for Balaclava, that this whole business depended upon the attitude of the Attorney-General of the day. Previous Attorneys-General have made the position clear.
– He did not say that.
– He did say it. 1 could quote from “ Hansard “ to prove that he said it. Not only Mr. Joske, as he then was, but also Dr. Evatt and Senator Spicer said that it was the prerogative of the Attorney-General of the day. I charge the present Minister for Repatriation with not having required during his administration of this portfolio a clear enunciation and interpretation of this section by the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden). As a consequence hundreds, if not thousands, of ex-servicemen are being denied a fair go under the onus of proof provisions which were inserted in the Act by this Parliament. Those provisions are being flouted by the tribunals. I ask the Minister to have some regard for those devoted people in the R.S.L. who have had the benefit of the assistance of eminent Queen’s Counsel and who have provided the amendment that I have moved. 1 ask him to disregard party politics. We have taken the initiative in this matter, but on this occasion he and those who sit behind him could be men enough to say: “ We have been wrong in the past. We will at least acquiesce in the attitude adopted by (he Opposition.”
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has complained rather bitterly about having 10 speak on this measure in the early hours of the morning. He referred to a certain occasion last year and said that the Govern ment was now attempting to prevent the Opposition from stating its case while the proceedings were being broadcast. His memory is very short. Debate on this measure was resumed yesterday afternoon. It continued throughout the afternoon, last night and all this afternoon.
– But not the debate on the amendments.
– The amendments were spelt out very clearly by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) when he led on behalf of the Opposition. It is quite obvious that the honorable member for Hughes uttered a lot of nonsense when he complained.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) negatived -
That the Minister for Repatriation be nol further heard.
– There are only one or two points that I wish to discuss in connection with this matter. This question has been raised on previous occasions by the Opposition. It was indicated last year that an amendment in somewhat similar terms was not acceptable to the Government. On this occasion, I again say on behalf of the Government that the amendment is not acceptable.
One or two interesting points arise out of this discussion. The first provision of this type was introduced into the Act in 1929. lt was amended in 1934 and 1940, but the provision as it now stands was enacted in 1943. It is interesting to note that the present provision was enacted as the result of a recommendation made by a committee which was headed by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when a Labour Government was in office. It is most interesting now to find that certain of his colleagues disagree with the substance of the section which was introduced at that time. I shall not go over the various points. When a repatriation bill was before the House last year, and also when a matter of urgency was introduced on another occasion, I made the position quite clear and I merely reiterate now that the Government will not accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition.
– The Minister’s attitude is most disappointing to the Opposition, and I am sure it is just as disappointing to every honorable member on the Government side. 1 know, for example, that the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) spends a great deal of time with returned soldier organisations in his electorate. It has come to my knowledge on many occasions that he, like a number of honorable members on the Government side, has indicated to these organisations that he has a great deal of sympathy in connection with this particular matter. In fact it is not at all uncommon for honorable members opposite to take up matters that involve the deliberate flouting of section 47 of the Repatriation Act.
This is not a new proposal, and the Minister’s attitude amazes me. He has had the benefit of the experience of history with respect to this matter. As far back as 1920, the first authoritative document, in the form of a report from an all-party committee, was submitted to the Government. That committee was unanimous in its recommendations. Of course, its members might have been bigger men than we have in the’ Parliament at the present time, for certainly there was no dissension amongst them. Admittedly, that report was made soon after the First World War, and there was perhaps, a greater appreciation of the service given by the men who went overseas from Australia. As I have said, that committee was responsible for the inclusion of the first provision relating to this matter. Subsequently it was touched up. I know that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), was chairman of an all-party committee which did something worthwhile about it. Now, 44 years after the provisionrelating to this matter was first enacted, we find this deterioration taking place.
The intention of the Act is quite clear. Dr. Evatt, and Lord Denning in the United Kingdom, have both indicated what is required. The same problem is experienced all over the world. I have already told honorable members what was done in the United States of America. Authorities in the United Kingdom have gone to great pains to devise a definition that will accord real justice to ex-servicemen. On 18th September 1956, the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal submitted an annual report, and if any proof is needed that the tribunals are not giving expression to the legislation in the way that was intended by the Parliament, and as it has been interpreted by a number of Attorneys-
General, this particular case is sufficient substantiation. Referring to the critics of the way in which the provisions of section 47 are being applied, the Tribunal had this to say -
As they read the act -
The Tribunal is referring to people like me - all that an ex-serviceman needs to do is claim that his incapacity is a Repatriation responsibility without alleging when, where, or how it had its origin, or in what manner it was caused, or contributed to, or aggravated by, during his service. Then the onus of proof is on the Commission tq disprove the claim. If the critics idea of “ onus of proof” were correct, the ex-serviceman would win his case, without putting forward one word of evidence or explanation to support it. It is not A reason-able inference that a claimant has a good case when he does not put that case up. Until he puts up some sort of case to answer some fact or theory or suggestion from which a reasonable inference in his favour may be drawn - there surely can be no onus on the Commission to disprove his case.
The Tribunal made it quite clear that it did not accept the interpretation that has been placed upon the Act. This is apparent to everyone, in view of the example that I have cited. f
There are other examples to show that tribunals cannot be relied upon to interpret this law. As I have mentioned, there was a similar experience in the United Kingdom where Mr. Justice Denning, who subsequently became Lord Denning, and who is one of the great legal luminaries of that country which is famous for law, issued a decree on this subject. Without becoming involved in the technical jargon, his decree was to the effect that the condition must be accepted unless the authority can say, as a’ jury would say before convicting, that the condition was not due to war service and was sure of that beyond reasonable doubt. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.” Clyde Cameron) is reminding me that Lord Denning was called upon at the time of Great Britain’s hour of trial in the Profumo’ crisis. Lord Denning had no doubt about that matter and the benefit of the doubt aspect was certainly beyond reproach in that, issue. But when he had to decide on this question he made a determination which has set a standard and a principle for the rest -, of the world.
What is the solution to this problem? When an appellant is dissatisfied he should have recourse to a tribunal. We on this side of the chamber say that there are some very earnest people presiding on these tribunals. Some are medically qualified and some represent returned servicemen’s organisations. But are these people capable of interpreting the law? The No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal to which I referred obviously is not capable of interpreting the law. Their interpretation was quite different from that given by the Attorney-General of that time. The Tribunal had no competence in this matter.
The Opposition suggests that this jurisdiction should be given to judges. That is not to say that judges should take the place of the tribunal but that, at all times, the tribunal should be made aware of the fact that it can become competent for an exserviceman to appeal to a higher authority - to someone who has the judicial competence and capacity to interpret the law, just as it has been interpreted by Dr. Evatt, by Mr. Justice Spicer, who was then the Attorney-General, by Mr Justice Joske who is now a Supreme Court judge, and by almost everybody with the exception of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), who also are legally competent. The Opposition proposes that superimposed on all the tribunals and the trappings and ramifications of the Repatriation Act should be this judicial opportunity to which ex-servicemen may have recourse. We suggest that on this occasion, as we have suggested in previous debates on the Repatriation Act, the Government should give some thought to this matter. Otherwise, we suggest that the Government should accept the amendment which has been moved. I do not think it is necessary for me to read out the terms of the amendment. It simply states -
In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability. It is a very simple story. These exservicemen whose claims are being rejected at such a wholesale rate should be given some kind of redress. In. conclusion, let me summarise the position. In round figures, of 46,000 cases for action by Repatriation Boards and the Repatriation Commission, only 19,000 have been accepted. Of appeals to Entitlement Appeal Tribunals by ex-servicemen of all wars, including the Korean and Malayan operations, the First World War and the Second World War, there were no fewer than 12,990 for action, and no more than 1,369 were allowed. Noone in his right senses would contend, as someone tried to contend a short time ago when we were talking about cancer, that all of these disillusioned ex-servicemen are happy. They started from the bottom and worked their way up through the various authorities - Repatriation Board, Repatriation Commission and Entitlement Tribunal.
They are recompensed at a low rate per hour for the time they spend, as I said in the second-reading debate. If they are not sick when they start the process, they are physical wrecks when they finish. The principal cause is the failure of the Government - the Minister sitting at the table has to take the responsibility - to give the generous interpretation to the onus of proof provision that is given in the United Kingdom. We propose the amendment with great sincerity and hope that the Minister will on this occasion give more consideration to it than he has given in the past.
.Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
(The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. D. Mackinnon.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
Thar the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. I.. R. Johnson’s amendment) be so inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. D. Mackinnon.)
Majority .. ..19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 3a.
.I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 3a. 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 twenty-three ofthis Act and for a person to which section one hundred and twenty of this Act applies.’.”.
The question of free medical and hospital treatment for all returned servicemen of World War I surely needs no argument. These ex-servicemen who, 50 years ago, offered their all for the security and wellbeing of this country are now in the declining years of their lives. A young man who enlisted in 1914 at the age of 18 years would now be 68 years of age.
I am sure it is the wish of the great majority of Australian citizens that the recognition envisaged in the amendment be given to those who qualify for it. This amendment should be willingly accepted by all members of the Parliament. The Government has been in office now for 15 years, and it should have incorporated this proposed provision in the legislation many years ago. It is no good the Government boasting about its 15-year period of office unless it has something to show for it. The Government’s record in repatriation is pitiful, and it is time the R.S.L. and other similar organisations realise that they are dealing with people lacking in sympathy and the will to help them. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said that the R.S.L. has direct access to him - that it is the only body with direct access and that his door is always open to it. That may be so, but what good has this been to the R.S.L. and the ex-servicemen it represents?
The Government’s lack of responsibility is shown by the fact that the Opposition can point to glaring acts of irresponsibility, such as the Government’s refusal to accept this proposal over the years. I trust that the Government will reconsider this matter and agree to the amendment, which surely deserves the support of the whole of the Committee. We on this side will do what we have done previously in this matter. We will put the amendment to a vote. Members will then be counted and the people will know that some of them tell their constituents that they believe in righteousness but, when they get into the Parliament, say they believe in the opposite.
At present a handful of Boer War veterans get this benefit, but they got it only after much negotiation, much prodding and much reminding the Government of its responsibility. The Government appears to be subjecting World War I survivors to the same long drawn out treatment and agonising negotiation to which it subjected the Boer War veterans. In October 1963 it was estimated that there were approximately 110,500 World War I veterans still alive. Of these, 50,000 were receiving full repatriation and medical benefits. These included T.P.I, pensioners and persons on 100 per cent, war pensions. Of the remainder, J 5,300 received hospital treatment for certain disabilities. Should the Government agree to our amendment, only 44,700 would stand to benefit from the extension of hospital facilities and medical benefits.
The repatriation hospitals scattered throughout Australia have plenty of beds, but they lack staff. It is most unlikely that all of the 44,700 who are not at present covered for treatment would want to enter hospital at the same time. Therefore it is quite possible that with a general overhaul of all the unused hospital accommodation, provision for their admission could be found. At present there is a great shortage of nurses in repatriation hospitals. I have spoken to several nursing aides on this subject, and they have told me that they would like to become nurses and quality as sisters, but that once they change over from nursing aides to trainee nurses their pay is reduced by more than half. Therefore they are unable, through lack of finance, to attain their goal. This is something the Repatriation Department should look into to see that the financial arrangements are such that no girl is precluded from becoming a nurse should she so wish.
The R.S.L. has found, through interviewing the thousands of applicants who pass through its hands seeking help and information, that the most distressing cases now occurring involve World War I men who, on the application of the means test, just miss out on a service pension. These people need urgent assistance. They are old. As I said before, if they were 18 years of age when the war broke out they are now 68. They served their country in its hour of need and now, when they need help, this is denied them. They are perplexed because they cannot understand why aid is not forthcoming. They think to themselves: Was it worth it?
Dr. Bean, the official historian for World War I, when referring to the First A.l.F. talks of that “ famous army of generous men “. Could he say the same of this Government were he here today? The official history of the Australian Army Medical Service, Volume 3, contains a table which shows that the average man who served in the First World War has had his life expectancy cut by some 6i years. If the Government will only realise this, it will surely understand the meaning of Dr. Bean’s remarks when he referred to these “ generous mcn “. Could any man be more generous than to offer to his country 6) years of his life expectancy? How bitter these men must feel when they ask for a small reward and it is knocked back by an unsympathetic and unrealistic government. Let the Government pause to consider the effort that was made. Of the men who served, 2,862 officers and 56,468 men of other rank were killed, making a total of 59,330 men who paid the supreme sacrifice. In addition, 152,171 men were wounded in action. The survivors from Gallipoli and those who served in France and were lucky enough to see the war out are now in that remainder I mentioned of 44,700 who seek assistance from the Government and for whom we on this side of the chamber are pleading.
The enormous effort of these men may be gauged by what happened right from the early days of the war in France. Other battles to follow were bigger, but 1 cite the early days of France because a lot of men coming from Egypt took part in the battles then. 1 want to refer to what took place on 19th July 1916. The official history of the war shows that on that date the 60th Battalion had 887 officers and men. Next morning one officer and 106 men were left. In the same battle, the 31st Battalion lost 16 officers and 528 men. The 37th Battalion lost 17 officers and 701 men. The 53rd Battalion lost 24 officers and 601 men. The 59th Battalion lost 20 officers and 675 men. As I said, the 60th Battalion lost 16 officers and 741 men. In the taking of Pozieres, Australia lost 5,285 men.
The memories of war are fading and there is much we would do well to forget. But the sacrifices and the efforts made for us by the men who now survive must not be forgotten. These generous men, as Dr. Bean so ably described them, are now in urgent need of treatment. I plead with the Government not to hesitate but to take immediate steps to relieve their plight and anxiety. The conditions of battle in World War I were appalling. Although a man may have had a clean medical record when the war finished -
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As no other honorable member has risen, I will now take my second period.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Hon. W. C, Haworth.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Benson’s amendment) be so inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Hon. W. C. Howarth.)
Majority . . 19
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 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 purpose of this amendment is to give medical benefits to wives of special rale pensioners. This amendment was particularly requested by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association. It is a simple and straightforward amendment. Most honorable members will have some sympathy for the wives of these pensioners because of the work that many of them perform. In many cases they are not only wives in the normal sense but they in fact fill the role of a nurse. The Association rightly makes the claim that if it were not for the nursing work done by wives, many of these ex-servicemen would spend a great deal more time in repatriation hospitals. Therefore, without their services, costs of maintaining repatriation hospitals would be considerably higher.
Some wives of T.P.I, ex-servicemen do in fact receive medical benefits because they are eligible for a restricted social service benefit. In 1955 a number of wives were eligible for a part service pension or a part social service pension and they were entitled to the medical benefits which were then provided. 1 think most people are aware than in October 1955, the Government indicated that a new special means test was to be applied to this medical benefit entitlement. Under this means test, persons in receipt of £2 a week, or £4 a week in the case of a married couple, were no longer regarded as eligible. At the time, persons who were eligible because they received limited social service benefits, were invited to apply for the medical entitlement card. This is acknowledged. It was indicated at the time that no future applicants would be granted the medical entitlement.
The Minister on a previous occasion informed honorable members that about 3,000 wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen had received entitlement. He acknowledged also, to use his own words, that there were certainly a number who would have been entitled but who did not apply. At that time, there was a good deal of confusion, andI think the Government might have extended more leniency to such people and at least allowed them to make belated application when they found that they had missed the boat originally. Those who were entitled and who applied in 1955 received the benefit and are eligible for free treatment by doctors and free hospitalisation and may obtain, most pharmaceutical services free. These people have been allowed to retain this entitlement and will retain it until they die. Those who missed out originally and who subsequently became eligible for all these benefits have not been allowed any kind of medical entitlement.
– That is shameful.
– I agree that it is shameful, particularly when one realises that, had the husband been, not a T.P.I, cx-serviceman, but an ordinary workman earning £14 5s. a week - the amount of the T.P.I, pension under the Governments Budget proposals - all he needs to do is reduce his income to less than £4 for about six weeks or two months and his wife can during that time apply for a medical entitlement card. If she receives it then, she will retain it for the rest of her life. The husband can then increase his earnings to £14 5s. a week again. The ex-serviceman, of course, cannot do this in respect of his war pension. He cannot say to the Repatriation Department: “ I understand that there is a loophole in the medical entitlement provisions and that my wife could get an entitlement card if my pension were reduced to less than £4 a week for about six or eight weeks.” The Department certainly would not be able to play ball in that respect. So 1 think it should be clearly understood that in this way ex-servicemen and their dependants are penalised by comparison with people who are able to work and earn an income, or who receive income from rents, investments or some other source, and who are able temporarily to reduce their income in order for the wife to obtain a medical entitlement card.
Another worthwhile point can be made. Most wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are already in the 60’s. Many are in the 70’s. So the extension of this benefit to them would not entail additional expenditure for very long. As soon as a T.P.I, pensioner died, his widow automatically, as a war widow, would become entitled to full repatriation medical and hospital benefits. Therefore, we are not really asking for anything very substantial. Indeed, the Minister himself, I think, has estimated that the cost of granting medical entitlement as a repatriation benefit to the wives of T.P.I, ex-servicemen would total only about £736,000. This represents about £50 a head of the 80 per cent, of the wives of T.P.I. ex-servicemen who at present have no medical entitlement. I believe that some 21,000 ex-servicemen are in receipt of the T.P.I, pension. Of these, about 16,000 are married. Only some 16 per cent, of the 16,000 wives at present have received a medical entitlement card because of their eligibility for social service benefits.
So the Minister can see that what we are asking for would not represent a sizeable item of expenditure, though it would give considerable consolation and afford much greater security not only to the wives of sick ex-servicemen but also to the ex-servicemen themselves. Honorable members can imagine the plight of a totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman who is worried by the thought that one day his wife may need prolonged medical treatment or hospitalisation. Such a prospect must give cause for worry and would inevitably aggravate the already unhappy condition of an ex-serviceman who is totally and permanently incapacitated.
The Minister said on a previous occasion, in a very brief answer that he gave - I think to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) last year, who moved a similar amendment -
But it has never been part of the repatriation system to provide medical services for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioners.
The authority of precedent is a very poor authority on which to rely. In effect the Minister said that because it had never been done before, that was a reason why it should not be done then. I ask the Minister not only to be venturesome, but also to be a little more sympathetic and humane in the interests of wives who are rendering great service to the Repatriation Department by keeping their husbands out of hospital. He should also be sympathetic towards them as wives of men who have not only had their physical capacity reduced, but whose social qualities have been limited because of their contribution lo their country’s welfare.
– Amendments in almost precisely the same terms have been moved by the Opposition on previous occasions. Last year I had the opportunity of speaking to a similar amendment and giving the reasons why it was not acceptable to the Government. On severalother occasions I gave the reasons why such an amendment should not be accepted. In view of the circumstances the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - (Hon. W. C. Haworth.)
Majority .. . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Reynolds’ amendment) be so inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Hon. W. C. Haworth.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) - by leave - proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
.Mr. Deputy Speaker, I take this opportunity on the third reading of this Bill to lodge a protest on behalf of the Opposition-
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would not think of asking honorable members to sit for a few minutes longer at this early hour of the morning if it were not that I wished to mention what seems to me to be a matter of very grave national importance. Shortly after 9 o’clock last night the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) informed me of a certain news flash which he had heard on the radio. Being unable to obtain confirmation from another source, I asked the Press what cables had been received. Shortly after 10 p.m. I was informed through the courtesy of the Melbourne “ Sun “ that the following cable had been received -
The Malaysian Government announced today that an Indonesian Air Force Hercules transport aircraft last night dropped about 30 paratroopers in the Labis area of central south Johore, Malaya. A Government spokesman said one Indonesian had been killed up until noon today and three captured. He said the Indonesians were uniformed paratroopers of the regular forces. A later report said most of the Indonesians had now been “ eliminated “.
At 10.30 p.m. - it was not altogether my fault but was because of circumstances - I informed the Whip that I wished to bring up the matter during the adjournment debate. I presume that one can ring Malaysia and, in half an hour, ascertain whether it is correct or not. Last month, a landing of guerrillas was reported in the neighbourhood of Batu Pahat. This might or might not have been authorised by the ruler of Indonesia, although the indications at the time were that it was an official landing by guerrillas.
The dropping of paratroopers is, however, a very different matter of the gravest national importance as, if true, it cannot be other than an act of war against an ally with whom we have definite commitments. Therefore, even at thislate hour, I would ask the Government to inform members of this House whether information has been received through official sources and, if so, whether the facts as set out in the cable I have read to the House are correct. When a similar incident occurred in the Gulf of Tonkin and an American destroyer was attacked, I understand that the American Cabinet met somewhere about midnight, immediately the news came through.
If the news is correct, I feel that at least Parliament should have been informed at the time it was received. If the Government has received no information, I trust it will inform the House as soon as it meets at a later hour this day. I trust that it will also inform the House why, for the second time within a year - the first occasion was the burning of the British Embassy at Djakarta - our lines of communication seem to have broken down and Ministers do not receive information before it is announced publicly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.57 a.m. (Thursday).
(Question No. 365.)
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) The strength of the Australian Regular Army on 30th June 1963 was 22,639 (including 695 Pacific Islanders) and on 30th June 1964, was 23,493 (including 812 Pacific Islanders). (b) The strength of the Citizen Military Forces on 30th June 1963 was 27,341 and on 30th June 1964 was 27,505.
The following factors need to be kept in mind in considering these figures -
In July of each year, C.M.F. soldiers are classified “efficient” ‘ or “nonefficient” judged on the attendance and training results of the previous 12 months. Those classified as “nonefficient” may be discharged. This administrative action within C.M.F. units is largely responsible for the increase in the wastage figures for July 1964.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. No statements of this kind have come to my notice. As the honorable member may bc under a misapprehension as to the proposed timetable for converting cash registers, it may assist if I outline the arrangements settled so far. The Government will meet the full conversion costs of all cash registers originally installed in new condition in 1952 or later. The only exceptions are where a machine is not in workable condition, or where conversion parts are unavailable, in which case other arrangements will be made. The government-sponsored conversion programme will not commence until after “ C “ Day in February 1966. The machine conversion programme is at present expected to last for approximately two years after “ C “ Day, but the Decimal Currency Board will be using every endeavour to shorten this period. Owners of cash registers originally installed in new condition between 1947 and 1951 inclusive will receive a cash compensation from the Government. This will represent a proportion of the conversion cost of younger machines and will diminish according to the age of the machine. The Government will not be making any arrangements for the conversion of cash registers originally installed in new condition in 1951 or earlier years, and the owners of such machines will have the alternatives of converting them at their own expense or of trading them in on new machines (supplemented in either case by any government cash compensation for which they are eligible). The value which the machine companies place on existing £ s. d. machines for trade-in purposes will naturally be related to the general condition of the machines, and to their eligibility for conversion at government expense or for cash compensation, but competition within the monetary machine industry should ensure that trade-in quotations are not unduly low. 3 and 4. The Decimal Currency . Board has every confidence that it will be able to comply wilh ils proposed timetable for the conversion of cash registers in the government-sponsored programme. The Government agrees wilh the Board’s view that the most efficient and equitable method of achieving this will be through a method of regional zoning, details of which will be announced as soon as practicable.
y asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Since the introduction of the scheme for student training in Australia under the Colombo Plan -
What has been the total number of (i) male and (ii) female students who have come to Australia;
How many students have come to Australia each year, and, of these how many were (a) male and (b) female;
From what country have the students come, and how many have come from each country in each year; and
What has been the total cost of the scheme, and what has been the cost each year?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
In the total of 573 students arriving in 1963/64 there were 449 males and’ 124 females. Figures for previous years are not available.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Which nations have failed to meet their financial obligations to the United Nations Organisation?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
A comprehensive statement of the financial status of United Nations Members is to be found in United Nations Document ST/ ADM/ SKR. BV 189, a copy of which .is available in the Parliamentary Library. It shows 66 countries are in arrears. The total amount due and unpaid to the United Nations in current account and arrears at June 30tb 1964, was 199,656,922 United States dollars.
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
What treaties have been drafted or reviewed at Conferences attended by Australian representatives or observers since his reply to me of 18th September 1963 - “Hansard”, page 1163?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
List A hereunder indicates the treaties which have been drafted, and List B those that hae been reviewed, at conferences attended by Australian representatives or observers in the past year -
List A -
Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts committed on Board Aircraft (14th September 1963).
Second Process-Verbal extending the Declaration on the Provisional Accession of Tunisia to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (12th December 1963).
Indus Basin Development Fund (Supplemental) Agreement (6th April 1964).
Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Organisation for the Development and Construction of Space Vehicle Launchers (29th April 1964).
Protocol required by Article 8 (1) (e) (ii) of the Convention for the Establishment of a European Organisation for the Development and Construction of Space Vehicle Launchers concerning the Use of Technical Information for Purposes not within the Field of Space Technology (30th April 1964).
Interim Agreement between Australia, Britain and the European Organisation for the Development and Construction of Space Vehicle Launchers for the Conduct of the Phase I Firings of the Initial Programme of the Organisation (22nd May 1964).
Convention on Hygiene in Commerce and Offices (8th July 1964).
Convention on Benefits in the Case of Industrial Accidents (8th July 1964).
Convention on Employment Policy (9th July 1964).
Agreement establishing Interim Arrangements for a Global Commercial Communications Satellite System (20th August 1964).
Charter of the United Nations (26th June 1945) - Amendments to Articles 23, 27 and 61 adopted at 18th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (17th December 1963).
Universal Postal Convention and related Agreements (3rd October 1957) - Revisions adopted at 1964 Universal Postal Congress (29th May-lOth July 1964).
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
These figures include contributions by the Department of Territories, namely, £1,250 in each year in respect of MacRobertson Miller Airlines and £32,061, £35,000 and £56,500 respectively in the case of Connellan Airways.
son asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
r asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1, 2 and 3. Information relating to the population of local government areas becomes available through a Census only. On 30th June 1961, the origin of the population of the City of Greater Wollongong and the Municipality of Shellharbour was as follows -
No details are available regarding British Commonwealth countries other than New Zealand, Canada, Malta, India, Pakistan and Ceylon. It is not known how many of those born outside Australia have come here since 1945, but it is reasonable to assume that most of them have done so.
Information is not available from Census sources on the residential distribution of naturalized persons. A large proportion of nonBritish migrants have been in Australia for less than five years and therefore are not yet eligible for naturalization.
s asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The numbers of applications outstanding with each State housing authority to (a) purchase and
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 September 1964, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640902_reps_25_hor43/>.