21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M.McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Pursuant to
Standing Order 28a I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senator J. M. Fraser, Senator J. A. McCallum, Senator T. M. Nicholls, Senator J. O’Byrne, Senator R. W. Pearson, and Senator I. A. C. “Wood a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent. The warrant nominating a panel of Temporary Chairmen of Committees, dated the 4th August, 1954, is revoked.
– I understand that this Parliament has power, under the Constitution, to debar any one from entering. Australia, as Mrs. Freer was debarred during the regime of the Lyons Government. As the Attorney-General may be aware, we have in this country at the present moment a Czechoslovakian named Professor Joseph Hromadka, who has been decorated by the Communist Government of Czechoslovakia. Can the Attorney-General say who asked this’ professor to Australia and what is the purpose of his visit? As Professor Hromadka came from a country with a Communist government, were his credentials screened by security authorities before a landing permit was granted to him ? Was he subjected to a language test? How does the Attorney-General view the statement of the professor that freedom of religion is the policy of the Czechoslovakian Government, although we know of the persecution that has been inflicted on ministers of religions of all denominations in that country?
– I am not certain Who invited this gentleman to Australia, but I understood that the invitation arose out of a meeting, I think, of the International Council of Churches in America.
He was present at some function at which there were also present representatives of churches from most parts of the world. I. gather that he was invited to come to Australia -by persons who were associated with that meeting, but of that I am not sure. It was not a government invitation. His visit, of course, is a temporary one. The honorable senator must know that it is not usual to answer questions concerning the activities of the security service, and that part of the question I shall not answer. All I can say is that the practice that has been followed in this instance is the common practice in relation to temporary visitors.
– Is it not a fact that Communist delegates to China were refused passports? Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that Professor Hromadka last night addressed about 7,000 people at a stadium in Melbourne? Is he aware also that, some time ago, agents of the Czechoslovakian Government travelled through this country endeavouring to induce Czech nationals to return home and that those who did so had their property confiscated by the Communist Government of Czechoslovakia, leaving them and their dependants destitute? Is the policy of this Government to allow Communists to come into this country, but to refuse permission to Communist delegates, to leave Australia?
– The honorable senator must be aware that this Government is fighting communism all the time. If we had received the co-operation of ihe Labour Opposition in our fight against communism, we should have been even more successful than we have been.
– My question relates to the recent visit of the Minister for National Development to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Is the Minister able to say what types of cereals or other crops are considered most suitable for the agricultural development of the Ord River area, having regard to the various economic, social and technical factors involved? Does he consider that the waters of the Ord’ River can be dammed adequately to provide an irrigation scheme in the Ord River Valley?
– As / Senator Vincent has mentioned, I visited the Kimberley region of Western Australia recently. During my stay overnight at the Ord River Research Station, the research officers detailed to me, at considerable length, the work that has been done there over the years. They mentioned,, specifically, the crops with which they have experimented’, and the results that have been achieved. Out of fairness to those officers, I ask the honorable senator to place the first part of his question on the notice-paper, and I shall obtain detailed information for him. It is manifestly possible to dam the waters of the Ord River. It flows through an area which, from reports made to me, as well as from my own observations, is well suited for closer settlement and agricultural pursuits. I have no doubt that good results would be obtained from such an irrigation system.
– I address the following series of questions- to the Minister for National Development: What quantity of steel was produced in Australia during the years ended the 30th June, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954? What firms manufactured the steel? What quantity was produced’ by each ? By how much did the production of Australian steel fall short of local requirements, and what quantity of steel was imported intoAustralia during each of those years?’ What was the tonnage imported from each country? Is the production of steel in Australia now equal to our requirements? If production is in excess of requirements, are we exporting steel ? If so, what quantities are exported tovarious countries? I have been impelled to ask these questions because of the fact that Tasmania has entered into a contract for the purchase of £250,000 worth of steel from the United Kingdom.
– Obviously, one could not be expected to- carry in one’s mind all of the statistical information sought by the honorable senator. I shall be glad, therefore, if he would place the question on the notice-paper. Speaking generally, I think it is true- to say that only in one of the years that Senator Cole mentioned, was: the production of
Australian steel sufficient to satisfy our requirements, although there has been a very substantial increase of steel, production, ki. each of the last three years.
– Can- the Minister- for Transport’ inform the’ Senate how many diesel engines- are- on order for use on the Commonwealth railways, particularly the north-south rail- way ?. Will he indicate when they will be in commission on that track?
– A total of fourteen British diesel engines have been ordered for the north-south railway. Of these, four have been delivered, three are om the water and seven are expected to arrive at the end of the year. In addition, five General Motors’ diesel engines have, been ordered for the coal traffic from Leigh Greek to Port Augusta powerhouse.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate, whether any progress has been made towards an arrangement for the Melbourne-Adelaide express to continue its run to Port Pirie, as that is a condition of the laying of the. standard gauge railway from Port Augusta to Port Pki©?’ When- is the train expected to run from Poet Pirie.- to- Melbourne-,, and so contribute to> the comfort of Trans-Australia passengers V
Senator- McLEAY. - I shall refer thematter to the- South Australian Minister1 for Railways to ascertain, whether a decision, can be hastened. Up- to- the: present I have, had no. advice when the suggested arrangement will be made.
– No doubt the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture has been pleased to notice news that the managing director of Carters- Limited of England is in Australia for the purpose of buying the whole surplus production of Tasmanian black currants which, two years ago, the Department of Agriculture prophesied would- have absolutely no market whatsoever. Will’ the Minister take immediate steps to impress upon the administration within the fruit and sugar industries that adequate assistance should be given to the raspberry-growers ? The raspberry crop in- Tasmania is being destroyed because of the bleak prospects for the ind’ustry. Quite a considerable portion of the plantations are being either wholly neglected or dug out. I ask the Minister to make immediate representations to those who administer the funds’ available to the fruit industry to- ensure that marketing prospects for this season are made attractive to the raspberry-growers.
– I should like to advise the Senate that I had an interesting conference with Mr. Armstrong, the representative- of Carters Limited, to-day. It was due to the special efforts of one member of the Export Trade Section of the Department of Commerce that we were able to enter into a contract with this overseas firm, which relieved the position considerably in- Tasmania as that firm took all of one kind of fruit available. I discussed the- subject of raspberries with Mr. Armstrong to-day. He is going to Tasmania for ten. days in order to consult the representatives; of the. industry there, and I have: arranged to confer with him again after that visit, in order- to ascertain, what; I can do to continue’ the- good work. I shall take the point raised by Senator Wright into consideration.
– As I understand’ that. a. panel- of experts- is- being selected’ for- the purpose: of inquiring into the! lifting’ of’ beef by air in northern Queensland’, I should’ like to ask the. Minister for Transport- whether, or not a time.limit, hasbeen set on the panel’s’ investigations orwhether they will run on like Tennyson’sbrook or the Royal Commission on Espionage ?
– The committee was appointed by the Treasurer (Sir. Arthur Fadden*). The members of it. areintelligent commercial men, and’ I expect a report and a decision from them promptly.
– In connexion with the reciprocal arrangements on repatriation and other service matters that are in force between the Government’s of the United Kingdom and Australia, I believe that for some time Great Britain maintained a representative in Australia. Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate whether any such representative is in Australia at present, and if not will the Government request the United Kingdom Government to resume that most essential service?
– There is no representative of the British Ministry of Pensions in Australia at present. The Repatriation Department has made representations to the British Minister for Pensions to ascertain whether it is possible for a representative to be sent to Australia, but a definite reply has not yet been received.
– On the 9th September, Senator Hendrickson asked the following question: -
Twenty or 30 years ago, it was the practice of the Postal Department to have the laying of underground cables, the erection of telephone lines, and telephone line maintenance work, done by private contract. Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-Generainform me whether the Government intends to revert to that system?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following reply to the honorable senator: -
The work of laying underground conduits and cable and the erection of aerial telephone lines, for the Postmaster-General’s Department is being performed by contract where the work is at present beyond the capacity of existing departmental staff to perform within a reasonable period. Such works represent only a small portion of the normal installation programme. The execution of certain works by contract permits subscribers and trunk-line services to be provided at an earlier stage than would otherwise be possible. Insofar as costs are concerned, a tender is accepted only if the tender price, plus any departmental costs such as supervision, is less than the departmental estimate for the work. All work carried out by contract is closely supervised by departmental workmen to ensure that it conforms with departmental standards. Maintenance of teleplone lines by contract is performed only in a small number of isolated, areas where the amount of work is insufficient to fully occupy a full-time lineman and performance from existing linemen’s stations would be unduly costly.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions -
In reply to the questions relating to television asked by Senator Willesee on the loth September, I am now in the position to inform him that the Government has re-affirmed its decision to proceed with the introduction of television into Australia. National and commercial stations will be established in Sydney and Melbourne and as soon as practicable, the service will be extended to cover other capital cities and country areas. Applications for licences to provide commercial programmes in Sydney and Melbourne are to be heard in public by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answers : -
Debate resumed from the 15th September (vide page 286) on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill, which is designed to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1953, is totally inadequate. It proposes that ex-servicemen shall be given much less than the various ex-servicemen’s organizations have been pressing for during the last two years. Worse still, the claims of blinded and totally and permanently incapacitated ex-service pensioners have been ignored. Therefore, I move as an amendment -
That all words after “ bill “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that -
(a) The totally and permanently disabled rate for war pensions be £12 10s. a week with proportionate increases for dependants.
Dependants’ of T.P.I. pensioners caring for such pensioners be granted sickness and hospital benefits similar to those extended to Age or Invalid pensioners.
The T.P.I. rate as set out here be applied to totally blind pensioners.
The pension of a partially blinded soldier who has lost an eye, or the sight of an eye or who is suffering 50 per cent, loss of efficiency from an eye injury be classified as 75 per cent, to bring him on the same level as a limbless soldier who has lost an arm below the elbow or a leg below the knee.
A Parliamentary Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the decisions and interpretations made under Section 47 of the Act (onus of proof)
(a) All ex-service men and women shall be entitled to treatment in Repatriation Hospitals for disabilities whether war caused or not.
A similar right to treatment in Repatriation or other hospitals shall be given to war widows.
There shall be automatic entitlement to repatriation benefits for mental or nervous disorders of an ex-member of the Forces.
Benefits shall be provided for the progressive deterioration of one of dual organs where the other suffered war-caused injury “.
I believe that sub-paragraph (a), which would have the effect of making the rate of pension for totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen £12 10s. a week, with proportional increases for dependants, is justified. This bill before the Senate proposes to increase the 100 per cent, rate of pension by 7s. 6d. a week, making it £4 10s. a week. It seems to me that that rate should be increased to £5 a week. We must remember that, although the 100 per cent, rate pensioner may go to work and enjoy an income of £20 or £30 a week, and that his wife may also be able to earn, the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is unable to go to work. In almost every instance, he is entirely dependent on his pension. His wife is obliged to look after him, so that she cannot go to work either. To say that the present rate of pension is sufficient, having regard to the times in which we live, is to overlook the requirements of decent living in a democratic country. I consider it urgently necessary that the pension be increased by £3 5s. a week, making it £12 10s. a week, because of the increased cost of living.
Sub-paragraph (b) is to the effect that dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, who care for such ex-servicemen, should be granted sickness and hospital benefits similar to those granted to age and invalid pensioners. As most honorable senators know, the health of a wife who is obliged to care for a totally disabled husband very often deteriorates. In my opinion, such women are virtually nurses and save the Repatriation Department thousands of pounds, because if they did not nurse their husbands, the repatriation hospitals would have to provide suet care. The expenses of the Repatriation Department would be very much greater if these grand women did not carry out .such work. For (that reason, I think that they should be granted sickness and hospital benefits when their own health breaks down.
I submit that a pension lOt £12 10s. a week would not be too much to pay to a person ‘who had lost his sight in the service of his country. For that reason, I think that the totally and permanently incapacitated rate of pension should also apply ‘to totally blind pensioners. Surely there can be no sound reason why the 75 per cent, rate of pension should not be. paid to a soldier who has lost the sight of an eye. If paragraph 2 of the amendment were approved by the Senate, it would mean that the weekly pension would be £3 ls. 10£d. I do not know how many soldiers -have suffered the loss -of an eye, but I am sure that the Commonwealth is in a -sufficiently sound financial position to grant such an increase, which should also apply to -an ex-serviceman who has lost an arm below -the elbow or a leg below the knee. In my view, it is reasonable that the same Tate of pension should apply in the case of -ex-servicemen who have lost the sight of an ‘eye, an arm Mow the elbow or a leg “below the knee. Partially blinded soldiers, or those who -have suffered -50 per cent, -loss of efficiency ‘because of eye injuries, find .their fitness for employment considerably diminished. Many of them ure obliged to do ‘the most menial -tasks in -order to support themselves and their families. In addition, -they live in continual fear of losing their remaining sight. Consequently, their nerves are always working at high pressure, so that their general health suffers. They then .get into financial difficulties. Limbless soldiers, on the other hand, because of -the wonderful new appliances .supplied by -the Repatriation Department, .are able to do remarkably well. The partially .blinded exserviceman cannot ‘improve his -vision, and although he may he in ‘excellent physical, condition, many employers will not employ him because they are of the opinion that he would not be able to give the service required of him. I hope that the Senate will agree that that rate of pension should be increased.
Paragraph 3 is to the effect that a parliamentary select committee should be appointed to inquire into the decisions and interpretations made under section 47 of the act. In 1942, the Labour Government revised the onus of proof, or the (benefit of doubt, clause, in order to ensure entitlements in case of disablement or death, unless the .Repatriation Department clearly established that war .service could not have ‘been a ‘contributing factor to the disability or -death of the exserviceman concerned. That vital provision has not been fully applied. In my opinion, the law should be clarified to make certain that this necessary and just provision is honoured .in the “letter and also in the spirit. A formula should be devised, so that there will be <a single interpretation .of this provision throughout Australia. It -appears that a great deal of difficulty has been caused by the various State directors interpreting this matter in different ways. “Every honor-able senator knows that thousands of women., most of them good mothers, have .been denied the war widows’ pension because doctors have certified that disability or death was not due to war service. The Repatriation Department accepts such certificates, irrespective of the medical history of the soldier .concerned. In my opinion, a parliamentary select committee could clarify the provisions of the act in this connexion. T , KnOW that there are many ex-servicemen amongst honorable senators on the other side of the chamber, and I have no ‘doubt that they appreciate that this onus-of -proof clause is one of the most vital provisions of the Repatriation Act. For that reason, I suggest that they should support the amendment. Let us appoint a select committee to look into these matters. Subparagraph (a) of paragraph 4 reads -
All ex-servicemen and women shall be entitled to treatment in Repatriation Hospitals for disabilities whether war caused or not.
This is a very important matter. Acceptance of this amendment would overcome the necessity for establishing whether or not a disability was attributable to war service. “When an ex-serviceman, having been admitted to a repatriation hospital, is subsequently removed from that hospital following a decision that his disability is not attributable to war service, his relatives are rightly resentful. A. specialist who treats an- ex-serviceman in: a repatriation hospital may not, necessarily, treat him in another hospital to which he is transferred. As- a result, the ex-serviceman may suffer hardship.
On many previous occasions I have urged the Minister to adopt the suggestions now incorporated in the amendments. He will recall that I directed his attention to the case of an ex-serviceman named Weekes, who had a tumor on his brain. Although a specialist at the Concord; repatriation hospital told Mrs. Weekes that he could remove the tumor by operating, her husband was not nl lowed to remain at that hospital. After being removed to another hospital, he was operated on by another doctor, but died. Due to the department’s vicious cheese-paring policy, repatriation hospital operating facilities have been denied to thousands of ex-servicemen. I come now to the case of an ex-serviceman named. Les White, which I have mentioned previously in this chamber. He was a. pilot in the- Air Force during World! War II., While cm- leave in Melbourne, prior to> leaving Australia with the Air Fog,ee.. he waa. knocked down by a motor ear. He was. taken to the Heidelberg- repatriation! hospital and treated for a fractured skull. The hospital records show that, although, he complained about a pain in one of his legs> it was not treated. Mr. White had an excellent record of. service’ as, a pilot.. Although his leg troubled him, he refrained from reporting: that fact to a medical officer, because- he was afraid of. being- grounded. After the cessation of hostilities, he returned, to Australia and married. Subsequently, when he awoke one’ morning his legs were partially paralysed. He went to a local repatriation d’octor at Armidale, who directed h hn to report to the Concord repatriation hospital. He gave Mr. White a letter to deliver to the hospital’ authorities. After being in that hospital for about three weeks, he was informed that he was suffering from osteomyelitis, which was not due to his war service. He thereupon returned1 to his home. As< his legs continued to worry him, he again reported to the local repatriation doctor at Armidale, who sent” him1 to’ a private doctor. This doctor arranged for his:legs to be X-rayed. The X-ray photographs; revealed what appeared to be a smashed hip bone which, over a lengthy period, had brought about a curvature of his spinal column. The doctor told’ Mr. White> who was - and still is: - a farmer, that he must not get on a horse, do any lifting, or drive a tractor. After I had’ looked at the X-ray photographs, and’ subsequently written a letter about the case to the Repatriation Department, White was requested by the department to appear before an entitlement tribunal in Sydney; as he was entering the door of the room in which the tribunal was sitting, his case was adjourned. Later, he was informed by the department that the New South Wales Repatriation Board had decided on the 30th June, 1947, that his nervous condition was not related to war service, and that no disability of his legs had been, found. In May, 1950, the local repatriation medical officer at Armidale reported that the X-ray revealed that White waa suffering from osteoarthritis of the right hip joint. He was again admitted to the Concord Repatriation Hospital for further investigation, and was discharged on the 5th December, 1950. On the 6th December, 1950, the New South Wales Repatriation Board decided that the condition of osteoarthritis of White’s right hip joint was not associated with his war service. There could have been no proper examination o£ White at Concord. It is a disgraceful state of affairs that he was. discharged:, from the Concord Repatriation Hospital because of a decision that his. disability was not attributable to war service, without having, had a proper examination. Thai, was a disgrace to our repatriation system.
In February, 1952, the Repartiation Department advised White that the Repatriation Commission had accepted his condition of osteoarthritis of the right hip joint as being due to war -service, and had approved of a 30 per cent, war pension as from the 9th April, 1951. What a changeof front! Apparently it was brought about by my letter to the department of the 17th September, 1951. As far’ as I know, the department did not obtain further evidence; it’ acted only on the information contained in my letter. In February, 1952, the board saw fit to grant to White, retrospective to the 9th April, 1951 - ten months before - a pension of 30 per cent, of the general rate. I had previously been informed by the department that the payment of pensions retrospectively could not be approved in respect of periods in excess of six months.
Mr. White was discharged from the Concord Repatriation Hospital on three occasions because it was considered that his disability was not due to war service. Yet, after the receipt of my letter, which was based- on my examination of the X-ray photographs, and a report from a specialist who had no axe to grind, White was granted a pension. Had this exserviceman not known me, he would have continued working in the country, and been under the impression that he was suffering from osteomyelitis. He returned to the repatriation doctor at Armidale only because I advised him to do so. Doubtless every member of this chamber has, from time to time, tried to assist ex-servicemen.
I come now to the case of ex-Corporal F. W. Hiscocks. Although he was suffering from a severe form of dermatitis, he was not allowed to remain at the Concord Repatriation Hospital. I have raised this matter previously in the Senate. Hiscocks was taken from his home to the hospital, but, within a short period, was discharged. Just before the conclusion of the sittings of the Senate last year I asked the Minister for Repatriation a question about this case. I also arranged for the Repatriation Department to send a car to convey ex-Corporal Hiscocks to the Repatriation Department, where he was seen, by Dr. Flynn. The doctor did not examine Hiscocks, but advised him that he had better get himself admitted to a public hospital. Hiscocks was receiving a 30 per cent, war pension in respect of his dermatitis. As reported in Hansard of the 1st December, 1953, I asked the Minister for Repatriation, the following question : -
Yesterday I made arrangements with the Repatriation Department in New South Wales to send a car for ex-Corporal F. W. Hiscocks No. 77782, who is suffering severely from dermatitis. The car conveyed him to the Repatriation Department, where Dr. Flynn saw him. He did not examine Hiscocks, but told him that he had better get himself admitted to a public hospital. This man receives a 30 per cent, pension because he is suffering from dermatitis. Mrs. Hiscocks came to see me last night. Both of her legs were in irons. She informed me that she had had no sleep of any consequence for three weeks, and that she was unable to give her husband any further attention. Will the Minister extend the hand of humanity in this case by instructing the Sydney branch of his department to arrange for Hiscocks to be admitted to the Concord Military Hospital?
On the 3rd December, 1953, I asked the Minister whether he had taken any steps to assist the ex-corporal’s family, by arranging for his admission to the Concord Repatriation Hospital. I asked the Minister whether he had taken any action to give effect to my requests. He replied that he had nothing to report, as honorable senators may verify from Hansard of the 3rd December, 1953, at page 302. Hiscocks was again taken from his home to the Concord hospital, but as soon as the Parliament got up he was discharged from that hospital. As a result of his nervous condition, the lack of treatment caused him great worry and Hiscocks had a stroke and died. That is another reason why every soldier should be treated, when he is ill, at a repatriation hospital. Hiscocks’s case proves the necessity for a select committee of Parliament to examine section 47 of the Repatriation Act which relates to onus of proof.
Paragraph 4, sub-paragraph (6), of my proposed amendment, reads as follows : -
A similar right to treatment in Repatriation or other hospitals shall be given to war widows.
At present, war widows and dependent widows are entitled to certain treatment at repatriation hospitals, but they are not entitled to all forms of medical treatment. For instance, if they are suffering from what the department would term “ chronic illnesses “ they are not provided with free treatment. The Opposition contend that they should be entitled to treatment at repatriation hospitals for all kinds of illnesses. Hospital treatment should be available to war widows in the same way as to exservicemen and ex-servicewomen. As a result of shock they could be suffering from a nervous condition. They may have been looking after their sick husbands for many years before their death.
Paragraph 4, sub-paragraph (c), of my proposed amendment provides -
There shall be automatic entitlement to repatriation benefits for mental or nervous disorders of an ex-member of the Forces.
In 1943, the Labour Government accepted for automatic entitlement certain cases of pulmonary tuberculosis. Now, ex-servicemen are suffering from nervous or mental disorders which cannot be fairly dissociated with the rigours of war service. The common-sense view is that these cases of latent illness should be regarded as attributable, in part at least, to the strain of active service. Therefore, this legislation should provide for automatic acceptance of entitlement in these cases.
Paragraph 4, sub-paragraph (fi), of my proposed amendment states -
Benefits shall he provided for the progressive deterioration of one of dual organs where the other suffered war-caused injury.
In cases in which the loss of an eye affects the remaining eye, the loss of a leg affects a sound leg, or deafness in one ear causes deafness in the other, benefits should be provided. Progressive payments should be made. When a man has lost the sight of one eye and his other eye is becoming affected, no compensation is payable to him until he has lost the sight of the other eye. I contend that while his remaining eye is deteriorating lie should be paid a part of the pension, for example, 60 per cent., 75 per cent., 80 per cent, and then 100 per cent., as his sight is lost. The ex-servicemen’s organizations, as I interpret their statements, are opposed to the pitting of one section of their members against the other by the Government’s action in increasing one or two classes of pension one year and, in the next year, increasing one or two other classes. I concur with the view of the ex-servicemen’s organizations. My colleagues believe that tho carrying of the motion before the Senate will rectify the position from the point of view of the ex-servicemen’s organizations. The Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia, the Partially Blinded Soldiers Association of Australia, and the Federated Tubercular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s’ Association of Australia, have written very strong letters to honor able senators stating their opinions on this matter. Honorable senators now have an opportunity, by voting for the motion before the Senate, to encourage people to volunteer for the defence of their nation on a future occasion.
Mr. President, I would like you and honorable senators, when considering where the money would come from to provide for the proposed benefits, to remember that millions of pounds were provided each week in order to cause war injuries. Whereas millions of pounds were required each week to cause these injuries, I suppose that £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year would be sufficient to care for the people concerned. If the Senate agrees with this view it must agree to the proposed amendment. If any honorable senator wishes to check the facts that I have cited, he may do so from files in my possession.
In the course of his second-reading speech the Minister for Repatriation said -
In 1949, before this Government took office, that liability was £20,500,000. It had grown to £39,500,000 for the year ending June, 1954, and will increase by a further amount in excess of £2,000,000 as a result of the increases provided for in this bill.
The Minister cannot fool the 100 per cent, pensioner, the tubercular pensioner, the totally blinded pensioner, nor the totally disabled pensioner. They know that the pension has increased. But they know, too, that the cost of living has gone beyond their means. The totally and permanently incapacitated soldier receives about £9 a week in pension. Would any honorable senator like to have to live on that income with the cost of living at its present level? I know that these sick people are entitled to free medical treatment but that is not enough. They want some security. They have not long to live. It has been estimated that four totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen die weekly in Sydney alone. There are only about 10,000 of them in Australia. I do not think that honorable senators should pat themselves on the back, thinking that they have done something grand for these men. They have not even done what is just.
– I second the amendment.
.- I support the bill that has been presented by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). Senator Amour, who has spoken on behalf of the Opposition, gave an interesting speech upon the problems of ex-servicemen but be did not really discuss the bill, and I propose to state at the outset what the Government proposes to do. First, it proposes to increase the general pension for ex-servicemen by 7 s. 6d. a week, making the total £4 10s. a week. Secondly, it proposes to increase the war widows’ pension rate by 7s. 6d. a week, making the new rate £4 a week. The remarriage gratuity for war widows will be increased from £188 to £204 and the ceiling rates in every case under section 91a of the Repatriation Act will be increased by 15s. The means test as it applies to service pensions is to be made more liberal in consequence of the revision of the provision for social services pensions. Senator Amour has circulated on behalf of the Opposition ,an amendment that provides for many benefits that every exserviceman would like to have. As the honorable senator is in the Opposition, and he and his colleagues have no responsibility of government, it is easy for them to submit such an amendment but we must be realistic. We must realize that a ‘ budget is not something by means of -which we can hand out amenities or -entitlements just as we would like without regard to the national economy. I ‘believe ‘that all fair-minded people will agree that the Minister for Repatriation has done a magnificent job for ex-servicemen during his term of office. He has been untiring in his efforts to fight for ex-servicemen and women. If we are realists, we shall recognize that a ‘budget is “like a ship under construction. If too much strain or stress is caused at the wrong place, we shall .not have a ship of state at all. The budget must be properly balanced because it is a precision instrument. The claims of the ex-servicemen have to be considered in that light.
While honorable senators will support the claims of ex-servicemen and advance them in every way possible, .exservicemen realize, as everybody else does, tuart they have to accept their share of what the country offers. Ex-servicemen realize that the aged and invalid, the sufferers from tuberculosis and .civilian widows have their just claims also. Everything must be put into the balance and we must do the best we can with the amount that is available to us. All fair-minded people will agree .that this Government has given to ex-servicemen all that it could within the limits .of the economy since it has been in office. I do not wish to be unduly critical because I do not believe that ex-servicemen should be divided to any great degree on these matters, but I am constrained to remind Senator Amour, who spoke of the need for increases of pensions because -of the rise in the cost of living, that in 1949, the last year of the Chifley Labour Government’s regime, the cost of living rose by 9 per cent. In that year, not one increase of pension rates or allowances of any sort was given to exservicemen. It is easy for the Opposition to state all the needs of the exservicemen. Honorable senators can judge the Opposition’s sincerity “by the fact that when the Labour Government was in office, it also had to be guided by the necessity to plan the budget as a whole, so that everything available would be distributed equitably.
I remind honorable senators that a Labour government first introduced the ceiling rates in 1948 in connexion with the general war pension. The Minister for Repatriation of the day, Mr. Barnard, on the 16th September, 1948, introduced the bill providing for the application of ceiling rates that have operated so unfairly and unjustly against exservicemen. When the labour ‘Government was in office, ex-servicemen who were in receipt of a war pension in excess of 40 per cent, were debarred from receiving full employment or sickness benefits, despite the fact that their unemployment or sickness was probably largely attributable to war service. It is to the credit of this Government and the present Minister for Repatriation that that ‘injustice has been removed. Senator Amour referred to war widows. I :remind the Senate that until 1949, when this Government was elected ‘to office, >a war widow ‘w.as not accepted as a suitable risk for the allocation of a war service home.
I want to put the other side of the matter and tell the Senate what this Government has done for ex-servicemen, bearing in mind the statement that I made earlier that ex-servicemen’s organizations and ex-servicemen generally, while wanting us to do everything possible, realize that there must be some balancing out of other demands upon the Government. “When we came to power in 1949, our annual repatriation bill was approximately £20,500,000. For the year ended the 30th June, 1954, repatriation benefits cost us £39,500,000, and the increases provided for in this bill will add another £2,000,000 or more to that sum. Therefore, reviewing the figures quickly, we find that, since 1949, the present Government has increased repatriation benefits in terms of money by more than 100 per cent. That cannot be disputed. Secondly, a.n examination of war pensions and allowances reveals that the Government has consistently sought to improve the lot of ex-servicemen and their dependants. I have in my hand a pamphlet published by the Repatriation Department. It contains several illuminating comparative tables, and I should like to spend a minute or two on them. En. 1946, the general pension rate was £2 10s. a week, and in 1949, it was £2 los. a week, an increase of only 5s. during that period of Labour’s administration. In spite of a cost of living rise of approximately 9 per cent, in 1949, the general pension rate was not increased by Labour in that year. However, during this Government’s term of office, the general pension rate has been increased from £2 15s. a week to £4 2s. 6d. a week, and when this bill becomes law there will be a further increase of 7s. 6d. a week, making the total £4 10s. a week. In other words, the increase under this Government’s administration will be £1 15s. a week.
Reference was made by Senator Amour to the total and permanent incapacity pension or the “ special rate “ as we know it. Between 1946 and 1949, the special rate rose only from £4 16s. a week to £5 6s. a week, an increase of 10s. a week. Under the present Government, this pension has risen to £9 ‘ 5s. a week, an increase of £3 19s. a week.
– By how much has the basic wage risen over the same period?
– I cannot answer that offhand, but, as I have already pointed out, the cost of living rose by 9 per cent, in 1949, yet in that year the Labour Government did not increase repatriation pensions although all that Senator Amour has said about the special rate pensioner to-day applied with equal force then. It is to the credit of this Government that it has set about bringing the payment to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners up to a more reasonable figure than it has been in the past.
Let us consider now the circumstances of wives and children of pensioners. Allowances are paid to the families of both special rate and general rate pensioners. In 1949, the wife of a general rate pensioner received £1 4s. a week. In the previous three years, that allowance had increased by only 2s. a week. To-day, the wife of a general rate pensioner receives £1 15s. 6d. a week, an increase of lis. 6d. a week on Labour’s figure. It is interesting to find also that, between 1946 and 1949, there was no increase in the allowance payable to the children of pensioners. Under the present Government however, that allowance is 13s. 9d. a week, which represents an increase of 4s. 9d. a week on the 1949 figure. Already the widows’ pension has been increased by 12s. 6d a week by this Government, and the legislation now before the Senate will add a further 7s. 6d. The domestic allowance too has been liberalized. Under the Labour Government, that allowance was paid only to widows with one or two children under sixteen years of age. If a widow had more than two children, no domestic allowance was paid for subsequent children. This Government abolished that restriction and has paid the domestic allowance to all widows with children under sixteen years of age, regardless of the number of children. The allowance is also payable to a widow who is over 50 years of age or is permanently unemployable. That allowance will continue so long as the child, or one of the children of the widow, is not earning the adult wage and is undergoing education.
Clearly, under the wise guidance of the present Minister for Repatriation, this Government’s record is one of progressive increases of benefits for exservicemen and their dependants. Whilst some of the payments are not as much as we should like them to be, and undoubtedly would be in certain circumstances, the Government’s achievements compare more than favorably with those of the previous administration. In addition to the increases of the general rate and special rate pensions to which I have referred, the service pension or as we call the “ burnt-out “ pension, which is the ex-serviceman’s equivalent of the age pension except that he receives it at 60 or perhaps earlier if he is unemployable, has been increased from £2 2s. 6d. in 1949 to £3 10s. in 1953, an increase of £l 7s. 6d. a week. An excellent innovation under this Government is the gratuity that is paid to war widows upon remarriage. This nest-egg or dowry is the equivalent of a year’s pension. The increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the war widow’s pension proposed in this legislation will increase the grant from £188 to £204 a year. This gratuity is just one more example of the Government’s consideration for the dependants of exservicemen. In 1949 the weekly rates of pension for children of deceased members of the forces were 17s. 6d. for the first child and 12s. 6d. for other children. Those payments are now £2 6s. 6d. and 188. 6d. respectively. The Government has given special attention to seriously disabled ex-servicemen. In 1949, the Labour Government rejected a request made to it by deputations to give special consideration to amputees, but in September. 1950, less than twelve months after the election of the present Government, legislation was passed under which an ex-serviceman who has lost both legs, or suffers from paraplegia, is provided with a 10 horse-power Hillman Minx motor car. That is an excellent piece of legislation and one which once again shows the Government’s regard for its responsibility to former members of the forces who suffer from war injuries. Not only are these double amputees and paraplegics provided with a motor car, but also they receive an allowance of £120 a year towards running and maintaining the car. That is evidence of the Government’s sincere desire to help ex-servicemen within the limits imposed by the economic situation.
The next matter with which I want to deal is the recreational transport allowance. In July, 1950, the Menzies Government widened the eligibility for payment of this allowance. A sum of £10 a month is granted to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who is incapable of moving more than a short distance without the aid of crutches. Previously, the allowance was confined to wheelchair cases. I think all honorable senators will agree that the Government has made a very sensible approach to this matter by liberalizing the principles applicable to the allowance. Recently, an allowance of £5 a month was introduced for ex-servicemen who, because of their disabilities, find it difficult to use ordinary means of transport. That quick survey of the position shows clearly that in every sphere of these activities the Government is trying to effect improvements. It is accepting its responsibilities to those unfortunate men who suffered injury in the cause of their country.
Now I turn to the War Service Homes Division. During the last three and a half years, this Government has provided more finance for the War Service Homes Division and has built more war service homes than were built during the rest of the years since 1919, when the division was established. I think everybody will agree that that is a magnificent performance by the Government. During the last three and a half years, no fewer than 48,7S4 war service homes have been erected. In the previous three years, when a Labour Government was in office, 16,518 homes were erected. The limit of the advance has been increased substantially. ‘In that field again, we see a healthy and thoughtful approach by the Government to these problems. I understand from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) that it is proposed to issue a regulation which will be of great assistance to an ex-serviceman who goes into a repatriation hospital. At present, when such a man enters a repatriation hospital, he receives a pension at a special rate, which I think is comparable with the totally and permanently incapacitated rate. But if he has any sick pay due to him from civilian sources, that is taken into account in assessing his pension.
– Will the honorable say that again ?
– When an exserviceman goes into a repatriation hospital, he becomes entitled to a pension at a special rate. I understand it is comparable with the rate applicable to a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner, with the same qualifications in respect of a wife and children. If he has some sick leave due to him, or is entitled to sick pay in lieu thereof, that is taken into account in assessing his pension. If he is entitled to a pension of, say, £11 a week, and has £3 or £4 a week due to him as sick pay, his pension is reduced. I understand the Minister has decided that in future sick leave payments will not be taken into account in that way. That is an excellent proposal. The effect of it will be that ex-servicemen admitted to repatriation hospitals will be able to preserve their entitlements to sick pay from civilian employers. They will be able to draw it if they become sick during the normal course of their employment. It will not be dissipated if they have to go into a repatriation hospital for treatment of a war-caused injury. I am certain that that excellent proposal will receive the wholehearted support of honorable senators on all sides of the chamber.
Senator Amour dealt with a number of special cases. I suppose it is true to say that all of us have special cases brought to our notice, and that we make representations about them to the Minister or the department. But it could be very dangerous and misleading to build a case against the department on the foundation of a number of special cases. As we go through life, we learn that, no matter how good our legislation is and no matter how thorough our planning may be, hard cases occur from time to time. In. most instances, they are exceptions to the rule. I believe that the Repatriation Department is doing a magnificent job. It is most helpful and kind to ex-servicemen, and does everything humanly possible to help them. I think it is true to say that the officers of the department follow the lead given by the Minister. If there are isolated cases of hardship, it is very unwise to emphasize them unduly in criticism of the department. Probably Senator Amour did not intend to do so, but I think it is necessary to point to the need for caution in this respect. As an exserviceman, Senator Amour probably will agree with me that in 99 cases out of 100 the department does a magnificent job to assist ex-servicemen. The odd case will occur even in the best-regulated departments.
I want to deal with ceiling rates, a matter about which I feel some concern. We have always believed that a war pension, besides being inalienable, is inviolable. It has always been accepted that it is given to an ex-serviceman as a small measure of compensation for injury or suffering sustained or caused by fighting to defend his native land. A war pension is given to some exservicemen because it is recognized that, owing to war injuries or the effects of war service, they have a shorter expectation of life than would otherwise be the case. Until 194S, it was always accepted that a war pension was untouchable, was not taxable and was paid without regard to the pensioner’s private income. But, as I indicated earlier, Mr. Barnard, the Minister for Repatriation in the previous Government, introduced a system of ceiling rates, under which a war pension could be affected by other payments from government sources. The system affected particularly ex-servicemen who had reached an age at which they could apply for social services benefits. At the point of time when an ex-serviceman pensioner needed his pension most, he became subject to this ceiling rate, means test or whatever we like to call it. It is to the credit of this Government that it liberalized the ceiling rate. In fact, the bill proposes to liberalize it to the extent of 15s. a week. Nevertheless, the principle is wrong. I believe there should be no ceiling rate at all. If there must be one, I believe it should not operate in such a way as to place an ex-service- man pensioner at a disadvantage compared with other members of the community. I prop’o’se to give a few simple examples to show that that is what happens: Before I do so, I want to emphasize that this Government has at least tried’ to’ meet in some measure the criticisms that may be levelled against it. in regard to this matter. The 100 per cent, rate war pensioner, without dependants, who works and earns a’ private income, will still receive His pension of £4 10s: a week. That pension is inviolable. However, when he reaches the stage when he can no longer work, which, because of his wai’ service, he will such probably earlier than a civilian, and seeks a burnt-out “digger’s “ pension’ J t. the age of 60 years, or an age pension at the age of 65 years, the ceiling operates against him. Instead of receiving war pension of £4 10s a week and age pension of £3 10s. a week, he receives only £ii 12s. 6d. a week. In other words, he receives £4 10s. a week war pension and only £1 2s. 6d. a week from social service’s.
The SO per cent, pensioner without dependants who, when this bill becomes operative, will receive £3 12s. a week, is in the same position as is the 100 per cent. rate pensioner. The ceiling will also’ operate” against Him. and he too will receive total pension df £5 12s. 6d; a yeek. There is absolutely no difference; there-1 fore, between the 100 per cent rate pensioner and the pensioner ofl the SO per cent. rate. The 50 pe,r cent, rate pensioner will ,b’e iri similar circumstances. Such a pensioner, as d single man without dependants, will receive £2’ 14s: a week wai- pension. If he seeks a Social services’ pension he als6 will receive a total pension of £5 12s. 6d. a week. The extraordinary situation thus arises that the 50 per cent, rate pensioner will be in precisely the Same position as the 100 per cent, rate pensioner. All the benefits that n re intended to flow from the additional 50 per cent, bf disability will completely’ disappear. To ray mind, that is entirety wrong. fh certain circumstances, the’ 100’ ner f-an’i fate pensioner is at a disadvantage in’ relation to the civilian1 pensioner. Lei ina tate, by w’ay’ tff exam-pie”, the” case” of an ex-serviceman and a civilian’. Let us assume that the ex-serviceman is’ burnt” out because df his war Service, is in receipt df the i.00 p’er cent, rate df pension, and has. not been able to put anything aside. Let us also assume that the civilian has worked Steadily at his1 job and has contributed to a superannuation fund which entitles him to a benefit of £4 10s. a week. I do not wish it to bethought that I am criticizing, in any way, the civilian worker who applies for a pension., I am merely making a comparison. Both men, therefore, have an income of £4 10s. a week. Because of, theoperation of the means test, the civilian will be entitled to a” total pension df £7 a week, whereas the ex-serviceman will receive only £5 12s. 6d. I realize that there are many angle’s to this argument, but on the fact of it, it appears that the ex-serviceman is at a disadvantage.
The final example I propose to give is probably more difficult to counter than are the others to which I have referred. Let me take the case of an exservicemanon the 100 per cent., rate of war pension because of the loss of a limb. He receive? an allegedly inviolable pension of £4 10s. a week. Let us compare hisfinancial position with that $f a civilian who, because of an injury suffered during his employment, also receives a pensionof £4 ids. a week. J know that, in certain instances, workers’ compensation is paid’ iii a lump sum,, but in marly other instances, . particularly under the New South Wales apt, injured workers receive; a pension a’nd continue, to do so” until’ they. die. As far as I know, such a pension is. worked OUt on the difference between their earning capacity before injury and that after injury. As with the other example to which I have referred, if the injured civilian’ applies5 for a civil pension, he is entitled to i total pension of £7 a week, whereas theexserviceman . is entitled to a to’ta’l pension of only £5 12s., 6fl.. a week. It can be Seen, therefore, that in regard, to ceiling’s there is still much to be done. t know that the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) nas done’a great deal tfr liberalize’ the’ ‘ceiling ratéintroduced bv’ the Chifley Government and .which’, in 1949, applied at the fate of £3 2S. M. k week. That rate Eai since- be6n raised by this Government to £5 12s. 6d. a week. The passage of this bill will have the effect df raising the ceiling by l5s. a week. I appreciate that the Minister is,- a’t all times, trying to raise it even higher, bin 1 d6 not believe that a ceiling rate’ should apply at all. Ih my opinion’; a war service pension is a very small compensation for the sacrifice tirade by a serviceman, and I do not think that a ceiling rate should apply to his disadvantage.-
This bill, which t support, is just another example of the determination of this Government to do all tbis.it possibly can for ex-servicemen. The Minister for Repatriation will find a place in history as one who did a great deal in that connexion. Although returned servicement organizations are prone to write letters of protest to the Government at budget lime, I know that they recognize that, in the present Minister for Repatriation, they have a man who knows their problems and is striving, at every hour of the day, to help them.
– I support the amendment moved- by Senator Amour. The proposals that he has put forward have been endorsed by numerous ex-servicemen, as well as by office bearers of ex-servicemen’s organizations.
– Such as?
– I can refer the honorable senator to Mr. Lucke, the federal president of ‘the Returned Sailors-, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Speaking of. the budget which is now before the Parliament, Mr. Lucke said recently -
A few weeks before the present budget, a deputation of federal executives Vaitfed du the sub-committee of Cabinet to press further for pension increases.. It again drew attention to Hie fifteen-point plan, as previously submitted, lt was shown that the rite of pension had not kept pace with the changing economy of th’e nation and that the values of pensions were therefore less, in proportion to the .basic wage t Iia n when originally granted.
-. - Is not Mr. Lucke the president of the Tasmanian branch of the Returned Sailors-, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial -League of Australia?
– -That is correct. I should have said that he is president of the’ Tasmanian branch and Tasmanian representative on the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia; Mr.- Lucke also said-
Halving in mind the buoyancy of the Government’s finances at the end of the last financial year, it was hopefully anticipated that exservicemen would receive greater benefits than previously.
This Government has claimed frequently that Australia is enjoying one of the most buoyant economic periods .for many years; It has teen said that the economyis flourishing and is better, ih every way. than it was before. If that is sp, there is no justification for its niggardly approach to the just demands of. exservicemen which, after all, have not been for higher real pensions, but only for adjustment pf pensions so that ‘the recipients might be in a similar financial position to that which they enjoyed before the disastrous inflation brought about by the monetary policy of the Government. The, claims that have been made in good faith by ex-servicemen’s organizations have been treated almost with contempt. During the regime of the previous Labour Government) much criticism was directed at it by supporters of the present Government, although the Labour Government could claim justly that the, economy was unbalanced. It had to rehabilitate ex-servicemen under the reconstruction and training scheme, against the generabackground of upheaval caused by the war, and the change-over from war to peace. Because of the unsettled state of the economy at that ‘time, many claims made by ex-servicemen’s organizations could not be mct. However, the most recent budget to be introduced in the Parliament ‘was claimed 16 herald ari era of great prosperity foi- Australia. Unfortunately, proposed tax ‘concessions have the accent oil benefits for big organizations, such as powerful industrial groups which are themselves boasting of all-time record profits. Honorable senators opposite continually make excuses for the Government for n’ot ‘granting the just claims of .ex-servicemen. Senator Anderson, whilst ‘asserting on the one hand that the previous Labour Government had not made adequate provision for them, s’tated on the other that ‘ex-servicemen were receiving just treatment by th’e present
Government. As I have pointed out on previous occasions in this chamber, the ex-servicemen’s organizations in this country, which come more closely in contact with individual ex-servicemen than do members of parliament - including the Minister for Repatriation - are able to learn the minor details of various cases and present an over-all picture. The Government claims that, as we are enjoying unprecedented prosperity, it is justified in making tremendous taxation concessions to powerful business organizations. It has ignored almost all of the fifteen points that were drawn up for the guidance of the Government on these matters. No one can deny that, down the years, the ex-servicemen’s organizations have done valuable work, by keeping to the fore the interests of ex-servicemen. They have made a unanimous request for an increase, by 25 per cent., of the basic war pension. Why has not the Government squared off last year’s miserable increase by granting a worthwhile increase this year, instead of the proposed 7s. 6d. a week? The exservicemen’s organizations have made a unanimous ‘ request, also, for a 25 per cent, increase of the pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. The amendment proposes that the rate of that pension shall be increased to £12 10s. a week, with a corresponding increase of the amount of dependants’ allowances. The adoption of this proposal would do no more than restore the ratio of this pension to the basic wage which existed in 1949.
I come now to a consideration of persons who care for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The amendment proposes that such persons shall be granted sickness and hospital benefits similar to those provided for age and invalid pensioners. I hope that this proposal will receive the fullest consideration by the Government. When I raised this matter recently in this chamber, the Minister for Repatriation stated that the Government was not prepared to adopt the suggestion. Prior to the introduction of the Government’s notorious health scheme, which was sponsored by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), all dependants of the totally and perm.anen.tly incapacitated ex-servicemen were pro- vided with free hospital treatment in government hospitals in Tasmania. Obviously, therefore, the health scheme has placed an additional burden on totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. Those who live in Tasmania are being penalized, not only because the proposed increase of the special rate pension will be insufficient to offset the increased cost of living, but also because they now have to bear the cost of hospital treatment for their wives and other dependants. I have in mind the case of a totally and permanently incapacitated “ digger “, whose wife is at present receiving treatment for asthma in Launceston General Hospital. As he was unable to make provision under the Government’s scheme for hospital treatment for his wife, he is now forced to pay £5 17s. a week out of his pension for that treatment. That is most unjust. That exserviceman is not being assisted in any way to defray the cost of his wife’s hospital treatment. I support, wholeheartedly, the proposals contained in paragraph 2 of the amendment.
I come now to sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph 1, which proposes that the pension payable to a totally blinded exserviceman shall be £12 10s. a week. l”r, is deplorable that, in addition to having lost their sight, these unfortunate ex-servicemen should be faced with financial difficulties. No one will dispute that the present rate of the pension paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen is sufficient to enable them to purchase only the bare necessities of life. We all know that the cost of meat, bread, groceries, vegetables, and, in some instances, rent, has increased considerably. It is necessary for ex-servicemen who have lost their sight to be cared for constantly. In many instances, their wives look after them, but it must be remembered that their wives must be relieved of this duty occasionally. The pension payable to blinded ex-servicemen is not in keeping with the solemn promise that the Government made to the members of our armed forces during World War II., that it would look after them on their return to this country; and that if they did not return, their wives and other dependants would be cared for adequately.
– The previous Labour Government conveniently forgot that promise for eight years.
– I do not intend to debate the political aspect of the matter at present. As Senator George Rankin is an ex-serviceman, I am astounded that he does not support every word that I have said. I urge the Government to provide greater assistance to these ex-servicemen, who, in addition to being severely handicapped by the loss of their sight, have been “caught up in the vortex of inflation. In a time of prosperity - it has been claimed by the Government that this country was never more prosperous than it is to-day, although I have seen much evidence to the contrary - it is unpardonable for the Government to be niggardly in its treatment of the ex-servicemen.
Paragraph 2 proposes an increase of the pension payable to partially blinded ex-servicemen. In my own case, my eyesight was affected by war service, but fortunately I have been able to rectify the trouble by wearing glasses. I have not sought a war pension. Before I joined the Air Force, my eyesight, was classified AlB. That was the highest classification for pilots and air crew. After one of my eyes had been affected, the other eye frequently became tired. Inevitably, if one of a person’3 eyes is affected, additional strain and work is imposed on the other eye. The purpose of the amendment is to provide that this kind of disability shall be classified as a 75 per cent, disability, in view of the probable gradual effect of the injury on the other eye. The effect of the adoption of this provision of the amendment would be to bring an ex-serviceman so incapacitated into line with a limbless ex-serviceman. It is generally acknowledged that the ability of an ex-serviceman to do various things is seriously curtailed by the amputation of a leg below the knee or an arm below the ‘ elbow. The loss of a half of a limb imposes various other disabilities. It was for that reason, that such ex-servicemen were placed in the 75 per cent, pension classification. The amendment proposes that the pension of a partially blinded ex-serviceman, who has lost the sight of an eye or who is suffering 50 per cent, loss of efficiency through an eye injury occasioned by war service, shall be classified as 75 per cent., in accordance with the principle in relation to amputations.
It is very important that an investigation should be made into the effect of section 47 of the Repatriation Act. I have a copy of the statistics issued by the Repatriation Commission relating to the disposal of cases in which appeals have been lodged with the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal and to the Assessment Appeals Tribunal. An ex-serviceman who considers that he is entitled to assistance, makes representations to the commission and eventually his claim goes to a tribunal. It appears to me that the more writing a man has on his record, the better are his chances of succeeding in his claim.
– Form A42 is the one on which he must have the writing.
– Yes. He needs to have a lot of writing on his form A42. If he can build up a case on the basis of his medical record in the service, he has a good chance of having his claim accepted. But the good, conscientious man who did not want always to be attending the regimental aid post during the war, who did not want to complain, who stayed at his job, and who learnt how to take a little of the rough and tough life, finds himself at a disadvantage when he lodges an application for assistanceAfter the war, no one can prove that that man’s health has deteriorated as a result of his war service. A man who makes such a claim has to build up his own case. It is difficult to believe that up to December, 1953, 13,580 claims were disallowed throughout Australia. In addition, 180 claims were deferred, 961 were withdrawn or lapsed, and 860 cases were pending.
– How many were granted ?
– A total of 3,122 was granted. Those 3,122 successful applicants had decided during that year to make a claim. It is obvious that if they had made a claim prior to that year they would not have been included in these figures. They may have had quite long medical histories and it may have been quite simple for the Repatriation Commission to have granted their claims. But it is most probable that a porportion of them were ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war, and a proportion of exservicemen of the 1939-45 war, whilst it is likely that some claims were lodged by men from Korea. But probably the 13,580 persons whose claims were disallowed approached the Repatriation Commission with the same thought in mind as the 3,122 whose claims were allowed. They all believed that their health had deteriorated as a result of their war service and they lodged their claims in good faith. The applicants who were lucky enough to have their case history in the files of the Repatriation Commission had their claims accepted, whilst the others had to obtain supporting evidence. In many cases, if an applicant has a recommendation from his local doctor, who should know all about the state of his health, that recommendation goes against him. The submission of a recommendation from a private doctor is the best way to have a claim disallowed.
– In many cases, a certificate from a private doctor is not accepted as fresh evidence.
– That is so. I presume that many claims which have been disallowed by the entitlement appeals tribunal have also been considered by the assessment appeals tribunal so that the applicants would be included in the figures which relate to both tribunals.
The crux of the matter is the onus of proof. Whether an applicant is successful in his claim depends, in some cases, on whether he is a good salesman. An old digger is often not a good talker. He may not be able to express himself effectively and put up a strong case when he stands before those who may be his superior officers. The Senate should support the amendment proposed by Senator Amour to the effect that a parliamentary select committee should be appointed to inquire into the decisions made under section 47 of the Repatriation Act. It is in that field that many anomalies exist and a number of injustices are perpetrated, not inten tionally, but unwittingly, by the tribunals which consider claims on behalf of the commission. Only good could come from a thorough investigation by a select committee.
Earlier in my speech, I referred to the dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. I should like to add that provision should be made for the widows of ex-servicemen to receive treatment ia any public hospital. Senator Amour has proposed that all ex-servicemen and women should be entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals for disabilities, whether warcaused or not, and that the right to receive similar treatment should be extended for war widows. When a war widow has to travel to a capital city, where repatriation hospitals are usually situated, she has to leave her family or her friends. Consequently, consideration should ‘be given to the treatment of war widows in district hospitals.
Senator Amour’s next proposal concerns a matter which has not been thoroughly tackled by the Repatriation Department. It needs thorough investigation by the best neuro-surgeons and psychiatrists. I refer to the subject of war neurotics. Ex-servicemen who suffer from neurosis are a very unfortunate section of the community. Often, the form of their neurosis precludes them from describing the seriousness of their mental health. Much more consideration should be given by the Government to providing automatic entitlement to pensions for war neurosis cases. The Government should make certain that these cases get the very best treatment that modern science and research can provide for them.
The concessions that have been proposed by the Minister for Repatriation are inadequate. The Opposition believes that the full general rate war pension should be increased to £5 a week, that the war widow’s pension should be increased to £4 8s. a week, that the pension of the B class widow with children should be increased to £6 6s. 9d. a week and that the allowance in respect of the first child should be increased to £1 12s. a week. The Opposition advocates a special rate for totally and permanently incapacitated and blinded pensioners of £12 10s. a week and service pensions of £4 a week. The increases that have been proposed by Senator Amour would not give ex-servicemen anything more than they enjoyed before 1949. The proportion of pension to the basic wage will be the same as or perhaps a little less than they enjoyed when the benefits were first introduced. Supporters of the Government claim that this is a period of prosperity. The Government has granted concessions by way of customs and excise charges and reductions of taxes. It has given other benefits to more fortunate sections of the community. Surely in those circumstances it will re-examine the section of the budget that provides for exservicenien and their dependants, and will give full consideration to the proposal that has been put forward by Senator Amour. The Opposition is claiming for the exservicemen no more than their just rights. Ex-servicemen are entitled to the standard of living that would have been available to them had they not been incapacitated by war service. The governments that were in office at the outbreak of both world wars made promises to the servicemen. The men who enlisted did not fight solely because of those promises, but they gave the best, that they had. Although time has passed, those promises’ are still valid and I hope that they will be honoured by this Government and every succeeding administration.
– I support the Repatriation Bill that has been introduced by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). In 1949, the newly elected Liberal and Australian County party Government set out to administer repatriation with justice and understanding. The administration of the Repatriation Department was entrusted to Senator Cooper and I believe every honorable senator will agree that he brought to the task assiduity of purpose and a close understanding of the problems associated with it. Throughout Australia, the debt that is owed to the present Minister for Repatriation is acknowledged. He himself suffers a grave disability as a result of war service. Every honorable senator is pleased that a man of the Minister’s calibre and ability has been selected to administer this diffi cult portfolio. He has done everything humanly possible to lighten the load of the less fortunate ex-service men and women who saw service inside Australia and abroad.
To-day, Australia is faced with a perplexing international situation. The Government has had to provide about £200,000,000 for defence. It is the duty of every member of the Parliament, irrespective of political affiliations, to support the provision of an adequate defence vote. In addition, the Government must find almost £200,000,000 for social services benefits to assist less fortunate members of the community. Those are staggering sums of money. That is why the Minister for Repatriation is unable to give to ex-servicemen all that he would like to give them. Last year £39,000,000 was spent on repatriation benefits. With the increases that are to be paid in this financial year, about £2,500,000 will be added to that sum. Australia can expect, therefore, to be called upon to provide £41,500,000 for repatriation benefits in the current financial year. The Government has provided those benefits only after deep consideration, and I belive that the Minister has had the support of exservicemen’s organizations in any measure for increased benefits that he has sponsored. I travel throughout the length and breadth of South Australia and I mix with many ex-servicemen who were private soldiers. I was a private myself. They are grateful to the Government for its efforts on behalf of exservicemen. It is only cant and hypocrisy to say that nothing has been done for the ex-servicemen. I throw such lies back into the teeth of those who have voiced them. This Government has spent millions and millions of pounds and poured out much of the nation’s wealth for the ex-servicemen and in doing so it has had the support of every decent citizen.
Under the provisions of the bill that is before the Senate, the Government proposes to raise the general rate of pension by 7s. 6d. a week, increase the rate of war widows’ pensions by 7s. 6d. a week and give a gratuity to a war widow upon remarriage of £204. That is not a paltry dowry and it was unknown before this government was elected to office. I wish to refer briefly to the amendment that has been circulated on behalf of the Opposition and some of the costs that would be involved if it were approved. Senator Amour suggested that the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen should be raised to £12 10s. a week. In Australia to-day there are approximately 11,S70 totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioners. The annual liability for pensions paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen is £5,902,338. An increase of the rate of pension from £9 5s. to £12 10s. a week would involve the expenditure of an additional £2,074,630. There are about 2,500 totally and temporarily incapacitated exservicemen. The additional liability proposed by the amendment would involve the expenditure of £450,000 for their pensions, making the total expenditure on that item alone £2,500,000 a year. It is difficult to assess the cost of proposed additional payments to wives and children, because the numbers cannot easily be ascertained, but an enormous sum would be involved. What would be the cost of the Opposition’s proposal that all ex-service men and women should be entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals for disabilities whether they were caused by war service or not ? The- first charge under that heading would be a capital charge of £29,000,000 to erect hospitals where the patients could be treated. The maintenance of those hospitals would cost at least £6,000,000 a year. Those amenities can be provided only by the work force of Australia because the Government can draw upon only the wealth that is produced by the workers in the community.
Probably other honorable senators as well as I have received letters from xservicemen’s organizations. I have received one letter from M-r. P. Storer who is the honorary federal secretary of the Commonwealth Council of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Soldiers Associations of Australia. I shall take this opportunity to answer some of the statements that are contained in his letter. In 1949 the special rate pension was £5 6s. a week with an allowance for a wife of £1 4s., making a total of £6 10s. In 1950 that rate was raised to £8 0s. 6d. In 1951 it was increased to £10 5s. 6d; in 1952 to £10 10s. 6d., and in 1953 to £11 0s. 6d. On behalf of his organization, M-r. Storer has claimed that the pension rate for its members should be two and a half times as much as the general rate. A review of past years shows that there was only one occasion under a Labour Government when the totally and permanently incapacitated rate was better than double the general rate. That was in 1947 when the general rate was £2 10s. and the totally and permanently incapacitated rate £5 ls. In 1950 under the present Government the ratio was £3 10s. to £7 and in .1951 it was £3 10s. to £8 15s. That is a ratio of two and a half to one. That is an increase of 35s. a week to the pensioner himself, and after all it is the pensioner who is most vitally concerned.
I think it is as well that the public should be aware of how generously ex-servicemen are treated. I must confess that until I went thoroughly into these matters myself, I did not know the full scope of the benefits that are available. Turning to page 7 of the admirable little booklet on repatriation that has been provided for us we find details of the payments to which the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is entitled. Take for example a pensioner who has a wife and two children one 15 and the other 12 years of age. The pensioner himself gets £9 5s. a week, and his wife gets £1 15s. 6d. a week. The elder child receives a war pension of 13s. 9d. plus an education allowance of 15s. a week and the younger child receives a war pension of 13s. 9d. and an education allowance of lis. 6d. a week. Then, of course, the couple is entitled to child endowment of 15s. a week, making a total income of £14s. 9s. 6d. a week. Can any honorable senators seriously suggest that that is a miserable pittance? I say that this country is fulfilling its obligation to ex-servicemen and their dependants. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to deny that statement. I shall not traverse the full range of repatriation benefits. I simply say that the recipients are entitled to them. I entirely disagree with any honorable senator who says that this Government has not done the right thing by ex-servicemen and their dependents.
I have special sympathy for the old diggers of the 1914-18 war, some of whom are finding it most difficult to prove that their ailments are due to war service. Many such cases have been brought to my notice as I am sure they have been brought to the notice of all other honorable senators. I shall mention the circumstances of two specific cases because they may help other honorable senators who are confronted with a similar problem. The first concerns an ex-serviceman of World War IT. who was suffering from poliomyelitis. We were successful in having this disease acknowledged as being due to his war service and so to obtain a pension for him. The other case was more difficult. The man was suffering from that terrible disease known as Bulbar palsy. The onus of proof, of course, rests upon the Repatriation Department, and very often conclusive proof is impossible to obtain. In this case I am glad to say that I appeared before the tribunal and was able to assist in obtaining a pension for the man. I can say that in all the cases that I have handled, I have been given every assistance by departmental officers. Pension tribunals have a public duty to perform, but my experience has been that every endeavour is made to grant a pension wherever possible. I shall not deal with ceiling rates because that matter was adequately covered by Senator Anderson this afternoon in a very sympathetic manner. I am sure that the knowledge that the Senate is united on this matter will strengthen the Minister’s hand in his endeavours to have the ceilings abolished. I shall not go into the reasons for the establishing of the ceilings. That is past history, but we all hope that they will be lifted. I cannot support Senator Amour’s amendment, but I do support the bill wholeheartedly.
– I support Senator Amour’s amendment. I am mainly concerned with the statements made in this chamber to-day by Senator Anderson and Senator Mattner. Senator Anderson said that whereas, in 1949, before the present Government took office, our annual repatriation bill was £20,500,000, last year it was £39,500,000. I remind the Senate however that, while Labour was in office, no one was more consistent than was the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) in urging the then Government to relate repatriation pensions to the basic wage. That argument was used with particular force in relation to the pension for total and permanent incapacity, and it is with this pension that I wish to deal particularly to-day because recently a deputation waited on me in Sydney and I promised to place its representations before . the Senate. Possibly there is a tendency to ignore the claims of special rate pensioners because they are relatively few in number. I think that, throughout the Commonwealth, there are only about 12,000 of them. Therefore they have not the power that other organizations can bring ,to bear on governments. To-day, a . single special rate pensioner receives £9 a week.
About 70 per cent, of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are exservicemen of the 1914-1918 war. While the Minister was in opposition, he always appeared very solicitous for the welfare of these unfortunate members of the community, but since he has been Minister for Repatriation, he seems to have lost much of his enthusiasm. A special plea should be made on behalf of the wives and other relatives of totally and permanently incapacitated servicemen who have been nursing these pensioners, in some instances for nearly 40 years. One can imagine the physical strain and the fatigue that this work involves. If the Government had to previde hospital accommodation and treatment for special rate pensioners who are now looked after in their homes, the cost, according to one estimate, would be about £30 a week for each bed. Yet there is no recognition by the Government of the valuable work that is being done by wives and relatives who nurse these pensioners. Another injustice is the absence of provision for free hospital treatment for the wives and dependants of special rate pensioners. This is a matter that should be given early consideration. As I have said, when the present Minister was in Opposition, he complained continually about the disparity between the total and permanent incapacity pension arid the basic wage. However, this Government, through the recommendation of the Minister, has manoeuvred these unfortunate people into a position considerably worse than they were iri when Labour was iri office.- Iri the course of this debate’, Government supporters” have referred continually to conditions which existed in 1949. One would think that 1949 was the only year of Labour government. I remind the Senate that Labour Governments held office from 1941 to 1949, arid that 1949 was the last year of Labour’s administration. The following figures show the relationship between the special rate pension payable to a single man and the basic wage in various years since 1920 : -
– It is beginning to slide away.
—In 1950 the pension was £7 ls. and the basic wage £7 6e. Iri 1951 the pension was £8 15s. and the basie wage £9 13s., and last year the figures were £9 15s. and £1-2 3s. respectively. It is beginning to slide away all right. These figures have been supplied to me by the Limbless Soldiers’ Asso’ciation.
Sifting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I have -directed attention to ‘the -fact that in 1948, when the basie wage was £6 a week, the allowance for a totally aird permanently incapacitated exserviceman Was £5 6s. a week. When Labour was iri office, ‘the allowance was only 14s. “a week less than the basie wage, b’u’t it is .£2 Ss. less to-day. 1 am referring to the basic wage for -New South Wales, which is now £12 3s. a week. The allowsance for % ‘single ‘totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is ‘£9 15s. a vcek. Those figures reveal the hypocrisy of the Minister, who, when inopposition, claimed that the allowance paid to these ex-servicemen should bear a closer relationship to the basic wage thanit did. Iri 1953, the 100 per cent, pensioners received an increase of 2s. 6d. aweek, and under this budget they will receive another 7s. 6d. a week, but no provision has been made for an increase for the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. I say that no pensioners, whether they be civilians or exservicemen, are more in need of an increase than are the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. The Minister and anybody else who has been in any way associated with these unfortunate people know that, in many instances, there are two diets in their households. There is a diet for the pensioner, but generally that is not suitable for the other members of his family, and they have their own diet. Consequently, the cost of living of these pensioners is high compared with that of the average individual.
Under present conditions, if the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner breaks down, as many of them do, under the mental and physical strain imposed on her and is compelled to go into a hospital, the hospital fees have to be paid from the husband’s pension. Nb provision has been made for free hospital treatment for the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner or for any dependant who is nursing him. Representations have been made frequently to the Minister to the effect that dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners be brought under the national health scheme, so that they can get free medical attention. free pharmaceutical benefits arid free hospital treatment in the same way as some civilian pensioners.
The only two Government senators who have spoken ®b far have alleged that all ex-servicemen’s organizations support the measure. It is strange to me that apparently -honorable senators -opposite have not received letters from exservicemen’^ organizations similar to those that I and ‘every other honorable -senator on this ‘side have received. Let me ‘quote from one letter that I have received from the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association. It is as follows : -
I am directed by the members of this Association to write to you in protest against the omission by the present Government to make any provision in the budget proposals recently announced for an increase in the special .rate .pension. We know that provision lias been made for an increase in the 100 per cent, base rate pension. How. the Government can justify its failure to provide for .an adjustment to meet the spiralling cost of living for totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen is completely and utterly beyond us, particularly as many of the members of the Government .are themselves ex-servicemen and know what all of us .should realize - that without the ex-servicemen this Australia of which we are «o proud would .he mo longer free, .this .British Empire .to which we all ow.e allegiance could no longer exist.
That is typical ‘of the ‘letters that I have received on this matter. .1 am sure that honorable senators opposite ‘have received similar letters. Let one quote from a letter written to me by the Federated T.B. Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Association of Australia, in protest against the ‘omission by the Government to increase -the pension for the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. It states -
There is yet time to remedy this anomalous mid totally inequitable situation in the present budget. With the support of all the State branches of tin’s Federation-
This is from a federation, not from some
State organization -
I enlist your help iri having extended to the second schedule pensioner* the 7s. (id. a week increase in -war pensions.
I cannot understand the attitude adopted %y the only two honorable senators who have risen so far to defend this bill on behalf of the Government. Both have stated emphatically that ex-servicemen’s organizations have accepted the measure. I cannot understand why they have not received letters of protest against it. The Government seems determined to evade its responsibilities to those who made, next to’ the .supreme .sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice .that amy person can maie for his country. They are making an appeal through individual members of the Par.liament. They have appealed to the Minister for assistance, but to no avail. Although the -Government is prepared to assist those who .are partially able to assist themselves, it refuses, in the most brutal manner possible, to give any assistance to those who are totally incapable of assist-‘ ing themselves. This afternoon we heard honorable senators opposite eulogize the Minister, call him the most humane Minister for Repatriation that we have ever hadj and suggest that a monument be erected to him. I appreciate that the Minister has rendered service to .this country, and I pay a tribute to him for the sacrifice he has made, but I remind the Government that there are honorable senators on this side of the chamber who have made sacrifices for their country. T!he argument advanced by Senator Anderson was a very strange argument from a returned serviceman. He said that the Government had certain responsibilities to meet, and that it was trying to meet them all as equitably as possible. I know of no more equitable way to spend the revenues of this nation than in making pre.per (provision for .those who have made possible the freedom and liberty which we enjoy in this country to-day.
That the pension of a partially blinded soldier who has lost an eye, or the sight of an eye, or who is suffering 50 per cent, loss of efficiency from an eye injury, be classified as 75 per cent, to bring him on the same level as a limbless soldier who has lost an arm below the elbow or a leg below the knee.
I do not want to be in any way brutal in this matter, but I must point out that if a soldier loses an eye, a glass eye, even if it costs £1,000,000, will not restore the sight of the eye that he has lost, whereas if a soldier loses a leg, he ‘can be supplied with an artificial limb that will enable him to walk. A soldier who loses an eye, loses the sight of that eye forever. Therefore, I submit that the compensation for the loss of an eye should be the same as th at for the loss of an arm or a leg. An artificial arm can assist an ex-soldier to earn a livelihood, but we cannot say the same about an artificial eye. Therefore, on those grounds alone, the Minister should accept that part of the amendment.
Senator Amour suggested that an allparty committee should be appointed. I am not at all enamoured by that suggestion. I remember, during the time of the Curtin Government, when an all-party committee was appointed to deal with certain matters affecting returned soldiers and repatriation, that some of the conservative members of that committee “ ratted “ in the Parliament. On the strength of that performance, I should not be prepared to recommend the appointment of a committee in this instance.
It seemed to me that Senator Mattner was under a misapprehension regarding the purpose of Senator Amour’s amendment concerning hospital treatment for the dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Apparently Senator Mattner thought that it would cost millions of pounds to build suitable hospitals. “We on this side of the chamber do not suggest for one moment that that should be done. The proposal is that exservicemen, who have given a great deal for their country, should be given the same conditions in respect of pharmaceutical benefits and medical and hospital treatment, as are available free of charge to civilian pensioners without income.
– I suggest that the honorable senator read the amendment.
If he does so he will see that it refers not only to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, but also to every member of the forces.
– I have here a letter which I received to-day from Lismore. For the benefit of Senator Mattner and other honorable senators opposite, I shall read the following extract from it:-
My wife and self are each drawing a small military pension, plus war service pension. We are both over 60 years of age. Recently, I was operated on by a Lismore doctor for hernia. I was a patient in the public ward at St. Vincent’s hospital. I have been sent an account for the sum of £26 for the operation. I know I am not entitled to assistance from the Repatriation Department, my war service pension being for leg wound trouble which has been treated in the public ward of St Vincent’s, Lismore. I would so appreciate a reply from you advising me whether or not I am entitled to assistance under the Government’s free benefits scheme.
If it were not for the operation of the Page national health scheme, that man would have been admitted to the public ward of the Lismore hospital and would have received treatment without any charge whatever.
The national health scheme introduced by this Government has enabled the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited to accumulate enormous funds. Indeed, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) stated in the House of Representatives that such funds shortly would reach £4,000,000. Some indication of the enormous profits that are being made by that organization is gained from the fact that its 1952-53 balance-sheet disclosed that £186,000, which represented the difference between income and expenditure, had been paid to reserves. There was, therefore, a profit of £186,000. I am reliably informed that the 1953-54 balance-sheet will disclose a profit of much more than double that amount. In the light of the fact that such huge sums of money are being paid to health organizations, it seems to me that the Government should at least care for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen, who are such a deserving section of the community. It cannot be denied that such men gave a great deal to preserve the freedom that we enjoy to-day. Many of them made the greatest contribution of which they were capable. I appeal to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to consider the requests embodied in the amendment moved by Senator Amour, so that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen may be able to live in decent conditions and enjoy some of the amenities of life, which they are at present denied.
It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to cite comparative figures. They cannot deny that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are now receiving in purchasing power 28.89 per cent, less than they were under the previous Labour Government. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to refute the accuracy of those figures. I ask that particular consideration be given to the provision of hospital treatment for war pensioners on the same basis as it is provided for civilian pensioners.
– It appears that honorable senators opposite have given away this issue, having stated merely that all returned soldiers’ organizations are satisfied with the efforts that have been made, and having complimented the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). Of course, I have no quarrel with them about the qualities of the Minister. Indeed, I agree with all they said in that connexion, but I contend, nevertheless, that this Government’s attitude towards repatriation pensioners is disgraceful. To adopt Senator Anderson’s phrase, apparently they have tried to balance the ship of state by making the meanest possible contribution to those who are least able to bear a reduction of the value of their pensions, although such reduction has resulted from inflation brought about by this Government during its period of office.
The federal executive of the Federated Tubercular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens’ Association of Australia, in a letter dated the 14th September, stated -
On page 5 of the Budget speech of the Bight Honorable the Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, says inter aMa, “ The Government has decided to increase the general rate of War Pensions under the Repatriation Act by 7s. 6d. per week “.
That is somewhat different from what the supporters of the Government said on the platform when they were seeking the endorsement of the people before the last general election. Honorable senators may also remember that, at that time, a circular letter was sent, at the expense of the Repatriation Department, to returned servicemen’s organizations and repatriation hospitals. That circular was nothing short of blatant political propaganda. Various ex-servicemen’s organizations objected to it, and although repatriation hospitals had stated previously that they would not allow propaganda to be forwarded to patients, the Government parties sent along the letter to which I have referred. I can assure honorable senators opposite that that action was not appreciated by the ex-servicemen concerned, or by their associations.
The letter to which I referred continues -
That seems a fair enough statement and one which should be welcomed by organizations of ex-servicemen. But it is a somewhat misleading statement not accepted by any association of ex-service personnel as being fair and equitable. When one speaks of increasing “ the general rate of war pensions “ any person listening to the speech would naturally assume that all war pensions payable under the Act come within the ambit of the- phrase. This is not so. The most deserving group of war pensioners covered by the Act is the group coming within the definitions contained in the second schedule. They include the blinded, totally and permanently incapacitated, and those suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. There is no provision in the budget for an increase in the pension of these most dreadful maimed and seriously ill classes of pensioners, despite the fact the war pension in the main is their sole source of income. Speaking for the tuberculosis sufferers this association asks why should this be so.
That is a question which I should like the Minister to answer when he replies to the debate. The letter goes on -
To be seriously handicapped with a war disability is bad enough of itself; to be so affected and in receipt of a special rate of war pension which does not amount to sufficient to meet everyday requirements is not good either, but it is very much worse from the point of view of health recovery to be left out of the increase in general war pensions.
That is pretty direct comment. This association, which is a federal one, seems to be under no misconception about its response to the magnificent generosity of the Government, about which we have heard so much. It states quite clearly that its’ members are not receiving sufficient, that they are suffering- a- disability which is extremely hard to take and1 that, in addition, they are living on a subnormal standard, which is having the effect of retarding recovery from, their injuries. That is- not my statement. I think, that every honorable senator- on the Government side of the chamber has had similar correspondence and must know (hat there is, truth in what the association says. Perhaps that is why there has. been a paucity of speakers from the Government, side during this debate.
– I did not receivesuch correspondence.
– I received the letter to which I have referred, and I think that practically every other honorable senator received1 a similar letter. The federal secretary of the association suggests a remedy for the- position which he outlined in his letter. He states -
There- is. yet time to. remedy this anomalous, mid- totally inequitable situation in the. present budget and- with- the- support of all statelj ranches of this Federation, I enlist; your, help, in having extended to the second schedule’ pensioners the 7s. 6d. per week increase in, war pensions.
Those- pensioners are not hungry. If they have not written to SenatorMattner, I suggest that he take notice of their request now. The honorable senator has an opportunity to do something, for them by supporting the amendment moved, by Senator Amour.
Partially blinded soldiers, who come within the ambit of the fourth- schedule-, are classified at 50 per cent, disability. It will no doubt be said, as it has been said before by this Government, that that provision applied for years and Labour did nothing about it. ‘ One gets tired of the sickening repetition to the effect that “ We- gave- the disabled soldier so much. We gave him this but you- only gave him. that.” The disabled ex-serviceman has- never received more than that to which he has been entitled. The present Government parties have given him nothing, and neither did we. We make our contributions to the national revenue, and. we hope that the Parliament will meet our obligations to those who., as the result of the remoteness of World. War L and World War II., could easily be for gotten-. We- should not forget, however,, that their conditions- are becoming- worse.. Factors which are now making themselvesfelt were not noticeable previously. Fbrthat reason, the Government must consider improving the lot of warpensioners.
The two: honorable senators on. the Government side who spoke during this debate argued from the economic angle. Although the supporters of the Government claim that we have perfect economic stability at the moment, they do not hesitate to argue in the Parliament, when it suits them, that our economic position is so bad that it is necessary to try to balance the ship of state by leaving the pensions of totally and incapacitated,, tubercular and blinded ex-servicemen at. a rate lower than that which is equitable,, even allowing for the fact that no adjustment of the basic wage has been made for the last three quarterly periods. The Government cannot justify such an argument. If anything has- been done- by that, means to. res-tore- equilibriums to- theeconomy and t&> halt inflation, it has been dome in the- harshest manner possible and at the. expense of those least able to bearit. Apparently, the Governmnent, has attempted’ to economize on pensions forthe aged, the tuberculosis sufferers and’ totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen.
– The incapacitated soldier is- on a pretty good wicket. He is not doing badly, and I have said, so publicly.
– Yea, I know that the honorable senator has done so, and! it is to. his credit. He, isa. a brave man,, but he should not forget tha, there-, axe other brave men, such as those who arctrying to exist on. war- pensions, with noi other source of. income. The honorable senator is not the only hero. I should not have spoken in this strain if I had. not believed the truth of my remarks. I consider that, this is a matter to- which the- Government must, given/ attention.. There- is- no argument against that. Indeed, the Government is bereft of argument. I appreciate the loyalty of honorable senators opposite- to their respective parties, but I point o.ut that Labour treats this subject on a non-party basis. Whether we are in office or in opposition, we discuss in open caucus the policy to be applied. Reverting for a moment to my remarks of a moment or two ago about what Labour and non-Labour governments have given to the ex-servicemen, I remind the Senate that the previous Labour Government appointed an allparty committee to deal with, repatriation. It comprised the Honorable R. T. Pollard, M.P., chairman; Mr. D. 0. Watkins, M.P., deputy chairman; Senator the Honorable H. B. Collett, O.M.G., D.S.O., V.D. ; Senator C A. Lamp; Honorable Jos. Francis, M.P. ; Honorable A. MeK McDonald, M.P. ; Mr. F. C. Green, M.C., secretary; and Mr T. Hooks, senior clerk, Pensions, Repatriation Commissioner, assisting the committee. The personnel changed from time to time. All of the recommendations that were made by the committee were implemented. It would be silly to suggest that that all-party committee was parsimonious towards the ex-servicemen. However, I emphasize that the ex-servicemen had to fight hard to get what they did.
– Why did not the honorable senator invite the representatives of the blinded soldiers’ organization to be present ?
– I met the representatives of the partially blinded exservicemen, and I have in my possession letters over the signatures of their Federal and State secretaries requesting me to place the facts before the Senate. I refer Senator Mattner to the Hansard report of my remarks at the time. Unless the Government is tied on this matter - unless the brake is on - supporters of the Government should say whether there are any reasons other than economic reasons why the Government has adopted such a niggardly attitude towards the ex-servicemen. It is of no use for honorable senators opposite to say that their present proposals in relation to repatriation have been designed to keep inflation in check, because, from time to time, members of the Government parties have stated that inflation does not now exist. Let us give sane and just consideration to this matter.
Sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 1 proposes that -
The totally and permanently disabled rate for war pensions be £12 10s. a week with proportionate increases for dependants.
The adoption of this proposal would only restore to those ex-servicemen and their dependants the spending power of their pensions that was decided upon by the all-party committee to which I have referred. That is fair enough. Why hasthe Government departed from that principle, and so cheated these men of almost 35 per cent, of their purchasing power? I point out that those ex-servicemen are getting older, their earning capacity is decreasing, and their remaining term of life is becoming shorter. If there are reasons, other than those to which I have already referred, for the departure from the principle that was established by the committee I should like to hear them.
Sub-paragraph (Z») of paragraph 1 proposes -
Dependants of T.P.I, .pensioners caring for such pensioners lie granted sickness and hospital benefits similar to those extended to Age or Invalid pensioners.
These people are receiving only a pittanceThere was a time - not so very long ago - when servicemen were not repatriated, and there was no compensation provided for persons who cared for the disabled exservicemen. Even if the people who are looking after incapacitated ex-servicemen were receiving twice as much as they are, they would still be making a sacrifice in order to care for incapacitated exmembersof the forces. I point out that, at a period of rising hospital costs, a very acute position could arise for a disabled1 ex-serviceman if the person caring for him should take ill. Those who are performing this noble duty, realizing the predicament in which the incapacitated ex-serviceman would be placed if they had to abandon their task, frequently struggle on although not in the best of health themselves. No provision is made in the act for the payment of persons relieving those who are caring for our incapacitated ex-servicemen.
Paragraph 2 proposes -
The pension of a partially blinded soldier who has lost an eye, or the sight of an eye or who is suffering 50 per cent, loss of efficiency from an eye injury be classified as 75 per cent, to bring him on the same level as a limbless soldier who has lost an arm below the elbow or a leg below the knee.
When the representatives of the blinded soldiers’ organization visited Parliament
House, they were met by both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Repatriation. I have no doubt they were treated sympathetically.
– They were also met by ex-service members of the Parliament.
– I do not mind how many members of Parliament they met. I am sure that they were treated very sympathetically by all with whom they came in contact. But sympathy alone will not keep body and soul together. I consider that it is disgraceful for supporters of the Government to treat them in such niggardly fashion. The 50 per cent, provision has been in existance for a long time. Irrespective of how it came to be introduced, we shall stand condemned if we do not recast the provision. I know two ex-servicemen who occupied salaried positions in the railway service of Western Australia before World War II. Each lost an eye during the war and, in consequence, could not resume his salaried position, which entitled him, amongst other things, to sick leave, long service leave, retiring allowance, a shorter working week and high remuneration. They had to revert to the position of checkers in the goods sheds, or barrowmen, because they could not read safety signals, and were not, therefore, suitable for employment where they would be exposed to moving machinery or traffic. Had those men lost a limb instead of an eye they could have resumed their salaried positions. I could cite other examples in relation to men who had worked in engineering establishments as fitters, turners, and mining engineers. They are able to move about safely despite hazards caused by moving machinery and other things, because - and no credit is due to any government in this connexion - attendants have been provided to keep an eye on them. However, in the vast majority of cases, exservicemen who have suffered the loss of an eye have been unable to return to their pre-war avocations, for which they had served their time. Theirs is a real disability. I challenge any member of the Government to justify the Government’s attitude towards these unfortunate members of the community. When
Senator Anderson stated that supporters of the Government had the greatest sympathy with blinded ex-servicemen, another honorable senator interjected that it was a pity that the Government did not take the brake off.
Paragraph 3 of the amendment proposes -
A Parliamentary Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the decisions and interpretations made under Section 47 of the Act (onus of proof).
I do not think either the Minister or any other supporter of the Government could claim that that provision of the act is clear and satisfactory. I remind honorable senators that many disabled ex-servicemen who are working in remote localities are unable to obtain time off from their work and incur expense trying to establish that their disability was attributable to war service. Many such persons have told me that it was difficult for them to obtain time off from their work and bear the expense of obtaining doctors’ certificates and other evidence in relation to their disability, and consequently the onus of proof requirement, was particularly hard on them. This matter should be considered thoroughly and placed on a firm footing for all time. A disabled ex-serviceman should not have to incur expense in order to prove that, his disability was attributable to war service. If the Government can remove some of the difficulties which now confront the disabled ex-servicemen, we shall have gained some ground. It is futile for honorable senators opposite to saythat, as a certain practice has obtained since 1943, it should be allowed to continue. Getting down to the quintescence of’ this matter, the amendment provides the Government with an opportunity to do something worthwhile for our disabled ex-servicemen, without the necessity to engage in a lot more talking.
I come now to the proposal that ex-servicemen who have lost an eye, or the sight of an eye, or are suffering 50 per cent, loss of efficiency from an eye injury should be classified as T5 per cent., under the fourth schedule. I submit that a pensioner who has suffered an injury to one of the dual organs, which causes or could cause a progressive deterioration of the other, should be classified as 75 per cent., and an appropriate provision written into the legislation. Such disabled ex-servicemen should be watched closely, and medical checks made periodically to see whether there has been any deterioration of the good organ. If there has been any deterioration, the organ should be treated immediately. There should be no argument as to whether a cataract in an eye was caused during war service or by an industrial accident. The Government should be at pains constantly to ensure that blinded ex-servicemen shall receive all that they ure entitled to receive. If an exservice.man has lost a- kidney, he is entitled to a periodical medical check in order to preserve his remaining kidney. Likewise, if he has become deaf in one ear, he should receive at regular intervals a medical check in order to retain for him the hearing in his other ear.
– The honorable senator will be delighted to know that provision for such a check already exists.
– Yes. It is a policy which the Government tries to implement, but it is not written into the act. I urge the Government to include such a provision in the act so that there will be no misconception. Knowledgeable people such as honorable senators opposite may know that such provisions exist, but a person who does not know that such facilities are available to him is reluctant to leave his business or job and, perhaps, come from the bush in order to spend time at the Repatriation Department in connexion with an application for assistance. The position should be made clear so that people who need assistance will have no hesitation in applying for it. Some ex-servicemen have remained at their work, with sight in only one eye, realizing that if they were to lose their job their pension would not compensate them for the consequent loss of income. Remaining at their work may shorten the life of such men. Yet they work until their eye, or whatever organ is deteriorating, becomes useless. Such exservicemen should start to receive a pension as soon as the condition of one of their organs starts to deteriorate.
– They do.
– That is not so in the cases of which I have had experience. The act should be amended so as to provide for such cases. Every ex-serviceman will then know that he is entitled to this type of assistance. There will be no argument about it.
I have no doubt that if the amendments that have been proposed by Senator Amour are accepted the disabled soldiers will be a lot better off. Returned servicemen’s associations will be more satisfied. The interjections and the speeches that have been made from the opposite side of the chamber so far have merely been an apology for an act which is not satisfactory either to the returned soldiers or the majority of Government senators. It is certainly not satisfactory to the Opposition and I ask the Senate to support the motion that has been moved by Senator Amour.
– I am amazed at the silence of Government senators in this debate. Apparently it is a matter of the gutless legion being absent without leave. They have been steam-rolled by the Government. Little Sir Echoes, bowing to the will of the Government-
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to use more moderate language.
– I am sorry, Mr. President. I shall refer to honorable senators opposite as people who have not the intestinal courage to support their Government. They have been very conspicuous by their silence in this debate. This bill concerns a matter which is most important to the people of Australia. No. matter of Government policy is more important .than repatriation. Yet the Government has seen fit to introduce a measure in which it has given no consideration to totally and permanently in-, capacitated ex-servicemen, blinded exservicemen or tubercular ex-servicemen. I want to know whether honorable senators opposite intend to support the Government’s proposal. If they do, I expect them to make some stand in defence of the Government’s policy. Is there no supporter of the Government who is prepared to say that the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, the blinded ex-servicemen and ike tuber.cular ex-servicemen should not have their pensions increased 3 I put that challenge directly to honorable senators opposite. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), in the course of his secondreading speech, said that when the Government took office in 19419 it undertook ±o review the benefits available under the Repatriation Act to those who had gladly given so much in the service of their country in two world wars and to their dependants. What have honorable senators opposite to say about that? They are sitting in silence. One senator after another has spoken from this side of the chamber whilst not one honorable senator has spoken from the other side of the chamber. They have not the intestinal courage to speak. I would put it in stronger words than that had T not been called to order by the President. They have not the intestinal courage.
– The honorable senator should be sat down.
– If Senator Mattner were a building he would be condemned. He is all foundation and nothing upstairs.
– Order !
– The Minister went on to say how faithfully the Government had honoured its pledge, as was shown in the increased annual liability in respect of repatriation pensions. That is absolute deception. The Government is certainly paying more to pensioners, in terms of money, than was ever paid before. But what is that money worth? The Minister’s statement is a half-truth and a half-truth is worse than an untruth because it only states half of what should be stated. The pensions paid, not only to repatriation recipients, hut to all recipients of pensions in 1949, had much greater purchasing power than the amount that is paid at present. Yet you people still continue with the parrotcry, “ We are giving more money to the pensioners than ever before “. You have to. But the value of the pension is much lower than it was in 1949.
– That is not true.
– It is true. I could cite the figures, but I know that you are only interested in beach figures.
But I could cite figures to show you that ‘the value of money to-day is much less than it was in 1949.
– Order ! The honorable senator will find that he will do very much better with his remarks if he will address them to the Chair. I ask him to address his remarks to the Chair and not to the opposite side of the chamber.
– Thank you, Mr. President. Not one senator on the Government side is prepared to support the Government on this bill. T presume that all honorable senators have received letters from ex-servicemen’s organizations expressing their disapproval of the Government’s policy, particularly the exclusion of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, blinded exservicemen and tubercular ex-servicemen from increases in pension rates. Is anybody who has served this country more entitled to the fullest benefits that we can give them than those who are totally and permanently incapacitated? Such people have given of their all as far as health is concerned. The very title “ totally and permanently incapacitated “ itself indicates that the person concerned has not any other means of livelihood. Although honorable senators opposite are prepared to bandy words with certain sections of the ex-servicemen and are prepared to .wave the flag of patriotism when it suits them, they have left this most deserving class of ex-servicemen out of their calculations altogether. Is any Government senator prepared to say that the pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen should not he increased? I issue that challenge to them. Is any honorable senator opposite prepared to say that the pensions of blinded exservicemen should not be increased? On this side of the chamber, one speaker has followed the other. Why the reticence on the other side of the chamber? If honorable senators opposite believe in the Government’s policy, why have they not the intestinal courage to defend it? Honorable senators opposite who are always prepared to wave the flag on ceremonial occasions are sitting dumb, and are not prepared to defend the rights of exservicemen who, with our allies in World War
LT., have made it possible for us to sit in this chamber to-night. Honorable senators opposite are prepared to allow injustice to be meted out to. ex-servicemen.
Other matters besides the pension rates have been causing me a great deal of con: cer,n. I will be generous enough to say that they may have been causing, some Government senators a little concern, also. I refer to repatriation facilities, quite apart from pensions. This is a matter which should not be dealt with on a party basis. The present conditions have existed for years. But the mere fact that an injustice has been perpetrated for years does not justify its continuance. I appeal to the Government to review the whole of the Repatriation Act.
– The Government has already done that;
– I do not doubt the sincerity of the Minister. I know that he is very sympathetic to returned men.
– Not according to the honorable senator. I do not want him to say that.
– That is very ungenerous of the Minister. I am generous enough to say that the Minister is always sympathetic and helpful. The Minister- should never forget that he who throws mud loses ground. I am generous enough to admit that the Minister is very sympathetic and I have been fair enough to say that this is not a party matter and that one might, with some justification, say that these conditions have operated for years. An injustice cannot be justified by the statement that it has existed for years. I refer to repatriation facilities- and particularly to hospital and medical treatment. I and other honorable senators know of cases that are absolutely pathetic. Exservicemen, particularly those from “World War I., discover that illnesses that they suffer in their advancing years have been aggravated by war service. Because they cannot lodge a claim for repatriation entitlement, they cannot get hospital or medical treatment. I am not charging this Government with an omission or any- injustice, because, these things have been happening for many years, but that only serves to underline the necessity for
I direct attention to the onus- of proof. Ex-servicemen, particularly those of advanced years, who have an ailment for which they cannot be treated, ordinarily in public or private hospitals, should be treated by the Repatriation Department. The Minister- for Repatriation might remember a case that 1 brought to his attention recently. I was trying to get admittance for an. ex,ser.viceman to a repatriation hospital. Because he could not claim repatriation entitlement, he was refused hospital treatment although beds, were available in the Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital. As a result he was taken to a public hospital in Melbourne for a limited period. When that period had expired, he had to go because a. bed was not available. While I was still referring the case to the Minister as a matter of urgency, the man died. Such tragedies are happening every day in increasing numbers.
After World War I., and possibly after World War II. also, the only- concern of ex-servicemen was to get out of the forces altogether. Many of those men who had suffered from wounds or illnesses during, their war service took their discharge as quickly as they could, and olid not approach the Repatriation Department.. As they advanced in years, and, in many cases, became less affluent, many of them found that old illnesses were recurring- and the complaints were aggravated by their war service. Because they had not lodged a claim previously and had no repatriation entitlement, they were refused hospital and medical treatment by the department. I know many men who were affected by gas in World War I. Because the effects of the gas were not considered sufficiently serious at the time to compel their evacuation, many of them remained with their units from a spirit of loyalty to their ma,tes instead of seeking treatment. They are suffering now in their later years. How can those men produce proof that their disability was due to war service ?
In directing the attention of honorable senators to the operation of the Repatriation Department,. I am not casting any reflection upon the officers of that department. I believe that they act fairly within the limits of their powers, and arc reasonably sympathetic to exservicemen, but the entire process should be streamlined. I know personally of many tragic cases of men who have applied for a pension but have been unable to substantiate their claims by medical evidence. Any doctors who could have helped them have died. They have not been able to support claims for repatriation benefits, and when they have appealed, they have been required to find fresh evidence. Men who served in “World War I. cannot produce such evidence. Apart altogether from party politics, I suggest seriously to the Government that the entire Repatriation Act should be reviewed and that ex-servicemen and women who are in need of hospital or medical treatment should have access to every facility that is available to them by the Repatriation .Department. Honorable senators who support the Government cannot say truthfully that this Government is spending more on repatriation than did any previous administration. Such claims in themselves do not mete out justice to the men and women whose ill-health has been caused or aggravated by war service. Some honorable senators on the Government side may consider that I have a party political bias. That is not true. I appeal to the Government to revise the Repatriation Act so that medical and hospital treatment will be made more easily available to men and women who served the country in war. Honorable senators on the Government side are not slow to proclaim their patriotism on ceremonial occasions, but their responsibility does not end wilh flag-waving. The test of their loyalty is their determination to ensure that this Government, or any other administration, treats ex-servicemen and women justly. I suggest that the Government should revise the method of application for repatriation pensions, hospital and medical treatment, and that appeals against decisions of the Repatriation Commission should be streamlined. I know of many vexatious and annoying delays in the hearing of appeals by exservicemen and women who are in very bad health. Many are suffering from neurosis and the delays are detrimental to them. The hearing of applications and appeals should be greatly expedited.
The Opposition has proposed certain amendments to the bill that is before the Senate. If the Government supporters have any intestinal courage, they will support the amendments. How many honorable senators on the Government side will have enough courage to rise and say that the totally and permanently incapacitated servicemen, the blinded and those who are suffering from tuberculosis are not entitled to any increase of pensions? Has any honorable senator courage enough to try to justify the Government’s action in refusing an increase of pension to needy cases? Honorable senators on the Government side are silent. Not one of them is game enough to defend the Government’s attitude. That is a damning indictment of the Government. In its amendment, the Opposition has proposed that the rate of war pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners should be increased to £12 10s. a week, with a proportionate increase for dependants. It suggests that the dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners who are caring for them should be granted sickness and hospital benefits similar to those that are extended to age and invalid pensioners. Have any honorable senators on the Government side any objection to those proposals? If they have, they should voice them, but honorable senators are silent. The Opposition suggests that the totally and permanently incapacitated rate should be applied to totally blind pensioners. Is there any worse affliction than blindness ? Yet honorable senators who support the Government believe that blinded pensioners should not have an increase of pensions.
Paragraph 2 of the amendment states -
The pension of a partially blinded soldier who has lost an eye, or the sight of an eye or who is suffering BO per cent, loss of efficiency from an eye injury be classified as 75 per cent, to bring him on the same level us a limbless soldier who has lost an arm below the elbow or a leg below the knee.
Surely a person who has lost the sight of one eye is at just as great a disadvantage as a person who has lost portion of a limb. Yet here again the Government believes that there should be no pension increase ! I hope that honorable senators opposite will be prepared to tell that to the people at large from the public platform. The amendment continues -
If the Government is not afraid that something detrimental to it might be divulged, surely it cannot have any objection to the appointment of a select committee. The onus of proof in pension claims is supposed to rest upon the department, but, in actual fact it rests upon the applicant. An application for a pension is made, and it is refused by the department. No reason for the refusal is given, although the strongest possible medical evidence from outside sources may have been given in support of the application. Then the applicant is told that unless new evidence can be produced an appeal against the department’s decision is not likely to succeed. Unfortunately, in the case of ex-servicemen from “World War I., many of the medical men and fellow soldiers with whom a pension applicant served have passed away and cannot be called to give evidence in support of his application or his appeal. I believe, therefore, that we should agree to the appointment of a parliamentary select committee to go into the whole matter. This suggestion is made not expressly as an attack upon the Government, but with the object of improving our whole repatriation scheme. If honorable senators opposite are sincere in their professed solicitude for the welfare of exservicemen and in their protestations of loyalty and patriotism, they will agree to the appointment of a select committee. It can do no harm. It can only give advice, and if that advice is bad it need not be accepted. Paragraph 4 (a) of the amendment states -
All ex-service men and women shall be entitled to treatment in Repatriation Hospitals for disabilities whether war caused or not.
Is there anything unreasonable about that? If a person was prepared to serve his country, he should not be denied the best medical and hospital treatment that we can give to him. Will any honorable senator opposite deny the right of an ex-service man or woman to the best treat ment that the community can provide? In Victoria, and I presume in the other States, many ex-servicemen suffering from various disabilities are not able to obtain public or private hospital accommodation, but, because they cannot establish repatriation entitlement, they cannot claim treatment in repatriation hospitals. Yet beds are available for them in our repatriation hospitals ! Many servicemen were so eager to be discharged from the forces, or were so independent that they did not disclose minor ailments. Now, as the years pass, some of those ailments are becoming more serious and require medical and perhaps hospital treatment; but because they are not regarded as warcaused disabilities, the Repatriation Department tells the sufferers, to use a phrase favoured by the late W. M. Hughes, that they can “ go to blithering blazes “. Their ailments may be attributable to, or may have been aggravated by, war service, but, because of their eagerness to resume civilian life, or perhaps because of a reluctance to abuse the provisions of the Repatriation Act, they are technically ineligible for treatment in repatriation hospitals, although as I have said accommodation is available in those institutions. It is shameful that any government should refuse the best medical and hospital treatment to ex-service men and women. I invite any honorable senator opposite to stand up and endeavour to justify the Government’s action in this regard. Will any Government supporter seek to justify the Government’s refusal to increase the pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated, blinded, and tubercular exservicemen ? Honorable senators opposite hang their heads in shame and so they should. They wave flags during royal visits, and on ceremonial occasions they are vociferous in their expressions of loyalty, but when it comes to a matter of making available a few more pounds, shillings and pence they tell the exservice men and women to “ go to blithering blazes “. That is, in effect, the Government’s attitude, and no honorable senator opposite can deny it. The amendment continues -
Will honorable senators opposite deny that right? I gather from their silence that they will. The amendment further states -
Again honorable senators opposite, by their silent aquiescence indicate that they are prepared to withhold that right from ex-service men and women. The amendment also seeks -
Apparently honorable senators opposite themselves are suffering from some impairment of their facultiesto-night because, so far they have shown only a capacity for silence. We have heard loud roars of silence from the Government benches whilst Opposition senators have been speaking. This debate has been continued by one Opposition speaker after another, and I defy any Government supporter to deny the truth of our claims. Honorable senators opposite are showing the yellow streak, if I may put it that way.
– That is a compliment from you.
– You have not a streak at all. You have nowhere to put a streak.
– Order ! The honorable senator will address his remarks to the Chair, and will cease this crossfire across the chamber.
– Thank you, Mr. President; but I am afraid that the interjection was not made through you, so I reciprocated.
– Keep off the personalities.
-I was not on personalities. I did not address anybody on the Government side, but an honorable senator addressed me.
Senator Mattner interjecting,
– As I said earlier if you were a building you would be condemned,
– Order ! I have repeatedly told you, Senator Sandford, that you are not to use such language. If you wish to continue your remarks, you will address yourself to the Chair and couch your speech in proper language. There has been considerable repetition in your remarks, andI have been very patient with you on that point. Again I say that you must address your remarks to me and refrain from indulging in crossfire with interjectors. I shall deal with the interjectors.
– Thank you, Mr. President. So long as I am protected by you, I can protect myself. Nobody can contradict what I have said in support of Senator Amour’s amendment. With all due deference to you, Mr. President, I suggest that my remarks to-night have been directed to showing the desirability of revising and liberalizing the Repatriation Act to remove restrictions on benefits now available to exservicemen and women. Again I emphasize the absolute right of every ex-service man and woman to the best hospital and medical treatment that we can give tothem. I do not think you will deny, Mr. President, that except when I was replying to interjections which were not made to me through you, my whole speech to-night has been aimed at showing that the Repatriation Act needs revision, and that treatment in repatriation hospitals should be more readily available to all ex-service men and women. I appeal to the Government in all sincerity to give further consideration to the proposals that have been made from this side of the chamber. They are matters that are exercising our minds considerably, and are exercising the minds of the Australian people generally. With the passing of the years, ex-servicemen of World War I. particularly, are finding it increasingly difficult to substantiate claims for repatriation (benefits. I suggest, therefore, that consideration should be givenimmediately to a complete revision of the Repatriation Act.
.- The kindest thing that can be said of Senator Sandford’s speech is that it was characteristic of him. Much of it was couched in terms, which in normal circumstances, one would be justified in regarding as being beneath contempt and unworthy of reply, but he also had the temerity to question the courage of honorable senators on this side of the chamber. Therefore, whilstI rise to identify myself with this measure, I do so more particularly because Senator Sandford had the cheek -to question the courage of ex-servicemen on this side of the chamber. Probably the reason why
This bill has not been debated by ‘more senators ‘on this side of the chamber is that a comprehensive second-reading speech on it was made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). The Minister gave a detailed account of the activities of his department, the operation of the act, and the purpose of the amendments contained in this legislation. Opposition speakers have failed completely “to contribute anything ‘to the debate that is worth answering. I submit that ~wha’t they said was completely political. The amendment moved by Senator Amour gives their game away completely, because it states -
The .totally and permanently disabled rate for war pensions be £12 10s. a week with proportionate increases for dependants. 1 .challenge the Opposition to tell us the basis on which that figure has been computed. I defy the mover of the amendment or any other member of the Opposition to say why the figure of .£12 10s. was .selected.
– It “was in the policy speech of the Leader of the Labour party.
– It was a figure pulled out of the air, as were the social services proposals of the Opposition, for the purpose of providing political bait. It has no relation to any scientific estimate of the pension rate. I .say that the criticism of this bill by the Opposition was palpably political and was despicable because it was of that nature.
I listened to Senator Cooke with some interest. I am sorry he is not here now, because I should like to tell him that I have discussed the Government’s proposals with members of the Western Australian Executive of the Returned Servicemen’s ‘League, with my own subbranch and, most particularly, with members of the Totally and Permanently ^Incapacitated Ex-servicemen’s Association. After a discussion of the Government’s proposals, the members of the ‘associa’tion expressed their general satisfaction with what the Government is doing. Over the years, a succession of increases of repatriation benefits has been granted by this Government and this splendid Minister. The record of the Government in relation to repatriation is one of which any government could well be proud. It is one that we regard with satisfaction, though not with complete satisfaction. How could we ever completely compensate the gallant fellows who suffered so much in the service of their country? Nevertheless, we can look with considerable pride at the record of the Government in relation to repatriation and the improvements that have .been effected year ‘by year. I submit that the returned servicement organizations, knowing our efforts in the field .of repatriation and seeing the steady improvement that is being made, have complete trust in the Government and are satisfied that -in the future their members will be looked after just as well as they have been looked after in the past. The political criticism that has emanated from the Opposition benches to-night is a despicable form of criticism that does not count with ex-servicemen.
– As the mover of the amendment, “I object to the description of the Opposition’s criticism of the ‘hill as “ despicable “. I ask that the word be withdrawn.
– The word is not objectionable.
– I rose, not to delay the bill, but to support it. I give it my blessing and express the hope that it will be passed speedily. As a member of the Government parties and a returned soldier, I want to identify impself with a bill that I am prepared to defend at any. time, in any place and in any circumstances.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia [9.35]. - But for the remarks just made by Senator Paltridge, I should not have spoken on this bill. I feel “that matters such as repatriation should be dealt with by the Senate in a non-party spirit. It is ridiculous and - the term has been used already in this debate - despicable for any party to try to gain political advantage from the sufferings of men and women who offered their lives in the service of their country. Through the years, various governments tried with varying degrees of success to solve the problems that confronted them in relation to repatriation. I do not think it fair, when members of the Senate move amendments, the object of which is to improve the conditions of certain exmembers of the forces, that they should be accused of being actuated by purely political motives, especially when they also are suffering from war disabilities.
I should like to sa.y that at all times I have found Ministers for Repatriation, not only in this Government but also in previous governments, to be very helpful in dealing with the individual cases that I have brought to their notice. But I feel that, as there are so many individual cases of hardship that have common factors, it would be well to appoint the select committee envisaged by the amendment. If that were done, it might avoid the necessity for members of the Parliament to make so many approaches to the Minister on matters that have a common element. .Such matters could be decided in accordance with the recommendations of the committee, instead of being left to individuals for decision. I have in mind particularly men who served in World War I. As we all know, the conditions of service in that war were vastly different from those in World War II. Men left their homes and their homeland for periods of four or five years. When they came back, their desire was to be demobilized as quickly as possible. At that time, we did not have the health safeguards that we had after the last war, based on experience gained in World War I. The desire of most men after the 1914-18 war was to get home as quickly as possible, say good-bye to the Army and start life afresh. The result has been that, with the passage of the years, many disabilities that appeared to be very slight at the time of discharge, or did not become apparent until some years afterwards, have developed into serious disabilities, but when the men apply for repatriation pensions they are told they must produce evidence to support their claims. It is exceedingly difficult to obtain such evidence. Many of the comrades of these men who might have been able to help them have died. In many cases, records are incomplete. In other cases, illness or injuries were not considered to be very serious at the time of discharge and were not recorded. So, with the passage of the years, it is becoming increasingly difficult for these men to obtain independent evidence to support their claims for repatriation pensions. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister, who I know is very sympathetic to the exservicemen of World War I., to try to help them in some way to secure better treatment or some measure of relief.
There is a group of people which I think is very deserving of some assistance. I refer to men who go into repatriation hospitals and, having been treated there for some weeks, are told that the diseases from which they are suffering are not war-caused and that they must seek treatment elsewhere. I have had three or four of these cases brought to my notice in recent months. In each case, the transfer from a repatriation hospital to a civilian hospital has, I think, hastened the death of the man concerned. It is very sad to see these worn-out men leave their comrades and spend their last days among strangers. I do not think it would tax the resources of our repatriation hospitals very much if such men were permitted to spend the few months of life left to them in the society of their comrades. I point out also that continuity of treatment is interrupted by their transfer from repatriation hospitals to civilian hospitals, often at a critical time. Quite recently, I brought to the notice of the Minister the case of a man in the very last stages of cancer. He had only a few months to live. He was receiving treatment in a repatriation hospital but, because it was decided that his illness was not war-caused, he was told to get out and seek treatment in a civilian hospital. The Minister was very sympathetic to the man, but he said there was nothing he could do to help him because of the act. That is why we want the act to be amended. We want the Minister to be able to give some relief in cases of that kind. I managed to get some relief for this man from another quarter. He had not then been finally discharged from the Air Force. I was able to get his discharge annulled, and he remained a member of that force for the few remaining weeks of his life. There are many cases of that kind. During the last few weeks, I have had several of them brought to my notice. If we multiply those cases by the number of members of the Parliament who must have had similar cases brought to their notice, we see there is a definite need to permit all ex-servicemen to be treated in repatriation hospitals. If the Government is unable to accept the principle that ex-servicemen of both world wars should be entitled to such treatment, it. could be applied only to ex-servicemen of World War I. Unfortunately, they are becoming fewer each year. I do not think that concession would impose a great strain on either the repatriation hospitals or the resources of the Government.
I think the way in which the womenfolk of this community are being treated is tragic. I refer, not only to the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, but also to civilian widows. I fail to see that there is anything in the amendment to arouse the ire of Government senators or make them think we are trying to hit below the belt. The members of the Opposition are vitally interested in repatriation, not as members of the Labour party or as opponents of the Government, but as Australian citizens for whose freedom the men and women to whom this bill relates were willing to sacrifice their lives. We should do everything possible to assist those people, especially those who will never recover from the scars of war. I do not think that is too much to expect of this country and this Parliament. Therefore, I support the amendment.
– We should try to look at these questions from the other fellow’s point of view. Let us consider the exservicemen of the 1914-18 war who require hospital treatment. Many of them are denied free treatment. Surely the bill could be amended to provide for such treatment to be given to ex-servicemen in that category. Long before the 1914-1S war, men and women who were in need of hospital treatment received it free of cost. Why cannot that be done in these days? The object of the amendment moved by Senator Amour is to seek reconsideration of the whole position in that light.
Let us consider Senator Amour’s proposal that the war pension should be £12 10s. a week. That may seem a large sum of money, but in relation to the degree to which the purchasing power of money has been reduced, it is really a small amount. For instance, to bring the matter down to simple terms, pensioners must pay 8d. for an orange, 2s. for a pound of bananas, and 3s. or 4s. for a pound of meat. Those prices indicate the extent to which the purchasing power of money has been reduced. Why has it been reduced? It costs no more - indeed, it costs less - to produce the essentials of life, as assessed in terms of labour time or gold, than it did previously. The cost of production is less, in this highly mechanized age, but the cost in terms of fraudulently inflated currency appears prohibitive. This bil! should be analysed in that light. Although the Government cannot justify the prohibitive prices that are being charged for the ordinary basic needs of life, it has never attempted to deal with that position. Costs are still being increased. To the degree that prices are increased, the purchasing power of money is reduced. Obviously ex-servicemen and their dependants, particularly those from World War I., are absolutely helpless to do anything in the matter. If they were in possession of their health and strength, as they were before the war, and were working as waterside workers, seamen, or miners, and demanded consideration as an organized body, the Government would be prepared to make a virtue of necessity and consider their case. But these people are practically helpless and, for that reason, are ignored. In the name of the glorious democracy of Australia, and also in the name of humanitarianism, the Opposition asks that the Government review the position of war pensioners in view of the present economic conditions. If it refuses to do that now, it will have to do it ultimately. There is no doubt about that. This state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely. Does the Government intend to wait until it is literally forced to do something for war pensioners, or will it meet the reasonable, request that has come from this side of the chamber?
Senator Paltridge is fortunate to be in possession, of his full health and- strength and also to be- receiving a parliamentary, allowance that is> far. in excess of his individual needs; In effect,, he- believes that ex-servicemen who are in. need of free hospital treatment, food and other necessaries, should be denied them. On the 9th September I saw a report, in the- press to the effect, that many tons of, potatoes in Victoria were -being ploughed back into the land because they could not be sold at a profit. Yet, there are ex-servicemen, age pensioners and. other needy members of the community who require potatoes and cannot obtain them., Must that, state of affairs continue indefinitely ? Does not the Government propose to make a mors sympathetic and’ intelligent approach to it? I should-be the last to say that the Government lacks- courage, because I know perfectly well that if it were put to the test it would give as good an account of itself as would any other government. Nevertheless, it seems that the members of the Government lack knowledge of what is taking place. Like. Micawber, they are waiting for something to happen, rather than facing the position as- it is.
Servicemen are only heroes when they are going away. The bands play, the flags wave> and the press eulogizes- them. But when they come back, and particularly if they are in need, they are regarded as burdensome. That attitude cannot be justified. If we were really sincere,, and if it became necessary for persons such as ourselves to make a sacrifice in order to assist ex-servicemen, we should do so, but I’ contend that such assistance can be given without making a sacrifice. Indeed, it could help to stabilize the economy.’ When we find essential food being wasted, on the one hand, and thousands of men, women and children requiring such food, on the other, it is obvious that, if the economy could be properly regulated or controlled, those men, women and children would become consumers. To the extent that they became consumers, the producers of such food would be supported. In that way, both sets of individuals could help to stabilize the economy. But nothing- like that is intended. The Government is simply shutting’ its eyes- to a tragic, state of affairs because, as- 1 have saidy those, who are in need, of assistance are practically helpless, are unorganized^, and are not. in a position to, protect themselves as* they would be in other circumstances.
It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to say that this is a very good bill because it will increase repatriation benefits. It will do nothing- of the kind. There may be an increase on paper; but there- will be no increase- in reality. The Minister; in his secondreading, speech, stated- that in 1949, before the Government took- office, the liability in relation to repatriation benefits was £20,500;000. He- then* said that-
It grew to £39,500,000 for the year ending- in June, 1954, andi will increase; by a further amount, in excess of £2,0.00,000, as a result of the increases provided for in this bill.
Actually,, there has been no.- increase in terms of commodities. I admit, that, there has been an increase in terms, of money, but money is only, worth what, can be bought with it. Although repatriation benefits have increased by, nearly £20000,000 in terms of money, there has been no increase in terms of. purchasing power, because of the sustained increase of the cost of living. That, is obvious to any intelligent person and1 it will become increasingly obvious if the position, is allowed to drift; from bad* to worse.. I do not. say this in a spirit, of carping criticism, or- because I want, to score, in debate. I say it in order to appeal to, the Government to, take a more sympathetic; view, of the- whole position,, because it. cannot, be denied that the purchasing power of money has been reduced. That means, of course, that the purchasing- power of pensions also has been reduced’. That has been done arbitrarily, in the- first’ instance, by those who increase prices quite unnecessarily.
It is not my desire to labour the question, but I think I should’ say something in answer to the implied comment that £12 10s. a week is an exorbitant amount to pay by way of pension. If inflation is not checked, or if the- currency is not deflated, the time will come when £25 will be required to purchase what £12 10s. will purchase to-day. That has happened in the past, with disastrous result’s- not only to people actually in need but also to those whose savings were liquidated. It has caused widespread unemployment and poverty among the civilian population. This all-important problem can be adjusted without inflicting the slightest hardship on anybody, and that is the object of Senator Amour’s amendment. In my opinion, the Government can reconsider the whole matter without loss of dignity or prestige. “Senator “COLE (Tasmania) [10.0].- I should not have entered this debate had not .Senator Paltridge described the Opposition’s criticism of the bill as despicable. There is nothing despicable about our amendment.
– Senator Paltridge referred not to the Opposition’s amendment, “but to the remarks of an honorable senator opposite.
– He referred to our criticism of the measure, and our amendment. The time has come when, we should alter our conception of repatriation. We must remember that, in time of war, our -servicemen are asked to give their all. It may not be very long before we shall be again asking the men of this country to volunteer for service. The many .promises that are made during war-time are seldom fulfilled after hostilities have terminated. The .Opposition introduced its amendment in an effort to improve the lot of the ex-servicemen. Senator .’Cameron dealt with the crux of the matter when he pointed out that although the purchasing power of repatriation pensions and allowances in 1949 was scarcely sufficient, this Government has failed to maintain even that degree of purchasing power. It was in an ‘endeavour to persuade the Government to “restore to the recipients of repatriation pensions and allowances the 1949 purchasing power of those benefits, that the amendment was moved’.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) stated in his secondreading speech that the cost of providing repatriation benefits rose from £ 20,:500,000 in 1948-49 to £39,500,000 in 1953-54. We must not forget that there has been an enormous increase of the ‘Commonwealth budget since 1949, and that the basic wage, also, is now considerably higher than it was then. Repatriation benefits should be provided on the most liberal scale that the country can afford. I do not consider ‘that a -big enough proportion of our national income is being appropriated for repatriation benefits. Although the general rate .war pension has been increased by 35s. a week since 1949, the purchasing power of the pension has diminished. I realize, of course, that war pensioners are ;able to work and earn money, -but when unemployment increases, many war pensioners are forced to live on their pensions. For that reason, if for no other, the general rate war pension should be increased considerably.
The bill does not provide for any monetary increase of pensions for totally and .permanently incapacitated exservicemen. I cannot understand why the Government does not propose to increase them. Of -course, there was a considerable lift given to those pensions by the 1953-54 budget. However, in view of the difficulty that the -margins issue has caused in the industrial sphere, I consider that a correct ratio should be maintained between -various .pensions. Judging ‘by the fulsome praises of honorable senators opposite -of the work that this Government has .accomplished, and of what it intends to do, -a state of affairs could be reached in which the Government would be completely self-satisfied with its actions. Even the .Minister for Repatriation could become satisfied with what the Repatriation -Department was doing. That is ;a ‘wrong attitude to adopt in this matter. We had hoped that our criticism of the bill would bring the Government down to earth and make it realize that our ex-servicemen are not getting *hat this country can afford to give ‘them. I hope that the Government will accept our amendment and take action to restore the purchasing power of ‘repatriation benefits and allowances to the 1949 level.
Senator Paltridge stated that money, alone, cannot repay the ex-servicemen for their services in the defence .of their country. .He implied that, as it was impossible to compensate them with money, the ‘Government should pay them only what might be considered 50 per cent. compensation. I cannot follow that line of reasoning. If we are going to compensate them with money, we should try to do so on a 100 per cent, basis. Paragraph 3 of the amendment proposes -
That a parliamentary select committee be appointed to inquire into the decisions and interpretations made under section 47 of the act.
That is the onus of proof section. The previous Labour Government liberalized the onus of proof provision considerably, but I do not think that the present Government has interpreted Labour’s provision liberally. I have always contended that, when a serviceman is discharged after active service, he should be paid a small pension, in order to obviate the necessity in later life of furnishing proof that a disability was war caused. It cannot be denied that the majority of nien who saw active service have been either mentally or physically affected by that service. Although many servicemen were apparently normal when discharged, the stresses and strains to which they were subjected during their period of active service took toll of their health later in life. In many instances, due to the fact that illeffects did not manifest themselves for some years after discharge, exservicemen have experienced considerable difficulty in proving that their disabilities were war-caused. I emphasize my belief that, when men who have suffered the stresses and strains of battle in the defence of their country are discharged from the fighting services, they should be granted small pensions. That would assist them in later life to prove to the Repatriation Department that any physical disabilities that manifested themselves had been war-caused. The amendment was carefully thought out. The pros and cons were considered by committees, and the proposals would provide only the lowest benefits to which we consider ex-servicemen are entitled. As I said before, Senator Paltridge stated that the proposals were despicable; if honorable senators opposite, for party reasons, do not support the amendment, I shall consider them to be despicable.
– I support the amendment, and register my disapproval of the poor treatment that has been meted out to our ex-servicemen. Ever since I have been a member of the Parliament, I have protested against the inadequate treatment that has been given to our ex-servicemen by successive governments, particularly those which, since World War I., have used the exservicemen in order to win political power. I was amazed at the display of fury by Senator Paltridge about the remarks of another honorable senator. His statement that no member of the Opposition had received any protests from totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen was ridiculous. I have a written protest in my hand, which I am prepared to lay on the table. If, after reading it, Senator Paltridge realizes that his statement was incorrect, he should apologize for making it. Of course, I realize that, like many other honorable senators, Senator Paltridge is not satisfied with the present state of affairs in relation to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen.
I heard one Government senator interject that this Government had given three increases to these ex-servicemen. But it cannot be contended that returned soldiers have been given adequate allowances merely because they have received a certain number of increases. The totally and permanently incapacitated soldier must depend wholly and solely on his allowance from the Government for his existence. The pension of the totally and permanently incapacitated soldier should be no less than the basic wage. Surely, if a man has been laid aside because of wounds he received or illness contracted in fighting for his country, he is at least entitled to the basic wage. That is why the Opposition contends that the Government should pay the totally and permanently incapacitated soldier at least £12 10s. a week. I realize that Senator Paltridge and other ‘ honorable senators opposite are not satisfied with the Government’s proposals. I do not believe that the Minister is satisfied with them. If the Government wants recruits for future wars it will have to be careful of the treatment that it metes out to exservicemen now, because that treatment will be the guiding star to the young men when the Government wishes to recruit. If the Government lets young fellows who are now earning £25 a week at their trade know that, if they are totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of their service in the next war, they can only expect to receive about twothirds of the basic wage as a pension, then I venture to say that they will join the gang who provide the money and wave the flags and belong to B company - be here when the servicemen go away and be here when they come back. The Government has provided £200,000,000 in the budget to prepare for a future war. Some of those millions of pounds should be made available to ensure that returned soldiers who were incapacitated in previous wars enjoy a reasonable standard of living.
An amendment was made to the Repatriation Act regarding the onus of proof. If a doctor sends a certificate to a repatriation tribunal, that ‘ tribunal should take some reasonable notice of it and at least give the soldier concerned the benefit of the doubt if the doctor has certified that the state of health of the soldier is due to war service. I was called by the wife of a soldier who was at “World “War I. with me to come and see if I could give him any assistance in gaining a pension and treatment. I drove to Coburg where they live. I went into the house and the lady took me into the bedroom. The man was lying, as I thought, asleep. I said, <: There is no need to wake your husband. Tell me his particulars and I shall forward them to the Repatriation Department.” She said, “Do not worry about waking him up. He is deaf. He is blind. He has an enlarged heart. He has a diseased lung and he is paralysed down the right side.” The battalion records of this man showed that he had been gassed and that he had been in hospital for some time. Yet the Repatriation Department, which admitted in correspondence that he had all those complaints, said that he had not proved that they were due to war injuries. How is a soldier to prove that any disability is due to war service if the department is not prepared to accept the evidence in the case that I have cited? I can make the papers in this case available for inspection by honorable senators. The doctor attending this unfortunate soldier was prepared to go to the Repatriation Department in Melbourne and substantiate his views. But it was all to no avail.
According to the department, the exserviceman was not entitled to a pension or treatment. His is not the only case of this nature. I do not say that this is the only Government that has refused to grant a pension in such cases. But the time has arrived in this prosperous land when we should put an end to this state of affairs. The Opposition would be only too delighted to co-operate with the Government in-order to do something for these returned soldiers of “World War I. I should like honorable senators to attend the reunions of my battalion which I attend regularly every year and see the type of men who attend those reunions. Some of them came back from the 1914-18 war at about twenty years of age. They did not want a pension. They went to the bush in order to work. Now, they are derelicts as far as earning their living is concerned. It is impossible for those men of my age to prove that their present conditions was caused by war service. They are allowed to go hungry and fend for themselves as best they can in this land of plenty. Yet the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has said that recruiting will be speeded up in case there is another war.
Now let us consider the position of exservice nurses. Many of the nurses of World War I. spent several years in the. Army. Because of their age, many of them never married after they returned from the war. Not only had they given great service to the sick prior to the war, but they went overseas. Any soldier who was unfortunate enough to spend any time in hospital during World War I. will agree with me that no person could have done more than the nurses of World War I. for the soldiers of World War I. Then they returned from the war and carried on their good work in their own sphere. When I brought this matter to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation he said that it was not possible to give differential treatment to nurses any more than to soldiers. There is only a handful of nurses. Those nurses about whom people sang and for whom they waved flags, and who . gave yeoman service “ to the wounded and the sick in World War I., are not even accepted for treatment by the Repatriation Department. That position should be examined because some of the nurses are alone in the world and have to fend for themselves.
Increases have been made of pensions payable to partially incapacitated soldiers some of whom are able to work and fend for themselves. Some of them earn large salaries. Some of them are senators. I, myself , received an increase of my war service pension. Those people are well able to look after themselves. Pensions were given to partially incapacitated soldiers only because of the sacrifice that they made and the inconvenience that it would cause them in the after years of life. These people are to receive an increase. Yet returned soldiers who went straight back to their jobs after World War I. and who have only lately become totally and permanently incapacitated have been refused an adequate allowance by the Government. Even if men had not been wounded in World. War L, the winter of 1916 inFrance was enough to give them any complaint after 30 years. Yet many of them are receiving no treatment and the totally and permanently incapacitated soldier who lives wholly and solely on the money that is paid to him by the Government will receive no. increase of pension. Yet a person in. receipt of a salary of £2,000 or £3,000 a year will receive an increase of his pension. That is an injustice. Some men who will receive an increase of pension are living in the lap of luxury, yet men who require attendants to take them around are compelled to exist on less than the basic wage. Government senators have said that the allowance payable to totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers is sufficient because an additional amount’ is paid in respect of their wives. In many cases of which I know, women have married soldiers from World War I. out of sympathy, so that they could look after them during the later years of their life. The fact that these ex-servicemen are entitled to an additional amount for their wives and children, if they have them, does not result in their receiving a decent living allowance.For Senator Paltridge to say that he has not received one com plaint from any returned servicemen’s organization regarding-
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I hope that the Government and the Minister for Repatriation will give some favorable consideration to the amendment that has been proposed on behalf of the Opposition, and that something will be done to alleviate the plight of the persons I have mentioned.
– in reply - I have listened with close attention to the speeches that have been made by honorable senators; I should like to correct Senator Hendrickson on one point. He referred to the case of a. man who had certain ailments and was not accepted as a sufferer from a war-caused disability. He said that, among other ailments, the man was suffering from tuberculosis. If the man had tuberculosis, he would automatically receive a 100 per cent, pension.
– Mr. President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! The honorable senator will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation later.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-by leave - During the absence abroad of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), the following arrangements will apply: - The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will act as Treasurer, and I shall act as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and as Leader of the Government in the Senate. I shall be represented in the House of Representatives as Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will act as Minister for Trade and Customs.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands ‘Acquisition Act - Land,&c, acquired for Defence purposes- Canungra, Queensland.
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinances - 1953-
No. 56 -Lands Acquisition.
No. 72 - Mercantile.
No. 77 - Plant Disease and Control.
No. 83 - Fees (Surcharge).
No. 86 - Probate and Administration (No. 2).
No. 93 - New Guinea Land Titles Re- storation (No. 2).
No, 12 - Town Planning.
No. 13- Stamp Duties.
No. 18;- Regulations Publication.
No. 24- -Ordinances Interpretation.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Depart ment of Works- E. W. N. Oxlad.
Public Works Committee Act - Twenty-third General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Senate adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19540921_senate_21_s4/>.