24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuliin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, ls it still the Government’s policy that only non-strategic materials will be exported to China? Has the Minister seen a statement by the chairman of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, referring to exports of steel by that company to China? Does the Government regard steel as a strategic material? If not, what is a strategic material?
The Government’s policy remains unchanged. It will not permit the export of materials which are of strategic value to mainland China. A list of materials that are classified as strategic has been compiled but I am not certain whether it is publicly available. Steel is classified as a nonstrategic material.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister, in reply to a question in another place this week, forecast some change in the employment of Australian troops in Malaysia, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate make a statement in elaboration of that announcement or, alternatively, will he undertake that a statement of the Government’s policy will be made in the Senate concurrently with the presentation in another place of the statement forecast by the Prime Minister?
I noticed that the Prime Minister said that he would await the return from overseas of the Minister for External Affairs and, if possible, then have a statement made relating to the visit. The Prime Minister coupled with that statement an indication that he would make available on Tuesday next papers relating to the change in the role of the Commonwealth Far East
Strategic Reserve in Malaya. I shall approach the Prime Minister to ensure that similar information is made available to the Senate on Tuesday next.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited will end their joint management arrangement in New South Wales on 31st October next? Also, is it a fact that both funds have applied to the Commonwealth Department of Health for approval to establish rival hospitals contribution and medical benefits funds in that State? Is it a fact, too, that the applications of these organizations were lodged with the department some six weeks ago and that, despite the Minister’s assurance that they would be promptly dealt with, no decision has yet been made on either application? Is it a fact that this delay must cause grave concern to more than 1,000,000 contributors to these two funds in New South Wales who desire to maintain a continuous health insurance cover for themselves and their families after 1st November? Can the Minister say when a decision will be made on the applications by the two funds so that contributors may be able to arrange for their future health insurance?
– It is a fact, as the honorable senator has suggested, that the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia will sever their connexion on 1st November this year, after which date they will continue to conduct their benefit schemes as separate entities. It is true that the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales has applied for approval of a set of tables. The Medical Benefits Fund of Australia had no need to make such application because it already had received approval for funds operating in Queensland and Tasmania. There has been no delay in dealing with the application by the Hospitals Contribution Fund for approval of the new tables, because we appreciate that this fund has an obligation to provide continuity of cover to many contributors. However, in all of these applications there are often legal requirements that are quite outside the jurisdiction of my department. As recently as this morning I discussed this matter with the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales. Its representatives are fully aware of what is being done and approve of the action we are taking to expedite matters.
– If the report referred to by the honorable senator is based on a comment by a young American soldier who was living in Communist China for some years I suggest it must be treated with some caution. My understanding of the position is that from time to time odd parcels of wheat purchased by red China have been directed to ports other than those of red China. I am not able to give specific details. There are no arrears of payments, as every instalment has been met on the due date.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Did he see in the week-end Sydney press an article which stated that the Government had cancelled the arrangement whereby tourists travelling from Norfolk Island to Australia could bring with them a certain amount of goods which were admitted tax free into Australia? The report stated that the reason for the cancellation of the arrangement was that it had been abused by some members of the Federal Parliament. I ask the Minister, first, whether the concession has been terminated and, secondly, whether the reason stated in the article was the real reason for the termination.
– The answer to both parts of the honorable senator’s question is, “No”. Tourists are still entitled to the same concessions they have enjoyed in bringing goods from Norfolk Island. It is completely wrong to say that the arrangement has been terminated because of misuse. Goods were being imported into Norfolk Island by trading concerns. Under the act, goods which were imported from Norfolk Island into Australia were free of sales tax. This privilege was being misused. Goods were being imported into Norfolk Island in commercial quantities and, without’ even being unpacked, were being reconsigned to Australia where they were being allowed to enter free of sales tax. The concessions to tourists are the same now as they have always been, and to my knowledge there has been no misuse of those concessions by members of the Federal Parliament or anybody else.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether it is a fact that the private uranium mining companies have contracts with the Combined Development Agency in the United States of America and England for the sale of uranium oxide ore, and if so whether those contracts will expire in the near future. Can the Minister advise me as to what these companies propose to do about keeping their plants in operating condition so that when future orders are available they will be able to go into production again? I also ask the Minister how long he thinks it will be from the time these mines close down until there will be further orders for their mineral products.
The contract between the Commonwealth organization at Rum Jungle and the Combined Development Agency expired on 7th January of this year, but the Commonwealth decided to keep operations going and to stockpile the uranium oxide produced, because of the big influence which the Rum Jungle organization has on the economy of the Northern Territory.
From memory, I think that the Mary Kathleen contract expires in September, 1963. I do not know what the plans of the company are. The last I heard was that it was unable to obtain an alternative market for its product, or to obtain alternative ores to treat at the plant. I have no doubt that the plant will be well looked after because, although there is no market for uranium oxide at present, the consensus of opinion is that there will again be a world shortage of uranium oxide early in the 1970’s. All this is purely speculative, however, because recent experience with nuclear energy shows that much better results are being achieved than was anticipated a couple of years ago. The reactors are standing up to continuous use better than was expected and a better turn-out is being obtained from the fuel, with the result that nuclear power costs are falling and the possibilities of its greater industrial use are becoming more attractive. 1 would not be prepared to state a precise date when the demand for uranium oxide will greatly increase. Consensus of opinion is that whereas it was thought that the curves of thermal and nuclear power costs will meet about the early 1970’s, it could well be two, three or four years earlier than that, according to particular scientists.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that the federal council of the Australian Medical Association has approached him with a request for increases in government contributions for specified items on the medical benefits schedule. Did the council ask for any increase in item 1? Did the council ask for item 4 to be increased from 6s. to 12s.? Is the Minister aware that such a proposal would greatly increase the cost of the national health scheme as this would encourage specialists to provide general practitioner services but at specialist fees? Will he indicate to the Senate why the Commonwealth contribution to item 1 has remained stationary at 6s. since the inception of the scheme although the cost of living and politicians’ salaries have sharply increased? Will the Minister inform the Senate why there is a restriction on the payment of fund benefits to approximately 170 per cent, of the Commonwealth benefit, in view of the fact that total combined funds show an annual profit of from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000? In view of the more than adequate reserves held by the combined funds, should not this profit bs returned to the rightful owners, the contributors?
– Because the first part of the question involves principles which are related to the medical profession I should like an opportunity to give a considered reply. If the honorable senator places his question on the notice-paper, I shall get a reply for him.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, relates to last week’s report that the Canberra aerodrome is being strengthened. I ask the Minister whether it has been decided to maintain the existing aerodrome. If not, where is the alternative site?
– My department naturally is interested in ascertaining whether the existing site of the aerodrome is the most suitable in the Australian Capital Territory or whether there are other sites which from an operational viewpoint might be superior. I am sure the honorable senator is aware that because of the surrounding terrain, which consists of high mountain country, it is not easy to find first-class airport sites. The department has been conducting tests in various places throughout the Territory in the vicinity of Canberra city. Initially in some cases those tests have been wind tests, because the nature of the terrain is likely to set up degrees of turbulence which would make it impossible to operate an airport.
The department has had a look at a number of sites. As I am advised by my experts at the moment, the most likely site has the unacceptable restriction that only one runway could be put down. Of course, it would not be possible to operate at all times with one runway. So one might say that, even if a satisfactory site which was superior to the existing one were located immediately, some years would elapse before we would think of moving or would start to move to that site. The honorable senator is no doubt aware that no arrangements have been made in our current five-year airport extension and improvement programme to move the Canberra airport. So the establishment of a new airport would not be practicable within five years at least and possibly seven years. For that reason, we feel justified in undertaking over that period expenditure on the strengthening of the existing airstrips to make possible the operation without interruption of aircraft such as the Electras.
There is another matter related to the Canberra airport which has nothing to do with my department but which it will be recognized has a close relation to the entire problem. I refer to the presence of a Royal . Australian Air Force establishment in Canberra. It is clear that if the Air Force, which does not in all cases have the same operational standards as the Department of Civil Aviation, decided not to move to a new site, there would be little advantage to the Australian Capital Territory in moving the civil aviation operators from the existing site because the ground would still be occupied by the Air Force.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation noted that in recent weeks there have been several instances of aircraft having to be withdrawn from service just prior to scheduled flight times, with consequent delay and inconvenience to passengers? Has the Department of Civil Aviation investigated the causes of these all-too-frequent occurrences? If it has, what has been the result? Will the Minister give an assurance that these situations are not the result of failure to provide TransAustralia Airlines with extra aircraft to meet its expanding needs? The last such incident in which I was concerned occurred last Friday in respect of an aircraft scheduled to leave Canberra.
– As to the general question of delays to which civil aircraft are subjected, I am kept pretty well informed on the performance of civil airlines in Australia. It has not come to my notice by way of the usual reports tendered to me that, of recent date, there have been any increases in this sort of delay or in the withdrawal of aircraft before scheduled flights. Indeed, 1 think it could be said with certainty that the delay factor in Australian airlines compares more than favorably with that of airlines in other countries. That does not mean that there are not occasions when, for mechanical or other reasons, it is necessary to withdraw aircraft unexpectedly and sometimes at the last moment. As a consistent air traveller I frequently get the feeling that this always happens to me. Maybe Senator Toohey has had the same experience recently. If. the honorable senator will give me the details of any specific cases I will have them investigated.
I hope that my interest in this matter will be indicated by the fact that, after seeing a newspaper report this morning which contained an account of delays at Sydney to which both the major civil airlines were subjected, I immediately made inquiries and found that these delays were caused not by mechanical hold-ups or anything of that nature but by an industrial difference which arose suddenly and affected quite unexpectedly the departure of four flights from Sydney. I can assure the honorable senator that the matter of flight delays is kept closely under review. 1 can give him the strongest assurance that such delays do not flow in any way from failure to ensure that Trans-Australia Airlines is equipped to the limit of its requirements now or at any other time.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service read the latest figures announcing a decrease in the number of persons unemployed in Australia? Is the. decrease in the number of unemployed a record for the month of August in recent years? Although most members of the National Parliament deprecate the fact that any Australian is unemployed, is it not a fact that the number now unemployed is less than that suggested by a member of the Australian Labour Party in another place and, in the view of Mr. Monk, of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, could reasonably be accepted as denoting full employment in Australia?
– There is one correction that I should like to make to the question as phrased by the honorable senator. That correction will be made later in what I have to say in reply to his question. I have indeed noticed that there was a dramatic fall in the number of persons registered for employment last month, the fall being, I think, no fewer than 10,902 persons. It is true that that does constitute a record for the month of August in recent years. It is true also, and germane to the issue, that at the same time as this great fall in the number registered for employment took place there was a rise in the number of jobs registered as vacant and available for filling by those who could do the work required. One of the pleasant facets of the situation is that a great part of that fall is represented by persons under the age of 21.
The correction to which I wish to refer is in the description of this as a fall in the number of unemployed. It is in fact a fall in the number registered for employment. All who are registered for employment are not in the normal sense to be considered as unemployed as many of them are seasonal workers, between jobs, or in other ways temporarily waiting to win work. In general, the answer to the question is: Yes, there was a dramatic fall, which is an indication of the economic health in which this country finds itself at the moment and a great tribute, I believe, to the way business generally has picked up in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Have departmental officers attempted to assess the degree to which special monetary grants to the States have been responsible for the current improved employment position in Australia? Is it expected that further grants will have to be made to maintain the existing improvement? If it is considered that special grants made to date have rectified the disastrous position created by the unemployment-creating credit squeeze policy of the Government, at what stage can the people of Australia expect to have unemploymentcreating measures re-imposed by the Government?
– There is no doubt, as Senator Ridley suggests, that the action taken by the Government to provide money to help the States remove temporary pockets of employment was effective and did, indeed, contribute to the fall in the number of persons registered as unemployed, to which we have recently adverted. It is worth noticing that at the height of the boom in the 1960’s some 50,000 persons were registered for employment. The latest fall brings the number of those registered for employment down to about 67,000, which is getting very close to the level at the height of the boom in 1960. This has been contributed to by the actions of the Government which Senator Ridley has mentioned, but there are many other factors which have helped to bring about this happy result.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Has the Government’s attention been directed to a report appearing in the Adelaide “ News “ on Tuesday, 17th September, that the South Australian Government plans to launch its own restrictive trade practices legislation and that two of five measures have already been approved by the South Australian Cabinet? The article quoted the South Austraiian Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, as saying that the Commonwealth legislation on restrictive trade practices did not seem to him to be fundamentally good law. What action does the Commonwealth Government intend to take to ensure the co-operation of State governments in legislation on restrictive trade practices? Does the Government expect State legislatures to pass complementary legislation, or is it expected that some State governments will act to circumvent or negate legislation passed by the Commonwealth? Will the Minister examine the South Australian report with a view to promoting uniform action on the measures proposed by the Commonwealth Government?
This is a very important and complicated matter. I saw the newspaper report to which Senator Bishop refers. I could not follow it in all its ramifications. I know that the Attorney-General has had a series of discussions with State Attorneys-General. I know also that on the legal, as well as on the business, side there is some divergence of views on the appropriate course to take. I do not feel that I can, or should, anticipate what might be the final decision of the Government. I hazard the view that the Commonwealth will proceed with its legislation, leaving it to the States to make their own decisions as to whether the legislation is suitable for their requirements, but retaining to the Commonwealth the validity of its own legislation. That is a matter for the future.
– I am desirous of asking the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question. By way of preface 1 say that last week in the Senate I said that I presumed that few people listened to the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings. When I returned to Canberra yesterday I found twelve letters on my desk from people who listen to the proceedings. One letter was from Norfolk Island and another, a very interesting letter to which I shall reply, was from a boy of seventeen years of age. I do not know whether it is possible to obtain the information I am seeking, but would the Minister approach the Postmaster-General - if he is the correct gentleman to approach - and find out whether it is possible to ascertain the number of people who listen to parliamentary broadcasts, including those who listen to the re-broadcast of question-time?
– I have some good news for the honorable senator. Only last week-end a gentleman who had been listening to the broadcast of the proceedings of the Senate last week remarked to me that Senator Brown had made a good speech, so the honorable senator has at least one supporter. If I might enlarge upon that, let me say that the person who made that comment was of a political persuasion different from mine. A good deal of study has been given to the matters raised by Senator Brown. The consensus is that the introduction of television has had the effect of reducing the number of people who listen to Parliamentary broadcasts. For a long time question-time has been of great interest to many people, but as television has been progressively influencing the listening and viewing public the number of people who listen even to question-time has, I believe, declined greatly.
I think it is generally considered that people travelling in motor cars are the most consistent listeners to Parliamentary broadcasts, for entertainment or for information. If it is suggested that the broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings is redundant, let me say at once that I do not hold that view. I believe that the people should have an opportunity of hearing what is said and done in the National Parliament. If the facility is available and they choose not to avail themselves of it, that is their business, but I believe that the privilege should properly remain.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the review of the work of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation by its chairman, Mr. Warren McDonald, contains the following observation: -
Although overseas capital is welcome for the development of Australia’s resources, there appears to be a need for greater participation by local investors.
Does the Government propose to act on this advice?
– I think I remember reading in the report a remark very similar to that which has been quoted. I certainly do not dispute that that was the sense of what Mr. McDonald had to say. Knowing Mr. McDonald and his ideas, I am not a bit surprised that such a statement appears over his signature, because Mr. McDonald, while being one who has encouraged investment of overseas funds in Australia in an outstanding way, by public statements both in Australia and during his visits overseas in connexion with trade missions, has with equal vigour in Australia, in season and out of season, done what he can to stimulate Australian investment in Australia. For that, he is to be thanked and should receive the commendation of this Parliament and, I believe, of the Australian people.
If the honorable senator is attempting to make some mischief out of what Mr. McDonald said, I invite him to have a closer look at the report and to analyse it again, because the purport of Mr. McDonald’s remarks is that he is urging further investment by Australians in Australia’s future.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by saying that the Prime Minister, in a recent press statement, said that the Government had publicized its proposed restrictive trade practices legislation for the purpose of inviting comment on its proposals from interested parties. Is it the Government’s intention, whenever legislation of any consequence is proposed, to submit it in this way to any outside body with an interest in the matter, for the purpose of inviting comment?
The Government’s proposals were not submitted to any particular body for comments. The proposals we:e, in good parliamentary fashion, laid upon the table of the Senate and of another place for discussion by members of the Parliament and for discussion and consideration by all sections of the Australian community.
– Not here.
The matter is on the business paper of the Senate to-day and it was quite competent for the honorable senator to initiate a debate upon it. This legislation is of farreaching consequence. It is a good thing that all sections of the Australian community, whether they are in business, in trade or in professions, or whether or not they are working at trades, should have an idea of what is contemplated and be able to express their opinions i?*>on it. That is the procedure that has been adopted and the group with which we had discussions recently was only one of very many groups whose opinions have been sought and obtained.
– Some two months ago the Minister for Health announced that the Government would be prepared to co-operate with State governments in the establishment of clinics to assist children who were born deformed as a result of their mothers having taken the drug distaval or thalidomide during pregnancy. Can the Minister now say whether all the States have established such clinics?
If such clinics have been established, how are they staffed and operated? What is the degree of success or otherwise of the scheme adopted by the Government?
– The honorable senator has fairly stated the intentions of the Commonwealth Government in its approach to helping the victims of thalidomide. We set out to make this a joint responsibility of the Commonwealth and States. We advised the States that we were prepared to pay half the cost of artificial limbs and that the Repatriation Department would make its facilities available to provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive appliances for the victims. We said that we would also bring from overseas one of the best authorities in the world to facilitate operations. Because of the varied interests making a concerted effort in this field, we considered that it would be wise for the States to establish at least one clinic in each capital city which thalidomide victims could regard as a centre to which they could go for help, guidance and instruction.
The New South Wales Government has already established a clinic. The Queensland Government is giving consideration to the establishment of a clinic. I understand that the Victorian Government has no need to establish a clinic because it says there are in the State no children in need of artificial limbs. There is one thalidomide baby in Western Australia. We are discussing that problem at present, but as yet no clinic has been established in that State.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen an item in this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald”, under the heading “A Thistle to Trip On “, which states that the Prime Minister has given his permission to the naming of a new Scottish reel “The Sir Robert Menzies Scottish Thistle”? The item describes the dance as having as basic steps, two forward and two backward, danced to any slow dance tune. Does the Minister not believe that it would be more appropriate to the Menzies Government’s record if the dance had two steps forward and three backwards, to the tune of a rockandroll version of the “ Funeral March “ ?
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER.Senator Ridley is far more advanced in serious reading than I am. I am sorry to say that I did not see the item in this morning’s newspapers. Of course, the Prime Minister has compliments of many kinds paid to him. That is natural, in view of his great ability and capacity. I am not surprised to hear of this further compliment, but I am surprised that Senator Ridley should object to actions being described as the Prime Minister’s continuous steps forward, because continuous progress has occurred in Australia during the whole period that Sir Robert Menzies has been Prime Minister.
(Question No. 34.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
(Question No. 57.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied: - 1, 2 and 3. I have not received official reports of the investigations referred to, which, I understand, are not finalized.
(Question No. 75.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied: -
(Question No. 93.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The following answers ore now supplied: - 1 and 2. No. An ad hoc sub-committee of the Radiation Health Standing Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council has been appointed. This sub-committee is known as the Training of Radio-Isotopes Personnel Subcommittee and is examining ways and means by which formal training courses for these personnel could be established and by which appropriate certificates could be awarded candidates successful in these courses.
Debate resumed from 17th September (vide page 594), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The existing Australian repatriation system is the result of continuous development carried out over many years by successive governments. It has a sound basic principle. Briefly, that principle is to compensate those who have suffered and the dependants of those who have suffered as the result of war service, and to make provision for the dependants of those who were killed or who have died as the result of war service. The real test of our system is whether those who suffered and are suffering were and are being properly compensated and cared for. I believe that the system has stood up to that test because all persons who have a proper claim are receiving pension allowances. In addition, both they and their dependants are receiving medical treatment, hospital and dental care and other benefits. In some cases treatment is also available to both ex-service men and women, and their dependants, for disabilities that are not due to war service. The only criticism so far levelled at our repatriation system by the Opposition during this debate has been that the rates of pensions and benefits are not adequate; the system or principle on which the act is founded remains unchallenged.
The determination of all claims is made by independent authorities consisting of exservicemen with active service records. At least one member of each board, the commission and the entitlement appeal tribunals must be a person selected from a list of nominees submitted by exservicemen’s organizations. The chairman of each assessment appeal tribunal is also so selected. The legislation is administered with justice and understanding. The Repatriation Department gives every assistance to claimants and appellants in the preparation of their cases or claims. Treatment is maintained at a high level and is kept abreast of developments in medical science. The system is under constant review and pension rates and other benefits have been progressively increased.
I pause for a moment to say that perhaps one of the greatest benefits granted to exservicemen during the last few years has been the extension of full-range medical benefits to service pensioners. In my opinion, this is perhaps the most humane improvement that has been effected to the system.
When we speak about service pensions, some people are inclined to think that they are pensions payable because of some warcaused disability. The service pension, as distinct from the war service pension - I emphasize the distinction - is given to an ex-serviceman who has reached the age of 60 years or who cannot follow his calling because of some disability not due to war causes. There are at present 46,256 recipients of service pensions. When free hospital treatment for service pensioners was introduced about three years ago, the approximate number of pensioners was 35,000. From memory, I think 28,000 of that number were returned ex-servicemen from World War I, and approximately 7,000 from World War II. Of the 46,256 service pensioners to-day, 321 served in the South African war, 37,850 served in World War I, 8,064 served in World War II and 236 served in the Korean War.
– To what type of pensioners are you referring?
– I am referring to service pensioners who receive a pension either because of their age or for disabilities that are not war-caused.
– Do you mind giving the figure for the First World War again?
– The number who served in World War I were 37,850, and those who served in World War II number 8,064. Of the 30,800 who received pensions on account of age, 27,200 served in World War I.
Some years ago 1 appealed to the Government to extend free hospital treatment at repatriation hospitals to all Boer War and World War I ex-servicemen. After studying the availability of the accommodation in our repatriation hospitals, and in an endeavour to give assistance where it was most needed, the Government decided that all service pensioners who served in the Boer War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War should be granted free treatment at repatriation hospitals, and we must pay great tribute to Senator Sir Walter Cooper for that benefit because he was Minister for Repatriation at the time of its introduction. I repeat that the service pension is paid because of age or for disabilities not due to war causes.
In my opinion, that was the most humane and most appreciated piece of repatriation legislation to be placed on the statute-book. It gives security of treatment to a great percentage of World War I veterans should their health fail. It is subject to a means test which does exclude some of the 1914- 18 diggers, but I still hope that it may be possible to grant free hospital treatment to all World War I veterans at the appropriate time. That, of course, will depend upon the availability mt beds at repatriation hospitals. The returned servicemen believe that the most deserving should receive the benefits, and I am convinced that every person who served in the 1914-18 war and who is now excluded from these benefits because of the means test is glad to know that the less fortunate diggers are entitled to free treatment at repatriation hospitals. As facilities become available free treatment at repatriation hospitals may perhaps be extended to all 1914-18 diggers.
I turn now to the question of expenditure. It is interesting to note that this year our overall expenditure On repatriation services will be £120,500,000, an increase of £12,800,000 over the expenditure for 1962-63. I believe that our expenditure on repatriation benefits may again be increased by about the year 1970. If the bill under discussion is passed, increased benefits will be extended to some categories of war service and service pensioners. I support the bill and hope that it will be passed without undue delay so that the proposed new benefits may be paid as soon as possible.
Provision is made in the bill for seven main benefits. The special rate pension, that is payable to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is to be increased by 10s. per week, making a weekly payment of £13 15s. If he is married, his wife will receive an additional sum of £1 15s. 6d. per week. They may also qualify for an additional service pension, subject to a means test, and thus bring their combined income up to £17 10s. a week, Let me dwell for a moment on what is called an economic pension. This pension consists of a T.P.I, pension, a war widow’s pension and a domestic allowance. They are referred to as economic pensions because the recipients are wholly or very substantially dependent upon them.
At each of the. general pension reviews in 1920, 1943 and 1950, the T.P.I, rate was fixed at about the level of the male basic wage. The single T.P.I, rate of £13 15s. is within range of the male basic wage. The combined rate for a husband and wife is £15 10s. 6d. Because of the abolition of the ceiling limits in 1955 they may qualify subject to a means test, as I have indicated, for an additional service pension which would bring their combined income from the Commonwealth to £17 10s. per week. If we add to the war widow’s pension of £5 15s. per week the domestic allowance of £3 10s., we get a total of £9 5s. That represents a very substantial increase over the combined rate of 1949.
The examples I shall now quote illustrate the amount of income that can be received by way of war pension and education allowances by a family unit which is dependent on an economic pension. A T.P.I, pensioner with a wife and two children, one twelve years and the other fourteen years of age, will receive £19 5s. 9d. per week. A war widow with two children, .one aged twelve years and the other fourteen years, will receive £14 19s. 3d. per week. Where a service pension is payable, an additional amount of £3 12s. a week will be received. These entitlements guarantee, a minimum family income from governmental sources of £22 17s. 9d. per week, free of tax. I should like the people of Australia to know that in my opinion, these pensioners arc being treated well and generously. In addition, a T.P.I, pensioner receives treatment for war-caused disabilities and a full range of medical benefits for other illnesses.
I turn now to the war pensioner who is in receipt of a 100 per cent, rate pension. He is a pensioner whose disabilities may or may not be war caused. He too is entitled to a full range of hospital benefits. Because of the removal of the ceiling limits, the 100 per cent, rate war pensioner who has disabilities which are not attributable to war service but which prevent him from working may qualify for a service pension in addition to his war pension. Thus he may receive £5 15s. per week plus a wife’s allowance of £1 15s. 6d., making a total of £7 10s. 6d. If he has three children he will be entitled to 13s. 9d. per week for each, or a total of £2 ls. 3d. His total war pension then will be £9 lis. 9d. In addition, he may receive a service pension for himself of £6 9s. 9d. per week, plus £3 per week for his wife, 15s. per week for the first child and 2s. 6d. each for the second and third children, making a total service pension of £10 9s. 9d. and a grand total for the family of £20 ls. 6d. This exserviceman will be entitled also to free medical treatment for disabilities which were not due to war service. These facts illustrate the great benefit which exservicemen derive from the removal of the ceiling limits. The people of Australia should know of the treatment which they are giving to these pensioners.
Under this legislation war widows will receive an extra 7s. 6d. per week by way of domestic allowance, which is now £3 10s. per week. Thirty-five thousand out of 38,000 widows will receive this benefit. Another important benefit is the payment of £3 per week to widows who do riot qualify for a war widow’s pension and who have two or more children. These are widows of ex-servicemen whose death is not accepted as being due to war service. The education allowance is to be increased by 15 per cent. More than 7,000 persons will benefit from this concession. If only on3 pension comes into the home, the pension will be increased by 10s. per week. Again, in respect of a service pensioner who is unable to work an additional amount of 5s. per week will be paid for the second child and each other child in the family, making a total contribution of this nature of 15s. per week. An amount of 12s. 6d. is added to the pension that is paid to the wife of a service pensioner who receives his service pension for reasons other than age. Tuberculosis sufferers in receipt of the class B rate will receive £9 15s. per week.
Briefly, they are the seven benefits which constitute the essence of the bill. The Opposition has forecast several amendments, one of which relates to section 47 of the act - the onus-of-proof provision. Returned servicemen’s organizations suggest that the act should be amended to read -
In all oases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disabiltiy cannot be properly determined* or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability. [ recall the passing of the existing provision very well, because I was privileged to be a member of the Senate at the time. This section has been interpreted in opinions which have been given as guidance for repatriation medical officers and entitlement appeal tribunals. Mr. Joske, Q.C., now Mr. Justice Joske, was of the opinion that-
A claim for a pension is to be allowed, even though the claimant calls no evidence.
If the claim is opposed, then evidence must be produced to establish that the claim should fail.
The finding that the claimant has not satisfied the Tribunal that his claim should succeed is a bad and inadmissible finding.
Unless the Tribunal finds that the evidence establishes that the claim should not be allowed, the Tribunal must allow the claim.
– Is the honorable senator stating the substance of an opinion or his own opinion?
– They are opinions given by Mr. Justice Joske, and those opinions have been conveyed to the Repatriation Department and particularly to the tribunals who decide these cases. They are well known to every person who acts on these bodies.
– They disregard them.
– I do not believe that that is so. Anybody who has had any dealings with the Repatriation Department and anybody who has studied this question of the onus of proof must realize that there is a difficulty. There must be some umpire who will give a decision. I would hate any one in Australia to believe, or even think, that anything is done that might harm a claimant’s case. I believe that the great majority of those on the tribunals, to use a crude term, almost bend over backwards to grant claims. If Senator Cooke has any complaints regarding specific cases he should take them to the Repatriation Department. He will then see how cases are dealt with in a spirit of tolerance and will observe the consideration that is given to them. I suggest that if Senator Cooke sat on a tribunal he would give a judgment he thought was fair’ and just. If I were before him and the judgment went against me it would be unfair of me to say that Senator Cooke was biased.
In 1952, Dr. H. V. Evatt said-
Unless it is proved by the Repatriation Commission that the war service could not have contributed to the claimant’s disability, then the presumption must bc made in favour of the claimant.
– In what context did he say that?
– On the question of the onus of proof.
– In a parliamentary speech or in a considered opinion?
– In a considered opinion. Dr. Evatt continued -
You cannot read the relevant section in any other way.
The onus of proof is on the department and the departmental officers to prove that the claim should not be allowed. The entitlement appeal tribunals are comprised of men who have had active service overseas. They are well acquainted with the earnest desire of the Parliament to see that the onus-of-proof provision is administered in the interests of the claimant.
– Why does not the honorable senator quote the opinion of the Commonwealth Solicitor-General?
– I have not got it at my fingertips, but I have read that opinion and have considered cases in relation to it. I believe the entitlement appeal tribunals do interpret, and will continue to interpret, section 47 as the Parliament intended, so that the claimant gets the benefit of the doubt. Even according to the submission made by the ex-servicemen’s organizations cases will be determined on the conflict of medical opinion as to the origin of a disability. This element of conflict between the opinions of medical mcn will always decide, and must decide, whether or not a claim is allowed. 1 believe the entitlement appeal tribunals will and, in fact, must, decide the issue, and any claimant or advocate for a claimant who can give the tribunal any assistance at all will find that the tribunal will decide in the claimant’s favour. lt is contended that when the cause of a disease is not known the onus-of-proof provision of the Repatriation Act should lead to acceptance of the claim for the disease. The only satisfactory approach in such cases is to consider the circumstances of each individual claim. This is done and many claims are accepted. Australia gives the best repatriation benefits to its service personnel that, in fairness to the people who find the money, the nation can afford. Just as the community has honoured its obligations to the repatriates they, in their turn, respect what the public has done for them. In the next twelve months, when Australia’s financial stability internally and externally will improve, we can again review, and improve, the existing benefits. The Australian people in general have confidence in the way the officers of the Repatriation Department fulfil their duties in administering the Repatriation Act and express their thanks for these services. 1 support the bill and oppose the amendments.
– In discussing the important matter of repatriation one feels rather humble following a man who has served his country with such distinction as has Senator Mattner. Senator Mattner has been decorated for service on the battle-fields where Australians have fought. He has been awarded the Military Cross, the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. He has served Australia well in a military capacity. But, while the honorable senator has expressed satisfaction with the increases in repatriation benefits proposed in the bill, we on the Opposition side - and, of course, the Returned Servicemen’s League - believe that the measures proposed should bc extended.
Senator Marriott seemed to suggest last night that the claims made by the Opposition in support of the amendments proposed by Senator O’Byrne are somewhat extravagant, but we base our case on submissions that have been made, not only by the Opposition but also by Government supporters and the R.S.L. We have gone further than the R.S.L. only in suggesting in the amendments the appointment of a select committee consisting of three members of the Senate and six members of the House of Representatives to inquire into the whole structure and ramifications of the Repatriation Act.
According to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) the purpose of the bill is to give effect to the Government’s repatriation proposals contained in the Budget and to make further adjustments which, it is claimed, will be of advantage to ex-servicemen and their dependants. In short, the special T.P.I, rate of pension under this legislation is to be increased by 10s. from £13 5s. to £13 15s. per week. The domestic allowance payable to war widows who are over 50 years of age, who are permanently unemployable or have a child under the age of sixteen, or over that age but undergoing approved education, is to be increased by 7s. 6d. from £3 2s. 6d.’ to £3 10s. per week. There is to be an overall increase of 15 per cent, in the educational allowances payable in respect of children, other than professional students, under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme. They are some, but perhaps the main proposals in this legislation.
Of a proposed total expenditure of about £2,000,000,000 in the Budget this financial year, £123,035,000 is appropriated for purposes of the Repatriation Department. This, of course, is £11,819,000 more than was appropriated for the last financial year, but of this increased expenditure only £1,581,000 is to be used to provide additional benefits. According to the annual report of the Repatriation Commission, throughout Australia 671,215 war pensions were being paid as at 30th June, this year, that number having increased from the previous 30th June by a mere 233.
As I said earlier, we of the Opposition do not object to the benefits that are to be made available to ex-servicemen under the bill now before the Senate. In fact, we warmly welcome them because we believe that they are long overdue. I have already mentioned what the Budget provides for the purposes of this bill, but we say that the proposals announced by the Minister in his second-reading speech do not go far enough. Not only we of the Labour movement but also the Returned Servicemen’s League say that these provisions do not go far enough.
For the benefit of the record I propose to cite some of the proposals contained in an approach by the R.S.L. to members of the Opposition. The league claims that the general rate pension and dependants’ allowance should be increased as follows: The 100 per cent, rate of pension should be increased from £5 15s. to £6 10s.; for the wife of such an ex-serviceman the entitlement should be increased from £1 15s. 6d. to £3; and the allowance for children of such ex-serviceman should go from 13s. 9d. to £1. In respect of widows’ pensions and domestic and orphans’ allowances, the R.S.L. suggested that the war widows’ pension should be increased from £5 15s. to £6 10s.; that the domestic allowance should be lifted from £3 2s. 6d. to £4; that the allowance for children should go from £1 19s. for the first child and £1 7s. 6d. for the second child, to £2; and that for double orphans it should be uplifted from £3 lis. 6d. to £4. The league suggested also that service pensions should be increased from £5 5s. to £5 10s., and that the rate for a dependent wife should go from £2 7s. 6d. to £2 15s. It suggested also that all returned servicemen of the First World War and previous wars should be granted free repatriation hospital and medical benefits, that the funeral grant should be increased from £25 to £50, and that the widowed mothers’ pension should be increased from £2 5s. to £4.
The Government, in its wisdom, has agreed to at least one facet of the R.S.L. scheme. I refer to the proposed increase in the special T.P.I, rate of pension from £13 5s. to £13 15s. The claims set out by the league in its 1963 pensions plan are very modest. However, one gleans from the fact that the Government has approved the suggested increase from £13 5s. to £13 15s. in the special T.P.I, rate that the Government regards this proposal as fair, reasonable and practicable. If this measure is reasonable and practicable, one might then ask: Why are the other legiti mate, valid, and I suggest modest claims by the league not accepted by the Government? Indeed, one might fairly go further and ask whether £13 15s. is really sufficient for T.P.I, pensioners in all the present circumstances. When one considers that the proposed £13 15s. is to be paid to men who have sacrificed their bodies and general health in the interests of this nation, one might ask: In giving them an amount of £13 15s., which is less than the basic wage, are we doing them justice? One can imagine the horrible thought of another world war breaking out and all the young men of this nation being called to the colours and taking up arms. One can picture the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), or the Minister for Army at the appropriate time, going down to the wharf when the first convoy sailed and saying to the troops: “We will look after you. If you are wounded in action and become totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen we will see that the wants of yourselves and your families are maintained and protected. If you return to Australia in that condition we will give you £13 15s. per week. If you are killed in action we will pay your widow £5 15s. per week.”
Whilst I warmly welcome the increase from £13 5s. to £13 15s. in the rate payable to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, having regard to our present monetary values I am led to pose the question: Is this a just and reasonable rate to give to ‘men who have so served their country? According to the last annual report of the Repatriation Commission. 3,099 ex-servicemen in receipt of pensions died last year. Of that number, 2,956 were veterans of the First World War. I believe, and Senator Mattner seems to agree, that as these old soldiers come towards the end of their lives they should be given the benefit of free repatriation hospital and medical benefits, as is proposed in the league’s plan and in an amendment to be moved by the Opposition. The league has said on this very aspect that many exservicemen, particularly those from the 1914-18 war, because of complete lack of evidence, have found it almost impossible to establish a connexion Between their complaints and their war service. As the R.S.L. affirms in its 1962 annual report, there also seems to be a growing tendency among some repatriation medical officers to overlook the extremes of hardship suffered by these men and to require a specific complaint before accepting it as a disability for pension purposes. Surely the general effects of war service are cumulative and must contribute to the premature onset of very many complaints. It was for that reason that I placed on the noticepaper on 28th August a question dealing with ex-servicemen from the Second World War. I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation -
The Parliament must seriously consider this matter and enact legislation whereby the general effects of war service - which are cumulative and must contribute to the premature onset of many illnesses - must be taken into account. Surely it is reasonable to say that men who spent a considerable time in the immediate front lines of the various battlefields where Australians have fought, or those who spent years in internment under near intolerable conditions, are entitled to some special leniency from the Repatriation Department. I do not know that such leniency is being extended, because on page 20 of the annual report of the Returned Servicemen’s League for 1962 is a statement showing the disposal of cases in which appeals have been lodged to war pensions entitlement appeal tribunals. Lumping the figures for the two world wars together we find that of the 112,131 claims reviewed only 17,81 1 were accepted and some 91 ,466 were rejected.
This brings me to a consideration of section 47 of the Repatriation Act - the often discussed onus-of-proof provision. The matter has been raised not only by my colleagues, but also by honorable senators opposite. The Returned Servicemen’s League contends that section 47 should be amended by inserting the following paragraph immediately following paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) -
In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability.
That suggested amendment is in line with one of the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition. The Opposition’s policy is exactly the same as that of the Returned Servicemen’s League. Obviously this, along with other matters, could be considered by the suggested joint select committee of this Parliament, consisting of three members of the Senate and six members from another place. A similar joint select committee on repatriation presented its report to the Parliament in 1943. It is interesting to observe that of the six members of that committee only one remains in the Parliament. I refer to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard).
The report of that committee was presented in 1943 during the hostilities in which Australia was then engaged with Japan. In the twenty years since then a considerable amount of water has flowed under the bridge. I comment quite fairly when I say that one of the things that has changed has been the government, because in 1943 it was under a Labour Government that the joint select committee was appointed and presented its report. Just as things have changed during the last twenty years so are they likely to change in both the near and the distant future. Methods of treatment and medical science have altered greatly over the last twenty years. New drugs have come on to the market and are coming on to it day by day. As ex-servicemen become older their personal problems alter. All these matters are worthy of very close parliamentary attention. The only way in which this Parliament can give them very close consideration is for the Government to agree to the appointment of a select committee.
Since the 1 943 select committee presented its report some 22 amending bills dealing with repatriation have been passed by the Parliament. The joint select committee suggested by the Opposition could look at the overall effects of those 22 amending enactments. It could consider also whether the War Service Homes Division should be transferred from the jurisdiction of the Department of National Development. It could well be that if the division were under the jurisdiction of the Repatriation Department rather than that of the Department of National Development the period of twenty months that an ex-serviceman has to wait for a loan to buy an existing home could be considerably reduced. The committee could look also at the staffing arrangements of the department, the calibre of the various medical officers who serve it and whether special - and specialist - diagnosticians should be appointed in view of the advance in medical science since the termination of hostilities in the 1939-45 war. All of these things and many others could be looked into to the benefit of Australia, the Parliament and, of course, ex-servicemen and their dependants generally. We of the Opposition support the changes made by the legislation, but we believe it would be in the interests of ex-servicemen if the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition were accepted by the Senate.
Apart from matters immediately affecting ex-servicemen and the continuing downward could investigate the financial and physical problems of the 38,917 widows of deceased ex-servicemen and the continuing downward trend in the number of children’s pensions paid. The report of the Repatriation Commission makes the following comment -
Although the number of war pensions in force for ex-servicemen, wives and widows increased by 9,677 during the year, the net increase in war pensions of all classes was only 233. This was due to the large number of children born in the immediate post-war years who reached 16 years of age in 1962-63 and are now no longer eligible to receive pensions. There will be a continuing downward trend in the number of children’s pensions in the coming years.
This is a matter that requires close parliamentary scrutiny and is of importance not only to the 38,917 widows pf exservicemen in receipt of payments from the Repatriation Commission but also to the future welfare of the children of exservicemen. I am sure that the exservicemen’s organizations would welcome such an inquiry. For these reasons, I shall support the amendments that have been foreshadowed by Senator O’Byrne on behalf of the Opposition.
In winding up my remarks at this stage, let me say that I hope that there will never be another horrible spectacle of world war, with our children having to take up arms, as our fathers and brothers did, in the defence of this great country. Therefore, I suggest that we, as parliamentary legislators far the time being, should do not only the very maximum for those who have already suffered physically and financially in the service of their country but also our very utmost to see that those who follow us in this life and in this country will never require repatriation services.
– No one could fail to concur in the view finally expressed by Senator McClelland. We all are as one in wishing that his hopes will become reality. The purpose of the bill is to give effect to the Government’s Budget proposals in relation to repatriation. The provision for repatriation services this year totals £120,500,000, which represents an increase of £12,800,000 on the expenditure on this item last financial year. Senator McClelland referred to these, figures and used the expression “War and Repatriation Services “. I know that he was merely following the form of the. Budget, but lest there be any misunderstanding - I know that he has not any misunderstanding of the position - let me say that the figure of £120,500,000 relates solely to repatriation.
The bill provides for seven major increases in repatriation benefits. In any consideration of the proposals, it is well that one should clearly state what they are. The first is the 10s. increase in the special rate, or T.P.I. rate, pension from £13 5s. to £13 15s. a week. The second is the 7s. 6d. a week increase in the domestic allowance payable to war widows. The third is the major benefit of £3 a week to widows who do not qualify for the war widows’ pension and who have one or more children. The fourth is the 15 per cent, increase in education allowances; I am stating this in a very broad way, but that is the essence of it. The fifth is the increase of 10s. a week in the service pension, in cases where only one pension comes into the home. The sixth is the increase of 5s. in the allowance to permanently unemployable service pensioners in respect of children after the first child. The seventh is the increase of- 12s. 6d. a week to the wife of a service pensioner whose pension is payable for reasons other than age.
It would be fair to say that the Australian Labour Party has always adopted a broad bipartisan attitude in relation to repatriation. In the debate in another place and in the debate here, we have accepted that that position prevails on this occasion. We have had from the Opposition an indication that up to the secondreading stage it will give unqualified support to the bill.
The Opposition has produced some curious arguments in relation to certain of these concessions, notably the first concession which relates to an increase of 10s. a week in the T.P.I, pension. I should like to refer later to some of the debating points that have been raised. The Opposition has also foreshadowed a series of amendments that will be dealt with in the committee stage. These amendments have no relation to the Government’s proposals in this bill. In truth, they are not related to the bill at all but have regard to the principal act. On a question of procedure, 1 wonder whether discussion of these matters is strictly in order in a debate on this bill. Because the Opposition will raise these matters more appropriately in committee, we shall deal with them more fully then. Particular reference has been made to section 47 of the Repatriation Act and to a proposal for the appointment of a select committee. I feel obliged to make some reference to these matters even at this second-reading stage.
First, I wish to revert to the question of the proposed increase in the T.P.I, pension from £13 5s. to £13 15s. Senator Sandford said yesterday, as reported on page 583 of “ Hansard “ -
That increase, to the great majority of T.P.I, pensioners, is purely and simply a myth. . . .
He was referring to the fact that pensioners may receive, in addition to the T.P.I, pension, a general pension, with a ceiling limit of £17 10s. The short, quick answer to Senator Sandford’s suggestion is that this increase will be enjoyed by some 19,000 of approximately 25,000 T.P.I, pensioners.
Comparison has been made of the levels of the T.P.I, pension as proposed and as existing in 1951-52. Indeed, Senator Sandford built an argument around that comparison. Obviously, the 1951-52 figure has been chosen because the previous government went out of office in 1949. It is an historical, fact that a sub-committee of Cabinet made a very close scrutiny of repatriation benefits soon after the Government came into power and that substantial increases in pensions were made in 1951. I should like to make some comparisons between the pension rates in 1949, when the previous government was in power, in the first year of this Government’s regime, and as they will be when this bill is enacted. These comparisons are quite revealing. In 1949, the T.P.I. rate was £5 6s. In the first year after this Government came into power, the rate was increased to £7, which was a very steep increase indeed. This bill, to which all parties have agreed to give speedy passage, will raise the rate to £13 15s., so the total increase in the T.P.I, rate since this Government came into power will then be of the order of £8 9s. The rate of pension for partially incapacitated exservicemen in 1 949, when the Labour Party was in office, was £4 a week. In the first year of office of this Government it was increased to £5 a week, which was a very big increase. The present rate is £9 15s. a week, so that the total increase made during the life of this Government is £5 15s.
I do not intend to refer to all the pension rates but only to those which affect the greatest number of ex-servicemen. During the last year of office of the Labour Government the general rate pensioner received £2 15s. a week. The pension was increased to £3 10s. a week in the first year of office of this Government and is now £5 15s. a week, or an increase of £3 during the life of this Government. The widow’s pension, which was £3 a week in the last year of office of the Labour Government, rose to £3 10s. a week under this Government and later to £5 15s. a week. The domestic allowance, which is significant for. purposes of comparison, was 7s. 6d. a week when this Government came to office. It is now to be increased to £3 10s. a week, an increase of £3 2s. 6d. Those significant figures, Madam Acting Deputy President, show that during the life of this Government there has been recognition of the sacred and solemn obligation to meet the repatriation needs of ex-servicemen and women of the two World Wars and the Korean War.
The important thing to remember about the total and permanent incapacity rate, which is now to be £13 15s. a week, is that during the regime of the Labour Government the T.P.I, pensioner was entitled to only one pension - the T.P.I, pension. At that time the T.P.I, pension rate was £5 6s. a week. Under this Government he is entitled to receive not only the T.P.I, pension but also a service pension which is, of course, subject to the means test. Under the system which now operates, and in which all parties concur, the maximum amount that he may receive is £17 10s. a week. Let us consider the position of a married pensioner with two children, one fourteen years of age and the other twelve years of age. In 1949 the education allowance for those children would have brought the pensioner’s total income to £8 9s. a week. To-day, a man and his wife and two children of the ages I have mentioned may receive by way of pension and education allowance an amount of £22 17s. 6d. a week. We do not need to argue about variations in the cost of living, because the difference between the two amounts is so great that even the most modest mathematician can calculate it in terms of percentages. When the previous Labour Government went out of office war widows received £3 7s. 6d. a week, including the domestic allowance. To-day, the amount is £9 5s. a week.
As I said at the outset, the parliamentary parties by and large have taken a bipartisan attitude to the proposed increases of repatriation benefits. The Opposition has indicated that it will support the Government in relation to the increases proposed by this bill, but it has foreshadowed a series of amendments which have no relation at all to these proposals. They relate to amendment of the principal act. Since the foreshadowed amendments have already been discussed by honorable senators opposite during the debate, I think it will be in order for me to canvass certain aspects of them. Senator Dittmer, who is trying to interject, has heard only a half of my remarks. If he wishes to argue, I am just the person to argue with him, but I respectfully suggest that he should listen to what I have to say. In case he had difficulty in comprehending my remarks I shall repeat them. The proposals contained in the bill have had the approval of honor able senators on both sides of the chamber, but the Opposition has suggested that at the committee stage it will move a series of amendments which, in fact, will have no relation at all to the bill but will apply to the principal act. Since certain members of the Opposition have chosen to debate those foreshadowed amendments at the second-reading stage, although I think they would more appropriately be dealt with in committee, it is proper that I should comment on them.
It is true that in 1943 a select committee of both Houses of the Parliament was appointed to consider repatriation. The first amendment suggested by the Opposition is that we should appoint another such select committee. But, as Senator McClelland properly stated, the 1943 select committee was appointed at a time when Australia was seriously involved in a war effort. War had then been joined not only in Europe but also in the Pacific area. Repatriation, when considered against the background of men and women going voluntarily to do battle, was a particularly pertinent matter St that time. I would be the very last to detract from the work that that committee did, or to be anything but appreciative of the fact that the present honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was chairman of the committee. Nevertheless, I must point out that during the discussion of repatriation and social service matters at Budget time over the years we have heard speaker after speaker, of all shades of political thought, deploring that social service and repatriation benefits should be subjected to the influence of party politics. That being so, I find it very hard to comprehend the suggestion that repatriation should be thrown into the hurly-burly of consideration by a select committee. Inevitably, despite the best will in the world, the pressure of party politics must arise.
– It did not arise in 1943.
– The 1943 committee operated in a different atmosphere and against the background of war, at a time when there was an immediate need to do certain things in regard to repatriation. To me, it is inconceivable that we should contemplate throwing into the hurlyburly of a political forum the whole structure of repatriation legislation which was’ introduced in 1943 by the Labour Government and has been progressively examined and amended since then in the light of developments. I think that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), who introduced the bill in another place, gave a reasoned summation of what has been developed since the act was introduced when he said -
The present repatriation system is the product of many years of development by successive governments. Its basis is sound in principle; and its evolution has kept pace with changing circumstances and needs, and, in the field of the treatment, with development in medical science. The present Government has regularly reviewed the system and from time- to time has adjusted the rates of pensions and other benefits, and has introduced other measures to widen eligibility and improve services.
I think that is a very fair and proper statement. Our repatriation system has developed and progressed since 1943, and, in the main, that progress has been made in a bi-partisan way without any real difficulties surrounding the extension of benefits. I am not criticizing the fact that from time to time the Opposition has said, “ We think you are falling short in the benefits that you propose to give, and that you should give more “. That is the purpose of the Opposition. I should not like to see the system we have developed placed in jeopardy by the appointment of a select committee comprised of members from both Houses.
Another amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition relates to the question of cancer. I feel that not sufficient thought has been given to the proposition that is to be submitted by the Opposition when the bill is being discussed in committee. I think it was Senator O’Byrne who said that there are something like 250 different types of cancer. It may be that the correct figure is something between 150 and 250 - none of us really knows - but I do think it fair comment to say that there are some hundreds of different types of cancer, and I suggest that simply to argue that the principal act should be amended to provide that cancer shall be automatically classed as a war-caused disability and accepted as a reason for paying a pension is a rather weak proposition that really does damage to the cause for increases in pension rates. Medical science is still struggling with the question of cancer. It is impossible to say what causes the various types of cancer, and it is impossible to say what the ultimate result will be, although, by and large, it is accepted as a deadly disease. I do not think it is possible to include in the act a satisfactory provision relating to cancer. I think it is impossible to generalize about it in the way suggested by the Opposition, and I am sure that if members of the Opposition were to seek considered medical opinion on the subject they would find that it would agree with what I am suggesting. It is true that in certain instances cancer has been accepted as being due to war causes.
– Would you explain the circumstances in those instances?
– I had something to do with the case of a returned airman who died from cancer. After a great deal of difficulty, but thanks to the fact that the onus-of-proof provision prevailed, this exserviceman’s cancer was accepted as being due to war causes and his widow received substantial help from the department. But I do not like to introduce these particular cases.
– Would you agree that a man who served in areas where gas was used during the First World War, and who suffered from cancer later, would be entitled to claim that the cancer was war caused?
– I am not hedging the honorable senator’s question, but I must say that I am not competent to answer it. All I say is that it is possible that it was war-caused in such a case, but each particular case must be treated on its merits, and I have no doubt that that is done. In my opinion, to suggest that the act should make the same provision with relation to cancer as it does with relation to tuberculosis is a weak proposition. I do not think that such a proposition does the cause any good because the fact is that medical science will not compare cancer with tuberculosis. I submit that when we know full well that medical science has not yet determined how cancer develops, or what causes it to develop, we would greatly weaken the act if we included the provision in relation to cancer suggested by the Opposition. That could open up the whole question of heart conditions and other things. I think we should be content with saying that each case of cancer has to be treated on its merits. There is evidence that the Repatriation Department has treated such cases on their merits and has extended to claimants the benefit of the onus-of-proof provision contained in section 47 of the act.
As I have only a few minutes left, I hope that I shall be allowed to say what 1 have in mind with relation to one subject, although I do realize that I shall be getting very close to transgressing our Standing Orders. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has always been given every opportunity to present its case to the Government. Every year, before the Budget is framed, a subcommittee of Cabinet allows representatives of the servicemen’s organizations to put their submissions to the Government. These organizations also have access to the Opposition. The very fact that some of the amendments which the Opposition proposes to submit in this instance are founded on views expressed by the R.S.L. suggests that the league has the confidence of not only the Government parties but also the Opposition in this Parliament. Naturally these organizations do not get everything that they seek, but 1 think it true to say that at least they -get an opportunity to put their views before the Government and the Opposition. The Government has to balance repatriation requests against all other items at Budget time, and, in the main, the ex-servicemen appreciate that fact. They want justice, not charity, and the R.S.L. recognizes this. The R.S.L. and other ex-servicemen’s organizations have done a grand job in helping successive governments to appreciate the needs of exservicemen.
That brings me to the point I want to make. I saw a private screening of a certain television programme arranged by one of our Government agencies which, in my view, cast a reflection upon the real functions of the R.S.L. It was a loaded programme calculated to damage an honorable organization. As an exserviceman and member of the R.S.L., I was offended by it. The league is a splendid organization that has served the country well. It opens its doors to people of all political persuasions. Indeed, it seeks the aid of all parties in politics to get what it considers to be reasonable conditions for its members. The league sub-branch of which I have the honour to be a member does many wonderful things which were not portrayed in any way in the television programme to which so much exception has been taken.
As an instance of what the sub-branch to which I belong does - and in this respect it is not different from any other subbranch - I mention that it provides special facilities for the children of ex-service men and women. The branch has 1,600 members. It provides facilities for approximately 80 girls to play basketball, for 90 girls to play tennis and for 110 girls to train in ballet. We provide physical training exercises for approximately 60 girls, and we teach 80 girls a year how to swim. In addition, we have 180 boys playing soccer, approximately 80 playing rugby football, 130 playing cricket, 100 learning to swim and 150 engaged in physical training. In any one year wo bring together 1,060 children and teach them things that should help to make good citizens of them. To do that we need approximately 114 voluntary helpers, who in the main are exservicemen and their wives. That aspect of the work of the R.S.L. is not peculiar to the branch that I belong to but is being undertaken by ex-servicemen throughout Australia. That was not the picture that was presented on the “ Four Corners “ programme. The programme to which I refer was loaded; it did a wicked thing to an organization which is doing magnificent work for the citizens of Australia.
I support the bill, and I am delighted to know that at the second-reading stage the Opposition too is supporting it. I shall take advantage of the opportunity at the committee stage to speak further on some of the proposed amendments.
– Madam Acting Deputy President, in discussing the measure now before the Senate I hope I shall be permitted to take my thoughts back to the First World War. We all recall the famous words of Andrew Fisher, the then Labour Pr,me Minister of Australia, when war was declared in 1914. He said that Australia would back our home country, Britain, and our allies with the last man and the last shilling. I sometimes wonder whether governments - especially this Government - realize what he meant when he said that. I suppose Australia did more than any other country to send a volunteer force overseas during the 1914-18 war, but we have not yet reached the last shilling.
There are cases of great distress amongst men who formed part of the first Australian Imperial Force. The facts I am mentioning must be brought forward, because they have a great bearing on the belief of honorable senators on this side of the chamber that certain concessions should be given to ex-members of the first A.I.F. During the depression years exservicemen who had good records and who were good tradesmen were forced to go hungry in this lush country for which they fought. Nobody in this chamber can deny that fact. These men suffered great privations when they served on Gallipoli Peninsula, or in Egypt, Palestine, France or other areas. No doubt their health further deteriorated because of the terrible conditions they experienced during the depression years. Many of those men, some of whom were friends of mine and were almost as young as I was at the time, were not concerned about repatriation when they were discharged. Their first thought was to get out of the Army and to get back into a job. lt is about those people in the main that I want to speak this afternoon.
Some of us remember the words of Andrew Fisher. Many of us remember the words of the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in September, 1939, when he made substantially the same promise as was made by the late Andrew Fisher. The present Prime Minister went a little further than Andrew Fisher. He did not use exactly the same words but, realizing what a raw deal some ex-servicemen had had, he said that if we won the Second World War - it was then very doubtful - anybody who enlisted for service and who returned to Australia would have an equity in the country. Some of us often forget the promises that were made. I hope there will never be another war; but, as I have said in this chamber before, if there is the soldier of the future will want some thing in writing from the Prime Minister of the day, whether he be a Labour or a Liberal Prime Minister, in return for his own undertaking that he will serve the country for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter. He will want something in writing stating that he will get reasonable treatment if he is fortunate enough to return from the war and, if he does not return, that his wife and children will be given the right to a reasonable measure of security and will be able to live in some degree of decency in the country for which he died.
Repatriation is not a political matter. I speak for the Labour Party and I believe also for the Liberal Party when I say that in time of war we all are patriotic and do what we can to ensure that the war will be won. That is why I say that repatriation is a non-political subject. When we are discussing measures such as the one now before us we should realize that we as the elected representatives of the people - unfortunately, honorable senators opposite are now in the majority - will legislate for the destiny of heroes of the future and their dependants. Men were told in 1914 and again in 1939 that if they were willing to enlist and if we won the war they would be given reasonable equity in the country. It is not possible for all ex-servicemen to present their case to the Parliament. We are told that the Returned Servicemen’s League has entree to the Cabinet room. A couple of letters I shall read show that probably that is so; but their entree is when the Cabinet room is empty. Ex-servicemen cannot get what they ask for and the league’s right of entree to the Cabinet room is of no value.
Senator Anderson said that the Opposition’s amendments had nothing to do with the bill. That might be so, but this is the time to amend the act and if the Opposition believes that adjustments are necessary it has a duty to move amendments. The suggested amendments are so reasonable that the Government should accept them. We should not look at this bill from a party point of view. Honorable senators who have preceded me have said that the T.P.I, pension is to be raised by 10s. a week. That is not so in every case. I have a letter from a T.P.I. pensioner who is a friend of mine. He wrote -
T.P.I, married servicemen, as I am myself, receiving a war pension plus social services pension, will receive the rise of war pension but will lose it on social services, so we get nothing.
That is the position. I have always contended that the pensions of ex-servicemen have no relation to the basic wage or any other income. The former Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, lost a leg in the First World War and receives a pension because of the disability from which he has suffered for many years. The pension that the former Minister receives for the loss of his leg should not be included in the means test when his repatriation pension is under review.
The T.P.I, pension also has no relation to any other income. Senator Anderson said that the T.P.I, pension was £5 6s. when this Government took office. If that is so, to all intents and purposes it should be at least £15 18s. now, but I have heard supporters of the Government say, not once but many times, that the average weekly income of an Australian worker is more than £20 a week. If that is so, surely a man who lost his health and is considered by the Repatriation Department to be incapacitated, is entitled to the minimum wage. The Budget provides for an expenditure exceeding £2,000,000,000. If war broke out to-morrow, there would be no shortage of money, and there should be no shortage now when he have to compensate those who helped the nation in the war years. 1 have two letters from secretaries” of Returned Servicemen’s League branches complaining about repatriation pensions. One, from the Eltham branch, was directed to me as a member of the Returned Servicemen’s League for many years, and states -
Dear Senator Hendrickson,
At a recent meeting of this Sub-Branch a resolution was passed unanimously that the Government be urged to adopt the proposals contained in the R.S.L. 1963 Pensions Plan, a copy of which is attached.
The Plan is identical with that submitted to the Government last year, and this Sub-Branch has shared the deep concern of every member of the League at the Government’s failure on that occasion to take any heed whatever of the League’s proposals. We respectfully desire to point out that the war disabled and the war bereaved are not growing any younger and are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet as the cost of living continues to rise.
Members of this Sub-Branch have also expressed their support for the amendment sought by the League to Section 47 of the Repatriation Act to provide that “in all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined, or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability “.
We trust that you, as our representative in I he Senate, will give your full support to the League’s proposals.
These matters have been on the agenda of R.S.L. conferences for some years. As a member of the league I directed a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) who represents here the Minister for Repatriation. I asked whether the Government would give favourable consideration to free hospitalization for returned soldiers from the First World War. I will never forget his reply, and neither will some of the ex-servicemen. He said, “ The honorable senator is tear.jerking “.
Section 47 of the Repatriation Act is an amendment to the original act and provides that the onus of proof is, or should be, on the Government. When the Labour Government was in office in 1943 it set up an all-party committee to inquire into ex-servicemen’s pensions. When the report was brought down it was decided to amend the act. I am only a layman and an ordinary man, as are 95 per cent, of exservicemen, and I believed that in future the onus of proof was on the Government. We ex-servicemen really believed that. But what do we find? The onus of proof is still on the ex-serviceman and on many occasions, after arguments and appeals the Repatriation Department has finally decided that a claim was just. After a man’s death his wife is given the full widow’s T.P.I, pension.
I can provide written evidence regarding many applications that have been made to the Repatriation Department for pensions. They have been supported by the medical opinions. Many doctors are retained in various places by the Repatriation Department to give medical treatment to exservicemen. Not only have such doctors agreed that disabilities were duc to war service, but in some cases their opinions were supported by medical specialists. I refer to one case that was brought to my notice. A lady living in Coburg telephoned me in February and said she wanted to see me during the week-end. She said she could not see me at my office on Monday because she had to look after her husband while her sister was working in a factory during the week. She said, “ This weekend; my sister will mind my husband while I come to see you “. I said, “ I will come out and see you “, and I did. I drove out to the home, saw the woman and asked, “ What is the trouble? “ She said, “ Come inside “. I went into the bedroom and saw her husband, whom T believed was asleep. I said to the woman, “Do not wake him; there is no need for that; you can give me the particulars “. She said: “ You could not wake him. He has lost his hearing and he is paralysed down one side “. Yet this man could not get a pension, despite the fact that two heart specialists had stated as their medical opinion that his disabilities were caused by war service. The tribunal set up by the Government is comprised of laymen, but why should laymen be able to say that evidence given by a qualified doctor is incorrect? I say that it is wrong.
– Before we consider an individual case like that, can you lay the file before us so that we can see the whole of the evidence?
– Yes, I can do that. I will not only lay the file before you; I will show you many others.
– Let us have them one at a time so that we can do justice to each one.
– I have details of another case that I should like to mention, but before doing so I ask Senator Wright to remember that in all these cases the ex-serviceman has to prove his claim.
– I understand the difficulty.
– You must remember this. In the case to which I now refer the ex-serviceman has been granted a T.P.I, pension.
Sena’.or Hannaford. - Is that the one you were previously referring to?
– No, he is dead. In the case to which I now refer the man was granted a special T.P.I, pension, but his wife, who was forced to attend him, wash him in bed, lift him out of bed, wheel him to the car and lift him out of the vehicle whenever he went to the Repatriation Department, was refused the wife’s allowance. Officers from the department are present here if honorable senators opposite wish to check what I have said, and if necessary I can name the person involved. In spite of this evidence Government supporters claim to be giving justice to returned soldiers. I suggest that the treatment that they are given is quite wrong, and that is why I wholeheartedly support the amendment that will be moved by the Opposition proposing the setting up of an all-party select committee to inquire into the ex-servicemen’s pensions. Within the next 30 years, or a little longer, there will be no more ex-service pensions, provided that there are no more wars, and the government of the day will not have to face this commitment for repatriation. I hope and trust that that will be the case. Let us now investigate ways and means to fulfil the promises that wo made to the soldiers of both wars. They were promised the right to live in reasonable comfort upon their return.
I invite the Senate to consider now the circumstances of deceased soldiers’ wives, and I should like to mention a specific case. The soldier was killed at Amboina. His widow was evicted from the home in which she lived and is now asked to pay from her pension £6 6s. a week for rent. In this great country what a wonderful job of work is being done for this woman! If her husband were alive he might now be a senator and be able to live in reasonable comfort; but he is not here - he sacrificed his life for this country. Yet in this debate honorable senators opposite say that the provisions of this bill are just. I do not suggest that the bill does nothing for the ex-servicemen, but there are cases like those I have cited that must be dealt with on their merits. We should be the people to deal with them.
Senator Anderson mentioned that the appointment of the joint all-party committee in 1943 to inquire into repatriation matters was all right. If it was all right then, why is it not all right twenty years later? What is wrong with it to-day? A select committee could inquire into many aspects of repatriation. I mentioned earlier my belief that pensions should not be taken into account in the means test. On this point I shall cite another case, and if Senator Wright so requires, I can have all the details placed on the table of the Senate. The case to which 1 refer involves an ex-serviceman who is also an ex-railway man. He was forced by ill-health to retire from the railways. On his retirement he had fourteen units of superannuation for which he receives about fl8 a fortnight. He is in receipt of a 70 per cent, pension which, with his superannuation, brings the fortnightly income for him and his wife to about £34. Because he receives so much, he and his wife are debarred under the social services legislation from receiving free medical treatment. Instead of the service pension being a blessing to him and providing a little assistance as compensation for his war-caused disability, it is a handicap to him. He cannot do anything. Although he does not receive the T.P.I, pension, he is totally incapacitated. He cannot do any work, but he cannot receive free medical treatment because the. joint income of himself and his wife exceeds £17 a week.
I have with me a copy of the Minister’s second-reading speech on this bill. Unfortunately, I have not time to go through it now. 1 wish I had, because this is one of the most important pieces of legislation we have had to consider. In this legislation we are dealing with men and women who volunteered for the services and made it possible for us to be in this chamber to-night. Had it not been for the men and women who served in the 1914-18 war and again in the 1939-45 war we might not be here now, and people like Hitler, Mussolini, or even Stalin, might have control of the country. But we are free and, surely, irrespective of what it costs, we should be able to give those people who made sacrifices in the cause of freedom a reasonable standard of living.
Senator Anderson read the following passage from the Minister’s second-reading speech: - -The present repatriation system is the product of . many years, of ddevelopment. , by successive governments. Ils basis is sound in principle; and its evolution has kept pace with changing circumstances and needs, and, in the field of treatment, with developments in medical science.
That statement is totally incorrect. The repatriation system has not kept pace with time. It has not done for the ex-serviceman all that it should have done, because many returned soldiers to-day are suffering and are not able to get justice from the Repatriation Department.
Finally, in appealing to the Government, let me say that sitting in the chamber is an ex-serviceman from the 1914-18 war. This man said to me: “ Would it not be grand if the Government gave us the right to free hospitalization? Would it not relieve us and remove great worries from our minds? “ Of course, it would! And what would be the cost to the Government? With a budget of £2,200,000,000 the Government is prepared to spend another £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 on defence this year, but how much is it prepared to spend on those people who defended this country? Do not say that in making these remarks I am tear jerking. Is the Gvernment prepared as one small concession to give to the serviceman of the First World War the right for him and his wife to have free treatment in repatriation hospitals? The Government should be able to provide that treatment. I would not be costly because not many of them are left to-day.
There are other matters that I should like to discuss, but I believe my time has expired. I hope and trust that I will have an opportunity when our amendments are before the committee to say something more about this very important legislation.
– I have very much pleasure in congratulating the Government on this bill. Over the years we have seen a steady but very distinct improvement in repatriation services, not only those given to persons in need of them but also the rates.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I congratulated the Government on bringing down this bill. I mentioned that over the years we have seen a steady but valuable improvement in the treatment that it has been possible to give to those who unfortunately have needed to receive that treatment. This bill, of course, is in keeping with the Government’s 1963 Budget, which provides relief where it is felt that relief should be given.
In common with other honorable senators I recognize that monetary compensation must inevitably provide only some assistance to those suffering from war hurts received in World War I and World War II. Consequently, no matter what rate of pension is paid it must be recognized that it is a very poor recompense to those who have given their health and the best part of their lives in the service of this country. In this chamber, as in another place, we have people who have very good reason to be sympathetic towards the recipients of the benefits of this bill. For instance, there is my colleague, the former Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who suffered very severely in World War I. Senator Mattner suffered privations and hardships in World War I. Senator Anderson and Senator Branson were prisoners of war. On the opposite side of the chamber there are Senator Hendrickson, who suffered grievously as a result of World War I, and Senator Sandford. Because of this, surely it is obvious to people who are inclined to criticize us at times that there is no dearth of sympathy here for those whom we are trying to help.
I agree with those who have said that repatriation rates are not a matter for partypolitical consideration. I want to say only one thing in this connexion, and I hope that it will not be taken as intended to start off Opposition-Government warfare. No matter what government is in office it cannot hope to outdo the proposals and policies that can be put up by an opposition, no matter what party forms the opposition. After all, it is not an opposition’s role to find the money for the measures that it suggests should be introduced or to meet the promises it is prepared to make. That should be recognized.
The Opposition has foreshadowed an amendment to the bill to provide for the appointment of a select committee to go into the whole question of repatriation. I am one of those who feel that no very good purpose could be served by such a committee. It must be remembered that the Opposition has’ a’ committee ‘ which ‘goes very closely into repatriation matters just as the Government has a committee dealing with the same field. Were those two committees not operating the proposal that a select committee be appointed would carry far more weight.
I noticed in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for 1962-63, which has just been circulated, a reference to the continuance of country visits. The report states -
During the year the programme of visits to country areas by departmental officers was extended. Hie aim of these visits is to provide country ex-servicemen, as far as possible, with the advice and assistance on Repatriation matters which are readily available in the metropolitan areas at the department’s branch offices.
The report goes on to say -
These visits have been welcomed by ex-service organizations and are clearly meeting an important need.
I go along with that, and I sincerely hope that these visits will continue for many years to come. At this stage I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner) read a first time.
[8.6]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Each year since 1950 the present Government has enacted measures which have improved the circumstances of people in receipt of benefits under the Social Services Act. Amongst the improvements in our social services in recent years, perhaps four are outstanding as representing fundamental advances in our system. I refer to the additional pension payable for children, introduced in 1956, supplementary assistance to improve the circumstances of qualified pensioners who pay. rent, introduced in 1958,’ the extension of all social service benefits to our aborigines, introduced in 1959, and the merged means test bringing into balance pensioners’ property and income, introduced in 1960.
The Government is again this year making further improvements of fundamental importance to our pensions system. Mr. President, the bill before the Senate docs the following things: It introduces a new standard rate of pension to be paid to single persons. It provides for the payment, as an addition to the pension, of a mother’s allowance to widows with children. It brings into uniformity the additional payments made for all children of pensioners and brings these payments into line with the additional benefit payable to unemployment and sickness beneficiaries. ]’. provides for the additional payments on account of children to be continued in the care of student children up to the end of the year in which they attain their eighteenth birthday. A further amendment increases the rate of wife’s allowance to £3 a week bringing it into uniformity with the additional benefit payable to a married unemployment or sickness beneficiary.I shall now explain each of these items in more detail.
The new standard rate which is proposed for single pensioners expresses our new approach to the relative pension needs of single people as compared with married couples and breaks away from the approach adopted by the founders of our pension system over fifty years ago. To Australia it represents a departure, but in most other countries it is accepted as an essential feature of any modern social service system.
Mr. President, it is a well established fact that a married couple can share many goods and services and that a single person needs more than half the married rate of pension in order to command the same standard of living. To some extent, the comparative disadvantage of single pensioners, including pensioners who lose their husband or wives by death, was met in 1958 by the introduction of supplementary assistance. This, however, was specifically . designed to assist those who pay rent and did not take into account other living costs which are proportionately higher for a single person than for a married couple. Thus to remove the disadvantage at present being suffered by single pensioners a further fundamental change in our pensions struc ture is necessary. The bill before the Senate provides for this change by introducing a new standard rate of pension for single persons who, for this purpose, will include widows and married pensioners where the spouse is not in receipt of a pension, wife’s allowance, service pension, an unemployment or sickness benefit, or a tuberculosis allowance.
At this point 1 would like to stress that the consumer price index has remained more of less constant over the last two years. The index, rightly or wrongly, has come to be accepted as the measure of the purchasing power of the pension and an increase in the index has been a traditional argument for an increase in the rate of pension. With the index retaining stability, that traditional argument has no force this year. The fact is that a pensioner married couple to-day receive £2 4s. 2d. more a week than they would be receiving if the rate of pension which was in force when this Government took office had been adjusted in accordance with movements in the index.
Using the index as a yardstick there is therefore no case for general increases over the whole pension field this year, and the Government is taking the opportunity of providing selective increases where they are most needed. It is establishing the new standard rate for “ single “ pensioners which is more than half the rate of £10 10s. a week payable to a married pensioner couple. In reviewing social services in connexion with the preparation of the Budget, particularly in deciding how available resources should be distributed, the Gvornment carefully considered the position of all pensioners. It decided to take account of relative needs and to bring the rate for single pensioners up to a level more commensurate with the rate of £10 10s. a week payable to married couples. This decision follows the practice in other countries. It is supported by pensioners’ organizations.
The bill increases the rate of age and invalid pension for single persons by 10s. a week, raising the maximum rate from £5 5s. to £5 15s. a week. This, in future, will be the new standard rate in such cases. All single pensioners, and married pensioners whose spouses are not in receipt of a pension, allowance or benefit, numbering in all approximately 454,000, will benefit from this proposal by the full 10s. a week. Widow pensioners without children, numbering some 35,000, will also receive the full increase of 10s. a week. Some 27,000 widows with children, to whom I shall refer later, will receive much greater increases. In all some 516,000, or approximately two-thirds of all pensioners, will benefit from increased pension rates. These will include the 100,000 pensioners already in receipt of supplementary assistance, who will receive the further 10s. a week in addition to supplementary assistance. Moreover, a number of people previously excluded from pension by the operation of the means test will become eligible for some payment for the first time. This is because the effect of the increase will be to extend the upper limit of a person’s means, as assessed before entitlement to pension cuts out.
A single or widowed person without children who has property, the value of which does not exceed £209, will retain his entitlement to receive some age or invalid pension until his income reaches £9 5s. a week. Where he has no income, other than income from property, entitlement to receive some pension will not’ cut out until the value of the property reaches £5,010. This figure of £5,010 does not include the value of the home, furniture, personal effects including a motor car not used for business purposes, and certain other items which arc not taken into account in the application of the means test. In the case of a married person who has no children and whose spouse is not in receipt of a pension, allowance or benefit, the upper income limit if there is no property affecting will be £18 10s. a week and the upper property limit if there is no income affecting will be £10,020.
Earlier, I mentioned that, among outstanding achievements of the present Government, was the introduction in 1956 of additional pension for children after the first child. That measure gave, for the first time, practical recognition to the needs of the pensioner with a family and represented an important advance in our pensions system. It was my privilege, in 1961, to introduce into the Senate amending legislation which resulted in those payments being increased from 10s. to 15s. a week for each child after the first of a class
A widow. I am grateful for the opportunity given to mc by the present bill to introduce a further measure designed to extend this same increase to invalid pensioners and permanently incapacitated age pensioners who have more than one child in their custody, care and control. The bill achieves this by raising the amount of additional pension payable in such circumstances from 10s. to 15s. a week. Therefore, in future, the rates of additional payments in respect of the children of widow pensioners, invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners and unemployment and sickness beneficiaries will be at the same level.
The increased pension for children after the first forms an integral part of the pension and is subject to the means test. Therefore the effect of the increase of 5s. a week for each such child of invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners will be to extend the limit of income which a person may have before entitlement to pension entirely ceases, by a further £13 a year on account of each child in excess of one.
In addition to granting this increase In the rate of payment for children the Government has this year directed its attention to ways of assisting pensioners who wish to keep their children at school beyond the age of sixteen. Anything that can be done towards this end will, I am sure, receive the approbation of the Senate. Honorable senators will know that under existing legislation additional payments in respect of a child cease when the child reaches sixteen years of age. The result is that an invalid or permanently incapacitated age pensioner with more than one child suffers a loss of 10s. a week pension, which would be 15s. a week on the passage of the present bill, when any child other than the youngest turns sixteen. When the youngest or only child turns sixteen the loss is 15s. a week child’s allowance. In addition, the deduction of 10s. a week which is allowed from a pensioner’s income on account of a dependent child, also ceases when the child reaches sixteen. Consequently, a further loss of income by the pensioner of 10s. a week could occur at that time.
In order to assist pensioners who wish to keep their children at school up to matriculation standard or even beyond, the bill before us provides for a child who is undergoing full-time education and is dependent on the pensioner to continue to be treated as a child under the age of sixteen up to the end of the year in which he attains the age of eighteen. The effect of this will be to maintain the pension payable when a student child reaches sixteen years of age. Pensioners may, therefore, subject to means, receive additional pension of 15s. a week for each student child and may have an additional 10s. a week of private income making a total additional income of 25s. a week for each student child.
There will be pensioners who have had their pensions reduced, and in a few cases cancelled, because they have a student child who had attained the age of sixteen years before the bill we are considering comes into operation. The Department of Social Services will, of course, be unaware that such a child is still a student and will be unable to make automatic increases in the rate of pensions in such cases. Pensioners, and those whose pensions have been cancelled or reduced because the child has attained the age of sixteen years, who have a student child over the age of sixteen years, who will not attain the age of eighteen years before 31st December, 1963, should write to the director of the State in which they reside. This will ensure that any adjustment in the rate of pension, or restoration of the pension is made as soon as possible.
Earlier, I mentioned that the bill provides for the wife’s allowance payable to the wife of an invalid or permanently incapacitated age pensioner to be raised to the rate of £3 a week. This is an increase of 12s. 6d. a week which, on passage of the bill, will become payable immediately to all wives in receipt of the allowance. Two years ago the Government increased the rate of the wife’s allowance by 12s. 6d. a week which was the largest increase made since the allowance was first introduced in 1943. The increase proposed this year maintains that high standard and will have the effect of bringing the rate of the allowance into line with the rate of additional benefit payable in respect of the dependent wife of a sickness or unemployment beneficiary.
Mr. President, I have dealt with the main provisions of the bill so far as they affect age and invalid pensioners. Honorable senators will appreciate the significance of the liberalizations proposed if we consider for a moment the case of an invalid pensioner with a wife and three children. On present rates, the total amount of pension, additional pension for children, wife’s allowance, child’s allowance and child endowment the family could receive is £10 12s. 6d a week. Under the bill this will be £11 15s. a week - an increase of 22s. 6d. If the pensioner is a widower the increase will be 20s. a week. Moreover, the additional payments for each child will continue up to the end of the year in which the child turns eighteen, while he remains a full-time student.
I now turn to widows’ pensions and shall begin by considering the proposals being made for class A widows - that is, widows with one or more children. In this field the Government is proposing the most substantial increases ever made in our pension system - by introducing changes of fundamental and far-reaching benefit for the widowed mother.
The new standard rate of pension for single persons that I have already mentioned in connexion with age and invalid pensions, will also be paid to widows with children, thereby increasing the basic maximum rate of the class A pension from £5 10s. to £5 15s. a week. It further proposes - and this is the fundamental innovation - that the basic rate of pension will be increased by the payment of a mother’s allowance of £2 a week. For the first time, in addition, provision is made for an allowance of 15s. a week to be paid for the widow’s eldest or only child. These provisions will provide class A pensioners with a direct and immediate increase of £3 in their weekly payments. The pension payable to a widow with one child will be increased from £5 10s. a week to £8 10s. a week, an increase of over 50 per cent. This will be increased by 15s. a week for each additional child, including student children, and to this be added, of course, child endowment.
The £2 a week payable by way of mother’s allowance will form an integral part of the pension and as such will be subject to the normal operation of the means test. The allowance of 15s. a week for the first or only child, however, will be paid on the same basis as the similar allowance already payable for the first or only child of an invalid or permanently incapacitated age pensioner - that is, it will bc at a flat rate and not reduced by the operation of the means test. It will be payable at the full 15s. a week to all widow pensioners with a child.
The Social Services Act already provides that in the application of the means test any income, other than pensions and child endowment, received by a widow shall be reduced by 10s. a week on account of each child. Under the act as amended by the present bill, a class A widow whose property, apart from her home, furniture and personal effects, does not exceed £2,250 in value may, in addition to the income from that property - which is exempt - have a total income from pension, child’s allowance, endowment and other sources of up to £12 15s. a week before her entitlement to some pension is extinguished. If she has two children she may have up to £14 10s.; if she has three children, up to £16 5s.; if four children, up to £18 a week, and so on.
Income from property is already exempt and since a widow may have property up to £2,250 without affecting her rate of pension, the figures I have given would be increased by any income from that property which, in the case of a widow with property worth £2,250 would probably be of the order of £2 a week.
A class A widow, on the other hand, who has no income other than income from property may have property apart from her home, furniture and personal effects to the total value of £6,850 before her entitlement to some pension cuts out. This is £1,170 more than a widow in these circumstances can have to-d?y. Apart from the immediate and substantial gains to all existing widow pensioners who have dependent children, the amending legislation will also enable many widows, previously excluded from pension by the operation of the means test, to qualify for some payment for the first time.
The provisions of the bill under which additional payments in respect of each child of invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners may be continued up to the end of the year in which the child reaches the age of eighteen years, while he remains a full-time student, are also extended to widow pensioners. This is a valuable provision for those widows who desire their children’s education to continue up to matriculation standard or beyond in some cases.
So that any necessary adjustment can be made in the rate of their pensions, widow pensioners with student children in this age group should write to the Director of Social Services in the State in which they reside setting out the facts. Similarly, widows who have recently had their pensions cancelled or reduced because a student child attained the age of sixteen years should write to the director so that the possibility of restoration or increase of pension can be looked into.
Widows over 50 years of age who have no dependent children - that is, class B widows - also benefit under the present bill to the extent of 10s. a week. The new maximum rate of this pension will be increased from £4 12s. 6d. to £5 2s. 6d. a week. The same increase will apply to a class C widow - that is, a widow under 50 with no dependent children but who is in necessitous circumstances immediately following her husband’s death.
For completeness, I should mention that, where an age or invalid pensioner to whom the increase of 10s. a week is payable, or a class B widow, is an inmate of a benevolent home, the bill provides that 3s. of the increase in the basic pension will be payable to the pensioner. This means that when the legislation is amended an age or invalid pensioner inmate of a benevolent home will receive 40s. a week of his pension and a class B widow inmate will receive 36s. 6d. a week. As at present, the balance of the pension will be paid to the authorities of the home for the maintenance of the pensioner.
So that the Department of Social Services may make the necessary administrative arrangements, it is proposed that the new standard rate of pension for single invalid and age pensioners will be paid on a date to be fixed by proclamation. All other increased rates of pensions and allowances proposed, including those payable to widow pensioners, will be paid on the appropriate pay-days following the date of commencement of the amending act.
Mr. President, this completes the outline of the provisions of the bill. Over 570,000 pensioners and their dependants will benefit from its provisions and some persons not now eligible for pensions will become entitled to a pension for the first time. In considering the benefits provided by the bill, it should be remembered that the majority of pensioners and their dependants are entitled to medical treatment and pharmaceutical benefits without charge to themselves under the pensioners medical service. The Commonwealth also provides pensioners with wireless and television licences at reduced fees. These supplementary benefits are of considerable value to the pensioners concerned.
I turn now to the question of the cost involved. First, I should mention that, quite apart from this bill, expenditure on social services for 1963-64 is estimated to rise by some £12,000,000 over the expenditure for the previous year. This will be brought about mainly through a natural increase in the number of pensioners and the fact that an extra widow’s pension payday falls due during 1963-64 and also an extra pay-day for mothers whose child endowment is paid quarterly to bank accounts.
The combined effect of the proposals contained in the bill will be to increase expenditure by some £18,000,000 for a full year, of which approximately £11,500,000 will be spent in the current year. Total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund in the year 1962-63 was over £379,000,000. Expenditure from the fund is estimated to pass the £411,000,000 mark this year - a remarkable advance when it is considered that in 1949 when the Government first took office the rate of expenditure was £81,000,000 a year. I should also like to remind the Senate that in addition to the huge increases in expenditure from the National Welfare Fund, the Government has, over the past eight years, expended approximately £18,000,000 under the provisions of the Ages Persons Homes Act.
This Government has already recognized the special circumstances of pensioners who are required to pay rent and are entirely dependent on one pension, and it has already recognized the special circumstances of pensioners with children. Now the Government is proposing that our legislation should recognize the relative needs of single pensioners as compared with married pensioner couples; should recognize the special circumstances of widows who are left with a family without a breadwinner; and should recognize the hopes and desires of parents in assisting them to give their children a higher education.
These measures are of far-reaching importance and I am confident they will be welcomed as notable contributions to our social services system. Mr. President, I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
– by leave - The statement I am about to read is in exactly the same terms as one made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in the House of Representatives this afternoon. Therefore, where the word “ I “ occurs it refers to the Postmaster-General.
On the 18th October, 1961, I informed the House of the Government’s decision to further extend television services to rural areas of the Commonwealth by establishing national stations in an additional twenty country areas. At the same time I stated that applications would be invited for the grant of a licence for a commercial television station in each of these areas.
In a further statement made to the House on 4th October, 1962, I announced that the Government, following consideration of the recommendations made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, had authorized me to grant a licence for a commercial television station to each of the following companies in the five areas indicated -
Upper Namoi area - Television New England Limited.
South-western Slopes and Eastern Riverina area - Riverina Television Limited.
Grafton-Kempsey area - Northern Rivers Television Limited.
Upper Murray area - Albury Upper Murray T.V. Limited.
Wide Bay area - Wide Bay-Burnett Television Proprietary Limited.
The stations in these areas are now being established.
I received recently from the board its report and recommendations on the applications received for licences in additional areas. Following consideration of this report, the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Board, and has authorized me to grant a licence for a commercial television station to each of the following companies in the ten areas indicated: -
Manning River area - East Coast Television Limited.
Central Western Slopes area - Country Television Services Limited.
Murrumbidgee Irrigation areas - Murrumbidgee Television Limited.
Broken Hill area - Broken Hill Television Limited.
Mildura area - Sunraysia Television Proprietary Limited.
Cairns area - Far Northern Television Proprietary Limited.
Mackay area - Mackay Television Development Proprietary Limited.
Southern Downs area - Darling Downs TV Limited.
South-East (South Australia) area - South East Telecasters Limited.
Bunbury area - South Western Telecasters Proprietary Limited.
The constitution of these companies is set out in the boards’ report which I now lay on the table of the House. Altogether commercial stations arc now to be licensed in fifteen of the twenty areas to which I announced, on 18th October, 1961, television services were to be extended. The position with respect to the remaining five areas is as follows: -
Spencer Gulf North. - At the time this area was dealt with, the only applicant was not prepared to proceed on the ground that it would be uneconomic to do so.
Bega-Cooma. - Tha, only applicant was not prepared to proceed and withdrew the application.
Murray Valley. - The only applicant who proceeded was not prepared to accept a licence for this area unless also granted the licence for the Mildura area. As the licence for the latter area is to be granted to another company, no licence can be granted in respect of the Murray Valley area at this stage.
Southern Agricultural area (Western Australia). - No application was received for this area.
Central Agricultural area (Western Australia). - No application was received for this area.
The position of the five areas referred to will be kept under review with the object of re-inviting applications as soon as circumstances indicate that such a course is warranted. I would emphasize, however, that the establishment of national stations in these areas is not affected and they, together with stations in the other fifteen areas, will be provided with a national service as quickly as possible.
The licences will not be granted until I am satisfied as to the directors and shareholdings of the respective companies and as to their compliance with the provisions of the act. 1 shall also require that an assurance be given that no exclusive arrangement will be entered into with any metropolitan station for the provision of programmes or the sale of station time or advertising. This conforms with the conditions prescribed in respect of other country stations which have been licensed. Each company to which a licence is to be granted, with the exception of Country Television Services Limited and Darling Downs TV Limited, will be required to offer at least fifty per cent, of its shares to the general public residing in the area to be served by the station, although it appears from the Board’s report that each of the proposed licensees has already expressed this intention.
Country Television Services Limited and Darling Downs TV Limited are established companies, being the licensees of the commercial television stations operating in the Central Tablelands (New South Wales) and Darling Downs areas, respectively. I propose to take up with these companies the question of making shares available to residents of the Central Western Slopes and Southern Downs areas.
I should say that rapid progress is now being made with the establishment of national stations in country areas. By the end of 1963, eleven such stations will be in operation and during 1964, it is planned to bring an additional three stations into service. When the stations which have been authorized are completed, about 91 per cent. of the population will have television services available to it. The question of the extension of the service to additional areas presents problems of some difficulty. The matter is, however, receiving continuing attention and the board will make a further report to me as soon as it is possible to reach some firm conclusions as to the best course to follow in the light of the experience with the stations now being brought into operation.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian Broadcasting Control Board - report and recommendations to the PostmasterGeneral on applications for licences for commercial television stations in the Manning River, Central Western Slopes, Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Bega-Cooma, Broken Hill, Mildura, Murray Valley, Cairns, Mackay, Southern Downs, South-east (South Australia) and Bunbury areas.
– I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to make my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 623).
– The general purpose of any repatriation system is to compensate those who have suffered as a result of war service and, in the case of those who have died, to make adequate provision for their dependants. Such a system should provide financial compensation by way of pensions for war incapacitated servicemen and, in certain cicumstances, for their dependants; medical treatment for ex-servicemen for warcaused disabilities and financial payments for their immediate dependants where exservicemen have died as a result of war services.
The real test of a repatriation system, therefore, is whether those who have suffered as a result of war service are properly compensated and cared for. We claim that the Australian system measures up to that standard and compares with anything similar in other parts ofthe world. It pro vides compensation and allowances to every group with a proper claim to them, a wide range of medical treatment, including hospitalization, general medical and specialist treatment and dental services. Similar treatment is given in some cases which are not due to war services and these cover both ex-servicemen and their dependants and additional payments to ensure recognition of war service.
I may cover some ground that has already been covered in this debate, commencing as it did yesterday and continuing right throughout the day, but I do not propose to go into detail. At this juncture I should like to pay a tribute to the excellent examination that was made of the proposals last night by my colleague, Senator Drake-Brockman.
We claim that the current rates are not unreasonable. If the rates were higher, I suppose it would be only natural to expect ex-servicemen’s organizations and their representatives to ask for even higher rates. After all, those organizations exist to try to get the best deal they can for their members. That fact must be recognized. Therefore, if honorable senators feel even now that the new rates will not satisfy in each case the claims that have been made by the respective organizations, they must realize that no matter how generous the provisions may be, the organizations would still like a little more. That is only human nature.
Medical treatment is provided at the moment for all disabilities which have been accepted as due to war service. In addition, treatment is provided for disabilities not due to war service in the following cases: - Ex-service men and women receiving war pensions at or exceeding the maximum general 100 per cent. rate; those who have served in a theatre of war and whose resources are limited; nurses who served in the 1914-18 war; and war widows and children who have been deprived of the bread-winner because of war service. Recently these benefits have been extended to ex-servicemen suffering from tuberculosis.
Much has been said about the determination of claims and the trouble that has been caused. It has been admitted by many of those who have made claims that after World War I they were so pleased to get out of the services and back to their civil avocations that they did not worry’ about getting a medical clearance. At that time their main thought was to get out of uniform as quickly as they could. As a result, they did not exercise the care that they should have in seeing that their medical classifications were recorded. Such exservicemen accept the blame for this omission. There has been much trouble in this connexion, but that is now water under the bridge and it is no good complaining about it at this stage.
The determination of claims is made by independent authorities. Most returned servicemen and others interested in making claims are familiar with the procedures, but some still are not. We believe that the assessment tribunals and appeal tribunals are as fair to applicants as any tribunal that we could provide. Again we must accept the fact that no matter what legislation is brought down, anomalies will creep in. That applies to any legislation and is something that we cannot avoid. If anomalies do exist under the legislation, no matter how good a job the tribunals may do, anomalies must creep in in some cases. However, we have the comfort of knowing that even if an appeal has been dismissed, a fresh appeal can be lodged, provided that new evidence is forthcoming. We are able to assure those lodging appeals that sympathetic consideration will be given to their case, whether they are successful or not.
Having said that, I want now to refer to some notes that I have made. The first states that the legislation is administered with understanding. Surely most honorable senators agree with that submission, despite the anomalies I mentioned earlier. Administratively every assistance is given to claimants and appellants. Although I have not had much experience with cases presented to the repatriation tribunals, the experience I have had has demonstrated that the department has gone out of its way to provide to the appellant assistance wherever possible, not only to make his application but also to formulate his appeal when the application has been rejected. I have a reference also to the standard of treatment being maintained at a high level. Those who have had occasion to receive treatment have endorsed this claim that has been made on behalf of the Government.
The general rate pension ranges from 10 per cent, to 100 .per cent. of:the full, rate and is payable according to the degree of incapacity as assessed by a repatriation board, commission or the assessment appeal tribunal. The general rate for a wife and child has not been increased since 1952. Let us compare the 100 per cent, rate in 1949 with what it is to-day. In 1949 that rate was £2 15s., whereas to-day it is £5 1 5s., an increase of £3. The wife’s pension in 1949 was £1 4s., whereas tb-day it is £1 15s. 6d. The rate for a child in 1949 was 9s., but to-day it is 13s. 9d. The general rate is not labelled as an economic pension on which pensioners are likely to be entirely dependent; it compensates for partial rather than total loss of earning capacity and for suffering physical impairment caused by war service. The general rate paid to the ex-serviceman with a wife and two children under sixteen years of age, if he is in receipt of the 100 per cent, pension, is £8 18s. I shall not enumerate all the rates as they have been mentioned by other speakers.
I should now like to refer to the temporary and permanent incapacity rate, which is to be £13 15s. This rate is within range of the male basic wage. The new rate, and an additional £1 15s. 6d. for a wife, totals £15 10s. 6d. That is in excess of the basic wage. Since the abolition of ceiling limits in 1955, service pensioners may qualify for an additional service pension, subject to a means test, to bring their combined income from the Commonwealth to £17 10s. So now we have the position that a T.P.I, ex-serviceman with a wife and two children aged twelve and fourteen years may receive a weekly payment of £19 5s. 9d. A war widow with two children aged twelve and fourteen years can receive a weekly pension of £14 19s. 3d. Where the service pension is payable an additional amount of up to £3 12s. may be paid. This guarantees a minimum income from government sources of £22 7s. 9d., free of tax. The T.P.I, war pensioner is entitled to receive a full range of medical treatment and benefits and other allowances.
When these facts are taken into consideration it will be seen that although we do not claim that the monetary compensation given to war pensioners compensates entirely for injuries received in fighting for their country, at least it does something to mitigate hardships. , . I . think it. is well also to direct attention to the fact that some of the new benefits that have been granted comparatively recently provide, in the case of a widow’s remarriage, a gratuity equal to the amount of one year’s pension. A gift car, plus an allowance of £120 a year towards the general running costs, is provided for an ex-serviceman with a double amputation above the knees, or a complete paraplegic. A rehabilitation training scheme is available to disabled ex-servicemen of the 193.9-45 war and to widows of exservicemen of that war who meet the conditions of the scheme.
Then there is the question of widened eligibility. For instance, eligibility for a war service pension for a wife married after 30th June, 1938, and children born after that date to ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war has been restored. There are other benefits which I could outline but I think that those which I have cited should be sufficient to indicate to those people listening to me who did not hear honorable senators who spoke earlier in this debate the benefits that are available.
The subject of the onus of proof has been claimed to be very contentious. To many of us, the position seems plain enough. Again, I feel that this is a case in which trouble arises not because of the absence of adequate machinery but because the machinery is not availed of. Two eminent jurists, whose names have been mentioned in the debate, have given their interpretation of the Repatriation Act. Honorable senators supporting this Government are quite satisfied that those interpretations are in accordance with what the framers of the act had in mind. In the main, we feel that the intention of the act is being observed but one docs come up against some cases in which it seems, rightly or wrongly, that the benefit of the doubt has not been given to the applicant.
In addition to the jurists to whom I have already referred, I shall name two others who say that the law is clear. They are a former Attorney-General, ex-Senator Spicer, and the present Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick. We say that according to the law, claims and appeals are to be decided according to natural justice on the merits of the case and that the determining authorities are not to be bound by technicalities, legal forms or .the laws of evidence; but the law further provides that the claimant or appellant is to be given the benefit of any doubt and all reasonable inferences are to be drawn in his favour to the exclusion of all other inferences. Finally, the claimant or appellant does not have to prove his case but the determining authority must allow the case unless the Commonwealth proves to it that the claim should not be allowed. The members of the determining authorities, the repatriation board, the commission, the entitlement appeal tribunals and the chairmen of the assessment appeal tribunals are all exservicemen who have had overseas service.
Surely, in view of these facts, it must be admitted that everything that can reasonably be done is being done to see that the benefit of the doubt is given to the applicant. I believe that the amendment which the Opposition has suggested cannot make the position any better. I know the motive that is inspiring Opposition senators to bring this proposal forward and I respect them for it. However, the machinery is there and it is simply a question of having the law interpreted as the Parliament intended it to be interpreted.
I think it is only proper when considering repatriation matters to pay a tribute to that wonderful organization, Legacy. To-day, Legacy is carrying out much of the work that the returned servicemen’s organizations carried out shortly after the end of World War I when they were first established. Through its voluntary workers, Legacy provides a tremendous amount of assistance to the dependants, including the orphans, of ex-servicemen. I am sure that we would all wish to congratulate the members of Legacy on the work that they have done in the past and wish them well for continued success in the future. I have much pleasure, Mr. Acting Deputy President, in supporting the bill and in opposing the amendment which has been foreshadowed.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I agree with Senator McKellar that when one comes into a debate at such a late stage as this there is always the danger of repetition. I feel that honorable senators who follow me in the debate will indulge in repetition as I shall probably do myself. Whatever criticism I may make of this Repatriation Bill, I shall not in any way reflect on the officers of the Repatriation Department, who are doing such a grand job for the exservicemen and ex-servicewomen. At all times, they are courteous and ever-anxious to do whatever they possibly can to assist the ex-serviceman who is making a claim for a pension and who has to come before a tribunal or a board.
The first proposal that will be contained in the Oppostion amendments to be moved by Senator O’ Byrne will be that the Government should set up a joint committee to investigate the whole of the repatriation law. As we all know, a committee was set up for this purpose in 1942 and some of its recommendations were given effect in 1943. I feel that the Government should accept this proposal because it would not affect the bill in any way nor retard its passage. I believe that this is one proposal that could be accepted by the Government. The other Opposition proposals I shall touch on later in my speech. 1 believe that the Repatriation Act has too much rigidity about it. It is my personal opinion that the act may be described as “ hard “. When people make representations to us concerning applications for other social service benefits it is usually possible for us to form an opinion as to whether their application will be granted or not. It does not seem possible to do that with regard to applications for repatriation benefits. This is because there is no elasticity in the Repatriation Act. Some of the officers of the other departments which administer social services are able to use a lot of discretion in deciding whether an application for a pension should be granted or not. The Repatriation Act does not permit discretion to be exercised in relation to repatriation benefits. The officers of the Repatiration Department are not permitted any elasticity in handling applications. This is a difficulty which we should try to overcome by some means. I have been in this Senate for only a short time but I know that each year the Opposition moves for the amendment of the Repatriation Act. We do not do that for the sake of delaying legislation affecting repatriation pensions. We like to see such legislation passed as quickly as possible.
I have no criticism to make of the increases that have been made in the rates of ex-servicemen’s pensions over the years. Ex-servicemen are justly entitled to those increases. Such increases should not be regarded as a feather in the cap of any government whatever its political colour may be. Ex-servicemen’ are entitled to whatever benefits can be given to them. In enlisting in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, in World War I or in World War II, they have earned the . right to these benefits which they should be able to obtain as easily as possible. I use the word “ easily “ because, as I have said previously, I think this act is too rigid. When a person approaches a member of Parliament I am sure that he thinks he is entitled to a pension. The member of Parliament advises him to make his application for a pension or appeal against a decision that has been made by the board or the commission if his case has been rejected for some reason or other.
– We only get the cases that have been turned down elsewhere.
– That is true. There are times when these difficult cases come before members of Parliament. They are difficult because the act is so rigid. In many cases fresh evidence can be produced. I frequently contact a medical practitioner to find out what the medical opinion is in a particular case. I try also to find out the name of a person who served in the same unit as the man who is seeking a pension. You do this to ascertain what happened at the time the man was wounded or at the time he suffered from a particular illness. Such matters are attended to by members of Parliament. Sometimes you are successful in unearthing some evidence that has not been brought out before, with the result that the man’s claim is granted. Although we do often get hard-luck cases, in most instances a doubt exists as to whether the claim has been rejected on proper grounds.
Not every person who makes an application to the Repatriation Department is a malingerer. Many of these people do not want a pension for their own sake. They do not make their applications for the sake of the few shillings they may get, but because the pension will mean some security for their wives and children if unforeseen circumstances arise. These matters should be looked into more closely.
Later on I wish to say something about the onus-of-proof provision, which has been debated time and time again since this bill was introduced. In many cases an appellant before a tribunal is simply told the hard cold fact that his injury is not considered as being due to war service but that if he can obtain fresh evidence he can have his case reopened. That is simply throwing the onus back on to the person making the application. As I said previously, the man is not concerned so much about himself, but about the future security of his wife and family.
I am sure that other honorable senators are acquainted with cases where a man has not worried about making an application for a pension for a war-caused disability, but after his death his wife applies to be recognized as a war widow. She may not know what to do and in many cases is left to her own devices to do the best she can. I realize that the department attempts to do everything possible to help that type of woman to put a case before the board, the commission or the appropriate tribunal, but in some cases the department’s hands are tied and the woman does not receive the benefit to which she is entitled, simply because her husband did not apply for a pension or to have his complaint recognized as a war-caused disability.
Recently a woman came to see me. Her husband who had been receiving a pension because of a number of war-caused disabilities had died as a result of an enlarged heart. She appealed to the commission to have his heart disability recognized as war-caused. Not only had the man been wounded but he had also suffered from malaria during his war service. He. had fought in the desert in Africa and also in the islands to the north of Australia. I spoke to some medical men on this matter and they informed me that the poisons which enter the body as a result of malaria can, in their opinion, affect the heart, and in some cases cause an enlargement of that organ. I do not know why that fact was not taken into consideration when this woman applied to have her husband’s death recognized as due to war service. We have this sort of thing to contend with, and I suggest that officials in the department should be given the same latitude in making decisions as is extended to officials of other departments.
All honorable senators at one time or another have received correspondence from organizations such as the War Widows’ Guild of Australia and the Returned Servicemen’s League asking that something be done by the Government about repatriation benefits. Each year the Government does increase benefits in a monetary sense, and I have no quarrel with that whatsoever. However, I feel that the necessity for an applicant for benefits to produce new evidence can create a very great difficulty, particularly in the case of diggers who fought in the 1914-18 war. Free hospital treatment should be available to them regardless of whether or not they have an entitlement. It is said this cannot be done. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), a Government supporter in another place, said in a debate on this bill on 10th September, as reported on page 798 of “ Hansard “ for the House of Representatives -
I shall deal now with the suggestion that exservicemen of World War I. should be entitled to hospital treatment. I am sure that we would all like to accede to this request, but once again we face many difficulties. There are not only economic difficulties but also the difficulty of providing accommodation in hospitals. About 100,000 ex-servicemen from the First World War are still alive. Many of them arc already entitled to admission to repatriation hospitals and to medical attention and medical benefits. Let us assume that those who are not entitled to be admitted to repatriation hospitals number 40,000. If suddenly 30,000 of them wanted to be admitted to hospitals, an extreme strain would be thrown on the finances of the hospitals, which would have difficulty in providing accommodation and in obtaining the necessary nursing and medical staff. We all feel sympathetic towards ex-servicemen and I hope that one day the Government will be able to provide this benefit. However, for the present the position must remain as it is.
I do not think that that is a valid argument. If 30,000 of these 40,000 ex-servicemen were to require hospital treatment in one year, they would require it whether or not they had an entitlement from the Repatriation Department. They would obtain hospital treatment, whether in public hospitals or repatriation hospitals. So this is not a sound argument for refusing entitlement. It is said that there would be a severe strain on repatriation hospitals. In the absence of entitlement, the State public hospitals would be subjected to the strain.
Another of the foreshadowed amendments relates to acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability. The 46th annual report of the national executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League for 1961 stated at page 15 -
The League has been pressing for a number of years now for the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war-caused or contributed illness. While this has not been included in the Pensions Plan for 1962 it has been made the subject of a special approach to the Minister. Arguments arising from debate at the 46th National Congress generally followed the line that has been taken in previous years. The League’s request on cancer is based essentially on three main points:
With the concurrence of the Senate, I incorporate them in “ Hansard “.
We all know that medical authorities are not certain how cancer is started. We are told that it may be caused by a knock or by extreme conditions. We must remember that some of the men who returned from the 1914-18 war had suffered extreme hardships. From time to time they might have, taken some pretty severe knocks of which they did not take notice, merely passing them ofl in the hurly-burly of warfare without giving them another thought. It is said that cancer may originate 30 or 40 years before the first appearance of definite symptoms. Is there not a possibility that, the cancer from which some of these returned men suffer could have been caused by a severe knock when on active service? We ask the Government again to consider this matter.
I shall support the amendments when they are put before the Senate in committee. All aspects of repatriation should be closely examined. As I said previously, the act is too rigid; there is no elasticity in it. Officials of the department have no latitude in dealing with the cases that come before them. About 46,000 applications are made each year to the department. Surely some of those that are rejected must have a legitimate claim for recognition. All of those claimants cannot be making applications merely for the sake of getting something from the Government for nothing. I believe that these men, in their own hearts, consider that they have legitimate claims to repatriation benefits. Wherever possible, we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
– In dealing with the repatriation legislation before the Senate, I should just like to comment on some aspects raised by Opposition senators. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, Senator Hendrickson, for whose association with wars I have a great respect, stated that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) had said on the outbreak of the war that every ex-serviceman would have an equity in this country. During the suspension I made a check and nowhere could I find in the speech that the Prime Minister made to the House of Representatives on the outbreak of war any reference to that.
– To which war are you referring?
– World War II.
– He was speaking of World War I.
– He was not.
– It was Fisher who referred to the last man and the last shilling.
– Senator Hendrickson referred to the present Prime Minister.
– -I checked the text of the Prime. Minister’s broadcast to the nation and in it there was no reference to this matter. The official history of the war entitled “ The Government and the People “ contains no reference to the Prime Minister’s having made such a statement. I was prompted to raise this matter because of happenings in this chamber last week when the same honorable senator said that the Menzies Government was responsible for deserting northern Australia by adoption of a Brisbane line. It was very interesting to hear Senator Cormack reply and once and for all, I hope, demolish this statement which was completely untrue. It was the Curtin Government that made reference to a Brisbane line, and this is well known to the people of Australia. Senator Cormack’s statement has not been refuted by the Opposition.
– The statement did not warrant it.
– Did it not? Senator Hendrickson also said of repatriation services: “ What of the cost? The cost does not matter “. I wonder why he did not speak up when his government was in office. He said when he spoke during the debate recently that nothing is too good and no cost too great for ex-servicemen. How philanthropic you can be. Sir, when you are in Opposition! He was in the government during the war. Why did he not at that stage insist that his government do all these things that he now wants the present Government to do?
– He was not even in the Parliament at that time.
– I understood that Senator Hendrickson was a member of the Government during the war years, but I may be completely wrong. However, he was a member of a government while repatriation legislation was being dealt with, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows that that is so.
– He was not in this Parliament during the last war.
– I said that he was a member of the government while repatriation legislation was being dealt with. You know you cannot run away from that.
– He was not.
– Of course he was -until 1949.
– He was not even in the Parliament then. The honorable senator should look up the records.
– I understand that Senator Hendrickson had a job as assistant to the Minister for Customs and Excise.
– That is true.
– Very well. Surely he was a member of the Labour Government.
– If he was not, I withdraw and apologize, but I was under the impression that he was. I understood that he held a position in the Government.
– He was secretary to Senator Keane.
– If that is so, I apologize. In speaking of the bill, 1 wish to say that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) brings to his portfolio the qualities that are needed. He is very quiet and calm, and he has great compassion. He not only understands the problems of ex-servicemen, because he was an active fighter in a war, but also, as an ex-prisoner of war he understands the problems that confront prisoners of war some twenty years after the war ended. I am sure my colleague, Senator Anderson, who was with Mr. Swartz and me at Singapore, will agree that he is a fitting successor to Senator Sir; Walter Cooper who was regarded with great affection by every ex-serviceman in Australia. I think that Reg Swartz will continue the wonderful work which Senator Sir Waller Cooper did while he held the portfolio of Minister for Repatriation.
I wish to pay a tribute to the officers of the Repatriation Department in Western Australia. Until recently, the deputy commissioner was Mr. Hurman, a man who was dedicated to his job. We were very sorry to lose him when he was transferred. He was succeeded by Mr. Panton whom I have not yet met. I hope to do so before long. I could not allow this opportunity to pass without referring to the entire staff of the Repatriation Department in Western Australia. They are the most courteous and efficient people that one could wish to deal with. They realize that their work calls on them to handle great human problems. Mr.Jack Robson, the assistant deputy commissioner, is deserving of special mention. He is a man of great compassion who takes up each case put before him with an enthusiasm for the rights of the claimant which has to be seen to be believed. He joined the department in Western Australia in 1944 - almost nineteen years ago. He was transferred to Victoria in 1953, and went to the Melbourne central office in 1954. In 1957 he came back to Western Australia as chief clerk, a position which, I believe, has since been reclassified as that of assistant deputy commissioner. He was assistant deputy commissioner for six years, and during that period he acted as deputy commissioner on a number of occasions.
I place these facts on record because too often we take for granted the dedicated services of these very fine officers.
I wish now to refer to the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition. First, I state categorically that I am against the appointment of a select committee to consider repatriation matters. The members of the Opposition never seem to understand that we on this side of the Parliament are the elected Government, while they have been rejected by the electors and relegated to the role of Opposition. We have a firm policy in respect of repatriation which is well known to the ex-service people of Australia who number probably 600,000, taking into account the Boer War, the 1914-18 war, the 1939-45 war and the Korean War. If we add to that number the spouses of those ex-service men and women, it is probably true to say that the total number is 1,200,000. I suggest to the Senate that unless those 1,200,000 voters had supported our policy we would not be in office to-day. In fact, they must have supported us over the last fourteen years; otherwise we would not be in government. Therefore, I say: Why should the Government run from its responsibilities by agreeing that a select committee be appointed to consider repatriation matters? The Government is happy to face up to its responsibilities in this connexion, and it is prepared to face the electors on its repatriation policy. As an ex-serviceman who had some six years’ service during the last war, I believe that the average digger to-day will continue to say, “ When you are on a good thing stick to it “, and will continue to support this Government.
Senator Cooke’s speech was full of soft and honeyed words and sweet reasonableness. He pointed out that a select committee could examine all the problems associated with repatriation, such as cancer and the onus of proof. In his closing remarks he said that the committee could analyse relevant statistics and report to the Parliament so that we might be able to consider repatriation with some knowledge of the subject and amend the act accordingly. That sounded very reasonable, but I point out that the Opposition proposes to amend section, 37 of the principal act by adding after the words “ pulmonary tuberculosis “ the word “ cancer “.
– Do you support the proposal for an inquiry?
– Wait a minute. I am saying that Senator Cooke has proposed something which is to be taken away from the committee before it even considers the matter. The Opposition also proposes that section 47, which relates te the onus of proof, should be amended. Therefore, two of the matters about which Senator Cooke was so plausible would be taken away from the consideration of the committee.
There is quite a lot of misunderstanding of the onus-of-proof provisions. If we look at section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which relates to the onus of proof, we must try to remember that it was enacted in its present form in 1943. The Labour Government was in. office at that time. Honorable senators opposite are attempting to castigate the present Government for something which the Labour Government did in 1943.
– But it is not applied as Parliament intended it should be.
– The law in this respect is quite clear, and it was explained as recently as 1960 by Sir Garfield Barwick. Shortly, the law states that claims and appeals are to be decided according to natural justice and the merits of the case and the determining authorities are not to be bound by technicalities, legal forms or the laws of evidence. Is there any argument about that? It provides that the claimant or appellant is to be given the benefit of any doubt and all reasonable inferences are to be drawn in his favour to the exclusion of all other inferences. There can be no argument about that. Finally, the claimant or appellant does not have to prove his case, but the determining authority must allow the case unless the Commonwealth proves to it that the claim should not be allowed. Where there is any doubt in the mind of the determining authority the claim is allowed.
On each repatriation board, in the Repatriation Commission and on each entitlement appeal tribunal is a person who is selected from lists of names submitted by ex-servicemen’s organizations. In other words, all the people who are dealing with these matters are ex-servicemen and they are sympathetic. The chairman of the entitlement and assessment appeal tribunals are qualified lawyers and therefore are qualified to interpret the law. I am afraid that misunderstandings about section 47 are entertained by persons who do not understand that the doubt referred to in the section is a doubt in the mind of the determining authority after it has considered all the evidence in accordance with the section. As Senator Drury said, when fresh evidence is available the whole case can be re-opened.
Certain arguments have been advanced in relation to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. More than one Opposition senator and a number of people in another place have stated that the majority of T.P.I, pensioners - I stress the word majority - will not get any monetary increase because they and their wives receive also a social service pension. That is quite untrue.
– There are 7,000 of them.
– Speaking from memory, I think the number is 6,100 out of a total of 24,700. The fact is that all T.P.I, pensioners will receive a 10s. increase in their war pensions. In the minority of cases, that is in the case of 6,100 out of a total of 24,700, where married members - I refer to those receiving a special rate pension - and their wives also have a service pension, the increase of 10s. in the war pension will be offset by a reduction of their service pension. So 75 per cent, will get the increase, which is a vastly different story from that submitted by the Opposition.
– One out of four will not get it.
– I am sure the honorable senator would agree that a principle is involved in any means test. However, married couples so affected would have, under the merged means test, means from all sources including their war pension and service pension or social service pensions amounting to £17 10s. per week. I shall not go through all the details, but it has been stated earlier that a family with two children can receive up to £22 17s. 9d. per week. Let us remember that that is tax free and does not include child endowment. I maintain that that is a very fair allowance. The Opposition and members of the public must always remember that, bearing in mind the purpose for which each rate of pension is granted, the rates do meet reasonable living standards and reasonable compensation standards.
A number of Opposition speakers would like the public to believe that when Labour was in office the pension payment was equal to the basic wage whereas the payments made by this Government are not. That is not the position. When Labour went out of office in 1949 the basic wage was £6 9s. per week and a T.P.I, pensioner was paid £5 6s. per week. The pension was equal to 82 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day this Government pays a T.P.I, pensioner a sum of £13 J 5s. per week, which is equal to 95 per cent, of the basic wage. If we allow for the amount that is paid to the wife of such a pensioner, we get a total which is in excess of the basic wage.
Let me illustrate further the difference in the treatment of a T.P.I, pensioner under the two governments. When Labour went out of office the amount paid to a T.P.I, ex-serviceman who was married and had two children, one of them aged twelve and the other fourteen years - I take those ages because they attract different amounts - including the education allowance, was £8 9s. per week. To-day the payment is £22 17s. 9d. Surely we should not hear any more humbug about the relationship of the pension to the basic wage.
What does the repatriation system mean to the ex-servicemen of this country? Surely the general purpose of any repatriation system is to compensate persons who have suffered as a result of war service and to make adequate provision for their dependants. Let us see whether this Government’s policy measures up to that standard. I maintain that it does, because it provides pensions and allowances to every group with a proper claim to them; a wide range of medical treatment, including hospital, genera] medical, specialist, pharmaceutical and dental services; similar treatment, in some cases, even for disabilities not due to war service, covering both ex-servicemen ,and dependants; . .and a variety of additional benefits and payments to ensure a generous rather than minimum recognition of war service.
We on this side of the Senate believe that disabled ex-servicemen and their dependants who are receiving compensation are entitled to as liberal treatment as the taxpayer can afford to give them. I stress the words “ as the taxpayer can afford “ because it would seem from the way in which honorable senators opposite approach the problem that money is no object. Senator Hendrickson said that we should not consider the cost but that we should concede all requests that are made. When we take into consideration all the expense that is imposed on the community in this country where we have a national budget this year amounting to approximately £2,280,000,000, and when we remember that approximately £411,000,000 is paid out of the National Welfare Fund annually, I am sure the ex-servicemen themselves agree that this Government has done an excellent job in helping ex-service personnel.
Reference has been made to the claims of the Returned Servicemen’s League. I suggest that they cannot be treated entirely on an emotional basis. That must be considered with reason.
There is quite a lot of misunderstanding regarding medical treatment for veterans of the First World War and the Boer War. Under the present repatriation system exservicemen, whether they be from the First World War, the Second World War or a subsequent war, can receive medical attention for disabilities which are due to war service. There are many First World War men in that category. In addition, persons in receipt of the 100 per cent, general rate war pension, with some minor exceptions, can receive medical treatment for disabilities not due to war service. There is also much misunderstanding of the 100 per cent, pension. Its name does not mean that a person who receives that rate of pension has 100 per cent, disability. With some minor exceptions, as I have said, these pensioners can receive medical treatment for a wide range of disabilities not due to war service.
In addition, nurses who served in the 1914-18. war and’ ex-servicemen suffering from tuberculosis can receive treatment for a wide range of disabilities not due to war service. In that wide sweep, there is now a considerable number of persons from the First World War who can receive medical treatment. Further, there are at present about 300 Boer War veterans receiving service pensions. Under the latest arrangement, these are entitled to medical benefits for disabilities not due to war service.
It is interesting to learn that in fourteen years out of the eighteen years since the end of the Second World War ex-service personnel have helped to elect this Government many times. They have done this only because they know where they stand. They know that performance counts far more than promises.
Most aspects of the bill have been covered by previous speakers in this debate. Before I close, I repeat that df I misrepresented Senator Hendrickson I am sorry; but I do not retract the statement that I made on his comments concerning costs and about the Brisbane line. I support the bill and will oppose the amendments.
– I would be less than human if I did not begin by saying that Senator Branson got on the wrong basis at the beginning of his speech and could never quite succeed in getting off it. I refer to his references to Senator Hendrickson.
– As I have admitted.
– I think that his error was more or less reflected throughout his speech. It is difficult for me, as it was for Senator Branson, and will be for the few speakers who will follow us, to introduce a new note into this debate, which has ranged far afield in the last day or two. However, I must make some contribution even if it entails a repetition of some of the facts that have already been submitted to the Senate. I do this because I feel I owe a duty to some people who have approached me from time to time in South Australia with grievous repatriation problems. I know that honorable, senators on both sides have received representations from people from time to time, and they must have been disturbed by the facts associated with such representations, just as I have been.
I thought that Senator Branson devoted far too much of his time to arguing whether the present Government or the previous Labour Government had done most in repatriation. That is not what we are discussing to-night. The ex-servicemen and the organizations that represent them do not want any diatribes or demagoguery about whether this government or that government did something or did not do something. They are concerned, as ‘we should be, with what is happening now.
I was interested to hear Senator Branson say that ex-service personnel should accept the view that the expenditure of something over £400,000,000 in social welfare is an indication that justice is being done in the case of repatriation. They do not accept that, as is obvious from the report of the Returned Servicemen’s League that has been referred to during the debate. They are not convinced that justice is being done under the present repatriation provisions, and 1 do not think that many honorable senators on the Government side are convinced either. Certainly I am not convinced. Honorable senators opposite, like the Opposition, accept the fact that there have been improvements. I applaud the concessions that are given in the measure before the Senate and 1 congratulate the Government on what it has done.
Senator Branson made a peculiar statement when he said that ex-service personnel had expressed their satisfaction with repatriation. If he did not say it in so many words, the inference was clear. He said ex-servicemen had shown their satisfaction with the Repatriation Act by electing this Government. On what authority did he make that statement?
– I said there were 1,200,000 possible votes to put a government in or out.
– It is useless for the honorable senator to try to evade the facts about what he said. He said that exservicemen had helped to elect the Government.
– That is so.
– By what right did the honorable senator assume that exservice personnel were joining in political events? How does he know how many ex-service personnel voted for the Government?
– I did not say that. ‘
– Senator Ridley reminds me of the result of the last election. If one seat had gone the other way and if some one had wanted to be as inaccurate as you have been, he could have said that ex-servicemen had helped to elect this Government.
– You are quoting one example in fourteen years.
– It is impossible for you or for me to say how many exservicemen voted for or against the Government, and it is sheer sophistry to make such statements in this chamber. I come now to the question of a joint committee on repatriation.
Senator Branson said that he rejects utterly the proposition that we should appoint a joint committee. He seems to believe that the appointment of such a committee would be a reflection on the Government.
– No, but it is a government responsibility to face up to its election promise.
– I do not want to misquote you. You say that repatriation is a government responsibility and that therefore you will not, in any circumstances, entertain the idea of a joint committee to inquire into any deficiencies which may exist in our repatriation system. There seems to be some fear in Senator Branson’s mind that such a committee would take over the function of government. I can see no other reason- why he should make such an unequivocal statement. I make the point that select committees have been appointed from time to time by this Senate for a variety of reasons and have been associated with a variety of activities. None of them, to my knowledge, has ever attempted to take over the functions of government. Most, if not all of them, have, to my knowledge, contributed something of very real benefit to the deliberations of this Senate and to the government of this country.
I cannot accept Senator Branson’s argument that the appointment of a joint committee, or the acceptance of the Opposition’s foreshadowed amendment in respect of this matter, would undermine in any way the authority of Government. Inquiries by a committee might have the effect of bringing to light some of the deficiencies which honorable senators on both sides of the chamber know exist in the Repatriation Act. Such inquiries would bring those deficiencies before the Government in a coherent form so that they could be dealt wilh and rectified without being clouded by party political issues. As honorable senators well know, parliamentary committees sometimes succeed in removing issues from the realm of party politics into the broader sphere in which we can do something in the interests of the people that we are supposed to serve. I feel that the proposition which is to be put forward by the Opposition should receive the approval of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber.
I come now to a question that I believe is very much in our minds in this debate. Many honorable senators have referred to the increased rates of pension that are the subject of the hill, and I do not intend to repeat what has been said in that regard. However. I feel that certain provisions associated with the onus of proof can be stated, and re-stated a considerable number of times because of the wide area of disagreement that exists. I should like to quote some remarks uttered by Senator Drake-Brockman in the course of this debate. He said -
Senator Sandford said that because a certain exserviceman went to iiic war he should bc automatically entitled to a pension. The argument he used was that the ex-serviceman must have contracted something during his period of service which would now entitle him to a pension. I think that an cx-serviceman who has been through the conditions thai prevailed in the war, has been in the front line and in the thick of things is entitled to everything that he can get. He was ready to fight for his country and to risk his health. Because of his readiness lo serve, his family suffered, and if he has a war-caused disability he should be compensated for it. However, on the mailer of onus of proof there are many opinions as to what is right and what is wrong.
Senator Branson said, in effect, virtually the same thing. But nobody seems to be quite clear about what is the actual position in regard to onus of proof. I make the sug gestion, Mr. President, that the appointment of a joint committee could be justified, even if its only function were to examine sections 47 and 48 of the existing act. Section 47 has been referred to on numerous occasions during this debate, and section 48 is supposed to be the one that resolves for all time, apparently, any doubt that exists about onus of proof.
– If your amendment on section 47 is carried, you would noi need this joint committee, would you?
– If you support the appointment of a joint committee we will drop the amendment. We can dispose of the matter quite reasonably in that way. But because you will not support the amendment I am obliged to say that if a committee were appointed it could well give consideration to sections 47 and 48 of the act. Some honorable senators on the Government side have said categorically that the provisions of sections 47, as at present constituted, give no cause for doubt or disquiet in respect of a person who applies to a tribunal for recognition of what he believes is a war-caused disability.
Surely honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber, like honorable senators on this side, have repeatedly been approached by people who were genuinely convinced that they were suffering from a war-caused disability. Some of those people suffer from a monstrous sense of injustice because they cannot get a. tribunal to accept that the rigours of war have caused their disabilities. In their own minds they are absolutely certain that their disabilities were caused by the rigours of war and their association with the fighting in one of the two world wars. 1 often wonder: If they do come to honorable senators opposite, what are they told? Do you tell them that the provisions of the Repatriation Act are sufficient to satisfy their requirements, or do you say that you are not quite sure about the matter? Do you sometimes feel, as I have felt, that they are presenting a case that has some substance but not sufficient proof? If you do feel that, what do you tell them? Do you tell them that section 47 adequately covers their case, or do you say that some consideration over and above section 47 may be needed to allay the monstrous sense of injustice under which they labour and disperse the cloud which blights the life of their wives and children? I am not trying in any way to over-emphasize this matter because everybody who has been a member of this Parliament recognizes only too well the kind of case that I am speaking about to-night.
I could, if necessary, speak for the next two hours in giving the Senate chapter and verse of cases that have come to my notice - cases in respect of which I have been satisfied beyond any shadow of doubt that if I had given the decision I would come down on the side of the applicants. But I knew that they would not get what they sought because the present sections of the Repatriation Act would prevent them.
Section 47 appears to unlock the door which bars the applicant who feels that he has some claim for a pension in recognition of a disability, but section 48 keeps the door shut in his face. Section 47 states in part -
The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal, shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant, the benefit of any doubt.
Then we come to the doubts -
I emphasize the words “medical opinions “ -
In section 47 a door which we claimed had been locked for years was opened. After that provision had been inserted in the act it might have been thought that appellants had access to the full wells of justice. But they had not. While section 47 purports to give the applicant or appellant the privileges mentioned, the section is so administered that those privileges are denied to him. In making that assertion I do not want to reflect in any way on the boards or on the various people who, from time to time, have the unpleasant task of deciding some of these very vexing problems.
– On whom are you reflecting?
– I am reflecting on the Government. If it can be said that section 47 opened the door it may be said that in section 48 the door was closed. I hope that Senator Turnbull will take note of what I am saying, that he will make a contribution to this debate and, in so doing, will reply to the points that I am making. I should like him to give his views on these matters irrespective of whether they agree or disagree with mine. Section 48 of the act reads as follows: - (1.) A medical practitioner shall, in reporting on any claim in relation to a member of the Forces, set out in his report his opinion -
in the case of a claim in respect of the incapacity of the member - as to the nature, cause and extent of the incapacity, and shall also set out whether, in his opinion, the incapacity from which the member is suffering or from which he has died -
I think I have demonstrated that it may be said that section 48 starts to close the door which was open in section 47 because section 48 throws upon the applicant the responsibility of garnering fresh evidence. In considering the type of evidence that is usually required by an applicant to repatriation tribunals, we find that 95 cases out of a hundred it is medical evidence that is required. If the applicant cannot find the medical evidence required all the provisions of section 47 start to dry up as far as he is concerned. The great benefit that that clause is expected to give suddenly disappears.
I have discussed this matter with some medical mcn. As a result of those discussions 1 suggest - and 1 may be wrong - that the provisions of the Repatriation Act, as they stand at the present time, throw upon the member of the medical profession an intolerable burden which they ought not to be asked to carry. They have to determine at some particular point of time whether they can certify - and professional prestige is at stake - that the applicant is suffering from a disability which, in the opinion of the medical authority, has some connexion with war service. That is a burden which members of the medical profession find very onerous and it is one that they should not have to carry. Section 48 throws back on to the members of the medical profession the onus of doing what they humanely want to do. I know of no physician who has not a very humane approach to his patients. Physicians want to help their patients and they may believe that there could be some connexion between a particular disability and a patient’s war service. But their professional integrity and reputation may inhibit them from putting on paper a definite certification of their opinion to that effect. Consequently, the applicant who has seen the vista in section 47 open up to him sees it disappear because he cannot obtain the vital additional medical evidence that is required. 1 say that a select committee might well consider the relationship of section 48 to section 47. lt might well consider whether those sections do not place upon the members of the medical profession a burden that they should not be asked to carry - a burden which is both mental and medical - in regard to some of the patients whom they have to advise from time to time A select committee could concern itself with problems of this character. It could place before the Parliament real and tangible proposals to enable us to get our teeth into this problem and do something to help the people concerned.
I now want to deal briefly with the question of cancer which, as we all know, has come into the subject of applications to the Repatriation Department and its tribunals. It is only in recent years that any consideration whatever has been given to the possibility that cancer could be attributed to war service. The following statement appears in an address by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) to the Returned Serviceman’s League: -
The term “ Cancer “ is commonly used to include all kinds of malignant tumours, lt covers a wide variety of diseases occurring in many parts of the body; for example, the International Classification of Diseases lists some 250 kinds of Malignant Neoplasms. It can therefore be very misleading to generalize by the use of such an embracing term.
Whilst the precise cause of Cancer is still unknown, a lot is known about the factors which do or do not contribute to the causation of particular cancers and a lot is also known about their development. There is no evidence which suggests any general connexion between service conditions and cancer. Indeed, the British Ministry of Pensions Medical Officers’ Manual states: - “ Whilst the precise cause of cancer is still unknown there is adequate material both of a scientific and statistical nature available to enable the Ministry to exclude all ordinary conditions of service as being a causative factor and the entitlement pension is not normally conceded.”
That seems to be an utter contradiction. On the one hand it says quite unequivocally that the cause of cancer is unknown, yet despite that fact the people associated with the Ministry of Pensions in Great Britain are prepared to say beyond any reasonable doubt that war service cannot be linked with cancer. Without professing to the slightest medical knowledge whatever I make the observation that it has been said by some members of the medical profession that ulcers have some connexion with cancer. It would be a bold senator on either side of the chamber who would contend that there may not be a link between war service and ulcers. As a matter of fact, I understand that for some time tribunals have recognized ulcers as being war-caused. In any event the admission by medical men that the causes of cancer are unknown is sufficient justification for any tribunal to be very wary in rejecting a claim that an applicant’s cancer was caused by conditions associated with his war service.
I want to touch briefly on a matter raised by Senator Bishop, who unfortunately did not have time to develop the proposition. After every world war many people who suffer from illnesses about the time, or shortly after, they leave the services, have little or no difficulty in proving that their illnesses are associated with their war service, and having them recognized by the Repatriation Department as war-caused disabilities. But it is significant, as Senator Bishop pointed out, that as each year rolls on from the conclusion of the war the difficulty of establishing a disability as being war-caused becomes greater. When twenty years have elapsed, of course, it becomes virtually impossible. Again, I should like Senator Turnbull’s views on this matter. Are we to say that a neurosis which had its origin in anxieties associated with war service could not manifest itself some ten, fifteen or even twenty years after the man concerned had ceased to be associated with the armed forces?
In conclusion, let me say that all of these questions remain unanswered. None has been answered to the satisfaction of honorable senators on either side of the chamber. None has been answered to the satisfaction of the ex-servicemen’s associations which are working for the welfare of the people they represent. I suggest that while that state of uncertainty exists it is wrong to reject a proposal to appoint a select committee to assist the Senate and the other place in coming to a proper understanding of the problems.
– I will not speak at great length, but I wish to put my views on certain matters. I support the foreshadowed amendment for the appointment of a select committee, but I oppose the other foreshadowed amendments. I had some experience as a local medical officer in the days when only one medical officer was appointed to each district. I had 1,200 repatriation patients Under my care, so I do know something of this subject. We used to notice a strange thing about repatriation patients. When a patient was about to have his pension reassessed, or was about to appear before a tribunal, he would start visiting the doctor frequently, lt was amazing how often he would come to the surgery. After the second or third visit you would say to him, “ Have you an appeal or a re-assessment looming?” He would reply, “Yes”. Obviously he had to convince the authorities that he had been ill, and that was why he was visiting the doctor so often.
I want to differentiate, if possible, between the people who, T think, should get everything and those who, I think, should not get anything. To my mind any one who has been a prisoner of war or a front-line fighter is entitled to get everything he can. On the other hand, the person who is getting a pension although he did not go to the front line is just being mollycoddled and is getting far too much. Let me cite the case of one of my patients who was being treated for anxiety neurosis. On one occasion when I had a little time to talk to him I asked him whether he had served in the Middle East. He replied, “ No “. I then asked, “ Were you in New Guinea?” He replied, “No”. I said, “ Were you in Darwin? “ Again he said, “No”. I said, “Where did you serve?” He said, “ I was transferred to Melbourne “. Apparently that was such a shock to him that he thought he was entitled to a pension on the ground of anxiety neurosis.
Many diseases are normal to everybody whether or not they went to the war, and that causes the difficulty in assessing pensions. I think that the select committee envisaged in the foreshadowed amendment could do good both ways. It could save the Government considerable sums by altering some of the provisions that have been mentioned in this chamber. It could act both ways. It might help deserving people, and it might prevent those who are not deserving from receiving benefits to which they are not justly entitled. Let me say straight out that many persons are not deserving, as we realize when they come in for treatment to our surgeries. They say, “ So and so has an entitlement for his ulcer, why should I not have the same? “ So many of these physical conditions which occur in civil life would occur whether or not the person concerned had had military service. Cancer is one of them. I have no time for the claim that cancer should be regarded as a war-caused disability.
We do not know the cause of cancer. Everybody is liable to contract it whether or not they went to the war. To say that war service makes a man more liable to cancer is not logical. It was stated during the debate that a blow can cause cancer. But a blow does not cause cancer. A blow can direct attention to an existing cancer. That erroneous belief arose from the fact that a woman struck on the breast would find a lump in her chest when she looked for the injury caused by the blow. But the lump was not caused by the blow; it was there already and had not been noticed. It is most unlikely that any knock will cause cancer. It may do so in rare instances, but not as a general rule.
The question arises in repatriation cases; Did an applicant fall in his garden and get a knock, or did he fall in the trenches and get a knock? I think we are carrying the matter too far by trying to include cancer as a recognized war-caused disability. We are going too far also when we try to establish coronary thrombosis as a warcaused disability. Certainly an ulcer can be caused by service in the trenches. Ulcers can become cancers, but certainly not as a result of war service. It would have happened anyhow. I do not think a person making a claim on that ground is entitled to a pension.
We all know that after the First World War the common disease for applicants for a pension was “ disordered action of the heart “. After World War II it was mostly anxiety neurosis or some gastric complaint. Most of these cases are not really serious. 1 think that many patients are lucky to become pensionable on those grounds.
I do not want to say any more. I wanted only to put my views to the extent that ] have done. so. I shall support the amendment to provide for a select committee but I will not have a bar of the other amendments that have been foreshadowed.
– in reply - This bill was introduced late last week and the Senate has been giving its attention to the proposals in the bill during the last couple of days. Some seventeen or eighteen honorable senators have spoken in the debate, which is indicative of the interest this measure attracts year by year when it is dealt with in this chamber. It is, I think, an indication of the manner in which this chamber approaches its responsibility to those in the community who are eligible for receipt of repatriation benefits.
The first comment that I want to make is a rather unusual one, but I want to make it and have done with it. During the course of the debate - to-night, as a matter of fact - there was some exchange of views as to when Senator Hendrickson actually took his place in this Senate. The “ Parliamentary Handbook “ which I have before me indicates that he was first elected at the general election of 1946, took his seat in this place on 1st July, 1947, and was re-elected in 1951, that information would seem to indicate that the honorable senator was in fact in this chamber at the time when the Australian Labour Party controlled the government, and that he would, as my colleague Senator Branson pointed out, have been a supporter of the government which introduced a number of repatriation proposals during the period 1947-1949.
– Senator Branson said “ during the war “.
– He was referring to the fact that Senator Hendrickson was a member of this place when the Labour Party was in power and when a Labour government was in control of repatriation measures.
– That is not what he said.
– I suggest that it is. I suggest that if the honorable senator has a look at “ Hansard “ to-morrow he will find that to be the case. I do not mention it in any form of bitterness at all.
– What are you trying to convey?
– I merely mention it to put the record right as to whether or not my colleague Senator Branson was accurate when he said that Senator Hendrickson was in this place supporting a Labour government when that government was responsible for repatriation measures.
– What are you suggesting?
– Nothing. I am just putting the record right. The honorable senator does not object, I am sure. I repeat that my single purpose in mentioning it is to put the record right. I indicate to Senator Sandford, who shows some disposition to interject, that I have regarded this measure so seriously as to sit here quietly for two days and, without interjecting, listen to every speech that has been made. There may be a moral in that for him, or there may riot be. It will not come as any surprise to any one if there is no moral in it for him, as we all know Senator Sandford.
One of the features of this debate is that as it has proceeded there has been a disposition to suggest that in the administration of our repatriation measures there is sometimes, if not always, a lack of sympathy, a lack of understanding, an indifference. I say at once that many speakers, while expressing their belief in the existence of these features, have taken the opportunity of saying that they have a great regard for the work of the officers of the Repatriation Department. It must then be that their charges of harshness or of lack of sympathy are directed elsewhere to other than officers of the department. If that is so, it is interesting to have a look at the machinery by which repatriation benefits are allowed and assessed. Neither the Repatriation Department’s medical officers nor its administrative officers have any power at all to accept or reject a claim that an exserviceman’s death or incapacity is due to war service. Nor can those medical or administrative officers of the department determine the benefits to which an exserviceman or a dependant, or a war widow, is entitled under the Repatriation Act. The uniqueness and, I believe, the real effectiveness of the repatriation administration is that this power is specifically reserved to a series of independent determining authorities, namely, repatriation boards, the commission, and appeal tribunals.
It is inevitable, in a system which is carefully designed to ensure that no legitimate claim is rejected, that there will be disagreement in some instances. It is, however, important to know that the independent determining authorities are at pains - I am sure that this is the experience of all of us - to consider all the evidence, including medical opinions, evidence on conditions of service, and other relevant information. Determinations by these independent authorities are made in accordance with the Repatriation Act, which requires these authorities to give the benefit of any doubt to the ex-serviceman and to draw all reasonable inferences in his favour. This is an essential feature of the repatriation system, which is intended to be beneficial and to give the best possible deal to former members of the forces. I emphasize this feature of our repatriation machinery. It is not a case of a department operating under an act which says to an ex-serviceman, “ You shall have a pension and it shall be at such a rate”, or, “You shall not have a pension “. A series of independent tribunals operate outside and beyond the department, which has the task of carrying into effect and administering the decisions which these independent tribunals have made.
I think it was Senator McClelland who quoted from a publication an observation to the effect that repatriation medical officers pay insufficient attention to conditions of service. In that regard, I am interested to direct the attention of the Senate to a letter which was written by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) in November last to the Returned Servicemen’s League, which is very relevant to the suggestion that there is some indifference on the part of doctors. The Minister stated -
Every opportunity is taken to ensure that our younger doctors are generally made aware of the conditions of service which obtained in the various theatres of war. The more senior doctors have themselves seen active service. The claimant also has the opportunity when being examined by a doctor to state any details of his war service he considers relevant. The doctor’s opinion as to the attributability of a particular incapacity to war service is, of course, a matter for impartial and reasoned assessment and not for subjective judgment on the basis of sympathy.
I am unaware of any evidence to substantiate the suggestion that repatriation doctors ignore evidence of service where this is relevant, or that they assume that if a condition is normal in a man at a given age, that condition is not due to war service. Indeed, there seems no reason why a doctor should adopt an unreasonable or partisan attitude in the discharge of his duties.
I think that the last sentence of the letter is particularly to the point. Why should a doctor display partiality ‘or lack of reason or balance in the discharge of his duty? If it is to be held that some doctors do so, then it is a surprising charge to make against the medical profession as a whole. In respect of repatriation doctors it is more surprising still, because my invariable experience of repatriation doctors - and I am sure it also is the experience of all honorable senators - is that they consistently show a marked degree of sympathy for and understanding of the digger claimants who come before them.
There was also, in a speech by an honorable senator opposite, a suggestion that hospital treatment was stinted, or that it could be made available on a more generous basis than it is at present for war and service pensioners. It is interesting to consider the categories of ex-servicemen who are in fact eligible for hospitalization in 1963. All repatriation pensioners, of course, are eligible, as they should be, for hospital treatment of war-caused disabilities or conditions. The question revolves around the point: Which pensioners are eligible for hospital treatment of non-war-caused conditions? As is proper, the entire group of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen is eligible for free hospital treatment of any complaint or condition. So, too, are those who are temporarily totally incapacitated. Ex-servicemen in receipt of the 100 per cent, general rate pension also receive free hospital treatment for non-war-caused conditions. More significantly and importantly, so too do the service pensioners. A service pensioner is entitled to hospitalization for ailments other than those due to war service. It is interesting to see how far the application of this entitlement to the service pensioner goes.
A service pensioner is not necessarily a man who is in receipt of a war pension and a service pension, or of a service pension alone. In order to qualify for hospitalization, a service pensioner has only to be in receipt of some part of a service pension. Let us consider the case of an ex-serviceman who receives a war pension of, say, £7 a week for one or two ailments which have been accepted as war-caused. At the same time, he has other income of £8 a week, such as from superannuation or interest on war bonds, giving him a total income of £15 a week. If .he is eligible, because of agc or unemployability, for a service pension, and is married, he may receive that portion of the service pension which would take his total income to a maximum of £17 10s. a week. In the instance to which I have referred, the ex-serviceman could also have service pension of £2 10s. a week, if he were eligible for it, thereby giving him a total income of £17 10s. a week. As a service pensioner, he would be entitled to hospitalization. That is a generous approach to this question of hospitalization. An ex-serviceman who is eligible for a service pension in whole or in part does not become ineligible for hospitalization until his total income exceeds £17 10s. a week. I suggest, Mr. President, that that is a very generous and a realistic provision of our legislation.
Since the Opposition has foreshadowed five or six amendments which it proposes to move at the committee stage, I imagine that there will be an opportunity then for honorable senators to address themselves to specific amendments. I have taken the opportunity at this stage of the debate to address myself to one or two of the broader problems which have been encompassed by it. I am reminded of a matter that was mentioned last night by my colleague, Senator Drake-Brockman. What I am about to say will not be said in any party political way at all, because repatriation in this country has been evolved by successive governments over a period of years. Our system of repatriation has reached its present level because of the interest which successive governments in Australia have displayed. I think that, with great modesty, all of us may take satisfaction from the fact that the repatriation system we have established in Australia is acknowledged by veterans’ associations throughout the world as being unequalled. When we speak of our repatriation system we speak of something that might be termed an Australian invention. It is highly regarded by all countries and is accepted as the best repatriation system that exists.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2a.
. On behalf of the Opposition, I move -
After clause 2, insert the following new clause: - “2a. After section twenty-one of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted: -
Part IIa. - Joint Committee on Repatriation. 22. (1.) As soon as conveniently practicable after the commencement of this Part, a Joint Committee of nine members of the Parliament, to be called the Joint Committee on Repatriation, shall be appointed according to the practice of the Parliament with reference to the appointment of members to serve on Joint Committees of both Houses of the Parliament. (2.) Three of the members of the Committee shall be members of an appointed by the Senate, and six of the members of the Committee shall be members of an appointed by the House of Representatives. 22a. The members of the Committee shall hold office as a Joint Committee until the House of Representatives for the time being expires by dissolution or effluxion of time. 22b. (1.) Any member of the Committee may resign his seat on the Committee by writing under his hand addressed to the President of the Senate if he be a Senator, or to the Speaker of the House of Representatives if he be a member of the House of Representatives. (2.) The seat of any member of the Committee shall be deemed to have become vacant if he ceases to be a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives (as the case may be). 22c. Where the seat of any member of the Committee becomes vacant, it shall be filled by appointment according to the practice referred to in section twenty-two of this Act within fifteen sitting days after the happening of the vacancy if the House of the Parliament of which he is a member is then sitting, or, if not, then within fifteen sitting days after the next meeting of that House. 22d. There shall be a Chairman and a ViceChairman of the Committee, who shall be elected by the members of the Committee at their first meeting, or as soon thereafter as is practicable. 22e. At any meeting of the Committee -
The Opposition urges the acceptance of this amendment not in an effort to harass the Government but in an attempt to have a joint committee appointed to inquire into all the activities of the Repatriation Department. I am generous enough to believe that the honorable senators opposite desire to see the right thing done by ex-service personnel. I impress upon Government senators, as I did when speaking at the second-reading stage, that if the Government accepted this amendment it would have nothing to lose but everything to gain. It is quite obvious that, if a joint committee is appointed to inquire into the anomalies that are acknowledged by all members of the Parliament to exist, some method of removing those anomalies may be recommended to the Government by the committee.
One or two of the Government senators to whom I had the privilege of listening said that we do not need to appoint a joint committee because the Opposition and the Government parties have their own repatriation committees. I submit that those committees cannot hope to reach the same conclusions or make the same recommendations as would be arrived at by a committee appointed by the Parliament. Again, I am generous enough to acknowledge that this Government has done quite a lot in the repatriation field, but I suggest quite seriously that there are still many anomalies to clear up I do not want to discuss the details of those anomalies, because they were dealt with quite adequately at the second-reading stage. It must be admitted by the Government that many of those anomalies are capable of being rectified. As I and other honorable senators stated at the second-reading stage, many of the anomalies and injustices that are being suffered by ex-service personnel are growing in importance: they are becoming more pronounced and are getting worse as the years go by.
I appeal to the Government to admit that in the repatriation field there is room for inquiry by a joint committee. Unfortunately, year after year we have to go through the same procedure in discussing repatriation matters. Too often we find that some honorable senators use repatriation for party-political purposes. We had an example last night when I followed Senator Marriott in the debate on the second reading of the bill. He charged members of the Opposition with being insincere, and I resent that statement strongly. I claim to be more sincere than Senator Marriott has been or is likely to bc in relation to the rights of ex-servicemen.
Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly,)
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - 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.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 September 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630918_senate_24_s24/>.