25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior a few questions which are not of great import or world shattering moment. Did the Minister for the Interior place two bets with Canberra’s new Totalisator Agency Board yesterday on two horses engaged at Cranbourne, Victoria? When he was informed that his two selections had been scratched, did the Minister re-invest his money on other horses, one of which won at 33 to 1? Good luck to him. Is it not a fact that T.A.B. regulations specifically ban re-investments unless a credit account is established by the bettor with the T.A.B.? Has the Minister a credit account with this latest gambling institution? If not, did he as ministerial head of the T.A.B. breach his own regulations? Is it not a fact that questions dealing with policy are not answered by Ministers? Will the Minister breach this rule and inform Australia whether or not it is the policy of the Menzies-McEwen Government to encourage gambling?
– The honorable senator has correctly suggested that it is not the policy of the Government for Ministers to answer questions on policy at question time. I suggest that the matters that he has raised have nothing whatsoever to do with Government policy. I am sure that the Minister for the Interior, with his usual courtesy, will be very happy to inform the honorable senator of his interest in this matter, if the honorable senator cares to approach him.
– It is true, as the honorable senator suggests, that the Department of Supply does make a contribution to the effort to build up Australia’s exports. This has been noticeably so since the end of the last war. During the last six years, apart from its main activities associated with our defence potential and with building up defence material, the Department has produced equipment which we have been able to export and which has yielded to the Australian economy a return of the order of £14 million. The interest of the Department of Supply in this field has helped the industry itself in terms of security for the people employed and the cost factor of defence equipment. The participation of the Department of Supply in such things as the European Launcher Development Organisation has also been a contributing factor. Highlights of recent export achievements have been the sale of Jindivik target aircraft to Britain, Sweden and the United States of America, and a wide range of engineering equipment and technical processes have also been exported by the Department.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I preface it by saying that earlier this year the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board enthusiastically announced that Australia need not be pessimistic about the ultimate future of its meat market in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Of course, we all realise now that that was a fallacious statement. I have pointed this feature out in many questions to the previous Leader of the Government in the Senate, particularly in a question which I asked on 10th October last year. Further, in regard to our meat supplies to the United Kingdom, may I recall an earlier statement made by the Minister- >
– Order! Senator, you are giving a lot of information. Will you frame your question?
– At that time the Minister for Primary Industry said that none of the major meat exporting countries - Australia, Argentine, Ireland, and Uruguay - had been able to agree with Britain. These are most important questions. Can the Minister now tell us whether the United States picture is disastrous for Australia and what is the present sad state? Can he now advise the Senate what quota has been imposed by the United Kingdom and whether the contemplated proposals by Britain to give greater stability to the British market for home grown meat supplies have been fully realised? If so, what is Australia’s present predicament in the United Kingdom market?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question obviously requires a good deal of consideration of its preamble, apart from the question itself. If the honorable senator really wants an answer, the best thing he can do is to put his question on the notice paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs and concerns an announcement that Indonesia dropped troops in Malaysia a night or so ago. Can the Minister give the Senate information as to what type of troops were dropped and how many, and how many are still at large? What aircraft were used in the drop and were any aircraft used to escort the planes used in the dropping operation? Have Australian troops or aircraft yet had an opportunity to take any part in repelling this or previous incursions against the integrity of Malaysia?
– I have no information as to the matter raised by the honorable senator. I will endeavour to find out from the Minister for External Affairs during the day whether he has any information on the matter and I will let the honorable senator know.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will he negotiate with other countries and world shipping interests to ascertain whether any ships could be obtained to carry available Australian, wheat to> relieve the- acute food shortage in India?
– The honorable senator’s question obviously refers to the situation which has suddenly arisen and in which the Indian Government is seeking to allay the shortage of food in that country by urgently requiring wheat. Some references have been made both to the availability of Australian wheat for this purpose and the means of getting that wheat to India quickly. As I indicated in answer to a question - I think as recently as yesterday - the Prime Minister said he would look sympathetically at whatever proposals were put before him or at any means by which he could extend help. Yesterday the Minister for Trade and Industry pointed out that Australia had no control over this wheat which was in transit to Great Britain. He said that it was, in fact, the property of people or bodies other than the Australian Government or the Australian Wheat Board, having been sold, but that the Government would use its good offices in the matter in any way that it could to bring about some mitigation of the conditions of near famine which prevail in India. I think the honorable senator can take that as an assurance that whatever can be done by the Australian Government will be done.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as the representative of the Treasurer for the time being. It is prompted by a further statement emanating from Sir Warren McDonald and reported in the Press this morning, which, taken in conjunction with recent ministerial statements, seems to indicate the development of a policy under which banks in Australia will charge for overdrafts unused. If my understanding is correct, the banking system of Australia has depended upon private arrangements for overdraft limits, with customers being charged only in respect of daily balances. Will the Minister see to it that the Commonwealth Trading Bank, either alone or in combination with the private trading banks, is not permitted to charge customers in respect of overdrafts which are not used, and that, the control of inflationary tendencies arising from overdraft arrangements will be exercised by the fixing’ of overdraft limits in individual transactions under the supervision of the Reserve Bank, exercising, proper credit control?
– I have not seen the statement referred to as having been made by Sir Warren McDonald, nor am I aware of any move by the Government or within the banking system to institute charges on unused overdraft limits. In the circumstances, therefore, I can only say that I will bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Acting Treasurer. If there is any information that can and should be made available, I will ask that it be made available.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. In view of recent discussions and recent criticism of Australian policy regarding the island of Nauru, will an opportunity be given to the Senate to debate this matter in the current session?
– I am not sure what the Minister for Territories has in mind in relation to this question. It is for the Minister and the Government to decide whether there will be a debate.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs and follows on a question asked by Senator Laught. Because of the Australia-wide Press publicity given to the landing of Indonesian paratroops in Johore Baru, will the Minister make a full statement to the Senate some time today giving the facts of this act of deliberate and naked aggression?
– I will ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he is prepared to provide such a statement, for which he would be responsible, which could be made today.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that many pensioners who are ineligible for benefits under the pensioner medical service because they have an additional income of £2 a week or more are experiencing considerable difficulties? Is it a fact that some pensioners who- have *© pay heavy medical bills are worse off by being deprived of membership of the medical scheme than if they had not had the small additional income? Will the Minister make some attempt to break down the barriers of resistance to efforts to remove this anomalous, unjust and restrictive means test? Will he, if necessary, confer with the Minister for Social Services to find some way of assuring those who are penalised that there is some prospect of relief in the not too distant future?
– I am quite prepared to concede that difficulties may well be experienced in the fields outlined by the honorable senator. However, may I remind him that the national health scheme contains provisions for such people. The limitation imposed by the means test is £2 a week over and above the pension. It can be argued with justification that the combined income may be sufficient to enable a pensioner to insure himself or herself with a medical benefits fund to meet medical and hospital expenses. The honorable senator’s argument can be substantiated in some cases, I concede, but in many instances it may not be sustained. The matter raised by the honorable senator has been before us from time to time and I am sure that ia future it will be further considered.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to the plight of cattlemen in central Australia caused by the current drought, referred to in an Adelaide “ News “ report yesterday which quoted Mr. D. D. Smith, a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council? Mr. Smith has charged the Federal Government with showing complete apathy towards the plight of pastoralists. Will the Minister consider suggestions made for realistic government aid, such as a reduction in Commonwealth rail charges for the transport of cattle from Alice Springs to Port Augusta?
– While I reject at once any charge that the Commonwealth Government has been indifferent to the plight of pastoralists in. central Australia, the honorable1 senator’s specific suggestion regarding a reduction in freight rates and other related matters will be referred to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, whom it concerns.
– I think that in general the Commonwealth Government would not consider it appropriate to take any positive steps in the direction suggested by the honorable senator. The Commonwealth has never taken the view nor adopted the attitude that it is proper for the Commonwealth to tell universities what they ought to do, but believes rather it is for the universities to formulate their own plans and requirements and request from the Commonwealth the necessary assistance. The matter would first be discussed with the Australian Universities Commission which would advise the Commonwealth, which would in turn make a grant for an approved purpose. I believe it would still be in the realm of universities to decide, university by university, what they would like to do in this field. Their approach should then be made through the Australian Universities Commission to the Commonwealth Government. While that position is true of any positive steps, if the honorable senator casts his mind back he will realise that the Commonwealth has given some lead in this matter. The first Murray committee report stressed the importance of health and guidance for students. The first report of the Australian Universities Commission stressed the general importance of health and guidance for students. Some universities have done more in this field than have others. The Australian Universities Commission is an agent for the Commonwealth and has always been sympathetic, but it still remains for the universities to decide what they wish to do in particular fields, and make their approach to the Commonwealth.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Before the legislation is introduced to confirm the rise in rental and other telephone charges as outlined in the Budget, will the Postmaster-General endeavour to have concessions made particularly to blind pensioners, for whom a telephone is not a luxury but an essential service?
– This is a matter that, of course, must be considered by the Postmaster-General. All I can say to the honorable senator is that I will place her representations before him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the exceptionally heavy snowfalls in the Snowy Mountains this year, will the Minister give me an assurance that the present development of the water holding capacity of the Snowy Mountains Authority dams is such that there will be no fear of floods later in the year in the lower reaches of the River Murray, particularly in South Australia, as happened a few years ago?
– I am not equipped to give the assurance sought by the honorable senator. I will ask the Minister for National Development to reply in due course.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. 1 refer to the subject of rail standardisation works on the railway system between Cockburn and Broken Hill and the future of the Silverton Tramway Company about which replies issued by the Minister during the last session indicated that investigations were proceeding. I ask the Minister: Has any decision been reached as to the commencing date of rail conversion work on this system? Will the Silverton Tramway Company continue to operate this railway system when the eastwest rail standardisation work is completed?
– I do not know what stage has been reached in the negotiations with the Silverton Tramway Company. All I can do is tell the honorable senator that I will bring his question to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I will ask the Minister to make available what information he can in connection with this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister seen a Press report of the concern expressed by delegates to the recent United Farmers and Woolgrowers Conference in Sydney about the danger of the entry of exotic diseases into Australia via the West Irian-New Guinea border? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the measures his Department has taken to prevent such diseases from entering Australia through this avenue, and the plans that his Department has for further preventive measures?
– Mr. President, I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator refers. I want to state quite categorically that the Government welcomes interest from any and every section of the community in this matter. If these diseases were permitted to enter Australia, their effect might well be disastrous on our livestock industry which is of such great value to us. Replying specifically to the points raised by the honorable senator, I would like him to know that my Department has made every possible effort to seek the co-operation of the Indonesian authorities to prevent the introduction of these diseases into West Irian. To that end, our own chief veterinary officer has been to Indonesia and has conferred with Indonesian authorities. It is fair to say that there has been a measure of co-operation between the two countries. Plans are already being implemented for patrols to operate along the border of West Irian and New Guinea.
Speaking generally, for the threat is not confined to West Irian, we have most stringent measures that must be undertaken, including the fumigation of aircraft. The importation of animals from New Guinea is prohibited. I remind the honorable senator that we brought to Australia this year Dr. Eichhorn who is a world authority on foot and mouth disease and, in fact, was the person responsible for the eradication of foot and mouth disease from Mexico. We arranged for him to meet representatives of primary industry organisations in most of the States, and he performed a very useful service in the advice he gave to us. On leaving this country he was prompted to say that our quarantime laws and regulations were very effective and were being well carried out.
Be that as it may, the Department concedes that there is a risk and that it must do all that it possibly can to ensure the maintenance of the present conditions. To that end, the Department has arranged recently for two of its chief veterinary officers to attend overseas veterinary schools to inform themselves of the latest methods of detection. I believe that speed of detection would be of paramount importance if ever a disease were introduced to this country. May I conclude by saying that I would welcome advice from any competent authority on additional methods that could be used to safeguard this country.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. On 12th May last I asked the Minister two questions about Croatian activities in Australia. Am I to assume that those questions are regarded as having been answered by the Prime Minister in the statement that he made on Thursday last? If that is not so, when does the Minister propose to give me an answer to the two questions?
– I know that it is the intention of the Prime Minister to answer the questions put on the notice paper by Senator Ormonde. I expect that the answers will be forwarded in the very near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Is there a rule that when a married man applies for a passport he must produce a certificate from his wife that she has no objection to its issue, or, in the case of a married woman, that she must produce a certificate from her husband? Does this rule serve any useful purpose? Further, when there is an objection, or when the husband or wife fails to produce a certificate, is the stay of 14 days before the issue of a passport a useful measure in impeding desertion?
– The honorable senator indicated to me earlier that she proposed to ask these questions. In view of their importance I sought specific answers from the Minister for Immigration. The honorable senator’s question is in three parts. The answer to the first part is that there is a rule that an applicant for a passport must produce consent in writing from his or her spouse. As to the second part of the question, in which the honorable senator asks whether this rule serves any useful purpose, the answer supplied is -
Yes. In particular it enables individuals to protect their rights if applicants are attempting to escape their obligations.
In relation to the third part of the question, the answer supplied is -
Yes. In cases where an applicant for a passport fails to produce the consent of his or her spouse, the spouse is given 14 days notice of intention to issue the passport. Experience has shown that this facility gives the non-consenting party time to institute any necessary action. This rule is of particular importance in the case of possible desertion of wives and children.
Finally, it is significant that a new and simplified form of passport has been issued as from 1st July of this year. This will facilitate .travel by people to and from Australia.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate four questions. Would the Minister agree -that, apart from economic interests, prejudice and fear develop national antagonisms? Does not the interchange of visits by national leaders help to dissipate prejudices and fears? Have the Presidents of the United States, France, Indonesia or any other countries been invited to Australia? Would a visit from President Sukarno help to clear the air, which has become befogged of late, between Australia and Indonesia?
– While I think it can be said that as a general practice, international visits by heads of state, conducted at the right time and in the Tight circumstances, do have a beneficial effect on relations between the countries concerned, it is important always to keep in mind that the proper conditions and the proper climate should exist for such visits to be of the optimum benefit to both countries.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Because of the grave and serious situation which has been created by Indonesia’s invasion of Malaysia, and because the Senate is due to rise at .5 o’clock this afternoon and some honorable senators will be catching planes before then, can the Minister indicate at what time he will make a statement to the Senate regarding this matter?
– I said previously that I would endeavour to see whether the Minister for External Affairs could make a statement on this matter during the day, and that I, myself, had no information on it. Since then I have received some information from the Department of External Affairs and I am prepared to say that the Government has received confirmation that paratroop landings took place yesterday in northern Johore. A substantial number of the personnel involved are members of the Indonesian armed forces. This act of aggression is even more serious than Indonesia’s activities in recent months. Indonesia must take the responsibility for the grave consequences which could flow from it. It contravenes Indonesia’s obligation under the United Nations Charter and will dismay all those who have hoped for a peaceful outcome of the present situation between Indonesia and Malaysia. The Australian Government takes an extremely serious view of this development and is urgently considering the situation and consulting other governments.
– I rise to order. The Minister said that some of the personnel involved were Indonesians. Who were the others?
– I did not say “ some of the personnel “.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable senator may ask a question on the matter later.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Can he inform the Senate why a young married couple, both under 36 years of age and with two children, are unable to get assistance from any bank or from the Government to help them borrow £3,750 to add to the £1,750 they have saved to purchase a house worth £5,500? Will he ask his colleague, the Minister for Housing, to examine the plight of many young couples, such as the one I have mentioned, who are outside the scope of the £250 Government give-away plan?
– I do not know the circumstances of the application referred to. I therefore do not know why it was refused. If the honorable senator knows of a specific case in which he considers the applicants have not received justice or a fair deal from a Government authority, he should refer the matter to the appropriate Minister. If the case concerns an application lodged with a private lending authority it is a matter for settlement between the applicant and the private lending authority.
– I may have misunderstood the Minister representing the Minister, for External Affairs when he read from his colleague’s notes. I understood him to say that some of the personnel who landed from the aircraft were Indonesians. Who were the others?
– I think the honorable senator has misunderstood what was said. I said that a substantial number of the personnel involved were members of the Indonesian armed forces - that is regular members of the Army, Navy or Air Force. Presumably others were not regular members of the forces but were Indonesians.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware of the great public interest in the recent attempt, through the Help the Handicapped Week, to encourage the employment of the physically handicapped? Thousands of kindly sentiments were expressed, but has the Minister any figures to show any practical results? For example, how many such persons have since been given an opportunity for employment?
– The answer to the first part of the question is: “ Yes “. As to the second part of the question, I shall seek the information from .my colleague and supply it to the honorable senator. It will not be necessary for her to place the question on the notice paper.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the serious position that is developing to the near north of Australia, as revealed in the Minister’s statement today, will he consider having the matter referred to the United Nations and asking for an early meeting of that body? Will he use his good offices to have the parties called into conference before we become involved in a large scale armed conflict?
– I have nothing to add to the statement that has been made to the Senate.
(Question No. 191.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information -
(Question No. 193.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
(Question No. 212.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following replies - 1 and 2. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is aware of only one organisation interested in submitting proposals for the establishment of a commercial television service to the Geraldton area. 3 and 4. This organisation has been in touch with the Board which has requested it to supply further information on its proposals. The Board will examine the further details when submitted and make a recommendation to the PostmasterGeneral on the matter. (Question No. 214.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following replies -
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the recent increases announced in the licence fees of commercial television stations, will the Postmaster-General give an undertaking that the licensees will not be allowed to further reduce transmission times or to reduce the Australian content in television programmes so that they can offset the increase in their licence fees?
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply -
The hours of operation of commercial television stations are under the Broadcasting and Television Act subject to the approval of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and stations are required by the Postmaster-Genral to devote a certain portion of their transmissions to Australian programmes. Decisions are made on both these matters from time to time on a consideration of all relevant factors and arrangements are approved which are considered proper in the circumstances. This policy will continue to be applied.
(Question No. 224.)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
In view of the plight of a number of people who are affected by increases in superannuation payments and the consequent effect on the means test applied to the issue of pensioner medical cards providing hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits to those who are really in need of these services, will the Minister give urgent consideration to a review of the harsh incidence of the means test on these worthy citizens who are being penalised both as a result of their thrift and by increases in superannuation payments outside their control?
– The reply to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
When a pensioner is enrolled in the Pensioner Medical Service and issued with an entitlement card, the card is not withdrawn whilst the pension continues to be payable.
Persons granted pensions commencing after 31st October 1955 are eligible for enrolment in the Pensioner Medical Service unless their income from sources other than their pension would have rendered them ineligible under the income means test for pensions at the maximum rate according to the provisions of the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947-1953 or the Repatriation Act 1920-1953 in force at 31st December 1953.
The Government has this matter continuously under review but it is not proposed to amend the existing means test at present.
(Question No. 225.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows - 1.I am not entirely clear as to precisely what the honorable senator has in mind when he refers to “ science institutions “. I can assure him, however, that there are many more than fourteen scientific institutions in England and Scotland.
(Question No. 236.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
Following the approval by the Minister for Primary Industry to make funds available to war service land settlers in the Rocky GullyPerillup area, to enable them to undertake further development on their farms, will the Minister inform the Senate on the following matters: (a) The general terms and conditions under which advances may be made to lessees; (b) the number of lessees who have applied for this assistance; (c) the total area approved for development under this proposal; and (d) the average area per farm?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following information -
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 15th September 1964, at 3 p.m.
Assent to the following bills reported -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1964.
Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1964.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1964.
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1964.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s Budget proposals on repatriation, which reflect our intention to maintain at appropriate levels the rates of benefits available under the repatriation system to ex-servicemen and their dependants. In accordance with accepted practice the Government this year has again reviewed the operation of the repatriation system and has concluded that in the light of established principle, and the needs of the pensioners concerned, a number of increases in pensions rates are warranted.
I have indicated on previous occasions that the Budget is by no means the only method by which the Government gives effect to improvements in the repatriation area. It is, however, the instrument through which we adjust pensions rates themselves, as well as making overall provision for repatriation needs in the course of any one year. This year the Budget provides for repatriation services a total sum of over £122 million reflecting both increasing demands, and the Government’s continuing concern for those for whom the repatriation legislation provides. I am pleased to say that the increases to which I am about to refer will extend to all of the main pensions rates for ex-servicemen themselves and for war widows, as well as to the war pensions of wives of both special rate and general rate pensioners. Our objective has been to see that the benefits provided have been as widely distributed as possible among repatriation pensioners.
I now turn to the details of the Budget measures. The Bill provides for an amendment to the Second Schedule of the Repatriation Act to give effect to the increase of 10s. in the special, or total and permanent incapacity, rate of war pension, bringing it to £14 5s. per week. This rate is payable to those whose war caused incapacities are such as to prevent them from earning more than a negligible percentage of a living wage, and to the war blinded. The new rate will also be paid to ex-servicemen who are temporarily totally incapacitated, and to certain sufferers from tuberculosis. The pension known as the Class B rate for tuberculosis, which is paid under the Second Schedule to tuberculosis sufferers who are capable of only light or intermittent work, is also to be adjusted, to provide an increase of 7s. 6d. to £10 2s. 6d. per week. Under the Schedule, the rate is fixed by the Repatriation Commission. In addition, following the increase in the special rate of pension the additional amounts payable to certain amputees under the first six items of the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act are being increased by 5s. to £8 5s. per week. These amputees will also receive the increase of 5s. per week proposed for the 100 per cent, general rate pension, making a total increase for these pensioners of 10s. per week.
The general rate increase of 5s. per week will itself be provided by an amendment to the First Schedule of the Act. Pensioners eligible for the full 100 per cent, rate will now . receive £6 per week. Proportionate increases will follow for those on lesser rates of pension. At the same time, the Third Schedule will be amended to provide a war pension increase of 5s. per week to £2 0s. 6d. for the wives of incapacitated exservicemen receiving the 100 per cent, general rate pension or higher, which includes of course, the totally and permanently incapacitated.
In this case, too, there will be proportionate increases for those whose husbands receive less than 100 per cent. rate. The increase in the rate for wives will also apply to the widows of general rate pensioners whose pensions are continued after the death of a husband from causes not attributable to war service. Following the increases in special and general rates of pension, there will be increases in the rates of medical sustenance. Sustenance payments are made to exservicemen at appropriate rates in respect of in-patient and out-patient treatment, and during investigation of a pensions claim.
The Bill also provides for an amendment to the First Schedule to give effect to an increase of 5s. per week in the rate for war widows, the new rate being £6 per week. War widows with children, or who qualify by reason of age or infirmity also receive the domestic allowance of £3 10s. per week, and the great- majority of war widows qualify for this benefit,- so that the widow herself will, in these circumstances, now receive £9 10s. per week. There will also be increases for “member” service pensioners, parallelling those for social services pensioners. The full rate of pension for married service pensioners will increase by 5s. to £5 10s. per week, and for “single” service pensioners by the same amount to £6 per week. No amendment to the Repatriation Act is necessary tq give effect to these increases, as that Act applies the rates payable under the social services legislation.
It is also proposed that the provisions for fares, subsistence and loss of earnings for appellants attending hearings of appeals at tribunals will be brought into line with the corresponding provisions for attendance for other repatriation purposes; for example, for treatment or for pension review. These allowances are to be provided under the regulations, and a small amendment is being made to section 72 of the Act to enable this to be done. The effect will be a more generous provision for tribunal attendances.
Following my earlier practice, I have prepared, for the convenience of those who are interested, a table which summarises the repatriation Budget proposals. With the concurrence of honorable senators, 1 incorporate this table in “ Hansard “.
I might mention, too, that amendments to the Native Members of the Forces (Torres Strait Islands) Benefits Regulations will extend the foregoing war pensions proposals to eligible ex-servicemen in that area. They will also receive the increase in the service pension.
In accordance with established practice the amendments will come into force from the date on which the Act receives the royal assent to enable the higher pensions to be paid on the first pensions pay day after that date. The measures with which this Bill is concerned are a continuing development of the repatriation system according to the soundly based principles which have emerged over the years. They confer worthwhile benefits on a substantial number of ex-servicemen and their dependants and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
.- The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) has placed before the Senate his second reading speech on the Repatriation Bill and the amendments which give effect to the Budget proposals of the
Government. Very early in his speech, the Minister indicated that the proposals reflect the Government’s intention to maintain at appropriate levels the rates of benefits available under our repatriation system to ex-servicemen and their dependants. It is my belief that the Government has become inclined, as the years have gone by and it has become old in service, to close its ears to the claims of members of this Parliament and organisations representing exservicemen and has not maintained at appropriate levels the rates of benefits available under the Repatriation Act. It is the duty of senators on both the Opposition and Government sides, and of the bodies representing ex-servicemen, to reiterate and continually remind the Government of the basic need to honour its responsibilities to the people to whom this measure applies.
It is 25 years today since the Second World War commenced. It is 50 years since the commencement of the First World War. Many Australians in the younger agc groups will have ‘only the vaguest recollections of actual physical war. Many of them have no memory of the war years at all. As each year goes by, the number of 1914-18 ex-servicemen still living decreases. Many of the new generation have had no direct contact with war or its sacrifices, especially the long term effects of suffering from warcaused injury. For so many, as the statistics show, that is the inevitable aftermath of war. It becomes our continuing responsibility and that of others such as the ex-servicemen’s organisations, continually to present to the Cabinet, and to remind the citizens of this country of, the needs of those who have suffered in war and whose war-caused injuries can become a greater burden with the advance of years.
I would like to quote from remarks of the Minister for Repatriation, (Mr. Swartz), which appear in the 48th annual report of the Returned Servicemen’s League. During a speech made at the League Congress the. Minister said -
A substantial part of the development over the years has been the result of Government initiative and Governments have, of course, been greatly assisted by the informed representations from exservice organisations. This relationship must continue in. the, future, and be based on a realistic assessment of the areas in which improvements can best bc made in Repatriation services.
He went on to say -
I conclude by restating some thoughts I have expressed on other occasions about the link between the Government and the League, and the responsibility which this implies for the League if that association is to continue on the same happy basis as in the past.
Governments are always interested in flic views of informed organisations which maintain responsible public image.
I believe that, in this statement, the Minister has touched on a matter which has been the subject of quite an amount of debate over the years. His statement goes to the very nub of the question of what is the appropriate level that it is the intention of the Government to maintain in the payment of repatriation benefits to exservicemen and their dependants.
This Bill gives effect to the proposals of the Budget. The Minister has claimed that appropriate levels will be maintained “in the light of established principle “. The Bill proposes an increase of 10s. a week in the rate of the T.P.I, pension. It will be increased to £14 5s. a week. In the Statement which is attached to the second reading speech, it is pointed out that this increase applies to war blinded and T.T.I, rates the class C rate for tuberculosis, the special rate for medical sustenance, the class B rate for tuberculosis, and the rate payable to certain double amputees. It applies also to the general rate or 100 per cent, pension for a member and his wife, to the war widows pension and to the service pension. It also applies to allowances for fares and loss of earnings incurred by appellants in attending the hearing of appeals. Of course, it can always be said that half a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all. But, I submit that one of the main shortcomings of the repatriation benefits structure is that the rates never reach appropeiate levels. To illustrate that point, I would like to place before the Senate a comparison between the present day repatriation benefits and those established in 1950-51 when this Government first budgeted for them. This period marked the beginning of the first post war inflationary wave and the first steep increase in the cost structure, the effect of which is reverberating through the economy even at the present moment. The adjustment that recently was made in the basic wage has been more than absorbed in the matter of a few short weeks.
In 1950-51 the 100 per cent, general rate pension was £3 10s. a week, or 45 per cent, of the basic wage, which was then £7 10. a week. Today, with the pension rate increased to £6 a week, and with a basic wage of ‘£15 8s. a week, the ratio of the pension to the basic wage has dropped to 38.9 per cent. This means that there has been a decrease in the ratio of more than 6 per cent. Instead of the £6 proposed by this measure, the 100 per cent, general rate pension should be at least £6 19s. a week in order to maintain, to use the Minister’s term, appropriate levels on established principles. The Returned Servicemen’s League, in its annual report, has forthrightly reminded the Government of its responsibility. It has recommended that the 100 per cent, general rate pension should be increased to £6 9s. 6d. That recommendation was made even before the recent increase of £1 in the basic wage. The recommendation was, in effect, for a pension of £6 10s. a week. However, as I have said, in order to maintain the earlier standard that was established the rate should be £6 19s. a week, or 19s. more than is provided in the measure before the Senate.
– Do you think the R.S.L. is a tame cat organisation?
– You are miaowing like an old Tom.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– Let us have a look at the total and permanent incapacity pension and see how, for the period under review, rises in the cost of living and wages have outstripped rises in the pension rate. In 1950-51, as I mentioned before, the basic wage was £7 10s. a week, and the T.P.I, pension rate was £8 15s. a week. The T.P.I, pension then was higher than the basic wage. The principle established was that a man, having served his country and having become totally and permanently incapacitated, should receive at least the amount which, taking an average, he would have been able to earn had he not sustained total and permanent incapacity. In 1950-51, in recognition of that principle, the T.P.I, rate was fixed at £8 15s. a week, which was then the equivalent of 112 per cent, of the basic wage. The basic wage now is £15 8s., so in order to maintain the percentage of 112 per cent, the T.P.I, rate should be £17 6s. a week.
The Minister said is his second reading speech that pension rates should be fixed at appropriate levels, based on established principles. What are we to take as appropriate levels? We need to be constantly reminded that, with the effluxion of time and the dimming of memories, basic responsibilities to returned servicemen are not being discharged. The T.P.I, man has had a reduction in the relative value of his pension. Previously he was receiving 112 per cent, of the basic wage but now the proportion has been reduced by 20 per cent., down to 92 per cent. The recommendation of the R.S.L. coincided with the rate fixed by the Government. The rate of £14 5s. a week is the same as that proposed by the R.S.L., but it is £3 ls. a week below an appropriate level based on the year I have quoted.
I now pass to war widows. A war widow received £3 10s. a week in 1.950-51. That was the 100 per cent, general rate. The basic wage was £7 10s. a week, so she was receiving 45 per cent, of the basic wage. She should now receive £6 19s. a week in order to maintain her relative position. The wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman received £1 10s. a week in base year, 1950-51. That was 20.7 per cent, of the basic wage. The present payment is £2 0s. 6d., or less than 7 per cent, of the basic wage. Using calculations similar to those used in other cases, the amount of pension payable to the wife of a T.P.I, man should be more than £3 a week, I think I have established that war and service pensioners are not receiving their due degree of economic justice, and that the rates provided for in this Bill fall short of the minimum rates that should be maintained.
It is the intention of the Opposition, in the committee stages, to move certain amendments. We intend to make certain proposals that we believe should meet with the approval of the majority of honorable senators. The first amendment will deal with a very important matter, namely, the proposed constitution of a joint committee of the Parliament to consider repatriation. Before I deal with that matter, I should like to pay a tribute to the officers of the Repatriation Department. Whenever 1 have had contact with them throughout the years, I have found that they are an intelligent and helpful group of people. But they are strictly confined by Government policy. The result has been that over the years some very serious anomalies have occurred in the administration of the Repatriation Act. In my view, the situation needs a committee which can consider objectively, without political bias, improvements to the whole of the Repatriation Act.
For the purpose of illustration I should like to quote from page 12 of the annual report of the Returned Servicemen’s League. The National Executive of the League there submits a statement showing the activities of assessment appeal tribunals during the period from 1st January 1963 to 31st December 1963. The number of appeals to the assessment appeal tribunals in that year by ex-servicemen of the 1939-45 war was 10,192, and by ex-servicemen of the 1914-1918 war it was 2,493. The number of appeals allowed by the Assessment Appeal Tribunals for ex-servicemen who served in the 1939-45 war was 4,802, and it was 1,115 for ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war. The Assessment Appeal Tribunals allowed 46 per cent, of the appeals that came before them. Over the whole period they have allowed 51 per cent, of the appeals.
Then we come to the figures showing the activities of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals from 1st January 1963 to 3 1 st
December 1964. Wc find that there were 2,476 appeals from ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war, and 7,521 appeals from exservicemen of the 1939-45 war. We find also that 14 per cent, of the appeals were allowed. This is the percentage that has come through the screen of the ordinary processes in the Repatriation Department. This brings one back to the well worn but important question of the onus of proof and its interpretation. When one looks at these figures one can see the percentage of exservicemen who have had to endure the trouble and frustration of putting their cases before the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. A considerable number of their appeals have been allowed.
– Those figures would include not only first applications, but also appeals relating to partial disability.
– In the case of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, yes.
– Would any of those successful World War I applicants have been under the age of 65?
– Very few, because, as 1 have just mentioned, most of the exservicemen who served in the First World War were over 20 years of age at the time the war ended, so that, the majority of them would be 65 or over today.
– Have you figures showing how many ex-servicemen of the First World War are still alive?
– Yes. As at 31st December 1963, there were 670,970 war pensions in force. They included 113,547 for ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war, and 548,153 for ex-servicemen of the 1939-45 war.
– Those figures include all the dependants as well.
– That is right. The 48th annual report of the national executive of the R.S..L. states -
During the twelve months, January to December 1963, the pensions in force increased by 207. The 1914 figure was reduced by 3,304 whilst the 1939 figure was increased by 2,507, the Korea Malay figure was increased by 838 and the Far East Strategic Reserve by 166 .
As at 31st December 1963 there were 63,489 service pensions in payment; 393 for the South African campaign, 46,850 for the 1914 war, 16,033 for the 1939 war and 70 for Korea and Malay operations.
As at 31st December 1963 there was a total of 46,850 service pensions being paid to ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war. Those were people who were over the age of 60 years and eligible for the service pension, and also burnt out diggers, as they are sometimes called.
Those figures give us the number of exservicemen receiving pensions. They also bring to our notice the fact that from now on there will be a rapid decline in the number of ex-servicemen from the First World War receiving pensions. Unfortunately. many of them, through the effluxion of time, have reached their allotted span, and because of the disabilities they suffered during the First World War, have gone to meet their Maker. On the other hand, the after effects of the Second World War are coming to the surface more and more. Many exservicemen who returned home filled with a desire to get as far away as possible from war and to get back into civilian life did not bother to state their incapacities due to war service. They now realise that they should have established their claims at the time. It is the job of the Repatriation Department and the various tribunals to give justice to these people. I do not think that ex-servicemen who are not entitled to pensions should get them, but I believe that ex-servicemen who are entitled to pensions should get them not as a benefice, not as charity, but as their entitlement from a nation which is thankful for the contributions they have made to its safety.
That brings me back to the need for a fresh approach to the whole of the repatriation machinery and for the setting up of a joint committee of the Parliament, with representatives from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. I am certain that such a committee could bring about the refraining of the whole of the repatriation system so that it would be more satisfactory to all concerned. In my view, the setting up of the numerous tribunals has been an improvisation. It has been a matter of cause’ and effect. They have been necessary because of the claims of people who felt that the onus of proof was upon them and that the ability to produce proof was beyond them. Probably almost every honorable senator has had experience of claimants who have served with medical officers who knew them or who were able to produce some other evidence that weighed the scales in their favour. The success of a claim should not depend upon the element of luck. I feel certain that, with the experience that has been accumulated over the years in the administration of ex-servicemen’s problems, recommendations of value could be made by a joint parliamentary committee with a view to short-circuiting some of the roundabout methods that have been adopted in the past. In my view, the adoption of such recommendations would give departmental officers more confidence in their own judgment and remove the need for the costly and time-consuming procedure of having claims dealt with by various tribunals. I must say that officers of the tribunals whom J have mct have been men of great integrity and standing, but sometimes I have felt that their time was being wasted and that the final decisions could well have been made by the departmental officers themselves.
The Opposition proposes also to try to pursuade the Senate to amend the Bill by adding the words “or cancer” to the pro-, visions relating to the automatic payment of pensions to sufferers of pulmonary tuberculosis.
– What sort of cancer?
– We include all types of cancer for the simple reason, that, as, has been pointed out repeatedly, the’ basic cause of. cancer is unknown. The medical profession is constantly engaged in ah effort to ascertain the cause of cancer, but it has never been able to establish whether the physical conditions in which the cancer virus, or whatever it might be called, can thrive are inherited. It has been said that some people are more prone to cancer than are others. Some say that too much exposure to ultra violet rays can cause cancer. Others say that a certain type of diet will cause cancer and yet others say that cancer of the blood is an aftermath of aneamia. All these laymen’s theories are known to the medical profession, but there has never been a specific, authoritative statement that the medical profession knows what cancer is and how it is caused.
– Members of the medical profession know what it is, but they do not know how it is caused. Perhaps I should say that in some respects they know what causes it.
– No, they do not.
– Let the two experts have an argument about it.
– There are limes when the ordinary, humble layman should be able to express his views on these matters. If we were always to have to listen to the experts, perhaps the Senate would not be such an interesting place. Many of the people in the electorates who are humble people like the laymen who represent them might like to hear us speaking in this way without the undoubted advantage of having trodden the long path of study which enables one to become an expert.
Let me pursue the case I am putting to the Senate in regard to the anomaly which we believe exists in relation to the onus of proof, particularly as it relates to cancer. Countless numbers of ex-servicemen, particularly those who served during the First World War, have suffered from the scourge of tuberculosis, but members of the medical profession and scientists have made tremendous strides in bringing the disease under control. We believe that some day, please God, the same success will be achieved in the attack on the dread scourge of cancer. But we believe that until that day comes and while the element of doubt remains ex-servicemen who have the great misfortune to suffer from cancer should not have to prove that their disability is due to war service but that it should bc accepted as such. I should like to hear members of the medical profession give their unequivocal views on this subject. I have never heard the subject discussed by scientific people for the benefit of those of us who are very much in the dark about the cause of cancer.
– They cannot. They are not in a position to make a definite, unequivocal statement.
– Having heard that sound judgment expressed by the honorable senator, I should say that my case is supported up to the hilt and that it is up to the Department to prove that the disease is not the result of war service.
I come now to medical treatment for members of the forces of the 1914-18 war and the South African War. That brings us to a consideration of the position of the few old and bold of the South African War who are still with us. Surely if these men have any claim on the nation for a measure of sympathy and justice, it lies in the fact that they have been able to show that they could live as long as they have. They must have had a mighty constitution to have been able to survive as long as they have. The Commonwealth should have no compunction whatever about telling them that they may have the benefit of complete medical services.
We have often referred to the dwindling numbers of ex-servicemen of the First World War and the inadequacy of pension rates to meet the ever-expanding inflationary pressure. Increases in pensions, regardless of amount, are swallowed up in next to no time. This reduces the capacity of the recipients to pay hospital bills of the proportions which they have assumed today, and they are quite unable to save from their pensions. Persons who have come to me at various times have staggered me with the size of bills. Fortunately, I have covered myself and my wife and family to the hilt for health and medical expenses with the Tasmanian Government Insurance Office. Even so, the differences between bills and benefits are staggering. Although my needs have been very few, I have noticed a considerable difference between the maximum amount payable by . the insurance organisation and the normal rates charged by hospitals. I am able to make those remarks on a personal level. How much more difficult must the situation be for persons in receipt only of pensions?
The extension of medical benefits to the wives of special rate pensioners has been a bone of contention for many years. A woman whose husband lost his life in the service of his country is given a special entitlement to medical and hospital benefits. In the same way, the wife of a man who has lost his health and ability to earn and who has, as in most instances, been deprived of a much wider and fuller life, should be the responsibility of the nation in this respect.
I want to touch on a matter which is of great importance and is the subject of a recommendation of the National Executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League. The R.S.L. points out that the funeral grant was introduced in 1919. principally to cover the funeral expenses of a member whose death is due to war service, who dies in indigent circumstances, or who dies in a repatriation institution or while proceeding to or from such an institution. The last increase was from £20 to £25 in 1952. I have learned of costs for funerals recently. A very simple funeral, with just one car in attendance, cost £125.
– It is ruinous.
– It is ruinous for very many of these people. The R.S.L. has asked that at least £50 be allowed as a funeral grant.
– Was that the funeral of an ex-serviceman?
– No. As a matter of fact it was the funeral of a pensioner. Whether or not concessions may be made by undertakers in respect of ex-servicemen, funeral expenses are so high, that the whole cost of burial of qualified ex-servicemen should be met. Whether or not arrangements could be made with undertakers to act on behalf of the Government is a matter that could be reviewed by the committee.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the Senate suspended for lunch I had covered the Opposition’s proposals - for the amendment of the Repatriation Act in relation to the setting up of a special joint committee of the Parliament on repatriation. I had also given an outline of our reasons for wanting to amend section 37 of the principal Act in regard to the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability among ex-servicemen. I had spoken of the need for a more generous view to be taken of medical treatment for members of the Forces from the 1914-18 war and the South Africa war. I had also spoken of the need for a review of the principal Act in relation to medical benefits for the wives of those in receipt of the total and permanent incapacity pension. Those are aspects of the Act that could be given more ganerous treatment than that already given to them under Government policy.
I believe that many honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives have come up against individual cases of hardship that could be alleviated’ by an amendment such as I have foreshadowed. Finally, besides the provisions that have already been made in the Bill and besides the proposed amendment, I would like to draw attention to a few other fringe benefits which I believe, without great expense, could be incorporated in the policy of the Department and of the Government, relating lo other aspects of repatriation. The first is part of a suggestion put forward by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, regarding the education scheme for soldiers’ children. The first request is that the allowances paid should be increased to cover essential costs such as books, fares, essential equipment and materials. This matter is receiving attention by the various State Departments of Education and it seems that, as time goes by, it will become an accepted part of State and Commonwealth responsibility towards the education of children. I believe that, in the special case of children’s allowances, the Commonwealth Government could well give the States a lead, by incorporating in the Act a provision to cover the cost of items such as books, fares, and essential equipment and material. The other request is that the commencing age at which the present benefits apply should be reduced from 12 years to the age at which the child commences schooling.
Every one knows that, with the high cost of commodities today, the difference between maintaining a child and an adult is growing less. For example, a pair of shoes for a nine years old boy costs nearly as much as a pair of shoes for one of his parents, and so on all the way along the line. T hope attention will be given to that aspect of the Returned Servicemen’s League’s request, A further proposal by the organisation is that the dependants’ allowances for student children should continue to be paid in respect of dependent children beyond the 16th birthday and until they have ceased to be full time students. This suggestion should also be the subject of consideration and action. Further consideration could well be given to social service payments to beneficiaries of the Repatriation Department. The Returned Servicemen’s League also requests that hospital and medical benefits should be extended to exservice personnel of the First World War. A request was also made that all children over 16 years of age and receiving the dependant’s allowance should be given entitlement to full hospital and medical benefits. lt is logical to deduce that it is a growing need in our modern society that every child that has the capacity should be given opportunity to expand his intellectual field to cope with modern conditions and should be able to continue schooling to the highest limit he is able to attain without this being an extra burden on the parents. Considering the complete inadequacy of the present funeral grant, I think the Returned Servicemen’s League’s request for an increase is modest, in view of the phenomenal increase in the cost of burials at this time.
All in all, we are pleased to see adjustments being made to repatriation benefits. Our complaints and the general complaint in the community is that, with spiralling prices, the dog is chasing its tail. On the other hand, it is outside the field of the ordinary ex-member of the Services to do anything to halt inflation. However, provision should be made to ensure that he does not suffer by it. The increases in pensions granted by the legislation will be readily accepted, but the great misfortune is that any advantage that might have accrued from this measure will already have been mopped up by the inflationary wave. I propose, during the committee stage, to move the amendments that I have foreshadowed.
– In. rising to address the Senate on this Bill, which seeks to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1963, 1 remind the Senate that its purpose is to give the Australian Government authority to spend £122 million of the taxpayers’ money on behalf of ex-servicemen. The sum of £122 million must be raised this financial year from the people of Australia for the specific purpose of granting benefits and just awards to the exservicemen of Australia. This is the eleventh time that I have had the privilege of addressing the Senate on a Bill to amend the Repatriation Act because each year this Government has made a reappraisal of the requirements of, and the possibility of, giving added benefits to ex-servicemen. At this stage I will not enumerate the benefits that will be obtainable by ex-service men and women and their dependants because of the legislation that we will pass in the Senate soon. This information was set out clearly and concisely in the speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), representing the Minister for Repatriation.
I remind the Senate that since the Menzies Government has been in office ex-servicemen and their dependants have had the good fortune to have had two dedicated men as Ministers for Repatriation. I refer first to the record-holding Minister for Repatriation, our colleague in this chamber and a gallant ex-serviceman Of the First World War, Sir Walter Cooper. On his retirement from the Ministry he was succeeded by the present Minister, Mr. Swartz, also an ex-serviceman and one who suffered the disabilities, hardships and punishments of a prisoner of war. He would be one of the first to realise that it is his duty, and the duty of the Government, to do what can be done for ex-servicemen. I believe that both of these men have carried out their work to the great satisfaction of ex-servicemen.
In each of the 1 1 years that I have been a member of the Senate, members of the Australian Labour Party have criticised repatriation benefits. At times their memories seem short. I remind them that the only two post-war Ministers, for Repatriation appointed by the Labour Party were defeated at the polls by the electors. The great paper of those days, “ Smith’s Weekly “, got to the core of the matter when it said: “ Whom caucus first wishes to destroy it makes Minister for Repatriation “. The Labour Party caucus realised that it could not get the votes of ex-servicemen, so its attitude was: “Bother the ex-servicemen and benefits to them”. Now that honorable senators opposite are in opposition, they do not hesitate to criticise what this Government has done, despite the woeful tale of neglect of exservicemen in the years during which their party was in office.
There has been an attack on the Returned Servicemen’s League. It was described as a “ tame cat organisation “. 1 think that was a dastardly thing to say about this organisation, particularly when one remembers great names like Dyett, Millhouse, Holland and Lee, the present Australian President of the R.S.L. lt was a public insult to say that men such as those lead a tame cat organisation, and the insult should be publicly withdrawn. The Labour Party should be ashamed that one of its members made this accusation. These great men, and many State Presidents and other members of the R.S.L., have been honoured by the Crown, not so that they will go cap in hand to the Government, as is alleged, but because they have done a community service of great value, a service which is respected by all those who are privileged to be members of the organisation and by all their relatives, friends and supporters. To call the R.S.L. a tame cat organisation is absolutely libellous, in my belief.
Like the attacker, I have been a member of the R.S.L. for 18 years. I am a committee member of the Hobart sub-branch and I have attended two congresses of the R.S.L. If anyone says to me - after I have listened to the debates in the sub-branch and in the congresses and after reading letters to the Press - that it is a tame cat organisation, I say that they are not telling the truth. The R.S.L. rights sincerely, loyally and decently. It is, I suppose, the most unified organisation in Australia, lt brings into its discussions the Air Force and Navy associations, the T.P.I, associations, war widows and Legacy. It makes a unified approach to the Government. Anyone who has any common sense realises that when a proposition is put forward and something is wanted, you always add a little to your request. You know that you will not get all that you ask for, so you add as much as you can. The R.S.L., in its annual reports, has shown conclusively that although it is not completely satisfied it is grateful for the reception its requests have received from the Government. I wonder whether, if the person who made this attack on the R.S.L. made a similar attack on his own union, he would still be a member. The R.S.L. is the most unified organisation in Australia in its representations to governments. I should think that the primary producers’ organisations, the Chambers of Commerce and1 the Chambers of Manufactures could take a leaf out of the book of the R.S.L. and gain more for their members than they do now from a nonunified approach.
The achievements of the R.S.L., through its representations to this Government, have been great. I do not say for a moment that any ex-serviceman or the dependants of any ex-serviceman should be grateful for what this Government has granted, because I believe that the Government has granted only - and I emphasise the word “ only “ - just rewards to beneficiaries under its repatriation legislation. I have never known - and non-one can quote an instance to me - of the R.S.L. withholding criticism of the Government if it felt that the Government had not done justice to its requests on behalf of R.S.L. members. Not all recipients of repatriation benefits are happy. During my years in this Parliament I have mixed with and been interviewed by many ex-service men and women and their dependants. They are not all happy with what they are getting, but it is true to say that one cannot legislate economically for the country’s good in such a way as to satisfy every single would-bc recipient of a benefit from the Commonwealth purse. It is not only in terms of pounds, shillings and pence that this Government has increased benefits under the Repatriation Act; it has increased benefits through hospitalisation and medical care.
My view is that it is not only the Government’s responsibility - and “ Government “ in this context means the taxpayers - to provide everything necessary for the welfare and care of ex-service people or their beneficiaries. Surely we on the national Parliament should keep alive the spirit of community effort, responsibility and thankfulness. If we were greatly to increase pensions we would have greatly to increase taxation. A large amount of the increased taxation would be obtained from young people who do not know what world war is and who are trying to purchase their homes and raise families. Why should they be hit by taxation, when community minded and wealthy people with all they wish for in this world are willing to give to organisations and to funds money which flows back to recipients of repatriation payments who need more than the Government provides by cold, printed legislation. I refer to the welfare funds of the Returned Servicemen’s League, the various service organisations and unit associations to which money is freely subscribed by grateful people. I refer also to the Legacy Club of Australia. There is no organisation in this country that raises so much money for the benefit of the widows and children of ex-service men and women at so little cost as does the Legacy Club. It supplies help both in kind and in advice of a type that no legislation could ever provide.
I believe that when criticisms are offered of the amounts of pensions payable, there should be taken into account what the community of its own free will is doing through a spirit that we wish to keep alive in Australia today. In my opinion we do not want to lead the youth of Australia and those who follow us to believe that you do nothing unless you are helped by the Government. It seems to me that in that proposition I have the support of 100 per cent, of our youth, because it is for their benefit. Every child and teenager today should be brought up to do some community service and should not always be given the impression that if you are hard up the Government will come to your atd.
The Repatriation Act, the amendment of which we are debating, differs completely from the legislation which existed when the present Government came into office in 1949. Through amendments its benefits have been widened and increased each year. Reference has been made to appeals when claims for pensions have been disallowed. I have taken part in a number of appeals and have spoken to the officer of the Returned Servicemen’s League in Hobart who leads the cases for most Tasmanian appellants. I am convinced that the appeal tribunal carries out its task in a most sympathetic manner. There is no use of legal jargon or legal argument and the decision of the tribunal is based on facts and sympathy. I say sympathy because the members of the ‘ appeals tribunal are ex-servicemen. To my knowledge there have been a number of appeals which, in effect, were groundless. You cannot expect a tribunal, given the responsibility to reach decisions involving the expenditure’ of public funds, to allow an appeal which it honestly believes is not based on good premises. I do not believe that any real criticism can be directed at the system of appeals operating today under the’ Repatriation Act.
I turn now to discuss repatriation hospitals. It appears that the Labour Party wants to broaden the scope of entitlement to treatment in repatriation hospitals, but the plain facts are that if the scope of eligibility were widened the repatriation hospitals would be overcrowded. Persons who, under the present Act, are entitled to treatment, would not be able to get into the repatriation hospitals, yet there would be many spare beds in the public hospitals. Those who are entitled under the present Act - and its provisions have been greatly widened - to admission to repatriation hospitals are provided with a fantastic service. They enter modern hospitals and are cared for by excellent medical and nursing staffs.
Any patient can call to his aid the top specialists in the city or he may be transferred to another repatriation hospital where an even more famous specialist is available to give treatment. No one can growl at that. What is more, the hospitalisation is free, the best medical and nursing attention is provided and the patients are paid for being in hospital. Surely there can be no valid complaint about the policy of this Government in respect to repatriation hospitals.
The matter of increased pensions is difficult. It would be very hard for me to rise in the Senate and say with a clear conscience that the pension rates payable under this legislation are right and sufficient. In many cases they are, but in some cases they are not. I have not been able to get the answer to the problem of drafting legislation which is unfair to nobody. Repatriation benefits are tied to social service benefits and the two arc tied to the income and expenditure of this nation. It is useless, even hypocritical, to say: “ Raise the pensions another 10s. and widen the scope of the benefits to include more people”. In a few weeks’ time we will be discussing the taxation legislation and those who have asked for increased pensions will say: “Why do you not reduce the taxation rates? You are hitting the poor man and helping the rich “. It is a case of take more money by way of taxes and give more money back by way of increased pensions.
The Government must examine the matter in a fair minded and balanced way. I think the Returned Servicemen’s League adopts that attitude in its approaches to the Government. It seems to me that the memories of Labour senators are very short as they do not appear to recall the new avenues of benefits opened up by this Government to recipients under the Repatriation Act. This Government has opened up fields of repatriation benefits never dreamed of by the Australian Labour Party. These are benefits which that party should have introduced when it was in government after the war had concluded. But the Australian Labour Party was not interested in these things. It was interested in other matters. Now, as the Opposition, it is critical of the action taken by this Government. One of the benefits which this Government has introduced - I enumerate all of them - is the gratuity of one year’s pension for a widow who remarries. This splendid action on the part of the Government is greatly appreciated by those who receive the benefit. Then there is the provision of a motor car plus an allowance of £120 a year for a double amputee. There are many other benefits that this Government has .instituted, in addition to those we have widened.
Senator O’Byrne has given some sort of informal notice that he proposes to move amendments when this Bill is before the Committee. I deal with those amendments now because one should first hear the case that the Opposition puts up. If I wish to do so, I shall speak on the amendments.
– Don’t you hear these matters debated?
– I go to the R.S.L. Congress meetings. I am a member of the R.S.L Congress, but that does not mean I agree with every item that is put forward there. I am still man enough to get up and express what I think is right. I do not simply follow the leader. I am not a tame cat. However, Senator O’Byrne has suggested that he will move some amendments. I wish to refer to only one of them now, because I want to know the Government’s attitude to it. I refer to the proposal that a select committee of the Parliament should be appointed to inquire into the Repatriation Act. I do not care what the Government says about it. If the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation agrees to the amendment, I shall be voting against it. Briefly, my reason is this: In my view, the Repatriation Act has been drafted and put. into operation by dedicated people in all States. It is under constant review. The Repatriation Department is manned by ex-servicemen to a large extent. But if a select committee of this Parliament is appointed there will be a majority of Government members and a minority of Opposition members. The Government members will be trying to prove that the Government is right. The Opposition members will carry on with this nonsense in which they have been indulging for years in connection with other committees. They will say that the Government members are wrong. The Opposition members of the committee would probably make a minority report.
Senator Cole, the only member of the Australian Democratic Labour Party in this chamber, once pleaded with us to take politics out of pensions. If you set up a select committee of this Parliament to go into repatriation, repatriation will become a political football. I am certain that fairminded ex-servicemen would not like that to be done. I hope the Senate will agree with me and refuse that amendment when it is moved. I will leave the rest of Senator O’Byrne’s proposed amendments until they actually come before the Senate and we have had some clarification of the reasons for them. I commend the Bill to the Parliament and congratulate the Minister and the Government on what they have done. I hope they will continue their yearly review so that even better things may come forward in 1965.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) E2.50], - Senator Marriott commenced his speech by taking the record of former Australian Labour Party Ministers for Repatriation and saying they had lost their seats at Federal elections subsequent to their appointment to that position. Whether they lost their seats because they were at the time Minister for Repatriation or merely because they occupied marginal seats, I do not know. I suggest to the honorable senator that it was the latter. I remind him that, at the 1961 Federal election, the then Minister for Repatriation in the Menzies-McEwen Government was defeated in the electorate of Evans. I do not want to make party political propaganda out of a debate of this nature, but because Senator Marriott made laudatory remarks regarding the Government’s activities in relation to ex-servicemen generally, and because he for some reason or other accused members of the Labour Opposition of being over critical of the Government on this aspect, let me cite to him a passage from the last annual report of the Returned Servicemen’s League. I quote the following passage from page 8 of the report -
War and service pensions have lost value over the last decade. It is the League’s task to see that that case is presented in such a way that these values are substantially restored.
I think that, in a few words, the passage I have cited sets out not only the case of the R.S.L. but also the case that the Opposition is trying to make on this occasion.
This Bill, of course, is designed to meet the provisions contained in the Budget brought down last month by the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). I think it fair to say that, apart from the increase of 10s. per week in the amount awarded to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, the increase to be given to most ex-servicemen entitled to pensions is 5s. .per week. In the case of tuberculosis sufferers, the increase is 7s. 6d. per week. The general rate of war pension is to be increased by 5s. as, of course, is the war widows’ pension. As has been stated in the second reading speech of the Minister, £122 million has been set aside for repatriation benefits in’ this financial year. But the total cost of the limited concessions contained in this measure now under discussion amounts to an increase over the expenditure on repatriation last financial year of some £3.9 million. Indeed, the Minister said at the beginning of his second reading speech that by this Bill the Government intends -
In other words, these concessions are not an extension of entitlements for exservicemen but merely an attempt to maintain the relative value of entitlements paid to ex-servicemen generally. The R.S.L. has submitted to the Government - this submission has been provided to all members of the Parliament - an outline of the scheme that it desires. This scheme is commonly referred to as the R.S.L. pension plan. I think that the Minister for Repatriation said that if this scheme were implemented it would cost £16 million. We hear from time to time from Government supporters of the so-called prosperity of this nation, of loans being filled in record time, of healthy overseas trade balances, and of surpluses in Budgets brought down by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). If my memory serves me correctly, on the last occasion before the present Budget, although the Treasurer budgeted for a deficit of £134 million, there was a surplus of £16 million. The year before that, although he budgeted for a deficit of some £58 million, there was a surplus of £28 million. In view of the prosperity claimed from time to time by Government supporters, the ex-servicemen of this country are entitled to ask whether they are getting a fair go under the repatriation system.
I think it would be fair to say that all members of the Federal Parliament, irrespective of their political philosophies, would like to extend repatriation benefits to exservicemen as far as is possible, but the mattter really boils down to this: How much can be afforded by those who, for the time being, occupy the treasury bench? They appear to say that having regard to the overall financial commitments of the nation, what they have done is all that they can do at present. On the other hand, the Opposition, supported by the last congress of the Returned Servicemen’s League, says: “We think you can go further “.
– Would not any Opposition say that?
– 1 do not know what you would say in opposition, but I am telling you what we are saying at the present time. We are criticising the Government for not having gone further in this legislation.
Let us now consider one or two matters, very small so far as Government expenditure is concerned but large and important for the ex-serviceman. The ex-serviceman loses time from work to go through the departmental channels and the maze of repatriation tribunals, trying to obtain- a pension, and for this loss of time from work he is awarded 5s. an hour. On the basis of a 40-hour week that amounts to £10 a week. Having regard to the present cost structure of the community, and realising that the basic wage is £15 or £16 a week, the Opposition says that it is only reasonable and just that the hourly rate should be increased from 5s. to 8s., giving the equivalent of a wage of £16 a week. For a man who has suffered greatly in the defence of his country, I suggest that £10 a week, on the basis of 5s. an hour, does not meet his needs. Is the amount of 5s. an hour fair and reasonable? If the Government does not think it is fair and reasonable - as Opposition members certainly do not - then I suggest that the Government have another look at this matter. It is paradoxical that in the vast majority of cases ex-servicemen are better off for compensation under the various State and Federal industrial awards under which they work than they are under the repatriation system for compensation for injuries incurred in the service of their country. Many State and Federal awards and agreements under which workers in industry are engaged grant compensation benefits far in advance of the entitlements and benefits afforded to ex-servicemen under the repatriation system.
Another matter which causes great concern to ex-servicemen is the differentiation between in-patients of hospitals and outpatients in respect of the temporary and total incapacity pension. The rate under the Act for in-patients is £13 5s. .a week, whereas that for out-patients is merely £5 15s. a week. There is, of course, no differentiation in the payments to wives and dependants of in-patients and out-patients, but there is this disparity in the rates of the T.T.I, pension. This causes great concern to ex-servicemen.
There is also an anomaly in the pension paid to children of ex-servicemen. The pension is normally terminated on the occasion of a child’s sixteenth birthday, but last year provision was made for payments to student children under 18 years of age. Today this nation is crying out for greater expenditure on education, but the pension paid to a dependent child of an exserviceman, if the child is a student, ceases when he or she reaches 18 years. This, I suggest, causes great hardship to a student child, because in many instances the child, on reaching 18 years of age, is half-way through his or her. examinations and then has to consider the overall financial effect on the family if he or she continues at school. This also is of great concern to the father, the service pensioner. At 30th’ June last year there were about 2,000 children who were dependants of incapacitated exservicemen and 7,000 or 8,000 children of deceased ex-servicemen. For children who want to continue tertiary or academic training after the age of 18 years, cancellation of the allowance at that age is a great hardship. This, I suggest, is another instance of the Government failing to face up adequately to the needs and requirements of ex-servicemen and their dependent children. I suggest this matter should be looked at immediately. If the state of prosperity, about which we have heard so much from Government supporters, is so real, I suggest that now is the time to act. If nothing can be done in an era of prosperity, certainly when economic conditions arc not so good there will be no possibility of achieving amelioration.
Of course, there arc other anomalies to which I could refer. A matter, which I think my colleague Senator O’Byrne, mentioned earlier, is that there should be free hospitalisation for all ex-servicemen of the First World War. Senator O’Byrne mentioned that it is 50 years since the outbreak of the First World War. If an ex-serviceman enlisted at 18 years of age in 1914, he would be 68 years of age today. If he enlisted at 18 years of age at the end of the First World War, he would be 64 years of age today. All of these men either have reached the retiring age or will do so in the very near future. In the First World War this nation contributed greatly, at a very high cost to itself, to the defence of democracy. I think that about 330,000 Australians sailed for France, Egypt and Gallipoli in the First World War and that 95 per cent, became casualties. One in five was either killed in action or died subsequently of wounds. I suggest that for those who were fortunate enough to return and who are not at present in receipt of the benefits provided under the Repatriation Act, the least we can do is to extend free hospitalisation. After all, in many countries throughout the world free hospitalisation is extended to every man, woman and child. I suggest that, having regard to the infinitesimal cost involved in extending free hospitalisation to exservicemen who served in the First World War and who are not at the present receiving repatriation benefits, the Government could well have a look at this matter. I think that Senator Wright, when Senator O’Byrne was speaking, asked how many people were involved.
– What I wanted to know was the number of returned personnel of the First World War who are still with us. I wanted to know the total number of potential pensioners.
– I think that if you refer to the debate that took place on the Repatriation Bill in September of last year you will find that the present Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) said that there were some 100,000 survivors of the First World War, 84,000 of whom were entitled to a pension. That indicates that there are 16.000 ex-servicemen of the First World War who are still alive and not receiving repatriation benefits at all. Having regard to the age they have reached and to the service they gave to this nation, I suggest that the least we can do is to grant free hospitalisation to these people, again keeping in mind the infinitesimal cost involved.
– There would be the added advantage that they would be with their mates in repatriation hospitals.
– Yes. Many of them are of an agc when they are living on their memories and enjoy the company of their mates. When they are with their mates they revive memories of the good times and the bad times they had in the First World War. This is of great benefit from a therapeutic point of view.
– I think the figure of 16,000 you gave is a little low. I think it is 40,000.
– I am interested in the figures. Where are they stated?
– I think you will find that they are contained in the speech’ of Senator Paltridge on the Repatriation Bill, reported in “Hansard” of 19th September 1963. This matter was dealt with by the R.S.L. at its Congress in 1962. The R.S.L. stated in its 47th annual report -
The League believes that the lime is now opportune for a further extension to take place providing general repatriation hospitalisation for all ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 and prior wars.
It has not been possible to assess accurately the number of people who could be affected by this provision. However, it is important to note that a very large number of ex-service men and women in this category are already service pensioners and a further percentage are in receipt of these benefits as part of their entitlement for accepted disabilities.
The report went on to state -
The League has stated before that there are many cases particularly associated with service in the 1914-18 war where, by virtue of complete absence of evidence, it has been impossible to establish connection of a complaint with a member’s war service. There also seems to be a growing tendency amongst some repatriation medical officers to overlook the extremes of hardship of war service and to require a very specific occurrence before acceptance of the complaint is recommended. The League believes that the general effect of war service is cumulative and must contribute to the premature onset of many complaints. This principle was recognised by the Federal Parliament when it introduced the service pension into the Repatriation Act
It is held that all the reasons supporting the introduction of the service pension equally support the extension of repatriation hospitalisation to personnel of the First World War and prior wars. The number is this category grows less each year.
I think that my colleague, Senator O’Byrne, indicated that it was stated in this year’s annual report of the R.S.L. that the number had dwindled by some 3,000. The 47th report went on to state -
They have all rendered outstanding service to the nation in time of war.
The R.S.L. believes that the extension of this benefit is a richly deserved entitlement and one that Australia can well afford.
Those words are very apt, and I can do no more, on behalf of the Opposition, than say that we on this side of the House wholeheartedly endorse the proposals contained in the report.
I come now to the oft quoted section 47 of the Repatriation Act. I know that for the purposes of record I should read the section. It is as follows -
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 -
Having regard to that section, having regard to the passage which I read in the 47th annual report of the R.S.L. where it was contended that the effect of conditions brought about by war service was cumulative, and having regard to the figures that are set out in the last annual report of the R.S.L., I suggest that the amendment which will be proposed by the Opposition at the Committee stage, and which incidentally has the support of the League, should be very carefully considered by the Senate.
– I do not want to interrupt you, but I point out that at the second reading stage you are debating some amendments which have not been circulated. In a sense, we are flying blind. I do not mind your raising the matter at this stage, but I suggest that you should circulate your amendments so we can see what you are talking about. Otherwise, I might have to take the point that you should confine yourself to the scope of a second reading debate.
– I foreshadowed the amendments. I have not moved them yet.
– We do not know what they are, but we are being asked to consider them.
– When he was leading for the Opposition, Senator O’Byrne foreshadowed certain amendments.
– What will be the nature of the amendment in relation to the onus of proof?
– It will be exactly the same as the amendment we moved last year. Wewill move that the following words be added to section 47 -
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.
– Now pay some respect to the argument that I submitted in reply on that occasion.
– We will pay respect to it at the Committee stage. As to the onus of proof provisions generally, let us look at some figures which were published in the 48th annual report of the National Executive of the R.S.L. showing the disposal of cases in which appeals have been lodged to Assessment Appeal Tribunals. In relation to the First World War, a total of 76,430 cases were received, of which 38,448 were rejected.
– Where does that information appear?
– It appears at page 12 of the report to which I have just referred. In other words, approximately 50 per cent, of the cases received were rejected. In relation to the Second World War, 135,386 cases were received and 49,464 were rejected. A quick mathematical calculation indicates that approximately 35 per cent, of the cases received were rejected. Now let us look at the position in relation to the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. The last tabulation on page 12 of the report shows that in respect of the First World War 65,414 cases were received and 50,803 were rejected. In relation to the Second World War, 66,714 cases were received and 48,133 were rejected. In other words, 74 or 75 per cent, of the cases were rejected.
An article on this subject which was written by Mr. Kevin Starr was published in the August 1964 issue of “ Reveille “, which is the organ of the N.S.W. Branch of the R.S.L. It bears the heading “The War Pensions Entitlement Tribunals - And You “. J* think that for the purposes of the record I should quote a passage from the article. It reads -
How DOES an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal go about deciding an appeal? We just do not know, much as we would like to.
Time after time Ministers of Repatriation have refused to give any information as to how these tribunals operate on the ground that the tribunals are “ quasi-judicial “, therefore there can be no interference by the Minister.
Is the Minister right? He, too, is dead wrong.
Let it be made clear, that the overriding consideration in a democratic country is the intention of the Parliament which brought down the legislation to set up the entire repatriation system. A study of Federal Parliamentary “ Hansard “ over the period of thirty-five years since the appeals system was set up shows beyond any doubt that Members of Parliament of all shades of political belief were as one in their determination to ensure that the onus of proof that a disability claimed was not due to war service was to rest on the Repatriation Commission.
In other words, when a claim for repatriation benefits was lodged, that claim must be accepted unless the Repatriation Commission can prove (prove mark you)-
The article emphasises the word “ prove “ - that the disability claimed was not due to war service.
This is very generous legislation, and Parliament intended that it should be generous. Not merely just, but truly generous. Are the diggers and the widows reaping the benefit of this generosity? The answer is “ No “. In fact, some are not even getting justice.
That article was written by a man who has given a lifetime of service to the interests of ex-servicemen. I suggest that the Government should take cognisance of those very important words.
The Opposition welcomes the increases that are provided for in the Bill to restore relativity, as was indicated by the Minister at the commencement of his second reading speech. Those increases will be paid to men who have sacrificed much in the service of their country. But, because of the change in the age of beneficiaries who served in the First World War and the Second World War, because of the change in their responsibilities, and because of the alteration of the pattern of society between the time when they first returned from service and the present time, there should be a complete review of the repatriation system. We might well look at conditions which obtain in other countries and, in the interests of those who have made sacrifices for this great nation, bring our system up to date.
– I listened very carefully to Senator McClelland and I believe that he quite genuinely thinks that more should be done for the man who has served this country and, because of that service, has suffered in health or has a disability, and for his family. The honorable senator has put forward an argument backed by a good deal of detail from ex-servicemen’s organisations as to why the Government should do more for this section of the people. In a newspaper today, I read a report from Queensland of a statement by Sir Raymond Huish, making the point that the Federal Government had accepted for inclusion in legislation seven out of nine submissions by the Returned Servicemen’s League.
The honorable senator and many more like him who sit on the Opposition benches no doubt have a great interest in the affairs of ex-servicemen. I know that many of them serve on the ex-servicemen’s committee or repatriation committee of their party and put in a great deal of time looking into the problems of those people, but I should like to remind him that we on this side of the Senate, both men and women, also are vitally interested in this subject. Wc have our committees and we have put in a great deal of time looking into the problems of repatriation as we see them. In addition, many men and women outside this Parliament, from all parts of Australia, have given up their leisure time in order to devote it to an examination of these problems. I believe that we do this over and above our parliamentary duties because of our direct experience of war and its consequences. Therefore, it is only natural for us to be vitally concerned with the problem of repatriation.
Having said that, let me state that I believe it becomes the responsibility of all of us, both inside this Parliament and outside it, to devote a lot more of our time in the near future to these problems of exservicemen and to repatriation in general. 1 say this because we, as a group of exservicemen, are getting old. Because of that, we are finding, through the stresses of everyday life, that problems are arising which can be traced back to our war service. Another aspect is that as the years go by there is an increase in the proportion of people who have very little recollection of war and its consequences, and who perhaps do not even know anything about war and the pain and suffering that it has caused. Because these people have not had this experience, they cannot be expected to think along the same lines as we do. Therefore, my belief is that we who have been through these experiences must be even more careful: in the way in which we approach these problems. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I make this statement on behalf of the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) who is making it in another place.
Between 25th and 30th October of this year a Congress, said to be for International Co-operation and Disarmament, is to be held in Sydney. The purpose of my statement today is to make clear the relationship of the organisation and aims of this Congress to the Communist Parly and the World Peace Council.
A brochure authorised by the Chairman of the Provisional Committee of the Congress has been issued inviting public support. This- brochure states -
In 1959, there was held in Melbourne the Australian and New Zealand Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament. Following this - Congress, State continuing committees were formed to carry on its work. In February 1964, representatives of these committees decided to convene a panel of citizens to form a Provisional Sponsoring Committee to begin preliminary planning for a national Congress in October 1964.
Thus the Congress to be held next month is the direct successor of the one held in Melbourne in 1959. On 10th November 1959, in answer to a question in the House of Representatives, the former AttorneyGeneral stated the Government’s view about the Melbourne Congress as follows -
The Government’s concern in connexion with the Congress is to see that those who were minded to associate themselves with it, particularly in the capacity of Sponsor, should be aware of its relationship to the Communist Party and in particular the World Peace Council, the Stockholm Congress, Sweden, ‘ and the Australian Peace Council.
Attention had previously been drawn to the well known Communist tactic of obtaining a broad sponsorship of well known people who, unaware of the real purposes of the activity, are persuaded to lend their names to what, on the face of it, might appear a worthy cause. They were thus able to make a judgment as to whether to sponsor or participate, clearly knowing the circumstances, and it will be recalled that, in the event, there were some very significant withdrawals.
I wish to reiterate the salient points, recorded fully in “ Hansard “, page 2524 et seq., of 10th November 1959 -
The Melbourne Congress was held with the full support of the World Peace Council. The former Attorney-General said that the indications were that the Communist Party of Australia would support the Congress strongly. The degree of control which the Communist Party exercised over the Congress is indicated by the fact that it succeeded in defeating all resolutions which did not conform with the party line. Resolutions so defeated included -
Among the officers of this 1 959 Congress were: Chairman, the Rev. Alfred Dickie;
Vice Chairman, the Rev. Frank Hartley; Organising Secretary, Samuel Goldbloom.
The 1959 Congress was retained as a permanent body with continuing State Committees in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. These Committees have been preparing for the Sydney Congress next month. In February 1964 a joint meeting of the continuing State Committees decided -
While avoiding sectarian intrusion of the issue, we Communists make no secret of the fact that we will certainly play an active part in helping make this Congress a powerful success just as we play an active part in any genuine movement for peace.
The Rev. Alfred Dickie, the Rev. Frank Hartley and Geoffrey Anderson were again among those elected to the Provisional Sponsoring Committee. World Peace Council members on this Committee were the Rev. Alfred Dickie, the Rev. Frank Hartley and Mrs. Edna Hutchesson. A National Sponsoring Committee was “ elected “ in July to direct and organise the Congress. Geoffrey Anderson, who has a long association with Communist peace movements, is Joint Secretary; Samuel Goldbloom is a Joint Treasurer. The Rev. Alfred Dickie is Chairman ofthe State Sponsoring Committee in Victoria. A member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia, William Parkinson, is on the Committee. A member of the World Peace Council, the Rev. Allan Brand, is one of the Vice-Chairmen. During the past year there has been continuous contact between Australia and the World Peace Council in Europe. Various meetings of this Council have been attended by the Rev. Alfred Dickie, the Rev. Frank Hartley and Geoffrey Anderson and by members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia, namely William Eric Gollan and Freda Yetta Brown.
The importance of the coming Congress to World Peace Council plans has been stressed in the May 1964 issue of (he “ Bulletin of the World Council of Peace “. In referring to a World Peace Congress scheduled to be held in 1965, the Presidential Committee urged National Peace Committees to step up their preparatory activities by holding National Congresses or Conferences. Professor Bernal, Chairman of the Presidential Committee of the World Peace Council emphasised the importance of co-ordinated or synchronised action in Southern Latin America and in Australasia. The Communist Party of Australia is taking an equally great interest in the coming Australian Congress. In the Communist Party of Australia’s journal “ Communist Review “ of June 1964, W. J. Brown, Secretary of the Sydney District Committee of the Party and a member of its Central Committee said - . . to initiate the convertings of a representative panel of citizens to form a Provisional Sponsoring Committee for the preparatory planning ofan Australian Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament to be held in Sydney this year.
Further, Central Committee member, Alec Robertson, its reported in the “Communist Review” of December 1963, said - . . our policy and practical mass experience in Australia arc a powerful basis for the possibility of an important contribution by our Party and people to the winning of world disarmament and peace through such concrete partial goals . . in particular, the struggles against French nuclear tests in the South Pacific, against United States Bases in Australia, and for a nuclear-free Southern Hemisphere, are among the most important.
The Communist Party of Australia, in its Draft Resolution of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of Australia, has said of the “ peace “ movement -
The Communists play an active part in this movement … By patient and painstaking work, the Communists have already helped to broaden the peace movement in Australia.
Communists put forward their own views that Imperialism is the cause of war, that United States imperialism is the main threat to peace, that, Socialism is the only way permanently to abolish war . . . Communists work for commonly agreed aims in the conviction that experience along with explanation of the fundamental Communist views on war and peace, will finally bring - peace lovers of other views to the same conclusions.
Another Communist Party of Australia spokesman, Central Committee member W. E. Gollan, has been very frank in describing that Party’s “ peace “ policy and its tactics in guiding the Australian “ peace “ movement. Writing in the international Communist journal, “Peace, Freedom and Socialism “, previously the “ World Marxist Review”, in the issue for July 1963, on The Peace Movement in Australia, he set out the Party’s policy and tactics, with particular reference to the way it organises the genuine peace organisations in Australia to co-operate with the Peace Committees in “ … developing the mass movement in religious and intellectual circles “, and so to “ … help to arm the peace movement ideologically and to strengthen it against the vacillations and uncertainties that flow from its character as an association of diverse social forces”. This ideological armament is designed to turn the peace movement into a mechanism concerned only to disseminate the foreign policy of the government of the Soviet union under cover of the specific aims of “… preventing world war and of safeguarding world peace “.
The proposed Australian Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament is the latest national “ peace “ function organised by the Communist influenced “peace” movement in Australia. As the creature of the World Peace Movement, the Congress will be concerned, not with true peace, but with the furtherance of -
That is from “ Peace, Freedom and Socialism” of July 1963.. The brochure seeking support, for the Congress lists rather more more than one hundred sponsors. Twenty persons known to be sponsors, from this brochure and otherwise have been identified as members of the Communist Party and five as members of the Party’s Central Committee. The objective of achieving a broader basis is indicated by a document described as a “supplement to the Australian Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament Brochure “ which has been issued and which I have just seen. This purports to show the number of sponsors as at 20th August 1964, listing rather more than five hundred names. This emphasises the need . to make public the matters contained in this statement.
The organisers of the forthcoming Congress have stated in Congress publications that: “ . . . the cost of the Congress is estimated at over £20,000, including hospitality for international guests”. Each State will be allotted a quota which the various State Sponsoring Committees will endeavour to raise. Indications are that they will call on and work with the existing network of “ peace “ organisations in each State in order to raise funds by means such as donations and interest free loans from individuals and organisations, and by the sale of Congress badges, literature and other kinds of propaganda material. Further, sponsors and delegates themselves will be used to raise funds, either individually or through organisations they represent or are active in such as trade unions, churches, the Communist Party of Australia, and other interested bodies. In this regard, Committees of Trade Unionists are already being organised to whip up interest and support for the Congress, while the Communist Party of Australia’s various front organisations, including the Union of Australian Women and the Eureka Youth League, are active for the same purpose.
In relation to overseas guests invited to attend the Congress, the Provisional Sponsoring Committee will “ endeavour to enlist an International team embracing the countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, East and West Europe, U.S.A., New Zealand and the Pacific Islands “. It may be that for financial reasons only one guest will be invited from each country, and the Committee has expressed the hope that “. . . national peace movements from some of the African, Asian, Latin American and Socialist countries would be prepared to lend financial assistance for international guests of our choosing to come from their respective countries “.
The Melbourne Congress was called the Australian and New Zealand Congress, but the Sydney Congress excludes the words “ New Zealand “. This reflects the split between China and the Soviet Union which has occurred in the intervening years. The New Zealand Communist Party supports China and its “ peace “ programme against that of the Soviet Union. It, together with the pro-China Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) which broke away from the Moscow oriented Communist Party of Australia, are not supporting the Sydney Congress. Honorable senators will appreciate that it is necessary for the Government to ensure that all those who are invited to participate in, or to sponsor the Congress, should be aware of the true position.
I present the following paper -
Australian Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament - Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 403).
– Before this debate was interrupted I was talking about the importance of the responsibility that rests on us, as members of the Parliament, to see that extensive investigations are carried out into the Repatriation Act. I think that we must first have a look at what repatriation means. The first purpose of any repatriation system is to offset the difficulties of those who have suffered as a result of war service or, in the case of those who have died as a result of war service, to make adequate provision for their dependants. I believe that a repatriation system should also include provision for payments and benefits for disabilities which perhaps are not directly related to war service but can be traced back to the stresses of war. Those are the bases of a repatriation system, and those are the bases on which our system rests.
Under the Repatriation Act, thousands of men and women in this country have received, and are receiving, financial assistance, together with medical treatment and attention. I believe that if we examine the Act and study all the benefits made available under it we realise that ex-service men and women are receiving much assistance. I think it can be stated confidently that the Australian repatriation system as a whole is superior to the repatriation system of any other country. I know that some of the members of the Opposition would dispute this, and I do not want it to be thought for a moment that I and my colleagues on this side believe that the system is perfect. We all know from our experience with those people who come to see us that there are a great number of cases on which it is hard to adjudicate, but my experience has been that when I have taken up the case of a person whose claim for a pension has been knocked back and I have sought information on the case I have received the greatest of assistance from the departmental officers. In many cases it has been evident that the officers have gone out of their way to try to bring applicants into the scheme somewhere, so that they would receive the benefits for which they had applied. However, there are the cases referred to by
Senator McClelland, which come within the classification of “ onus of proof “ cases. These are very difficult. I shall have more to say about this later.
This Bill is designed to give effect to certain Budget proposals. As has been said, the Budget provides for a total of £122 million for repatriation services. Increases have been made in many pensions. I do not want to go through them all, because they were mentioned in the second reading speech of the Minister and have been referred to by other speakers. However, I would make the passing comment that the increase of 10s. a week in the T.P.I, pension has lifted that pension to £14 5s. a week. It is payable to those whose warcaused incapacity is such as to prevent them from earning a living wage. It is also paid to the war blinded, to exservicemen who are temporarily totally incapacitated, and to certain sufferers from tuberculosis. An increase of 5s. a week is proposed for war widows, bringing their total pension up to £6 a week. The general rate pension is also increased by 5s bringing it to £6 a week.
The general tenor of the remarks by Opposition speakers is that the rates are too low. Senator McClelland spoke of the ex-serviceman who had to go to see a doctor and who received only 5s. an hour for his time, or the equivalent of £10 a week. Senator McClelland claimed that this was too low. I point out that, as parliamentarians, we are responsible for seeing that all sections of the community arc treated equally. I remind him that the people who served at the front were not the only people who served during the last war. I can think of people who worked in munitions factories, in aircraft factories and in shipbuilding yards. The question immediately comes to my mind: What happens to those people, who did important jobs, if they find themselves ill and want to go to a doctor? Is any payment made to them? This is a point we must bear in mind when we are looking not only at repatriation benefits but also at social service benefits.
I remind honorable senators that there have been substantial increases in benefits over the years that this Government has been in power. I think the present rates arc not unreasonable in comparison with present economic conditions and the general standards of the community. Senator McClelland said that he did not think they were reasonable. Perhaps he was speaking for all members of his party. The Labour Party suggests that a joint committee should be appointed to look into all the benefits that are provided under this Act.
I would have no objection to a committee being set up to examine all aspects of repatriation if I felt there was justification, but in my view it would be a complete waste of time. I agree with Senator Marriott that such a committee would become more or less political, and politics should be kept out of the national question of repatriation. As a further argument against its establishment, I mention that the Labour Party and the Government parties and all exservicemen’s organisations have their own repatriation committees. I believe that because of the representations made to the Government over the years the repatriation system has been raised to a standard where it is perhaps the best in the world. As an honorable senator said last year, after reading the evidence placed before a committee some people would say that some exservicemen were receiving too many benefits. Instead of helping ex-servicemen you would find that in some cases you would be reducing the benefits that they receive. I cannot see any justification for the formation of a committee of the type suggested.
In today’s edition of a Brisbane newspaper is a report that Sir Raymond Huish has said that the representations of the R.S.L. to the Government have been successful in seven out of nine cases through this year’s Budget. It seems that the League is being granted most of its requests. Surely an organisation like the Returned Servicemen’s League is not backward in asking for everything that it thinks would be of benefit to its members.
Senator McClelland referred to the onus of proof clause and, in answer to an interjection, said that the Labour Party was repeating its argument of last year. I remind honorable senators that discussion on this point took a great deal of time at the Committee stage last year. The Government stood firm on the point that the matter had been explained to the Parliament by two
Attorneys-General - Senator Spicer and Sir Garfield Barwick. It was . explained that claims and appeals are decided according to natural justice and the merits of the cases, and the determining authorities are not bound by technicalities, legal forms or the laws of evidence. The matter has been taken out of the hands of the Minister and placed in the hands of the determining authorities and appeal tribunals. All the members of the determining authorities are ex-servicemen who have had service overseas. For appointment- to a Repatriation Board, the Repatriation Commission and each War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal one member is selected from a list of names submitted by ex-servicemen’s organisations. The Government has gone a step further and the Chairmen of the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal and the War Pensions and Assessment Appeal Tribunal are qualified lawyers. The present provisions ensure the full and sympathetic application of the legislation. I do not think anything could bc fairer than that.
It is not surprising that misunderstandings arise when representations are made by ex-servicemen and instead of the onus of proof being related to whether a particular case should be accepted, in the minds of the applicants the onus of proof provision is related to the decision made by a particular tribunal. In other words, if after hearing all the evidence and studying the case thoroughly the members of the Tribunal are in doubt, their decision should be given in favour of the ex-serviceman. What could be fairer?
I believe that again this year the Government has made a genuine attempt to see that the people who benefit under the Repatriation Act are well cared for. When all the benefits are considered, it seems to me, these people are receiving just treatment. Believing that to be so, I support the bill.
.- I welcome the opportunity again to address my remarks to amendments that are made each year to the repatriation legislation. I am fully aware that each year the Government takes some action in the field of repatriation. The bill before us provides an opportunity for us to stress what we believe to be a matter of very grave concern lo the people of Australia because of the anomalies that still exist in the application of repatriation benefits. With all sincerity I suggest that even Government supporters must admit that anomalies still exist in the organisation of the Repatriation Commission and in the operation of the repatriation legislation generally.
It is the intention of the Labour Party to continue to stress the need for removal of the anomalies on every occasion we are given an opportunity to do so. I have been generous enough to admit that each year the Government effects some improvement in the lot- of ex-servicemen. We must remember that in 1949, when the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was the Leader of the Opposition, he said - and I do not doubt his sincerity - that if his party was elected to. office repatriation would be its great, grave and proud responsibility. I give him full credit for that statement and I am not trying to be critical on a party basis when I say that the Government has not done all it could have done in the field- of repatriation.
Senator Drake-Brockman made a remark 1 expected to hear from at least one or two Government senators - that the Australian Repatriation Act is the best in the world. I do npt care two hoots whether the system is the best in the world. We can still improve it. I have not one iota of concern for conditions in the field of repatriation in overseas countries. Naturally we want to see them as good as they possibly can be, but we are dealing now with repatriation generally in Australia.
Improvements to the repatriation system have been made, but we have to remember that with’ each passing year differing problems arise for ex-servicemen. Men who served in World War II are growing older each year- while the men who served in World War I are entering their declining years. They are decreasing in numbers. Their need becomes greater with the passing of every year. We have to take note of that fact. I appeal to Government senators to realise that we should not deal with this matter in a parsimonious fashion. We cannot assess in terms of pounds, shillings and pence our debt to the ex-service personnel of both world wars. There are many other matters that are vitally concerned with the welfare of ex-service personnel at the present time.
Senator O’Byrne foreshadowed some amendments that the Opposition proposes to move at the Committee stage. I do not intend to speak at any great length during the second reading debate because I think that what I want to say can more effectively be dealt with at the Committee stage when the amendments are before us. 1 want to mention the matter of hospitalisation. I am generous enough to believe, quite sincerely, that every member of the Senate is sympathetic towards the needs of ex-service personnel. But, for goodness sake, let us take this matter out of the realm of party politics. When Senator McClelland was speaking I heard Senator Scott interject: “What would you do if you were the Government? “ By this interjection he indicated clearly that he at all events takes a party view of this matter. I admit that the Government under this measure has increased the monetary benefits for ex-service personnel to a slight de- gree, but there are many other aspects to be considered. One of these aspects is hospitalisation. Is any honorable senator on the Government side prepared to stand up and say that ex-service personnel, particularly personnel from World War I, are not entitled to hospitalisation and medical treatment, irrespective of whether they have a repatriation entitlement?
– I -am.
– Is any. Government senator prepared to say in this chamber that those men are not entitled to hospitalisation and medical treatment?
– I am.
– Are you prepared to tell your ex-service organisations that you do not believe that exservicemen in the category I have referred to are entitled to hospitalisation and medical benefits?
– At this stage, yes.
– ‘Well, you are one in a million. I am not a betting man but I would lay a shade of odds that none of your colleagues would be with you. They would disown you on that aspect. It is rather significant that we are debating this question on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, and only a month after the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. Honorable senators can imagine the state of the health of ex-servicemen of World War I at the present time. I have personal experience on this point. I could go on at great length and indicate the horrors and the bell on earth that ex-servicemen, particularly those who fought in World War I, went through. World War I, with its ramifications, was a completely different war from World War II. Ex-servicemen in the First World War were confined to comparatively small areas for weeks or months at a time in dirty, stinking, lousy trenches. They were up to their knees in mud, and the air was polluted by the stench of decomposing human bodies. They spent months at a time in that kind of atmosphere. Yet, Senator Marriott is prepared to go out, so he says, and tell ex-servicemen’s organisations that those men are not entitled to hospitalisation or medical care. There are thousands of men in this category today. They were only too glad to get away from the Services as soon as they possibly could. They made no calls on the Repatriation Department. They did not bother to do that because they were in comparatively good health. But in their declining years sickness and disabilities have caught up with them. Who can say that those sicknesses and disabilities were not at least in some way caused by their war service?
Yet, Senator Marriott is prepared to go out and say that the thousands of men who fall into this category in Australia today are not entitled to hospitalisation and medical treatment. I venture to say that Senator Marriott is one of the few people who would help in closing the hospital doors on these men and, in effect, by his action cast them into the wilderness.
– There are plenty of other hospitals.
– That is what Senator Marriott said. He cannot get away from his statement. He has identified himself as being opposed to these men securing some of the things they were promised when they enlisted.
– He did not say anything of the sort; you are misrepresenting him.
– I am sorry if I am interrupting you.
– You are not man enough to tell the truth. That is the trouble.
– Then repeat what what you said.
– I said that I did not agree to repatriation hospitalisation for ex-servicemen except for war caused disabilities.
– I have related the position to you. If you would only listen to what I am saying you would learn something. Did you not grasp what I said? I said there were thousands of men who, for various reasons were only too anxious to get away from the military forces when they returned to Australia. Because of comparatively good health over the years, they have not gone near the Repatriation Department to establish a repatriation entitlement. Now, various sicknesses and disabilities which could be justifiably attributed to war service, or said to be aggravated by War service, are catching up with them. Has that sunk into your thick skull? Do you st Ml persist in denying medical treatment to that class of person?
I know what I am talking about, because I know of hundreds of men who are in that category. Yet, you would deny them a bed. You would help in closing the doors of the repatriation hospitals to these men in spite of the fact that the disabilities they are suffering from can at least be said to have been aggravated by war service. Who can deny that?
– That is what the onus qf proof provision is for.
– I will come to that matter in a few minutes. The Opposition will have quite a lot to say on the onus of proof particularly at the Committee stages. I appeal sincerely and genuinely to honorable senators on the Government side to exclude repatriation from party politics. Remember those heroes of yesteryear who, when they enlisted for service, were promised everything that could be obtained for them. They were the men who, I repeat, went through hell on earth in the defence of this country. I refer particularly to those who fought in the First World War. Iti doing so, I am not discrediting in any way the efforts of the mcn who fought iti the Second World War. But it happens that I am conversant with the conditions of ;the First World War and the state of affairs that prevailed then. The Second World War was fought under entirely different conditions.
Who can deny the rights of these heroes whom we honour in song and verse? Yet, Senator Marriott - I am glad to see that nobody else on the Government side has so far supported him - would deny them a hospital bed and medical treatment in their declining years. He would close the door of repatriation hospitals to these men. He would say, in effect, that because they had not bothered the Repatriation Department over the years, arid had not obtained repatriation entitlements, they should fend for themselves. If this concession were made - and I honestly think it could be - hospitalisation and medical treatment for ex-service personnel of the First World War in repatriation hospitals would not have to be compulsory. Not all people in that category wanting hospital treatment and medical attention would have to go to a repatriation hospital; they could please themselves.
– Have you any idea of how many there would be?
– I do not know. I think the number mentioned in the debate earlier this afternoon was a little over 10,000.
– I think 16,000 was the figure given to us by Senator McClelland.
– I think it was somewhere in the fairly low thousands. The number would be very difficult to assess, but are we going to quibble over that? When the First World War started there was no conscription, no compulsion, and an appeal was made to everyone. Servicemen were promised everything on their return.
I divorce this question entirely from party politics. I am not concerned with what political party has been remiss in its treatment of ex-service personnel. I think we should be much more generous, particularly to the survivors of World War I, who are reaching the stage where they have not much longer to live. We should do everything we possibly can for them. lt is absolutely tragic to measure the benefits we make available to ex-service personnel in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. The interest payable to people who invested in war bonds is sacrosanct - it is a first charge on revenue - but the human wrecks of war who are in desperate need of hospitalisation and medical care are not, entitled, according to some people, to that treatment in their declining years. I wish to impress upon Government senators that I think they are mistaken in following party lines on this matter. It should be divorced entirely from party politics. Government supporters say in effect that they have done all they can, but I suggest that there are many things that can be done for the comfort and the care of ex-service personnel of the two world wars. I refer particularly to hospitalisation and medical treatment for personnel of the First Word War.
The Bill we are discussing makes provision for certain increases in payments, but even with these increases the payments are totally inadequate. Take, for instance, the payment to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Although they are totally and permanently incapacitated, the payment to these men today is less than the basic wage. Do honorable senators opposite think that is fair? Do they think that is just treatment for men who have suffered in health and in spirit to the extent that they are now totally and permanently incapacitated? Honorable senators opposite say that something less than the basic wage is sufficient for men who have reached that stage of physical disability and are unable to accept any employment at all.
The T.P.I, pension rate has been raised from £13 15s. a week to £14 5s. a week, and the allowance to the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner from 35s. 6d. to £2 Os. 6d. a week. What a generous allocation for the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner. In thousands of cases - 1 would say in almost all cases - these women are heroines. They are looking after husbands who are totally incapacitated and incapable of looking after themselves. They are caring for their husbands in their homes, and thus saving the Government hundreds of thousands of pounds that it would otherwise have to spend to have these men cared for in hospitals. Notwithstanding this, these women are given only £2 Os. 6d. a week.
With the T.P.I, pension at £14 5s. the payment of £2 Os. 6d. to the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner makes the amount payable to a man and his wife under £17.
– It is £16 5s. 6d.
– Tha t is right. They are permitted to receive social services payments up to a ceiling of £18. I think I have said in the Senate before that I cannot understand why the payments made to a T.P.I. pensioner and his wife are not consolidated. Instead of paying the T.P.I, ex-serviceman £14 5s. and his wife £2 Os. 6d., and then permitting them to receive social service payments to bring their income up to a total of £18, why not consolidate the various payments at the ceiling rate? By doing that the Government would save thousands of pounds in administration costs alone and it would enable the T.P.I, pension rate to be taken up to what at the present time is called the ceiling rate.
Other classes of repatriation pensions are to be increased under this Bill. It is claimed that the Government is doing a lot. I give it credit for whatever it is doing now and for whatever it proposes to do in the future. If the Government gives benefits to exservicemen and their dependants, I will give it full credit for that. It is interesting to note, comparing the T.P.I, pension with the basic wage, how the ratio between the pension and the basic wage has decreased. The same is true of other payments. In 1920 the wife of a T.P.I. ex-serviceman received 18s. a week. At the present time, with the addition of the 5s. to be paid under this measure, this allowance will be £2 Os. 6d. That is an increase of 22s. 6d. over a period of 44 years. In 1920 the T.P.I, pension was 9s. in excess of the then existing basic wage. By 1955 it had fallen to 51s. below the basic wage of 1955, and in 1959 it had fallen to 54s. below the basic wage. Under the present legislation the special rate pension will be £1 3s. a week less than the basic wage. Then general rate pension is to be increased by 5s. to £6 a week. Reverting back to the T.P.I, pension of £14 5s. a week and the wife’s allowance of £2 Os. 6d. a week, some, if not all, of the increase of 10s. a week in the T.P.I, pension rate could be taken away by reduction of social service payments. Again we have the pensioners being given 10s. with one hand and 2s. 6d. or 5s. being taken from them with the other hand. That is completely unfair. I repeat that I cannot understand why the Government has not increased the T.P.I, pension rate to the ceiling limit.
There are several matters that I could mention, but I shall reserve for the Committee stage what I want to say on the amendments that have been foreshadowed. If, 1 dealt with them at any length now I would have to go over the ground again at the Committee stage. So far as I can, I shall discuss the whole ambit of the repatriation organisation in the limited time available to me.
Mention was made by Senator .DrakeBrockman of the onus of proof. Of course this will be dealt with more fully in theamendments at the Committee stage. This matter has been a bone of contention over the years, and still is. What I am about to say will be said with absolute conviction and without fear of contradiction. I shall not be casting any reflection whatever on the personnel pf the Repatriation Department from the highest to the lowest level. In any matters that I have referred to the Department. I have received the most expeditious service. The officers of the Department are excellent, and so are the personnel of the various tribunals. I do not want to cast any reflection on their integrity or their honesty. It cannot be denied that, in actual pratice, the onus of proof has never rested on the Department. I know of thousands of cases in which men have appeared before the Tribunals with sworn evidence, but their applications have been rejected and no reasons have been given. The applications have been rejected in spite of sworn medical evidence to the effect that the disabilities either were caused by or aggravated by war service. The Tribunals have knocked them back literally in thousands.
I repeat that I am not casting any aspersions on the members of these Tribunals because I really think that they consider they are there to save the Department as much as they can in pension payments. They are not callous, but they take the natural view that they are there to reject as many cases as they possibly can. I am not saying that by way of criticism, but that is the way it works. It is not the way in which the Parliament and the government of the day intended it to work. The Curtin Government amended the Repatriation Act in 1943. Section 47 of the Act states -
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. . . .
That was the intention of the Parliament. I am not suggesting that -it is not the intention of the present Government, but it is not being administered in that way at the present time. Again I hasten to repeat that I am not casting a reflection on anybody at all in- this regard.
Mention was made, I think by Senator Drake-Brockman, of what Mr. Justice Spicer said when he was AttorneyGeneral. He said, with regard to the onus of proof -
Ordinarily. the onus lies on the party who makes the claim to prove the facts necessary to support it. Thus, unless otherwise prescribed by Parliament, the onus would be upon the claimant for a pension under the Repatriation Act to establish that the necessary conditions are fulfilled.
I want the Senate to note this -
In the Repatriation Act, .Parliament has completely reversed the normal process.
Instead of the onus of proof resting on the applicant to prove his case, Parliament has completely reversed the normal process in section 47, which is the vexatious section that we debate almost every year. Mr. Justice Spicer went on to say -
It has expressly declared in section 47 -
That it shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application, or appeal; and
that in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority opposing . the claim, application or appeal.
He continued -
The effect of this is that it is nol for the claimant to prove that he is entitled to a pension, but it is for any opposing person or authority to prove that he is not entitled. In every case the question is not: Has the claimant satisfied the tribunal (hat he is right? but: Has the opposing person or authority satisfied the tribunal that the claimant is wrong?
Of course, the claimant may find himself in a position in which it is greatly in his own interest to supply evidence in support of his claim.
Of course, that is obvious. 1 say in all sincerity that I have had cases placed before me - and I know that most honorable senators in this chamber have had the same experience - of people who have gone before the Tribunals and have been subjected almost to third degree interrogation. One person whom I know has a very thick file in the Repatriation Department. He is over 80 years of age at the present time. He has been fighting the Department for years. His name is Mr. Whiston. He has told me he does not mind if I mention his name. Apparently his name is anathema to some of the Repatriation Department officials because of his insistence over the years. He has given me proof that particularly over the last few years he has written numerous letters to the Minister for Repatriation and the Department. He claims that he has had no reply to them. Obviously the personnel who comprise the Tribunals differ in their approach, but he has told me that he was asked by a member of a Tribunal: “Why don’t you try to get into an old men’s home? “ He was claiming recognition of the effects of poison gits. I know what poison gas is. I have had a tummy full of it, but not sufficient for me to be evacuated. That was the position in which he was placed’. Thousands of men were in that category. They got large whiffs of it but not sufficient for them to be evacuated at the time. Therefore the fact does not appear on their records. It did not appear on his record. Although he was told by eminent medical men that poison gas was having a very grave effect on him in his later years, he claims that be was told by a member of a Tribunal: “ If you mention mustard gas or poison gas again 1 will ask you to leave the room”. 1 am not suggesting for one moment that that is the general attitude of the personnel of these Tribunals, but I am telling the Senate what this person told me in confidence. I have no reason to doubt his word.
– May I ask you a question?
– You may, and I shall answer it, because 1 have all the answers.
– Have you ever been an. advocate before a tribunal?
– Yes. When Senator Sir Walter Cooper was Minister for Repatriation he used to try to ram down my throat the suggestion that the Tribunals reveal the reasons ‘ for the rejection- of claims. I told him then, and I still say, that the Tribunals do not reveal the reasons for the disallowance of appeals. That is another matter that needs to be thrashed out thoroughly. When a person lodges a claim he goes before the Repatriation Commission, then to an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal and finally to an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, which is the final court of appeal. If his claim is rejected there, he has no further right of appeal unless he can bring forward fresh evidence. How in the name of God can anybody bring forward fresh evidence more than 40 years after the start of World War 1? I had the case of a woman who had been married to a man who enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Force as a young fellow 18 years of age. His medical records show that he had been wounded in the head. I do not know exactly when he died, but it was five or six years ago. His widow applied for a war widow’s pension, but he had not had a repatriation entitlement that would have enabled her to receive a war widow’s pension. Because she could not bring fresh evidence to the Tribunal, it would not re-open the case. How in the name of goodness could a widow of a man who had served 40 years earlier bring forward fresh evidence? 1 had another case only a few months ago involving a man whose appeal had been rejected.
– When you say you had a case, do you mean as an advocate/
– These were cases that were brought to me.
– Not as an advocate?
– No. These were cases that were brought to me. This last case was brought to my notice, from memory, within the last 12 months. As I said, this man’s appeal had been rejected and he was told that his case could not be re-opened unless he brought forward fresh evidence. He was fortunate in being able to obtain fresh evidence which took the form of statutory declarations given by men some of whom held commissioned rank in the same unit in which he served. He submitted the declarations to the Tribunal but it refused to accept them as fresh evidence. That illustrates the difficulty experienced in establishing a claim with the onus of proof operating as it does at the present time. We must take account also of the fact that with the passing of the years the men who are engaged by the Repatriation Department, particularly the medical men, are of necessity fairly young men who in many cases - possibly in the majority of cases - have not had wai experience.
– Do you mean the members of the Tribunals?
– Yes, I mean those who are assisting the Tribunals - the medical men. Of necessity the medical mcn who assist the Tribunals are now younger men, because the older men are drifting away. These younger men have no idea whatever of the rigours and hardships that are endured by servicemen. Senator Sir Walter Cooper used to be quite vociferous about the working of the onus of proof provision. He used to say that the ex-servicemen’s organisations were perfectly satisfied with the operation of the onus of proof, but that is not so. These organisations are quite disturbed about the operation of this provision, and have been so for years. Indeed, in the 48th Annual Report of the National Executive of the R.S.L. this passage appears -
The 48th National Congress re-affirmed that a request should bc made for an amendment of section 47 - .
That is the infamous section about, which we have had so much trouble -
The amendment to read - “ By insertion of the following paragraph immediately after clause H 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 ‘ “.
There are many subjects . to which I should like to refer and which indicate that not only the application of the onus of proof provision but also other matters need a complete overhaul. I must refer to the delay in hearing appeals. In answer to a question which I asked in this chamber about 12 or 18 months ago I was given figures that indicated that overall, in a period of 12 months, there was an average delay of 13 weeks between the submission of a claim by an applicant and the final hearing of an appeal.
Consider, particularly, in the case of exservicemen of World War I, what can happen and unfortunately does happen in many instances in a period of 13 weeks, which is over three months. Very vivid in my memory is the case of a man who served in the same unit as I did. He was one of those to whom I referred earlier, who were only too glad to get out of the Army as soon as they could after returning to Australia and who were overtaken in later years by disabilities and sickness. He was trying to establish repatriation entitlement and I took up the case for him but during the interim period, within three months, he died. Fortunately, I was able later to establish a claim by his widow for a war service pension. That was a rather unusual case, because prior to his death a repatriation entitlement had not been established. He did not live to reap the benefit of assistance from the Repatriation Department.
I appeal to all Government supporters in the Parliament to view the matter in the way in which it should be viewed. In considering ex-service personnel who are suffering sickness and disability - and suffering more with the passing of years - let us not assess the matter in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Let us not be parsimonious. For God’s sake, let us be honest in dealing with these people and their : dependants. I say this without any heat, without any bias and without any intention to discredit anybody. We all know that when we go to commemoration services, invariably it is said that we meet to pay homage and honour to those who did not return to receive the thanks of their grateful country. I am not heaping ridicule on that statement, by any means, but for God’s sake let us remember those who did return to receive the thanks of a grateful country and who are not receiving it at the present time. 1 repeat that all that tens of thousands of these men want in their declining years is a bed and medical treatment. Is that too much to give them? Are we to measure this in terms of pounds, shillings and pence? I digress for a moment to say that the Government not only is condoning but in some cases is encouraging the ruthless, merciless exploitation of people by big monopolies and bogus companies which are formed throughout Australia. Nothing is done about it. Millions of pounds are being made by monopolies and sent to overseas vested interests, while all that these mcn ask for in their last years on this planet are a bed and medical treatment. Who will deny their right to these things? Will any senator on the Government side stand and say that he or she is not in favour of these men receiving beds and medical treatment in the last years of their lives? Let us remember the horrors of yesteryear. We claimed that these men had blazed the trail, to give this nation its birth in a baptism of fire at Anzac. These are the men who are suffering today.
Let me impress on honorable senators, with all the determination and all the sincerity that I can muster, that many thousands of ex-servicemen are suffering today disabilities caused or aggravated by war service, but they have not established repatriation entitlements. Who can stand and say that there is no doubt that a disability was not caused or aggravated by war service? How can a repatriation tribunal or anybody else prove that whatever disability is suffered is not caused or aggravated by war service? We recall the hell on earth that these men went through, particularly in World War I. I have seen not one or two but dozens of headless human bodies standing in dirty, slimy, stinking mud on the battlefields of Flanders. As anybody who served in that theatre of war knows, on many occasions one would be walking, as on a springboard, over partially buried human remains, and the stench was something dreadful. In addition, these men were subjected to poison gas. When they did not get it in clouds they got it by shell fire, as some honorable senators opposite know. There are thousands of men throughout Australia who had a certain amount of that gas but were not cot cases. They were not sufficiently bad to be evacuated, and because this information did not show on their medical records they have not received entitlement to repatriation benefits.
These matters must be considered. Are we to deny these men the benefits to which they are justly entitled? In this year of 1964, are we to allow repatriation hospitals throughout Australia to be not filled to capacity while men are in desperate need of a hospital bed? Are we to refuse them? Are we, in effect, to close the door on them and turn them adrift? Are we to say, in effect: “ We have hospital beds and medical attention here, but because you have not established a repatriation entitlement you can seek redress elsewhere? “ I appeal to the Government to go into this matter right away. The case of these people will be supported by every section of the community.
During the committee stage I shall refer to other matters, including the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. A remarkable statement was made by one of our medical men in a debate on this question last year. Senator Turnbull, who is a doctor, contradicted himself in regard to the recognition of cancer for repatriation purposes. In one breath, he said that the medical profession had not the foggiest idea of what caused cancer. In the next breath, he said that he would never be agreeable to giving repatriation benefits to a person suffering from cancer. Is not that a direct contradiction by a medical man? I put it to the Government that at the present time the highest medical authority does not know what causes cancer. If that is the case, and if an ex-serviceman appears before the Repatriation Commission or a Tribunal, how can the Commission or Tribunal say that the cancer was not caused by war service or aggravated by it? It is a matter of impossibility. That clearly shows that this Government has a sacred obligation in this regard. I will repeat what the
Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said when Leader of the Opposition in 1949, and I will leave you on that note. He said that if his party were elected repatriation would be a great, grave and proud responsibility. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report- by leave - adopted.
Senate adjourned at 4.58 p.m. till Tuesday, 15th September, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 September 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640903_senate_25_s26/>.