14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until Monday next, at 3 p.m.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Aerial Cableways and Aerial Ropeways.
Air Compressors of the Reciprocating and Rotary Types having a displacement of 200 cubic feet and over per minute.
Antimony and Antimonial and Lead Compounds.
Bottles, Flasks, Jars, &c; and Thermometers, n.e.i. Empty Glass Tubes up to and including 3 drams fluid capacity.
Brass, Britannia Metal, Bronze, Gorman Silver, Gilding Metal, Nickel Silver, Phosphor Tin, Yellow Metal and other Nonferrous Alloys not elsewhere included in the Customs Tariff.
Carbon Manufactures of all kinds, including Carbon Blocks.
Furniture as covered by Item 305.
Gears for Motor Vehicles other than Railway and Tramway Vehicles, viz.: - Crown Wheels and Pinions, Transmission Gears, Differential Gears, Worms and Worm Wheels, Internal Tooth Gears, Jack Shaft Pinions and Flywheel Starter Bands.
Gentlemen’s Hunting Pocket Watch Cases and Gentlemen’s Open Face Pocket Watch Cases; -Wristlet Watches and cases therefor except Nickel-plated, Nickel Alloy, Chromium-plated and Steel.
Packings, viz. : - Engine and Machinery Gland, Piston and Plunger, consisting principally of Woven Fabric and Rubber vulcanized and without Metal.
Perambulators and Go-carts and Bodies therefor; Wheels and Parts (excepting Parts of Malleable Cast Iron) of Wheels for Perambulators and Go-carts.
Ordered tobe printed.
– Can the Minister for Commerce indicate when the Meat Export Control Bill, which recently passed both Houses of this Parliament, will become operative?
– Before this legislation can become operative the Australian Meat Board has to be constituted, and this necessitates a conference between the Minister for Commerce and the meatexporting interests. As soon as that conference can be held, the board will be constituted, and the act will come into operation.
– It is reported that units of the Royal Australian Air Force are to make an attack on Canberra next week, using “ dummy “ bombs. Will the Minister for Defence instruct that a few live bombs be used with the object of startling the Government into some semblance of activity?
– Order ! The question is one which should not be asked.
– The honorable member need have no perturbation; he will be quite safe.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to the statement made by a delegate to the conference of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions in Melbourne that “ at Newcastle the hectic rush by certain firms to prepare war materials was causing grave concern among the workers. In the last fifteen months, steel had been rolled for munitions under the supervision of the Defence Department officers.” Is there any truth in that allegation ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.When I read the statement I merely assumed that it referred to the improvement in relation to the production of steel which was taking place in the industry. Such improvement, I suggest, is to the advantage of the people of Australia, because it will be conducive to the establishment and conduct of many industries in which the higher grades of steel are essential. The assertion that there is hectic activity in the industry is quite without foundation. Whatever supervision is being exercised by the Defence ‘ Department is merely that which is ordinarily exercised when steel is being specially manufactured for its requirements.
– Is the supervision any greater now than it has been at any time when the requirements of the Defence Department have been turned out?
– I thought I had made it clear that the supervision is merely that which is ordinarily exercised when the requirements of the Defence Department are being met. Just as when boots are ordered, a departmental officer visits the manufacturing establishment to see that all the materials used are of the specified quality.
– Have the Newcastle Steel Works any orders in hand for the Defence Department?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Yes, in connexion with the sloop.
– Has the Minister for Commerce any information to impart in regard to the possibility of a wheat marketing scheme being put in operation this year?
– I understand that the Legislative Assembly of Victoria passed last night a measure dealing with this matter. Similar legislation has already been passed by the Parliaments of New South Wales and Queensland, and I understand is being introduced either this or next week in the Parliaments of South Australia and Western Australia.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral yet been able to obtain information from League of Nations sources regarding the intrusion of Japanese troops into North China? Has the honorable gentleman been advised as to whether the League of Nations is to take action in the matter?
– I refer to the answer which I gave to a question on this subject yesterday. No complaint has been made to the League of Nations; consequently no action has yet been taken by it.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement in the Canberra Times this morning that under the operation of the guillotine and the closure Estimates providing for an expenditure of £24,000,000 were passed by the New South Wales Parliament yesterday in one hour, whereas this House occupied nine and a half hours, exclusive of the time devoted to the budget debate, in the passage of Estimates totalling £22,000,000? Has the right honorable gentleman any comment to make?
– I apologize for the slowness of this House compared with the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. Both the honorable member and the Canberra Times have overlooked the twelve additional hours which preceded the nine and a half hours referred to.
– Several of the splendid drawings so kindly presented to the nation by W. Hardy Wilson are not under glass. From experience I know that nothing is more destructive of art in the form of paintings, drawings or sketches, than exposure to the ravages of dust. Will you, Mr. Speaker, mention this matter in the appropriate quarter so that action may be taken to repair the omission?
– I venture no opinion in regard to the contention of the honorable member, but I shall bring the matter to the notice of the experts, of whom I presume there are some, on the Library Committee.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether arrangements can be made to take up from the Commonwealth viewpoint at the next Premiers’ Conference the very vexed question of the heavy motor registration fees which one State imposes upon visiting motorists from other States who happen to take persons sight-seeing? The practice is causing considerable trouble in South Australia and Victoria.
– I undertake to give the matter consideration.
Free Ammunition Issue
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether a regulation has been issued, or advice has been sent out, to the effect that no free ammunition shall be made available to rifle clubs?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.There is no truth in that statement. As I have already explained, the regulation provides for the free issue of 100 rounds for the present, and for an additional quantity to be made available as soon as the reserves enable that to be done.
– In view of the fact that the bi-weekly air mail service between London and Singapore has been operating for nearly three months, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral indicate what steps have been taken to establish a duplicate service between Singapore and Darwin so that Australia may benefit from an acceleration of the service ? Further, will he state whether it is the intention of the department to speed up the delivery of overseas mails within Australia by increasing the internal service?
– The duplication of this service would not speed up deliveries in any way, nor would it be of material advantage to the people of Australia, excepting those who had sent a letter to Great Britain and desired an early reply. Although the matter is not urgent from that viewpoint, certain other reasons make it desirable that the matter should be considered as urgent. It is, of course, inextricably interwoven with other questions relating to the British Government’s proposals for the England- Australia air mail service and is receiving the attention of the Civil Aviation Department. A sub-committee, consisting of Mr. H. P. Brown, Director of Postal Services, Mr. Shepherd, Secretary of the Defence Department, Vice-Air Marshall Williams and Captain Johnston has been appointed to report upon various aspects of the subject, and I expect to receive its report within the next week or ten days. I have no information of any particular delay within the Coram on wealth in dealing with the air mail service.
I am now able to say in reply to a question which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked yesterday that the recent delay of four days in the existing England-Australian service occurred on the section of the route conducted by the British authorities.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. On the 8th November, I addressed a question to the Minister for the Interior relating to complaints of restrictions placed on a dance at one of the Canberra hotels. The Minister in his reply said that any restrictions would have been imposed by the manageress of the hotel, with the object of ensuring that proper decorum would be observed. When I asked the question I was under the impression that the restrictions had been imposed by the Department of the Interior. I wish now to say that Miss Southwell, the manageress of Hotel Kurrajong, is held in the very highest respect by all honorable members who have had any contact with her, both for her personal qualities and her conduct of the hotel. I should not like any thought to arise that I held her blameworthy in any way for what had happened.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any information to convey to honorable members which would confirm statements appearing in the press this morning to the effect that the operation of sanctions is likely to have the desired effect of bringing about an early termination of the Italo-Abyssinian dispute?
– I have no information on the subject.
– I ask the Minister in charge of War Service Homes whether he is aware that an unemployed man with a wife and two children who built a shack on a vacant piece of land owned by the War Service Homes Commission has been given notice to quit. Will he look into the circumstances of the case and direct that the order be cancelled ?
– The honorable member submitted a letter to me this morning dealing with this case. The actual facts are that about two years ago the person concerned erected a small building - it may he a shack as the honorable member says, although I have no information as to its nature - on a piece of land owned by the War Service Homes Commission without first obtaining authority to do so. He has been in occupation of the property for about two years. Recently the War Service Homes Commission gave him notice to remove the structure. I shall make further inquiry into the case, and the honorable member may be assured that I shall not be too severe on the person concerned.
– I ask the Minister in charge of War Service Homes whether the provisions of the bill now before Parliament will affect widows who have vacated homes which they believed belonged to their husbands?
– A provision with that object is included in the bill.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether the Government has in contemplation any alteration of the constitution, powers or functions of the Wine Overseas Marketing Board?
– Not at present.
Mr.FORDE . - Will the Prime Minister inform me whether there is any truth in the statement appearing in a section of the press this morning to the effect that, during the parliamentary recess, a Minister will visit New Zealand with the object of negotiating a trade agreement with the sister dominion? If so, has it been decided which Minister will make the trip?
– No decision has been made in that matter. I said yesterday in reply to a question, that trade negotiations would be resumed with New Zealand after the new Government had been formed there.
The following paper was presented -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government ( Administration ) Act - Ordinance of1935-No. 18 - Mortgagor’s Interest Reduction.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended until the end of the year.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 5 -
The bounty shall be payable in respect of -
navel oranges exported from the Commonwealth to the United Kingdom….. which, in the opinion of the Minister or of any person thereto authorized in writing by him, were of good and merchantable quality at the time of export, and were picked, handled, graded and packed in accordance with the conditions set forth in the schedule to this act.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “ and packed”; insert “, packed and shipped”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a purely drafting amendment to bring the language of the clause into conformity with that of the schedule, and it involves no new principle.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported: report adopted.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill an urgent bill.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment OF Time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the time alloted in connexion with the bill bo as follows: -
.- The procedure proposed in the motion moved by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), which is inevitable, I suppose, at this stage of the session, is the outcome of a great deal of previous mismanagement on the part of the Ministry in submitting its programme to Parliament. On principle, the Opposition objects to the use of the guillotine, but ii also objects to the allocation of time set out in the timetable, because honorable members who desired to contribute to the debate on this bill can have no reasonable expectation of being able to do so. A debate on the general principles of repatriation will be impossible in the short space of time allotted for the second reading. In introducing the bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) himself initiated such a general debate. He reviewed the history of the repatriation of Australian soldiers, a question which involves consideration of a wide field of important subjects. Indeed, he made debate on the general features of Australia’s repatriation system a notable part of his speech, and quite apart from the discussion of the general provisions of the bill, hi3 action in so doing surely demands that other honorable members should equally have something to say upon the principles, cost and character of our repatriation system; but the three and a half hours allotted for the second-reading stage will be utterly inadequate for a Parliament of 74 honorable members to enter upon such a debate.
In committee, clauses from 1 to 18 will have to be completed within one hour, a time which two speeches will be sufficient to absorb. It is unreasonable, when such important clauses as are contained in the eighteen I have mentioned are to be considered, that a time limitation should be set which will possibly limit the number of speeches delivered to two. If this procedure is to be a feature of government practice for some time, it would be reasonable to amend the Standing Orders in respect of the time limit on speeches, so that even the Prime Minister, when introducing a bill, should be subject to the guillotine, and to the varied standing orders.
– Surely the honorable member does not mean that?
– I see no reason why the proponent of a measure should be given the benefit of Standing Orders while the opponents suffer from limitation of time.
– ‘Surely there can be no opposition to this bill?
– I am not discussing the bill. The Minister has no right to make such an interjection. My remarks are directed against the placing of a time limit on the consideration of bills generally ; but I say, in regard to this measure, which is to be guillotined, that, if it is of the importance which the Prime Minister claims for it, the time allowed for debating it is hopelessly inadequate.
– A fair and just approach to the question of the proposed limitation of time must lead to the conclusion that honorable members are entitled to more consideration than is to be extended to them by the motion proposed. All honorable members are anxious to assist the passage of a measure which provides benefits for men who are badly in need of them, but they should have adequate time for a complete consideration of the bill. In any case, this bill is largely one for discussion in committee, yet the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) embarked upon a general debate as to repatriation questions, touching upon many points upon which honorable members would appreciate an opportunity to express opinions. The three and a half hours to be allowed for the second reading will permit only four honorable members to deliver speeches if they occupy the full time to which they are entitled by the Standing Orders. No one would claim that it is a reasonable amount of time for the consideration of the momentous questions contained in the bill. To many honorable members, who have an intimate knowledge of the working of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, opportunity is rarely provided for the discussion of specific cases, save when amendments of the law are proposed. They would have had such an opportunity on this bill but for the application of the guillotine. The time limit of three and a half hours for the second reading will enable one speech to be made from the official . Opposition, one from this corner of the House, and one from each of the two Government parties.
The Government has adopted a most unreasonable attitude in regard to the second-reading stage, but the allotment of time for the committee stage reflects an even worse attitude. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has already referred to the fact that clauses from 1 to 18 must be completed within an hour. Altogether only 3$ hours will be given to honorable members for the consideration of the clauses in committee. Is that just? Honorable members, I think, generally have given considerable time and thought to the bill ; many of them have already discussed with interested organizations the various aspects of the proposed legislation, and if sufficient time were allowed for the consideration of the bill in committee, they could make many valuable suggestions for a further improvement of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Even if the Government could not accept those suggestions at the moment, they would provide a basis for later consideration by officers of the Repatriation Depart- ment, and possibly for further amendments recommended by those officers to give effect to the ideas advanced by honorable members. I concede the anxiety of the Government to have the bill passed as quickly as possible, but I submit that before taking action to apply the guillotine, it should have consulted with the various parties in this House as to the amount of time that should be necessary for it to be passed. The Government apparently is anxious to complete its business next week but, if its attitude is that the guillotine is necessary to do it, a better schedule of times should have been introduced to enable the committee’s consideration of this bill to be spread over a longer period. An emphatic protest against the course which is proposed to be pursued is warranted.
.- The most remarkable aspect of the proposal for curtailment of the debate on this bill is that, in moving his motion, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) failed to advance one reason in support of it. The Government has refrained from an endeavour to justify its attitude. I doubt whether the element of time enters the question. The bill will introduce a number of additional pensions and pensioners, and will bring about considerable alteration of the rates of pension at present operating. In the opening up of a new avenue through which additional pensioners will be created and through which considerable alteration will be made in the status of old pensioners, complete consideration of the project is essential. But when introducing this bill the Government did not say “ We want it to be passed to-day or by to-morrow.” Yet, now the Government declares that in something like seven hours, this measure with all its imperfections must be gagged through to give a measure of justice to returned soldiers who have been waiting for it for seventeen years.
The allotment of time is the question.
– That is so, but because of the delay that hitherto has taken place, I fail to see the reason for the haste which the Government now pretends. Rush legislation is a bad policy. Only this week we have had evidence of legislation going through this House with the Minister himself unable to discover defects which subsequently have been discovered by another place. Yet, if we attempt to examine this bill, we are to be told that we are delaying the House. Let me illustrate what I mean. When Sir Neville Howse was Minister for Repatriation, he gave a verbal assurance, in submitting a bill of this nature, that ex-soldiers suffering from tuberculosis would receive certain benefits under the measure ; but the intention of the Government had not been properly expressed in the bill. Last year, when we were dealing with a similar measure, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) quoted extensively from the speech made by Sir Neville Howse on the previous bill, and said he hoped that on that occasion the measure made provision for the benefits which Sir Neville Howse had thought the other bill conferred. Those benefits are still not included. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) remarked, many honorable members have a close knowledge of the difficulties of returned soldiers, and of the weaknesses of the Repatriation Act, and they would like an opportunity to point out to the Government how causes of hardship could be removed. Of course, the argument will be advanced that this is an urgent measure, and that the guillotine should be applied. Shortly before last Christmas, when, the Unemployment Relief Bill was under consideration, the House was asked to pass the measure expeditiously, so that there would be no delay in granting relief to those who were out of work; but, three months after Christmas, half of the money voted had not been expended.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I am sure that every honorable member regrets the necessity for the limitation of the debate on this bill, but we all realize the proposal is justified. A number of honorable members consider it to be their duty to obstruct, even legislation designed to benefit certain sections of the community, and for this purpose they make speeches of a particular kind.
– Order !
– Recognizing the laudable object of this bill, honorable members generally should not unnecessarily prolong the discussion. A considerable amount of the time of the House has been spent through certain honorable members opposite calling for quorums. This indicates a peculiar attitude on the part of those members.
– Reflections upon the attitude of honorable members on other questions are not in order in discussing the matter before the Chair.
– I am trying to show the necessity for limitation of the debate by indicating that during the last few weeks, certain forms of the House have been used to such an extent that business has been delayed. I realize, of course, that the Opposition frequently regards it as its legitimate function to prevent, as far as possible, certain legislation from being given effect. I have frequently refrained from speaking in order to allow measures to be passed without delay.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– Honorable members generally will recognize that, in a House whose members sit far from their homes, some limitation of debate is necessary. It is better to allot the time available for discussion of measures by means of the guillotine than by the fortuitous and unplanned method of the closure. But no time-table should be proposed without consultation with the leaders and representatives of other parties. The great objection to the use of the guillotine is that an unfair plan of time-rationing may be forced upon the House by a government majority. That objection, which is a real one, would be disposed of if the leaders of other parties in the House were consulted by the Government before the plan was proposed. Obviously, a better scheme than that now suggested could be arranged. This is pre-eminently a measure for consideration in committee, and it would be much better if the major part of the time available were devoted to its discussion in committee. I understand that Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was quite prepared to agree to such a proposal, which would have been generally welcomed on this side of the House, but I believe that the suggestion has been rejected. Had there been a prior consultation, the Leader of the Opposition would probably have made that suggestion, and no doubt the Government would have entertained it favorably; but, as the Government has now committed itself to a time-table, it is unwilling to alter its determination. One of the great needs of this House is more harmonious working of the Standing Orders by the general consent of members. The standing order providing for the application of the guillotine is absolutely necessary, for, without it, the work of this Parliament could not be done; but a time-table proposed by the Government without consultation with the representatives of other parties, is regarded by honorable members on this side as an instrument of oppression.
– I am gratified at the manner in which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has approached this question, for the Government has submitted its proposal, not as an instrument of oppression, but because it believes it to be the most satisfactory way of dealing with the business of the House.’ In every parliament, no matter which party is in power, a great rush is experienced at the end of each session, and two methods of expediting the business to be transacted are open to the Government. One is that of producing physical and mental exhaustion by resorting to all-night sittings, and the other is that of providing for the allotment of the time available for debate. Personally, I am opposed to all-night sittings, because of the physical and mental exhaustion that inevitably accompanies them, and I believe that a wise use of the guillotine is the right plan to adopt. The Government would, I think, give careful consideration to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Bourke that a consultation should take place with the leaders of the other parties as to the allotment of time in regard to future measures. It seems to me that some modification of the Standing Orders should be made, so that, when a proposal is brought down for the application of the guillotine, the time allotted to individual members for discussion of the motion should be strictly limited, by which means a larger number would have an opportunity to talk. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) mentioned this matter in his speech, and I think it might well be pursued during the coming recess, in order to ascertain whether the Standing Orders could be altered in this respect by general agreement. I believe that the proper way to apply the guillotine is to operate it at the very beginning of the session, and not merely at the end. This would be to the advantage of honorable members generally, and a better opportunity would be presented to ensure that the measures submitted expressed the will of the Parliament.
– I object to the proposed allotment of time on the ground that it does not allow sufficient opportunity for the discussion of this measure. The period of six and three-quarter hours is too short for the complete disposal of a bill consisting of 14 pages and 27 clauses. The Government has arbitrarily allotted three and s half hours for the second reading debate ; but if the speakers used the full time permitted them, there could be only four speeches. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) dealt with repatriation activities from the conclusion of the war until the present time, and, as honorable members have pointed out, delivered an electioneering speech.
– He made claims that cannot be substantiated.
– That is true, and, because of the application of the guillo-tine, it will not be possible to reply to them. If governments are permitted to abuse parliamentary privileges in order to put out election placards, and to gag the opposition so that it cannot reply to their assertions, parliamentary government will become a farce, or something worse. One hour is proposed to be allotted for ‘ the consideration in committee of clauses 1 to 18, which occupy three pages of the bill ; but to one clause, one and three-quarter hours is to be devoted. Although this may be the only important clause, from the Government’s point of view, some honorable members may consider that other clauses need amendment, -and much more lengthy consideration than will be possible under the present proposal. For years past, honorable members have been asking that something be done for tubercular soldiers, and they have been put off with various promises, Now, right at the end of the session, the Government has brought down a bill ostensibly to confer certain pension benefits upon soldiers of this class, but in reality it gives practically nothing. The soldiers have been waiting for something much more than this. The real reason for the application of the guillotine is to prevent criticism, to stop honorable members from pointing out that the bill really confers no adequate benefits.
– The Government is adopting a reasonable course of action in regard to this bill, and it would not be. practicable to do what has been suggested by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). It is the custom in all parliaments for the Opposition to oppose the guillotine whenever it is applied. A stranger listening to speeches of honorable members opposite, with their simulated indignation, would be astonished if he returned an hour later, and observed the general contentment on the faces of honorable members of the Opposition because the debate was proceeding on calm and organized lines. I. speak from experience. When I was in Opposition I made more noise on occasions like this than all the present Opposition put together, but I eventually realized that the guillotine was a fair provision, by means of which all parties obtained a proper share of the time allotted.
– The time allotted for the consideration of this motion has expired.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Debate resumed from the 20th November (vide page 1816) on motion (by Mr. Lyons) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Having regard to the motion just passed, I do not propose to make so long a speech as I would otherwise have done. I made an offer to the Minister in charge of the bill that the Opposition would forgo the whole second-reading discussion if the time thus saved would be added to the time allotted for the discussion in committee. The honorable gentleman, however, told me that the suggestion came too late to be considered. I remind him that it was made just five minutes after he had first submitted to me the proposed allocation of time.
I desire to make some observation upon the significant narrative to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) treated the House regarding the working of the Repatriation Act. The Prime Minister’s speech is a terrible revelation of the consequences of war. It proves conclusively how high is the cost, not only in money, but also in human wreckage, and how difficult it is for Parliament, which has the responsibility for making provision for victims of war, ever to come to a period when it can be said that that responsibility has ended. The Prime Minister stated that Australia had already spent £130,000,000 on war pensions. To that I add that Australia has also spent £274,000,000 on interest on war loans. Last year, said the Prime Minister, Australia spent £7,360,000 on war pensions, but I point out that the sinking fund charges on the war debt have aggregated a total of £40,000,000. That is the money side of it. As for the pain and suffering, the mental distress and the nervous consequences of war, it is difficult for any one to paint a complete picture. It is a fact, however, that, at the present time, 1,600 soldiers are inpatients in hospitals seventeen years after the signing of the armistice. In addition, 17,000 former soldiers are out-patients at repatriation and other hospitals. However, the havoc wrought by war upon those who take part in it cannot be properly understood by a mere citation of statistics.
This bill proposes to extend pension benefits to returned soldiers, and the additional benefits may be summarized under four headings. The extra expenditure involved will total £350,000. The first class of new claimants created by the bill are soldiers suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, who will be entitled to receive a pension and treatment at repatriation hospitals. In the past, soldiers suffering from tuberculosis, who could not satisfy the medical authorities that their condition was due to war service, were denied a pension. Now, the fact that they suffer from the disease is to be regarded as sufficient grounds for a pension. It is estimated that this will cost an extra £126,000. It is also proposed to make eligible for pensions soldiers who are over 60 years of age and former nurses who have reached the age. of 55 years, and who served in a theatre of war, provided it is held that the hardships they endured have caused premature old age. It is also proposed to grant pensions to ex-soldiers under the age of 60 if, as a result of their war service, they have become permanently unemployable. The cost of these concessions is estimated at £134,000. This bill embodies a most important principle, namely, that exsoldiers, regardless of what specific diseases they may be suffering from, but because of chronic debility which renders them permanently unemployable, are to be regarded as eligible for pensions. I think that is a far-reaching provision. I entirely agree with it, but I do not think I overstep the mark when I intimate to the Parliament that similar provisions in respect of civilians will inevitably become an obligation upon this Parliament. Here we accept the principle that service to the nation in war which produces physical or mental consequences occasioning the inability of a man to work at all constitutes a claim upon the nation, and the provision now being made for soldiers will, I have no doubt, in the fullness of time, be also made a feature of our invalid pensions legislation.
Mr.White. - That is provided for in the invalid pensions legislation now.
– There is a vast distinction between “permanently unemployable “ and “permanently incapacitated “ which should be obvious. I mention it not that I object to the provision included in this amending bill, but that it must be accepted with all its social implications.
The third category of claimants includes those whose pensions were commuted by lump sum payments but who since the commutation was made, have developed maladies which at that time were not observable. The cost of this concession is estimated to be £60,000. Lastly, it is proposed to liberalize the basis of pensions paid to aged parents and other dependants; the cost of this concession being estimated at £30,000. A total annual cost of £350,000 is involved. I presume the Prime Minister is justified in accepting my suggestion that that cost would be found to increase as time goes on. The cost in the past, now, and in prospect has to be met. In fact, all the costs of human wreckage, and proper salvage in respect of soldiers may be said, so far, not to have been fully met. In this connexion I think it is only just to direct attention to the very prolonged and able activities of two former members of this Parliament, one since deceased, and the other still, fortunately, in the land of the living, the former members for Reid (Mr. Coleman) and Adelaide (Mr. Yates), each of whom played an influential part in connexion with the claims of tubercular soldiers, and on many occasions attempted to induce this Parliament to come to their aid. I feel I am warranted in saying, too, that from the viewpoint of the budget, having regard to the number of opportunities which the Government has had during the last three years to find this sum of £350,000, it failed to do bo, and not until the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) became a member of the Cabinet was definite action taken in this connexion. I agree with the Prime Minister that it is regrettable and certainly inappropriate that the presentation of his bill should not have been in the hands of the right honorable member for North Sydney. Over 57,000 applications for the pension, lodged by soldiers who sincerely believed they had a right to it, have been rejected. When we think of the cost of pensions and of the very great number of pensioners there are, it is well to bear in mind the fact that so many pension claims have been rejected. I find it difficult to be fully satisfied that all those claims have been justifiably rejected. I believe that there have been mistakes in medical diagnoses, and I believe, too, that the burden of proof cast upon the soldier to show that his illness or invalidity is the result of war causes imposes upon him an obligation which it is impossible frequently to satisfy even if originally there could have been no doubt that, but for his association with the forces, he would probably be in better health. Put the other way, ought not the entitlement tribunal be placed in the position of having to prove that the invalidity of the soldier was not due to war service? If that were done, the difficulty cast upon the Repatriation Commission in examining the medical history of soldiers would be just as great as is now the case in connexion with the individual’s application for a pension ; and all the present advantages, if there are any, of the individual, would go to the commission. I believe quite definitely that a large number of these 57,000 rejections have been made, not because the claims ought to be rejected on the facts, but simply because the application of the law to the facts associated with the soldier’s service has made it impossible for him to furnish the requisite evidence to show that his present invalidity ha3 arisen from war causes, or has been aggravated by war causes. As these 57,000 rejections have been made in respect of men admitted to the force on the presumption that at the time of enlistment they were physically fit, I find it hard to satisfy myself that they have received justice in the rejection of their claims.
This bill could and should have been introduced three years ago, when the financial position of the Government warranted making provision for the necessary expenditure. In fact at any time during the last three years the financial position of this Government would have warranted this expenditure being provided for had there been the will to carry out such a proposal as is now submitted. After the first four months of the financial year 1932-33, when the Government had a surplus of £2,700,000, there were indications of a growing surplus as the year progressed. But the Government did not hypothecate any portion of that money for the purposes set out in this amending bill, which only a few minutes ago it declared to be urgent. If it is urgent now, it is only because its provisions are belated. The Government, as a matter of fact, in that year did not restore to the dependants of soldiers the reductions which they were called upon to make under the original financial emergency legislation, nor did it in any way attempt to make the lot of the soldier and his dependants easier. The fact is that, in that financial year, property owners were relieved of taxes amounting to £500,000, and land owners were similarly relieved of taxes amounting t» £700,000. That is, £1,200,000 of Commonwealth revenue was lost in granting relief from taxation, while £350,000 would have met the obligations proposed under this bill. At the end of 1932-33 there was a surplus of £3,500,000, after making taxation concessions and granting relief to the wheat-farmers. During the year 1933-34, while the organizations representative of the returned soldiers were vainly pressing for reforms in the repatriation legislation, such as are provided for in this bill, the Government made provision for relief in direct taxation to life assurance companies, shipping, and other companies, property owners, &c., to an amount of approximately £2,800,000.
– A bill was introduced last year.
Mr.CURTIN.- But the soldiers pressed in vain for the reforms now proposed. As a matter of fact, all the processes which the Government is employing at this juncture in order to carry through this legislation were available to it in the previous year ; yet it made no attempt to bring forward legislation of this kind. The fact is that any govern ment with a majority in this House, and in another place, which actually desired to pass legislation had only to do what the Government is now doing. I repeat, that relief from taxation of a direct character was given, and, in indirect taxation, reductions were made in tariff, primage, excise, &c., aggregating £4,000,000. Yet £350,000 is the estimate submitted to us of the cost of the provisions contained in the bill now before the House ! I confess that in 1933-34, the Prime Minister, referring to the reduction of pensions of dependants of soldiers, said that it had been found that these reductions had operated somewhat harshly in certain cases, and as the result the Government made a partial restoration of pensions to the value of £248,000 in that year.
Compare this paltry restoration of £248,000 to soldiers’ dependants with the remissions of taxes to classes able to pay it which amount in the aggregate to £5,000,000. In 1934-35, a further restoration of soldiers’ pensions was made in the budget amounting to approximately £123,000, but full restoration has not yet been made, as the Treasurer would be the first to confess. Let me bring these figures together. The restoration of pensions amounted to £248,000 in 1933-34, and £123,000 in 1934-35, or a total of £371,000 in all. To that must now be added the £350,000 contemplated in this bill, which makes a total of £721,000 in all. That is the total addition which the budget has to provide, or is invited to provide, in respect of soldiers’ pensions from the time when the financial emergency cut was so drastically applied. This liberalization will cost the nation far less than the advantage which it gained, from a budgetary point of view, as the result of the incidence of the financial emergency legislation. Against this £721,000 which is to be made available out of the resources of the nation for the betterment, shall I say, of returned soldiers and their dependants, I place the relief amounting to £9,300,000 given to the taxpayers of Australia by this Government during the same period.
– Has the honorable gentleman worked out the ratio as it applies to both sections ?
– I am looking at the matter broadly. In a state of financial emergency, all-round sacrifices had to be demanded. The Government pursued a certain policy, which imposed a tax upon some and reduced the pensions of others, including those who are covered by this legislation. Since then, the burdens imposed upon the taxpayers have been relieved to an amount which, in this year, will approximate about £10,000,000, whereas the returned soldiers, who were expected to make ‘a special contribution because of the difficulties of the nation, have been given relief which, including what is contemplated under this measure, will cost the country only approximately £800,000.
– The £10,000,000 is a cumulative figure.
– I am not sure that it is. I am not saying that taxation ought not to have been reduced. I agree entirely with the remissions of certain taxes. Not long ago we begged the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to remove the sales tax from a number of items, but he said that he could not afford to do so.
– Now the honorable gentleman is flinging the remissions in the face of the Government.
– I am not; I am simply contrasting what the Government nas done, so that, when we deal with the question of betterment in relation to the returned soldiers, we shall not be given greater credit than we really deserve; that, in fact, we shall acknowledge that we are now doing in this bill what we could quite easily have done two or three years ago had we had the will to do it.
– The honorable gentleman should not make this a political question.
– I am not making it a political question. “Were I to do so, my speech would be entirely different. I remind the House that when the late Senator E. D. Millen introduced the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill in 1917, he stated that “ the conception of repatriation as a national obligation reveals a new conception of public duty.” I believe that that crystallizes the duty towards the returned soldiers, not only of the Government, but also of the nation. I feel confident that the citizens of Australia did, and do, desire that that duty be discharged adequately and competently while the necessity remains.
The provision for repatriation - that is to say, the satisfaction of our public duty and our national obligation - definitely involves the collection of taxes, which at times may be heavy. Those who arc capable of paying taxes must not resent the obligation to pay them, because the duty has been cast upon Australia to honour certain obligations to the returned soldiers. I regard service to the nation as the paramount obligation of wealth. If we look at this matter broadly and fairly, we shall see that those for whom the nation, by its public policy in peace and war, safeguards property, and to whom it gives opportunities to amass more than is necessary for a reasonable standard of ordered life, owe to the nation a special contribution for the advantages they have derived from the common inheritance and the virtues of the social order. I therefore make no apology for the imposition of high taxation upon the well-to-do, when the purpose is to divert it to the welfare and the betterment of returned soldiers, invalid and old-age pensioners, and any others who, because of their circumstances or their services to Australia, have a claim upon this National Parliament. But I decline to go to the country with the doctrine of the reduction of direct taxation upon the one hand- and an increase of social services on the other. Direct taxes ought not to have been reduced to the extent that they have been, because our obligations to the returned soldiers and the old-age and indigent have not been fully discharged. I do not say that indirect taxes should not have been reduced. I agree with those reductions. But I see no earthly reason why, in a period of acute national difficulty, with widespread suffering among thousands of our community owing to unemployment and other causes, the taxes imposed upon those who have the ability to pay them should be reduced.
I conclude by saying that the Opposition supports the bill in its entirety, and hopes that it will have a speedy passage. I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Treasurer upon having so lucidly submitted to the Parliament a bill of which, I believe, they are but the foster parents.
– I shall not detain the House at any length. The time has passed for speech; the time and opportunity for action have arrived.
The repatriation system of the Commonwealth, as honorable members will, I think, agree, compares very favorably with that of any of the belligerent countries. Its provisions are liberal, and generally have been applied wisely and sympathetically. Very large sums of money are paid in pensions and other benefits to the 75,000 ex-soldier pensioners, and the 189,000 dependants of ex-soldiers. The sick and the helpless are cared for, and their children are educated and trained to earn their livelihood. The sCOpe of our repatriation scheme is wide, but experience has shown that many deserving cases are not covered by its provisions. The legislation that we are now considering is designed to extend the benefits of repatriation to classes that are excluded from the operations of the existing law, to effect certain amendments of the principal act, to restore commuted pensions, to liberalize the provisions for aged dependants and the widows of blinded and totally incapacitated soldiers, and to ensure the smoother working of the machinery of administration.
Broadly, the bill does three things: It provides for the payment of what are termed service pensions to ex-soldiers (1) who have served in a theatre of war upon attaining the age of 60 years, and nurses upon attaining the age of 55 years; (2) who are deemed to be permanently unemployable; and (3) who are suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, whether they served in a theatre of war or not. It is to be noted that the principle running through the Repatriation Act is that pensions are paid only for disabilities found to be due to war service. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has referred to many of the difficulties that ex-soldiers experience in establishing the fact that their disabilities do arise from war service, and has suggested that the onus should rest upon the Commission to prove that they do not. Strangely enough, I have advocated the adoption of that principle for very many years. The success which attended my efforts may have been somewhat indifferent, but nevertheless the principle is embodied in the act and applies in certain cases. Whether it should apply all round is not for me to say at this moment. The service pensions under this measure are to be paid for service in a theatre of war, whether the condition of the ex-soldier is due to war service or not. That is the fundamental distinction between a service pension and a war pension. I have already pointed out that the pensions payable to exsoldiers upon attaining the age of 60 years, and those payable to ox-soldiers who are found to be permanently unemployable, will be conditional upon their having served in a theatre of war, as defined; but in the case of men who are suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, the pension is to be paid whether they have served in a theatre of war or not. The distinction can be fully justified; but, as the Leader of the Opposi- tion has stated that his party proposes to accept the measure unconditionally, it is not necessary for me to deal with that point. The service pensions have been fixed at 18s. a week for single men, and 30s. a week for married men, with an allowance of 23. 6d. a week for each child up to sixteen years of age. This means that a married man with four children, who is permanently unemployable, or is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, will receive a pension of 40s. a week. As the average pension paid under the principal act to soldiers suffering from a war disability is 19s. 5.7d. a week, it may be considered that in all the circumstances, the amount fixed for the service pension is fair and reasonable.
Let me deal very shortly with these matters in detail. It will be quite obvious that the success of this measure must depend very largely on the administration. In. certain cases, very little difficulty will be encountered. An exsoldier who . has reached the age of 60 years will have to prove, first that he has served in a theatre of war, and secondly, that he is 60 years of age. Those are questions of fact which can be easily established, and here the commission or the board will have no difficulty whatever. In regard also to a man suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, the commission will find its path smooth. Whether a man suffers from pulmonary tuberculosis or not will be determined by a medical practitioner, and on his certificate a pension will be payable. All the ex-soldier will have to prove is that he was a member of the Australian Imperial Forces, and suffers from pulmonary tuberculosis.
I come now to the provisions dealing with permanently unemployable exservice men. Here, we are sailing on an uncharted sea. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that, in this we are taking a step that will have far-reaching consequences. Time precludes my following the provocative argument of the Leader of the Opposition - provocative in the sense that arouses a desire to pursue his line of thought - but it is obvious that, in dealing with men who claim to be permanently unemployable, we shall not be dealing with facts easily established, such as age or disease. The qualifying condition “ unemployable “ is difficult to define and certainly not easy to establish. Shortly after the meeting of this Parliament, the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) drew my attention to the condition of certain ex-service men to whom he referred as being “ prematurely aged “.. I made inquiry into the matter, and, having satisfied myself that action was called for, decided to make such amendments of the act as would cover this unfortunate class of men. The provisions of this bill which relate to permanently unemployable ex-service men, will, it is hoped, give relief to very many ex-soldiers excluded from the benefits of the existing law. In dealing with this subject, we obtained considerable guidance from a Canadian measure, but it cannot be denied that the problem presented by men of this class is extremely difficult. I direct the attention of honorable members to the report of a committee appointed by the Canadian Pensions Department, and in particular to a statement made before that committee by Colonel Amyot to the effect that -
These men are what have been called burnt out mcn . . . men who are no longer employable. If they went up for pension examination, the things from which they are suffering are of intangible character. They are simply unable to work - they are old before their time.
Colonel Amyot goes on to say : “ The men who served on our various war-fronts were called to bear a stress and strain greater than can be conceived by civilians. The mental stress was, in some cases, more intense than the physical stress “. The severity of this strain had never been brought home to mc so clearly and so terribly as it was by Colonel Amyot’s concluding words -
Those of us who were there know that even following along the trench line, when things were comparatively quiet, you might have a reddening on the side from which the bullets came.
It seems to us incredible that the mere consciousness of the imminence of death should cause the skin of some men to redden as though it had been drenched in blood. Surely, nothing could illustrate more clearly the intensity of the mental stress to which they were subjected. It is not surprising that such men are “ burnt out “, and their efficiency is permanently impaired. They are broken in health and are no longer fit to stand in the front line of the industrial troops. They are, in fact, industrial camp followers. We need not at this moment express our opinion- as to the justification of war or our attitude towards war. It is sufficient that the men who served us overseas are suffering to such a degree that they are permanently handicapped in the industrial race. The service pension which it is now proposed to pay these permanently unemployable men will be a great relief to them. It will, in fact, serve a double purpose. It will relieve the men concerned and also the labour market. As to the men themselves, it will give them great satisfaction and be a stimulus to their self-esteem, to realize that at last the nation is recognizing what it owes to them. Single men of this class will be eligible for a pension as high as 18s. a week, and married men with four children will be entitled to a pension up to 40s. a week. I found it extremely difficult to frame a definition to cover these men. In fact, their circumstances baffle all definition. I suppose I have no less ingenuity than other men in finding words to express my ideas, but I frankly confess that I can find no words to express clearly and unambiguously what exactly is meant by “ unemployable “. Each case must be handled sympathetically and with common sense. It is gratifying to mc to know that all the applicants for this pension will be interviewed personally. I was surprised to discover that perhaps the majority of pension cases dealt with by the tribunals of the Repatriation Department were determined on reports, official papers and certificates of one kind and another; but no applicant for this new class of pension will be denied it without a personal interview.
– A man may appear to be well, but really be very ill.
– That is so; but, at least all applicants will be interviewed. They must be dealt with sympathetically. Some cases will present no difficulty:
Their physical incapacity “will speak convincingly for itself. On the other hand other cases will be most difficult to decide. I was surprised to find that a bed-ridden and helpless ex-soldier in Tasmania, could not get a pension because he was unable to prove that his condition was due to war service. Such cases will now receive a service pension. They will present no difficulty, but there are others that will. Many men are suffering from no specific disease, but are just “burnt out” - old before their time. These cases will call for sympathy and the exercise of common sense. Since everything will depend on administrative action, it gives me the greatest satisfaction to know that the administration will be in the hands of men in whom I have every confidence.
Single men will be entitled to a service pension of up to 18s. a week, married men without children up to 30s. a week and married men with children to 5s. a fortnight for each child. But in addition to this, a single man in receipt of say, an invalid pension will be able to receive a total income of 30s. 6d. a week without being liable to a reduction of his service pension. An ex-service man and his wife will be entitled to a total income from all sources of 61s. a week before any limitation will be imposed on the service penson. In addition an exservice man may have accumulated property up to the value of £400 if he is single and £S00 if he is married without exhausting his right to a pension.
Taken broadly, this new pensions measure has much to recommend it. It is a definite step forward. I do not pretend that it is the final step. There is no finality in life. We must go on. But this measure is undoubtedly a forward step. It does something more than extend pensions to classes of individuals at present excluded. It restores commuted pensions. We all know that in many cases returned soldiers commuted their pensions in order to obtain a lump sum of money to establish themselves in business. Many of their ventures failed. It is a curious thing, and not without significance, that many of those who deserve best of the State fail in business. Some of these men have been for five years without a pension; but after this bill has been passed they will be eligible for pensions. The Government will not lose anything in connexion with them for it has been relieved of the responsibility to pay the pension for five years.
Provision is also being made to extend the benefits now enjoyed by dependants of deceased, blinded and permanently incapacitated soldiers, irrespective of whether the cause of their death was attributable to the war disability for which they had received a pension. A further concession contained in the bill is the liberalization of the basis of calculation of pensions to aged parents and similarly placed dependants of returned soldiers. The sufferers from tuberculosis will receive not only service pensions but also treatment in repatriation hospitals. The lot of the sufferer from tuberculosis is most melancholy. The shadow of death hangs over him. Recently at Brisbane it was my experience to address some 300 sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis, and a more saddening experience I cannot recall. This bill is a message of hope to these men, and I, sincerely welcome it. It is an assurance that the Commonwealth Government has not forgotten them. The need for this amending bill is urgent. The difficulty of proving that the condition of tuberculosis is due to war service is almost insuperable. Tuberculosis is a disease universal in its incidence. Not one of us has escaped it. We have been able to avoid its full force because our vitality has prevented it getting a grip, but once a person’s vitality is allowed to ebb, the gate is open for the baccilus to enter the system and the disease takes charge. That war service reduces the vitality of the men who fought is very obvious. Although some people talk about the war as if it strengthened rather than sapped the vitality, common sense and our own experience tells us that the strain and stress involved broke men down physically and mentally, and it is not to be wondered at that tuberculosis and other diseases are rampant among the returned men. Indeed, the wonder is that any emerged sane and hale.
In addition to the benefits extended by this bill which I have already indicated, it ensures the smoother working of the Repatriation Department. It reduces the number of appeals which the Repatriation Commission may make against the payment of pensions, and, therefore, it gives a greater assurance of permanency to the assessment that is made. If a man is to be restored to health he must have peace of mind. He cannot have that while the threat hangs over him that the little which he has may be taken away. Under this bill, a man will be assured of a pension up to three years, and will not be liable to lose it after a few months.
I had hoped to pilot this bill through the House, but circumstances have precluded my doing so. It gives very substantial benefits to many of the great men who fought for Australia, and I, therefore, commend it to the House, but at the same time I do not admit that it is to be accepted as the final word on repatriation. I rejoice at the declaration of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that his party will support it unconditionally.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in his statement that the bill is largely one which should be considered in committee, where we can ascertain the exact meaning of the various clauses and the intentions of the framers of the bill. Honorable members are particularly anxious to be informed as to how the administration in consequence of these amendments is going to work in the future. It appears to me that sympathetic interpretations of the legislation will largely be dependent upon the attitude of the administration, and it is the duty of all honorable members at this stage’ to ascertain the interpretation which the Minister wishes to apply to the various clauses. I was particularly pleased to hear the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) state that the administration of the Repatriation Department from now on would be in the hands of officers who have the interests of the returned men at heart, and will deal with their problems from the point of view of the rank and file; and, indeed, it to be hoped that the approach to all the problems which will arise in the future in connexion with this legislation will be dealt with on a basis of genuine sympathy.
The main provisions of this bill deal with those who are suffering from tuberculosis. I am not at this moment raising a question of blame or as to who is responsible, but we cannot escape the fact that, in the many years since the end of the war, because the benefits now proposed were not then available, a large body of returned men has been forced to an early grave by sufferings from this dreaded disease.
Not only kindly thought, but also proper attention, is essential if tubercular patients are to be restored to health. If they are not able to provide the necessaries of life, not only for themselves but also for their dependants, anxiety is bred, eventually and inevitably leading to a completebreakdown of health. In such conditions this disease undoubtedly takes a more intense grip, and it is no exaggeration to say that a premature grave is the result. When men are assured of being able to provide for themselves and their families, they have peace of mind. Many have suffered from not having peace of mind, and they have been sent to an early grave. But it is useless for us to live in the past; we have to deal with these things as they are and it is a notable advance in the treatment of returned men that those suffering from the awful disease of tuberculosis will have under this bill some means to live and much anxiety lifted from them.
I understand that tuberculosis among returned soldiers was very largely brought about by the use of gas in the last war. This brings me to the question: What does the future hold in this particular respect? From many authoritative directions we are constantly being told that the next conflict will largely hinge upon even more extensive use of poison gases than was the case in the last war. Not only will the men in the front lines of the struggles of nations be affected, but also it is apparently intended to use that system of warfare on civilian populations far removed from the actual scene of conflict. That is an aspect that must be considered, particularly when we look around and see the sufferings from dreadful disease arising from the use of gas in the Great War.
To return, however, to the actual intentions of thi3 measure, I wish the Minister to realize how essential it is that we should be provided with the fullest information regarding it, so that we may be able correctly to guide the many persons, who, from time to time, will require from us information as to the meaning of particular sections of the act. It is evidently not the intention of the Government to restore fully to returned soldiers the benefits enjoyed by them and their dependants prior to the enactment of the financial emergency legislation. For instance, as the result of that legislation, a child born to a returned soldier after the 1st October, 1931, receives no consideration under the repatriation law, and the same limitation is placed on a woman who marries a returned soldier immediately subsequent to that date. An important modification of that limitation, contained in the bill, is that widows and children of men who have died since October, 1931, from causes attributable to defective vision, will be entitled* to benefit under the Repatriation Act. At any rate, my reading of the memorandum supplied in explanation of the bill is that, if a returned soldier were killed while crossing the street, and he happened to have had defective eyesight, his death, for the purposes of the Repatriation Act, would be regarded as being due to his poorness of vision, which in turn is to be regarded as due to war service. I hold that the same broad interpretation of what is the cause of death should be applied to other recipients of war pensions, but I take it that, if the death of a war pensioner who is blind or partially blind occurs, or has occurred, from causes which might be associated with his eyesight, his dependants borns since the 1st October, 1931, will be entitled to pension benefits.
– The proposal of the Government is to broaden the amendment contained in the bill, and provide that dependants of all pensioners included in schedule 2 as well as blinded or partially blinded, will receive the rate of pension payable. If the pensioner dies from any cause, it will be regarded as .death due to war service.
– But will that benefit extend to the widows who were married and children born subsequent to October 1931?.
– I shall closely look into that phase of the bill.
– If that be so, the dependants of other war pensioners should be accorded similar treatment, and the Financial Emergency Act limitation on children born or women married to returned, men after the date mentioned should be removed.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Clause 6 provides that sub-section 1 of section 26 be amended by requiring each board to determine whether a member of the forces is “ permanently unemployable “. A good deal of difference of opinion will no doubt arise as to whether an applicant is permanently unemployable. We have had experience of this difficulty in connexion with applications for the invalid pension. It is conceivable that an ex-soldier might be partially in such a condition. Medical certificates are sometimes tendered to the effect that the disabilities of invalid pensioners are such as to prevent them from doing work of any kind, and .it is often argued that the disability is only of a temporary nature. Some returned soldiers may be so incapacitated through disabilities arising from war service that they are totally unable to follow the occupations to which they have been accustomed. I have in mind the case of a man suffering from a disability arising from rheumatism, and he is practically unemployable, because he cannot do the class of work to which he has been accustomed, such as relief work. He cannot Use a pick, a hammer or a shovel. When matters of this kind are argued before the commissioners, they say that it is not their duty to find suitable employment for these men. In the particular case to which I have referred it was said that the applicant could sell newspapers or flowers, operate a lift or engage in similar work; but we know that as the labour market is over-supplied it is not possible for these men to select jobs for which they are suited. Many of them cannot obtain clerical positions because they have not received suitable education to qualify them for that work. I realize the difficulty that confronts us in drawing up a definite formula under which the claims of bona fide applicants may be judged, but I hope that the aspects to which I have directed attention will not be overlooked. Unfortunately, the older these men grow, the worse their circumstances become.
I shall now refer to the definition of “ served in the theatre of war “. A number of men offered to serve in any capacity the authorities might desire. Some were kept in Australia, and others were retained in Great Britain.
– ‘Some were put into the mercantile marine.
– Yes. I am informed that some went into camps in Great Britain, and contracted severe colds which developed into tuberculosis. I hope that this definition will not prove unduly restrictive.
– The distinction between a war pension and a service pension causes difficulty, I think.
– It is important that this point should be covered.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) stated, in effect, that on the presentation of a doctor’s certificate that an applicant was suffering from tuberculosis, such evidence would be regarded as conclusive. But differences of opinion arise between members of the medical profession. An ex-soldier’s family doctor might certify that he was suffering from tuberculosis, whilst the departmental medical officer might express a different opinion. I suggest that in the event of such a conflict of opinion a board or referee should decide the matter.
Frequent reference has been made to the fact that appeals must run the gauntlet of the commission, which must determine whether additional evidence to be submitted is relevant. I desire to be sure that nothing will prevent an application being made to the appeal tribunal for a final decision.
I draw attention to the predicament of women who have married ex-soldiers, not knowing them to be already married. One such case has been brought under my notice, and probably there are not more than ten of them throughout Australia. These women have acted in good faith. In the particular case to which I refer, the ex-soldier died, arid because it was found that he had already been married, the woman and her children were not entitled to the pension. Representations made to the department on her behalf were unsuccessful; but the Tuberculosis Soldiers Association voluntarily assisted her and her family, and has continued to do so up to the present time, because it is satisfied as to the genuineness of her claim. If the bill does not provide for bona fide cases of this nature great injustice will be done. A widow making an application for the pension to-day must have been the wife of the ex-soldier at the time when the war disability was contracted. It seems unfair that a widow, although a de facto wife, should be deprived of the pension because she married an ex-soldier after the war believing him to be a single man.
A further point raised by the Leader of the Opposition relates to the onus of proof. I particularly direct attention to the position of widows who have applied for the pension after the death of their husbands. It is necessary for them to prove that death was due to disabilities caused by war service. Take the case of an ex-soldier who married some little time after his return from the war. In many instances the fact has been established that ex-soldiers were suffering from slight disabilities on their return from overseas. They did not rush in to obtain pensions. They had a few pounds in their pockets, and wanted to be free of the army, and everything connected with it, as soon as possible. They set out on their civil life once again feeling that the world was at their feet. Later they married, and, in many instances, their wives were unacquainted with their history before the war. In one cass that came under my notice a soldier’s widow explained to me that her husband, shortly after their marriage, began to- complain of pains in the- back of his head, and it seemed probable that the trouble was related to some of his experiences during the war. I was able to obtain evidence from men who had been at the war with him that he had been blown up in action, but the department then asked for proof that the trouble bad not been present before the man went to the war. In the circumstances it was almost impossible to advance such proof. The soldier, at the time of his death, was in a condition which, in the case of the average person, would be caused by the effect of the war. But it was impossible to locate people who were acquainted with him before the war in order to give evidence, and therefore a case could not be established to the satisfaction of the Appeal Board. I submit that cases of that kind should not be arbitrarily dismissed, as is being done at the present time. It is provided in this bill that the board shall act according to substantial justice, and the merits of the case, and that the appellant shall have the benefit of any reasonable doubt. I have all along said that this principle should be applied in dealing with applications for war pensions. The bill states that the Appeal Tribunal may accept from an appellant evidence which, in the opinion of the commission, is material to, and has a substantial bearing upon, the appellant’s claim. I do not think it is necessary to include the word “ substantial “. It seems to me that it may have the effect of restricting the appellant in his efforts to prove his case, and the omission of this word would, I think, make for more sympathetic treatment. Clause 22 provides, among other things, that the decisions of the Assessment Appeal Tribunal shall be binding upon the appellant and upon the commission for such period as is specified by the tribunal, being not more than three years from the date of the decision, and if no time is so specified, for six months from that date. I believe that, once a decision is given, it should be binding for at least three years, whether the tribunal fixes that time or not. There is provision elsewhere in the bill for the review of cases in which it is suspected that pensions have been obtained by fraud; therefore the department takes no risk whatever.. Once a pension has been granted by the tribunal it should stand for at least three years.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in the speech in which he introduced this bill, made it clear how extensive are the operations of the Repatriation Department and how efficiently its duties are being performed. I have studied the repatriation systems of other countries, and I know that in no other country is there a repatriation system as extensive, efficient, or well administered as ours is. Every effort is made to ensure that the sufferings of ex-soldiers are made as light as possible. However, in spite of all that has been done, cases frequently come to light for which it is impossible to do anything under the act as it stands. The amendments proposed in this bill will, I submit, do much to meet the needs of such cases. I look upon this measure as a further step in the direction of providing the perfect Repatriation Act. The amount of money available is a factor which must always be taken into consideration, but I am convinced that the ex-Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes), and those associated with him, who drew up this measure, have done the best that was possible, having regard to the funds that would be at their disposal. By the provision of a war pension efforts have been made to meet the case of every returned soldier who was wounded, injured, or fell sick while on active service overseas, or whose health has become undermined as the result of war service. In addition, a new principle has been introduced, namely, that in certain circumstances, a service pension may be paid to returned soldiers who have fallen sick, even though they cannot prove that their disabilities are due to war service. It is so long now since the war, that in a great many cases it is impossible to prove conclusively that the disability from which the ex-soldier is obviously suffering is due to war service.
The bill provides that a service pension, which is somewhat similar to an old-age pension, may be paid to returned soldiers at the age of 60 instead of 65, and to nurses, who served in the theatre of war, at the age of 55 instead of 60. This is an acknowledgment of the fact that the rigours of war and the privations endured have prematurely aged a great many nurses and ex-soldiers. There is also provision for the granting of a pension to soldiers whose war experiences have worn them down to such an extent that they are unemployable. These man have been burnt out, so to speak, and it is only right that something should be done for them. Provision is also made for the restoration of commuted pensions. Up till 1931, when the practice was abolished, ex-soldier pensioners were permitted to commute their pensions for a fixed sum, and it is now proposed to restore those pensions as from the 1st January next. The bill also contains a special provision to meet the needs of aged parents, and the widows of blinded soldiers. It is also provided that service pensions shall be payable to tubercular soldiers who served in the theatre of war, but who are unable to prove that their disability is due to war service. In addition to a service pension, such men are also to receive the comfort of hospital treatment. The estimated cost of these concessions is as follows: -
If the act is administered as Parliament intends, I feel certain that that estimate will be considerably exceeded. The bill introduces many variations which I endorse and which will go a long way towards making smoother the administration of the act. I feel sure that as the result of the passage of this bill, the administration of the Repatriation Commission, good as it has been in the past, will be better in the future. When Acting Minister for Repatriation, I was firmly convinced that the outstanding problem -which the commission had to overcome was the difficulty which confronted the soldier or his dependants in proving that his disabilities were due to war service. I saw many of tlie soldiers, and talked to them, and was convinced1 beyond any shadow of doubt that many of them who did not receive the pension were entitled to it. The commissioners could act only within the power conferred upon them by the act and that throws upon the soldier the onus of proof that his disability is due to war service. In many cases it is al most impossible to obtain such proof. I discussed this matter with the commissioners and I endeavoured to obtain information as to the experience of the allied nations in connexion with war pensions, and what steps were taken by them to overcome this problem. I was examining the Canadian repatriation legislation when, owing to a ministerial change, 1 was unable to proceed further.
I offer my congratulations to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) for the very efficient way in which he framed this bill. I also pay tribute to the officers of the commission who were very helpful to me in preparing the bill which was introduced last year by the then Minister (Sir Charles Marr). The task which confronted us was very great, because for a number of years no major legislative attempt had been made to deal with the problem of soldiers’ pensions, other than by the introduction in 1928 of legislation providing for appointment of the tribunals. I am, therefore, in a position to appreciate the task which confronted the right honorable member for North Sydney. I congratulate him o.u the result of his efforts.
The success or failure of the act as amended by this bill will depend entirely upon the manner in which the commissioners carry out the intention of Parliament, and upon the sympathy, ability, tact, foresight and judgment which they bring to bear in dealing with cases that come before them. No draftsman can frame and no parliament can pass a bill relating to soldiers and their many problems that will do justice to the soldiers unless those who administrate that legislation are possessed of the sympathy, judgment and experience necessary to put into effect the desires of Parliament. The commissioners, have in the past, undertaken a very difficult task, and a no less difficult task faces the new commissioners. I congratulate the Government on it3 choice of the new commissioners to carry on this important work. ‘ The new commissioners are returned soldiers with experience of soldiers’ problems; they are men who already have proved their sympathy and interest in their soldier comrades. For a long period they have been handling appeals of soldiers, and as the result of their own war experience and general knowledge are well fitted to carry out their task. I look forward to the exercise of sympathy and judgment in respect of future applications, and I feel certain that the act will be more smoothly administered in the future. I impress upon the new commissioners the importance of endeavouring, in all circumstances, to carry out what has obviously been the desire of this Parliament in the amending legislation introduced during the last two years, and further. to give the ex-soldier the benefit of any reasonable doubt. It is the desire of Parliament that the best possible treatment should be meted out to the soldiers who, so long after the war, have suffered, are suffering, or to-day are beginning to suffer, from the effects of strenuous war service.
.- Seeing that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have spoken favorably of the bill, it is not necessary at this juncture to debate the merits or otherwise of the principles involved in it; but in view of the fact that the guillotine has been applied, and that great latitude has been deliberately extended by the Chair to previous speakers, I propose to foreshadow at this stage certain amendments which I propose to move in committee, but which as the time allowed for the discussion in committee is very short, I may be denied an opportunity to move. I propose to deal with certain aspects of the bill and to point out how benefits to ex-soldiers could be increased. Although I shall propose these amendments, I do not wish it to be thought that I disagree with the amendments already contained in the bill. On the contrary I most wholeheartedly support them. The only fault I have to find with the bill is that certain anomalies which should be removed will still be permitted to exist. I am pleased that there has been an absolute change in the personnel of the Repatriation Commission. On more than one occasion I have voiced my own views in regard to the previous commissioners, and .1 have not at any time had any reason to moderate or vary in any way my strictures of the actions of the past commissioners. I feel sure that with the commission as it is at present constituted, we will not have the feeling which has existed in the past, that the efforts of returned soldiers to obtain a pension have been frustrated. Both the assessment and appeal tribunals are mentioned in the bill now before the House. There appears to be something wrong in the method by which payments are made to successful appellants before the tribunals. Section 45k of the act deals with the question of appeals generally, and section 45 w deals with the necessity for the applicant to make out a prima facie case. Section 45 w (2) reads as follows : -
Provided too that if the appellant or a representative of the appellant shall make out a prima facie case in support of his claim that the incapacity from which he is suffering or from which he has died was caused or aggravated by war service, the onus of proof that such incapacity was not in fact so caused or aggravated shall lie with the commission.
If an ex-soldier appeals under section 45w and his appeal is upheld, any medical evidence he may have been called upon to produce in order to make out a prima facie case, is not refunded to him by the commission. The first thing a soldier usually gets is an intimation that he is suffering from a certain complaint; following that, he is informed that the State Board does not consider that his complaint has been caused or aggravated by war- service. In many cases, at this stage the first great difficulty confronts the soldier. On appeal against the commissioners’ decision he is once again brought into the hands of some member of the medical profession, and has to bear the cost of medical fees. Naturally, he cannot go to the commission’s medical officers against whose decision he is appealing. Ultimately, if a verdict is given in his favour, no refund of the cost of such medical examinations is made. If such a thing took place in a court of law - and the Appeal Tribunals may be regarded as quasi-judicial bodies - costs given against the crown are paid to the appellant. Reasonable costs should, in all cases, be allowed to the appellant by the Appeal Tribunals. Section 45r (3) reads as follows : -
Any appellant shall be entitled -
The only expenses prescribed are certain travelling expenses and, I think, outofpocket expenses to a maximum of 7s. 6d. a day. In order to have his case properly argued, an applicant has to obtain and pay for independent medical opinion. As a layman, he could not argue against the medical opinion of the departmental doctors, who frequently attend the hearing of these claims. I have previously raised this question, and quite a lot of correspondence has passed in regard to it. It even came before Cabinet. One decision was given by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Francis), while he was Acting Minister for Repatriation. On the 6th June, 1934, he wrote to me as follows : -
Sinceyou raised the matter of reimbursement to ex-soldiers, of the cost of medical opinion, examinations, &c., in connexion with a claim for the acceptance of a disability, I have had an opportunity of going into the matter fully. As you will recall . the question hinged upon the propriety of paying the expenses incurred by a soldier for the medical evidence submitted by him (which he had privately obtained) in connexion, particularly, with an appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal.I am sure you will agree that the Government undertakes to (and does) make, in every case, all the necessary clinical and other investigations and obtains expert opinion on the information thus obtained and for this purpose the leading consultants were appointed in every State to assist in reaching a sound decision.
That is perfectly true. But the ex-soldier has to procure other medical opinion in order to combat that of the department. In the final paragraph, my request was turned down. I raised the matter again with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and meanwhile had discussed it with the members of the Repatriation Commission. I know that the departmental view-point is, in effect, mainly that a man might go from doctor to doctor until he obtained an opinion which suited him. I submit, however, that in the fixation of costs certain definite rules have to be observed, and that the tri bunal itself can make a reasonable and fair estimate of what should be awarded.
There is another suggestion which I ask the Minister to consider. At present the Appeal Tribunal merely announces that an appeal has been either allowed or disallowed. When disallowed, no reasons for the decision are given, and the appellant is unaware as to wherein he has failed to establish the justice or the merits of his case. That is altogether different from the practice of the courts. When a verdict is given by a judge, the reasons for it are fairly set out. The Income Tax Assessment Act 1933, provides by section 8, that-
Where, during the hearing of a review, the Commissioner or the taxpayer so requests, the board shall, when giving its decisions on the review, state in writing its reasons, both of law and of fact, for the decision including the particular terms of the act which have been considered by the board in arriving at the decision.
I suggest that a provision similar in principle and effect should be inserted in the Repatriation Act, so that an unsuccessful applicant before the entitlement tribunal would know wherein his case had failed, and the reasons for the decision given.
There is a further amendment which ought to be made. Under the proposals which the House is now considering, certain disabilities are to be accepted as having been due to war service. But there is a class of ex-service men whose cases are not covered. I refer to the partially blinded. If any such should meet with a fatal accident to which his partial blindness had contributed, the Commission as a general rule, if not in every case, accepts his death as having been due to war service. I know of a wharf lumper in Sydney who was killed by being hit by a sling on the side of his head on which he was blind, and whose death was held to have been due to war service. Another man in Sydney who was knocked down by a motor car was blind in one eye, and also deaf on the side on which he was struck. His death, too, was held to have been due to war service. But if on account of the strain imposed on the one remaining eye, or by reason of the spread of inflammation, that eye becomes affected, and the sight of it is lost, that is not accepted as having been due to war service. Nor, in order to preserve the sight of the remaining eye, are the usual surgical aids, such as spectacles, provided. Clause IS of tlie bill deals with those who are wholly blind as the result of war service. I appeal for an extension of this provision to cover the cases of those who lose the sight of a remaining eye by reason of circumstances beyond their control and definitely contributed to by the first loss. I also urge the desirability of preserving for as long as possible the sight of the good eye, by the granting of spectacles or something of the kind. Certainly those so affected should be able to obtain hospital treatment if anything should threaten what sight they have left. These matters would ordinarily have been raised in committee, but as an opportunity to raise them at that stage may not present itself, I have dealt with them on the motion for the second reading of the bill. I urge that they be taken into account.
– I most sincerely commend the Government for having introduced this far-reaching measure. I know that all honorable members are genuinely anxious to ensure that Australia shall be as generous as possible with those who suffer, in any way, by reason of service during the Great War. We all realize that the people of Australia have given a very definite mandate to the National Parliament in that connexion. That mandate, I maintain, has been recognized and honoured throughout the years that have passed since the termination of the war. I have always felt that party politics should play no part in a debate with respect to repatriation. The introduction of anything of the sort appears to me to be quite improper.
In 1930, the Dominion of Canada introduced a bill of this nature. In fact, its provisions arc very similar to those of this bill. It is entitled the War Veterans Allowance Act. Canada legislated for those who, having seen active service, were not wounded but were either mentally or physically incapable of earning a living. That legislation provided for the payment of an allowance to any veteran who had attained the age of 60 years or who, not having attained that age, was in the opinion of the adminster.ing board, by reason of physical or mental disability, permanently unemployable. T believe that the only difference between that legislation and ours is that ours is, if anything, a little more generous. The Dominion of New Zealand placed almost identical legislation on its statute-book last month. To prove that we are not less enlightened, and certainly not less sympathetic, the Government has gone far towards removing from want those whose sufferings may not be directly traceable to their service during the Great War. I support the expression of regret voiced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is not piloting this measure through the House. All must realize the strenuous nature of the work performed by that right honorable gentleman during the last twelve months in the preparation of the bill for Cabinet and the Parliament.
I do not propose to speak at great length on this measure. In view of the limited time at our disposal, it would be unfair for any honorable member to occupy time unduly. But certain features of the bill are particularly pleasing to me because for many years past I have been urging the Government to give attention to the matters involved.
For example, I have urged for many years that the “ burnt-out “ soldier - the old-young man, as it wore - who has become a derelict and is sub-normal as the result of his experiences on active service, should be given special treatment. In the circumstances, I may be perhaps excused for citing two passages from speeches which I made on this subject in 1926 and 3928. During the budget debate on the 22nd July, 1926, I said-
The only other matter that I wish to deal with at present has regard to sub-efficient exsoldiers. I have been informed that there are about 1,000 ex-soldiers who have not been able to re-establish themselves in civil life owing to sub-efficiency which can be attributed to war service. If this is so, I would strongly urge that the Repatriation Commission be directed to make a special effort to help these unfortunate mcn. In France, Belgium, Germany, the United States of America, and some other countries, various schemes have been devised to meet such cases, and I feel that something should be done in this direction by the Commonwealth. I appeal earnestly to the Government to make a special effort to cope with the matter, for in some senses these are the saddest cases of all, as the men, having lost their efficiency, get very little sympathy from the public.
On the 10th May, 1928, during a debate on an amending repatriation bill, I said -
There are certain sad cases of ex-soldiers who have become derelict or sub-normal as a result of the horrors of war.’ Many aro unable to secure permanent employment, and some have reached a stage which makes them a public charge. 1 understand that the Government is giving this matter consideration, and I trust that something will bc done for these unfortunate men. Canada provides for certain classes of men in this category by giving quarters and maintenance, and, when necessary, medical treatment for any indigent war pensioner whose pensionable disability, together with his non-service disability, prevents him permanently from obtaining or continuing remunerative work, and thereby earning sufficient to maintain himself, and who, as a result, has, or will, become a public charge.
In view of the stand that I have taken in regard to these men for so many years, honorable members generally will realize that, however gratifying the introduction of this measure may be to them, it is particularly pleasing to me.
The clauses dealing with payment of service pensions to returned soldiers who reach the age of 60 years and returned nurses who reach the age of 55 years, and also to those who at any age are unemployable, are provisions that will be warmly welcomed. While I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that difficulties will have to be faced in the administration of these provisions, I consider that they should be met sympathetically and fairly. Our repatriation legislation has always been difficult to administer.
I was glad that the Prime Minister, in introducing this bill, paid a tribute to the splendid work of the members of the Repatriation Commission and the officers of the Repatriation Department generally in this connexion. The right honorable gentleman said that these officers had carried out their work conscientiously and sympathetically and that their assistance in the preparation of this bill had been particularly helpful. The right honorable member for North Sydney also paid tribute to the splendid service of these officers and so did the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) who was formerly in charge of the department. We all realize that great responsibility rests upon these officers. In fact, the success or failure of repatriation legislation in this or any other country, irrespective of the form in which these various measures appear on the statutebook, depends upon sympathetic administration.
– It is the duty of the officers to administer the act sympathetically.
– While that may be so, we must recognize that not every one succeeds an doing his duty as it ought to be done. The sympathetic consideration which the officers of the Repatriation Commission and the department generally have always accorded those who have dealings with them is worthy of the favorable mention which it has received during this debate. I am glad to be able to say, also, that I, like, I believe, all other honorable members, am entirely satisfied with the present personnel of the Repatriation Commission. In this connexion I may, perhaps, he allowed to say, although it is somewhat outside the scope of the bill, that the Government should give more consideration to the status of the officers of this department. Their position at present is uncertain. They are not, in the ordinary sense, members of the Public Service; they have no furlough rights, and are not even entitled to contribute to the Superannuation Fund. Steps should be taken at the earliest possible date to remedy these anomalies, and adjust the position of these officers.
Another outstanding feature of tho bill which must be particularly gratifying to all honorable members, is that it provides assistance to those suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. It is indeed pleasing that the national significance of this dread complaint has thus been recognized. This Parliament has always fully appreciated the distressing circumstances and conditions under which sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis exist, for that is the only word I can use. While I am sure that all honorable members sympathize with ex-soldiers suffering from heart, liver, kidney and other complaints, nevertheless the most tragic figure is the man who, having returned from active service apparently fit and well, now finds himself unable to work, and is oppressed by the nightmare that he is a menace and a burden to his own family. I know of no word so applicable to this disease as insidious. The disease may exist for many years, concealed and without marked symptoms. It may not so obviously intrude itself as to reach the diagnosable stage for periods up to ten or twelve years, and even longer. It is admitted by those who have had experience in treating this particular condition that its variability presents one of the greatest difficulties in its diagnosis. Sometimes the onset is rapid; sometimes it is life-long; sometimes it is suddenly active and dangerous; sometimes it is quiescent. There is developed chronicity, with periods of inactivity, alternating with activity, for half a life time. In determining how and when tuberculosis began, consideration must be given to periods of excessive physical exertion, exposure to the elements, unsuitable and bad environment, poor food, insufficient rest., exposure to acute infections, nervous tension, and war. These views are held by such noted authorities as the medical men in charge of the Manitoba Sanatorium, in Canada, which is probably the largest institution in the world dealing with this complaint. It seems to me that, in the light of these opinions, the Government is well justified in doing something additional - something special - for sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis who cannot directly trace their trouble to war service. The royal commission which considered repatriation matters in 1925 recommended the payment of a permanent pension to the unfortunate sufferers from this dread complaint. I have never heard that any returned soldiers’ organization has raised an objection to the extension of special treatment to these individuals, nor do I think that I ever shall hear of it. I am quite sure that honorable members of this House will be agreeable to the course which the Government is now proposing to take.
I am particularly pleased that the Government is making provision to restore pensions in commuted cases. At the time the commutation was effected, medical reports indicated that the disease was stationary, but time has proved this opinion was, in numerous cases, incorrect, for the disability has retrogressed, and the ex-soldier now finds himself considerably handicapped as the result of war service and without compensation in the form of a pension. Only small pensions were affected by the commutation, for a pension in excess of 30 per cent, could not be commuted. Many of the men who commuted their pensions hoped that they would be able, with the small lump sum that they received, to establish themselves in some walk of civilian life that would be congenial and successful; but, unfortunately, failure overtook them in many cases. In respect of those men whose complaint developed, there is every justification for the restoration of the commuted pensions. This feature of the bill is most gratifying to me.
I am glad, also, that an cases in which “material aggravation” is claimed to have occurred, ex-service men have been given the right bo appeal to an independent body similar to an entitlements appeal tribunal, or an assessment appeal tribunal. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred, in the course of his speech, to the difficulty experienced in drafting legislation in language that exactly expresses what is intended. It is most difficult, for instance, to define “material aggravation “ in exact terms. Long debates have occurred in this House on the meaning of this particular term. I am glad, therefore, that the position will now be clarified. The appeal system has worked with marked success in Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, and I have no doubt is similarly working throughout Australia.
During my speech on the budget debate, on the 22nd July, 1926, I drew attention to the fact that the Repatriation Act passed by the Italian Government placed the onus on the Government to prove that an ex-soldier had not suffered through his war service, whereas in our legislation the onus was on the soldier to prove that he had so suffered. As far as 1 have been able to gather, that is the only respect in which the Italian repatriation legislation is more favorable to returned soldiers than is that of Australia. In every other regard the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is much more generous.
The provision made in the bill, by a . direction to the Repatriation Commission, that in the determination of appeals the commission shall act according to substantial justice and to the merits of each case, and that the appellant shall be given the benefit of any reasonable doubt, is also mo3t commendable. I am particularly glad that the word “relevant” has been deleted. I feel that with the Repatriation Commission, as now constituted, the act will be most sympathetically administered, and with this desirable widening of the powers of the commission, the returned soldiers will always be given the benefit of the doubt.
There are several matters which I regret are not included in this bill. I think the time has arrived when more assessments should be placed on a permanent basis. It is inconvenient f ot both the soldier and his employer _ for frequent reviews to take place, and it is unnecessarily expensive to the country that he should be examined so often. If it is decided to make these assessments permanent, it should be impressed on the soldier concerned that, in the event of his complaint becoming worse, he should immediately report to the Repatriation Department for examination. It would help us and would prove a boon and a blessing to those in receipt of war pensions. I commend the Government most sincerely for having brought down this measure, and I am sure that every honorable member has the same feeling. It will be recognized by former soldiers, their dependants and the war nurses as most generous and acceptable.
.- I am pleased that the Government at last has realized the responsibilities it owes to returned men, but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the bill should have been introduced years ago. I know of men in my electorate who, because of inability to prove that their condition of ill-health is due to the ravages of war service, are denied pensions. Under this bill, these men will be given what they should have received years ago, and. what I believe the administrative officers of the Repatriation Commission would have granted to them had they been allowed by the Repatriation Act to do so. My experience of the officers of the commission is, as with every other Commonwealth department, that they give the fullest consideration and courteous treatment in the discharge of their duties. The member of the repatriation staff whom I know best has been appointed to work involving greater responsibilities. I wish him success in the new sphere to which he has been transferred.
It is pleasing to observe that the Government has determined at last to make some better provision for returned soldiers than has been made in the past. Throughout the Commonwealth, in the homes of returned soldiers and their dependants, there will be real joy at the fact that at last they are to receive some small justice. Injustice has been done over and over again to the men who went to the war. They were promised practically the world if they would enlist for service, but on their return a great many of them were denied pension rights. Returned men will welcome the provision in the bill which removes from them the onus of proof that their disabilities are due to war service, nothing more pernicious than which can be imagined. How in the name of fortune can unfortunate men suffering from ill-health, undoubtedly due to their military service, be able to prove that it really is due to that service, when medical men disagree on the point, and the Commonwealth Medical Referee goes as far as to say that it is not so due? In the Cairns district, I know of at least seven or eight returned men whose health broke down so completely three or four years ago, that they are not able to work. They were perfect specimens of manhood when they left for the Front, and on their return they were discharged as medically fit. After the passage of time they began to feel the full effects of illness which could not definitely be diagnosed. These men had been gassed and knocked about in many ways. On their return from the Front, they resumed their occupations, and worked under the most favorable conditions, in the sunshine out of doors. Yet they developed illnesses which the medical fraternity, and particularly the medical referee, have claimed to be not the after-effects of war service. In 1929, when I first entered this Parliament, I directed attention to the fact that injustice was being done to these men. This bill grants long overdue justice.
Tax remissions should never have been given when men who went to the war physically fit and returned bodily and mentally affected had to shoulder the onus of proof that war service was the cause of their disability. If it had not been for the fact that they went overseas to fight for their country the classes to whom taxes are being remitted would have no property or income on which to pay tax. It would have been taken from them by the Central Powers of Europe. They would, therefore, have no cause to squeal if remissions were withheld from them until every returned soldier in this country was given the right to live. I am pleased, however, that the Government has seen fit to introduce this amending bill, and I have no doubt that officers of the Repatriation Commission will do their share by administering the act in the interests of the returned soldiers.
– I realize that other honorable members, particularly returned soldiers, desire to address themselves to this bill, and, as the time of the committee is limited, I propose to be brief. I wish to congratulate the Government for having introduced it, and also the right honorable member for North (Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who must have done a remarkable amount of work in preparation for its introduction. The bill gives a further liberal interpretation to the principle of repatriation, and I feel that this amendment is not the lastword on the subject. As the years go by, I have no doubt that we shall make the Repatriation Act still wider in its application and do further justice to the men who went overseas, many of whom returned physical wreck’s to the land, they defended. The Government realizes its obligations to these men, and I feel sure the only reason why the present bill is not even more liberal is the limitation imposed by the state of the finances. In bringing down this bill, the Government has gone to the greatest limit that the finances will allow. Honorable members seem to realize that fact, therefore they are not making it a party measure.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) suggested to the Government that it might take into consideration certain proposals made by them. They realize, that, within the limits of the money available, the Government is doing its best, and that it would be embarrassing if amendments seeking a further widening of the clauses of the bill were moved. I, too, have, a suggestion to make to the Ministry, of which I feel it might well take early advantage. It has to do with the widows of deceased tubercular soldiers. I feel sure that the Government will see the advisability of following the suggestion I propose to make. The bill makes the sections of the act regarding tuberculosis very wide indeed, as the Government, realizing that it is a disease which in certain cases and under certain conditions cannot be definitely attributed to war service, has waived the necessity for specifying the cause. From time to time, honorable members are notified of cases which they feel sure are directly attributable to war services, but neither they nor the patients themselves are able to prove that overseas service was the direct cause. One case I have in mind is that of a man who was subjected to a severe gassing. This man brought evidence from his former commanding officer in support of his claim for a pension, but there was nothing on record to prove that he has been gassed. He was a good soldier, and because reinforcements from overseas were arriving, he was appealed to to stay with the battery despite the fact that he was ill as the result of a gas attack. He yielded to the requests and remained on service, but he has since contracted tuberculosis which he cannot prove is directly due to Avar service. Owing to the fact that he failed to apply for treatment, his case was fought for some considerable time before he received a certain measure of relief. He was fortunate because he was able to induce his former commanding officer and a lieutenant, who was attached to the battery, to give evidence in his support. Other returned soldiers are not so fortunately placed, and by removing the necessity for them to trace their condition to war service the Government has acted justly and has given necessary relief. The suggestion I would make to the Government is that widows of deceased tubercular returned soldiers who are suffering a disability because their husband’s applications for pensions were refused should be given some consideration in further amending legislation. The act, as it is proposed to be amended by this bill, will come into operation on the 1st January, 1936. It is possible that, between now and then, certain sufferers from tuberculosis will die, and their widows will be denied the proposed benefits of this bill. That aspect should be considered by the Government, which should make the act retrospective in this respect.
With regard to those who are “ burnt out “ or unemployable - a term not generally understood outside Parliament or in the rising generations who know very little of the ravages of war - a strong case exists for their better treatment. It cannot be stressed too greatly that these men have a definite claim of the country. Honorable members who have been overseas have seen time and time again men who have been shellshocked. These men are apt to become for the moment creatures without control over their emotions; of times suffering physical as well as mental lesion. Although they may ultimately regain control of themselves their reserves have been impaired and a weakness will remain with them. They may eventually become unemployable, and because of a lack of record they cannot prove that their condition is due to war service.
Honorable members have been requested from time to time to deal with the cases of men who have had some slight weakness prior to enlistment, and whose disability has been materially aggravated through conditions overseas over which they have had no control. In 1921, the act was amended for the purpose of showing further consideration to ex-soldiers of this class, but it was provided that if application was not made within six months of the amendment of the act the provision relating to material aggravation could not be in voked. I congratulate the Government upon having taken this point into further consideration.
I was interested to hear the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) eulogize the work of the commission officers. In the main, they are returned soldiers, and they are devoting their lives to the sympathetic administration of the act. Their work is of a high standard, and I join the honorable member for Lilley, and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) who addressed himself to the matter some time ago in asking the Government to recognize the rights of these officers and to grant them a permanency of employment and the consequent long-service leave which is extended to members of the Public Service. I appreciate the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that this bill does not represent the last word of the Government on repatriation matters. No doubt, as the years pass, the necessity for further liberalization of the provisions of the act will arise.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mahoney) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I draw attention to a most dastardly and false attack made upon me to day in the Labor Daily, which publishes a statement that when the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was speaking on the subject of better conditions and shorter working hours for nurses, he remarked to me, “ I ask that you donot sneer and laugh when I am speaking on this matter “. It is untrue that the honorable member addressed that remark to me, and he will bear out what I say. I particularly resent this unwarrantable attack to which I have directed attention, because, for practically the whole of my life, I have striven to improve the conditions of the medical and nursing professions.
– I regret the publication of the statement to which the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) has very properly taken exception. The report in the Labor Daily to which the Minister has referred reads -
AS ONE DOCTOR TO ANOTHER.
(From our Special Rep.)
One doctor to another was given a swift twist in the House of Representatives to-day by Dr. Maloney (Fed. Lab. Melb.). He was pleading for better conditions and shorter hours for nurses, when suddenly, pointing to the Minister for Commerce, Dr. Page, ho exclaimed : “ I ask that you do not sneer and laugh when I’m speaking on this matter “.
The fact of the matter is that my remark was not addressed to my old friend, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I was protesting against the long hours which nurses work at the Canberra Hospital, and when I am interrupted I become irritated. “When I used the words quoted in the newspaper report, I was pointing to a man at the back of the chamber who was a total stranger to me. Had I known him I might have mentioned his name. Therefore, my remark could not possibly have been addressed to the Minister for Commerce, or to any other honorable member. Later, in the King’s Hall, a big fellow stepped up to me and apologized, remarking that he had not been laughing at me. I told him that I did not wish to pick a quarrel with him, because, even had I been 50 years younger, I should have hesitated to do so, in view of his stature; so we shook hands. I feel confident that the newspaper correspondent concerned will make amends, as far as possible, for the error that has been made. I am sure that the right honorable member for Cowper would not hestitate to do all in his power to improve the working conditions of nurses.
.- In fairness to the representative of the newspaper mentioned, it should be pointed out that when the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was sitting ‘ on the ministerial bench in the corner, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) pointed to a man standing behind him, and asked him not to sneer and laugh. Therefore, I cannot agree that an unjustifiable attack was made on the Minister, because the reporter merely made a mistake. No attack on the Minister was intended.
.- I was present in the House when this incident arose. Whether the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was mistaken or not regarding the person whom he believed to be laughing at his remarks, it is perfectly true that many members on the Government side were actually laughing and sneering at them.
– -It is claimed by the Minister that an unwarrantable attack has been made on him by a newspaper.
– The honorable member for Melbourne has supported me.
– I was present at the time, and saw honorable members opposite sneering.
– The honorable member is not in order in saying that honorable members were sneering.
– My point is that the newspaper correspondent correctly reported what he believed to have taken place, and I agree with the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that it cannot’ be fairly said that an unwarrantable attack was made on the Minister. Probably the newspaper representative was wrong in singling out one member on the Government side when a number of them were sneering at the time.
– My remarks were directed to a stranger, not to any member of the House.
– I refute, and throw back in the teeth of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) the deliberate untruth which he has uttered.
– The Minister is not in order in using those words. They are quite unparliamentary.
– I contend that my statement has been completely supported by the honorable member for Melbourne.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
en asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as . follows : -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained. “ Telegraphist’scramp.”
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Wireless Installation on Small Ships.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
What action has been taken by the Commonwealth and each State following upon their consultation regarding the installation of wireless on small ships?
– The attention of the honorable member is invited to the Navigation Act (No. 30 of 1935) passed early this year for the purpose, inter alia, of requiring all steamships engaged in the interstate trade and not already required to carry wireless, to be provided with a wireless telegraph installation having the same range as the standard installation on the larger ships, i.e., passenger and cargo ships over 1,600 tons gross registered tonnage.
In the case of vessels of from750 to 1,600 tons gross, the installation is to he in charge of a certificated wireless operator, whilst in the case of vessels under 750 tons gross, the installation will be attended to by an officer or member of the crew holding a third class certificate of proficiency in radio telegraphy issued by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The wireless signaller, as he will be called in these cases, must be qualified both to send and receive by Morse at the rate of hot less than ten words a minute. In cases where a wireless signaller is carried an automatic distress sender, capable when put in operation, of automatically Bonding out in the Morse code the wireless signals prescribed to be used by a ship in distress, together with the ship’s name and position, must form part of the installation.
With regard to vessels engaged exclusively in intra-State trade, the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction. It was, however, suggested to the Premiers of all States that consideration should be given to the advisability of introducing legislation for the purpose of requiring such ships to carry wireless equipment similar to that now required’ to be carried by vessels engaged in interstate trade. Already the requisite legislation in this respect has been passed by the Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The Government of South Australia has. intimated that, having regard to the sheltered nature of the voyages in which most of their intrastate ships operate, that is, in Spencer’s and St. Vincent’s gulfs, the provision of wireless equipment on such ships is considered unnecessary. Practically all vessels operating in Western Australian waters, being passenger ships, are already equipped with a wireless installation under the federal act. Vessels trading intra-state in Tasmania are confined almost exclusively to river and bay craft and small sailing vessels.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Have Doctors Leesand Washington Gray submitted any report to the Government upon the Lakes Entrance oil deposits, as the result of their investigation of that area; if so, will the Prime Minister make the report available to the House?
– Doctors Lees and Washington Gray have not submitted any report to the Government upon the Lakes Entrance oil-field. It is expected that Doctor Washington Gray will visit this locality early next year, when he will submit a report to Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, under whose aegis he is working in Australia.
y asked the Minister for Industry, upon notice -
During the approaching recess, does the Minister intend to conduct inquiries into the question of reduced hours of labour, so that this matter can be brought before the House early next year?
– This matter is still receiving the attention of the Government.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 November 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351129_reps_14_148/>.