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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

Senator COOPER (Queensland) : - Every member of the Commonwealth Parliament has given careful consideration to the successive amendments of the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act, and I think that the general public, as represented by the Federal Parliament, have treated the repatriation of returned soldiers on a very liberal basis. Since I became a member of this Senate, I have noticed that whenever bodies representing returned soldiers' organizations waited on members of Parliament, or upon various Ministers administering the Repatriation Department, they received a sympathetic hearing, and so far as the finances of the country have permitted, their requests for extra concessions were granted. I commend Senator Hardy for the very able speech he delivered, and I believe that certain of his recommendations will be acted upon by the Government. At the same time I realize that anomalies always arise in the administration of legislation of this nature. I paid particular attention to the honorable senator's reference to the? march by Australian Imperial Force troops along the Blue Nile from TelelKebir to Ferry's Post on the Suez Canal. Senator Sampson also gave some enlightening information upon that subject ; and I should like to endorse his remarks because I am able to speak from firsthand knowledge of this subject. The 15th Battalion, of which I was a member, participated in that celebrated march, and very fortunately came through without loss. But other battalions were not so lucky; not only were several lives lost, but also the physical reserves of many of the survivors were seriously impaired. Eventually the march was pronounced to have involved unnecessary hardship; but I do not propose to discuss that aspect to-day. I do emphasize, however, that the men who were definitely incapacitated as the result of that expedition were able to obtain war pensions, but of the men of the 4th Division, whowere only footsore, or unable to carry on through minor disabilities, 99 per cent, returned to their units on the east side of the Canal within three weeks. Thus, they are entitled to receive a pension in accordance with the provisions of the act. I contend that every man who participated in that celebrated march was eligible either for a war pension or a service pension. I welcome this bill as another stage in the granting of assistance to returned soldiers, in order to enable them to enjoy additional comforts, and to ameliorate the effects of their war service.

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