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Friday, 30 April 1920

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- When this question was dealt with previously, on the amendment of the honorable member for Wannon to limit theperiod of appointment to three years, the argument put forward was that thepowers conferred upon the Repatriation Commissioners by the Bill were strictly limited in point of time, and there was no need for the appointment of Commissioners for a longer period than threeyears. Honorable members had to cometo a determination upon the point without being able to give consideration to thepowers proposed to be bestowed upon theCommissioners, because they were fixed by a later clause than that which fixed their term of appointment; and in this; connexion Ministers contended that if theadministration of pensions was not intrusted to the Commission, and if additional duties were not given to it, to a very large extent there would be no justification for its appointment. It was pointed' out by an honorable member on the Ministerial side of the House that the existing Repatriation Department administration was capable of carryingto a completion the work already undertaken; and that unless additional powers were given to the Commissioners by incorporating in the Bill the proposal which the Committee will be discussingin a few moments, namely, the grantingof assistance to co-operative companies of returned soldiers, there would be absolutely no reason for the formation of new machinery in connexion with the administration of repatriation matters. I have had considerable personal knowledge and experience of repatriation work in country districts, and I realizethat, to a large extent, the Federal portion of this class of work has already been done. As I showed a fortnight ago, if the Commonwealth had retained control of the moneys handed over to the States in connexion with repatriation, and if the Repatriation Commission wereclothed with authority to .take part in thehandling of that work, the Commis- sioners would be provided with occupation for a lifetime; but in the present circumstances there is no necessity whatever for the appointment of a new Commission with powers so limited as they have been by the Government.

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