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Wednesday, 5 May 1920

Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) .- I am very glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has brought this matter under the notice of the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), and I hope the right honorable gentleman will have regard to his statements. I know intimately the gentlemen who have the management of the Austin Hospital. They are among our most worthy citizens, and devote themselves with the utmost enthusiasm to the somewhat painful duties that have to be discharged in connexion with the institution. The hospital necessarily commands the sympathy of all, by reason of the diseases that are treated in it. It is difficult to believe, as one might infer from what has been said, that a suggestion has been made by the Repatriation Department that inmates of the hospital should be turned out to make room for returned soldiers. According to the Leader of the Opposition however, some forty patents have received notice to leave the hospital. The fact that they were there is sufficient to show that they were fit inmates of such an institution, and it could not have been thought for one moment that the diseases from which they were suffering would be so readily cured as to permit of their being sent away in such numbers. I should like however, to hear what the managing committee of the hospital have to say. They certainly would not be capable of consciously doing wrong, and if .they have undertaken to find room for returned soldiers suffering from various diseases, there must have been some reason for their action. I would urge that our clear duty is to make the most ample provision in some of our military hospitals for the effective treatment of returned soldiers suffering from tuberculosis. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that admission to the Austin Hospital would in itself have a most depressing influence on a patient. These soldiers, who have come back suffering from tuberculosis, or who have since developed the disease, require the most careful treatment under the most exhilarating conditions. Our returned men themselves would be the last to desire that poor unfortunates suffering as they do should be ejected from the Austin Hospital to make room for them. But since it has been' stated that men have had to be turned out of that hospital to make room for returned soldiers, it is our clear duty to see that ample provision is made in our own military hospitals so that such a dire calamity may be avoided. I again say that, from my knowledge of the managers of the hospital, I am sure they would not consciously do .wrong. The matter must be capable of some explanation; but if the facts are as have been stated, the remedy is obvious.

As regards the Bill itself, no one can take exception to it. It has for its object the creation of a Trust Fund, and in passing it we shall simply follow a precedent which the House has adopted on other occasions. It is unnecessary to emphasize the original objective of the formation of these Trust Funds.

Mr Tudor - I have stated it.

Sir ROBERT BEST - I did not know that the honorable member had done so, a.nd I do not want, to emphasize it.

Mr Tudor - We have a right to our own money over and above the per capita payment of 25s. to the States.

Sir ROBERT BEST - We have, and it is certainly proper that this money should be applied to one of the splendid philanthropic works undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. It is a national work, and we rejoice that we are able to give some substantial relief and comfort to these men. I am sure we shall all readily acknowledge that the creation of this Trust Fund is thoroughly justifiable, and since the Bill will facili tate the administration of the fund we can cordially approve of it.

I emphasize once more the point that I am desirous, with the Leader of the Opposition, that there shall be an inquiry into the facts he has brought before the House, and I am sure the Minister will see that no injustice is done to the unfortunates who are suffering by reason of what has taken place.

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