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Thursday, 8 March 1928

Mr MAKIN (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Honorable members opposite made a party question of the motion.

Mr YATES - Any one who watched the face of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) to-night could see that he was more concerned over this motion than he has ever been before? It was not an easy matter for him to induce honorable members to vote on the side of the Government. It is a disgrace that the political exigencies of the moment should far outweigh the rights of returned soldiers. The strongest argument advanced by the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) was that we would not know where to draw the line, because, he said, many men developed heart complaints. The Minister for Health referred to cancer, malignant growths and Bright's disease. If any man who suffers from those complaints has been a soldier, I regard it as the duty of the nation to succour him. I confined my proposed help to tubercular soldiers, because, according to the report of the Repatriation Department, they are the greatest problems. I should like the Minister to let us know how many men are suffering from cancer. 1 should do my best to help in fashioning the legislation of this country so that every man would get the full measure of what was promised to him during the war. After all, how much would it cost the country? The Minister had the audacity to tell us that during the peak period the war pensions would rise from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000. They are not costing more than £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 now, and if they 'amounted to £10,000,000 I should say they would go no higher. "When money was wanted for the war we were told on placards all over the country, "Money is a good soldier. Contribute to the War Loan." Can I be shown one money soldier who was maimed? I should like to know what this country is paying to the money soldier that did not take one scintilla of risk in the Great "War. Can any one tell me the annual interest bill on the money that was borrowed to send men overseas to sacrifice their health, if not their lives? It is probably much nearer £18,000,000 than the £7,000,000 we pay to thesoldiers who did so well for us in France. This is a crying shame and a disgrace. I am sorry to have to Speak in this way. In moving the motion I was temperate. But if the people of Australia could only assemble here to see what we have done to-night, I do not think that1/2 per cent, of them would agree with those honorable members who have turned down my request. Small as the proposed pension expenditure involved might be, it would be a big thing to the tubercularsoldiers, some of whom have large families to support. I do not care whether the unfortunate sufferer is singleor married, if he is stricken with tuberculosis, from the bottom of my heart I say " God help him !" I do not say that these men were actually forced to enlist, but we know how they were asked, "Why is it that you have not enlisted?" "How old are you?" "Are you a married man?"and so on. When they went to' France there was . not a day, if they . were anywhere near the fighting line, when they knew they were likely to live over the morrow. They lived through all the vicissitudes I outlined in my opening speech, and, above all, they sacrificed their health for the benefit of the nation. They accepted the word of those who pleaded with them to go. They went on promises of fabulous treatment. on their return. Monuments in every conceivable shape have been erected to the memory of those who perished, but monuments to the fallen are of little value so long as some material help is not given to enable the man who is living to keep the wolf from his door. I do not put forward this plea with any idea of making political capital. I do it because I admire these men, who have not been justly treated. If this motion is not. carried the sin committedand the shame of it will rest for all time on the heads of the present Government.

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