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Tuesday, 15 March 1932

Mr SCULLIN (Yarra) .- The purpose of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is to protect a returned soldier from being sued for the cost of repairs up to £40 in the event of his not being in reasonable employment and having no equity in the property.

Mr James - In my own electorate four or five returned soldiers are being sued for arrears of payments although they have been ejected from their homes.

Mr SCULLIN - There is now power in the act to sue a returned soldier for the arrears of his instalments. But in this case, so far as I can gather - the Minister, I hope, will either affirm or contradict me - the Government is not seeking power to sue a returned soldier for the cost of any repairs effected to a home unless the soldier has an equity in the property and a sale is effected. Thus, if a property were repaired at the cost of £40, and were sold at such a price as to show a loss, there would be no claim against the returned soldier for the cost of repairs. The Commissioner would be obliged to shoulder the whole of it. I can see no hope of being able to pass a law to define what is meant by "reasonable employment." A man may have no employment at all, and yet be in enjoyment of a fairly good income. Again, what may be regarded by one person as reasonable employment might not be so regarded by another. We must not forget that this clause relates to repairs made to properties which have reverted to the Commissioner. Any provision to define the term "reasonable employment," should have been inserted in an earlier section of the act. In any case, I think we must depend upon the administration to do the fair thing by returned soldiers, and in this respect we can only judge by experience, and by the policy of governments. Usually, instructions have been given to the Commissioner to take the lenient view. We must rely upon the administration's sense of justice, and, I think, all will admit that hitherto every case of hardship has been dealt with sympathetically. If, however, any honorable member can cite cases of hardship due to unemployment of returned soldiers, which have not received sympathetic consideration, either during the administration of my government, or any other administration, we shall fight with him until justice is done, and I feel sure that we shall command the unanimous support of all honorable members.

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