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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr MULCAHY (Lang) (4:47 AM) .I support what was said by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). Before granting requests for the installation of public telephones the Postal Department makes a searching examination which takes a good deal of time ; and after approval for the installation has been given, it takes five or six months for the installation to be made. I had a case of such delay last week. The delay in installing public telephone cabinets is common throughout Sydney and I daresay that the same disability occurs in Melbourne. The efforts I have made in the last three years tohave the important centre of Earlwood provided with a post office culminated last week in an announcement by the Postmaster-General that my request was to be granted; but if it takes six months to place a public telephone in position, I fear that it will be some years before Earlwood gets its post office. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth that the charges for telephones are too high. I suggest that, if the department were to forgo the telephone rentals, the service would become more popular and the money that would be lost would be more than offset by the additional number of subscribers and calls.

During the depression a large number of returned soldiers who had invested their gratuity bonds and life savings in war service homes lost their employment and consequently fell into arrears in their payments for those homes, some of them to the extent of £300 and £400. Eventually many of them had to leave their homes, some under eviction orders. Today many of them are back in employment at the basic wage and the War Service Homes Department is pressing them for the arrears. In view of the services that these people rendered to this country during the war, it is not asking too much that their arrears to the War Service Homes Commission be written off so that they will be able to make a fresh start without having to carry the burden of a heavy debt. I attach no blame to the War Service Homes Commissioner who has to do his duty, but the Government should be able to instruct him not to pursue these men for their arrears.

The tragedies of the last war become more apparent day by day. Twenty years after the cessation of hostilities men who are at the Rand wick hospital suffering from tuberculosis, are experiencing almost insuperable difficulties in proving that their disability is due to war service so that they may qualify for a pension. The ordinary service pension is not enough for these sufferers; it is only sufficient to provide the bare necessaries of life. They deserve better treatment from the Commonwealth Government thanthey are receiving to-day. I ask the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Thompson) to bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation the need to do something for these men-. I have every confidence in repatriation commissioners, who are doing wonderful work, but in the cases I have in mind it is difficult for them, under the procedure laid down, to grant pensions, because with the effluxion of time the claimants find it impossible to present convincing evidence. Either their friends have died or the doctors who could have probably swayed the commission are no longer available to do so.

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