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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr MULCAHY (Lang) .- In my opinion, the medical treatment given to returned soldiers in repatriation hospitals is not so good as it should be. This matter has been mentioned on other occasions by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander). A returned soldier who is an inmate of a repatriation hospital receives treatment only for disabilities deemed by the Repatriation Department to have arisen out of war service. I had brought to my notice recently the case of a returned soldier who was in danger of losing both his legs owing to a certain complaint. The department apparently admitted war disability in respect of only one leg, and would not give him medical treatment for the other. That is not the right way to treat men who gave their services to the Empire during the Great War. Especially is this attitude to be deprecated when a campaign is being undertaken on a wide scale for army recruits. How can men be expected to volunteer freely for military service when they know that those suffering as a result of the last war are being shown so little consideration? The man to whom I refer was refused medical treatment for one leg at the Randwick Military Hospital, but after I had interviewed the Minister for Repatriation on his behalf, the decision was reversed and he is now getting medical treatment for both legs. Those men who can bring their cases before the Minister, can get injustices put right; but hundreds of men who are unable to interview the Minister or members of Parliament cannot get the medical treatment to which they are entitled.

Only £30 is provided in the Estimates for relief of ex-imperial soldiers. A number of British ex-service men in receipt of pensions in England commuted their benefits for a lump sum and migrated to Australia with their families. Some of these men now find themselves in difficulties. Their war disabilities have become acute, and they are unable to provide for their families. One man, suffering from a chest complaint, commuted his pension in England for £90, and came to Australia with his wife and two children. Eight or nine years later he died and left his widow and children destitute. The Commonwealth Government should bring such cases before the Imperial Government. These people should not become a charge on Australia. Some relief should also be given to Australian veterans of the 'South African "War, of whom from 200 to 250 are in indigent circumstances. Many of these men are not eligible for the old-age or invalid pension. Those who fought for the Empire in the South African War are entitled to some consideration. The cost of giving much needed assistance to these men would not be more than £400 or £500 a year.

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