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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr MAHONEY (Denison) .- If the men who served in the Great War are to be properly repatriated, it will be necessary to grant pensions or medical benefits to all those who are now in broken health, irrespective of whether they can prove that their present disabilities are due to their war service. Cases come under notice from time to time in which men who were wounded at the front are now suffering from a nervous breakdown, and there seems to be no satisfactory means of determining the cause of their disability. It is poor compensation to a returned soldier to receive 7s. or 8s. a week because of the serious effects of a wound upon his nervous system. Some of these men are told that their disability is not due to war service, but I claim that it is impossible for anybody to be sure on that point. Men who were gassed at the front may suffer a physical breakdown years later, and be thrown on the industrial scrap-heap. Those who left these shores to assist in the destruction of Prussian militarism were promised that on their return to Australia they would never be left in want, and I claim that any returned soldier who is now a complete physical wreck is entitled to the full pension. No question 'should be raised as to whether his present physical condition is a result of his war service.

Mr Mulcahy - The onus of proof that it is not should rest on the department.

Mr MAHONEY - Yes. These men were promised that their interests would be safeguarded on their return to Australia, but after the lapse of 20 years many of them are still suffering injustice. The treatment accorded to returned soldiers who have sons eligible for enlistment in the militia forces will have a prejudicial effect on the present recruiting campaign. I appeal to the Government to do something to assist the sons of deceased soldiers. I understand that the Repatriation Commission has inaugurated a scheme under which it attempts to apprentice such boys to trades, or to find for them other employment. This scheme should be extended as much as possible. We know that once a boy reaches the age of sixteen years no pension is payable in respect of him, and, unless he can find employment, he becomes a charge on his mother, who is herself, perhaps, receiving only a slender pension as the widow of a returned soldier. There is a definite obligation on the Government to do the right thing by the children of those men who fought in the war, and who died abroad or after their return to Australia. The fact that, twenty years have passed since the termination of the war does not relieve the Government of its responsibility in this respect.

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