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Tuesday, 29 November 1938


Mr POLLARD (Ballarat) .- First of all, I wish to support the representations of honorable members that the Government should honour its obligations to the South African war veterans. The number of those who left Australia to take part in the South African war and are still alive is, comparatively speaking, small. They are not as articulate as those who served in the Great War, and consequently have not been given the consideration to which they are entitled. These men who to-day find themselves without political or other influence should be given their just due.

Another matter with which I propose to deal briefly is the treatment meted out to applicants for war pensions. I know that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers [imperial League of Australia, assisted h. honorable members of all parties in this chamber, has been able to secure certain rights for ex-soldier claimants for wai' pensions, but I am convinced that there are still a great many rights that have not been yielded by the government of the day or by its predecessors. The onus of proof that an applicant'3 condition can be attributed to war service is still thrown upon the ex-soldier, and to-day the ex-soldier is definitely not being given the benefit of the doubt. Unless that principle is adopted in all cases justice will not bc done to the men who served during the Great War. I am satisfied that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll) will admit that where the question arises, as it frequently does, as to whether a man's physical or mental condition is attributable to war service, the onus of proof is thrown back on the ex-soldier, and he is not given the benefit of any doubt which may exist. That is a very grave injustice which T believe should be remedied at the earliest possible moment.

Another matter relating to repatriation pensions which is deserving of consideration is the fact that where war pensions are reduced or claims are refused the applicants are given the right to appeal to a tribunal set up by this Parliament, the last court of appeal as it were, a tribunal of an entirely judicial character. Some years ago the then Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Cerutty, took it upon himself to cite in his report to the Parliament, specific cases in which the tribunal had yielded to the claim of the ex-soldier and had recommended the grant of ' a pension. In criticizing the action of the tribunal in this respect he acted, in my opinion, quite outside his jurisdiction, and it would appear that he placed himself in a position somewhat analagous to that in which he would be placed had* he criticized the judiciary. One sometimes wonders, when reflecting upon the work of the tribunal, how far it is influenced to-day and, perhaps, may be influenced in the future - and I do not desire to reflect upon it in any way - by that criticism of the former Auditor-General. I trust that the tribunal will not be influenced in the hearing of future appeals. It was singularly unfortunate that this, criticism should have been permitted to be published in the report of the AuditorGeneral, but, despite it, I trust that more appellants will be successful in their appeals before the tribunal.







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