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Thursday, 7 May 1942

Just a few lines to let you know of the treatment I have received from the Defence Department; on the 28th March, 1941, I was in a military truck with about 22 others, when it turned over between Casula and Liverpool. I sustained broken bones in my right instep and also head injuries. I was taken to the 113th Australian General Hospital at Concord. I was discharged from there at the request of my unit, who wanted me back on the 18th August, 1941, and I resumed full duty on the 21st August, 1941, wearing a felt slipper as I could not wear a shoe or boot, and I was walking with a stick issued to me on the 7th December (I think). I was sent to the Showgrounds to be medically boarded. I appeared before tlie board, and I was declared medically unfit because of my injuries. I was to be discharged on the 22nd December, 1941, but I objected to the medical officer on the grounds that I was not in a position to earn my own living in civil life. The doctor agreed, and deferred my discharge. I was called up for examination on the 17th January, 1942. The medical officer told me that my foot would never get any better and advised me to be discharged, and assured me that if I reported to the Repatriation Department they would look after my welfare. So I agreed to be discharged. Captain Jackson, another medical officer signed my discharge sick report and he also (when I asked him) said that I was to report to the Repatriation and all would be well with me. So I accepted my discharge which took effect on the 22nd January, 1942. When I returned my equipment, the discharge wing at the Showground did not have a civilian suit to go within six inches of my waistline. They measured me and told me it would take about three months to make. I had no other clothes of my own, so that after a big fight with them I got a signed paper allowing me to wear my uniform until such time as they can secure a civilian suit for me. So that now I am a civilian walking around in uniform.

As I could not put in my uniform they booked me with £2 12s. 3d. until I do return it. At that time I had £2 5s. Gd. due to me on my pay-book, which they withheld until they get the uniform.

I reported to the Repatriation and I was first told that I had no claim upon them as I was a .F.T.D. man on home service, but my accident occurred in the Army and I thought it was up to them to do something for me. Anyhow I filled up a form of application for pension, but I could get no sustenance. So that after seeing Mr. A. L. Lamb, M.L.A. (he advised mc to write to you), I drew my first food relief to-day. I have now no money or clothes. I cannot get a job because I have only a uniform to wear. I have seen the legal adviser at the District Finance Office, and he has gone into my case and he is very definite that I must receive something as I have a definite claim. He got in touch with Captain Forsythe, Q Section, Victoria Barracks, and explained everything to him. He (Captain Forsythe) is writing to my unit and to Army Head-quarters, Melbourne, and I believe their decision is final.

I would appreciate anything you can do for me, as I don't know what will become of us. I have taken over a war-service home and got furniture on time payment. I have a wife and two children, aged six and four years. I served four years in the last war. I was at the landing at Gallipoli, and I have been in the R.A.F. at the School of Military Engineering at Liverpool for sixteen months.

I would appreciate if you could give me an interview, when I could explain everything more fully and make my case more concise.

I contend that myself, my wife, and kids have received a very raw deal. I was enlisted at the request of Lieutenant-Colonel C. T. Madigan, my Commanding Officer, and pushed out just at their pleasure without any consideration of me and mine.

Thanking you in anticipation,

Your faithfully, (Signed) Percy Holmes.

Every honorable member on hearing those facts will agree with the writer that he and his family have indeed received a " raw deal ". I wrote to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) on the 30th January last in these words -

I am in receipt of a communication from Mr. Percy Holmes, of Price-street, Merrylands West, New South Wales, wherein he sets out the following facts regarding his service in the A.I.F. On 28th March, 1941, he was in a military truck with about 22 others when it was overturned near Liverpool and he sustained broken bones in right instep and also head injuries, and was admitted to 113th A.G.H. On 21st August, 1941, he resumed full duty with his unit but was unable to wear shoe or boot and got along with the help of a stick. Early in December he was medically boarded and declared medically unfit. His discharge was deferred by the medical officer until 22nd January, 1942, when he was recommended to report to the Repatriation Department. When he returned his military equipment the department was unable to provide him with a civilian suit and he was given a signed authority allowing him to wear uniform until such time as a civilian suit could be issued to him, but debited him with £2 12s. 3d. pending return of the uniform. An amount of £2 os. Gd. to his credit in his paybook was withheld. On applying to the Repatriation Department, Mr. Holmes was informed that he had no claim on the department as he was an F.T.D. man on Home Service. He filled in a pension application but could get no sustenance. He is now on food relief. He has neither money nor clothes and can get no work as he is in uniform. He has made inquiries at the District Finance Office and been advised that inquiries are being made into the matter. Mr. Holmes is a returned soldier of the last war and had been at the School of Military Engineering at Liverpool for sixteen months prior to his accident. He has a wife and two children, aged, respectively, six and four years. You will realize that, as he is in receipt of food relief from the State government, the family are in dire straits.

The letters " A.I.F." in that letter should have been " A.M.F.". I proceeded in the letter to relate the other facts, and to point out the unfortunate condition of this discharged soldier. I received a tentative reply on the 3rd February, in which the Minister said -

The history of the case as set out in your letter has been noted by me and I am having inquiries made in regard thereto. I will advise you further as soon as I am in a position to do so.

On the 17 th March I received a further reply in which the Minister said -

I regret that I am not yet in a position to advise you in regard to this matter, as the necessary investigations are not yet complete. Immediately finality is reached, I will communicate with you further.

Finally, on the 28th April, the Minister sent a letter to me in which he indicated that the matter had been fully investigated, but inquiries showed that the soldier waa a member not of the Australian Imperial Force, but of the Australian Militia Forces, and that the discharge was not effected until the 22n.i January, 1942. The application for a war pension was rejected on the grounds that his condition - fracture of the third metatarsal of the right foot and a wound on the right eyebrow - was not directly attributable to his employment as a member of the forces. On the day of his discharge, the letter said, he could not be fitted with a civilian suit, but this had since been supplied and he had been asked to collect it. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) regretted that a sustenance allowance could not be granted. That is a clear case for the amendment of the Repatriation Act in order to bring it up to date and into line with the conditions prevailing in this war. The need for the appointment of a select committee has been brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation several times by me and other honorable members, but he does not see the necessity for it and claims that the returned soldiers' organizations are satisfied with the Repatriation Act as it stands. Certain " brass hats " in control of those organizations may be satisfied, but the rank and file of the returned soldiers are not; complaints about the administration of the act are rife. Men discharged after active service in this war are restive. They will not take the treatment that was meted out to the men who returned from the last war. There are many other ways in which the act should be amended. The sections dealing with onus of proof are not being complied with and there should be an inquiry, not only into the provisions of the act itself, but also the way in which it is now being administered. Another matter which indicates that the Repatriation Act is out of date is the following reply which I received from the Minister for Repatriation in respect of a case which I brought to his notice : -

With further reference to your inquiry concerning the case of Mr. W. W. Passmore, of 7 Hartington-street, Granville, New South Wales, I desire to advise that I have inquired into the matter.

My inquiries reveal that Mr. Passmore was a member of the Permanent Air Force, in which he enlisted on 21st February, 1930, for six years, and was re-engaged on the 21st February, 1936, for a further six years. Because he was a member of the Permanent Air Force, and did not have service overseas, he does not qualify as a "member of the forces" within the meaning of the relevant definition in the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act. and it was for this reason that the pension claim submitted to the repatriation author: ties was necessarily rejected.

It is not within my province to comment on the reasons for which Mr. Passmore was diecharged from the Royal Australian Air Force or the question of compensation for his condition of health, and any inquiry in that connexion would be one for attention by the Air Board, Melbourne.

We are going round in circles. The case does not come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Repatriation because it does not come within the four corners of the Repatriation Act or within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) because the man concerned has been discharged from the Air Force. I am glad that the Minister for Repatriation has now come into the chamber. I hope that he will take up the matter of amending the Repatriation Act in order to bring it up to date.


Mr Frost - I regret that I was not present when the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) commenced his speech. I shall read it in Hansard and reply to him to-morrow.







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