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Thursday, 27 June 1946

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- The Government is still deducting from the estates of deceased soldiers amounts that were paid as allotments. From time to time, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has explained the reason for this. I have raised the matter periodically, and it has also been brought up by other honorable members. I am sure that all honorable members will be astonished to learn that when a man has been reported missing while on active service, but for some time has not been presumed dead, the Government, in some instances, if not in all, has asked for the repayment of the allotment money that has been paid in the intervening period. That is a mean and miserable attitude to adopt, considering the millions of pounds that are appropriated for defence purposes in a very short space of time in this Parliament. This letter, written by a woman in my electorate in regard to her son, is typical of many letters that have been written on the subject -

Sub-tendered is a copy of a letter dated 12th June, 1946, received from District Accounts Office, 3rd Military District, with reference to my son, V65927 Private V. C. Scattergood (presumed dead). "Re.VG5927- Scattergood, V. C. ( deceased ) . - Reference is made to the allotment of 6d. per day from your late son's military pay to you which was used for the purpose of meeting premium payments on life assurance policy.

It is advised that the allotment has been paid up to and including 2nd May, 1946, this date is 1361 days after the date of decease of your son, and allotment moneys paid to you during this period amounts to £34 0s.6d.

I am sure that Ministers generally do not know that such a thing is happening. The statements which the Minister for the

Army has made on the matter are unintelligible to me. The letter goes on to say - " As the assurance company will refund to the estate all premiums paid subsequent to the date of death of your son, it would be appreciated if you would advise this office if you are agreeable to refund the amount above referred to or that recovery of same be effected from moneys due to the war service estate."

In other words "hand back the money, or we shall deduct it from whatever is due to the estate of the deceased soldier in the form of deferred pay". Do honorable members agree that the estate of a man who has made the supreme sacrifice should be mulct in such a miserable amount which he had allotted to his mother when he went on service, merely because the authorities were not aware of his death on the date on which it occurred ? Is the Government unperturbed about it? This is only one case; there are hundreds of others. These people cannot a pply the pressure that can be exerted by some groups, which can make the Government jump when they want anything - highly paid people, who did not run any risk in the war. The mother of this deceased soldier goes on to say -

My son was reported missing in New Guinea on the 10th August 1942. whilst serving as a member of the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion and was subsequently reported "Presumed dead" on the 17th May, 1940.

This is what is generally understood by the public, and what I understood -

Assurances have been given on many occasions that such sums paid on behalf of soldiers reported missing would not be claimed by the Department of the Army and under the circumstances I am not prepared to agree to the repayment of any such sum from my son's estate.

It would be appreciated if, at your earliest convenience, you would bring this matter under the notice of the Minister for the Army.

I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for the Army to ensure that in other instances such action will notbe taken against the estates of our heroic dead.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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