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Thursday, 2 June 1949

Mr BEALE (Parramatta) .- 1 shall refer to the matter raised by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). I am sorry that he spoke as he did, because it makes it necessary for me to detain the House while I point out what I asked on the 10th March. My question was not stated by the Minister. He said, though, that I had alleged in my question that Major Davis had spent from 2 p.m. to 4.45 p.m. filling in forms. He conveyed to the House the impression that I had asserted that all the time had been spent in that way. That makes it necessary for me to read my question, which was as follows: -

My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation, concerns a complaint that has been made to me hy a constituent. The constituent, who is in ill health, was a prisoner of war in the hands of the Japanese. He was sent to the Repatria-tion Office in Grace Building, Sydney, to obtain' a certificate to enable him to be X-rayed at Randwick Military Hospital. He has told me that he telephoned the doctor at Grace Building and was told to attend at 2 p.m. He did so, and between that time and 4.35 p.m. he. and the doctor filled in fifteen to twenty pages of forms.

That, of course, is quite different from saying that he spent all his time filling, in forms. Had he done so, he would not have had any medical examination at all. The question went on -

Is the Minister aware of the existence of this orgy of red tape! Is he aware, further, that it is causing great discontent among exservicemen? Will the honorable gentleman, say what he is prepared to do ... ?

I asked that question in the interests of ex-servicemen, particularly ex-prisoners: of war. I am sure that the Ministeraccepts my assurance that they were dis- contented with the state of affairs at Grace Building and that he will confirm that as a result of the question an improvement took place. Improvement was promised to Major Davis and he benefited from it. It is quite true that Major Davis did not complain about the medical attention that he received. Most exservicemen will say that they are considerately treated. The complaint related to the long delays and what I described then, and still describe, as an " orgy of red tape ". It is all very well for the Minister to say that Major Davis filled in only three or four forms. The result is the same whether one fills in the same form 44 times or fills in 44 different forms. Major Davis asserts that, while he was at Grace Building, he and the doctor filled in no fewer than fifteen or twenty pages of forms. That may have been three or four forms in triplicate or quadruplicate. The fact is that they wasted a great deal of time filling in nonsensical papers. That sort of thing has caused bitterness amongst ex-servicemen. I should have thought that most honorable members, having heard the Minister's statement, would agree that my case had been proved. Obviously there was a great deal of unnecessary rigmarole. As the Minister has seen fit to quote what Major Davis is supposed to have said to members of the department on other occasions, I shall quote what members of the department have said to him. One of the doctors in particular complained about what he described as " all this red tape " and expressed the view that there was too much of it and that that sort of work should be cut down. When Major Davis visited the department after I had raised the matter in this House, he was again told by members of the staff that, their attention having been directed to it, they realized that there was too much " red tape " and that there would be an improvement. If there has been an improvement, I think that my question has been justified. As for the Minister saying that 1 should have approached him in the first place, some honorable members on this side of the House have had experience of failure to get satisfactory results by going to Ministers before raising complaints in the House. It seemed to me in the circumstances that it would be in the best interests of exservicemen, who were very bitter and discontented, to bring this matter of public importance to the attention of the Minister and the people by asking a question in the House. I am glad at least that my efforts have achieved the desired result.

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