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Thursday, 13 October 1955


Mr LESLIE (Moore) .- On the face of it, this amendment would appear to command a lot of sympathy. Unfortunately, there is a great deal more in it than meets the eye. It is true that attempts have been made, to my knowledge, in the past two or three years, by individuals or groups of ex-servicemen to obtain something like this provision by submitting motions to congresses of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, but the congress in every case has turned them down on the grounds that they obviously ask for far too much and are unreasonable. The reason for that is simple. It is not correct to suggest that if a man has been admitted to the services as medically fit and, subsequently, his discharge shows him to be medically unfit, whatever illness arises during his service must be the result of his service. It is possible for an illness to be aggravated-


Mr Haylen - The honorable member realizes that the amendment refers to service in a theatre of war?


Mr LESLIE - It was considered that the act covered the case of the man who had been fit when he went into the Army - as indeed he must - but had a latent disability which was subsequently discovered and led to his discharge from the forces. If medical evidence suggested that the disability had been aggravated by his service it would be taken into account, but his basic ailment may have nothing whatever to do with that service.

It is important to remember that if we put a dragnet provision in the Repatriation Act we shall be so undermining its benefits that really deserving cases will suffer. Under such a provision almost every man who had been in the services could claim that an ailment or illness from which he suffered was attributable to that service. The proposal for automatic qualification for a pension, if a soldier is discharged medically unfit, is far too wide. There might be some ground for such a provision if action were taken to exclude certain degrees of unfitness which could not be attributable to war service, but rather to natural or unnatural consequences. However, I point out that, already, if a man is discharged as medically unfit and the Repatriation Commission does not show that his disability cannot be attributable to war service, he is automatically entitled to repatriation benefits. In view of the reasonableness of the ex-servicemen's requests for increased repatriation benefits, I must oppose the amendment.







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