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Thursday, 13 October 1955

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has just described the amendment as a " dragnet " provision, as though it would open the floodgates of the Treasury. No more unjustified expression could be used. The qualifications incorporated in the clause are completely reasonable. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) pointed out by way of interjection that the first condition to be satisfied was that the soldier had been taken by the Army to a war zone. Also, illnesses arising as the result of intentional selfinflicted injuries, or from occurrences in the course of a breach of discipline will be disqualified as grounds for the granting of pension benefits. The amendment seeks to clarify a position that has caused so much distress in cases with which many honorable members are familiar.

A soldier goes into the Army completely fit, is taken to a war zone, and falls ill and returns unfit. Then the argument about war cause arises. In the case that I cited this afternoon the soldier had died from a chronic, ulcerated condition of the stomach. It was agreed that he did not have stomach ulcers when he joined the Army. His ulcerated condition developed in New Guinea and his widow and others contended that it was caused by Army food and the circumstances of Army life. There were months of delay while haggling went on about whether the man's condition was caused by war service. As I said this afternoon, a former Minister replied that the X-ray plates showing his ulcerated condition were being studied. But every one knows that it is not possible, merely by looking at such plates, to decide whether the ulcerated condition was attributable to tension resulting from war service in New Guinea.

The point made by the honorable member for Parkes is that the amendment relates only to the man who is taken into the Army physically fit, and becomes ill while on war service. With the exceptions that I have mentioned - selfinflicted injuries and disabilities due to occurrences in the course of a breach of discipline - the illness becomes the responsibility of the Army, which has taken him out of his normal surroundings. To deny that would be just as foolish as to say that, having become ill in a war zone, the soldier in question would not be entitled to medical treatment whilst there. The Army obviously admits that that is not so. He is immediately put in an army hospital. If his incapacity results from such illness, or he is left in a weakened condition that subsequently develops into something more serious, the matter ought to be the responsibility of the repatriation authorities. The amendment of the honorable member for Parkes attempts to achieve this.

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