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Thursday, 13 October 1955

Mr JOSHUA (Ballarat) (Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party) , - The Australian Labour party (AntiCommunist) opposes this amendment for three reasons. I think that perhaps the feelings of honorable members are becoming a little frayed. Let us say that the Opposition is sincere in this amendment, but the three reasons that I shall put forward will show that it is not a good amendment, and that it should not be agreed to by the committee. In the first place, as the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has said, the matter is well looked after at the present time by the procedure of the Repatriation Department, which works on a very carefully laid-down code that if a soldier joins the forces fit and is discharged unfit, the fact that there is a liability on the department to pay him a pension is very strongly established. In fact, that is stating it mildly; it is established in actual fact.

Dr Evatt - It is not automatic.

Mr JOSHUA - I have been informed by the chairman of the appeals tribunals that that is the way in which they regard it. I have not known of any case in which an application has been rejected on those grounds when the facts have been proved. In addition to that, of course, the tribunal has before it a statement which the repatriation doctor must sign. One of the questions on the form reads, " Is the illness of the soldier at the time of the examination aggravated or caused by his war service?" The doctor must answer " Yes " or " No " to that question. If he answers " No ", he must support the declaration, and it is open to the exserviceman to prove him wrong. He might get some further medical evidence. The tribunal will accept any reliable evidence to show that the best information of the department is wrong. That is the first reason. It is already well looked after by the department and, up to the present time, literally hundreds of thousands of cases have been satisfactorily decided by the department.

Secondly, one of the weaknesses about the amendment is that discharge certificates are not always reliable. I have handled a number of discharge certificates which showed that the soldiers were discharged medically unfit, yet they did not get a pension. If this amendment were accepted, it would be necessary only for an ex-serviceman to produce his discharge certificate showing that he had been discharged medically unfit in order to get a pension. I have found that in the discharge of hundreds of thousands of troop3 in a hurry, discharge certificates are not always correctly made out. The ex-serviceman might produce his certificate years afterwards to show that he was discharged medically unfit, and it might then be found that an incorrect entry was made on the certificate. We cannot take the discharge certificate as being a document of authenticity which will stand the test of medical investigation.

Thirdly, we consider that the amendment has been very carelessly and loosely framed. It does not say anything about a. soldier suffering from a disability when he enlisted. Many men were of B2 medical classification on enlistment, but they were sent overseas to theatres of operations ; I have met them overseas. If the amendment were accepted, such servicemen who were discharged medically unfit would be automatically granted pensions. For these three reasons, the AntiCommunist Labour party will not support the amendment.

Mr. MACKINNON(Corangamite) [9.29 J. - On this occasion, I find myself in agreement with the opinion that has been expressed by the Leader of the AntiCommunist Labour party (Mr. Joshua) that the amendment has been very loosely framed, and that what it seeks to provide is already provided under other sections of the act. I suggest that whatever merit might lie behind the amendment has been negatived by the loose manner in which it has been drafted. I oppose the amendment on two points. I intend to be very brief in the matter. The first point on which I oppose it is this : The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) went to great pains to try to convince the committee that the amendment was designed to protect the interests of men who come back from active service - those who have really played a part in the defence of this country. I suggest to him that that is a completely false premise, which has been designed to delude honorable members. I suggest also that it is in line with the rather pathetic case that was mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). As to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), I gather, reading between the lines, that the unfortunate man developed war neurosis from driving a 3-ton or 2-ton truck round a capital city for three or four years during the war period. On that ground, I say that the case is presented in a completely false light, a light that may distract the minds of honorable members of the committee from the real benefits that arc contained in the act generally.

I rather regret stating my second reason, and I hope that my intentions will be taken as completely honest, but J. am reliably informed that the amendment, as it is worded, would include the cases that were presented to us in this place by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) in an earlier debate, and it would make available to such people the benefits of the Repatriation Act. So I suggest that on those two grounds alone the amendment should be opposed. Those grounds, briefly, are: The fact that it is badly drafted, that by virtue of its drafting it includes people who are presented by the honorable member for Parkes as being great war heroes; and the fact that because of its wide provisions it would include people whom I do not think any honorable member of this committee would agree should receive any benefits under this act.

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