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Thursday, 13 October 1955

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) (Minister for the Navy and Minister for the Army) . - The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who has introduced this amendment, expressed regret that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) did not understand it. I want to say to the honorable member for Parkes that the whole of his speech has been based on false premises, because nothing in this amendment deals with eligibility based on service in a theatre of war. " Theatre of war " is not mentioned in the amendment. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) also based his argument on the grounds of service in a theatre of war. I do not think the honorable member read the amendment. There is nothing in it that deals with a theatre of war.

Mr Haylen - This is a serious matter. Do not make a joke about it. We want to see about this fellow's pension.

Mr FRANCIS - This is factual. I am dealing with the amendment before the committee, not with individual cases. I have not the facts of the individual case. Before I can deal with individual cases, I must be given details from the Repatriation Department. I am only representing the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). One would need to have all the files here in order to deal with the cases that may be raised from time to time. All I want to say is that the honorable member made an od misericordiae! appeal on the basis that all the people who were to benefit under this particular section would require to have had service in a theatre of war. There is nothing in this proposal to that effect.

Mr Haylen - We will amend the amendment to fit that, if the Minister wishes.

Mr FRANCIS - That is not the proposal which the honorable member has submitted to the committee. The amende ment, as worded, either would not make any alteration to the act, as at present drafted, or would open the gate far too wide. I have had lengthly experience with ex-servicemen's associations. I joined the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia back in December, 1919. I have served as president of a sub-branch of the league and as a district president, and I have served on the State executive in Queensland. I know that, on many occasions, ill-informed people have raised this proposal at branch meetings of the organization, but when the consequences of such an ill-considered proposal as that included in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes were pointed out, the proposal was rejected. The amendment provides that where a member of the forces has been granted a discharge on the ground of medical unfitness and that unfitness did not arise from intentionally self-inflicted injuries, or from any occurrence that happened during the commission of a serious breach of discipline by the member, the Commonwealth shall, subject to the act, be liable to pay to the member or his dependants, or both, the pensions provided under this act. Section 24 of the principal act sets out quite clearly that the persons entitled to war pension are those who suffer from a warcaused disability. If the words " subject to this act " in the proposed new clause are given their ordinary natural meaning, the liability of the Commonwealth to pay a pension would be subject to the provisions of section 24. That would take us nowhere. On the other hand, if that is not what is intended, the amendment obviously goes much too far. Let us consider, for example, the case of a man who, on enlistment, concealed a disability, and was accepted, only to be discharged as medically unfit when the disability was discovered at a subsequent medical examination. Does the honorable member for Parkes suggest that that person should receive a pension? His discharge would clearly have been due to a physical disability that was present before enlistment. Surely no honorable member would suggest that a person who did everything possible to hide a, disability that subsequently became apparent under strain and stress, should receive a pension. An impossible situation would be created, and, therefore, the Government will not accept the amendment.

Question put -

That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Haylen's amendment) be so inserted.

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