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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) - I move-

That the following words be omitted: - " subsections (3.) and (4.) of section thirty-seven and ".

Reference was made by the Minister to the fact that these men in the strategic force would not be automatically entitled to a pension if they contracted tuberculosis. I tried to make out a case to the Minister. He used the terms " special hazard " and " operational hazard " which enabled me to make the case. The statistics available are fairly extensive, but at the same time they are rather limited because they deal with sections of the population that are not all-embracing, but include only those persons who come under the care of the various departments as a result of contracting tuberculosis in the tropics. The reason for the amendment will be dealt with by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), as well as by me. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is a pretty fair assumption that these men are subjected to a hazard which is persistent for a great length of time during service in the tropics. The Minister says that after all they are permanent soldiers. We have created in this country a sort of Tommy Atkins. He goes to places where we have our little forays or where we want to present ourselves in strength or get good headlines in the press, but nothing belongs to him. Yet we read advertisements in the newspapers saying that generous pension and repatriation benefits are available, and asking, " Would not you like to feel like a man and fight for your country?" The propaganda is terrific, and the rewards provided in this new piece of legislation are too trifling not to be challenged. The Minister was reasonable. He has explained certain provisions to my satisfaction. Although the wording was rather ambiguous, the provision for eligibility for pensions appears to be quite all right. But on a question that is quite specific, there is no chance of automatic entitlement for a tuberculosis sufferer. It appears to me that in the kind of country, campaign and climate in which these men serve, there is a very big risk that these men will contract tuberculosis. This is substantiated by the reports of the director of medical services in Malaya. Strategic forces might be used by the United Nations Organization and its various agencies throughout the world. If permanent forces, or strategic forces, are employed, they will in most cases be operating in the tropics. It is not suggested, even by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that we will have a war with the people of Antarctica or the Penguin Islands. Seriously, the Minister, as a medical officer, should consider the responsibility of the Parliament in relation to pensions, and it would be very useful and wise to reconsider the matter. As the Minister said, a lot of book work is involved if we give entitlement under the Repatriation Act.I leave the matter there. Other honorable members will stress the point, because we are taking the matter seriously and we will press it to a vote.

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