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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- 1 rise to support briefly the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in moving this amendment. 1, like many other honorable members who have preceded me, ask, "What consideration has been given to those men who are now serving in Malaya? " In this instance, the Government has failed in its responsibility towards these men. I find it difficult to understand the Government's attitude, particularly in relation to an area where there is a high incidence of tuberculosis. 1 cannot understand the attitude of a government which says that an exserviceman who serves in an area where there is a high degree of tuberculosis is not entitled to the same consideration as was extended to those servicemen who were engaged in service overseas during either World War I. or World War II. Much has been said in this debate about those who served in operational areas and those who served in non-operational areas, lt has been said on numerous occasions that war service is possibly 5 per cent, risk and 95 per cent, boredom. In World War II. many servicemen in non-operational areas were entitled to this consideration which the Government is not prepared to extend to those men who are now serving in Malaya. Why discriminate between men who served in a non-operational area in World War II. and those who are now serving in Malaya? The latter are serving in a country which has a high incidence of tuberculosis. After all, they were prepared to go there. I disagree entirely with the contention of the Minister for Health (Dr, Donald Cameron) that all of those persons who are now serving in Malaya went there because they were members of the Permanent Forces. That may be true, but we all know that many of those who are now serving in Malaya volunteered for that service. They went from other operational areas in Australia to join the battalion now serving in Malaya. If that is so, then these men, who are, after all, volunteers, are entitled to the same consideration as that which would be extended to any other serviceman serving in a nonoperational area.

I have not the medical knowledge of the Minister for Health, who introduced this measure, but, in my limited knowledge, this disease is one that can possibly be in evidence for some years and yet possibly not show to any great degree. A man who has tuberculosis may be suffering a disability which is not immediately apparent. If that is so, I suggest to the Minister that a serviceman could contract the disease in Malaya and that it would not be apparent until some time after he returned to Australia. Having established that he has the disease, he has to appeal before all the tribunals that every ex-serviceman who has a disability has to approach. We know that any ex-serviceman who has contracted this disease is immediately granted a tuberculosis pension by the Repatriation Department. He should not have to wait to appear before the tribunals to establish his eligibility for that pension. He should be granted a pension immediately. I believe that most members would agree with the contention which has been submitted by the honorable member for Parkes. If a serviceman as a consequence of his service in Malaya contracts tuberculosis, then he should be entitled immediately to the same consideration as that extended to exservicemen of both World War I. and World War II. That is only fair and reasonable.

I suggest that amongst ex-servicemen to-day there is a high degree of tuberculosis. The last report of the Repatriation Commission indicates that that is so. It shows that during 1954-55 a total of 1 ,480 tuberculosis patients were admitted to Concord Hospital. At Heidelberg, the total v/as 513; at Greenslopes, 413; at Springbank, 147; at Hollywood, 226, and at Hobart, 139. That indicates quite plainly to me that this disease may not always be evident until some years after the member has received his discharge. If that is so, I repeat that those who serve in Malaya are entitled to the same consideration as that extended to those who served in the two world wars.

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