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Wednesday, 3 April 1957

Mr SPEAKER - You are referring to " Hansard ".

Mr WARD - And other members in this House have referred to it for the sake of the accuracy of the record. I have heard it done repeatedly.

Mr SPEAKER - The position is that the honorable member is reviving a debate and he cannot continue on that line.

Mr WARD - I am not reviving a debate.

Mr SPEAKER - I rule that you are.

Mr WARD - Very well, I will not use " Hansard ". I will say what I remember the honorable member saying.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member will be courteous to the Chair. Any reference to the debate will be out of order.

Mr WARD - If I cannot refer to the debate, I will refer to what the honorable member said reflecting on myself. When I questioned his statement about the state of preparedness - if it could be called such - when the Labour government took over in October, 1941, the honorable member for Lyne said -

I suppose the honorable member for East Sydney has only flown around in an aeroplane in Australia.

Then he said that he had participated in the Empire air training scheme, which had been commenced some years before the Labour government took office, and he went on to say further that he was overseas training under the Empire air training scheme when the Labour government came into office. In actual fact the honorable member was not overseas at all when the Labour government came to office. I would expect an honorable member who is a clergyman, to be much more accurate in his detail. It may be that he was only mistaken in regard to the period, but one would expect that, before making such a statement to this House the honorable member would have made sure of his facts. Here is what is says about the honorable member in the " Parliamentary Handbook ". showing that he was actually in Australia when the Labour government came to office in October, 1941 -

Enlisted in Royal Australian Air Force, 19th July, 1941, as Air Crew, Empire Air Training Scheme. Trained in Rhodesia. Embarked 2nd November. 1941.

The Labour government came to office in October, 1941. So it was a month after Labour came to office that the honorable member left this country. He embarked, as I repeat, on the 2nd November, 1941. The handbook continues -

Disembarked, Melbourne, 18th April, 1942. Leading Aircraftsman. Trained as pilot. Discharged, medically unfit, 25th August, 1942.

I am not reflecting on the honorable member's war service or activities. It has never been my practice to do so, but I certainly believe that an honorable member should be more accurate in his information before reflecting upon any other honorable member in this chamber. I have nothing more to say on this matter because I think I have made it perfectly clear that he was completely at fault in the statement he made. It was not in accordance with fact.

There is another matter to which I desire to refer, because I want to relieve the anxiety of this Government, which is always proclaiming its work on behalf of exservicemen. Honorable members will recollect that on a number of occasions 1 have raised in this House the case of a Mr. Laurence Atkins, who was an inmate of the Royal Ryde Home. Both his legs were crippled and his hands had become calcified. He was totally blind. Both eyes had been removed as they had been affected by his condition of osteo-arthritis This Government, which is always talking about the percentage of ex-servicemen amongst its supporters was paying him a 25 per cent, pension, namely, £1 3s. 9d. a week. 1 raised this matter continually in the House, hoping that the Government would do something to relieve the lot of this unfortunate man. 1 well recollect one honorable member saying that 1 had rather exaggerated the position. Well. I am now able to tell the Government that it need not worry any further about this unfortunate ex-serviceman because shortly after I last spoke about him he passed away. I think honorable members opposite will remember my submission that because of this man's condition, he could not possibly live much longer and that the Government should display some generosity towards him and give him a decent pension so that at least he could return home and end his days with his aged parents.

Following his death I received a letter from his mother forwarding a letter left bv her son. I replied to Mrs. Atkins, as 1 felt very keenly about this matter which 1 had raised in the House on a number of occasions. I shall not read the whole of the letter that 1 received from the deceased ex-serviceman, but shall outline how he felt about the way in which the Government had handled his case. He said, in the letter I received after his death -

.   . this report is incomplete, unjust, biased and nothing more than a propaganda leaflet.

He went on to say. referring to one occasion when he was before the tribunal -

.   . unofficially my advocate was informed that the Tribunal had accepted my case and only needed to be sent to the Commission for approval.

I replied to the mother as follows: -

Dear Mrs. Atkins,

Many thanks for forwarding to me a letter found among the papers of your late son. Laurence, and which as you state he obviously intended sending to me had death not intervened.

I was not aware that his Dad had also passed away and I was indeed sorry to receive this news. lt had not been my privilege to know your son for such a long time, but from the opinion I formed of his sterling qualities, I was not surprised to receive your description of him as wing a good son.

I know it will be some consolation to you o know that he was greatly respected by all who knew him for his great courage in maintaining his fight for justice particularly when he was seriously handicapped.

As you say, it is now too late to do anythting

That correctly sums up the situation because it is true that this unfortunate exserviceman cannot benefit as the result of any action that this Government may now take, unless it feels disposed to give some financial assistance to his aged and ailing mother. But judging by past experience of its handling of these cases, we could dot expect that to happen. Therefore, I say that Labour members should continue to apply pressure to this Government to get it to administer the Repatriation Act in the spirit in which the Labour government intended it to be administered when we inserted in the act a few years ago a provision that the onus of proof must be upon the department and the Government before an application is dismissed.

What were the actual facts in this matter? Honorable members will recall that it was argued that some osteoarthritis had been in existence prior to the man's enlistment. But he was accepted. Although some military doctors had recommended his discharge, the authorities at the time would not discharge him from the Army. They permitted him to continue to serve and he Was in hospital after hospital. As a result of his service in the Pacific area under very adverse conditions, it is quite obvious that his condition of osteoarthritis, if it existed in any form prior to his enlistment, had been seriously aggravated by his service.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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