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Tuesday, 23 November 1965

Mr BENSON (Batman) .- I can go along with most of the remarks made by the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). It is worth noting that Captain Robertson at present is on the emergency list of the Royal Australian Navy. That means that in an emergency he could be called upon to go onto the active list once again. This officer has shown his willingness to serve when required and I think it is up to the Government to have another look at the case of Captain Robertson. I am not going to debate at this stage, because it has nothing to do with this Bill, the question of who was right and who was wrong when the accident took place, or whether Captain Robertson was right or wrong when he decided to resign from the Service. We on this side asked him not to resign but he felt that in the circumstances he should do so. As the honorable member for La Trobe has said, he has left the Navy after 34 years of distinguished service, and because he resigned he gets no pension under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. I make a plea for the Government to look at this matter again. If the Government docs not know, it should know that there is uneasiness in the Royal Australian Navy because of Captain Robertson having been deprived of his pension. Many people in the Navy think that he should receive his pension. I also think he should. We on this side of the House have discussed this matter in our committees and we think that after 34 years of distinguished service a man surely has earned the right to a pension. I again ask the Government to look at this matter again, review its decision and make the pension retrospective.

One of the aspects of this Bill which we find hard to understand is the provision that is being made for orphans. The Bill does not describe them as such, but it refers to children whose parents have died. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his second reading speech -

The Bill increases children's pensions, as announced in the Budget Speech, from £1 per week to £2 per week for a child whose mother is still alive, and from £3 per week to £5 per week for a child who has lost both parents.

It would be impossible for those having the care of children whose parents have died, whether they be relatives, friends, homes or other institutions, to keep those children until they reach the age of 16 years on £5 a week. It cannot be done. I realise that child endowment is also payable, but I still say that the Government is not treating these cases generously when it increases the provision for the orphans of servicemen to £5 a week. We hope that the Government will have another look at this. We inquired to see whether we could move an amendment to increase this amount but were told it was against the forms of the House and that as money was involved, and it would upset the Budget and all the millions of pounds associated with it, a new bill would have to be introduced. I make the plea that the Government re-examine this matter and increase the allowance beyond £5 a week, because a child cannot be maintained until 16 years of age on that sum. I commend the Bill as far as it goes. It needs some polishing. I hope the Government will heed the remarks of the honorable member for La Trobe, and also my remarks about officers and sailors - they are no longer called ratings - and servicemen generally who, in many instances, are forced to resign before they are due to retire. I hope that their needs will be met by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

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