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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
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The second non-Budgetary item in the Bill will authorise determining authorities appointed under the Repatriation Act to record and advise claimants of the reasons that led them to make the particular decisions. The Government takes the view that it is unreasonable to expect a person to prosecute a claim through an entire determination and appeal structure without at any stage giving him a reason for a decision. Armed with the reason for an adverse decision, a claimant would be in a better position to decide whether to accept that decision or to proceed with an appeal.

The Bill also contains provisions to protect members of determining authorities, witnesses and others from proceedings, either civil or criminal, in respect of the determination made by the authority or in respect of evidence presented or provided to that authority. So that claimants and appellants are not inconvenienced by delays in the determining process, it is proposed to introduce the giving of reasons for decisions gradually, having regard to the additional work-load involved. The Bill therefore provides that regulations may prescribe which determining authorities will be required to give reasons for decisions and, also, the provisions in the Act on which they will be required to give reasons. This phasing-in will provide the authorities with time to adjust to the new requirements and will also allow for assessment of the extent of administrative and other changes required in the light of experience. Honourable members may be assured that the whole system will be carefully monitored, so that delays will be avoided. If necessary, additional determining authorities will be constituted.

The remaining matter to be dealt with in the Bill, Mr Speaker, is to give legislative authority to make regulations to allow the Repatriation Commission to make its hospital beds available free of cost for non-repatriation patients if capacity is available. The same authority will provide for the supply of artificial limbs to all in the community who need them. But I emphasise that these facilities will be made available only after the needs of entitled repatriation patients have been satisfied. After entitled patients, priority will be given to ex-servicemen and women if, while in hospital for a war-related disability, it is considered medically desirable that they receive treatment for a non-accepted condition. Any remaining capacity could be made available to non-repatriation patients such as those attending the Repatriation Artificial Limb and Appliance Centres who require treatment associated with the amputation or, for that matter, for the actual amputation. Other patients could be admitted where it is considered specialised treatment can best be provided in repatriation hospitals or patients whose cases are of special interest for teaching purposes, and who are being treated privately by specialist repatriation consultants. It may also be possible to admit suitable patients who live in the immediate vicinity of the hospital. Treatment of nonentitled patients would not be automatic but would depend upon the circumstances that exist at the time at each particular hospital and would be subject, where necessary, to agreement with the various State health authorities. (Extension of time granted.)

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