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Tuesday, 13 December 1927

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - The bill may or may not be all right.. The agreement appears to provide for nearly everything that can be desired; but, with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) I regret that honorable senators have not had more time for its consideration. I should like to be quite sure that, if, under the agreement, the savings bank authorities of Victoria will have full responsibility for the administration of war service homes throughout Victoria', returned soldiers who may find themselves in difficulties will receive as much consideration from the commissioners as they would get. and have received from the War Service Homes Commission. We all know that in certain cases a good deal of leniency has been extended to ex-soldiers who have been unable temporarily to discharge their obligations. It is, howover, to their credit that the defaulters have been so few in number.

Senator McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They represent scarcely 1 per cent.

Senator DUNCAN - The amount outstanding is, I understand, very small. It has been necessary for the administration from time to time to show special consideration, and I should like to be sure that that practice will be continued.

Senator Foll - There is no provision for it in the principal act, but consideration has been shown as an act of grace.

Senator DUNCAN - I believe that the knowledge that this Parliament has been in the position to intervene has, to some extent, been responsible for the consideration that has been shown in individual cases. Naturally, the War Service Homes Commissioner, knowing the wishes of this Parliament and the Government, has shown a certain amount of leniency in administration. I should like to know that the interests of ex-soldiers in this respect will be safeguarded when the jurisdiction passes into the hands of the Savings Bank Commissioners of Victoria.

Senator Ogden - Does the bill mean that?

Senator DUNCAN - That is provided for in the agreement. The only safeguard, so far as I can see, is the right of the Government to give three months' notice to terminate the agreement if it is not working smoothly. That, I admit, is a considerable safeguard ; but I should like to see in the agreement a provision giving to ex-soldiers the right of appeal to the War Service Homes Commission in certain cases. If that had been incorporated in the agreement it would have been an additional safeguard, and I have no doubt that it would have been accepted by the bank. In all probability it would not be operative in many instances; but the fact that it was there would give ex-soldiers an additional feeling of security. We should not forget that this measure proposes to hand over to the Victorian Savings Bank Commissioners complete authority in that State for homebuilding under the War Service Homes Act, and that the Commissioners are, at the same time, administering their own home-building scheme. It might happen in the absence of the safeguarding provision I have mentioned, that, in cases where the interest of the bank clashed with the interest of returned soldiers, the interest of the bank would prevail. Honorable senators have not had time to make themselves thoroughly conversant with the provisions of either the bill itself, or the agreement. To that extent we are making a plunge in the dark. We can only hope, therefore, that the Attorney-General, who has drawn up the agreement, has included in it the necessary clauses to safeguard the interests of returned soldiers.

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