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Wednesday, 4 December 1935

Senator HARDY (New South Wales) . - I draw the attention of the Minister to paragraph a which reads -

From the results of an occurrence happening during the period during which he was a member of the forces.

Does that provision nullify the original *l misconduct " section under the heading of "incapacity" in the original act?


Senator HARDY - In my opinion, the interpretation that the commission may place on the words " permanently unemployable " is the axis on which this legislation will revolve. I raise this matter at this stage, because we shall have a further opportunity .to discuss it on a later clause, and in the meantime we shall have on opportunity to consider the Minister's reply, and perhaps be able to offer further observations on the interpretation of "permanently unemployable". Tt will be realized that if a returned soldier desires to secure a pension on the ground that he is permanently unemployable, the question that will naturally arise is " permanently unemployable at what"? If he is unable to obtain employment, will he be unemployable, and will that be the fault of the returned soldier? Will it be due to his character and make-up, war service, or the neglect of the Government? There are returned soldiers who can prove that they are permanently unemployable because it is impossible for them, in view of their depleted reserves, to engage io the competition for work. Let us consider the instance of a man who is indulging in alcoholic excesses, which would undoubtedly make him permanently unemployable;- he would not be able to hold a. responsible position. Would the commis]son regard that man as ' permanently unemployable? Although it may be argued that his condition is due to his own conduct, we have to look for the causes of the lack of stability and balance in his character. We must consider that when this man was taken as a youth of eighteen years of age and thrown into the chaos of war, he was deprived of all the steadying influences that build up character. If a skilled advocate were aware of such facts, and knew them to be correct, he could propound an excellent moral case to the commission on behalf of such a claimant. Therefore, the whole of this bill depends upon the interpretation of the words " permanently unemployable ". I submit that a very delicate matter is raised in this regard. A man must be prepared to sink his pride in order to obtain a pension under this measure. He must confess his inability any longer to pull his weight in the industrial community, and declare that he has no alternative to throwing himself upon the resources of the country. Let us now consider the case of a neurotic man, or one who on account of war experiences has no stability in commercial life. Who shall decide that he is permanently unemployable? If such a man stepped from the street into the consulting room of a medical practitioner, would the doctor be in a position to judge? Would the doctor know enough of his actions and habits to certify that he is permanently unemployable? T could speak on 101 aspects of this provision. The Minister might reply that the interpretation of " permanently unemployable " will be left to the discretion of the commission.

Senator Collings - It must be left to the judgment of somebody.

Senator HARDY - The more principles that the Minister can be prevailed upon to enunciate in order to serve as a guide to the commission the better it will be. When the claims of applicants have to be argued before the commission, one must be able to enunciate principles, but whether the commission will accept them is debatable. The duty of the Minister is to enunciate what he thinks will be the principle governing the interpretation of this definition.

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