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Wednesday, 4 December 1935

Senator BRAND (Victoria) .- I am sure that honorable senators accept the assurance given by the Minister that the Cabinet has fully considered the extent of its financial commitments arising out of this bill, and that it is impossible for it to undertake further financial liability in respect of this measure. How ever, I would like an assurance from the Minister that when the financial liabilities to which the Government commits itself under this bill have been revealed, say. towards the end of next session, he will be prepared to receive any representations for the granting of a pension to widows of unpensioned tubercular soldiers. I single out these women for special treatment, because the tubercular sufferers are in a category altogether different from any other disabled soldiers. If representatives from every soldiers organization in Australia assembledhere and were offered £10,000 for distribution among their members, I am sure that every one of those representatives would immediately agree that the tubercular sufferers should receive first preference. The widows of these men have nursed their husbands for many years with the result that their health too has been impaired; many of them have contracted the disease. Furthermore, from their slender savings they have had to purchase special foods for their suffering husbands. Unpensioned tubercular soldiers do not receive one penny's worth of treatment in any repatriation hospital; some people do not seem to realize that fact. Actually there is very little difference between the disabilities suffered by the pensioned and the non-pensioned tubercular soldier. The former often secures his pension simply because something in his war service record, sways the decision in his favour; often he gets the pension merely by chance, whereas on the other hand the unpensioned tubercular sufferer may very often be in a worse plight than the pensioned soldier. From inquiries I have made, I find that, of the estimated 1,100 widows whose unpensioned tubercular husbands have died since the armistice, the number of claimants is likely to be less than 400, involving an annual expenditure of about £17,000. This would be a gradually diminishing liability. Some of the widows have married again, others are old-age pensioners, many have private means, and others are being supported by their children. I have interviewed the Minister and other members of the Ministry on this matter, and all of them have told me that the Government has gone so far as it possibly can in financial commitments under this measure. I make this appeal in the hope that towards the end of next session when the actual financial obligations, arising under this bill, have been revealed, the Government will be prepared to receive representations on behalf of this class of widows.

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