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Tuesday, 29 June 1937

Senator HARDY (New South Wales) . - I shall follow the example of brevity set by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). What I wish to bring before the Senate is a serious anomaly in the administration of the service pensions. As honorable members are aware, a service pension is granted to returned soldiers for any one of three reasons. First, a soldier who has served in a theatre of war, and is permanently unemployable, becomes eligible for the pension; secondly, a soldier who has served in a theatre of war and is 60 years of age or over, is eligible; and, thirdly, the pension is paid to all returned soldiers who are suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. The anomaly on which I propose to address the Senate relates to those in the first category. When the service pensions legislation originally came before the Senate, there was con siderable debate as to the definition of " permanently unemployable ", and it was finally defined that, if a returned soldier who served in a theatre of war could prove that he was permanently unemployable, he would be granted a service pension. During the last session of Parliament the Government introduced an. amendment to the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act, which made the service pension even more generous, by providing that a returned soldier, if permanently unemployable, could become eligible for a service pension in spite of the fact that he was already drawing an invalid pension, provided he surrendered his invalid pension. Since that amendment was made, a number of men who served in a theatre of war, and who draw the invalid pension, have applied to the Repatriation Department for a service pension on the ground that they are permanently unemployable ; their applications have been refused. Honorable senators are aware that the pensions authorities must be satisfied that an applicant for an invalid pension is permanently and totally incapacitated before the pension is granted ; but the Repatriation Department says that the granting of an invalid pension by the Pensions Department is not prima facie evidence of total and permanent incapacity; it insists upon making its own tests. To my knowledge, about 50 returned men have been refused the service pension on the ground that they are not permanently unemployable, despite the fact that the Pensions Department has granted them an invalid pension. That is a definite anomaly, and it is surely not the intention of the Government to perpetuate it by allowing two sets of Commonwealth pension authorities to make different decisions on the same matter. If a man who served in a theatre of war has been granted an invalid pension, equity demands that the Repatriation Department shall accept that fact as prima facie evidence of his entitlement. The hardship that is existing under this anomaly could be easily removed by a direction from the Government to the effect that the granting by the Pensions Department of an invalid pension on the ground of permanent and total incapacity shall be sufficient proof for the Repatriation Department. Justice demands that the

Government shall take prompt steps to have this anomaly removed.

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