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Thursday, 12 November 1964

Senator HENDRICKSON (Victoria) . - Mr. Deputy President, the Senate now has under consideration five complementary measures, including the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1964 and the Seamen's War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1964. The Opposition does not intend to oppose the Repatriation Bill (No. 2), but I shall move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. It is not my intention to oppose the Bills generally because they will give some little relief to recipients of repatriation benefits. But the Bills fall short of the legislation that I believe the Government should be introducing in this year, 1964. There is the proposal at the moment for a call up of young men to defend this country. I feel that the Government should give the lead to the recruiting of these young men by making some reasonable amendments to the Repatriation Act in order to protect them. As it stands, the Act, I believe, satisfies 95 to 97 per cent. of the people who can claim some benefits under it. Over the years, the Repatriation Department has done a reasonably good job. Therefore, I say that the Government, which is proposing to spend some £400 million on defence in this financial year, could be a little more generous in dealing with people who are entitled to allowances under the Repatriation Act.

One of the first complaints I have, and I am serious when I say this, is that the provisions of the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) do not include men and women who may be called up for service in the Commonwealth forces. I think that, in some respects, we must class war as an industry. I have always held the belief that any citizen of Australia who is engaged in such an industry in this country or overseas should come within the provisions of the Repatriation Act. Instead of that, people called up for service come under the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act. Further, I believe that if the Government, in its wisdom, decides to introduce legislation to force young people to go into the armed forces, it should be prepared to make provision for them or their dependants if anything happens to them while they are in the Service.

I do not intend to delay the Senate long in its consideration of this legislation, because the Opposition will not oppose it. However, there is another matter about which I want to complain most bitterly to Senator Anderson, who represents the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz). I am disappointed that his officers, who prepared this legislation, have not given effect to representations made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, other people, and by the Returned Servicemen's League to the effect that ex-service men and women from the First World War should be given free hospitalisation. When I brought this matter up some time ago in this chamber, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) said that I was shedding crocodile tears. If he was right, then the Returned Servicemen's League is in a similar position to me. The Repatriation Department has done a reasonably good job over the years, but I cannot see why it should now spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. For the expenditure of a few more pounds, the position of ex-service men and women who served in the First World War could be made a lot better if they were given free hospitalisation under the Repatriation Act.

I have several letters here from people In different parts of the State, of Victoria who are of the opinion, and I agree with most of them, that they have not had a reasonable deal from the Repatriation Department. Because of the amount of business before us, I shall not weary the Senate with a recital of all of the cases. I mentioned one of them in this chamber some time ago. That ex-serviceman has now passed away. His wife tended him for 24 hours a day for week in and week out.

The man appealed to a repatriation tribunal to grant his wife an attendant's allowance. She was refused on two occasions. She went before a tribunal on a third occasion to present her case. She was patted on the shoulder by the chairman of the tribunal who told her: "Carry on, dear woman. You are doing a yeoman job. You will be well rewarded." The woman foolishly thought that the chairman was sympathetic and would be just to her. He was not, because her appeal was refused again. There must be some way that this injustice can be corrected. I . have said before that if the Repatriation Department is to function as it should in the interests of all concerned, a select committee should inquire into the ramifications of the Repatriation Act and see whether something can be done to correct injustices. On behalf of the Opposition I now move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. The amendment is -

That the following words be added to the motion: " but the Senate is of opinion that the provisions of the Repatriation Act 1920-1964 should be extended to apply in respect of all service in the Defence Forces ".

I hope that the Senate will carry the amendment.

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