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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator SANDFORD (Victoria) . - The 'basis of the legislation before us is quite sound. As the Government has achieved its objective of legislating to call up certain numbers of men by its infamous lottery system, it is quite obviously important that sonic provision should be made to safeguard the interests of servicemen who are discharged after their period of service in the forces. To me, one aspect of the Bill is really objectionable. I refer to the proposed discrimination between certain sections of the Services. In his second reading speech the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) said that national servicemen who serve in special areas - it is obvious that those areas have not yet been designated - will qualify under the same conditions as those applying to regular soldiers for repatriation or war service homes entitlements.

I find it most objectionable that each year men are to be conscripted for service under the same conditions yet, after serving the required period, certain sections of the forces which serve in special areas, are to receive the benefits of repatriation and war service homes legislation in the future. The others, who do not serve in special areas, are to be penalised. Everybody knows that when a person joins the Services he does not choose his own playground. He is in the Services to go when and where he is ordered to go. Why should the Government discriminate against those who do not serve in what are called special areas? It is perfectly obvious that a person serving in what is not a special area may receive just as grave an injury or disability as, or possibly graver injury or disability than, a person who serves in a special area. Yet a sharp line of demarcation is being drawn between the two.

I am concerned about quite a number of other matters, but they are of relatively minor importance. I should like the Minister to indicate why the Government sees fit to penalise one section as against the other. Let me illustrate my point. Suppose Darwin is declared a special area and Alice Springs is not. Is it not perfectly obvious that a man serving in Alice Springs may meet with just as grave a disability as a person serving in Darwin? One section of the men conscripted will be given repatriation and war service benefits. What about the other section? The only redress that a person in this section would have on being discharged on medical grounds would be through social service benefits. The Bill refers to a scale comparable with the invalid pensions. This person might be entitled to seek workers' compensation, but that is hazardous at any time. Look at the interminable wait involved in prosecuting claims for compensation. I hope that the Minister will clear this up to our satisfaction, but I do not think he can.

This is an unjust discrimination. Before the system starts, the Government is laying a foundation for discontent and disharmony in the conscripted force. Everybody knows that the first essential in the Services, just as in any other team, is contentment. These men will have no control over where they will be sent. 1 should like the Minister to indicate the reasons for the discrimination, for drawing this line of demarcation. If he can satisfy me, he is a better man than I am.

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