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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator SANDFORD (Victoria) . - The Minister has not answered my question to my satisfaction. He has said that the proposal, purely and simply, is an extension of what has been the practice in the past, but on this occasion conditions are vastly different from what they were previously. Certain numbers of young men are to be called up for service each year. The cases to which the Minister referred of certain members of the forces not being entitled to repatriation benefits occurred only in the Second World War, when both volunteers and men who were called up were in fact serving. I want to impress upon the Minister and the Government that the men who are to be called up each year - the conscripts whose names come out of a Tattersalls lottery barrel - will be called up under the same conditions. It is irrelevant whether they serve with different arms of the forces. However, some of the national service trainees who are discharged medically unfit will receive repatriation benefits and enjoy the provisions of the war service homes legislation, but others will not. These young men will not choose their own playgrounds. They will go where they are sent. The whole thing is completely unjust and unfair. The Minister has said that a serviceman is more likely to suffer seriously in the front line than if he were anywhere else. That may be so, but let me repeat that it is quite possible, and in some cases probable, that men will suffer just as severely, and perhaps more severely, in what are called unspecified areas as in specified areas. The Minister has not explained the position satisfactorily merely by saying that the present proposal is a continuation of the practice adopted in the past.

What justification is there for drawing a line of demarcation among national servicemen being called up each year under the same conditions? We know that regulars are entitled to repatriation benefits or retiring allowances and we know that some of the conscripted men will also be entitled to repatriation benefits, but why are these benefits being refused to others? What is the justification for that? The ones who will not receive repatriation benefits will be paid a social service pension comparable with the invalid pension. They may even be entitled to the benefits of Commonwealth workers compensation, but those benefits are not to be compared with those that are available under the repatriation and war service homes legislation.

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