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Tuesday, 11 December 1973

Senator MULVIHILL - The only other comment I wish to make, conscious of the passage of time, is in regard to the processing of compensation claims. I speak on behalf of the employees at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard. As laudable or as good as compensation legislation is there seems to be a sort of no-man's land in regard to the capacity to rapidly process claims.

I say to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) that he would appreciate, being a longtime trade unionist, that for many years there has been dissatisfaction with the slowness of compensation claims from persons employed in the Naval Dockyard when the claim goes from the Department of the Navy to the Treasury and back again. I cite the classic example of Mr Prendergast, a member of The Federated Engine Drivers' and Firemen's Association of Australasia, some years ago. I thought the matter had been resolved. But I have had correspondence from the vigilance committee at Garden Island which suggests that action has not been taken as quickly as it should be. I think that in this day and age when somebody has to wait into his second pay period for compensation payments it could well mean, in the average family, that things can be pretty tight.

In welcoming this Bill I say to the Minister that I am still awaiting information from the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). I have raised this matter at the instigation of the vigilance committee and with the authority of Mr John Garland, the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union. We feel this is an area in which there are over-bureaucratic tendencies. I think they should be corrected. Finally, I pay a tribute to the Attorney-General. Due to certain instigations by him with respect to the Phoenix Life Assurance Co. of Australia Ltd, in a broader field we have been able to alleviate quite a number of cases that were pending. I think that there was some unfair criticism of the AttorneyGeneral in Sydney in this particular area. Speaking for myself and for Mr Laurie Brereton, the State member for Heffernan, I think the strictures which he mentioned were very timely. I believe that the enactment of this legislation will lead, in this age of the computer, to a far speedier way to process compensation claims. This will reduce a lot of the hardship that is generally experienced by the average trade unionist when he has the misfortune to have to seek compensation.

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