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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Mr LIDDELL (Hunter) - I have no objection to the amounts specified in this Bill being paid, because so far as I can judge - and the Minister has very kindly allowed me to peruse the official papers relating to them - they appear to be particularly deserving cases. But in the case of Colonel Price, although there is a report by the Medical Board, the examination does not appear to have been quite so thorough as it might have been. The report states that he suffers from " a locking of the shoulder joints." That is not a technical term, and apparently it relates to some injury to the bony parts of the structure. That being so, I should like to ascertain why the X-rays were not applied to the injury ? I know of one instance in which a doctor was charged with malpractice, because he failed to restore an injured elbow in a satisfactory way. He certainly treated the injured member, but subsequently the patient was not able to extend his arm as fully as he could previously. That case was tried before a jury, who awarded the patient £200 damages. As a result, the doctor was practically ruined, although the patient is, today, walking about, and the injured arm is just as strong as is his other arm.

Mr Maloney - I am very sorry, in deed, that there is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]

Mr LIDDELL - In cases such as that, which I have outlined, we cannot be too careful. Before giving my vote in favour of granting compensation to Colonel Price, I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that his case has been thoroughly inquired into.

Mr Crouch - Five medical men have certified toit.

Mr LIDDELL - I am not reflecting in any wav upon the Government Medical Board, but we cannot be too careful as to the precedents which we establish. The case of Lt. -Col. Bayly appears to be a particularly sad one. Anybody who has any knowledge of locomotor ataxia cannot fail to sympathize with him. Of course, it may be urged that his complaint is not traceable to exposure on the field of battle or during a campaign. Nevertheless, we must sympathize with one who in the prime of life is suffering, as he is. I think that we should inaugurate a proper system-

Mr Watson - A system is provided under our Defence Act, but these cases occurred prior to that Act coming into operation.

Mr LIDDELL - During the adjournment for dinner the Vice-President of the Executive Council allowed me to glance through the papers connected with the case of these officers.

Mr Maloney - I think, Mr. Speaker, that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]

Mr LIDDELL - I was not altogether satisfied with the examination made in the case of Colonel Price, and I make that statement because I happen to know some thing of its technicalities. My experience has taught me, however, that it is always well to be guided by the opinion of a duly constituted authority, such as the Medical Board, and, consequently, I have no opposition to offer to the Bill. The Minister has said that considerations of common humanity should induce us to make these grants. He instanced the position of a man who, after long years of faithful service, becomes incapacitated, and is granted compensation by his employer.

Mr Carpenter - It is seldom that he is compensated.

Mr LIDDELL - That may be so, but I believe it is the custom among many large employers of labour to insure the lives of their servants, so that when they retire, at a certain age, they will not be penniless. The Commonwealth requires all its public servants to assure their lives in this way. I hold, therefore, that we should be careful not to create what may prove a dangerous precedent. I know of one case in which a member of the Public Service of New South' Wales was pensioned off years ago, owing to some defect from which he was supposed to be suffering, but who is still well and strong. I am not altogether satisfied with the attitude of the Minister. He says that he knows of no case of hardship requiring the attention of the Government, and he has invited honorable members to bring forward any case of which they have a knowledge.

Mr Ewing - I have tried to find out whether there are any such cases.

Mr LIDDELL - It is the duty of the Government not merely to call on the public to bring forward such cases, but to seek them out themselves. I feel very strongly upon this question, because shortly before the session opened I attended a man who was in sore straits, as the result of the development of a disease consequent upon privation and exposure endured while on service in South Africa. I remember when he left these shores - when the flags were flying, drums were beating, and women were waving their adieux. He went away in the prime of life, and came back with his left breast adorned with a medal and a series of clasps. But to-day that unfortunate man is lying on a bed of sickness gasping for breath. Does that little medal which he wears afford him any relief? As a matter of fact, he has been employed as a railway porter, and has given every satisfaction, but he cannot regularly follow that occupation. When he volunteered for service in South Africa he was passed by the Medical Board as a healthy man, but subsequent events have shown that he must have had within him the seeds of disease. Upon his return to Australia, as the result of the privation and exposure which he had suffered, he developed1 consumption in its worst form. What relief has been given to him by the Government? So far as I can see none has been afforded.

Mr Maloney - There is not a quorum, Mr. Speaker.[Quorum formed."]

Mr LIDDELL - The case to which 1 have referred is that of a man named Hickey, who has a growing family of boys and girls - as fine children as one would wish to see. He is suffering the direst poverty, for while he is out of work he receives nothing from the Government. Fortunately he is connected with a lodge which enables him to secure medical benefits.

Mr King O'Malley - Has the honorable member brought his case before the House ?

Mr LIDDELL - I am doing so now, and shall continue to do iso until I obtain satisfaction. He has fought for his country, and is bringing up a family in a way that is a credit to him, and yet, when he is laid upon a bed of sickness, notwithstanding that he is a servant of the State, the hat has to be sent round. This is one case. and I undertake to say that I could find many others in my electorate who are deserving of favorable consideration. I appeal to the Minister to make some effort to assist this unfortunate man in a way worthy of as great nation. I have only to repeat that I have no objection to the passing of this Bill, although I do not think it should be regarded as a precedent. We should have some proper system of assisting those who suffer in the cause of their country, and I hope that a system will be established that will be a credit to the Ministry and to the Commonwealth.

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