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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister of External Affairs) . - The honorable member for Moira does not appear to be so well acquainted as we are with the history of these cases. In the first place, it was proposed to pay compensation to certain officers upon their compulsory retirement from the Forces. Colonel Price was included among the officers who were entitled to a gratuity, but he elected to accept an appointment in Queensland,, his term of service being extended beyond the retiring age to permit of bis doing so. Upon his retirement from the service it was proposed to pay him an amount of .£800, which, in v?ew of all the circumstances, was regarded as a fair sum. That proposal, however, was withdrawn. It was suggested in this House that if the amount of the gratuity were reduced to the sum recommended by the Medical Board, honorable members would approve of the grant. When the Medical Board recommends that compensation- shall be paid to privates who have been rendered unfit for further duty owing to injuries received whilst on duty, the Executive makes the necessary grants without any previous reference to Parliament.

Mr Kennedy - Have many privates established their claims?

Mr DEAKIN - I know of several cases in which gratuities have been paid to privates, even during the short time that this Ministry has been in office. The honorable member asks why we should introduce the Bill at this late stage of the session. On a former occasion, the discussion which took place led us to suppose that if the proposed gratuity were reduced to the amount recommended bv the Medical Board as compensation to Colonel Price for injuries received whilst on duty in Australia, the grant would be made without demur. I would point out that the injuries for which compensation is to be given are altogether apart from those received by Colonel Price in South Africa These in themselves were serious enough, and he is now suffering from their effects. He will always suffer. He has never made any claim in regard to those injuries.

Mr Maloney - A claim was made, but it was refused.

Mr DEAKIN - Not iri connexion with the injuries received in South Africa.

Mr Maloney - Was not a claim made for ^400?

Mr DEAKIN - No. Originally a grant of ,£500 was 'recommended by the Medical Board as compensation for tlie injury received by Colonel Price whilst he was proceeding to Brisbane by steamer. The Watson Government reduced that amount to .^400, and that is the claim which the honorable member for Melbourne has in mind. A technical difficulty arose in connexion with the matter. There was no dispute as to the propriety of the award ; but the Queensland Government said that they should not be called upon to pay the amount, because Colonel Price had not, up to the time of receiving the injury, rendered any service to that State. It was because of this, and this alone, that the money was not paid at the time. He is a most gallant soldier, whose men were always devoted to him. The honorable member for Moira seems to suppose that some social or other influence has been brought to bear in favour of Colonel Price. So far as I am concerned, however, no person outside of this House has spoken to me on his behalf. The honorable member for Grampians, and one or two other honorable members, certainly mentioned the matter to me; but beyond that I have received no communication of any kind. Colonel Price has been particularly scrupulous not to approach me in the matter. No social influence has been at work.

Mr Kennedy - I happen to know differently.

Sir John Forrest - Colonel Price never spoke to me.

Mr DEAKIN - I can assure the honorable member for Moira that, had we known of any other cases like those provided for in the Bill, they would have been dealt with upon exactly the same Basis. If any claims of a similar kind are brought under our notice we shall certainly consider them.

Mr Maloney - The Government did not give notice bv advertisement that any one who had a claim would receive consideration.

Mr DEAKIN - I understand that the records were examined.

Mr Crouch - I know of a case which has been on record for a long time - that of SergeantMajor Coffey.

Mr DEAKIN - I can assure the honorable member for Moira that the measure has been introduced at this late stage through force of circumstances, and owing to the desire of the Government to fulfil the undertaking given to the House when the matter was formerly under discussion.

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