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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr CLAREY (Bendigo) .- I assure the Postmaster-General (Mr.. Davidson) that he will not hear any kindly references to his department from me until the longpromised and long-awaited new post office has been erected at Bendigo. I suggest to the Minister that he ascertain where that post office stands on the department's list and when the plans, which have been ready for some time, will be put into operation, so that Bendigo car* have a post office' worthy of it.

Mr Davidson - It is No. 6 on the whole list, and the estimated cost is £17,500. It is expected that at least £15.000 will be expended on it this year.

Mr CLAREY - That is the first instalment. I want to deal with the operations of local repatriation committees, and I hope that what? I shall say on the subject will &e brought to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), so that a very unfortunate situation can be rectified. The work of the local repatriation committees forms an exceedingly important part of repatriation administration. The committees, which have been established in various districts in each State, are responsible for handling all applications for war pensions and service pensions, for medical appointments in respect of pensions, for giving advice on war service homes and for handling communications in respect of war service homes, which are not handled by the local offices of the War Service Homes Division. In addition, the committees deal with applications for loans and other forms of assistance from the Repatriation Department, as well as matters affecting the Canteens. Services Trust Fund, applications for educational allowances and other benefits, and inquiries in respect of rehabilitation, war service land settlement and other matters.

The peculiar situation which has arisen in some districts has been brought to my notice by the Bendigo branch of the Returned Servicemen's League, which has advised me of the disabilities from which it is suffering as a consequence of the parsimonious attitude of the Repatriation Department. The local repatriation committee in Bendigo has been heavily subsidized by the Returned Servicemen's League. The local branch has made available to the committee office accommodation, as well as the services of its secretary and a typist. However, notwithstanding that in the last few years administrative costs have risen considerably, the Repatriation Department has gradually but persistently decreased the funds that it has made available to finance the work of the local repatriation committee. In 1951-52, the sum allocated to the committee to enable it to carry out its duties was £500. 1 point out that the local branch of the Returned Servicemen's League performs all the functions of the committee in respect of its members, without charge. However, there are over 2,000 returned servicemen in Bendigo, and as only one-half of them are members of the league, the work in respect of non-members must be done by the local repatriation committee. In the last four years, administrative costs have risen by at least 70 per cent. Notwithstanding that increase, the grant made to the committee, which was at the rate of £500 four years ago, has been reduced to £125 a year. Consequently, the committee is unable to pay its way, and almost the whole of its work is being done by the local branch of the Returned Servicemen's League, which has been compelled to realize certain of its investments that were intended for other purposes. If that process continues, the branch will be compelled to refuse to do any more work for the committee.

In that event, the Repatriation Department would have to do what the Department of Social Services and other departments have done, lt would have to open an office in Bendigo, and the cost of that would be considerably more than £125 a year. I hope that my remarks will be brought to the notice of the Minister for

Repatriation, so that a bigger grant can be made to the local repatriation committee to enable it to carry on with its work.

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