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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Mr CRAMER (Bennelong) (Minister for the Army) . - The clause under discussion has nothing to do with either of the subjects raised by honorable members opposite. Actually the amendment is necessary only because the Navy and the Air Force are no longer to have national service trainees and only the Army caters for the Citizen Military Forces. Dealing with the unfortunate cases mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act applies, as we know, to national service trainees. The basis of compensation payable is calculated, after inquiry, on the extent to which a deceased trainee's parents or relatives were dependent upon him. That basis prevails in all other compensation cases. So, it is simply a matter of proving the extent to which the relatives or the near relatives have suffered financial loss as the result of his death. In the particular cases to which the honorable member referred, there was a differentiation inasmuch as the parents of two of the unfortunate lads were compensated at a higher rate than the parents of the other.

Mr Haylen - Nobody has accepted the money yet.

Mr CRAMER - That is so. The Commissioner decided that £250 was the amount which should be allowed in accordance with the information available to him. That amount was contested by the honorable member in correspondence to me. I took the matter up and discussed it very fully with him, and a questionnaire was sent out. Whilst one may say that, looking coldly at the questions, they did not appear to be very human, it is very difficult to frame questions on a matter in which a very precise answer is to be given. Therefore, the questions had to be extremely precisely stated. Up to this date those questions have not been answered. If they are answered, the case will be re-opened in the light cf the answers.

Mr Haylen - I am answering the questions on behalf of the constituent, and they will be fairly strong answers.

Mr CRAMER - I do not mind. 1 will be the happiest man in the world if the questions are very fully answered, and the

Commissioner will go into the matter in the light of those answers. I am sure it is the desire of the Government to see that proper compensation, in accordance with the act as it now stands, is given and that there is no cheese-paring. After all it is a great tragedy in the lives of these people and it is very difficult to assess in pounds, shillings and pence the loss that has been sustained. However, if the questionnaire is returned 1 am sure the Commissioner will re-examine the case in which the honorable member for Parkes is particularly interested, because in one of the other cases I think the amount of compensation awarded was £600.

Mr Curtin - Little enough, too.

Mr CRAMER - That may be so. I am not arguing that. There would appear to be some room for a re-examination of the case in which £250 was awarded. I assure the honorable member that that will be done. However, I point out that these matters should be discussed on some amendment to the compensation act rather than on this clause.

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