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Thursday, 12 November 1959

Mr DALY (Grayndler) . - Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise again a matter that

I have previously brought to the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Government in the appropriate way in this House. I refer to the attitude of the Commonwealth Public Service Board towards the employment of ex-servicemen - particularly men who are suffering from war disabilities and are in receipt of war pensions.

I shall quickly state again the case in question. It is that of an ex-serviceman who was accepted by the Public Service Board, on his capacity intellectually and otherwise, for employment in a clerical position in the Commonwealth Public Service. Subsequently, his employment was terminated on the presentation of a report by the Repatriation Commission which, according to the Public Service Board, showed that he was not capable of satisfying the medical standards laid down by the board. This ex-serviceman was receiving a 50 per cent, war pension, and he subsequently applied to the Repatriation Commission for an increase. His application was rejected on the ground that he was reasonably fit. Following that, he again applied for employment in the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. He was a member of the Police Force before his enlistment and I understand that his qualifications were such that these officials wanted to employ him. But again he was rejected by the Commonwealth Public Service Board on medical grounds. However, at the same time, he is unable to obtain any increase in his repatriation pension.

Cases of this nature have been raised by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) and Reid (Mr. Uren) and other honorable members. It is unmistakably clear that the Public Service Board is discriminating against men who are suffering from various conditions because of service rendered to this country. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) informs me that he has also raised with the Government cases of physically handicapped persons. The point I make is that the Public Service Board has refused employment to men who are suffering from disabilities, but on the other side of the picture, when these men apply to the Repatriation Commission for an increase of pension, they are denied it. Many others of whom we do not hear anything may also be affected. In the case I have raised, the man is entitled to be employed by the Public Service Board or to be given a 100 per cent, pension by the Repatriation Commission. The Government cannot have it both ways.

Personally, I think the tribunal ought to be investigated. But I say here to-night that a royal commission should inquire into the administration of the Public Service Board and its treatment of ex-servicemen suffering from war disabilities. The treatment of the man I have mentioned is scandalous. I brought this case to the attention of the Prime Minister and Sir William Dunk, but the man has been wiped off. Naturally, he is very upset. When he enlisted he was fit and well. He served with distinction overseas, was seriously injured and on his return was given a 50 per cent, disability war pension. But here the Public Service Board refuses to give him a clerical position because of a report from the Repatriation Commission. One would think that he would get some compensation for the loss of that position, but, on the other side of the picture, we find that the Repatriation Commission refuses to increase his pension.

I repeat that the treatment of exservicemen by the Board is scandalous. The widespread discontent thus created is shown by the many complaints that we have received. Possibly many others may have been rejected on similar grounds, but we do not know of them because they have not contacted their members. I would be pleased to submit particulars of the case I have raised to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is at the table, for presentation to the Prime Minister. I believe this case requires special investigation, as do the other cases that have been mentioned in the Parliament. They show alarming discrimination by the Public Service Board, apparently with the full endorsement of the Government because no action is taken to correct the position. I register my protest at the treatment of these exservicemen. This treatment is so scandalous that it justifies a royal commission being held into the general administration of the board, particularly as it affects the employment of ex-servicemen.

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