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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- I support this amendment. Early in the year representations were made to some honorable members by various organizations that are particularly concerned with problems of physically handicapped persons who experience great difficulty in gaining security of employment. Particular concern was expressed for men who, having families to support, suffer accidents which result in their being partially disabled. We know that the increasing incidence of road accidents is piling up the numbers of our physically handicapped citizens at an alarming rate. We often hear of the 2,000-odd people who are killed on the roads each year, but we do not often think of the 56,000 who are injured. I believe that these people should be given better employment opportunities in the Public Service than are available at present. It is all very well for the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to make statements, as he did recently, urging private enterprises to employ physically handicapped people. When I read the Minister's statement in the press I was moved to ask myself, " What is the Public Service itself, or the Government, doing to give a lead in this matter? "

Mr Menzies - I assure the honorable member that we employ a considerable number of such people.

Mr DUTHIE - I agree with the Prime Minister on that point. He will remember that I raised this matter with him last year, and he gave me a reply, saying that the Public Service was doing something towards solving this problem. But we are trying to put the matter on a more official and permanent basis. The employment of a few physically handicapped persons here and there throughout the vast Commonwealth Public Service may not help the situation very much. I believe that if our amendment was carried it would be incumbent on the Public Service authorities to make a maximum effort for the physically handicapped.

It is amazing what these unfortunate people can do. I do not believe that their ability is necessarily impaired simply because they have suffered an injury to a leg, an arm, or a hip. If they can get to and from work, they will carry out the jobs for which they are trained to the maximum of their ability. Unfortunately, the Public Service Board says, " We must have medical examinations of applicants for employment ". What do such examinations involve? No doubt they cover mental health and physical health, but the decision whether Bill Smith or Tom Jones is to be employed is largely in the hands of an individual doctor. The matter is left to the decision of one man or of a panel of men, and unless the legislation is widened in the manner suggested by our amendment it will remain possible for a panel of doctors to reject vast numbers qf applicants merely because of physical defects. I always thought that the medical examinations of applicants for Public Service employment were designed to ensure the health of organs such as lungs and heart. I did not think that defects in limbs were considered of major importance, and our amendment is concerned mainly with persons suffering from such defects.

I strongly support the amendment, and I will be very disappointed if the Government cannot agree to make this humanitarian move in the interests of our physically handicapped citizens.

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