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Wednesday, 4 March 1970

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - Mr Speaker,I am pleased that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) is in the House becauseI want to bring to his notice a case which I consider to be one of the worst I have struck in the repatriation field since I have been a member of this Parliament. The Ministers predecessor knew all the details of the case. 1 do not intend to go over all of them tonight. On 28th March 1968I brought to the attention of the Parliament the case of a Mr M. M. Medlyn.I mention his name because I have his permission to do so. At that time he was living in my electorate at 51 West Street, Petersham but he is now domiciled at Sussex Inlet. This exserviceman has now become totally blind as a result of an operation performed during the last war. Since his discharge he has been endeavouring to secure a military pension because he believes his loss of eyesight was caused by an operation which was not properly completed. He believes it was due entirely to carelessness. The Repatriation Department has continually refused to give him a pension.

The previous Minister for Repatriation was good enough to let me look at the file relating to this case. I went through it and in my opinion every element of doubt was decided against the ex-serviceman. It was stated that the loss of sight could have happened through one thing and another but to my mind on every occasion the benefit of the doubt went against the ex-serviceman. Now he is living in almost complete poverty. He is living on an invalid pension. The details of the type of ailment he has in his eyes and their condition is such thatI do not intend to mention them to the Parliament now. It is difficult to describe them and they sound exceedingly dreadful.I want to say to the Minister that this man has written direct to the Minister for Repatriation and the file is available in the Department. Subsequent to a letter he wrote, the Minister wrote back to him and told him that he should call and see the doctor at Sussex Inlet who would explain the circumstances to him. Mr Medlyn replied by letter to the Minister. 1 also wrote, on 20th January this year, to the Minister about this case and the letter that Mr Medlyn had written to the Minister. In my letter I said:

I refer particularly to that section of the letter addressed to Mr Medlyn in which you suggest he call to see Dr Waters and to which Mr Medlyn replied to you under date 2.12.1969 stating: . . as you must know I am totally blind and it is a six mile walk to Dr Waters' residence and 1.5 miles to the nearest phone, your request is virtually impossible.'

I subsequently wrote again to the Minister stating that I thought that the Repatriation Department ought to visit a blind man and not expect him to go that distance. I have since received a telephone call from Mr Medlyn giving further details of the tragic state and the tragic condition in which he is living. In a telephone conversation, to me Mr Medlyn finished by saying: T cannot get a guide dog because my income could noi feed it.' The cost of feeding a guide dog would be between $7 and $8 a week. 1 have mentioned these details relating' to the facts of this case once again because I believe they represent an absolute injustice to an ex-serviceman. Merely to give him a paltry invalid pension now that he- has lost his sight because - from the facts available to me - of an operation performed iri the course of. his military duties, is, to my mind, a scandalous state of affairs. ] made this statement in this Parliament on several occasions to the previous Minister for Repatriation. I have informed Mr Medlyn that until such time as a military pension is granted I will continue to raise his case again and again because I believe it has been treated unjustly. This Government is asking men to fight and die in Vietnam at this moment. It says it is necessary to conscript men in order to protect this country. Yet at this very time a man who has lost probably the most valuable asset in life, his eyesight, is now unable even to afford a guide dog because his income is so low. His domestic circumstances have been affected. He sacrificed a garage to enter the forces and now is living in poverty as an invalid pensioner. Surely when the Government can spend $27m in order to subsidise the primary producers and others it can spend a couple of dollars a week to give a reasonable pension to an ex-serviceman who has lost his eyesight. 1 repeat what I have said before in this Parliament: Some of these Repatriation Tribunals ought to be tossed out lock stock and barrel because their members have become case hardened. If some of the ex-servicemen serving on Tribunals have become case hardened the Government should put a few civilians on them who might be more sympathetic to people like Mr Medlyn who have given their all in the service of this country. 1 do not blame the present Minister over this. I know he is a sympathetic person and that naturally he must be guided by what his departmental officials or his tribunals put forward. However I suggest that he look at this file. There were several points in this case on which I could have given the benefit of the doubt to this ex-serviceman rather than require him at all stages io prove his case to the hilt. 1 know' that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is aware of this case but I think the case bears repeating again and again until something is done about it This man is now . in the Royal' Prince Alfred Hospital suffering, the intense pain and agony associated with this kind of an ailment yet he is getting nowhere with the Repatriation Department. He has been knocked back again and again, lt is bad enough for a . man " who can walk and see to be continually told to see this Department or appear at the tribunal but to tell this to a blind man and to expect him to do this continually is something which I do not think the Minister or the Government would tolerate if they really understood the circumstances.

I raised this matter tonight because I hope the Minister will sympathetically look into it. The case is under discussion now. 1 suggest to the Minister that he should have a good look at the man who told him ro tell a blind man to walk 6 miles to visit a doctor. This is quite unsympathetic treatment. I think the case has been flippantly put aside. 1 repeat again that a long overhaul is due in the Repatriation Department in regard to tribunals if this is the type of treatment being meted out to ex-servicemen. When all is said and done, this man is receiving an invalid pension and he is now pretty well on in years. The cost involved in paying the difference between the invalid pension and that to which he is entitled hardly would be noticeable. If this poor man passed on the Minister might find that his wife probably would get a pension at that belated stage. I have seen cases which I thought were not nearly as bad as this where pensions have been granted. The reasoning of these things is sometimes difficult to follow.

I repeat that the Minister has the file available to him. I have supplied the name of this man. I suggest that the Minister give special attention to this case because it is one of the most genuine and deserving cases I have struck. As I said earlier I have been in this Parliament for a long time and the treatment given to Mr Medlyn by the Repatriation Department is one of the greatest injustices I have seen.

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