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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) . - At the various conferences of returned soldiers which I have attended, the Canadian Repatriation

Act has always been regarded as being superior- to the Australian legislation. That claim was justified in regard to certain details; but I now venture the opinion, which I think will be endorsed by most representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, also the Maimed and Limbless Soldiers Association, that the passing of this bill will place the Australian repatriation laws above those of any other nation which was a combatant in the Great "War. The administration of the act is an entirely different matter ; it depends, to a great extent, upon the medical officers attached to the department. My experience of the work of the commission since 1920 leads me to say that, in "Western Australia at least, the act is administered generously. On one or two occasions fault was found with the decisions of the medical officers, but alterations were made in the personnel and the complaints ceased. Those instances, however, were of a minor nature, and do not detract from the general body of good work done by the commission in "Western Australia. I join with other honorable senators in complimenting the Repatriation Commission and the departmental staff on their excellent work. This is the sixth bill for the amendment of .the Repatriation Act since the financial depression of 1929-31. In my opinion the Government deserves to be congratulated on having introduced this series of amendments, and on having restored to a considerable, extent the reductions of pensions made during the period of financial emergency. In reply to a deputation of honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives which, waited on him recently, the Prime Minister promised to take into consideration, having regard to the financial position of Australia, the removal of the remaining reductions, and I hope that that will soon be done.

I take exception to Senator Hardy's proposal in regard to making available to the appellant, the medical testimony given to the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal. As each appeal comes before the tribunal, the appellant is required to Submit evidence in support of his claim, but the suggestion that each appellant should receive a copy of such testimony, including most valuable and material medical evidence, is in my opinion unjustified. Unfortunately there are some types of individuals who must make these appeals and it were far better for their own peace of mind, and the peace of mind of their families, that they be not informed of certain medical evidence in respect - of themselves submitted to the tribunal. In many instances, knowledge of such evidence would be harmful to the applicant himself. Having regard to the circumstances, therefore, I suggest that Senator Hardy should review his appeal to the Government for the submission of that testimony to each of the appellants.

Senator Hardy - I do not like to correct the honorable senator, but I point out that the medical evidence is already made available to the appellant. He may inspect it if he so desires.

Senator ALLANMacDONALD.Only in certain instances. As a general rule the appellant may obtain the evidence through the medium of the gentleman who acts on his behalf before the tribunal. But even in those circumstances I know of an instance where the representative of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, who appeared for the appellant before the tribunal, refused to show him a copy of his- medical history.

Senator Hardy - The appellant surely has the right to obtain a precis of the medical evidence.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I emphasize that in the instance to which I have referred the representative of the returned soldier considered it inadvisable to show him certain medical evidence that had not been tendered in connexion with the. appeal. As I do not desire to speak at length upon that aspect, I shall conclude by again congratulating the Government upon having brought forward this bill.

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