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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I rise to support the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in regard to several submissions which he made to the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator A. J. McLachlan). I desire especially to refer to clause 11 which states -

If ail applicant for service pension is an inmate, or a service pensioner becomes an inmate, of an asylum for the insane, a hospital, sanatorium, benevolent home or similar institution, the rate of service pension payable to the applicant or pensioner so long as lie remains an inmate, shall not, subject to this section, in any case exceed twelve shillings per fortnight.

If a man is married, his pension will be reduced. Only a few weeks ago I had evidence of this. A lady whose husband was in the hospital informed me that medicines, tram fares, &c, incurred iri connexion with his indisposition, cost her nearly £1 a week. I fear that, in this manner, the unfortunate returned soldier who is obliged to enter a hospital is being penalized. I should like the Minister to inform honorable senators whether there is any possibility that, in such circumstances, the pension will be increased. According to the act, a pension shall not exceed 20s. a fortnight ; but, if it is right that a returned soldier should receive a pension, it is surely unfair that he should be penalized because he becomes an inmate of a hospital. Out of the bountiful revenues of the country it would be possible not only to recoup the hospitals for the accommodation of such returned soldiers, but also to pay to the sufferers the full rate of pension.

I support the contention of Senator Brand that returned soldiers who served in the South African war, and are deemed to be unemployable, are entitled to a pension. As a matter of fact, I go further than Senator Brand in this connexion ; I contend that all of the unemployables of the community - unemployable through no cause of their own - should receive a pension. An old acquaintance of mine, who is suffering from tuberculosis, is in a most precarious state of health. For instance, it recently took him a quarter of an hour to walk a short distance from a tram to the office in which he interviewed me. I unhesitatingly affirm that he is unemployable; but, according to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, he must be totally and permanently incapacitated before he is entitled to receive a pension. When he made application to the department he was informed that he could sit on his verandah and do some light work there. He asked the officials to suggest some kind of work; but they could not do so. I am gratified that the present bill does not include those words " totally and permanently incapacitated ". The decision to grant pensions to those men who are permanently unemployable is definitely a step in the right direction. If a soldier be permanently unemployable., he is entitled to receive a pension. The act stipulates that he must have served in a " theatre of war ". In my opinion that is an unfair provision. Through no fault of theirs, many of the men who gave their services freely did not reach a theatre of war. Even those suffering from war disabilities find it difficult to obtain a pension. I have a letter in my possession from the brother of a man. who went to the front, and has been endeavouring to obtain a pension. The writer states -

Now I understand that the Repatriation" Department advised that my brother's disability was not relative to war causes. This seems absolutely absurd to me, knowing that when he, my brother, enlisted and went t© the war in 1915, he was strong, able-bodied, temperate, sound of heart, eye and limb, and when peace was declared in 1918 he returned on a hospital ship after having been in No. 14 Australian Hospital, Cairo, suffering from M. malaria and heart failure. Is this not relative to war causes? Oh, God forgive that such treatment could bc meted out to one who has done his bit, that they, and we, may live.

I fully understand the difficulties of decent men who are morally entitled to this service pension, but are ineligible to receive it because they did not serve in a theatre of war, as defined by the act and the commission. In my opinion, Senator Hardy is quite justified in asking the Government to modify that section of the act, in order to permit the granting of service pensions to more of our men who, by enlisting, showed that they were willing to do their bit for Australia.

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