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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) .- Although the Minister mentioned that sympathetic treatment is being extended to returned soldiers, I remind him that quite a number of them are being harshly treated by reason of the interpretation placed upon the definition of "theatre of war".' Every member of the Australian Imperial Force, on enlistment, was subjected to careful medical examination to ensure that he was in a sound physical condition.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The Australian Imperial Force was composed of hand-picked men.

Senator ARKINS - As physical specimens, they were regarded by world authorities as unequalled by any other troops. Many of them, however, returned to Australia physical wrecks. In my humble opinion, any soldier who served in a major action in France, Gallipoli or Palestine, and returned to Australia to become broken in health, should be granted a pension. The conditions of modern warfare impose on those taking an active part in it tremendous nerve strain; there should be no question of doubt about this matter at all. I understand that, as the act now stands, a member of the Australian Imperial Force, whoso service was restricted to clerical work at the Australian Head-quarters at Horseferry-road, London, may be granted n. pension by reason of the fact that hp was placed under direct military orders to serve in a particular place, whereas, very young men, and men already advanced in years, who were drafted into camps in England, under the severe conditions of an English winter, are denied it. There is no comparison between, the hardships inflicted on men who served in sheltered positions at Horseferry-road, and those who served in the various camps in England. As I mentioned in my second-reading speech, I should like to see the definition of " theatre of war ", widened to include any areas in which the enemy operated, and also those, whether on land or sea, in which, the lives and health of soldiers were endangered by atmospheric, food, or other unhygienic conditions.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator apparently has forgotten the zeppelin air-raids over England. On one occasion a bomb dropped by enemy aircraft struck very near Horseferryroad.

Senator ARKINS - If it could be proved, that the health of men, suffered as the result of air-raids over England - : and such raids undoubtedly caused severe nerve shock - they should be granted a pension, and I believe the Repatriation Commission would be quite prepared to admit their claims.

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