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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- The newspapers recently published the conditions under which caveats might be lodged in certain cases against the payment of the gratuity to the soldiers, in order to secure the rights of the dependants. The Act makes provision to enable 'the prescribed authority to withhold in certain cases the gratuity from the persons directly concerned in the interests of the dependants. Recently, the public were warned in the press that it was idle to lodge caveats for other purposes than those relating to dependants. When the parent measure was under consideration, I had thought of. bringing under the notice of the Prime Minister certain cases, which the great bulk of the returned soldiers would be only too ready to recognise. I refer to some soldiers who have, in a very discreditable way, broken faith with other persons - in many cases, indigent female relatives of returned soldiers. One case I have particularly in mind is that of a mother whose son was killed at the Front, and who has been absolutely defrauded by a returned soldier. He affected to purchase a business from her, and paid a small portion of the amount due. He then resold the business, pocketed the entire proceeds, and cleared out, leaving the wronged woman with only a small proportion of the money that was due to her. When reading the original Bill I was impressed with the view that apparently the prescribed authority would be qualified to consider cases of that kind, and to decide not to pay over the gratuity to any man who obviously, to say the least, had a very low standard of morals. After reading the statement in the press, however, I have come to the conclusion that the prescribed authority is not going to exercise any discretion of that kind, but will pay over the money to the soldier himself, except in those cases in which it is expressly empowered to hold back the gratuity in the interests of the dependants.

Mr Hughes - I am inclined to think that the prescribed authority would, before acting, require some evidence by the aggrieved person, but I should be very surprised to learn that that body would not exercise its authority in proper cases. Clearly, it has discretionary power.

Mr BRENNAN - I am glad to hoax the Prime Minister say that. I read the Bill carefully, and I was glad to observe that it contained safeguards which pre vented the soldier from having a legal right to the gratuity. The gratuity is not payable to the next of kin, nor is the prescribed authority bound by the terms of a soldier's will. All those provisions, 1 take it, were inserted to enable the prescribed authority to see that substantial justice was done in the distribution of gratuities. I hope that the prescribed authority will realize the obligation upon it to see that no person who has been guilty of clearly dishonest practices shall get from the Government money which, on moral and every other ground, belongs to some one else.

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