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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr SCULLY (Gwydir) . - I join with other honorable members in making representations on behalf of returned soldiers who are now invalids, but are unable to obtain war pensions. 1 know personally several men who are permanently incapacitated for work of any kind, but whose applications for pensions have been refused on the ground that their present disabilities are not due to war injuries. I know one man in Gunnedah, with a large family now dependent on him, who was gassed while at the war. He was treated in hospital overseas for gas, and, after six months, was sent home. He recovered, as far as it is possible to recover from the effects of gas, and went about his ordinary work. About six or seven years ago he became ill, and it was found that his lungs were affected. All the local doctors who examined him said that his condition was attributable to the fact that he had been gassed at the war. Knowing the man well, I am sure that he would not malinger in any circumstances. He was too proud even to apply for a pension until it became absolutely necessary for him to do so. Then the Repatriation Commission turned his application clown, because it said that his condition was not attributable to war injuries. It is generally agreed among members of the medical profession that once a man has been gassed he never recovers. His condition becomes gradually worse until he becomes permanently incapacitated, and it is absurd for the commission to say that his condition is not due to war injuries. I believe that, in cases of this kind, the Minister should insist that a pension be granted. A definite promise was given to these men when they enlisted that they would be looked after. We know that many men have been affected in health by their war service. Some have become nervous wrecks, and are quite incapable of earning their living, but their applications for pensions have been consistently refused. It is contemptible for the Government to shelter behind technicalities when men who deserve so well of their country are being denied justice. I do not say that members of the Government are deliberately callous, but they are unacquainted with the circumstances, and no action is taken. The legal obstacles raised by the commission to the- granting of applications should be removed, and these poor, human derelicts should be given the assistance of which they stand so much in need. They are now in the evening of their lives; at best they have only a few more years to live. Their cases should be investigated, and justice should be done to them.

I appeal to the Minister for more sympathetic treatment of occupants of war-service homes who, after making their payments regularly for many years, now find themselves unable to continue. I have in mind the case of a returned soldier and his wife who, until quite recently, fulfilled all their obligations under the contract of sale. The original purchase price of the home was about £600, and the man has already paid £750, including interest. He is now too old to work, and is practically an invalid. He claims that he and his wife should be allowed to remain in the house for the rest of their lives without further payment. When they die it could revert to the commission. Many millions of pounds owed by returned soldier settlers have been written off, but no corresponding benefits have been received by the occupiers of ar-service homes, even though they may have paid back, in interest and principal, more than the original capital value of the property. Many of them have proved their willingness to meet their obligations when they were able to do so, and it would be no great strain on the financial resources of the Commonwealth to permit them to occupy their homes rent free now that they are no longer able to earn.

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