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Wednesday, 4 December 1935

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I support the bill. I agree with my leader that it is somewhat belated and I agree with Senator Brand when he says that returned soldiers' organizations made representations to the Government with the result that this measure was introduced. Senator Hardy, of course, says that this measure was not introduced as the result of any such pressure.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Senator Brand did not say that it was.

Senator BROWN - I shall make my position clear on this matter. It is perfectly right and just that men should approach any authority and bring pressure to bear on it in order that justice should be done to them. In this case, and rightly so, pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government by returned soldiers. I think Senator Hardy was rather stretching the matter when he tried to make us believe that the Government introduced this measure simply out of the goodness of its heart; it has been introduced as the result of pressure which, for many years, has been brought to bear upon the Government by those interested in the welfare of the soldiers. Past governments should have enacted these provisions long ago. Why Senator Hardy should speak at length in order to make it appear that no effort was made by the returned soldiers to influence the Government to introduce this legislation I do not know. Men, whether they be returned soldiers or otherwise, if they think legislation should be enacted for the benefit of the community, have a right to bring pressure to bear upon the Government to achieve what they desire. In fact, most governments would not act unless constant pressure drove it to action. Most conservative governments are lethargic; they act when they are obliged to and they bring in legislation only when they are forced to do so. My experience of Tory governments particularly is that they meet a situation in an expedient way in order to satisfy certain pressure. This has been the case in respect of many classes of legislation designed to assist the soldiers of industry, the producers and the farmers. Time and time again, instead of getting down to basic causes in order to deal with certain problems, this Government has acted in an expedient way in order to meet pressure brought to bear upon it by people outside. I am convinced that before long governments will be compelled to show greater consideration to our industrial soldiers, many of whom are unemployable because they are physically or mentally incapable of being employed at a remunerative occupation. It is only right that the Government should come to the rescue of these men as well as to the aid of those " burnt-out " soldiers who have served their country on the battlefield. Unemployable men come to me seeking assistance because private enterprise, with which they have been associated in their better days, cannot show a profit on the service they are able to render. I remember a man climbing the steps to the federal members' room in Brisbane who had to stop six times before he reached the top. He said, "I have been to the Pensions Department and cannot receive any help. Don't you think it only right that I should get a pension " ? The poor individual could not walk more than ten steps without coughing and spitting, yet an officer of the department asked him if he could not perform some light work while sitting on his verandah. He replied, " What kind of work can I do?" The officer said, " You are not totally and permanently incapacitated; I do not know what kind of work you can do". I trust that it will not be long before these men receive justice. Before the outbreak of the Great War there were many in Australia who said that nothing would be too good for those who offered their services. Although thousands of men made the supreme sacrifice, their dependants have not yet been able to receive the justice to which they are entitled. This belated act of justice will be supported by honorable senators in Opposition, but we trust that it will not be long before those maimed members of the industrial army will be served in the same way as are those who fought for this country.

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