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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Sampson (TASMANIA) - I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the clause under discussion.

Senator ARKINS - I hope that the Minister will agree to widen the definition of " theatre of war ", because, in many cases, the interpretation of the definition has. operated unfairly in respect of certain soldiers. I ask the Minister and those administering the act to look into the suggestions which I have made.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have taken a note of the point raised by the honorable senator and I shall submit it to the Minister for consideration.

Senator ARKINS - Although I agree with the Minister that the Australian governments have done more for returned soldiers than have the governments of any other country, there are many cases of hardship which should be given more sympathetic consideration. The Minister has said that in no case is the soldier refused the benefit of the doubt; but in many cases which have come under my notice, it appears that the department has never attempted to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. If a soldier is known to have served in a major action in the war he should be granted a pension without raising the question of doubt. I have known many applicants and their physical attributes, and though they were obviously entitled to more sympathetic consideration, the department has rejected their claim that no doubt existed whatever. The strain of modern warfare upon the physique and mentality of the soldiers is so great that there should be no quibble, medical or legal, in regard to claims for disabilities arising out of war service. Medical science is not a positive science; accepted medical beliefs of to-day are discarded tomorrow in the light of more expert knowledge.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - We learn by the mistakes of the past.

Senator ARKINS - 'Medical science has progressed in a revolutionary manner. Accepted ideas of yesterday are to-day relegated into the limbo of the past. Where a soldier is wrecked physically and mentally by the conditions under which, modern warfare is fought, he should be given the benefit of the doubt without quibble of any sort.

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