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Wednesday, 2 April 1941

Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) . - I direct the attention of the Government to the treatment meted out to a young man who was recently called up for compulsory training in New South Wales. This. young man who is 23 years of age has a widowed mother suffering from a serious heart' affliction and a younger brother aged sixteen, who is at school. Before he was called up for military service he was earning £5 10s. a week, out of which he maintained a home for his mother, paying 35s. a week rent, and kept his brother at school. When he was called up for military service he allotted his invalid mother £1 ls. a week, but the Department of the Army decided to allow her only 10s. 3d. a week. Therefore, while he was in camp for a period which was originally to be 70 days, but wa3 afterwards extended to 90 days, the mother's house rent fell in arrears and the son has been compelled to relinquish his university studies. Although this may be only an isolated case, the invalidity of the mother is of such a nature that she requires more than her invalid pension of £1 ls. a week to keep herself. T approached the department regarding the matter, and it was so generous that it allowed the mother an additional 6d. a day, but this was paid for only a fortnight. The payment was promised from the time when the son first went into camp, but, after the first payment, even the amount of 10s. 3d. was reduced.

I also direct attention to the treatment received by soldiers who have returned from overseas during the present war. I am acquainted with two of these returned soldiers. When they boarded the vessel on which they returned to Australia, they were accompanied by two officers, who were doctors, and by three nurses. About 40 soldiers in all were invalided to Australia for various reasons. When they put to sea, there were over 100 deck chairs on the vessel, and the officers informed the invalided soldiers that they could not occupy these chairs because they were reserved for the two officers and the three nurses. On their arrival in Melbourne, the men were instructed by the officers to carry the luggage of the officers and the nurses to a transport that was waiting to take them to the Spencer-street Railway Station. On arrival at the station, the soldiers were again instructed to carry the luggage from the transport to the luggage van, which they did. On their journey to Sydney, they had breakfast at 7.20 a.m. at Moss Vale, and at the Central Railway Station, Sydney, they were instructed to carry the luggage to a transport which waa- to take them to Moore Park. They appeared before a board at Moore Park, and were X-rayed shortly after 10 a.m. Then they had to wait for their pay. This incident occurred on the 29th January last, which was a very hot day. The men had to stand in the sun until 4 p.m. Another vessel that called at Sydney the same day disembarked 30 undesirables who -were returned from overseas for being bad characters. While the invalided soldiers were waiting in the sun, the undesirables received their pay and a suit of civilian clothes and were discharged. The invalided soldiers had received no refreshment up to the time they left Moore Park. At 4 p.m., they were informed that they could not be paid that day, because there was insufficient money available for the purpose. They could get only a small portion of their deferred pay.

Senator Collett - How many soldiers were there?

Senator ARTHUR - About 34 or 35. They were then told that the rest of their pay would be given to them on the following Monday. On their return a week later, they were again told that the money could not be paid to them, but that they would receive it at the Canterbury Racecourse on the following Monday. Such treatment of invalided soldiers should not be tolerated. One of the men who had helped to carry the luggage off the boat and at the .Spencer-street Railway Station appeared before an Array medical officer. He was also examined by a specialist in Macquarie-street, Sydney, who certified that he still had broken bones in his right foot. When he acquainted me of that fact I walked with him from the federal members' rooms in Martin-place to Pitt-street. He was stopped by three officers. He was wearing a New Zealand uniform which he had purchased for 2s. because a suit of clothes could not be supplied to him. on his return to Australia. He said that the only distinguishing mark on his uniform was the word " Australia " which appeared on the shoulders.

Australian soldiers now serving in Egypt are paid in Australian currency, whilst the soldiers of other dominions are paid in sterling. In Egypt an Australian soldier receives only 78-J piastres to the £1, but the soldiers of other dominions are paid piastres to the £1. In Palestine an Australian soldier receives 800 milles to the £1, whilst a soldier from another dominion gets 1,000 mines to the £1. Shaving blades which can be purchased in Australia at the rate of five for 6d. cost Australian soldiers 2s. 6d., so that their purchasing power is reduced to a level much below that of soldiers from other dominions. I submit that the Go vernment should take steps to see that our men who are now being returned from the theatre of war receive at least better treatment than that of soldiers who fought in the last war, some of whom can be seen wheeling barrows in the streets of Sydney. If we are to make Australia a country fit for the people of a great democracy to live in, we should see that our returned soldiers get the treatment that they deserve.

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