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Wednesday, 2 July 1941

Senator KEANE (Victoria) .- I bring to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Collett) the case of a Victorian soldier, Harold F. Brockley, who met his death while a member of the Australian Imperial Force abroad. This man left behind him a wife and three children. I knew him personally to be reliable and decent. To my knowledge he was not addicted to any vice. While serving with the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt he was absent one night without leave. During the evening he became embroiled in an affray with some Arabs. He was wounded, and subsequently died from those wounds. When I made representations to the Repatriation Department for a war pension for his widow and children the chairman of the commission replied by letter on the 24th June last as follows : -

The death of this soldier resulted from a shooting affray in which he was involved whilst absent without leave from his unit. In the circumstances the commission, to comply with the law was obliged to reject the pension claim in accordance with that provision of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act which excludes a grant of pension where death or incapacity from any occurrence happening during the commission of any breach of discipline.

I realize that under the law as it exists at present a war pension cannot be granted to his family, but I suggest that certain features of the case call for special consideration. Were it not for the sacrifice which that man made in leaving his wife and children in order to serve his country as a soldier abroad, and the fact that he was on war service, he would not, in my opinion at any rate, have met with his death in such circumstances. The bald fact remains that this unfortunate woman is now left with three children. As an ex-soldier himself the Minister, and other honorable senators who have served in the field, know that not infrequently members of the forces absent themselves without leave. As men of the world they can readily realize that this man, when absent on the evening of his death, probably had a few shillings in his pocket and had a bit of a night out. His widow is known personally to me. At present, she is doing domestic work. She must now face the world with her three little ones. I repeat that I knew her husband to be a decent and courageous Australian. I hope that the Minister will be able, at least, to give to this unfortunate family a compassionate allowance. Such action will help to reassure our young men who enlist in the fighting services that the Government is prepared to face its responsibilities towards them, and in their day of trouble to stand by their dependants.

This afternoon I asked whether the Government would make a pronouncement along certain lines regarding the gold-mining industry. I point out that a number of mines are being worked successfully at Bendigo, although none of them is controlled by a limited liability company. The works programme of each mine depends entirely upon call money. Because the impression has got abroad that the Government is not very anxious about the maintenance of the gold-mining industry, many investors in these mines are responding very slowly with their call payments, with the result that the mines are finding it difficult to continue operations. Some of them have reached s highly productive stage. I ask the Government, therefore, to make a pronouncement that in the sifting of essential and non-essential industries the ^old-mining industry will not be unnecessarily restricted. The Government should also give the assurance that it considers this industry, which it has assisted over a period of many years, to be vital to the financial stability of this country.

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