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Tuesday, 26 September 1972
Page: 1177

Senator HANNAN (Victoria) - Sometimes one does not realise how good certain legislation is until one considers the weakness and the futility of the Opposition attack upon it. I think that the honourable senator who just resumed his seat has proved this truism. Apart from a little carping criticism he has simply read the provisions of the Bill and added some miserable assertions at the conclusion of his remarks. I want to refer merely to 2 of them. I rebut his statement that the onus of proof in the case of repatriation applications is on the ex-serviceman. The most cursory examination of existing legislation will show that in case of doubt the soldier applicant must be given the benefit. That is written into the legislation. As far as his drivelling nonsense in respect of the lottery of death is concerned, his remarks are hardly worth traversing. The function at the time of drawing the marbles is to ensure absolute honesty and integrity in the supply of the marbles so that those whose birth dates are called out may be absolutely certain that the matter has been done honestly and accurately. When he engages in this emotional clap-trap about kids going to their deaths after the ballot, we have to remember that approximately one-ninth only of those whose birth dates are called out will ever see service in the Army. That one-ninth, even when our commitment in Vietnam was at its highest, in fact seemed in many instances safer than on the roads of this country.

The honourable senator suggested that hundreds of these people left the country in order to avoid the call-up. I would very much like to see statistics in relation to this claim. I cannot share his synthetic tears and indignation for those who refused to honour their obligation to this nation. I am sick of the talk of conscience when it is used as a blanket or as an excuse for cowardice or for refusal to accept one's obligation to the nation. If one has a conscience - it is possible that conscience may prevent certain people from serving in the forces - there are adequate provisions in the national service legislation to enable those who have a genuine conscientious objection to have their case heard. The Opposition should remember that every member of the Australian Labor Party voted in support of the national service legislation. 1 support the 4 Bills which are before the Senate but I propose to devote most time to Repatriation Bill (No. 2). The principle of repatriation is generally accepted by governments of all complexions in our community. In this case the Government is not only coping with inflationary pressures - it would be idle to deny they exist - but also it is changing certain principls of compensation. For example, the invidious practice whereby injury to a private soldier was regarded as less worthy of compensation than injury to an officer is being abolished. Mr President, I know that you as an ardent and erudite student of the classics are far more conversant with these matters than I am but it is my belief that Western society in relation to repatriation owes a great deal to ancient Rome - far more than we are prepared to concede or acknowledge. Tn about the time of Marius the Roman general - about 105 B.C. - the loyalty of soldiers was being transferred from an infant state to the commanding general. The soldier swore allegiance lo the general. The general gave him his daily pay of about lie. It is true that the general covered some of his superannuation and pension liability and his repatriation liability by permitting looting and plunder of enemy cities. Of course we strictly forbid this. lt was the general who appeared before the Roman Senate and argued the case for the legionary's repatriation benefits. Unlike this Government the Roman Senate was a bit grudging in the benefits which it was prepared to concede although usually in the end lt gave in. Most frequently the provision was a plot of land. For those whose service was outstanding the land might well contain a villa. Mr President, you will recall that one of the reasons why the legions of Julius Caesar so enthusiastically avenged his murder at the battle of Philippi was the extremely generous repatriation provisions which Caesar made for his legionaries. Many years later, about 130 A.D., the Emperor Hadrian reformed the law and administration of the Roman Empire, including that in regard to the repatriation of legionaries. Of course in Roman times the armies were generally victorious. In those times a victorious army took very few fatal casualties but it did take very many wound casualties - roughly about 10 times as great. Hence the need for repatriation services was borne in upon Hadrian.

Senator Keeffe - I rise to order. 1 suggest that Senator Hannan is way out from the 4 Bills because Australia had no soldiers in the Roman wars. We are trying to apply the events which happened in the various wars in which this country has been involved since the turn of this century. I respectfully suggest that the honourable senator is several hundred years away.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Hannan is merely illustrating to the Senate how the system of repatriating exservicemen commenced. I have listened to him with a great deal of interest.

Senator HANNAN - Thank you. Mr President. As I was saying, the Emperor Hadrian, because of the great number of wounds compared with fatal casualties, realised the need to set up some form of repatriation benefits. One of the most interesting things to emerge from our comparison with the provisions of the Emperor Hadrian is that the same time was required by the Emperor's legionaries as is now prescribed by British repatriation legislation, namely 20 years. If a legionary had served for 20 years he was permitted to retire and his upkeep became the responsibility of the general and the state. He was usually given a free plot of land and allowed to work it. Sometimes, as I said, he was given a villa.

Senator McManus - That was soldier settlement as we understand it today.

Senator HANNAN - Yes. 1 think that could well have been the model for some of our present State legislation. If wounded - as 1 said, Roman wound casualties were heavy - the soldier was allowed to retire and given the same benefits. It seems reasonable to surmise that if the same repatriation provisions had been kept in force it is probable that Roman morale would not have disintegrated and that the Barbarians would have been unable to overcome Rome in the fifth century. Mr President, as you will recall, during Charlemagne's time and later through the Crusades the whole idea of repatriation seems to have been in abeyance, lt was not until somewhat more modern times that what was originally practised centuries ago began to emerge in the legislation and practice of Western countries. For example, in the United States the history of military compensation and pensions goes back to the colonial period. The Pilgrims of Plymouth colony in 1636 enacted a law providing that if any person shall be sent forth as a soldier and shall return maimed he shall be maintained competently by the colony during his life. That was the first of the American repatriation provisions. Later other American colonies made similar provisions although presumably the Treasury then as now was as smart in dealing with other departments. There was no actual appropriation by the colony treasuries to meet provisions which were made. The Continental Congress which sat during and after the American War of Independence developed the idea of a repatriation pension for ex-sevicemen and funds were then properly appropriated. Of course, since then there has been current and recurring legislation by American Congresses to bring the matter up to date because they accept responsibility for their wounded and maimed and their dependants exactly as we do here.

In Great Britain the philosophy of repatriation began in a rather slipshod fashion where much of the payments were made to ex-servicemen who had been impressed, legally or illegally. The pension and repatriation payment depended largely on the whim of a personal commander. Of course, Cromwell was not averse to rewarding members of his model army for service during the campaign against the king. Now in Britain as here the government of the day fully recognises the serious responsibility it has to those who have risked their lives in defence of the nation.

Senator McManus - What did Cromwell do in Tipperary?

Senator HANNAN - Senator McManus, I shall take that matter up on another occasion. It is interesting to note - I cannot help but be struck by this coincidence^ - that for serving officers to qualify in Britain for pensions on retirement they must have served for the same period as that prescribed centuries earlier by the

Emperor Hadrian, namely, 20 years. I am one of those who believe servicemen deserve the very best from our community.

To come now to the situation in Australia, I think I can say without contradiction, despite the carping criticism of Senator Keeffe, that this Bill is well worthy of support. A total of 300,000 Australians are going to benefit from this legislation. When one looks at the pension rates one must recognise, as Senator Keeffe rather grudgingly admitted, that because pension payments are free of income tax they therefore mean a greater sum in the hands of the recipients than they may bear on their face value. The general rate of pension is to be increased from $12 to $14 a week for those on the 100 per cent pension rate. I again express my pleasure that the invidious discrimination between officers and men has been eliminated. About 95 per cent of the 192,000 people in receipt of the general rate of pension will benefit from this legislation. The TPI rate is to be increased by $3.50 to $48 a week. The intermediate rate is to be increased by $2.75 to $34 a week. The maximum rate for an attendant is to be $1 7.50 a week.

I realise that nothing we can do can repair the shattered limbs of the recipients of these pensions and put them back into the position in which they were. I realise also that nothing we can do in the way of money can restore a loved husband, brother or father. But I think it is commendable, at least having regard to the state of our society, that a reasonable attempt is being made to upgrade these pension payments. If I did have any criticism - I do not propose to develop this just at the moment - it is that the war widow's pension could have gone up a little more than the increase to $20 a week that she is to receive, although I am pleased to note that the domestic allowance has gone up to $8.50 a week and the pension for children of ex-servicemen is to be $7.35 a week. This legislation covers the whole general field of repatriation and it increases allowances in every field it touches. I cannot understand the Opposition's complaint about the position in 1969-70, although it is clear that the 1977.- 73 appropriation provides for an increased expenditure of about 33i per cent over the expenditure in that year. I suppose it is the vast increase in the percentage which has caused the Opposition its concern.

In closing, 1 want to express the strongest condemnation of those experts, those academics, those newspapers, those magazines, those politicians - largely Labor Party politicians and their left wing friends - and all others who have continually denigrated the profession of arms. They have, by direct statement, by inference and by criticism, alleged that the profession of the soldier was that of a murderer. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am thankful that, especially in peacetime - of course, we take it for granted in wartime - there are honourable men and women who are prepared to devote their lives and their energies to the service of the nation in our defence forces. The risks they take, even in peacetime, are very real. One has only to consider for a moment the unfortunate 'Voyager' disaster to realise that in peacetime the men of the Navy are dicing with their lives for the benefit of the nation's security. I think the nation owes them all an incalculable debt. 1 point blank refuse to regard the serviceman who risks his life for our defence as being in any way inferior to a boilermaker, a metal trades worker or even a waterside worker. The serviceman must be given fair and just treatment when he is no longer serving. 1 believe that this legislation, together with the .projected defence forces retirement benefits legislation, will give the serviceman and his dependants at least that degree of frugal comfort and security to which his endeavours on behalf of the nation have justly entitled him. I support the 4 Bills.

Senator Donald Cameron - f seek leave to ask a question, Mr Acting Deputy President.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Withers) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator Donald Cameron - My question is: Why is the last amount shown in column 3 of the First Schedule S40. 10 when the other amounts shown are $40.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Would you like the Minister for Air to make some reference to that in his reply, if he can?

Senator Donald Cameron - Yes, I would.

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