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Friday, 1 July 1949

Mr GULLETT (Henty) .- Having perused' the bill very carefully and having discussed its 'provisions with a number of members of the services, 1 accept it completely at its face value in the spirit in which the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has introduced it. We recognize that its object is to correct certain anomalies and to liberalize conditions of payments provided in the principal act which was passed last year. The Minister will recall that the latter measure, when it was introduced1, met with general approval in this House. The object of the measure introduced last year was to correct the rather chaotic situation which existed in the payment of superannuation pensions to members of the three armed services. I think that it is but fair to say that prior to the introduction of that legislation, superannuation contributions and payments were on a very complicated basis. There were many anomalies, and, in general, the pensions paid to members of the armed forces did not compare favorably with those paid to members of the Public Service. Indeed, so confused and contradictory was the position that it was inevitable that numerous anomalies would continue even after the measure was enacted to rectify the position. When the measure was before the House a number of members on both sides of the House who had had experience in either World War I. or World War II. made suggestions to correct anomalies and injustices, and it was highly desirable that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), who introduced the bill, should have given serious consideration to the adoption of some of those suggestions. I have in mind particularly the suggestions that were advanced by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). However, the Minister resolutely refused to consider favorably any -of the suggestions made to him. His attitude appeared to me that since the measure had been drafted by the Department of Defence in conjunction with the service departments, and approved by caucus, there was, therefore, nothing that the House could do to improve it. I w-as left with the impression that the Minister felt that the submission of the bill to the House was merely a tiresome formality which he had to undergo. I emphasize that point now, because there are still undoubtedly a number of anomalies to be corrected, and I trust that the Minister will receive the suggestions made by honorable members more favorably than he did on the last occasion. On reading the Hansard report of the debate, I was particularly struck by a remark made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), in the course of the speech which he delivered on the 3rd June, 1948, more so because the forecast which ho made then has been abundantly confirmed. He said -

We have seen the Minister for Defence reject proposals made on this side of thu chamber, and a few months later introduce the 8n mc proposals himself. The Minister's mind is not immediately receptive, but eventually the idea penetrates.

That has proved to be completely true in respect of the legislation which was then under discussion and the bill which is now being considered by the House. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will adopt a more sympathetic attitude towards any suggestions offered by honorable members.

Four types of cases are dealt with in the bill, and every objection that I had to the former bill has now been met. I was principally concerned with the position of warrant officers with families who found themselves worse off after the introduction of the new system last year than they were before. That position has now been corrected. However, I understand that certain members of the Opposition, including particularly the honorable member for Swan, still have a number of suggestions to make in connexion with the operation of the measure, and I ask the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to any requests for amendment that may now be made to him, in order to avoid the necessity of having to introduce still further legislation on this matter. The House generally appreciates the attempt that is being made to liberalize the payments to ex-members of the armed services, and since the measure is not a contentious one, I have no doubt that honorable members on both sides of the House will co-operate with the Government to improve it.

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