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Thursday, 11 September 1958
Page: 1140

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- I wish to deal with a matter that concerns two departments,. I think in equal measure - the Prime Minister's Department and the Repatriation Department. Some time ago, I raised in this Parliament the case of an ex-serviceman who had been refused employment by the Commonwealth Public

Service Board after reference had been had to his repatriation file. I do not intend to go over all the facts now, but I wish to refresh the minds of honorable members by reminding them that this constituent of mine applied for a position in the Commonwealth Public Service in a clerical capacity. He was accepted by the Public Service Board in accordance with its examination standards until the board called for his medical report held by the Repatriation Department. Arising from the presentation of that report, my constituent was refused even light work in the Commonwealth Public Service because it was considered that he would not be fit to carry out duties of a clerical nature, despite the fact that he has for some considerable time been engaged in heavy manual work.

As honorable members will no doubt recall, when I raised this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House one night. I pointed out that here was a man who had served his country in war and was receiving a 50 per cent. disability pension, but was being denied appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service because of the results of his war service. I made the charge then, and I think it can be substantiated by what I will say later, that the Commonwealth Public Service Board is discriminating against exservicemen, particularly those who are suffering from disabilities for which they receive war pensions of any considerable amount. The main point in this instance is that this exserviceman was refused appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service after the Commonwealth Public Service Board had seen the repatriation report on his state of health.

I took this matter up with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and also with the Commonwealth Public Service Board, and I received a letter about it from Mr., now Sir William Dunk, the chairman of the board. The letter, which was dated 18th November, 1957, from which I shall omit the name of the ex-serviceman concerned, reads in part as follows: -

The medical examination conducted as a result of Mr.- 's recent application for appointment discloses that, if anything, his condition has worsened.

You are probably aware that the medical standards are relaxed somewhat so far as the appointment of ex-servicemen is concerned. However, the medical officers are not prepared to recommend Mr.- 's appointment under the less rigid conditions.

The letter discloses that, in the opinion of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, the state of health of the man concerned had deteriorated between the times of the two applications he made for appointment to the Public Service. I again took the matter up with the Prime Minister, and I received a letter from the right honorable gentleman, dated 14th May, 1.958, which read -

I have had a further look at the case of Mr:- , an applicant for permanent appointment in the Public Service, whose case you raised recently in Parliament on the adjournment.

I must say, regretfully but firmly, that there is nothing further to be done in this case. Mr. does not meet the minimum standards of physical fitness required for permanent appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service, even the relaxed standards applied to exservicemen. It is the duty of the Public Service Board in carrying out the provisions of the Public Service Act to have due regard to the question of physical fitness in order to limit, as far as is possible, the risk of undue burdens falling on the Superannuation Fund, which is heavily subsidized by the Government. I am satisfied that the Board has made a carefully considered and justified decision in the case of Mr.

That brings me to the important point in question. This man has been denied employment by the Commonwealth Public Service on even the lightest work, on the ground that his health is not up to the required medical standards, and that his condition had worsened since he made a previous application. That being the case, it would be natural to think that the man would have been granted an increase in his repatriation pension because, when all is said and done, the refusal to appoint him to a clerical position was based on the ground that, in the eyes of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, his condition had worsened. The natural corollary of that, one would think, would be an increase of the pension that he was already receiving because of the state of his health. But what actually happened? I agree with the comments made to-day by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who said that the Repatriation Department is making it impossible for men such as the man I am speaking about to get the justice which is their due.

After the rejection of his application for employment in the Commonwealth Public

Service, my constituent quite naturally applied for an increase of his disability pension. He received from the Repatriation Department a letter dated 12th August, 1958, the first paragraph of which reads -

With reference to your application for increase in the rate of your war pension, I have to inform you that the Repatriation Board has decided to continue your pension at 50 per cent, rate (£5 2s. 6d. per fortnight), which is considered commensurate with the degree of your incapacity due to war service.

Who are the doctors concerned in the Repatriation Department and the Commonwealth Public Service Board? On the one hand this man, who should reasonably expect an increase of 10s. or 15s. a week in his pension since he has been refused appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service on the ground of the deterioration of his health, is refused an increase, whilst on the other hand, in effect because he is in receipt of a disability pension, he is denied a position in civil life. The Government cannot have it both ways. Either the Commonwealth Public Service Board is discriminating against this man or the Repatriation Department is not giving him justice in connexion with his pension entitlement.

I regard this as a case that requires further consideration. Is it any wonder that this man is dissatisfied and discontented? He is denied employment in the Commonwealth Public Service of a kind that he would find more satisfactory than his present employment, and is forced to continue laborious work in another field because, says the Commonwealth Public Service Board, his medical report in the Repatriation Department shows that his health has deteriorated; but soon after, the Repatriation Department refuses him an increase in pension because his state of health does not qualify him for such an increase. There is a conflict there! There is indeed something wrong with this state of affairs, and it should not be allowed to continue.

I say again that I agree with the honorable member for Blaxland, who gave other instances of discrimination against exservicemen. Like this man, they are denied civil employment on the one hand and refused the pension benefits to which they must be entitled if their state of health is such that it is a just ground for denial of employment. I spoke to members of the Commonwealth Public Service Board about this case, and they gave me reasonably grave reports about the man's state of health. It was in the light of that that I was astounded, as the man himself was, when he was refused an increase of pension, the granting of which I thought would be almost automatic in view of the facts of the case.

I ask the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is at the moment in charge of the committee, to have this case looked into. The Prime Minister said that he was satisfied with the decision that had been given. I disagree with him. The Commonwealth Public Service Board's doctors ought to be asked to state their case again, and the Repatriation Commission's medical advisers ought to be brought to book on this matter. It is unfair that a man who has served his country in war and has been awarded a 50 per cent, disability pension should be discriminated against in civil life and at the same time refused protection by the body that should be giving him protection - the Repatriation Board.

This all gets back to what has been said by other members of the Parliament - that too much is required from applicants in respect to their state of health. Something ought to be done to give ex-servicemen more justice in relation to the granting of pensions. I consider that no graver injustice has been done than has been done in this man's case. It requires special attention, and I ask the Minister for Immigration to bring it to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) and the Prime Minister, so that the man concerned will not be denied justice either by the Commonwealth Public Service Board or the Repatriation Department.

In the few minutes still at my disposal, I wish, to refer briefly to a matter that concerns the Department of Trade and the Tariff Board. As honorable members know, many Australian industries, because of overseas competition, are seeking to obtain tariff protection. But it is beyond doubt that endless delays are occurring between the date of application and when a decision is given by the Tariff Board. I have in mind particularly an application that was lodged in September, 1957 - just about twelve months ago. In the meantime, licences have been granted to people who import the kind of goods that the man in question manufactures.

Pressure seems to have been exerted in certain directions to have the hearing of the claim postponed, because certain interests here desire to make more out of the imported article than they could possibly make from the Australian product. One would think that after a lapse of twelve months the inquiry would have been about to proceed, but in April last the applicant was informed by the Tariff Board that the inquiry would be held between December, 1958, and February, 1959. In other words, the best part of eighteen months will have elapsed before he gets a hearing. He could quite easily go out of business in that time. I suppose a further considerable period of time will elapse before the board makes its decision. In other words, just on two years will have elapsed from the date of application until a decision is given and, if protection is granted, it is implemented by the Parliament. That is altogether too long. It will give too much of an open go to the people who are importing similar goods and who are forcing out of production a good Australian industry.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! I remind the honorable gentleman that the Tariff Board was dealt with when the committee debated the proposed vote for the Department of Trade.

Mr DALY - I thought I could deal with the matter under the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services. I appreciate your generosity, Mr. Chairman. May I protect you by saying that I was merely making a passing reference to the matter! I content myself by saying that I bring that particular case to the notice of the Minister for Trade and the department under his administration. I ask that it be fully reviewed.

Earlier to-day, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) dealt with the subject of national fitness. I was a member of the Social Security Committee which travelled throughout Australia and inquired into the question of national fitness. It can be truthfully said that the only real assistance that has been given to the national fitness campaign was rendered by the Chifley Labour Government, because since that time successive anti-labour governments have been disinterested in this important aspect of our national welfare. This Government might well step up the amount of money that is granted for the campaign. I hope that the dreams of the honorable member for Swan are fulfilled, but, having looked at the record of this Government, I am not certain that one of its last acts before Labour assumes the reins of government will be to do as he wishes. If this Government will not give pensioners an increase of pension, they being the most deserving section of the community, I can hardly see how it will bother to look after the youth of the community generally. 1 conclude by asking the Government to take action on the first two matters that I raised, because grave hardship and suffering are being caused to the persons concerned. Both matters are deserving of attention, and I ask the Government to take note of my comments.

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