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Thursday, 11 September 1958
Page: 1153

Mr ASTON (Phillip) .- I want to speak on a matter which I believe is of importance, particularly to the inmates of the repatriation general hospital at Concord. Since the decision was taken to ban liveartist concerts at the Yaralla Repatriation Hospital, I have been making representations to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to have these concerts restored. I pay a tribute to the Minister for his courtesy, and also for his great personal interest in this matter. He has even gone to the extent of attending a concert at Yaralla personally in an endeavour to get to the root of the problem.

With my experience of repatriation hospitals and the returned servicemen's league, I cannot understand why this ban was imposed only at the repatriation general hospital at Concord. In Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, live-artist concerts are permitted to be held weekly in repatriation general hospitals generally for periods of one and a half to two hours duration. If such shows have the effect on the patients at Concord which we are led to believe, why do they not have the same effect on the patients in other repatriation hospitals throughout Australia? I believe that the patients looked forward immensely to the live-artist concerts which were held in the Concord hospital. Undoubtedly the patients are well catered for with picture shows, and just recently television sets have been installed. They have quite substantial amenities, but I believe that what they enjoy most is seeing artists in the flesh.

Inquiries have revealed that in South Australia, Queensland and Victoria such concerts have no harmful effect upon patients. Why, then, are they banned in New South Wales? Is it because the information supplied to the Minister caused him to make an incorrect decision in this case? The Government might well consider setting up a committee of Deputy Commissioners of Repatriation from all States, including New South Wales, so that the matter can be fully investigated. We should have in all repatriation hospitals a uniform policy that will enable these concerts to be held in New South Wales, as elsewhere. I am sure that would be a great comfort to the patients who look forward so eagerly to these concerts.

The present arrangements do not satisfy the great body of ex-servicemen in New South Wales. The matter was discussed at the recent federal congress of the returned soldiers' league. I have the honour to represent an electorate in which there are two of the largest league sub-branches of ex-servicemen in Sydney. The members of those branches have repeatedly asked me to ensure that the present arrangements at Concord are altered and the concerts restored.

The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on 8th August, conveyed to me the heartening news that present arrangements did not necessarily represent future policy, but the essence of the matter is speed, and for some months now patients at Concord have been denied the pleasure of attending these concerts. I do urge the Minister to set up a committee which will ascertain why concerts can be held in other States but not in New South Wales. Surely the deputy commissioners and medical superintendents in all States have similar knowledge and experience of these matters, and a similar kind of patient to look after.

So far from having any ill effects, the concerts have, I am informed, great moralebuilding value. That being so, a committee of the kind which I have suggested should be set up at once in order to investigate the matter and restore the concerts at the earliest possible moment.

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