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Thursday, 19 February 1959

Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) .- Mr. Speaker,I have read the GovernorGeneral's Speech carefully page by page, and I can see, reading between the lines, that the defence of Australia, as it should be, is considered to be paramount. On the first page of the printed copy of the Speech, there is reference to relations with Asia. They will cost Australia a mint of money, but I think it will be well spent. As honorable members are aware, I have recently attended a conference at Rio de Janeiro. While I was overseas, I visited the United States of America, London, Ireland and other places, and I say here and now that there is no country as good as Australia, with the possible exception of Ireland. The Governor-General's Speech indicates that Australia will continue to support the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, but that support will gain us no cheap bargain. The Speech indicates also that more money will be spent at Woomera, which many honorable members have visited. So it goes throughout His Excellency's Speech.

I thank those who framed this Speech for indicating that social services for the people will not be forgotten. I will deal with that subject later.

I want to discuss now my impressions as a member of the Australian delegation to the Rio de Janeiro conference. I do not think any conference has done better work. Unrest was prevalent at the time. In Lebanon, people were being killed. I was offered the freedom of a city there, but I dodged it, because two or three people were being shot every day. Conditions were not much better in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, or in other places that we visited. Sputniks were going up and nuclear weapons were being prepared in various parts of the world. But we can be thankful for the easing of tension all over the world to which the discussions at Rio de Janeiro contributed. The people of that city claim to have the finest harbour in the world, but possibly we in New South Wales would debate that with them every inch of the way. The delegates to the conference were entertained most lavishly by their hosts in Rio de Janeiro, and I should like particularly to congratulate Australia's Minister there on the fine work that he is doing. I am sorry to say that in some of the countries that we visited the workers are living in terrible oppression, although the conditions of the higher classes are good. A tram driver in Rio de Janeiro, who is supposed to have a very good job by local standards, is paid £15 a month.

After leaving that city, the Australian delegates proceeded to New York, where they were very well looked after by Australia's Consul-General. Subsequently, I had the pleasure of visiting Washington and Boston, and I should like to express my appreciation of the treatment that we received from Australia's diplomatic staff in Washington. Anybody who goes to a country in which he has no friends makes his first port of call in that country - whether the government in office in his own country be Liberal or Labour - the legation, where he can meet his own country's representatives and obtain any help he requires. I must say that the utmost kindness was shown to me and my colleagues by Australia's representatives in the countries we visited. Even Sir Eric Harrison in London treated us royally. 1 am sorry to say, however, that when I crossed over to Ireland from the United Kingdom, and did the decent thing there by going to the Australian Embassy, I found that the door of the building was closed. I was told that Australia's representative in Ireland would be back in a short while. I suppose we must thank the Minister for External Affairs for saving money for Australia, because he has saved the expenditure of £4,000 or £5,000 by having no Australian Ambassador in Ireland.

If the Minister for External Affairs has any good reason for not sending an Ambassador to Ireland he should be candid enough to give us that reason, and withdraw the alleged reason for his refusal to send an Ambassador. I do not want our position in relation to Ireland to be similar to our position in relation to Russia, in regard to diplomatic representation. I think that in the circumstances it would be more decent of the Minister for External Affairs to be frank about the whole matter, close the door of our legation in Ireland, and leave a first-rate clerk in charge of our representation there.

I recall that when the Liberal party had its back to the wall it sent men to Queensland, who told the Irish people there, " If you vote for us in this election it will not be a second-rate man that we will have in Ireland. We will send over there one of the best men we have." The man who made that promise is not here now. When I was in Ireland, I was asked, " Can't Australia afford to send an Ambassador here?" I said, " Yes." They then asked me who Australia's Minister for External Affairs was. I said, " Casey." They said to me, " For God's sake give the job to someone called Cohen. We could not get a worse deal from him than we have had from Casey."

Now T turn to a subject nearer home. The Government has said, per medium of the Governor-General's speech, that it will not forget the needs of people in receipt of social services. I come from West Sydney, where we have no farmers, cockies, wheatgrowers or woolgrowers although, let me point out, if it were not for the City of Sydney some of our wheat would be stacked in the fields and some of our butter would not be eaten.

Mr Turnbull - Why, we keep you alive!

Mr MINOGUE - You keep us alive all right. The point I want to make is this, that while we have 100,000 people out of work in this country the Government is boasting every day about how it is running the country. I should like every man in Australia to stand four-square behind the measures for the defence of this country, mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech, because, I tell you, it is a country worth defending. But when I go back to West Sydney on Friday night and show them this Speech outlining the Government's policy, what satisfaction will it be to the man out of work and homeless to be told about the South-East Asia Treaty Organization and the amount of money we are giving away under the Colombo plan? A man who is hungry in Sydney can be as hungry as a man in Asia, and certainly there are in Sydney many people out of work and hungry.

Last Friday, I visited the premises of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, in Young-street. Sydney. I was told that every day in the week 600 people come to the society's doors for meals. The manager told me that 250 of these people are strapping young men who cannot find jobs, and have to get a feed from somebody. He said. " We average about 300 pensioners a day, but just before pension day the number goes up sharply ". Should such a state of affairs be allowed to continue under the regime of a Government that is so fond of telling us how many millions of pounds it is spending here, there and everywhere? The Government should be doing all it can for people who are unable to help themselves.

Now I turn to the housing position. The Government is continually telling us that housing is the direct responsibility of the States. But since the Government has brought 1,000,000 people into this country under its immigration programme, is it not its responsibility to see that these people are housed? I tell the Government straight out that if it were not for the Cahill Labour Government in New South Wales, many thousands of people there would be in a pretty sore condition.

The Commonwealth pays an age or invalid pensioner £4 7s. 6d. a week, but many of the expenses that have to be met on behalf of pensioners are met by State governments. When a pensioner dies, the State government has to bury him, because the amount of Commonwealth funeral benefit provided - £10 - is ridiculously small. The Government insists that that is enough to pay for a pensioner's funeral, and refuses to increase the benefit. I hope and trust that the Cahill Government will be returned to office at the coming election in New South Wales so that it can help to keep people alive until such time as the Commonwealth Government realizes the injustice that it is doing to the poor people of the community.

Now I wish to deal with the subject of repatriation. I shall mention a case similar to that mentioned yesterday by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). There is in Sydney a repatriation hospital, the Yaralla Hospital, which is a good hospital. It is to that hospital that an exserviceman naturally looks for treatment if he is not able to get into another hospital. The case 1 shall refer to now concerns a man whom I have known for 35 years. He was a soldier in World War I., and served in France and Gallipoli. He was sent back to Australia after having had thirteen operations overseas as a result of a gunshot wound in his ankle. He was operated on also while returning to Australia by sea. On his return to this country he spent two and onehalf years in the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick, which was then the big repatriation hospital in Sydney, and he was on crutches- for all of that time. He spent another nine months in the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. Over a period of 40 years he had to go to work with a stick. But he received from the Commonwealth a pension of only £3 a week for his gunshot wound. He worked for 35 years for a tobacco company, and time and time again had to give up work because of his disability. He applied for the totally and permanently incapacitated rate of pension, or for an increase of pension in any event. His wife was an invalid and was unable to help him in any way. That man is now dead and at peace.

This is the manner in which a hero of World War I. has been treated! Incidentally, his widow's two brothers were killed alongside him in the trenches. Because she has not yet reached the age of 60 years, she is unable to qualify for an age pension or any pension other than a widow's pension, which is the lowest of all. The point I want to make is that it is unfair to have this case decided by only one doctorreferee.

Twelve months ago I raised in this House the case of a blind soldier from World War II. He was struck by a mortar-bomb splinter and lost the sight of his eye. He was in company with two other men at that time. I applied for a pension for him, because the sight of his remaining eye was failing and he was scarcely able to tell whether it was night or day. Four Macquarie-street specialists stated that in their opinion his condition was caused by the mortar-bomb splinter which had struck his other eye, but the medical referee said that this was not the case. Although four Macquariestreet specialists gave it as their opinion that his injuries were war-caused, he was denied a pension. Only after I spoke of the matter in this House was the case reconsidered, and he was then awarded a blind pension.

Reverting to the case I am now raising, I do not think the widow would mind if I mentioned her name, but I shall refer to the returned soldier as Mr. " A ". He was a returned soldier of World War I., wherein he served at Gallipoli and in France. During that service he suffered wounds in the knee and underwent thirteen operations, the last of which was performed on his way back to Australia. Mr. " A " was for two and a half years an inmate of Randwick Military Hospital. He then had to walk with crutches. Later, he spent about nine months in Prince Alfred Hospital. After 1917, he could get to his place of employment only with the aid of a stick. As recently as six years ago, he underwent an operation in Sydney.

The point I want to stress is that Mr. " A " was in receipt of a pension of approximately £3 a week, as the result of gunshot wounds suffered in World War I. He applied several times for the pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen or, alternatively, for a rise in his pension, but he received no consideration. I direct attention to his failure to obtain treatment in a repatriation hospital, which refused to admit him during his last illness.

Mr. "A " became violently ill some three or tour months ago. His wife made application for his admission to Yaralla hospital as a returned soldier of World War 1. She was told that he was suffering from cerebral thrombosis. The finding of the repatriation board was that, after full consideration of all the evidence, it was unable to accept this disability as being attributable to his war service. His wife then applied to the Repatriation Department to have him placed in a repatriation hospital. His doctor managed to have him admitted to the Homoepathic Hospital at Glebe, which is not a repatriation hospital. After Mr. " A " had been two months at this hospital, his doctor had to find a convalescent hospital for him. Having a doctor's certificate, his wife engaged an ambulance to take him to the Castlereagh Convalescent Hospital at Drummoyne. Two hours after he had been admitted, his wife was told that she would have to take him elsewhere, and finally she had to hire an ambulance again to take him back home.

On Monday, 26th January, which was the Australia Day public holiday, for three hours I rang different hospitals seeking his admission. Included amongst these was the Home of Peace at Marrickville. The authorities at this hospital said that they were very eager to help and that they would possibly have room for him two days later. This woman was charged for four ambulance trips, involved in taking her husband from one hospital to another and back to his home.

At last I rang the Hospice for the Dying at Darlinghurst. A sister there said that I would have to get a letter from a doctor. I said, " It is easier to get into hospital than to find a doctor to-day ". I said that the man was dying and that she should do something about it. She said, " You are always the same ". Later she sent an ambulance to his home, and he remained in the hospice for a week, until he died.

Surely it is a shocking state of affairs that the Repatriation Department should tell a man, 40 years after the war in which he served, that his illness is not caused by war service. I do not think that it should be left to a charitable organization, such as the Hospice for the Dying, to admit war heroes, while the Government fails to do the right thing. It is to be hoped that the

Government, at this late hour, will see that this man's widow is not treated as he was treated. I hope also that the Government will give to every returned soldier of World War I. the benefit of the onus-of-proof provision, so that he may be admitted to hospital instead of being carted around in an ambulance day after day. lt is a shocking state of affairs for a man who did so much for his country to be treated in that way. We are here talking, and very often not doing the right thing, while men and women who have served their country are left to die without being permitted to enter hospital.

I hope and trust that the Minister for Repatriation will do something about it. After all, why should it be left to the sisters of the Hospice for the Dying, who work for 24 hours a day without pay? Why should we leave it to them and to other charitable organizations while we talk so much about what we are doing? It is a standing disgrace, and I hope that the Government will act in a humanitarian manner to ensure that these people who are short of homes, food, and hospital accommodation and treatment, will at least be able to live and die in peace.

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