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Thursday, 18 August 1960

Dr Donald Cameron (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) . - We are debating, not the manner in which section 47 of the Repatriation Act should be interpreted, but whether, in fact, it is being properly interpreted. I think there would be very little difference of opinion between the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and myself, or between honorable members on his side of the chamber and those on my side, about the meaning of section 47 and about the way in which it should be interpreted. But, after all, that is not what the motion is about. I say this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the honorable member for Bass spent quite some time in giving his views and the views of others as to how this section should be interpreted. I repeat that, however, the motion refers, not to the manner in which the section should be interpreted, but to whether it is, in fact, being properly interpreted. If the honorable member wants to establish the fact that the meaning and intention of the act are not being carired out, he must establish to the satisfaction of the House his reasons for saying so. Let me put it this way. When a claim is made, it is considered in the first instance by the Repatriation Board. If it is rejected by the board, it goes to the commission. If it is rejected by the commission, it goes to a tribunal. So there are three bodies which consider whether section 47 entitles the ex-serviceman making the claim to have his claim recognized. If the motion asserts, as it does, that the intention of the act is not being carried out, that is tantamount to saying that the Repatriation Board, the Repatriation Commission and the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal are not doing their jobs. That is a very considerable statement for the honorable gentleman to make, and it would require a good deal of substantiation, I think, before it could be accepted.

In other words, there is, by the mere structure of the apparatus which deals with these cases, very strong prima facie evidence that the intention of the act will, in fact, be carried out. If the honorable gentleman is going to make a claim that the intention is not being carired out, then I submit that there is only one way in which he can do so. That is by examining in detail the results of the decision - perhaps not in every case that is rejected, but in a statistically significant number - and establishing in each of these, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the board, the commission and the appeal tribunal did not act in a reasonable way. Can the honorable gentleman really substantiate, to the satisfaction of any one, such a claim?

Mr Pollard - How can an appellant soldier get the detailed decision of the tribunal?

Dr Donald Cameron (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - If you let me develop the argument, I will come to that. If the honorable member for Bass is going to establish the claim he has made and show that the whole apparatus which administers this section of the act is not doing its job, he must, in particular and in detail, convince the House that in fact these bodies are not doing so. He has not done that. He has not, really, in this debate, made any attempt to do that.

It is quite true that the onus is not on the appellant to prove that his disability is a war-caused disability; but what the claimant has to do is to particularize sufficiently for the tribunal, or the commission, or the board, as the case may be, to make a judgment. He must, in other words, submit some evidence; otherwise, of course, no judgment could be arrived at. He must do that. What he has to do, I suggest, is to satisfy the tribunal, first, that he has a disability, and secondly, that he has had war service. That is not very much, but he has, at least, to do that. Then it is incumbent on the tribunal to relate the one to the other, or to decide, having heard the evidence that it is not possible to relate the one to the other. The honorable gentleman says the tribunal does not do it, but he did not really produce any evidence that it does not do it.

If it were a fact that the tribunal was not doing it, then it is rather remarkable that such large numbers are in fact accepted. In 1958-59, there were 21,900 new disabilities accepted, including 5,018 from World War I., in respect of which it is not easy at this stage to make judgments.

I said the onus was not on the claimant, but at the same time let us look at the question of doubt. The doubt must be a doubt in the mind of the tribunal. It is perfectly natural, and quite understandable, that when a claimant makes a claim and it is rejected, he, or his friends andrelatives, or all of them, will be disappointed. That is perfectly natural. It is perfectly natural when, in many instances people have appealed, they should feel that when they made the claim there was not any reasonable doubt. But the doubt does not have to be in their minds. It is not a doubt in the mind of the appellant; it is not a doubt floating about somewhere in the air; it is not a doubt in the mind of the honorable gentleman; it is a doubt in the mind of the tribunal which listens to the evidence.

If the honorable gentleman says that the tribunal is not doing its job, then he needs to show that it did not have the doubt in its mind. It is no good telling us that the doubt was still in his mind; it is no good telling us the applicant was disappointed; it isno good telling us the applicant's friends and relations still had doubts. That is not the point. The point is whether the tribunal has the doubt. Unless the honorable gentleman can show that the tribunal does not have the doubt, then he has not established his case because what he says is that the tribunal is not doing the job. That presupposes that he knows, or can show, whether or not the tribunal has a doubt in its mind, and thatis the only place where the doubt is relevant. That appears to me to be the crux of the whole situation.

Mr Cairns - Tell us how to do it!

Dr Donald Cameron (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - It is not for me to tell you how to do that. The motion put on behalf of the Opposition makes the claim that the job is not being done. What I am saying is that if we are to have it made plain that the job is not being done then we must have evidence that the tribunal has not the doubt in its mind because that is the only place where the doubt has any significance at all. I go further and say that the honorable gentleman who submitted the motion did not produce one shred of evidence about doubt in the tribunal's mind. As I say, that is the only place where the doubt has any significance. If he feels that the Repatriation Board is failing, if he feels that the Repatriation Commission is failing, if he feels that the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal is failing, then, if he is really going to convince people, he must produce much more solid evidence than he produced to-night.

Mr Reynolds - Howabout the tribunal p oducing some evidence

Dr Donald Cameron (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - It is not the function ofthe tribunal to give evidence. The tribunal listens to evidence. The tribunal not only listens to evidence, but, in fact, if the applicant, having been rejected, can produce further material evidence, the tribunal will listen to him again. But if the tribunal decides to reject the claim, then, quite obviously, the tribunal has no doubt. The tribunal has no doubt in those circumstances, so it is really of no value to say thetribunal ought to be making submissions. That is not the function of the tribunal. The function of the tribunal is to make an assessment, and, if it has any doubt, to decide in favour of the applicant. If it decides against the applicant, then, of course, that means that, in the mind of the tribunal, there is no doubt at all. And even in those circumstances the tribunal will and can and does examine the case again if further material evidence is submitted to it. That is all that the honorable gentleman's motion really covers. All it says is that the tribunals are not doing their jobs. As I pointed out previously, it says that the whole apparatus of the Repatriation Commission - the board and the tribunal - is not doing its job; but do we really believe that? Those who are disappointed may think it. They think the doubt has not been resolved, but I do not believe that a great majority of people regard the Repatriation Board, the Repatriation Commission and the Repatriation Tribunal as being in error - because that is what this motion means. Another factor which makes this unlikely is that the chairman and one member of the appeal tribunal must be exservicemen; in fact, at the present time every member of the tribunal; every mem ber of the Repatriation Board and every member of the Repatriation Commission is an ex-serviceman, so that by inclination I would think they would naturally take a favorable view of a case submitted by a fellow ex-serviceman. I do not think there is much more to be said about this motion, but I repeat that if the claim is going to be made that the job is not being done, those who make that claim must substantiate it with much firmer evidence than we have had submitted to us to-night.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Bryant) adjourned.

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