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Tuesday, 23 August 1960

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .-I move-

That, in the opinion of this House, provision should be made for adequate medical treatment of ex-servicemen who served in the 1914-18 War.

The Labour Party is particularly conscious of the nation's debt to the people who served in the 1914-1918 war. It realizes that administrative difficulties, the lapse of time, and the inadequacy of the records of that time have placed the ex-servicemen of the First World War in a disadvantageous position as far as repatriation benefits are concerned in relation to those who served during the Second World War. So we have submitted this motion in the hope that some tardy justice will be done to those who gave so much service and about whom we talk so much at times of national celebration. The Labour Party has been conscious of this for some time. In fact, the motion seeks to implement, one might say, the statement made in his policy speech by the right honorable Dr. Evatt, at the last general election. On that occasion he said -

The time has come when medical and repatriation hospital attention and treatment should be available to all returned servicemen and nurses of World War I. irrespective of whether war entitlement is established or not.

So our case this afternoon has been endorsed by the Labour Party for some time. It rests on the following grounds: First, the severity of World War I.; secondly, that many ailments are of doubtful origin, and the medical profession cannot tell us what is the cause of some of them; thirdly, that, statistically, the First World War man has less chance of receiving medical benefits under the repatriation system than has the Second World War man; fourthly, that in the period between the wars the administration of the repatriation system was much more rigorous in its interpretation of our duty to the First World War ex-serviceman; fifthly, that extensions of repatriation benefits - one of which was announced in the Budget speech only last week - are creating increasing anomalies in the administration of the Repatriation Act; and, sixthly, that the

World War I. digger is not receiving medical benefits at the same rate as the man from World War II. As the servicemen in each world war were called on to make an equal sacrifice they should receive equal benefits.

I say, too, that the onus of proof provision in the Repatriation Act, as it is interpreted at the moment, weighs heavily against the World War I. ex-serviceman who is now living so far from the time at which he incurred the disabilities for which he claims repatriation benefits. I remind members of this House, many of whom served in one or other of the two world wars, that service in World War I. was such as to create a predisposition, in almost any normal human being, to physical incapacity with increasing age. I shall read some passages of the official history of Australia in World War I. to illustrate this point. I read from Volume 3 entitled " The A.I.F. in France, 1916 ". You do not need to be a very keen research student to find in that volume evidence that the men who served in World War I. underwent extensive hardship and considerable privation, and that it was unlikely that any of them came through the war unscathed, even if they were among the fortunate 5 per cent. who did not become casualties. The account in this volume states, at page 918 -

On his journey into the trenches, each infantryman now carried his greatcoat, waterproof sheet, one blanket, 220 rounds of ammunition, and, when fighting was in prospect, two bombs, two sandbags, and two days' reserve rations, besides the remnant of that day's " issue ". Thus burdened, the troops dragged their way along the sledge-tracks beside the communications trenches, the latter - except in the actual front-system - being now never used. But the sledge-tracks also were by this time deep thick mud, which, especially when drying, tugged like glue at the boot-soles, so that the mere journey to the line left men and even pack-animals utterly exhausted. In the dark those who stepped away from the road fell again and again into shell-holes;

And so on, for page after page. Another part of the account reads -

Captain Morgan Jones has recorded that he saw one of the 20th Battalion standing with his feet deep in the mud, his back against the trench-wall, shaken by shivering-fits from head to foot, but fast asleep.

Mud and mud (says the diary of the 18th Battalion on November 8). Men cannot stand still long in one place without sinking up to their knees. Rations arrived, but it was only with great difficulty they could be carried up.

One could give these examples hour after hour. The records of the. First World War are full of them. We contend that it is illogical to say that the disabilities of the men who served in World. War I. are the result of age. We say that there is a very strong case for a sympathetic extension of medical benefits and repatriation benefits to. every person who served in the First World War. But there are lots of other reasons. The medical profession is at the moment unable to tell us what are the origins of many of the diseases from which people suffer. We all know of cases of returned servicemen of the First World War, or the Second World War, for that matter, dying of cancer or suffering from rheumatism or heart weakness, who are refused repatriation benefits on the ground that they have not proved that the disability resulted from their service. We on this side of the House claim that if the medical profession is ignorant of the actual origins of most of these complaints, and cannot define the actual cause of cancer, or say exactly what causes heart weakness or rheumatism or arthritis, or any one of similar complaints, it is reasonable to assume that service during the First World War in Gallipoli or France with the accompanying privations and hardships of the rigorous winter - in France particularly - created a pre-disposition to those ailments. We say that therefore it is our simple duty to accept at least medical responsibility for all the men who served in that war.

But there is another case which I hope the Minister will be able to answer. It is based on statistics. For the last three or four years I have brought this matter before the House on each occasion on which repatriation has been debated. The statistics show, to my satisfaction at least, that the First World War man has had less chance of receiving repatriation benefits than has the Second World War man, and that during the 40-odd years since he completed his service this position has prevailed all tha time. I am hopeful that the Minister will this afternoon show me, by statistics, that this is not the case. I have examined the statistics relating to First World War casualties which, of course, stem largely from .the extraordinary nature of that war, and have related the casualties to the benefits paid to servicemen of both wars.

I wonder whether, if honorable members did' what I have done with these figures, they would not. come to the same conclusion. In the First World War we had extraordinary casualties. Three hundred and thirty thousand troops went overseas, of whom 59,330 were killed, 166,819 were wounded, 87,957 became sick, and 218 were recorded as other casualties, making a total of 314,324 - a casualty rate of almost 95 per cent. Of course, there were a lot of servicemen who became casualties two or three times, so, obviously, more than 5 per cent, came back at least recorded as physically unscathed by their service. We say that anybody who served in Gallipoli or France in the conditions that I have just brought to the notice of the House must have received some physical disability therefrom. I base my case this afternoon principally on statistics. If 330,000 men went overseas in World War I. and we had a total of 314,324 casualties, the returned men of that war ought to be receiving something like the same medical benefits, in proportion, from the Repatriation Department. But this is not so. The Second World War was much less demanding in blood and tears than the First World War. In the Second World War 990,000 troops, or thereabouts, served. We cannot tell very easily how many of them served overseas. Some 30,000 were killed, some 39,000 were wounded, and casualties covering prisoners of war and those who suffered from various sicknesses bring the total number of casualties suffered by Australia in World War II. to about 180,000.

Mr Barnard - And there are no records of men who attended the Regimental Aid Posts.

Mr BRYANT - That is so. It is easy to find sets of figures that differ as regards casualties in the Second World War. I presume that somewhere in the archives there is an official document showing how many casualties there were in every category. In any event, the grand total of casualties in the Second World War was somewhere in the vicinity of 1 80,000. The number of killed was about 30,000. This is only half the number killed in the First World War. The number of wounded in the Second World War is much less than the number wounded in the First World War. Indeed, the number of wounded in the First World War - 166,819 - is almost as high as the total casualties of the Second World War. So it is reasonable to assume that, at every stage, the First World War servicemen ought to have at least the same ratio of service to casualties as the Second World War men. The reports of the Repatriation Commission are very fruitful to those seeking statistics on subjects such as this. On page 21 of the last report are to be found the figures relating to incapacitated members of the forces receiving war and service pensions at the various dates quoted. In 1930, some twelve years after the end of the First World War and fourteen and a half or fifteen years after the first pensions were granted, 74,528 incapacitated members of the forces were in receipt of war pensions. The figure did not rise any higher than that at any later stage. The highest figure occurred a couple of years after the end of the war, in 1920, when 90,000 exservicemen were receiving pensions, but round about 74,000 was the peak of pensions granted in subsequent years. By 1959 the figure for ex-servicemen of the First World War had fallen to 54,000. That is natural. I suppose that the average age of the men who had served in that war was then well into the sixties. The number of 1914-18 servicemen who can become entitled to pensions is decreasing every year.

What is the picture in relation to the Second World War? Casualties were half those of the First World War and it is generally agreed that it was less demanding on the physique of the people who served in it. I have in mind particularly those who served in the first war for any length of time. That is the opinion I have formed from talking to people on this subject. I do not lay it down dogmatically, but it is the impression that I have gained from my examination of history. I think that most people who served in both wars and even most of those who served in the Second World War admit that while the physical conditions under which they served in the second war may well have been, at any point, just as severe and rigorous and dangerous as those of the First World War, there was a certain persistence about service in the First World War which probably took a greater toll of servicemen.

Returning to the statistics published in the official document, I point out that 1959 was some fourteen years after the termination of the Second World War. In that year the number of incapacitated exservicemen in receipt of pensions was 151,249. The battle casualties were much less than that figure and the total casualties were only a little more. Therefore it may be seen from the statistics that whereas twice as many casualties occurred in the First World War as occurred in the Second World War, half as many pensions were being paid fourteen years after the First World War as were being paid at about the same time after the Second World War. Therefore, on the statistics, it is proved, to my satisfaction at least, that the Second World War man has received a better go than the man from the First World War.

I do not say that we have been interpreting repatriation benefits with full generosity for the Second World War man, but I think that the statistics prove that we have treated him better than the ex-serviceman from the First World War. I should like the Minister, when he replies, to give me some reasonable explanation of this differentiation. I know that, of the living ex-servicemen from the First World War, probably half are now in receipt of pensions. I think that last year about 124,000 servicemen of the 1914-18 war were still alive. It might be of assistance to the Government if it included in the next census form a simple question' about war service so that it could estimate what its liability would be if it extended benefits to any category of ex-servicemen. However, I think that my case is statistically proved. If not, I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will show me where I am wrong.

There are other reasons why the Opposition believes that the Second World War man has received a clearer run in repatriation benefits than the First World War man. Several years ago I asked for statistics of cancellations of pensions. The Minister's reply was published in " Hansard " of 1st May, 1957. The figures will be interesting to people who suffered deprivation of their repatriation benefits through administrative action. In 1929, 4,339 pensions were cancelled; in 1930 the number was 4,236; in 1931, 5,182; and in 1932, 12,347. That was an astronomical leap. The number of cancellations more than doubled in 1932. That was a year of exceptional difficulty for the government of this country and I have no doubt that an administrative instruction went around to see that as many people as possible were scrubbed from this kind of benefit.

Mr Aston - Turn it up!

Mr BRYANT - I am simply asking you to examine these statistics and imagine you were a repatriation beneficiary in 1932. I am not asking you to defend the action which was taken. You are not the person under attack. It is interesting to note that this Government which has not run the Repatriation Department for all the years considers itself to be under attack. Nobody is attacking the Government. Nobody is suggesting that the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) is the cause of the trouble to which I have referred although, judging by his interjection, he would have been if he had been administering the department at the time. I say, simply, that a repatriation beneficiary in 1932 had two and a half times as much chance of being scrubbed as he did in 1931, 1951, or 1961. In view of the history of these things, it seems likely that the people who lost their pensions never applied for reinstatement.

Repatriation was a new activity after the First World War. Experiments had to be made with it. It was necessary to be adventurous at times. On other occasions it was necessary, perhaps, to withdraw from ground to which an advance had been made. I believe that well over 30 amendments have been made to the repatriation legislation in the past 40 years in an attempt to find a solution to these difficulties. I believe that we have approached much closer to a generous interpretation of our duty in our treatment of the Second World War man than we did in our treatment of the First World War man between the two wars. In 1942 or 1943 a parliamentary committee under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made a great advance in the consideration of repatriation matters.

The Opposition is putting this case, not as an attack on the Government or on any individual, but to support a request that we be a little more generous to the First World

War man and give him the full benefit of medical treatment under the act. This is not asking a great deal. As I have shown, the plea is supported by statistics. The present extent of hospital benefits for people who served in the various wars and for their dependants is quite remarkable. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said that the Government intended to extend medical benefits to all service pensioners. He said -

The Government has also agreed to provide free medical treatment for disabilities not due to war service to service pensioners, including Boer War veterans, and this benefit will operate as soon as administrative arrangements can be made.

This means that another 45,818 people will receive these benefits as at 30th June, 1960. These include 419 from the Boer War, 37,447 from the First World War, 7,916 from the Second World War and 36 from Korea. So, for a start, some 45,000 service pensioners will come under the scheme. War widows are already receiving these benefits. My reading of statistics indicates that there are 33,000 of them with some 74,000 children. There are probably another 6,000 mothers and their dependants. The 100 per cent. pensioner receives these benefits. There are 18,495 of those. Again, 16,710 T.P.I. pensioners receive them; and the wives of some of the T.P.I. pensioners receive benefits under the pensioner medical benefits scheme.Thisaddsup toapproximately 127,000 beneficiaries in respect of special repatriation benefits or medical benefits who are already inside the protection of the Repatriation Department.

I cannot say offhand how many are in the anomalous position of seeing comrades who served beside them receiving these benefits while they are not doing so, but I should think that the number of those recipients would probably be half the number of First World War ex-servicemen. Generally speaking, about half the people in the community who qualify for the age pension receive it, so I presume that half the ex-servicemen of the First World War who have qualified by age are in receipt of the service pension whilst the remainder of those still living after service in that conflict will be receiving the benefits under the new budgetary provision. We believe that this provision ought to be extended to every person who served in the First World War. Of course, we on this side would have been more generous than that, because the greatest advance in repatriation benefits was made during the period between 1941 and 1949 when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was one of those who contributed most significantly to extending these benefits. At that time, he was chairman of a committee that brought down a special recommendation in its report. Some honorable members might have read that report. There are still some honorable members on the Government side who served on that committee, and I hope that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) will support the point of view we on this side are submitting - that exservicemen of the First World War are entitled to all hospital and medical benefits in accordance with the principle which is gradually being accepted by the Government so far as service pensioners are concerned. If that principle can be accepted for service pensioners, it can be accepted for all ex-servicemen, because to accept it would be to extend the benefit to only a microscopic proportion of the Australian public. I know that some will raise the objection that to accept our submission would place a heavy strain on the repatriation benefits scheme. That is no argument at all. Where a public duty is required, it is up to the Administration to find the answer to the problem. I say that by the extension of certain provisions, particularly those that were announced last week, we are creating an anomalous position under which a big proportion of ex-servicemen of the First World War are being denied benefits. This position ought to be rectified.

There are many other reasons, personal and perhaps sentimental, why one feels that the First World War ex-serviceman has received a little less than justice. I have before me the case of a man who came to my office the other day. This man gave me permission to use his name. He is Mr. Arthur Osborne Brissett. of Coburg, in my electorate. Mr. Brissett served on Gallipoli. He was evacuated from there with enteric fever and dysentery. He later served in France and was wounded. He also served in Egypt and was granted six months' hospital furlough in England. He is in receipt of part pension. He does not receive full medical benefits under the 100 per cent, scheme. He is not accepted as a T.P.I, pensioner. He is not a service pensioner and, on my analysis of the case, with the service he had on Gallipoli and in France and Egypt, the disabilities from which he now suffers all stem from the service he gave to this country, and he is justly entitled to full medical benefit. I challenge the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is sitting at the table, to produce evidence to show that dysentery and enteric fever- suffered in 1914, 1915, 1916 or 1917 would not now aggravate the stomach trouble from which this exserviceman suffers to-day. That is only one case of many. I presume that every honorable member on both sides of the House has had similar cases brought to his notice.

Mr Killen - You cannot expect the Minister to answer your question.

Mr BRYANT - I am asking him to answer it because he was very critical about our proposal with relation to onus of proof the other night. If the Minister proposes to show that our proposal now is invalid or illogical, or that there can be no possible reason why the Australian nation should accept such a du.y now, I presume he will produce professional evidence to support his assertion and not just treat the matter in the way in which he treated our onus of proof proposal the other night.

Finally, let me refer to the question of onus of proof. We discussed this matter the other night, and the Minister for Health was very scathing. I think he treated the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) with less than justice. He spoke all the time about reasonable doubt. In section 47 of the Repatriation Act, the word " doubt " is not used. Section 47 (2.) reads -

It shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal but the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal determining or deciding the claim, application or appeal shall be entitled to draw, and shall draw, from all the circumstances of the case, from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, applicant or appellant, and in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed.

Yet the attitude of the Minister for Health, as spokesman for the Minister for Repatriation, was in fact that the applicant had to prove his case. This is against the doctrine laid down by a former Attorney-General, now Mr. Justice Spicer, who said that under the Repatriation Act Parliament has completely reversed the normal process. The honorable member for Bass, in his speech the other night, quoted the opinion expressed by the then Attorney-General that it is not for the claimant to prove that he is entitled to a pension but for any opposing person or authority to prove that he is not entitled to it.

On this occasion we believe that we are speaking on behalf of not a depressed minority but a minority of servicemen who have received less than justice through administrative procedures and perhaps through lapse of time in that, being unwilling to claim when theyleft the service, they now find, 40 or 50 years afterwards, that they cannot obtain evidence to substantiate their claims. Is it not notorious that the service records of men in the First World War were far less accurate and less complete than those of the men who served in the Second World War? All we on this side ask is that the statistical chances of First World War men be made equal to those of ex-servicemen of the Second World War. It is becoming too late now for us to trifle with the matter any longer. The simplest and fairest method of avoiding anomalies is to grant medical and hospital benefits, completely free of any means test or any onus of proof requirement, to every man who served in the First World War.

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