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Thursday, 17 August 1972
Page: 350

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In an endeavour to get the national Parliament to take notice of a matter of national interest I would like to refer again to some of the many problems associated with the administration of war service homes. I raised this matter as far back as November 1970. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that there are a large number of ex-servicemen who have been denied war service home entitlements on the basis that their land tenure under the New South Wales Lands Act was deemed to be insufficient, or that the security was not adequate. The whole context of the war service homes legislation was to provide homes for ex-servicemen, in a fashion that would give them an opportunity to acquire homes as quickly as possible. It is utterly ridiculous to think in this day and age, after so many years, there are so many ex-servicemen, particularly in my electorate, who have excellent homes on excellent land and who because of some alleged defect in title are being denied the benefit.

As I said, this matter was raised in 1 970 on the basis that all one needed to do was to put in some minor amendment to the Act. That was done 12 months later in 1971. That amendment has now been interpreted as not being sufficient. We now have the situation again after all this time that men who served and fought for this country have been denied their entitlement. Briefly, the position is this: The Act which was passed in 1918 refers to a 'Holding' being:

(a)   land of which he is the beneficial owner in fee simple;

(b)   land of which he is the lessee under a Crown lease in perpetuity from a State; and includes a suburban holding held by him under the Crown Lands Consolidation Act, 1913 of the State of New South Wales . . .

At that stage it was said that the Act did not include conditional purchase. Fair enough. As a result of a submission made by myself in 1970 an amendment was brought down in 1971 saying, very well, it will now include a conditional purchase under the Crown Lands Consolidation Act. Many of my constituents - and I instance Mr Gow - would be entitled to obtain a loan for a war service home. He has what is known as a suburban holding under the New South Wales Act. He has been entitled to purchase that holding. It is in his interest to do so. He wants to do this on a terms basis because this would be more in his interest. But a loan on this basis is being denied him because now an officer of the war service homes administration has said that he had looked at the amendment of this Parliament " of 1971 - one would think from that expression that he had nothing to do with it. The officer went on to say to Mr Gow:

Unfortunately, it is still impractical for consent to be given of a leasehold tenure to a purchase tenure but, as indicated in my letter of 8th January 1970, there is nothing to prevent the conversion of your tenure to a fee simple by payment in full of the purchase price.

That means that this unfortunate gentleman has to go and find funds in full to buy the land. There is adequate security on the basis of leasehold tenure, particularly if it is converted on a terms basis, because every other lending authority in New South Wales, and I would say every such authority in Australia, lends money on that same title. The worst feature of this matter is to be found in what the Deputy Director said:

Should you desire to raise a second mortgage over you property to make payment for the land consideration will be given to such a request.

It is very difficult for any person to get approval for a second mortgage under the war service homes legislation. Now we see this double standard: Because the authority concerned cannot help this man on this particular basis he will consent to a second mortgage, something which is not done in any other normal case. It is about time we looked at the principle of helping exservicemen particularly those who need proper finance. They should not have to go to money sharks and pay excessive rates of interest; they are entitled to their war service loan.

I made representations to the Under Secretary of Lands in New South Wales and said: 'Why is it that you cannot get an adequate amendment to your own New South Wales legislation or make a forceful submission to the Government at Canberra in order to get a quick amendment to the War Service Homes Act so that any tenure deemed to be sufficient under the New South Wales Crown Lands Consolidation Act is adequate security for an exserviceman?' I received a reply saying that the matter had been discussed with officers of the Commonwealth. The New South Wales people said that, when they put up the submission for a wider amendment to the Act than the conditional purchase amendment of 1971, there were discussions with officers of the Commonwealth as to the form of the amendment. It was suggested by the New South Wales officers that the amendment should be sufficient to include suburban holding purchases. Unfortunately this did not eventuate. Therefore we are left with the suggestion that the officers of the Commonwealth failed to do something suggested to them by the New South Wales administration.

I can show to this Parliament hundreds of applications from ex-servicemen in my area who have been denied the opportunity of getting proper finance. They were given the ridiculous bait of being told that they could get a second mortgage under those special circumstances when such approval would not be given in any other particular set of circumstances. This matter is clear cut. The obvious thing to do in this case is to amend this Act quickly so that any tenure granted under the New South Wales Crown Lands Consolidation Act is adequate security provided the term of the tenure is sufficient to meet the repayments under the war service homes administration. That is the first defect in the present legislative programme of this Parliament.

I want to mention another defect in the couple of minutes left to me. I have a constitutent whose wife gave birth to twins in the Royal Hospital for Women at Paddington. Because the twins were not what might be called very healthy, at the time of birth they required a fair bit of intensive care treatment. As a result the hospital rendered a bill for $75 for 5 days' treatment for what was deemed to be twin No. 1. My constituent endeavoured to recover that money under the medical benefits scheme. He has been denied any opportunity to get that money. It was pointed out to him by the Royal Hospital for

Women that under the National Health Act a qualified hospital benefit is not deemed to include a newly born child for the first 10 days. The situation is ridiculous. The name of my constitutent is Mr McCristal. I have been given permission to use his name. The McCristals had twins and the benefit is to be paid for twin No. 2 and not for twin No. 1.

It is about time something was done about these things if the Government claims that it is going to help people in dire need. After all, these people are not so adequately endowed with finance that they can pay $75 from their own pockets. Mr McCristal pointed out in his letter how ridiculous it was to talk about what he called Mr Gorton's false scheme under which nothing would cost more than $5. He said that one even could get a face lift for that amount but because his newly born babe bad to undergo certain medication he had to pay $75. Submissions were made to the Commonwealth Director of Health and he relied on the National Health Act and said:

For the purposes of the above definition a newly born child' is taken to be 10 days or less old. In these circumstances Commonwealth benefit wouldnot be payable in respect of your child . . .

When Mr McCristal wrote to the Royal Hospital for Women he was told that it had been making representations. The hospital wrote and said:

We have approached the Government to amend the technicalities in the National Health Act so that this charge will be covered by benefits, but unfortunately considerable time has elapsed without appropriate amending regulations. Without this modern form of neonatal care, many of the babies receiving it would not survive and because of theintensive care given, the cost of maintaining a baby in neonatal intensive care is greater than the care for a normal adult patient.

It is about time we in this place set up an active committee to review these defects. I ask that these matters be corrected urgently.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o'clock. In accordance with standing order 106, the debate is interrupted and I put the question:

That grievances be noted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

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