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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2025

Mr HOLTEN (Indi) (Minister for Repatriation) - by leave - Honourable members will be aware that in May this year the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) announced the Goverment's intention to institute an independent non-parliamentary inquiry into the rationale and principles of the repatriation system. This decision was in some measure due to representations made from time to time, particularly by the Returned Services League of Australia, other exservicemen's organisations and the public, and to the preliminary work done on the departmental review.

Consideration then had to be given to the selection of a suitable person to conduct the inquiry, to the appointment of people to assist him and to the exact terms of reference.

I am pleased to inform the House that the Government decided to invite the Honourable Mr Justice P. B. Toose, C.B.E., of the Supreme Court of New South Wales to conduct the inquiry and that he has accepted this invitation. The Government is fortunate to secure the services of this distinguished gentleman and I wish to record my appreciation of the action of the New South Wales Government which has agreed to make Mr Justice Toose available. Mr Justice Toose has a wide legal and Army background and is eminently suited to the task. He had a distinguished career at the Bar which culminated in his appointment to the Supreme Court Bench, firstly as an acting justice in 1966 to 1967 and subsequently to a permanent appointment in June 1969. He is the author of some wellknown legal textbooks and, prior to his elevation to the Bench, took a great interest in a number of professional and community matters including the Bar Association of New South Wales, the Australian Law Council, the International Commission of Jurists and International Legal Aid Association. He was an Australian delegate to the First World Peace Through Law Conference and has been a Chairman of the Trade Practices Committee of the Law Council of Australia, and Secretary to the General Law Association for Asia and the West Pacific. His other community interests have included Vice-Presidency of the Marriage Guidance Council in New South Wales from 1963 to 1968, membership of the New South Wales Medical Board from 1966 until his appointment to the bench, and membership of the Asthma Foundation.

Turning to his war service, Mr Justice Toose served throughout the 1939-45 war. He was a gunner in the Citizen Military Forces prior to the outbreak of the war and during his service rose to the rank of major in the Royal Australian Artillery, Second Australian Imperial Forces. He was in command of the 2/ 17th Light Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battery in New Guinea and Brigade Major with the Anti-Aircraft Defence, New Guinea Force administration command. He also commanded in New Guinea the 52nd Composite Anti-Aircraft Regiment and for a time served with the American Forces Artillery in New Guinea. Finally, he is Patron of the 52nd Regiment Association and is President of the 2/ 17th Light Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battery Association. I am confident that the appointment of Mr Justice Toose will be well received.

The terms of reference for the inquiry are:

1.   Make a comprehensive review of the Australian repatriation system, with the object of setting out the principles that have governed its operation over the years, as provided for in the Repatriation Act 1920-1971 and as extended in the Interim Forces Benefits Act 1947-1966, the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956-1966 and the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act 1962- 1968.

2.   Enunciate the principles of the Australian repatriation system, including any necessary modifications of existing principles, that should apply, in relation to service in wars and warlike operations, to compensation of individuals for incapacity or death and to service pensions.

3.   Recommend means by which the complexity of the repatriation legislation might be reduced and public understanding of the legislation improved.

4.   Make such other recommendations and observations in relation to the rationale, efficacy and simplification of the repatriation system referred to in paragraph 1, as the Chairman of the inquiry deems necessary or desirable, other than recommendations in relation to levels and actual rates of pensions, allowances and benefits.

5.   Collate and report any views presented to the inquiry on the levels or actual rates of war pensions and allowances.

6.   Report to the Minister for Repatriation on the above.

Requests were made to the Government that any independent inquiry should make specific recommendations on rates of pensions. However, the Government decided instead that it would include in the report the collation and presentation of views put to the inquiry on pension rates. The major reasons for the decision on this particular aspect were that it will make known the views of the ex-servicemen's organisations and the public on pension rates, allowances and benefits; and that in view of the very large sums of money involved in even minor changes in rates payable to over 500,000 clients of the Department, it was considered inappropriate to place on the Chairman of this inquiry the heavy responsibility of reaching conclusions on matters involving such large amounts of Commonwealth money.

At relevant stages of the inquiry the Chairman will have available other eminent people of appropriate diverse experience to assist him on a part time basis. These people will be selected as and when the need arises during the course of the inquiry.

The inquiry will commence as soon as His Honour can be relieved of his present judicial duties. Interested persons or organisations will be invited to submit in writing, in the first instance, any evidence they wish to place before the inquiry. This will be done by advertisement in the Press around Australia. The Chairman of the inquiry may then invite persons or representatives of organisations to give evidence in person, and he will have a discretion to hear evidence either at a public hearing or in private. The dates and places for public hearings will be notified in the Press. In addition to obtaining evidence in this way the Chairman will be free to pursue such other lines of inquiry as he sees fit. In conclusion, I assure the House that when the report is submitted to me it will receive careful consideration by the Government and myself. I present the following paper:

Independent Non-Parliamentary Inquiry into the Repatriation System - Ministerial Statement, 7th October 1971.

Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

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