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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 387

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) - The speech of the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) was a typical whingeing speech of a member of the Australian Country Party. Under the old Administration all that they could whinge about were floods and droughts but now there is also this Government's policy. The honourable member was consistent. He spent half of his time saying that he wanted more money given to the Repatriation Department and the provision of greater benefits but at the same time asked where the money would come from. I rise partly to congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) on the legislation that has been introduced as part of the Government's general legislative programme for social security in respect of repatriation and other pensioners and partly to raise one particular case for the attention of the Minister. I have already written to the Minister who, of course, is in another place, but I hope that what I raise in the House today also will be drawn to his attention. I refer to a sergeant in the Royal Australian Air Force, the son of one of my constituents, who was stationed in Malaysia last year. On 29th October 1972 at Butterworth in Malaysia he was allegedly assaulted by a number of British servicemen. During the assault the sergeant was kicked in the head at least once and possibly several times by one of the soldiers and suffered brain damage which is likely to be permanent. The

British soldier concerned has been charged with assault and will be tried by a British court martial. I will not go into that aspect. But what will now happen to the sergeant from the RAAF? It is apparently accepted all round that there was no provocation on the part of this sergeant. He was the innocent party in the assault. No final medical assessment has been made but the indications are that he will be grossly retarded and must be discharged from the RAAF as permanently medically unfit in due course.

One of the actions which this Government took very early in its administration last December was to make it possible for servicemen or their dependants to elect to take benefits under either the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act or the Repatriation Act. However, as this man was injured at the end of October 1972, some 5 weeks before the election, he is apparently not covered by the new provisions. The Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act was amended in 1971 to cover all servicemen stationed in Malaysia. I must admit that I cannot recall all the dicussion that took place on that occasion.

The Act stipulates that servicemen are covered only for injuries received while on duty. Therefore if a serviceman is on weekend leave he is not covered by the Commonwealth Employees Compensation. Act unless he is injured on the way to or from his barracks. This assault took place in the early hours of Sunday morning when he was on leave. Therefore he is not covered by the Act. I assume that he would have been covered by repatriation legislation if Butterworth had been in a war zone because he would have been on active service at the time. Because Butterworth does not come under that classification this serviceman is not covered under the Repatriation Act. As I have said, he does not seem to be covered by the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act.

It appears that he will be permanently unemployable when he is discharged from the RAAF. At present it appears that unless the Government makes a special decision to make its early December decision retrospective to late October 1972 - this would be a backdating of about 6 weeks - the only possible compensation that he will receive will be under a United Kingdom Act which deals with compensation for victims of crimes. I have taken steps to obtain a copy of this Act But it seems that the total amount involved in compensation from this source will be a maximum of Only about £Stg. 1,000. Obviously this amount will not cover this young man, who has a family, for the rest of his life. The RAAF has been very co-operative and its legal officers have done a lot of work for him. They have helped me in the preparation of the case. The RAAF apparently is prepared to keep this serviceman on for a period of 12 months because he was injured while on overseas service. But when this period expires on 29th October this year he will not be eligible for compensation or benefits under the Repatriation Act. I therefore ask the Minister to make retrospective the amendments to the Act which were proposed in December 1972 soon after the election of the new Government. This man, and his family, should receive some sort of compensation. After all, he would not have been in Butterworth and exposed to the risk of the assault which he suffered if he had not been serving in the Australian forces.

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