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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 1939

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) - Mr Speaker,the question before the House is that grievances be noted. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) will note my grievances because for almost 3 years I have pursued this matter.

Dr Forbes - He is not even here.

Mr TURNER - I have notified him but he is conferring with Premiers.


Mr TURNER - I trust that his officers will draw his attention -


Mr TURNER - I do not want to waste my time.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! This point should be cleared up. The honourable member for Barker knows that the Treasurer is at a Premiers Conference.

Mr TURNER - Yes. I am sorry that time has been wasted. I was about to say that 1 notified the Treasurer and I know that what you say, Mr Speaker, is so. I trust that his officers will draw his attention to what I say as it is reported in Hansard.

For over 2 years I have sought redress for a grievance of one of my constituents by means of letters to 2 Treasurers from time to time, by conferences with officials and by every other means. Now I come before this place which is supposed to be the place where grievances are redressed. That it has long since ceased to be. The best way in which 1 can state the facts of this matter is to read a summary which I put to the then Treasurer on 23 August 1972 and put before the present Treasurer later. This is the way my letter ran:

I wish to make representations for an ex-gratia payment to my constituent Mr G. W. Henry, 14 Lord Street, Roseville.

The sum involved would amount to about £30 invested in war loan in 1917 with compound interest at the average rates prevailing for government loans over the intervening years - a sum amounting, on my calculation, to approximately £500-

Or $1,000- at the present time and ignoring the decline in the real value of money over the past 50 years or so.

I enclose the whole of my file on the matter, supporting the following brief statement of the case:

Henry was a member of the AIF in France in 1917 and invested, under a scheme promoted by the Treasury, the sum of £30 in Australian war loan. The evidence that he did so appears from his Army pay book and certain official letters-

Photocopies of these letters were sent to the Treasurer. I said in the letter that the fact that he made such an investment had not been contested by the Treasury. I went on to say:

Now of course an old man, he says that in putting his affairs in order he came upon some relics of his World War I experience, including his Army pay book, and this recalled to his mind the fact that he had made his investment of £30 in war bonds 50 years ago. He immediately inquired of the Treasury whether they had a record of the transaction and was informed by them that, since it had occurred over 50 years ago, a record was unavailable'.

He then contacted his solicitor ....

The matter was then put before the Treasury. I went on to say:

The Treasury referred the matter to the Reserve Bank, which informed my constituent's solicitor that no trace of any security, in Mr Henry's name has been found'.

At this point my constituent brought the matter to my notice and I wrote to the Treasurer stating that it was 'not his fault that the government machine .... failed to process the transaction correctly, or to record it or to preserve the record'.

My constituent, on the other hand had made, and submitted to the Treasury, a sworn statement to the effect that he had never received repayment of the loan nor any interest on it.

I have here a copy of a sworn statement in which the relevant paragraph is this:

I did not return to Australia until the year 1920.

He then referred to the receipt of certain letters while he was on service overseas and went on to say:

I have never heard further from any authority regarding my said loan nor did I ever receive any interest thereon, nor has the sum of £30.0.0 or any part thereof ever been repaid to me.

I remind honourable members that this was a sworn statement. In reply to this the Treasurer drew attention to a statement appearing in my constituent's pay history card, as it is called in the Army, held by Southern Command pay office of the Army, as follows:

£30, CBA-

That is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia - claim No. R75826, payment by bonds approved' and surmised that this entry 'could indicate that he used the bonds to meet a claim for £30.'

This was absolute nonsense. It appeared in the remarks column and could not possibly have indicated a repayment. What it did mean, I believe, was simply that so far as the Army was concerned it acknowledged that they had received money for bonds and that Mr Henry was entitled to receive it from the appropriate authority dealing with bonds. My letter continued:

The Treasurer's explanation is as cryptic as the entry. Nevertheless, he concluded 'the evidence before me does not establish that the amount has not already been repaid'. To which my constituent responded 'if that was the case, the claim would have been entered in my pay book in red ink', and not in the Remarks Column.

At my request, the Treasurer then made available two officers of the Reserve Bank (Mr Leighton and Mr Thomas)' to discuss the whole matter with my constituent, his solicitor and myself. The upshot of this conference was summarised by me in my subsequent letter to the Treasurer in these words: Their case simply is that their records were destroyed only when a transaction has been completed. Therefore they conclude that the bonds in question must have been redeemed*. I went on to say: 'My constituent is adamant - and I believe him implicitly - that, if they were redeemed, it was not by him or on his behalf.

At my request, the Minister for the Army also made available two officers from the Army Pay Office (Mr Barnsley and Mr Pope) to discuss with my constitutent, his solicitor and myself relevant procedures at the Army headquarters at Horseferry Road, London, and the Minister subsequently wrote to me as follows: 'Because of the service conditions u'n France arrangements were made to hold at Horseferry Road the receipts for amounts invested in War Loans until these were required by the soldiers concerned . . . Subsequently occurrences would only appear in the records of the Bank.'

Then I said - and let me emphasise that I made these remarks with irony:

Perhaps soldiers -would remember to apply for their receipts at Horseferry Road - again I emphasise that this was ironical - if they were not killed, or forgot, or ever reached the London headquarters, and perhaps they presented the receipts and obtained their bonds in exchange at the office of the Commonwealth (Reserve) Bank in London or Sydney or Melbourne or wherever. And perhaps their identity was carefully checked at Horseferry Road and at the office of the Commonwealth (Reserve) Bank in London or elsewhere and perhaps no official was ever careless or dishonest.

I must repeat again that the whole of that paragraph is highly ironical. I went on to say:

But if the investment were small, many soldiers must have forgotten to collect their bonds, and many others must have been killed and been unable to collect them. Is it absolutely impossible that some dishonest officials by collusion profited from this situation?

The fact is that there is now no evidence to prove or disprove what may have happened in the conditions of World War I. The stark difference is this: Treasury and Army claim without being able to produce the proof- excusable perhaps after SO years, but a fact - that they must have been infallible. On the other hand, a citizen of clear mind and understanding makes a sworn statement that he never received or redeemed his bonds for a trifling investment in 1917 in circumstances that lend complete credibility to his evidence. Yet he is regarded as a perjurer.

I am absolutely convinced that his memory is clear and that he is telling the truth. Otherwise, I would not have spent hours seeking justice for him.

I am informed that the only way open to do this is through an ex-gratia payment, and accordingly I ask that this be approved.

I received a reply finally from the present Treasurer. He said: it is accepted that Mr Henry paid £30 towards a war bond in 1917, but, taking into account the information that has already been passed to you-

And I have mentioned all this -

It cannot be accepted that he did not receive the bond or some consideration for it.

Honourable members will notice that the Treasurer said that it cannot be accepted that he did not receive the bond. The onus is on him, apparently, according to the Treasury. The Treasurer went on to say:

Whilst in no way doubting Mr Henry's good faith, in all the circumstances and in the absence of evidence to support his claim that the bond was not redeemed, I regret that I must conclude that I would not be justified in authorising a payment based solely on memories going back over so many years.

So he is a perjurer or he just forgot. I have a letter from Mr Henry in which he says:

I was discharged at St Kilda Road Barracks on 22 May '1920 and received my gratuity which was paid into the State Savings Bank, Melbourne.

It had been suggested by the Treasurer that he should have received payment of his war bonds at the time he received his gratuity. He went on to say:

I wish to state that I have never received the bond nor any moneys in lieu thereof.

This is a case in which a constituent is rubbished as a liar and a perjurer despite the circumstances that I have set out. I believe that this is a grievance that should be brought to the notice of this House and to the notice of the public so far as Hansard is read by anybody.

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