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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2623

Senator GRIMES (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. It concerns the independent inquiry into repatriation, the cost of which is reported to be $500,000. Have any of the major changes in the repatriation field in the last 2 years been the result of proposals put forward by the inquiry? Does the Minister consider that the expenditure on the inquiry has been justified?

Senator WHEELDON (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Repatriation and Compensation) -A number of changes have been introduced in the field of repatriation since the Labor Government has been in office, as honourable senators would be aware. They include the extension of hospital and medical services to prisoners of war and to veterans of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War, the requirement that tribunals give reasons for their decisions and a whole lot of other benefits with which honourable senators are familiar. This has been probably the greatest increase in repatriation benefits since the introduction of the system. But they have not resulted from the inquiry being undertaken by Mr Justice Toose because the findings of Mr Justice Toose are still as yet not available. I have asked Mr Justice Toose to let us have his report by the end of March next year. The inquiry by Mr Justice Toose was instituted by the previous Government, and the term of the inquiry has been extended by this Government.

The repatriation system has been in existence now for some 54 years and, as honourable senators would have noticed while we have been dealing with repatriation legislation during this sessional period, the system has become very complicated, with quite a multiplicity of Acts dealing with various aspects of the same repatriation system. I think it could fairly be said that in many respects the administration of the system and the legislation regulating the system are perhaps unnecessarily complicated, and it is on these matters that Mr Justice Toose is reporting.

To date the inquiry has cost about $513,000 and, although this no doubt seems to be a considerable sum of money, the services of a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and of the expert staff which he has assisting him are of necessity expensive. This Government, as I think would have been the case with the previous Government which must have envisaged that costs of this order would be incurred, believes that the costs are properly incurred if the result of the inquiry, as I am sure will prove to be the case, means that the repatriation system can be more systematically organised and simplified. I hope that the report will be in our hands early next year. As soon as Mr Justice Toose has delivered his report to the Government I shall see that the Parliament is informed of what His Honour has recommended.

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