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Wednesday, 4 December 1974
Page: 3093

Senator MCAULIFFE (QUEENSLAND) - My question, which is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, follows upon a question that was asked of the Minister yesterday by Senator Devitt in relation to poison gas tes.s on World War II troops. Is the Minister aware that by way of reply he is reported as having said that repatriation benefits may not be available to World War I or World War II veterans who may become incapacitated as a result of poison gas experiments? I would like the Minister to tell the Senate whether this report is correct. If it is not, what is the true position regarding these veterans who have been incapacitated by poison gas experiments?

Senator WHEELDON (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Repatriation and Compensation) - I do not think I referred to World War I veterans, but the reports, as I saw them in the Press, were correct. I think in answer to a question yesterday I said something to the effect that normally repatriation benefits were not available to veterans unless the incapacity was occasioned in a theatre of war. I have been informed subsequently by my Department that in fact these benefits would be available if the incapacity of the veteran arose out of or was attributable to his service. To revert to the matter that has been under discussion, which is the question that has been raised by a Mr Soper who apparently has written a book concerning mustard gas experiments that were carried on during World War II in Australia: There is still no evidence available to me or to my Department that any such experiments did take place. That is not to say that they did not take place, but certainly no claims have been received from any person arising out of any such disability or alleged disability. As I think I said yesterday, Mr Soper has been a quite frequent correspondent with me, as he was with my predecessors, both of the Labor Party and I think other political parties. He has raised a number of matters but not hitherto this matter. I repeat what I said yesterday with regard to this question. If there is any exserviceman who does claim that he has been incapacitated or in any way harmed as a result of taking part in these experiments, he should address his claim to the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in the State in which he lives and it will be immediately attended to.

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