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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1438

Mr TICKNER(10.36) —I wish to speak relatively briefly tonight about a matter that causes me great concern. It is a matter that I intend to pursue at some length in the House on future occasions. It concerns the personnel practices of the Department of Defence and the treatment of service personnel and their families in the course of their service life. I pay great tribute to the commitment and the work of the Federal Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) in attempting to reform the Services and to give some dignity, I think for the first time, to service personnel and their families.

My concern tonight is to highlight the point that much still needs to be done in the area of personnel practices. I have a great deal to do with service personnel and their families in the course of my work as the Federal member for Hughes. I represent, of course, not only the Holsworthy families, but also service personnel at Heathcote, East Hills and a number of other places throughout my electorate. What I have found is that the practices of the Department of Defence often mean that service personnel are treated as non-citizens and are left without the rights that other people in the community, represented by trade unions, take for granted.

One area about which I have a particular concern relates to the practices of the Department of Defence concerning the transfer of service personnel from different parts of Australia. I have had related to me by service personnel and their families concerns about the practices of the Department whereby people are told one week that they are to be moved; they have their personal belongings packed up in boxes ready to go; trucks come to the front door; and then, at the last moment, the service men and women are told that they are not to be shifted. Of course, that results in tremendous dislocation to family life and to the life of the service personnel themselves.

Of particular concern is the impact on spouses of servicemen because they find, as a result of these unpredictable initiatives to move them to different parts of Australia, that they are unable to get sustained and continued employment. Often when a soldier's wife seeks a job she is simply told that as she is only potentially a short term employee, she is turned away and simply not given the opportunity to be able to take up a job. I am also concerned about the impact of these maladministration practices on the children of service personnel because they, too, bear the brunt of the practices. Often service personnel, as I have indicated, are told at the last minute that a move will not take place. The children, of course, who have planned their lives to be able to move to a new school, perhaps to a new State, are told at the last minute that the move will not take place. One can imagine the trauma that they must face as a result of the cancelled move.

The Federal Government, as I have indicated, through the Minister for Defence and the initiation of the Hamilton Review of Effect of Service Life on Spouses has introduced vast improvements to the quality of life of service personnel but much more needs to be done. One initiative that Government members have taken is to establish the Government Members Defence Force Action Committee to try to initiate further moves for reform within the Government.

Mr Hollis —Who is the Chairman of it?

Mr TICKNER —I thank the honourable member for that interjection; I am one of the co-convenors, but many members of the Government are active on this Committee. The Committee seeks to draw to the attention of the Minister for Defence and the Parliament as a whole the appalling conditions in which service men and women are often forced to serve. That, of course, is no fault of this Government but really is the result of decades of neglect by Parliament as a whole. In the coming months and year we will be seeking to redress those years of neglect and to deliver some justice to service personnel and their families.

Mr Hodgman —Madam Speaker--

Madam SPEAKER —The honourable member for Denison, having spoken twice in the adjournment debate, is not entitled to speak a third time.

Mr Hodgman —Thank you, Madam Speaker. I accept your ruling.