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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 3980

To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled in parliament:

The petition of certain citizens of Australia, draws to the attention of the House the fact that there is only one exclusion from eligibility for repatriation benefits in the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (the Act) for honourable overseas `active service' by Australians. That being under `Operational Service' at Section 6.(1)(c)(ii) of the Act for members of the Royal Australian Navy who served in Malaya between 1955 and 1960.

The various claims used to date to maintain their exclusion have now been proved wrong by documents in the Australian Archives and elsewhere in the public domain.

Some of the claims used to support the exclusion are:

(a) members of the RAN were only doing the duty for which they had enlisted (which applied to all service personnel everywhere);

(b) they were in no danger (they shared the same dangers as all other Australian service personnel serving in Malaya and were also required to serve under the United Nations command in Korean waters in case that war had started again);

(c) they were never `allotted' for operational service (a letter from the Secretary to the Department of the Navy dated 11 November 1955 categorically stated the date from which the RAN was `allotted' for operational service was 1 July 1955);

(d) they were not on `Special Overseas Service' (such Service began with the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act of 1962 i.e. two years after their service ended and did not therefore apply to them); and

(e) they were not on `active service' (their service complied with all but one of the requirements of the only Defence Department definition of `active service' the exception being `or in military occupation of a foreign country' which did not apply to Malaya).

Your petitioners therefore request the House to remove the discriminatory exclusion in the Act thereby giving the Australian sailors involved comparative recognition and treatment with all other Australians who have honourably served their country on active service overseas.