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Tuesday, 19 February 2002
Page: 497


Mr MURPHY (10:53 PM) —I rise tonight to bring to the attention of the House a letter I recently received from the Homebush-Strathfield Sub-branch of the Returned Services League of Australia, concerning the fatal treatment of an Australian Army Reserve soldier while on military duty at Holsworthy Barracks, Liverpool Military Area, late last year. I have spoken with the honorary secretary of the sub-branch, Mr Michael Smith, who has asked me to take up this matter with the minister and to also raise it in federal parliament, and that is what I am doing tonight. I am so concerned with the allegations, I have also placed question No. 51 on the first Notice Paper of this parliament. For the benefit of the House, I would like to read Mr Smith's letter to me:

Dear Mr Murphy,

At our monthly meeting held Sunday 9 December 2001 it was brought to the attention of the members that:

during a recent training exercise at the Holsworthy Barracks, Liverpool Military Area, a Reserve soldier suffered a heart attack. We were informed that he was taken to the Field Hospital located within the barracks. He was however refused treatment due to the fact that he was a Reserve soldier and should have been taken to the nearest civilian medical facility (Liverpool Hospital). As a result of this `confusion over responsibility' the soldier died.

This treatment of Reserve soldiers seems to be in line with current attitudes within Defence. On previous occasions this Sub-Branch has highlighted problems with medical treatment for Reserve soldiers to our State headquarters to pass onto The Defence Department. A number of real life instances were also given as evidence to confirm this treatment. On all occasions it would seem they were ignored. As a result a soldier is dead and his family have suffered a needless loss.

We feel that the medical treatment meted out to Reserve soldiers is at best `shabby' and `Penny pinching'. Reservists give up their time and energy to support this nation in both peace and in war. It would seem that in peace, government is not overly interested in their health and well being.

We, the members of the Homebush-Strathfield Sub-Branch ask that you make representations on our behalf to the Minister of Defence and ask:

Why was a Reserve soldier refused emergency treatment at Holsworthy Barracks when on duty (ie: training)?

Why are Reservists turned away from Defence medical facilities when injured on duty or undergoing training and referred to the nearest civilian medical facility?

On previous occasion we have been assured that this is not the case, however time and time again members of the Reserve are complaining of this treatment. If the government is serious about recruiting and retention for the reserve forces then surely they should provide adequate medical support to those serving members.

We look forward to your reply regards this matter.

Yours sincerely

Michael Smith

Hon Secretary

The issues raised by the Homebush-Strathfield RSL Sub-branch in its letter to me are very serious issues. They are so serious that the sub-branch has asked me to take this up with the minister and to speak about it in federal parliament. I call upon the Minister for Defence to look into this matter with the utmost urgency, because the issues raised, as I have said, are extremely serious. By way of conclusion, and if it would assist the minister and the House, I seek leave to table a copy of the letter from the Homebush-Strathfield RSL Sub-branch.

Leave granted.

Question agreed to.