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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11842

Mr EDWARDS (3:06 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Can the minister confirm that the Gulf War health study was originally scheduled to be completed in December 2000? Can the minister also confirm that she received the final report last year and had promised veterans groups that the report would be released last year? Minister, why can the government fast-track the deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf yet continue to conceal the contents of this important report, which covers their health and wellbeing? Minister, when will you release this health report?

Mrs VALE (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —I thank the honourable member for Cowan for his question. As this issue is causing a great deal of interest in the media at the moment, I would like to read through a short chronology of the events.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne is warned. The member for Griffith is warned.

Mrs VALE —We are not sitting on this report and it will be released shortly, as I said in the MPI last week. Earlier last week I was given a briefing by my senior officials from DVA on the preliminary aspects of the report, which I covered in my speech on the MPI last week. I want to assure the member for Cowan and run through the chronology of this important report, because this is one of the most comprehensive health studies on Gulf War veterans that has been undertaken.

On 5 July 1999 the then Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Mr Scott, announced that there would be a health study of Gulf War veterans. On 30 December 1999 the scientific advisory committee was appointed. On 3 July 2000 a contract was signed with Monash University to undertake the independent study. On 2 August 2000 a study pilot commenced and the first medical appointment was made for a pilot in Melbourne. On 27 September 2000 the pilot was successful and recruitment packages were sent to approximately 3,700 participants, 1,862 of whom were listed on the Gulf War veterans nominal roll. On 15 October 2002 the draft findings were presented to the consultative forum. On 23 October 2002 the draft findings were presented to the scientific advisory committee. Between 13 and 31 January this year there was reformatting and editing of the report. On 16 January this year updated information was provided by Monash University. Late on Friday, 31 January 2003, publication arrangements were made. These arrangements continued to 7 February this year when a further correction to the text was actually made by Monash University. This required further changes and refinements to the report. As I said, the report will be released as soon as possible. I table this chronology in the House.