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Monday, 13 August 2007
Page: 62


Mr JOHNSON (4:13 PM) —I welcome the opportunity, as the federal member for Ryan, to speak in the House of Representatives on veterans related issues and, indeed, to highlight the Howard government’s achievements, especially in the area of comprehensive health care and support services that are made available to the veteran community. I want to pay tribute to all Australians who have worn the uniform and served their country, as my father and grandfather did. I pay tribute to the member for Cowan for his service and for wearing the uniform for our country. I pay tribute to my colleague and friend the member for Wakefield, who was a helicopter pilot and spent 22 years of service in uniform, representing our country. I express disappointment that anybody in the national parliament would seek to personally question the motivation or goodwill of any colleague in the parliament simply because they put forward a different policy perspective or have a different appreciation of this area of very important policy. Let us move on.

I am very pleased that, as the local member for Ryan, I have a very good working relationship with all the sub-branches of the RSL. Indeed, I was very honoured earlier this year to receive a plaque from two of the RSL sub-branches, the Kenmore-Moggill RSL sub-branch and the Centenary Suburbs RSL sub-branch—of which my father is a member—for the efforts that I make in my local constituency. I am always honoured to attend Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services as a guest of the RSL as the federal member and to pay tribute to all those Australians who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the interests of freedom and democracy and all the values for which this country stands.

During the recess, I had the pleasure of meeting with members of The Gap RSL at a recent meeting, and of speaking about the $4,000 that they had received from the Howard government as a contribution towards their wonderful initiative of building a special new memorial stone in The Gap.

Also, recently the Howard government made a grant of some $21,000 to the Veterans Support and Advocacy Service of Australia, which is based in the suburb of Toowong in the electorate of Ryan. This is a very important funding measure from the Howard government and is just part of a reflection of the contribution and the commitment of the Howard government to veterans affairs and to all important issues that concern the veterans of our country.

I want to make some comments on the areas of health care and support services that the Howard government has invested in for the veterans of Australia. But before I do that, I want to read into the parliamentary record a letter which I received from Mr Doug Formby. Mr Formby is a constituent of mine and a very distinguished Australian. He is now retired but he held, during his time of service, the rank of brigadier in the Australian Army. I think it is very important for all Australians and, in particular, Ryan residents to be aware of the position of the RSL because veterans affairs touch so many people in my electorate. This is what Mr Formby said in his letter to me of 17 April this year:

Dear Mr Johnson.

This letter is in response to your request for a position from the RSL, in regard to the recent events concerning the proposed television coverage of [an] ANZAC Day Dawn Service in South Vietnam.

…       …            …

I take this opportunity to make plain that the RSL seeks to retain the integrity and focus of ANZAC Day upon its unquestioned and historic place in Australia’s Calendar. ANZAC Day provides an opportunity to all of the people of Australia to pause, reflect and give thanks for the service and sacrifice of the servicemen and women of this country.

ANZAC Day is above politics, religion and any divisions that may [exist] within the community based upon race or ethnic background. The day should never be allowed to be used by any individual or group for any intention other than what it has been traditionally set aside for.

It will be a sad day if the significance of ANZAC Day is in any way diminished by taking away the long accepted ... focus of the day.

Yours Sincerely

Mr Doug Formby

STATE PRESIDENT

I read that into the parliamentary record because I think it is very important to highlight the position of the federal opposition leader in his relationship with veterans and, in particular, his trying to exploit the opportunity of Anzac Day. We all know, of course, the reference there to ‘the proposed television coverage of an Anzac Day dawn service in South Vietnam’ is a reference to attempts to move the time of the dawn service in Vietnam to coincide with Channel 7’s coverage of the service to beam it back into Australia as part of the Sunrise program. Of course, the opposition leader denied all knowledge of that but that proved to be false. (Time expired)