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Monday, 16 June 2008
Page: 4973

Mr HAASE (6:07 PM) —I think that it is appropriate that the member for Lingiari be here in the chamber because he needs to hear the question and then maybe we will get an answer. We have just seen the departure of the member for Solomon. Much was said by the minister about his capability as the new member for Solomon. Perhaps the question of how he got his seat bears asking. Did he get the seat, for instance, on the propaganda that was spread prior to the election about there being free medical and dental facilities to be established on defence bases? Were the people of Darwin, for instance, encouraged to vote for that party because they were told that if they stayed in the defence forces they and their families would get that free medical and dental attention that they so richly deserved? I know that the members of the Taylor Barracks in Karratha in the Pilbara, in the electorate of Kalgoorlie, were absolutely disgusted that a promise that they took to heart when they went to the polls is, in reality, now a watered down, a Claytons, service of medical and dental attention. They were promised that the government would give some attention to their retention within the defence forces because their families would be get free medical and free dental attention.

Mr Fitzgibbon —Have you talked to them?

Mr HAASE —I have spoken to them. The minister interjects: should I talk to them? I have spoken to them at length, and I get tirades against this current minister because he welched on his deal. We know he welched because in fact he apologised. That great bugle from Maitland, the Maitland Mercury, on Tuesday, 10 June, said the minister came and apologised to defence personnel.

Not only did he apologise—and so he should—he then went on to say:

The Rudd Government has been highly successful in achieving various pre-election promises. I would give us an overall scorecard of nine out of 10.

That might have been a 0.9 out of 10, because I know a number of things. I would hate to digress, Mr Deputy Speaker, but for instance: ‘We’re going to reduce the price of fuel, we’re going to reduce the price of groceries, we’re going to improve housing affordability across Australia.’ Well—fail, fail, fail. But, more importantly, defence personnel are saying that this minister has failed because they promised to provide a service that would keep defence personnel in the service of this great nation and they provided that absolute furphy. It was enough for defence personnel to stay in the services and to vote for the ALP in that election—and then they got dudded; they got absolutely dudded. It was not as though they were being promised something that was ancilliary, something that was mediocre. This made the absolute difference between whether defence personnel stayed in the service or moved out into the private sector and took very well-paid jobs. Most of those jobs in senior positions provide health benefits. They said, ‘No, we’re going to stay with the ADF; the ADF is a great place because this incoming minister, this ALP minister, is going to give us free medical and free dental.’ What a great idea. What a great motivation, and a quite proper motivation, to vote for that particular party because they knew they were going to have the goods delivered.

That was a convincing argument that turned out to be morning mist; it just evaporated. All these people, having made the commitment, found they had been dudded. My people in Karratha were dudded. My people in Taylor Barracks, who serve this nation, were dudded. If they had known the truth about this government, if they had known the truth about the efforts in cabinet of this minister to get funding, they would probably have done the right thing and left a decent government in place, a government that could make the right decisions. There is no doubt that if you take $21 million out of a program that is going to provide health care to Defence Force personnel and leave it with a miserly $12 million over four years you are dudding the troops.  Our troops expect more from this minister. This current Minister for Defence has failed Australian Defence Force personnel.