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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1297


Senator NEWMAN —I refer the Minister for Veterans' Affairs to his plan to change the defence service home loans scheme, which was announced in the mini-Budget in May 1985, and to the expressions of interest which he finally called for from private enterprise, which were to be in by 12 March this year. Can the Minister advise the Senate, firstly, what response he has had from private enterprise; secondly, whether currently ineligible servicemen will be included in any new scheme he plans to unveil; and, thirdly, when veterans and servicemen who are effectively waiting in limbo will finally get some action from the Government on this future scheme?


Senator GIETZELT —It is true that in the statement of May 1985 the Government decided to invite interest by private institutions about the future functioning of the Defence Service Homes Corporation-the purpose being, firstly, to make additional funds available to the applicants, having regard to the increased price of accommodation in Australia and, secondly, to overcome the waiting time which was one of the `innovations' that the Fraser Government introduced to the operation of the scheme in the late 1970s. Of course, there is, as Senator Newman said, a waiting time which does create difficulties from the point of view of the veterans, because invariably they are obliged to borrow money from the second mortgage market and that is inevitably at a much higher rate than normal interest rates.

The Government drew up a tendering process inviting interest from private or public institutions. I stress that it was open to any institution. It was not, for example, closed off to the Commonwealth Bank or any State building society, if they were interested. That interest has been consummated. There has been a response which is currently before the Government and which is in the hands of the Treasurer. The decision will depend on whether those who have expressed interest in response to the advertisement are able to meet the requirements that the Government laid down in the 14 May statement-that is, that no existing beneficiaries would be disadvantaged, that they would be able to provide long term loans, increase the amount of funds, and in no way create any difficulties in respect of the existing policies that operate under the Defence Service Homes Corporation. Until such time as the Government has an opportunity to evaluate that interest that has been expressed, I have no further comment to make.


Senator NEWMAN —Perhaps I may put a supplementary question. I asked the Minister whether currently ineligible servicemen will be included in the new scheme, and when will the Government's response be available?


Senator GIETZELT —There has never been any intention that I am aware of as Minister that the scheme should be extended to people other than those who have met the requirements-that is, they had to serve in a theatre of war, or be a war widow, or had to have two terms of service in the peacetime services. No suggestion has ever been made that I am aware of that that eligibility should be extended. Senator Newman should know, on the basis of her own experience as the wife of a former Minister, that the processes of government lay down certain procedures. The Ministers who are interested-the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Treasurer as well as the Prime Minister-have all had the opportunity to comment on the responses and in due course the matters will be determined by Cabinet and announced to the public.