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Tuesday, 25 March 1997
Page: 2379

To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:

The Petition of the undersigned shows that only one group have been excluded from eligibility for repatriation benefits in the Veterans Entitlements Act 1986 (the Act) where such group has performed honourable overseas `active service'. That group being members of the Royal Australian Navy who served in Malaya between 1955 and 1960 which were excluded under `Operational Service' at Section 6. (1)(e)(ii) of the Act.

The various claims made in Statements to the House and the Senate and the contents of correspondence from various Ministers to maintain the exclusion are answered as follows, the answers are from documents obtained under FIO and from public record:

(i) `They were never allotted for operational service', (contained in a letter from the Hon. Con Sciacca Minister for Defence Science and Personnel 1995). A letter from the Secretary Department of the Navy to Treasury dated 11 November 1955 stated `the date that the Navy were allotted for operational service was 1 July 1955'.

(ii) `Members of the RAN were only doing the duty for which they had enlisted', (October 1956 The Hon. Dr Cameron representing the Minister for Repatriation in the Senate). This applies to all Service personnel everywhere.

(iii) `They were in no danger', (November 1956 The Hon. Dr Cameron representing the Minister for Repatriation in the Senate). They shared the same danger as all other Australian Service personnel serving in Malaya at the time.

(iv) `They were not on Special Overseas Service', (in a letter from the office of The Hon. Bronwyn Bishop Minister for Defence Industry Science and Personnel to Mrs Williams of Adelaide dated October 1996). Requirement for Special Overseas Service was introduced in 1962 without retrospective conditions, therefore has no relevance to events of 1960.

(v) `They were not on Active Service', (in a letter from the office of The Hon. Bronwyn Bishop Minister for Defence Industry Science and Personnel dated October 1996). It is now, as it was then, that Service Personnel had to comply with one of three requirements for Active Service, this group complied with two, or twice as many as is needed. The one that they did not comply with was, `is in military occupation of a foreign country'.

Your petitioners therefore request that the Senate should remove the discriminatory exclusion in the Act, thereby giving the Australian sailors involved comparative recognition with the Army and RAAF personnel that served at the same time, and all other Australians who have served their Country on active service overseas.

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