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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 13674


Senator SANDY MACDONALD (3:20 PM) —I wish to take note of the answer given by the Minister for Justice and Customs today relating to conditions of service of ADF and AFP personnel in the Solomon Islands. Our personnel are part of the cooperative intervention in the Solomon Islands, which at this time is going very well—let us hope it continues to do that—along with troops from Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand and the PNG. This operational allowance is based on an assessment of the security environment. That applies whether our troops are involved in East Timor, Afghanistan, the war against terror, the build up to the war in Iraq, the multinational interception force, the Iraq war itself or now, of course, the Solomons. In my experience the allowance ranges from $200 per day to what has been assessed as appropriate in this particular ADF exercise, which is $55 per day. It is based on an assessment of the security environment in the Solomons and the tasks and mission that the ADF personnel deployed in the operation will expect to meet. Despite a level of risk, it is a non-warlike declaration of service and that is appropriate for this operation. As a consequence, the conditions of service provided to ADF members for this operation include: the tax-free deployment allowance of $55.50 per day inside the specified area; comprehensive coverage for injury under the Veterans' Entitlements Act and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act; and additional recreation leave at a rate of 10 days per annum on a pro rata basis.

I am advised that there is a possibility that their earnings will be tax-free as well, which applies under a general provision of the Income Tax Assessment Act which exempts certain foreign earnings where a member has engaged in foreign employment for a continuous period of not less than 91 days. There is a fair expectation that some of our ADF people will serve for longer than 91 days. I make the point to the Senate that this provision is not an ADF condition of service. It is something that is very appropriate for those who are risking their lives on our behalf, and it is an additional benefit that they have. In addition, members will continue to receive their normal salary and environmental allowances.

ADF members deployed for six months or more are eligible for the additional following benefits: embarkation and disembarkation leave and travel; removal of dependants to extended family support—and I remember, Mr Deputy President, that when you and I were on the inquiry into conditions of service it came up that it was important for people who are left at home with a young family to have family support, and the ADF extends that to military families and so they should— removal of personal effects to store; and relief for out of country assistance to travel back to Australia.

We take our responsibility to our personnel overseas very seriously. I do not think there is anybody who does not believe that they should be looked after in their absence, that their families should be looked after in their absence and if something untoward might happen to them. The government are going through the review process to improve the range of benefits that might be available to our ADF personnel overseas. We take that very seriously. I think there is bipartisan support for anything that we do for our ADF personnel. It is important because they are on an important mission. All missions are important, but this mission is particularly important.

We have 1,500 ADF personnel in the Solomons. We have a show of force that has been very effective, I think, in bringing the war lords and dissident groups to the table, and certainly in making them cooperative. I am delighted that Harold Keke has seen the light and decided to hand himself in. When I was in the Solomons a short period ago— about six weeks ago—they were very worried about the murderous activities of Harold Keke down on the Weather Coast. It is pleasing to see that he has seen the light and decided to hand himself in. I suspect he would not have done so if it had not been for the show of force of the ADF, along with our allies—Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have also sent troops to support us. (Time expired)