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Monday, 26 August 2002
Page: 5655

Ms JULIE BISHOP (9:07 PM) —Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Mr Swan —Mr Speaker! Mr Speaker!

The SPEAKER —I have recognised the member for Curtin. We just voted to give her the call, in fact, so it seems entirely right and proper.

Motion (by Mr Swan) proposed:

That the member be not further heard.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —How is that? I am speaking!

The SPEAKER —I cannot entertain that motion. As the member for Lilley will be well aware, when the House has divided and negatived the motion that the member for Curtin be not further heard, she has every right to be heard. There is no possibility to move a motion that she not be heard.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —Thank you, Mr Speaker. The changes contained in these bills before the House this evening highlight the Howard government's commitment to improving, refining and expanding the system—

Motion (by Mr Swan) proposed:

That the member be not further heard.

The SPEAKER —The member for Curtin has the call; we have just voted that the member for Curtin be given the call. It is quite unreasonable to interrupt the member for Curtin at this stage. It is early in her speech. The standing orders indicate that, a member having been given the call, they are entitled to be heard.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Mr Swan —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Mr Speaker, under what standing order do you so rule?

The SPEAKER —I am happy to acquaint the member for Lilley with the standing orders. I am also comfortable with the fact that, the member having been given the call and having had less than three minutes in which to participate in the debate, it is reasonable for her to deliver her speech. The member for Curtin has the call.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I was saying, the changes contained in these bills before the House this evening highlight the Howard government's commitment to improving, refining and expanding the system—

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, further to the point of order raised by the member for Lilley, am I to understand that you are now creating a precedent—which I might welcome; I am not necessarily disputing it, but I am just trying to clarify it—that you will not allow members who have been given the call to be interrupted by anybody, minister or member, moving that they be no longer heard?

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! I am happy to clarify the matter for the member for Fraser. Of course, I am creating no such precedent. I must admit that I am having difficulty in this short time in finding the appropriate House of Representatives Practice reference, but I am confident that it is customary for a motion, having been agreed to by the House, not to be put again within a reasonable frame of time. I am about to seek advice on what a reasonable frame of time is, but it was painfully obvious that the member for Curtin had said nothing that warranted her being sat down. In fact, I am confident that there are incidents in House of Representatives Practice where, a motion having been put, it is not entertained by the House within a particular period of time.

Mr Swan —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could I refer you then to page 327 of House of Representatives Practice. If you have in fact ruled that the member for Curtin had not spoken, page 327 refers to a break in business and, therefore, it was quite appropriate for me to attempt to move my motion.

The SPEAKER —I will refer the member for Fraser and the member for Lilley to standing order 169 without reference to House of Representatives Practice, which would take me a little longer. It was on recollection of standing order 169 that I acted. Standing order 169 says:

Subject to the provisions of standing order 233, the Speaker or the Chair may, in his or her discretion, disallow any motion or amendment which is the same in substance as any question, which, during the same session, has been resolved in the affirmative or negative.

It is not unreasonable for the member for Curtin to be heard, and I intend that she should be heard unless she says something that is outrageous.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —On the basis that I say nothing outrageous, I seek to continue that the changes contained in these bills—

The SPEAKER —I am attempting to accommodate the member for Curtin, as she must be well aware. The member for Curtin will resume her seat.

Mr Stephen Smith —Mr Speaker, on a point of order, standing order 169 refers to matters during the same session. It clearly does not have the specificity which standing order 94, `Closure of member', does. It says:

94 A motion may be made that a Member who is speaking, except a Member giving a notice of motion or formally moving the terms of a motion allowed under the standing orders, “be not further heard”, and such question shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.

The standing order that you have referred to is in general terms; it does not relate to that. The specifics of standing order 169—

The SPEAKER —I have dealt with this matter under standing order 94. The House has resolved under standing order 94 that the member for Curtin has the right to be heard.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —The changes contained in the bills before the House this evening, the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2002 Budget Measures) Bill 2002 and the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2002, highlight the Howard government's commitment to improving, refining and expanding the system of federal government support for Australia's defence forces. I am delighted to see so many members of the opposition in the House this evening to support the federal government's support for Australia's defence forces and veterans and their families. It is timely that these measures be introduced to the House whilst Australian men and women are on active service in Afghanistan, the Gulf, East Timor and elsewhere, for it focuses our attention, quite rightly, on our defence forces and, indeed, on veterans.

Australia's defence force personnel risk life and limb regularly to advance Australia's national interest. The Australian defence forces have a further role of aiding and shielding Australian citizens. This task involves assistance to the public during times of natural or man-made disasters and civil unrest, and service in emergency situations, such as the rescue of sailors during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race several years ago. The specialist skills and training required, as well as the dangers facing defence personnel, make the armed forces unique in Australian society. The coalition government has acknowledged consistently that it is in Australia's national interest to develop technologically superior and highly trained armed forces personnel. However, in order to make certain the high standard of Australia's defence forces, it is necessary that appropriate services are provided to defence force personnel and their families during their periods of service and beyond.

When our defence personnel are serving away from home, they must be sure that there will be someone or something to assist their families. The nature of military service is such that the federal government has a responsibility to provide support and care services to defence personnel and their families once they return from active service. Hence, part of that responsibility is to ensure that the families of veterans are well looked after in the event of one of our military dying or being disabled. In my electorate this is an issue of considerable interest, for not only is the Hollywood Private Hospital—to which the member for Cowan referred in his speech—located within Curtin, there are living in my electorate thousands of beneficiaries of veterans affairs pensions or payments, including disability pensioners, service pensioners and gold card holders. In fact, the net total of beneficiaries is over 4,000 and the average age of those beneficiaries is about 77 years.

The federal government has over the last 5½ years recognised the contribution that these men and women make to the defence of our country, and the risks that they take. Let us not understate it: we are talking here of the defence of democracy, property and person and the cause of freedom in this country. The federal government recognises this in a variety of ways, through a comprehensive program of increases to entitlements, recognition generally and memorials. The two bills before the House involve some fairly minor legislative changes, described as housekeeping amendments. Nonetheless, the fact that these changes are being made at all demonstrates the high priority that the Howard government places on veterans' matters.

The second bill, the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2002 Budget Measures) Bill 2002, is legislation designed to implement the Howard government's commitment in the 2001 federal election to remove the unfair freeze on the ceiling rate of income support supplement and service pension payable to Australian war widows and war widowers. This freeze was the result of a particularly shabby decision by the Hawke Labor government in 1986. The Hawke Labor government sought to penalise the widows and widowers of Australian servicemen and women by freezing the income support payment in 1986. The consequence of this decision was that the value of the payment would decrease over time. The Howard government has sought to partly discharge its obligations to the families of defence personnel by linking the payment to the cost of living and wages index. As such, the payment will provide more satisfactory support to Australia's war widows and end what has been a longstanding anomaly.

The War Widows Guild of Australia has quite rightly campaigned to have the income support payment linked to the cost of living and wages index, and I commend the guild for its staunch advocacy of this reform and the commitment with which it has campaigned. According to Department of Veterans' Affairs statistics, there are 934 pensioners who are war widows in my electorate of Curtin, and I know that, if passed, this legislation will go quite some way to assisting these women. Also located within the electorate of Curtin is the Campbell Barracks in Swanbourne, the home of the Special Air Service Regiment. I raise with the House the fact that I met with a group of SAS spouses and partners who were seeking information on specific Commonwealth government services available to them. I was delighted to be able to inform them of a range of services and initiatives that the federal government has indeed put in place to assist the spouses and partners of SAS personnel serving overseas. (Time expired)