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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23646

Mr EDWARDS (4:21 PM) —The ALP indicated our support for the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2003 when it was debated in this chamber last week. We supported this omnibus bill because, among other things, it contains increases in penalties for people who impersonate veterans or wear medals to which they are not entitled and which they have not earned. For some reason, the government did not progress the bill for many months, and we believe the veteran community has waited far too long for this promise of increased penalties in relation to medal fraud to be delivered. We do not intend to delay this bill here today but, in support of the Democrat amendments moved in the other place, we would like the government to more clearly explain why they oppose those amendments. I listened to what the parliamentary secretary had to say, but I do ask the government to tell us why they rejected the amendments and what problem they have with those amendments, which simply appear to remove some discriminatory practices in the area of Defence Force home loan assistance for same sex couples who are members of the ADF.

In the other place Senator Chris Evans, the shadow minister for defence, reiterated that it is the ALP's strong position that this bill should pass through all stages of the parliament this session. We do not intend to delay that passage. We do, however, take this opportunity to call on the government to reassess its position on the amendments or at least explain its rationale for opposing them. The ALP have given a commitment to the defence community to get this bill through this session because of the medal fraud issues. We called on veterans groups to assist us to put pressure on the government to get this bill, which has sat on the NoticePaper for so long, dealt with, to get it through this year. We do not intend to renege on that commitment. We simply ask the government to spell out the rationale for its objection to the reasonable Democrat amendments and to get this bill back to the Senate, where it can be dealt with and passed this week.