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Monday, 9 October 2006
Page: 16

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (1:30 PM) —I rise to address this private member’s motion in relation to the government’s position on the honours and awards system with respect to post-armistice service in Korea. I would like to first place on the record my utmost appreciation and admiration for all service personnel, both past and present, who have served or are currently serving our country with pride and great distinction both here in Australia and overseas. This government is committed to ensuring that all service men and women are appropriately recognised for their service in the defence of Australia and its interests. Any recommendations presented to the government in relation to these matters are given careful consideration.

The latest report into defence awards was the Report of the post-armistice Korean service review. It made four recommendations that the government did not agree with, and the minister has outlined the reasons. Firstly, recommendation 7B put forward the suggestion that a General Service Medal be struck. However, this medal would be awarded in exactly the same service situations as the existing Australian Service Medal. Why would we need two medals recognising the same service?

Recommendation 7C states that post-armistice service in Korea warrants the issuing of the Returned from Active Service Badge. This recommendation was not accepted by the government because this badge is presented in conjunction with the Australian Active Service Medal, which is awarded for warlike service. The Australian Service Medal, which has been awarded for post-armistice service in Korea, is for service in peacekeeping and non-warlike conditions. The very fact that an armistice agreement had been signed means warlike conditions had ceased. Again, this is a valid reason for the government not agreeing with the recommendation.

The other two recommendations not accepted by the government, 8B and 8C, relate to the procedures of the honours and awards system. I agree that the awarding of medals must be transparent. Indeed, there are rules governing the issuing of medals, and certain guidelines which need to be met are very clear. For instance, if you are serving in warlike conditions—as a result of a resolution of the parliament—you would be awarded the Australian Active Service Medal. The existing honours and awards system is already subject to the highest levels of scrutiny, with an interdepartmental committee being the principal advisory body to government.

When a service member receives a medal, it is recognition for the role they performed in serving their country and in defending the values of our nation. When a medal is awarded, it is worn with great pride. If we were to have multiple medals for the same service, it would only serve to devalue the medal and its recognition. Creating another medal as suggested in the motion, such as the General Service Medal, with almost identical eligibility conditions to the Australian Service Medal, simply makes one medal less important than the other.

The paramount factor in Australia’s honours and awards system is for the recipients to feel that they have been recognised by the Australian people. That being said, I find it quite ironic that this motion can be put forward with any credit by a member of the Labor Party. In 1994, when the Labor Party were in government, they presented to the parliament—through the committee of inquiry into defence and defence related awards—the CIDA report, the report of a comprehensive public inquiry into the Australian systems of honours and awards. In fact, the report was presented by the then Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services, then Senator Bob McMullan, now the member for Canberra, and the then Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Senator John Faulkner, who is still in the Senate.

The CIDA report, which was presented by the then Labor government, recommended that a medal called the Australian Service Medal be created to replace the General Service Medal. That recommendation was accepted by the Labor government. The report also recommended that the Australian Service Medal with clasp ‘Korea’ be awarded to those who served in Korea after the signing of the armistice, and that recommendation was accepted. It appears that this motion put forward by a member of the Labor Party seeks to re-establish the very medal which the Labor Party rejected when they were in government. Therefore, this motion put forward by the opposition is in direct conflict with what the Labor Party did when they were in government. (Time expired)