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Monday, 20 June 2011
Page: 6472

Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (17:54): It is a great pleasure to speak on the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment Bill 2011. I say to the honourable member for Solomon, who thought to raise in the debate on this very good bill political issues about superĀ­annuation for the people presently serving in the military, that there were 11 years during which some of us made representation to the previous government about this, and nothing occurred. It is a pretty poor effort to come in here and start raising this on a veterans bill when we have some pretty good news here for veterans and ex-prisoners-of-war. The member may want to get into some of the history as to why her party did not deliver over those 11 years.

This bill gives effect to the veterans' affairs 2011 budget measures, which will create a prisoner of war recognition supplement, clarifying and affirming the original intention of the compensation offsetting policy in relation to disability pensions, rationalised temporary incapacity allowance and the loss of earnings allowance.

I first became aware of prisoners of war because of my friends Philip and John Green, whom I grew up with and went to school with and who are both still my friends. John has moved away a bit, but Philip is still a great mate. Their fathers were both prisoners of war. As boys we talked about this and discussed it, and I met their fathers, who had gone through that terrible experience. They were both in Timor when it fell—I think Sparrow Force was among the forces that were there as our forward defence before the Japanese landed about 22,000 troops, on their forward movement into that area—and they were taken prisoner.

Georgie Green, Philip's father, spent his time as a prisoner of war on the Burma railway, and I think Teddy—John's father—spent some time in the bicycle camp in Timor and later in that same area. That was not a very pleasant experience for them. In later years George was very pleased to visit Hellfire Pass and take his grandson there to show him the places where he had had to endure some harsh treatment and was able to survive that. I think it was just about trying to show those at home what they had endured, where they had endured it and how they had survived it. These were guys who never spoke of or glorified anything about war and were always conscious of that in their activities.

Georgie and Teddy were great role models and great men who had a lot of respect in the community. The community in which I grew up, the Longford community, had an RSL which was built in 1947 by the returning veterans. The annual Anzac Day sports event was a pretty well-known event right throughout Tasmania. Most of us growing up in the 1950s and going to school attended those sports days. We learnt what Anzac Day was about and what remembrance was about, and that worked very well. I can remember Georgie Green presenting me with an ice-cream after I had run a footrace. Footraces were never my great strength, but I can remember getting an ice-cream from Georgie Green, so it was a great opportunity. We remember those veterans and those people who were prisoners of war, as we should do. We remember the great stories and the written work of Weary Dunlop and the wonderful innovations that Weary was able to bring to bear in order to help prisoners survive, using needles and implements made out of bamboo to give rainwater to those suffering from bad dysentery and lack of fluids. Incredible work and effort went into making those things work. We read about how, through Weary Dunlop's efforts, public health issues were addressed by draining away water from around the camps to prevent malaria and by ensuring cleanliness when prisoners were cooking their food. These stories are worth reading for any young person wanting to have an understanding of those times and to come to grips with what war and deprivation can bring.

While we are having this debate on the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment Bill, it is worth mentioning the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day in 2015 and to remember the battles which took place in the First World War. My Uncle Charles, my grandfather's brother, is buried on the Somme. When you look at those graves, which you see right through Europe, you realise what difficult issues people were faced with.

This bill certainly gives recognition to prisoners of war and their dependants through a range of benefits and reflects the severe circumstances of their service. Widows of former prisoners of war are eligible for war widow pensions and the gold card. Funeral benefits are payable for deceased former prisoners of war. Children of deceased former prisoners of war are eligible for veterans children's education schemes. (Quorum formed) I thank my colleagues for their attendance in the chamber during my speech on the bill. The amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act made by schedule 1 will give effect to the 2011 budget measure to create a new prisoner of war recognition supplement, the POWR supplement. That supplement will be $500 per fortnight, payable to former prisoners of war in recognition of the severe hardship and deprivations that they experienced in the service of their country.

A lot of veterans are no longer with us. The two I spoke about earlier, Georgie Green and Teddy Green, have now both passed on. On first meeting these ex-prisoners of war I found them both to be upstanding men. They were ordinary workers, Teddy having a small farm after shearing for a long time. He spent most of his life around the Cressy district. They were both men of great character, men that most of us growing up looked up to as decent human beings marching on Anzac Day, giving recognition to their service to their country under great hardship.

There is a lot of work to do on cenotaphs around the country in recognition of the 100-year anniversary of the Anzacs in 2015. There is a lot of tidying up work to be done, especially in the areas surrounding the cenotaphs. I think government has a role to play and I certainly hope there will be some grant programs to allow veterans' communities, along with local councils and others, to participate in bringing those cenotaphs up to the standard that we in this country expect of them. I have been involved in several of those over different governments and a lot of them have worked very well, keeping our cenotaphs and our memorials up to standard. I understand there has been a lot of work done in different parts of the world—in France and at Anzac Cove. It would be interesting to see what has occurred there. A lot of young people these days are finding it very interesting to be involved in these recognitions. That makes us think about why young people are taking such an interest in our veterans and in the wars that we have been involved in. I think it is about young people becoming aware of community, of their sense of duty and of what being involved in a community can mean. Going to war, being a prisoner of war, can certainly give you that perspective by recognising what people have gone through. So it has something to do with that.

I pay tribute to the uncle of Peter Lawrence from my electorate. Peter, who passed away this week, searched for his uncle's medals for many years. Before Peter died, I presented him with the service medals of his uncle Leo Lawrence. It is very sad to lose Peter. I pass on my condolences to his family. He will be buried on Thursday. He was proud of his uncle's service to his nation and he has now passed on. I support the bill.