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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2614

Senator HEARN —I address my question to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. The Minister would be aware that I have had representations from women who are former members of wartime Services. Is the Minister aware that most of these women are ineligible for loans under the defence service homes scheme because they were denied the opportunity to serve overseas by virtue of their sex? I ask the Minister: In view of the Government's commitment to eliminating discrimination, does he intend to modify the scheme to include these women?

Senator GIETZELT —Yes, I am aware of the fact that for many years ex-servicewomen who served during World War II have pressed upon the Government the need to have access to the Defence Service Homes Corporation, as it has been known in more recent times, on the basis that they volunteered for overseas service and consequently were subject to the discipline of the service that they served in, and therefore should not now be discriminated against in respect of their access to the defence service homes scheme. I draw attention to the fact that since the election of the Whitlam Government in 1972, women currently in the Services, after having served three years and having satisfied other minor criteria, are eligible under the defence service homes scheme. The women who served during World War II believe that their contributions to the war effort were greater than the contributions of those who are currently eligible because of their participation in the peacetime Services.

Having said that I have to point out that because of the difficulties in which the Government found itself in respect of the Budget deficit last year and the continuing pressure that is on the Government with respect to the deficit in this year's Budget, one has to look at a rectification of this injustice in light of those problems. Certainly my view is that there should be no discrimination. That would also be the view of the Government. Whether the Government is prepared to change the Defence Service Homes Act in order to accommodate that request from those who served during World War II is a decision I can only suggest will be taken in the context of the Budget considerations. I assure Senator Hearn that it has my support and I will be doing everything possible to meet the needs of those who served during World War II.