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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2803


Senator HEARN —Has the Minister for Veterans' Affairs seen reports that the Commissioner of the Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam has questioned the right of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia to appear before the Royal Commission? Will he comment on these reports?


Senator GIETZELT —Yes, I have seen the reports, which seem to result from comments made by the Royal Commissioner in the public hearings which commenced at the beginning of the month. Apparently the Commissioner asked some very pointed questions about the legal status of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia. This resulted in my office being inundated with telegrams from VVAA Branches all over Australia suggesting that the Vietnam Veterans Association was the appropriate body to represent their interests before the current Royal Commission. I do not think there is any doubt that the Government supported that view, because that was the reason it acted very early in its life to establish the Royal Commission. At the request of and following from the responses from the Vietnam Veterans Association and other veterans groups, the Government agreed to establish the Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam. I am pleased that the matter seems to have been settled. A press release was issued by the Royal Commissioner, the Hon . Justice Phillip Evatt, on Friday, 8 June, which stated:

. . . there is absolutely no question of the leave previously granted to Counsel for the V.V.A.A. . . . to appear before the Royal Commission being withdrawn.

To sum it up, I think it has been settled once and for all that the Vietnam Veterans' Association is the appropriate body to pursue the interests of veterans before the Royal Commission.