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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1545

Senator GILES —My question is addressed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I refer to Senator Coleman's question yesterday regarding allegations by the honourable member for Forrest, Mr Drummond, that pensions paid to dependants of war disability pensioners were threatened and that the Veterans Entitlements Bill was being delayed until after the election in order to incorporate unpopular changes in it. The Minister, in his answer, denied that this was the case. I ask him: When is the Bill expected to be introduced and why has it been delayed?

Senator GIETZELT —It is true that yesterday I responded to a question from Senator Coleman of Western Australia regarding a statement by Mr Drummond, the honourable member for Forrest, published in the Collie Mail, when I indicated that there was absolutely no truth in the allegations that the Government intended to abolish dependants' pensions for the wives and children of war disability pensioners and that the Government had some ulterior motive for not introducing the Veterans Entitlements Bill in this session of the Parliament. I think Mr Drummond alleged that, because there were unpopular proposals in the legislation, the Government was being rather reticent and cunning in not bringing it before the Parliament. The Veterans Entitlements Bill has not been introduced because of the brevity of this parliamentary session. We have actually run out of time. During most of this year, since the report of the committee of review, there have been extensive consultations with the ex-service community. The finalisation of the decision-making process within government has created a time lag, and the review of the Repatriation Act and associated Acts since 1920 has required a great deal of consideration by me as the responsible Minister and by the Cabinet. The Veterans Entitlements Bill is actually before Cabinet. But the dissolution of the Parliament will stall a number of pieces of legislation, including the Veterans Entitlements Bill. In no way is that delay because of any of the contents of the Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to update, modernise and rationalise all the relevant pieces of legislation and a major degree of agreement has been reached with the veterans community. It is a matter of personal regret that consideration of the Bill by the Cabinet was not able to be completed and, not having been agreed to by Cabinet, has not been introduced in the House of Representatives. It is a money Bill and that is the place where it would be introduced. As I did with respect to other Bills dealing with the determining system, I give credit to Senator Messner and the previous Government for initiating the review. None of the delay that has occurred with respect to the Veterans Entitlements Bill is the fault of the Government. I assure the Senate, and Senator Giles and Senator Coleman, that the Bill will obviously be presented now in the autumn session. The good will that exists between the Government and the veterans community will be continued in the consultative processes in the meantime.