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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1847

Senator COLEMAN —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, refers to the statements regarding the Budget deficit that were made by the former Treasury head, Mr John Stone, and quoted in yesterday's Press. Would the Minister care to tell us what the likely implications would be for his Department and for the veteran community if the prescription put forward by Mr Stone were likely to be implemented?

Senator GIETZELT —There is no doubt that veterans and veterans' organisations, if they realise the full impact of Mr Stone's statement, will appreciate that the Department of Veterans' Affairs would be very much in the firing line as a result of cutbacks in the deficit, which is part of the philosophy espoused by the former head of the Treasury. He stated that the Government should have applied the revenue surge that resulted from the breaking of the drought to reduce the Budget deficit more drastically, rather than to sustaining government programs in the face of the recession. This is the sort of policy on which he advised governments of both political persuasions in recent years, and those policies have been thoroughly discredited. If his recommendations had been applied by this Government, my Department would have had its funds reduced considerably as it is one of the top Budget expenditure departments-it is in the first half dozen-and consequently I would not have been able to get the funds required to improve hospitals, which are in a deplorable condition in comparison with those in the State hospital system. They all require new operating theatres . The wards are of 1942 standard and they require modernising and refurbishing. We would not have been able to carry out our obligations in respect of many of the pension areas if such cuts were introduced. There is no doubt that if veterans fully appreciate the import of the statements they will be very concerned that that sort of person has been advising governments in recent years . It is a clear case of a person who was once a top mandarin now being a pretty sour sort of lemon.