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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2213


Senator DEVLIN —Has the Minister for Finance seen criticism of the supporting documentation issued by the Acting Minister for Veterans' Affairs following the Government's May statement of savings? Can he comment on the doubt cast on the Government's actions in respect of the O'Brien decision?


Senator WALSH —I have noted criticism of the decision arising from the O'Brien and Nancy Law cases, particularly from the Australian Democrats who, some cynical people might say, have decided that this offers an opportunity to add one per cent to that coalition of single issue groups which they hope to stitch together to enable some of them to survive at the next election. I would not be so cynical as to say that, but I think we ought to look at the longer term implications of those two High Court of Australia decisions. Together within five or six years they would have increased expenditure above previous estimates by some $400m. The Government has not entirely overturned those two decisions, but to the extent that we have announced our intention to change the legislation there will be savings of $8m in 1985-86, $33m in the next year, $78 in the next year and, according to a Press release put out by the Acting Minister for Veterans' Affairs, some $650m in the peak year-I think some 12 to 15 years down the track.

I am not sure whether the Democrats have understood precisely what the Government intends to do. In particular, I am not sure whether the Democrats have understood that under the proposed changes there will be no reduction in the entitlements of Vietnam veterans, at least for 40 years after they ceased to serve in Vietnam. There will be no change at all in their entitlements. The Democrats might well have a guilty conscience over those Vietnam veterans; Senator Chipp in particular has good grounds for having a guilty conscience over the Vietnam veterans because in 1965 he presided over the first of the death lotteries-as they used to be called in those days-when the first potential conscripts were balloted into the Army and subsequently sent to Vietnam, where some-


The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister is debating the issue. I suggest he get back to the question.


Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. I table the then Prime Minister's answer to a question on notice of 10 March 1965 about that. I assure the Democrats that notwithstanding the well-founded guilty conscience that at least some of their members have, the entitlements of Vietnam veterans will be protected. Of course, we can do nothing for the 600 or so who were either killed in Vietnam or subsequently died because the Government of which Senator Chipp was a member sent them to Vietnam; but those who have survived will be protected.


Senator Chipp —Mr President, I ask that the paper from which the Minister was quoting be tabled.


The PRESIDENT —Will the Minister table the paper?


Senator WALSH —Yes, Mr President.


Senator Chipp —And he had better be ready to debate it after Question Time.