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Wednesday, 10 December 1986
Page: 3701

Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to numerous representations to the members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the subject of defence housing during the Committee's northern inspections last year under the leadership of Senator Sibraa. I ask the Minister: What initiatives has the Hawke Government now taken to improve the well-being of Australian Defence Force personnel and their families?

Senator GARETH EVANS —This Government has taken a number of very significant decisions to improve the conditions and well-being of Australian Defence Force personnel and their families, not merely confined to the housing area. This is in stark contrast to those opposite, the most noisy being Senator MacGibbon and Senator Newman, who, despite the rhetoric of nearly 30 years of their Party being on the Treasury bench, ignored the needs of Australian Defence Force personnel. Let us look at the record. First, so far as pay is concerned, unlike those opposite and despite the amount of misinformation that is spread by the Leader of the National Party, Mr Sinclair, on these occasions-he was in fact responsible for the pay freeze for the Australian defence forces-not to mention commentators such as Mr Peter Young of the Australian, this Government has passed on all indexation rises and it established an independent Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal last year which gave a 5.9 per cent pay increase. The DFRT is currently examining a claim by the Chief of the Defence Forces for an increase in service allowance and other allowances.

Senator Newman —You kept them frozen for three years.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Secondly, let us look at spending generally on ADF personnel. Spending on ADF personnel has increased from $2.3 billion in 1981-82 to $3.8 billion in this financial year, an increase of some 33 per cent.

Senator Walsh —I thought Ollie was the grub in Senator Newman's family.

Senator GARETH EVANS —There is plenty of evidence to the contrary. This Government is spending $66m this financial year on new housing for the ADF. A total of 467 new housing commencements is planned. In the next 10 years this Government plans to spend $750m on new housing for the defence forces. In addition, we have announced the establishment of a defence housing authority to manage this massive Government initiative more efficiently to get maximum benefit from the expenditure. These measures are a vast improvement over our predecessors, who were responsible for, among other things, the Garland freeze which put back the program of improving defence housing by 10 years.

Let us look at the situation so far as service families are concerned. Those opposite were singularly derelict in completely ignoring the importance of ensuring the welfare of defence families. We have given very high priority, by contrast, firstly to identifying the major problems being experienced by defence families, and secondly to doing something about rectifying them.

Senator MacGibbon —Like what?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am glad to see that Senator MacGibbon has come in to listen to some facts for a change rather than indulging himself in his own rhetoric.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Evans, I ask you to ignore the interjections.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Honourable senators will recall that the Minister for Defence, Mr Beazley, appointed Sue Hamilton from the Office of the Status of Women to prepare a report in this area. I am pleased to inform the Senate that very substantial progress is being made in implementing the recommendations of the Hamilton report. For example, financial provisions: $1.3m has been made available this financial year and $2m is earmarked for subsequent years to enable implementation of the Hamilton recommendations. The National Consultative Group of Service Spouses, comprising defence spouses from major defence establishments throughout Australia, has been formed and met in Canberra in mid-October and last week to develop and provide a forum for representing defence family matters to the Chief of the Defence Force. That group will meet regularly. Ms Hamilton recommended the provision of community development services for defence families. This will be provided by professionally trained community development officers, who will be appointed early in 1987. Suitably qualified service spouses will be eligible for appointment and this will be actively encouraged.

Finally, in the light of the Hamilton report, work is proceeding on improvements to, among other things, reunion travel, child care during removals, and removal for separated spouses. So putting all that together and looking at the area of pay, of personnel spending on the ADF generally, of housing, and the treatment in a variety of ways, of defence force families, the record of the Hawke Labor Government and the present Minister, Mr Beazley, is absolutely second to none and represents a quite gigantic leap forward from the dark ages and years of neglect by people such as Senator MacGibbon and Senator Newman, who are good for nothing but talk.