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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 69

Senator COLEMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I refer to a recent publication entitled Mandate to Govern which is put out by what appears to be an extreme right wing organisation called the Australian Institute of Public Policy. Given that the contents frightened me, I ask the Minister to outline the recommendations of that body in relation to his portfolio and the implications for the welfare of the veteran community as a whole.

Senator GIETZELT —I received today a copy of the publication Mandate to Govern. My interest was excited by a review of it in recent days. Suggestions have been made by persons associated with that publication and the organisation responsible that government should immediately take steps to reduce public sector expenditure, government departments, and so on. This, of course, is the latest in a long line of documents emanating from certain right wing lobby groups, think tanks and business organisations in Australia which are advocating a certain philosophical position about public sector activity. In this publication, Mandate to Govern, they have actually advocated winding back veterans' entitlements and abolishing the Department of Veterans' Affairs in order to help the Government-a future government; certainly not this government-to fund massive tax cuts for the very rich in our community.

I point out to the Senate that similar suggestion have been made by other groups-the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Federation of Construction Contractors some seven or eight months ago, and the Institute of Public Affairs-all of which resulted in my receiving hundreds of letters from veterans and veterans' organisations, expressing grave concern at suggestions that the Department of Veterans' Affairs should be abolished. They have suggested that the pensions section of the Department of Veterans' Affairs should be handed over to the Department of Social Security; that my Department's responsibility for defence matters should go to the Department of Defence, and that matters associated with pharmaceuticals, health treatment and hospitals-I remind the Senate that my Department has the responsibility for nine hospitals, six of them major repatriation hospitals-should be handed over to the Department of Health.

I point out, too, that several Opposition spokesmen, principally Mr Carlton, the shadow Treasurer, and Mr Connolly, the spokesman on Public Service matters, whilst not specifically referring to these matters, have associated themselves with statements calling for a reduction in the number of Commonwealth departments. I am certain that the Department of Veterans' Affairs would be in the front line in those sorts of circumstances. Of course, there is a very active shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs, who makes pronouncements on a number of matters. He is silent on this issue about the future of the Department of Veterans' Affairs.