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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 25

(Question No. 1477)

Senator Newman asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 11 November 1986:

(1) Are service personnel who are also non-custodial parents and who choose to live in private accommodation in order to provide a home for their visiting children not entitled as a right to a full removal on reposting.

(2) Does a discretion exist to enable approval of such a removal.

(3) If the answer to (2) above is in the affirmative, how many personnel have received the benefit of such a discretion.

(4) If the answer to (2) above is in the negative, what action will the Minister for Defence take to remedy the situation and when.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) to (4) Generally speaking, Service personnel who are non-custodial parents who choose to live in private accommodation rather than in Defence provided accommodation are classified as members without family and treated no differently from other members without family in the matter of removal entitlements on reposting. The amount of belongings which will be removed at public expense is restricted to what would normally be accommodated in Defence provided accommodation.

The problems of such members are recognised, however, and the ability exists for members who are living in to be assisted to live out in private accommodation during the period of a child's visit such as during school holidays. Alternatively, if a member can demonstrate that there are visiting rights in excess of 50% of the time assistance will be given for the member to live out in private accommodation for the duration of the posting. In the latter situation the member would have a full removal entitlement on reposting if a similar situation is to obtain in the new location-normally this would be dictated by the terms of a divorce settlement.

It is not known how many non-custodial parent members have benefited from the full removal entitlement described above. These removals are authorised at unit level and it would be necessary to have the records of every unit in the Defence Force checked to find this information.

There is sufficient flexibility under current rules to consider the problems of non-custodial parent members with a reasonable degree of compassion-this extends to visiting rights, housing and removals. It would be extremely difficult to justify placing non-custodial parents on the same footing as members with family on a permanent basis for removal purposes. The inference would be that Defence is liable to provide off-base housing for the members in the new locality notwithstanding that visits from a child might be short and infrequent. Additionally, there are many other members without family who choose to live out for private reasons who would wish to claim the same privileges and, to deny them, would be to discriminate against them.