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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2216

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and it relates to the facilities that successive governments have normally afforded to Opposition spokespersons on veterans' affairs. The Minister will be aware that, through recent upheavals in the Opposition ranks, the new spokesperson appointed is Senator Austin Lewis. Does the Minister intend that the former spokesperson, Mr Fischer, have any special privileges?

Senator GIETZELT —Quite a number of Ministers have new shadow Ministers. Within the last two decades a practice has grown up of recognising the right of the official Opposition to have shadow Ministers, and also to have additional resources in the form of travel rights and extra staff. Naturally, I am pleased to have Senator Austin Lewis as my shadow Minister rather than have the shadow Minister in the other place, as happened previously when Senator Lewis had to receive his riding instructions from Mr Fischer. So there is a new situation, to which I have agreed this morning as a result of representations by one of Senator Lewis's staff members. Senator Lewis will be afforded full access to the Department of Veterans' Affairs and all of the other functions for which I have portfolio responsibility. That is how it should operate. However, having said that, one cannot afford to grant the same sorts of opportunities to all the other ad hoc groups that from time to time may request access to the same sorts of resources; there are some restrictions placed upon that.

I must say that Mr Fischer has my complete sympathy for what has happened to him in recent times. He is responding to what I believe to be the insensitivity of Ian Sinclair, his Leader, in giving him such portfolio responsibilities as veterans' affairs, Aboriginal affairs and immigration. It is quite schizophrenic of the National Party of Australia to encompass such a divergence of responsibilities in view. In fact they are almost incompatible and I imagine that he will have some difficulties working with people such as Bruce Ruxton of the Victorian Returned Services League.