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Thursday, 9 December 1965

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans' Residences Act 1953. The original Act was enacted in accordance with an old fashioned custom, which was observed after World War I, and World War II in the United Kingdom and in Australia, that moneys which accumulated as a result of the capture of enemy vessels should go to the personnel who took part in captures. After World War II it was decided that the administration of this scheme would become rather difficult. An accumulation of funds had resulted from the capture of enemy naval craft during that war and it was decided that rather than distribute the money to individual personnel it would be infinitely better to create a trust fund for the benefit of the personnel concerned. This action was taken in Australia by the creation of the Royal Australian Air Force Veteran's Residences Trust. Nevertheless, I understand that some distribution was made to naval personnel.

The distribution among such a wide number of people resulted in each individual receiving an infinitesimal amount, so it was decided in relation to the Royal Australian Air Force share of prize money to set up the Trust to distribute the moneys among former members of the Air Force who were in distress. However, as the number of such cases was exceedingly small it was decided to amend the Act and empower the trustees to distribute the moneys to eligible personnel for the purchase of homes. The moneys are to be distributed among those who need assistance which otherwise they would be unable to obtain. This is a desirable move. Homes purchased from funds accumulated will be provided for eligible persons who are defined in the Bill to include -

(a)   a former male member of the Royal

Australian Air Force;

(b)   the widow of a deceased former male member of the Royal Australian Air Force;

(c)   the mother of a deceased former unmarried male member of the Royal Australian Air Force, if the mother-

(i)   is a widow and was dependent on the former member at the time of his appointment to, or enlistment in, the Royal Australian Air Force; or

(ii)   is a married woman whose husband is so incapacitated as to be unable to contribute materially to her support;

The term " eligible person " will also include a former female member of the Royal Australian Air Force in certain circumstances. I think that is desirable. The Opposition applauds the change. Perhaps one of the most desirable features of this measure is that the Trust is required, as soon as practicable after each thirtieth day of June after the commencement of the Act, to furnish to the Minister a report on the administration of the Fund during the year ended on that date. There is a further requirement that the Minister shall lay the report before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after its receipt by the Minister. That provision is particularly desirable because trusts of all types have been established in circumstances similar to these. Often well meaning trustees are appointed, but they are not required to place reports before the public.

Very often the general public and potentially eligible personnel are not aware that they may apply for benefits under various Acts. I fear that it frequently happened that people who could have been assisted died and missed receiving something to which they were entitled. With the presentation of a report to the Parliament, members of the Parliament will become aware more readily of the availability of assistance funds. When called upon by their constituents, or when instances of distress are brought before them, they will have more knowledge than they have at the moment of what can be done to assist the needy case. I hope that the Parliament will see fit in the future to amend acts relating to other funds in a like manner. The Opposition readily supports the measure. We hope that it will provide considerable assistance to persons who will become eligible for a benefit which was not previously made available.

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