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Thursday, 9 December 1965

Mr FALKINDER (Franklin) .- I support the Bill. It so happens that tha honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and I spoke on this legislation in 1953 when it was first introduced. After a very long period it is now to be amended. As the honorable member said, the Act has been in existence since 1953. At that time the amount in the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans' Residences Trust Fund was £229,000, which had been transferred from the prize money Trust Fund. This amount was the share of prize money which was to be disbursed to ex-Royal Australian Air Force personnel or personnel of the 1939-45 war who were still serving. As the honorable member for Lalor has said, the money was derived from enemy or alien ships which had been captured as result of action by the Navy or, as specified in this case, by the Air Force. It is interesting to note that about this time Great Britain said that the system of prize money which had existed would no longer apply. I, among very many others who would have been eligible for the very small amount which would have been involved and which would have been disbursed from this prize money, am very glad that the Fund was established. But I, in common with those who would have been eligible, know also that the Fund has been left dormant whereas it should not have been left more or less unused for as long as it has been.

The amount to be distributed to each individual would have been approximately £1 10s. For that reason it was decided that the money should go into the Fund to provide for ex-R.A.A.F. personnel in necessitous circumstances. In common with everybody else - I am sure that this is so - I believe that the feeling of those eligible for the small amount was that the money would be used for a very desirable purpose. In the period from 1953 until now the amount in the Fund has risen from £229,000 to £376,693. 1 feel that the long delay in using this Fund means that opportunities to fulfil the functions of the Trust have been lost. I am bound to say that I think the activity of the Fund has been reprehensible. There was an obligation on the Fund to see that the prize money, which was foregone without any complaint by ex-R.A.A.F. members, was used. I know that many surveys have been made to ascertain whether or not the Trust has been able to function within the terms laid down by the Act.

Having discussed the matter with the Air Force Association and other interested bodies, I speak with some solid knowledge of the matter and I am bound to say that those bodies feel that the Fund has been bogged down for far too long. I am bound to say also that each and every one of us who has an interest in the matter can take some share of the blame for that. But I am pleased that at long last, we can look forward to some activity and I sincerely hope that even though new classifications are being included, there will not be the same kind of tardiness as there has been in applying this Fund to the purpose for which it was established.

The new classifications include widows of deceased members, mothers of deceased unmarried members, and former female members who are eligible for war service homes. There is a new requirement with which I thoroughly agree. It is a most desirable one indeed, and I agree with what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) had to say about it. It is that the Trust shall be required to report to Parliament annually. That is a very healthy provision. Not only will it help the Trust in its operations, but also it will enable members of Parliament who are interested in the Fund to know precisely what is going on from year to year. But, even with these new eligibilities, I am still not satisfied that the Fund will be able to operate as it ought to. As I have said, it has already been dormant for far too long despite efforts which I know have been made to make it operate. Here again I say that the efforts made were far too tardy.

I am going to suggest one or two other extensions for consideration and what I am about to suggest accords with the view held by the Air Force Association which, after all, is a very responsible body. They are also similar to the proposals that have been submitted by the Association to the various Ministers for Air over the period in which efforts have been made to get this Fund actually into operation. The first suggestion I make is that if the money is not to become available for the function for which it was originally intended, then the Fund might devote its attention to providing scholarships or bursaries for children of ex-R.A.A.F. parents selected by the Trust after recommendation by appropriate bodies such as the

Air Force Association. If it is found, as was ostensibly found originally, that these moneys cannot be applied to the original purpose for which they were intended because of lack of apparent eligible persons, then surely the thing to do is to turn attention to where eligibility can be established. The suggestions I am now making are offered with this end in view.

The second suggestion I make is that in specific cases - they would have to be indeed specified cases - the Fund might think of providing some flying scholarships. Another rather important facet which the Fund might look at is the making of grants in certain specific cases to places of accommodation provided by ex-servicemen's organisations for ex-R.A.A.F. personnel who are in indigent circumstances. Here, I think, is a practical suggestion as to how the Trust might be able to use some of the money. There are certain homes, hostels and other ex-servicemen's institutions of which exR.A.A.F. personnel who themselves might have been directly eligible for a share of the prize money may be inhabitants. It may be well worth while the Fund looking at the question of making the conditions or day to day life of these people more comfortable by making small grants to the organisations to which I have referred. Again, the Fund might consider giving loans to the Air Force Association for building homes for exR.A.A.F. personnel in special circumstances.

Those are some further categories which I suggest the Fund might investigate if, despite the widening of eligibility provided by this legislation, the trustees still find that they are unable to fulfil their functions. After all, looking at the period from 1953- 65, we find that very little if anything has been achieved by the Fund. This legislation proposes very desirable extensions of eligibility but I earnestly hope that if the Fund finds within a measurably short time that the liberalisations to be granted under this Bill are insufficient, it will look further afield to ensure that this money which was provided for a specific purpose is used for that purpose.

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