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Minister long on rhetoric, short on action.



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Graham Edwards MP Federal Member for Cowan Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Minister for Defence Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Minister for Veteran’s Affairs

MEDIA RELEASE

Minister long on rhetoric, short on action

Graham Edwards has slammed Veterans’ Affairs Minister Danna Vale for attempting to politicise the issue of defence medals.

Earlier today the Minister called on the Labor Party to support the Government’s proposal to increase penalties for defence medal fraud, including people who deface medals or wear medals to which they are not entitled.

Mr Edwards said Labor had no problem with the bill in principle but had problems with cheap rhetoric and political point scoring on what should be a non-political issue.

Since the bill was introduced yesterday Labor has taken affirmative action by writing to several ex-service organisations including the Vietnam Veterans Association, the Vietnam Veterans Federation, the Coalition of Australian Veterans, the Gulf War Veterans Association, the SAS Association and the TPI Association to gauge their views on the provisions in the bill.

“ Whilst I appreciate the view of the RSL they are not the only ex-service organisation with an interest in this matter,” Mr Edwards said.

“We note the Minister previously promised this legislation would be in before Anzac Day 2003. The legislation won’t be in by then. Indeed it is unlikely it will be debated before June.

“We understand the Government is embarrassed at the number of veterans who are threatening to burn their medals or return them to the Prime Minister over the war in Iraq. It is worth noting that Prime Minister Howard has called on protestors to address their protests to him, yet he refused to see two Gulf War veterans who wanted to hand their medals back to him.

“Perhaps the Minister should concentrate her efforts on the provision of medals for those National Servicemen who are endeavouring to receive them before Anzac Day. Hundreds of National Servicemen have applied for these medals but find their applications are not being processed because of a lack of resources in this area.

“It is obvious the Government is big in rhetoric but short on supply.”

Media Contact: Graham Edwards 0418 952 162 27 March 2003