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Vale has no understanding of Gulf War Illness.



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MEDIA RELEASE

Graham Edwards MP

Federal Labor Member for Cowan

Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Minister for Defence

18 September 2002

Vale has no understanding of Gulf War Illness

During Question Time today, it became apparent that the Howard Government has little understanding of the issue of Gulf War Illness (GWI).

In responding to a request for an update on the Government’s understanding of GWI and advice on what protection from GWI would be offered to Australian troops sent to Iraq, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs replied by saying she would arrange a briefing for myself.

“I do not need a briefing as I am across the issues,” said Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Graham Edwards.

“What I was seeking in asking the question was an assurance that the Minister and the Government were also across the issue, particularly when we are dangerously close to embarking Australian troops back to the same region from which this illness originated.”

Mr. Edwards said “the Minister’s response indicated that she is not on top of her portfolio issues at a time when men and women of the ADF are being asked to prepare for life-threatening operations. This is despite the fact that the Minister’s own Department had to be pushed into conducting a Gulf War Veterans health study two years ago, a study which is ongoing and a study about which this Minister should have been fully briefed.”

Mr Edwards said the Minister must accept her responsibilities at this trying time and come to understand that this portfolio is not just about cutting ribbons, attending afternoon teas and dedicating memorials. Her responsibilities include the health and well-being of serving and ex-service men and women, and it is time she got on top of those responsibilities.

For comment: Graham Edwards - 0418 952 162