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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 2035

Mr SINCLAIR (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(9.14) —I refer to permanent employment, which I mentioned in an earlier speech. However, I will not pick up all the points I made in that speech. I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) considers the idea of a specialist aircrew stream, which is nothing to do with Defence Force retirement and death benefits but which seems to me to be a way out of the present flight problems. A number of submissions have been put to the Minister on that.

With respect to Defence Force retirement and death benefits I draw the attention of the Minister to a concern the Regular Defence Welfare Association has, to which one of my colleagues referred during his contribution. A letter from Major-General Whitelaw says:

We welcome the amendments to the DFR&DB Act 1973 included in this Bill. In particular the amendments to the definition of ``widow'' shown at Clause 37 (1) of the Bill. However the opportunity should not be lost to correct an even longer standing wrong suffered by widows of those regular servicemen who married after separation from the Defence Force and before the DFR&DB Act 1973 was enacted. The corrective action would simply involve the repeal of Section 65 (4) of the DFRB Act and its replacement by the definition of widow as included in the DFRDB Act 1973, Section 3 as amended by the Bill thus eliminating a long outstanding anomaly.

The Regular Defence Force Welfare Association has prepared a short paper on this matter which sets down its argument for this modification. Essentially, as I explained in my speech during the second reading debate, many widows of DFRB pensioners are denied pensions their husbands paid for. It should be remembered that whilst they are called pensions they are, in fact, superannuation entitlements. This is an area of the legislation the Government should look at. Because it would add to the expenditure under the Bill we cannot move an amendment. But there is a problem.

I suggest to the Minister, to whom I will send a copy of this letter and the attached paper, that he examine the matter for future consideration. Without any doubt this amendment would help to remove what seems to be an anomaly. I have not examined it in detail and, therefore, I am not able to speak as a lawyer on it. But it seems to me on reading it that, at least in the circumstances of Major-General Whitelaw's submission, there is merit in the argument. I hope that the Minister and the Government consider sympathetically the proposed amendment.