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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5993

Dr JENSEN (4:26 PM) —The Defence Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2009 is welcome recognition—although it is very belated—of the changing nature of warfare. In the first half of the century since Federation we were involved in four major conflicts. There was the Anglo-Boer War, also known as the second Boer war, in addition to World War I, World War II and Korea. Those conflicts were essentially conventional in nature. They involved nation state against nation state and there were clearly codified rules of conduct with the warfare. In addition, peace treaties drawn up after the war were very conventional in form.

Subsequent to Korea, we have been involved in Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan and a whole host of other what you could call brush fire wars. They certainly have not been conventional in nature. Indeed, the understanding of the conflict by the combatants is not the same as has been conventionally understood. Therefore, it is very necessary that there be some flexibility built into the system to ensure that—to use the terminology—we win the hearts and minds of the people we are at war with in addition to actually physically winning the military conflict. In these sorts of conflicts it is always the so-called peace that comes afterwards that is highly problematic.

In these situations we have to recognise the fact that things have changed. We are operating in different areas where there are different cultural niceties and sensitivities to observe. This is something we have not conventionally done. We have been very codified in the way that we do things. It is time for some flexibility to be built in. This is precisely what this legislation seeks to address. It allows payments to be made to families of people who have been killed, or otherwise reparations for damages or injury to be made, by an officer at lieutenant colonel rank or above or APS6 or higher. This is extremely welcome, but we believe there needs to be an accountability step included in this legislation. In our view, there needs to be reporting to a parliamentary committee or an oversight committee. Obviously, many of these payments will be sensitive in nature and you would not want those to be made public, but there should be that accountability step where parliament assesses not the legality but the ethics and morality associated with payments.

The other aspect of this bill that has been covered very ably by the parliamentary secretary concerned is defence homeownership. As he correctly stated, there are huge problems with defence personnel having to be shifted from different locations around the country. It is very appropriate that some assistance is provided for this. However, this bill removes the unintended windfall gain of members of the ADF who left the service prior to 1 July 2008 and have subsequently rejoined, effectively stopping the second bite of the cherry. It also ensures that only serving members purchasing a home for the first time have access to a lump sum payment. In summary, I and the opposition support the bill, both the tactical payment scheme and the defence homeownership provisions. However, with the tactical payment scheme it is our view that a further amendment needs to be put in, looking at aspects of parliamentary oversight.