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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6444

Mr BALDWIN (4:31 PM) —There are three points that I wish to raise with the parliamentary secretary right now. The first and foremost relates to defence superannuation. On 21 December 2007 the then Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, released the report of the Review into Military Superannuation Arrangements. The tabling of that document left open a period through till March for comments, and that period has closed. It is over 18 months since the tabling of that document, and we have not heard a word from this government about the superannuation being lifted. That is despite colleagues on your side, when in opposition, making many claims that things should be done. So I would like you to answer the question: when will the government provide a response to the Review into Military Superannuation Arrangements report?

Secondly, prior to the 2007 election your government, then in opposition, made a commitment to develop 12 defence family healthcare clinics. These 12 clinics were to provide doctors, nurses, dentists and dental assistants for the provision of free health care to the family members of serving defence persons. That was abandoned as a promise, and your government went to the proposal just to provide a gap payment fee for the GP if there was an out-of-pocket expense and a $300 voucher for dental care for dependent family members. The question that I have for you, given that you have restructured this program—and I know you are familiar with Singleton and Williamtown—is this: why, if you live in housing in Maitland, as many of the people from Williamtown and Singleton do, and you are posted to Singleton, do you get the GP gap benefit and the $300 voucher, but if you live in housing in Maitland and you are posted to Williamtown, you do not? Why, when people are living next door to each other—and there is an actual case of this, because the people came to see me—does one get the payment and the other not, when it is to support regional areas where it is hard to get access to these facilities? That is where you have anomalies in the system. Given that you are providing, in essence, only a $300 voucher and, where the doctors do not bulk-bill, a gap payment top-up, why aren’t you providing that to all ADF members instead of just to a select few? They are the questions that are being asked of me by people in the Defence Force.

Another issue I would like to raise with you—and I know you have seen active service; that is one of the things I respect about you—is that, in my visits to the SAS and, recently, to the Special Forces at Holsworthy, much was made of a program called the rapid acquisition program. Two issues in particular were raised. The first was the short 10-inch barrels for close-quarters urban warfare engagement. The second was a new variant of the night vision goggles that can be operated with one hand. The current night vision goggles have the battery pack mounted in the front and they require two hands to lift them up so that personnel can see what is going on in a lit situation. That means they do not have one hand on their weapon at all times—you would be aware of that. Yet they have had a request in to replace these goggles, which I understand are some 15 years old, with a new version which can be adjusted with one hand and which has the weight balanced in the helmet such that the batteries are at the back and the goggles are at the front.

Given that these were asked for after rotation 3 in 2007, how long does a rapid acquisition program actually take to bring about procurement, particularly when these are our people on the front line in a combat situation putting their lives on the line in the pursuit of freedoms and democracies? Why is this government not providing much-needed equipment which in dollar terms is relatively inexpensive and yet is designated as part of a rapid acquisition program? I would like you to answer those three specific questions.