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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6445

Dr KELLY (Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support and Parliamentary Secretary for Water) (4:36 PM) —It is great that we have now progressed to questions, but I do think it is incredibly hypocritical to ask a question about military superannuation when it was the previous government that concealed the report on military superannuation and would not release it to the public. It took the Rudd government to take that step of being transparent and open about it and release that report. With superannuation, we are confronted with the fact that it does not occur in isolation. There are a whole raft of issues associated with this, including our general revenue situation, which I know that members on this side of the House and the general public are aware of. Apparently members on the other side of the House are completely unaware of the fact that there is a global financial crisis. There is the general revenue situation to consider, but there are also issues to do with the overall reviews that are underway in the general superannuation and taxation portfolio as to how we can better support our personnel in this respect. That work is proceeding. There will be steps taken and those steps will be announced in due course.

In relation to the healthcare initiative, I am very proud of what this government has done. It has been a top priority for us to deal with the issues of supporting defence families. We understand that you recruit soldier, sailor and airman but you retain the family. I was delighted to bring ideas to the table when I joined the Rudd team in this respect, and one of those ideas was to do something about better health support for defence families, particularly in regional and remote areas. It is not an easy thing to deliver on, however. There is the issue of balancing the costs required and dealing with health workforce issues in those areas and making sure that we can do it sustainably. The overall objective, of course, was to deliver free health care to defence family members. We have allocated $44.5 million in the budget for that purpose. But we need to come to the right solution—one that actually delivers an effective result for defence families. Therefore, it is essential that we run through a trial process in order to achieve that. That is what is underway at present. Certain locations, which include places like Karratha, East Sale et cetera have been identified for phase 1. In phase 2 we will broaden that to locations such as Townsville, Puckapunyal and Darwin. That will bring the numbers of the defence persons that we are talking about here up to over 13,000. This is a fantastic initiative. It needs to be worked through properly. Those trials are underway. Certainly nothing was ever done in this respect in the 12 years of the opposition’s time in government. I do not know what alternative policies they ever considered or intended to propose, but we are delivering.

The last question the member raised relates to rapid acquisition. Certainly we have in place, as the previous government did, a rapid acquisition process. There is extra funding for operational commitments, which is done on a no win, no loss basis, so there is always flexibility to support operational demands. I am well aware of how that process works. It continues to work. It continues to be dependent upon advice provided by the chain of command. Where there are requirements for our field personnel, we will not stint in support of those personnel. We have inherited a situation, of course, where there are some blind spots—and I will not go into those in this forum—that we are attempting to redress at present. But we rely on the chain of command to provide advice in relation to those operational requirements and we will support those requests and demands.