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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6452

Mr GRIFFIN (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs) (5:05 PM) —I acknowledge a former Minister for Veterans’ Affairs in the chamber, and I wish her all the very best. Very briefly, to the member for Blair’s comments, I acknowledge his interest over some years in these issues. It is a complex area and one that involves a good deal of personal tragedy, as you find out when you talk to some of the families and individuals involved.

I cannot speculate on the parliamentary inquiry in terms of its findings. We expect that there will be a result in the near future, and the government will have to consider how it will address any of the recommendations that come out of that inquiry. I await that development. But I want to assure the member that any recommendations that are made will be treated very seriously.

There is certainly no doubt that these issues have been difficult for governments to handle over many years; and, frankly, there are some outstanding issues. The previous government developed a scheme around ex gratia payments, which has been heavily criticised by a number of people and organisations who have had to live with the aftermath of these conditions. It has certainly been a complex and difficult approach and also quite an arbitrary one, as the member for Blair said.

The member for Blair is also correct in saying that, as shadow minister, I committed to a parliamentary inquiry. That inquiry is about to be completed. I also note that it was an inquiry which the then Minister for Veterans’ Affairs refused to commit to. He was asked, just after I was, the same question about an inquiry at a meeting, and he rejected it as an option. My understanding is that the opposition is now supporting the conduct of such an inquiry. It is one of a number of occasions where there has been a change in their position. Subsequent to their being in government when they could do things, they are now in a situation where they cannot do things but they are happy for them to be done.