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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1138

Senator SCOTT (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(5.39) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I notice that the 1983-84 annual report of the Repatriation Commission describes the year as a year of review, and indeed so it has been. The review stems basically from the reports of committees and councils which had been sought by the previous Government and which fortunately, I believe, have been followed and in large measure to this point, implemented by the current Government.

Those changes cover a very important field. Probably the most important section refers to the new system of pension determination which evolved through the Bill which passed through this Parliament towards the end of last session. It is quite a radical change, designed to meet circumstances which were becoming totally unacceptable-delays in this area were so great and so many that the position was rapidly deteriorating. The alteration, which seeks to establish 75 initial determining individuals, should in the course of time-beginning hopefully early next year-significantly alleviate the problems of delay in the area of the Repatriation Commission involvement. Those delays were caused by a number of factors, such as the impact of certain judicial interpretations. To a degree they were caused by staffing problems and perhaps the need for more sophisticated technological equipment. Of course the clear and obvious reason was the continuing increase in the number of people in Australia who were approaching and passing the age of 60 and therefore becoming involved in the pension area.

The report also mentions the preparation of the Entitlements Bill, which will be a large piece of legislation. It seeks to rationalise the Repatriation Act, 1920. It has an enormous task and the Opposition will observe the progress in that field, which I hope will be rapid because it covers an immense number of important areas. The Entitlements Bill will make reference to the onus of proof and a whole range of matters that are of particular concern to the ex-servicemen and women of this country. I am sure that that Bill needs to be hastened on its way and needs to be observed very carefully by both the Government and the Opposition alike and indeed by the whole cross section of the ex-service community.

I close by saying that the repatriation hospitals are regrettably, in many senses, almost overloaded but their need for development continues. It is an interesting observation that the alleged alternative of Medicare has not seen great numbers of people moving towards care under the Medicare system in the public hospitals. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.