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Notice given 22 July 2003

1644  Senator Bishop: To ask the Minister for Defence—

(1) (a) How many personnel recently deployed to Iraq were in payment of a Department of Veterans’ Affairs disability pension, under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986; and (b) at what level.

(2) What physical and medical examinations were conducted prior to departure of each person deployed to Iraq.

(3) In the event that there is conflict between the medical assessment and the compensation assessment, what action has been or will be taken.

1646  Senator Bishop: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs—

(1) Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to press reports of 19 July 2003 concerning the assertions made by the Friends of the 15th Brigade that a mass grave of as many as 250 Australians killed in action at Fromelles, France, exists on private land at Pheasant Farm.

(2) Can the Minister confirm that almost 2 000 Australians were killed in the battle of Fromelles in July 1916.

(3) On how many occasions has the Friends of the 15th Brigade communicated with the Minister’s office and the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) on this matter in the past 5 years.

(4) What specific attempts and inquiries have been undertaken to verify the assertion that a mass grave of Australians prepared by German troops exists at this location.

(5) What basis does the Director of OAWG have, as reported on 19 July 2003, for saying that ‘there is absolutely no evidence that there are 250 war dead at this site’.

(6) What investigations have been conducted already by the Department of Defence.

(7) What is the current intention of OAWG with respect to the placement of a commemorative plaque at this location, should the belief of the Friends of the 15th Brigade be proven to have substance.

(8) Will the Government as a matter of urgency seek the assistance of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to investigate the claim of the Friends of the 15th Brigade, with a view to its validation, and with a view to erecting a commemorative plaque on the site, with the land owner’s consent.

(9) (a) What is the current procedure relating to the search for those lost in action and whose bodies are never recovered; and (b) does this rest with the Department of Defence, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, or the OAWG.

(10) On the provision of similar information on the possible location of Australian remains abroad, whether it be in Papua New Guinea, Germany, the Middle East or France, what is the procedure for verification, recovery and burial.

(11) What is the current procedure for commemoration of the burial of those located, with respect to repatriation, travel of relatives and payment of costs.

(12) (a) What was the total cost of the recent commemorative burial of the former World War II Lancaster crew in Germany; and (b) who attended from Australia.