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Monday, 3 March 1997
Page: 1707

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:

The petition of certain citizens of Australia, draws to the attention of the House the fact that members of the Royal Australian Navy who served in Malaya between 1955 and 1960 are the only Australians to be deliberately excluded from eligibility for repatriation benefits in the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (the Act) for honourable `active service'. Australian Archives records show that the only reason for the exclusion was to save money. Members of the Australian Army and Air Force serving in Malaya were not excluded, and the costs associated with the land forces was one of the main reasons for the exclusion of the Navy. An injustice was done which later events have compounded.

There are two forms of benefits for ex-servicemen, Disability Pensions for war caused disabilities (denied the sailors referred to but introduced in 1972 for `Defence Service' within Australia) and Service Pensions. Allied veterans of 55 nations involved in conflicts with Australian forces until the end of the Vietnam War can have qualifying eligibility for Service Pensions under the Act. Service by 5 countries in Vietnam was recognised after RAN service in Malaya was excluded. The Department of Veterans' Affairs confirms that 686 ex-members of the South Vietnamese Armed Forces are in receipt of Australian Service Pensions; 571 on married rate and 115 on single rate. In effect, 1,257 Service Pensions, denied to ex-members of the RAN, are being paid for serving alongside Australians in Vietnam.

It is claimed that:

(a) Naval personnel were engaged on operational duties that applied to all other Australian service personnel serving overseas on `active service'. They bombarded enemy positions in Malaya and secretly intercepted enemy communications;

(b) Naval personnel were subject to similar dangers as all other Australian service personnel serving in Malaya and there were RAN casualties, none of which appear on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial;

(c) the Royal Australian Navy was `allotted' for operational service from 1st July 1955 and this is documented in Navy Office Minute No. 011448 of 11 November 1955, signed by the Secretary to the Department of the Navy. The RAN was then apparently `unallotted' secretly to enable the excluding legislation to be introduced;

(d) the Department of Veterans' Affairs has said it can find no written reason(s) for the RAN exclusion in the Act. In two independent Federal Court cases (Davis WA G130 of 1989 and Doessel Qld G62 of 1990) the courts found the two ex- members of the RAN had been `allotted'. Davis had served in Malaya in 1956 and 57. As a result of these cases ex-members of the RAN who served in Malaya and who had, at that time, claims before the Department of Veterans' Affairs for benefits, had their claims accepted. Eight weeks after the Doessel decision the Act was amended to require allotment to have been by written instrument. In parliament, it was claimed the amendment was necessary to restore the intended purpose of the exclusion, reasons for which can not, allegedly, be found.

(e) Naval personnel were not, as claimed, bound by the `Special Overseas Service' requirements, introduced in the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act 1962. This Act became law some two years after the war in Malaya ended;

(f) as Australian citizens serving with the Royal Australian Navy they complied with three of the four requirements for `active service'. The fourth, for `military occupation of a foreign country' did not apply to Malaya.

Your petitioners therefore request the House to remove the discriminatory exclusion in the Act thereby restoring justice and recognition of honourable `active service' with the Royal Australian Navy in direct support of British and Malayan forces during the Malayan Emergency between 1955 and 1960.

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