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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 17491

Mr RIPOLL (2:38 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Can the minister confirm that there are two rates of allowance for Australian troops currently deployed in Iraq—one of $200 per day and the other of $125 per day according to troop activity? Can the minister confirm that the $75 combat allowance was withdrawn as at 9 June 2003 due to a change in the government's assessment of the level of threat? Given that 28 troops have been killed in Iraq since hostilities ceased and a further six British troops were killed just last night, how can the minister justify the removal of the $75 combat allowance when Australian troops remain in such danger?

Mrs VALE (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —I thank the honourable member for Oxley for his question. I can inform him and the House that personnel deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Falconer are being paid a tax-free salary and a tax-free allowance of $125 a day, in addition to other benefits. It is important to understand that the $125 a day recognises not only that ADF personnel in that region are considered to be serving in war-like conditions but also that the major combat phase of the operation in Iraq is over.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Blaxland!

Mrs VALE —The ADF personnel in Iraq during the war received a $200 a day allowance, and this was consistent with the government's commitment before the war that more generous conditions of service would apply to those personnel who were directly involved in combat operations. On the advice of the Chief of Defence Force, and following the end of the major combat phase of the conflict, the allowance for all personnel in the Middle East reverted to $125 a day. This was from 9 June 2003. However, following a recent review of the security situation in Iraq, the rate of this allowance has been increased to $150 for those personnel serving within Iraq. This change will take effect from 9 June 2003 and will soon be communicated to our troops. I think this is a great opportunity to again salute our troops for the fantastic job that they are doing in Iraq.

Mr Ripoll —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table the Australian Defence Headquarters' communication confirming the withdrawal of the $75 combat allowance.

Leave not granted.

Mr Ripoll —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table the 11 June media statement from Minister Danna Vale denying that this actually took place.

Leave not granted.