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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21611

Ms Jackson asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 19 August 2003:

(1) Which organisations does she intend to consult in regard to recommendation 63 of the Clarke Review.

(2) Has she been in contact with any of these organisations to discuss recommendation 63 of the Clarke Review; if so, when and what were the outcomes; if not, when will she arrange to meet with the relevant stakeholders to determine their position on recommendation 63.

(3) Has she set down a timetable for the implementation of the recommendations of the Clarke Review.

(4) Will she amend the relevant legislation so as to allow service personnel who served in the British force in South-East Asia in 1959 access to the Gold Card and give equal recognition to all Commonwealth service personnel.

Mrs Vale (Minister for Veterans' Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The report of the Review of Veterans' Entitlements has been publicly available since February 2003 and, since that time, I and my Department have received a considerable volume of correspondence from ex-service organisations and individuals on the findings and recommendations. Various meetings, conferences and congresses of ex-service organis-ations and the War Widows' Guild have discussed the Report. In addition, the Government is undertaking extensive consultation with ex-service organisations regarding the full range of Clarke Review recommendations, including Recommendation 63. Organisations consulted include those representing broad sections of the veteran community such as the RSL, Legacy, the Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia (VVFA), Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA), Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Servicemen and Women (TPI), the Injured Persons Association National Inc, the Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association (APPA), the Regular Defence Force Welfare Association (RDFWA), the Australian Veterans and Defence Service Council Inc (AVADSC), and the Armed Forces Federation of Australia (ArFFA). Additionally, the Australian Special Air Service Association (ASASA) has also been consulted regarding this Report's recommendations.

(2) Consultation regarding the full range of Clarke Review recommendations is ongoing. A number of meetings have already taken place and discussions with ex-service organisations are continuing.

(3) The Government will not make any decisions regarding the recommendations of the Clarke Review until the views of the ex-service community have been fully canvassed.

(4) A final decision has not been made regarding Recommendation 63 of the Clarke Review. However, acceptance of this recommendation will not provide access to the Gold Card for this group of veterans. It is a firmly established principal that each British, Commonwealth and Allied country accepts and maintains responsibility for providing compensation and associated benefits, including health care, for those disadvantaged following service in that country's armed forces irrespective of where that individual should later choose to live. The Clarke Review accepted this principal. Consequently, the granting of `qualifying service' for this group would provide access to the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Card (Orange Card). Additionally, depending on the veteran's individual circumstances, Recommendation 63 would provide access to either an Invalidity Service Pension or, at age 60, an age based Service Pension.