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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2216

Senator LEWIS —I direct my question to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. It concerns his announcement, which I welcome, that he is appointing a consultant to assist in the preparation of a Cabinet submission in response to the recommendations of the report of the Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam, as well as criticisms by the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia and others of that report. What particular expertise on the Vietnam war or chemical agents does the former senior adviser to the Prime Minister, Mr Bob Hogg, have that suits him to undertake this task? What is the cost of this consultancy? Finally, was the consultancy advertised?

Senator GIETZELT —The Senate will be aware that there has been continuing public concern about the use of herbicides and pesticides in the Vietnam war. This culminated in the Government's decision, at the request of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia and other veterans' organisations, to have a royal commission inquire into the use of chemical agents in Vietnam. The report of the inquiry was subsequently presented to Parliament in 1985. Arising out of that report, the Vietnam Veterans Association has made further submissions to the Government which require consideration. In adopting the report the Government asked the Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans' Affairs to respond to the recommendations made by Mr Justice Evatt.

On a recommendation by me, the Government agreed to my appointing a consultant to oversee a submission to Cabinet based upon the recommendations from my Department and the Department of Defence-in other words, to co-ordinate a general response. In those circumstances it was important to select an individual who was acceptable to the Vietnam Veterans Association and in whom it had some confidence. Several names were suggested. The Public Service Board and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet were consulted. Finally, it was agreed in Cabinet about a week ago that Mr Hogg would be appointed, largely because of his acceptability to the Vietnam Veterans Association and, secondly, because of his experience in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and in working with the Government since 1983. My recollection-I am almost 100 per cent certain-is that the consultancy fee is $35,000. He is to report to me within 12 months or as soon as practicable in order that there will be a co-ordinated approach by the Government as to how best to respond to the recommendations of the Royal Commission.