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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3802


Mr STEWART (Lang) - The quick retreat into his burrow by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) brings me into this debate. In the last few minutes I have been refreshing my memory on what happened in this chamber last

Thursday evening, 25th November. At one stagethe honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) was speaking and he addressed a question to the honourable member for La Trobe as follows:

If we moved an amendment which stated: "Australian Soldier" means a serving member of the Forces', I understand that the honourable member for La Trobe would be willing to support us in that regard.

The honourable member for La Trobe replied:

You would be dead right.

The honourable member for Hughes went on and said:

Of course. If the word 'serviceman' were substituted for the word 'soldier' in the amendment, the honourable member would be more effectively accommodated.

The honourable member for La Trobe said:

I would even agree with that.

The honourable member for Hughes continued:

I know that the honourablemember for Moreton will be pleased to know that the Opposition has decided to submit an amendment to that effect. Already we have an indication that the honourable member for La Trobe is prepared to assist us.

The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) interjected and asked:

May I take it that you are fining it down to serving member?

Further on in the debate the honourable member for Moreton, in making his speech, said:

Those people who have served, particularly in South Vietnam, in one of the 3 Services, even though they have not been committed to an operational theatre, should have an entitlement As recorded at page 3720 of Hansard the honourable member for La Trobe, speaking to the amendment, said:

Let it be most clear that as the Act stands at the moment a regular soldier, sailor or airmail serving at this time - and who in my opinion could serve for5 years or10 years or 15 years - is not entitled to a war service homes loan if his commanding officer or the powers that be have not appointed him to a war theatre. I say that he should be so entitled.

The debate was subsequently adjourned. Later that evening, by leave, the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) said - I quote from page 3735 of Hansard:

I merely want to give to the House an assurance that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has advised me that Cabinet will consider the position of regular servicemen who are finding difficulty in obtaining home finance. My, understanding is that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) will be happy to accept this undertaking.

The honourable member for Moreton interjected and said:

I indicate that 1 am happy to accept it, too. Both of them showed clearly that they were already prepared to run away from the statements that I have quoted from Hansard. The honourable member for Moreton was a member of the Ministry as Minister for the Navy and Acting Minister for Air. He said a few moments ago that when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) spoke on a previous occasion on repatriation he was Acting Minister for Air and was in agreement with the proposition that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was espousing at that time. The honourable member for Moreton had, or should have had, more authority then than he has now. He could not get an assurance from the members of the Ministry at that stage that they would look at it and the reason he comes in now - he is a sacked member of the Ministry - is because he is publicity chasing. He has got his publicity out of what happened last Thursday, and on the assurance that the Government will now have a look at it, both the honourable member for Moreton and the honourable member for La Trobe have once again put their tails between their legs and crawled away. The opportunity is here and now. Both honourable members can vote for this amendment and give an opportunity for serving members of the regular forces to be given this war service loan to which they are entitled.

We cannot get volunteers into the Regular Army because we are not giving them the conditions that will bring them in. The Government is splitting straws on things that should be granted. I will agree with a lot of the things that the honourable member for Moreton said and that the discrimination should be removed. The Labor Opposition is trying to remove that discrimination in the amendment that it has moved. If the honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Moreton have any sincerity or decency in them at all and if they believe in what they said on Thursday night the simple assurance that the Cabinet will at some stage consider should not be enough. All they have been promised is consideration, not a guarantee. They have the guarantee from the Opposition in the amendment that we have moved. We want to see the war service homes loan go to the serving members of the forces. I think that in honesty to themselves the honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Moreton should stick by the record and their statements of Thursday evening; otherwise I am afraid that the word of both those gentlemen can no longer be accepted. Any reputation that they have enjoyed, and they have both enjoyed a reasonable one, will be very much sullied.


Mr Killen - Why do you not read my opening words on Thursday night?


Mr STEWART - I do not have to read your opening words on Thursday night. I heard you this afternoon. You are hanging your hat on the fact that if they have to go to Vietnam or a specially declared strategic zone you will give it to them, but the boy who is conscripted into the Army and is not sent away to Vietnam is not entitled to it under the stand that you take. The honourable member for Moreton is perpetuating some of the discrimination that he is complaining about. The fellow who goes to Vietnam, whether he goes for a day or a week and whether he is on the HMAS Sydney' or some other ship should be entitled to it, but the boy who is conscripted and is in the Army and is sent only as far as the electorate of Moreton is not entitled to it. He has the same responsibility if the powers that be decide, to serve in Vietnam or to go anywhere that the Government cares to send him, so in taking the stand that the honourable member for Moreton takes he is perpetuating the discrimination in a different direction, the discrimination that he says should be curtailed at this moment. 1 ask both honourable members for the sake of their reputations to vote for this amendment. The honourable member for Moreton is now getting a reputation as being somewhat of a fighter since he has been sacked from the Ministry. I think that most of his efforts at this moment are designed to get him publicity because be knows that the Labor Party campaign against him in Moreton will cause him trouble. So what he has done on Thursday night and again this afternoon is only to send out a cry to "This Day Tonight' or one of the political commentators so he can be heard on radio or seen on television. I ask that both the honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Moreton stick to the assurance that they gave to the Committee and to the - Opposition on Thursday evening. V







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