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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3807


Mr JESS (La Trobe) - I do not wish to canvass the point you raised, Mr Chairman, or to deal too widely with the comments that have been made, but the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) did use the words 'honour', 'reputation', 'character' and a few others which I think reflected on me and on the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). As far as I am concerned I do not, of course, divorce myself from any statements that were read from the Hansard record by the honourable member for Lang. I did make them. T made them on Thursday night under conditions in which there was no assurance from the Government and no possibility that 1 could see of getting one, that it was prepared to look at the question of housing loans {or regular servicemen. But 1 do take objection to honourable members on the other side of the House - honourable members who have never stood up or spoken against anything which has been put forward by their caucus, who have never during my period in this House crossed the floor, who have never at any stage taken any independent action on behalf of ex-servicemen - claiming credit and abusing honourable members on this side of the House who perhaps may have occasionally put their positions in jeopardy. If there is one thing that is likely to send members from the Parliament in disgust, it is the parrot cries from members of the Opposition asking other people to do exactly what' they themselves would not do. May 1 make it clear again for the last time that on Thursday night the amendments which the Opposition proposed widen the provisions relating to war service homes loans to such an extent that the situation would become farcical. The honourable member for Wills referred to 300,000 ex-servicemen. If this number of exservicemen were divided into the $60m which has been allocated to this Department in the Budget they would each receive $200. However, that great brain - that brilliant leader of the Australian Labor

Party in the housing field - seemingly did not take this into account. As I have said, I want a permanent defence service, unlike members of the Opposition who feel that money should be expended on something else. I want to maintain the numbers in the defence forces, not cut them down or cut them out. The amendments would widen the field of those eligible for benefits under the war service homes legislation. The number to be divided into the allocation of $60m would be increased and this would result in delays for those already waiting for loans.

I should like to state this quite clearly. Members opposite can play politics and say that the Government's word is not worth while. All I am saying is that the honourable member for Moreton and I have received an assurance. This satisfies me for the time being. I have a responsibility to ensure that this matter is discussed further and to see that it is clearly analysed. I am confident that the Government will make provision, not under the War Service Homes Division but, as I said it should be, under a regular services homes division to enable members of the Services to be given cheap home finance. Those members opposite who want to get up like a pack of parrots and accuse people of lack, of courage and principle should adjust themselves in front of a mirror each morning to see that they do not shudder. If any honourable member opposite can show me where at any time he has ever stood out against any decision of his Party, he will then have a right to throw scorn at other people.

I accept the assurance which has been given. I am confident that something will be done for the regular servicemen. As Chairman of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Committee, I am conscious that there is a requirement to do something for them and it should be done. However, now that the Government has offered to give consideration to setting up a scheme - not under the war service homes legislation but a separate scheme for the regular Services - 1 am prepared to accept it and no crocodile tears from the honourable members for Reid (Mr Uren), Lang and Wills, those men of violent, great and distinguished courage in this chamber, are likely to get me to change my mind.

Let it be said and understood that if the amendments which have been put forward are analysed, it will be seen that the number of ex-servicemen to be divided into the $60m which has been allocated to the War Service Homes Division will increase. This amount has been set in the Budget; it cannot be increased. Therefore, if we extend the conditions of eligibility for these benefits, people will be eligible to receive a share of the $60m. This will mean less money per person and, as I said, a greater waiting period for those who are now waiting for war service loans. Let me conclude by suggesting that when it comes to accusations as to other people's valour, those who are making the accusations should adjust their sights and perhaps adjust their standards.







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