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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3815


Mr UREN (Reid) - To set out the history of the problems with which the honourable members for Moreton (Mr Killen) and La Trobe (Mr Jess) find themselves faced let me retrace the discussion that has taken place in this Committee. Firstly, on behalf of my Party, I moved an amendment in conformity with the policy of my Party. The same amendment had been moved in November 1968 by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who was then the Labor spokesman for housing. Last Thursday night I moved the following amendment:

Before paragraph (a) insert the following paragraph: "(aa) by omitting from sub-section (I.) the definition of 'Australian Soldier' and inserting in its stead the following definition:

Australian Soldier' means a serving member of the Forces or a former member who has been honourably discharged;' "

During my comments I spoke of men from HMAS 'Sydney' who had served in Vietnam and who had been excluded from a war service homes entitlement because hey had not remained long enough in a war area. In other comments I set out the Labor Party's broad policy for improving the conditions of regular servicemen. As a result both the honourable member for Moreton and the honourable member for La Trobe showed some interest in the proposition put forward by the Labor Party. It was only when the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) was talking that the honourable member for La Trobe intimated that, if we amended our amendment in a certain way. he would give support to the Labor Party. I indicated from the table that I would do ?o. thereby allowing the honourable member for La Trobe to support us.

At this stage - I say this in fairness to the honourable member for Moreton - there may have been some confusion. However, a new amendment was drafted by officers of this House. Because I had spoken twice in the Committee I was unable to move a new amendment and I sought leave to withdraw my original amendment. The new amendment was then moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). The proposition which he put forward covered the proposal that the honourable member for La Trobe had agreed to support. At that stage the proposal also had the support of the honourable member for Moreton because it covered servicemen in Vietnam. Indeed. I have no doubt that the amendment also covered the proposition put forward by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) who has many permanent servicemen stationed in Townsville. Many airmen, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Moreton, who have flown to Vietnam are excluded from war service homes entitlements.

The Australian Labor Party would like to broaden the scope of eligibility under the war service homes scheme to a greater degree. I took it upon myself to alter the amendment. In other words, the Labor Party was prepared to make progress in that it seemed likely that 2 supporters of the Government - the honourable members for Moreton and La Trobe - would support our proposition. Therefore we did not go for the maximum; we were content to take a few steps so that serving members of the forces would have war service homes entitlements. I know that the honourable member for Moreton protests and says: 'Maybe the Government can make a further examination of the matter'. I want the Committee to understand that this amendment was moved by the Labor Party 3 years ago. The Government has done nothing yet about this matter. The honourable member for Moreton pointed out that he protested about the position when he was Minister for the Navy aud that he could not move his ministerial colleagues then. Of course, he has greater influence now: his influence has grown enormously since he has been removed to the back bench. He could not exert his influence when he was in the Ministry but he now feels that it will listen to him.

The honourable member for La Trobe now says that he will not go along with the Labor Party's proposition even though he said last Thursday night that he would support it. What the honourable member said is recorded in black and white in Hansard. We are not trying to make political capital out of this. The fact is that the Labor Party is trying to make progress. 1 was prepared to break down my amendment. I took the authority to draw up a new amendment and my Executive and Party have endorsed this point of view. We have been told about the great amount of revenue that the adoption of our proposal would involve. However, in the last 5 years the Consolidated Revenue Fund has received from war service homes over $90m more than it has spent. In fact, in 1966-67 the Government spent $59m and received back $67m; in 1967-68 it spent $46m and received back $69m in 1968-69 it spent S5Om and received back $72m; and in 1969-70 it spent $55m and received back S77m. In 1970-71 it spent $61m and it got back S78m. In other words it has made a profit of $93m over the last 5 years. It is said that we cannot afford to spend the amount which our amendment would involve. One honourable member said it would cost $60m to implement our proposal. Yet the War Service Homes Division has made $93m profit in the last 5 years.

We are asking for some progress to be made in improving the conditions of serving members of the permanent forces in this country. We know that this Government brought in conscription because it said it could not get a sufficient number of recruits into the permanent forces. When the Gates Commission, which President Nixon set up to inquire into all aspects of abolishing conscription in the United States, examined the Australian position it found that if ample incentives had been offered to Australians to join the armed forces it would not have been necessary to implement conscription in Australia to get a sufficient number of men into the Services.

What are we saying here? We are saying that it is about time the Government woke up. lt is about time that it gave better conditions to the Australian servicemen. It is about time that those brave heroes on the back benches on the Government side who talk about blood and guts and who glorify war did something about improving conditions for those men who want to join the permanent military forces. We have given them another opportunity to support our amendment. The same amendment was moved in November 1968. We know that at least 2 members on the Government side have awakened from their slumber. They moved about one foot forward and then became a little frightened and jumped back again, lt is about time that one of them came over and voted with us. We hope that he will join with us so that some progress may be made in improving conditions for serving military personnel in this country.







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