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Friday, 10 December 1965

Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs) (Minister for Health) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable members will recall that the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act was designed to meet special conditions of peacetime service not hitherto encountered in Australian experience. Its broad purpose is to provide repatriation cover for serving members of the forces whose service outside Australia in warlike operations or in disturbed areas involves them in hazards additional to those of normal peacetime service. Eligibility under the Act has therefore been provided in respect of death or incapacity arising out of service whilst allotted for special duty in a proclaimed special area. Areas may be proclaimed and allotment made with retrospective effect. The benefits provided are generally the same as those in respect of the two World Wars and the Korea and Malaya operations. The' operation of this legislation has been generally satisfactory. It is, however, nowproposed to make changes which will have the effect of extending eligibility under the Act in two respects. First, although such a situation has not occurred up to the present, there is a possibility that members of the forces serving outside Australia could suffer incapacity or death as a result of the action of hostile forces, but would not at present have immediate access to repatriation benefits. For example, a serviceman involved in an action extending beyond a declared special area would not, if incapacitated in that action, presently be covered by the Act. There is also the possibility that service personnel not allotted for special duty in a special area may become unexpectedly involved in isolated incidents. The Bill therefore provides repatriation cover for those involved in contact with hostile forces outside a special area in circumstances of the kind I have mentioned. It is proposed that the incapacity in respect of which benefits will be available will include any subsequent incapacity or death arising therefrom which is attributable to the serviceman's contact with hostile forces.

Second, qualifying service under the Act is at present related to presence in a special area whilst allotted for special duty. It is now proposed that the commencement and termination of qualifying service be related to the times of allotment to and from special duty so that the cover will extend for both forward and return journeys to the period during transit between Australia or the point of allotment outside Australia, as the case may be, and the special area. The effect of this will be that the period of qualifying service under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act will be the same as was the case in respect of the Korea and Malaya operations for which provision is made: under the Repatriation Act. The Government has decided to make this amendment retrospective to the commencement of the principal Act which came into operation on 28th May 1963. The proposals in the Bill are designed to give a more extensive repatriation cover to servicemen engaged in warlike operations outside Australia, and will no doubt be well received by serving members of the forces. I commend the Bill to the House.

Leave granted for the debate to continue.

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