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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) - The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act has caused much confusion over the years, and at this stage I want to pay tribute to the former honourable member for Maribyrnong, Colonel Stokes, for the great work and research that he put into this Act. I served on a committee with him for many years and I would say that he would be the one person who had a complete knowledge of the Act and the anomalies contained in it. That committee produced many foolscap pages listing the anomalies contained in the Act. I will go so far as to say that no private superannuation scheme would be allowed to exist if it contained such conditions. It is time that we had a full investigation of this matter. Although I cannot, support the amendment, because that would negate the Bill before the House and it gives some benefits to members of the Ser- vices, 1 will support an effort to have a ; select committee of this House - I do not include the other House because I main- tain this is the House of management and initiation - appointed to go very ; thoroughly into all the ramifications of this Act.

Since I asked the Treasurer (Mr Bury) a question in regard to retired Service personnel who had expected to receive their refund by the end of last year, 1 have had a few letters from people all over Australia stating that they had not as yet received ; their entitlement to the disbursement. We all j know that the servicemen have not a great amount of money, and those . who have < retired would be looking forward to receiving this little extra to help them along, lt was expected, according to the. letters 1 have received, that retired personnel would have received their refund by 3 1st December of last year. Up to about a week ago they had not received this entitlement. But the serving officer is also entitled to a refund, atd it is a great pity that the administration cannot expedite matters so that these people will have the benefit of their entitlement.

I said previously that many of the clauses contained in the original Act were anomalous. We as members of the Government Members Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Committee have been responsible for having many of the anomalies rectified, but many anomalies are still under consideration by the Treasury and the DFRB Board. 1 implore the Treasurer to get on with the business of eliminating these anomalies. I know of one serviceman who served for 19 years and 10 months and was boarded out of the Service. Had he served another 2 months he would have been entitled to his pension, but he was retired at 19 years and 10 months. Of. course, under this Act he did not become eligible for a pension. Some serving officers have not married during their Service life because of the upheaval of shifting home and the like. But if that man retired and then married, in the event of his death his widow would not become eligible for a pension. Fortunately that is one of the matters that we have had adjusted. '

I did not know that this Bill was coming before the House today. It is my own fault.

I have spent the whole of the day after question time in committee. If I had had time I would have been able to refresh my memory and with the aid of what 1 learnt from Colonel Stokes, 1 could have given the House the benefit of that experience and knowledge. Had the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) been able to let me know that he would speak for some time I would have gone to my office for some material. I would then have been able to enlighten honourable members on many aspects of this Act. I have not studied it for 6 or 7 months, but I have papers which were left by Colonel Stokes, and they would make very enlightening reading, for honourable members. 1 must vote for the Bill, but I would like later to see a select committee of this House set up - not a joint committee because this is the House of management and the House of initiative, and I want to keep it here. I should be pleased to serve on any select committee set up to investigate this matter.

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