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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2554

Mr HODGMAN(10.25) —At 5.20 a.m. on 25 April last I drove to my father's residence and picked him up, and together we drove to the Cenotaph in Hobart for the seventy-second commemoration of Anzac. In the cool morning with the dawn rising I looked around at the diggers, their wives and their families and thought about what Australia owed them and about their situation today.

As my colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) will know, I thought later in the morning, during the Anzac march in which I was honoured to march with the Royal Australian Naval Reserve and the RANR cadets, about HMAS Huon and the various ex-service gatherings. I came home that evening saddened by the fact that we have failed to honour the pledge that we made to those then young men when they went away to defend this country in World War II. That great Prime Minister, John Curtin, and his equally great successor, Ben Chifley, cautioned the people of Australia never to forget the sacrifices that had been made that we might live in freedom. In the 1950s two great Australians on different sides of politics in this Parliament combined to see included in the repatriation legislation a burden of proof provision which was just and fair. Those two great Australians were Sir John Spicer and the late Dr H. V. Evatt. The burden of proof provision that between them they worked for and finally got inserted into the legislation stated that a veteran's entitlement would be accepted unless and until it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that there was no causal link between his or her service and the disability claimed.

Following the Law case and the O'Brien case a fear was generated in the hearts of the people of the Department of the Treasury that the repatriation bill was going to explode out of all proportion, this Government moved to legislate to limit the opportunity for ex-service men and women to claim. It took away the burden of proof provision and reversed it and it has now, by virtue of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986, virtually abolished the totally and permanently incapacitated pension in this country for any man or woman who has now passed the age of 65.

I have said on other occasions that the Hawke socialist Government has betrayed over 650,000 Australian ex-service men and women. Tonight let me say in charity that if what has been done to them was an accident now is the time for the Government to correct it. I have appeared as counsel, in an honorary capacity, for ex-service men and women, for their widows and for their dependants in over 30 Administrative Appeals Tribunal matters. As my colleague the honour- able member for Franklin will tell honourable members, on only two occasions have they been successful. The tragedy is that those who went in early and got the TPI benefit are all right but the ones who battled on despite their war wounds and said `We will keep going' have now been cut off cruelly.

I urge the Government not to treat this as a laughing matter; It is a very serious matter. I have seen injustice after injustice. Honourable members opposite should look at the judgments in cases before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This Government has effectively cut out the TPI pension for any person over the age of 65. Honourable members opposite should look at section 24 of the Act and see how unjust it is. They should look at section 21 and see what they have done to the burden of proof provision. When the opposite stand and say `Lest we forget', I put it to them that this Government should look again and repeal the wrong that has been inflicted on the ex-service men and women of Australia.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.