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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 381

(Question No. 387)

Senator Reid asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 31 May 1985:

(1) Why did the Government use the back-door method of tacking changes to entitlements of ex-Service personnel on to the May `Mini-Budget' instead of dealing with them in the entitlements legislation.

(2) Was this simply a ploy to make it more difficult for the Parliament to reject part of a government financial package.

Senator Gietzelt —The answer to the honourable senator's question is:

(1) and (2) The decision by a majority of the High Court in Repatriation Commission v O'Brien in February this year required urgent legislative action.

During the consideration of the matters which were covered in the May Economic Statement it was decided to amend the legislation as quickly as possible and to take other steps to find other savings within the Veterans' Affairs portfolio. The Government has made it clear that it wishes to retain a generous repatriation system but without the excessive generosity which arose following the O'Brien decision.

One reason for accepting the sunset clause covering the amendments to section 47 was to give the opportunity for full consultation with the ex-service community on the Veterans' Entitlements Bill a draft of which was tabled in the Senate containing the provisions covered by the sunset clause.

Extensive consultation and negotiation are proceeding and I expect to bring forward a submission to the Government which will lead to the introduction of a revised Bill during the Budget Sittings.