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Tuesday, 15 October 1985
Page: 1210

Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Does the Government's decision to extend repatriation benefits to personnel who served in Vietnam on supply and escort ships such as the HMAS Sydney also mean that such persons will be eligible for defence service home loans?

Senator GIETZELT —The answer to Senator Foreman's question is yes. The reason that the Government agreed to include in the Veterans' Entitlements Bill access to a range of benefits provided by my Department was to recognise those persons who served on the HMAS Sydney and on several of the support boats which were not allotted for duty by the defence establishment back in the years of the Vietnam war. Those persons will now be eligible for defence service home benefits as though they had been allotted for duty outside Australia at that time. I remind Senator Foreman that about two years ago I made a public statement supporting the view that those persons involved in that exercise should be treated in the same way as those who actually served in Vietnam. However, the Department of Defence at that time did not agree with that view. But finally the Government was persuaded to make available the repatriation benefits as well as access to defence service homes. However, the benefits will not be available until enabling legislation has been enacted by the Parliament. The proposed Veterans' Entitlements Bill will be amended to cover this aspect.

It is estimated that about 2,000 additional persons will now be eligible to apply for the loan of up to 25 per cent under the scheme to assist them to acquire a home. As the interest rate is approximately 6.8 per cent, it is pretty clear that the Government has made a very acceptable concession in agreeing to include those who served on those support ships during the Vietnam war among those eligible for loans under this housing scheme.