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Wednesday, 6 November 1985
Page: 1650


Senator GILES —Will the Minister for Veterans' Affairs outline the modifications that have recently been made to the Veterans' Entitlements Bill? In particular, will he explain why the Government decided not to proceed with the so-called 40-year rule relating to future grants of war widows' pensions?


Senator GIETZELT —The previous Government appointed an advisory committee to examine the existing repatriation Acts-some 80 of them-for the purpose of bringing in a rationalised single piece of legislation, and these are now embraced in the Veterans' Entitlements Bill. The process of consultation resulted in a draft Bill being presented to the Senate on the last day of the autumn session. Since then, there has been extensive dialogue, discussion and consultation with the veterans community. This Government continued the process begun by the previous Government in the compilation of that legislation.

Some main issues in the original draft have been modified. Clause 119, which relates to the standard of proof, has been modified to meet the misunderstandings that developed after the presentation of the draft Bill. After consultation between the Government and the veterans community, the 40-year rule which related to war widows' pensions has been completely withdrawn as an act of concession.

Cover has been extended to certain veterans who went to Vietnam and who were not previously covered. I refer to those who served on the support ships associated with the transference of Australian servicemen to Vietnam. Cover has also been extended to serving personnel whom the Minister for Defence declares to have undertaken hazardous duties, and medical treatment will be extended to all service pensioners in receipt of a 50 per cent disability pension.

Overall, I think that there is now a measure of acceptance of the legislation by the veterans community. I am hopeful that the consensus that has been reached will ensure the speedy passage of the legislation.