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Wednesday, 27 November 1985
Page: 2414


Senator MISSEN(10.13) —I wish to support the Veterans' Entitlements Bill and express some views on it. I realise that there has already been a fairly full debate and I do not intend to go into matters in great detail. The Bill has been covered extensively by Senator Lewis in his admirable speech earlier this evening. There are many ways in which one can criticise the Government for the way it has handled this matter. It has been handled in such a way that it has caused a great deal of worry and distress to people often in poor health or approaching old age and who are affected and worried more than might otherwise be the case by a situation in which they see that the provisions they thought were generously to be made available to them in their older years are perhaps to be taken away.

We have here a Bill which replaces the Repatriation Legislation Amendment Bill, which was hurried through the Parliament shortly before we rose last June. That legislation has proved to be very unfortunate and the Government has learnt a number of things from that experience. It has changed things in this Bill. There was inadequate consultation with the ex-service organisations, such as the Returned Services League. Adequate consultation should have happened before the previous Bill was put through. There has been much more consultation now, led by the National President of the RSL and members of other bodies, and a great deal of consideration has been given to the anomalies found in the existing legislation. In some ways this has been brought about-it has been brought home to the Parliament very forcibly-by a sunset clause. In some respects it has been a little inadequate because a number of people have suffered in the meanwhile. Their cases have been dealt with and now they are not covered. They might have lost their rights and not be adequately covered. That is unfortunate. By and large it has meant that this Parliament has had to consider at length, and at some more leisure, the problems that have arisen under the existing legislation.

Among the improvements which appear in the Veterans' Entitlements Bill is the proposed new section 119, the onus of proof provisions. The Government caused itself a great and unnecessary amount of worry over the O'Brien case by misreading the situation and by altering the legislation in such a way that it did a great deal of injustice and imposed much unfairness on pension applicants. This section has been reconstructed by a number of learned people who have advised the ex-servicemen's organisations, and only time will tell whether it will adequately meet the current situation. We must accept it now as it is a proposal which the organisations believe will cover them reasonably. We will have to continue to have a good look at this situation over the next few years to see that it does indeed do that.

We also see in the new Bill the removal of the 40-year rule, which has been spoken of by many honourable senators tonight. That was obviously a rather disgraceful provision, making it very hard for war widows and others to obtain evidence at a very late stage and probably in regard to matters about which their husbands had not spoken to them. That has gone, and that is to the good. Of course, a number of matters are still under review. There are matters which the Opposition has referred to. For example, as the shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Mr Tim Fischer, said to me in a letter he wrote some time ago:

Our ongoing concern includes questions of the assessment of T. &P. I. criteria, questions over the drafting of standard 119 with particular reference to sub-clause 3, and concern at the fact that there will be no retention of Repatriation cover for new enlistees after December 1985.

No doubt these things will be questioned in the course of the debate. I also want to refer to three matters which have been raised in very extensive correspondence from branches of the Returned Services League in Victoria, in particular, in regard to the Bill. I will read what they say because it is important that we consider this carefully. I hope that the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) will deal with these matters in the course of his reply. The RSL branches say that the following matters should be considered:

Exceptionally disabled persons who have retired from remunerative activity and are not now eligible for a special rate of pension, should be eligible for the intermediate and special rate pension, regardless of age or whether they have left the work force.

An example of what is meant here is that at present there is a case of a former POW of the Japanese who has sixteen accepted disabilities and because of financial and family problems he worked until he was forced to retire at the age of 65 years, even though he should have left the work force years before. His application for an increase in war pension was refused because he had retired from the work force. In other words, he could now never become T &P I even though his accepted disabilities could send him to a nursing home.

That is one problem that has been raised. The second question raised in correspondence with me and other members is that the standard of proof provision contained in section 47 (2) of the Repatriation Act prior to 6 June 1985 should apply to undertermined applications or appeals to the Repatriation Determining System as at 6 June 1985. In other words, no retrospectivity should apply. I will refer to that again a little later. Thirdly, the RSL branches claim that dependants' allowances should continue and therefore be reinstated with the option for those presently entitled to receive the commutation equal to five years of pension, not the three years as now included in the draft Bill. I hope that those matters will be considered by the Minister in his reply.

The matters of concern also include the problems which have been raised by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills in regard to this Bill. I know that the Committee's report has only come down today. As Deputy Chairman of that Committee, I urge the Minister to indicate to what extent he will comply with the many findings in the report. I will not go into them now but I point out that in many cases they show a lack of parliamentary scrutiny of provisions; they also include ministerial determinations which give no possibility of appeal--


Senator Peter Rae —You should seek leave to incorporate the relevant sections.


Senator MISSEN —Yes, I think I will do that. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the section of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills report which relates to the Veterans' Entitlements Bill, which I think will be useful to honourable senators.

Leave granted.

The report read as follows-

VETERANS' ENTITLEMENTS BILL 1985

This Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 16 October 1985 by the Minister Representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs.

The purpose of the Veterans' Entitlements Bill 1985 is to consolidate, rationalise and simplify the entitlements available to members of the veteran community. It represents the most important and comprehensive overhaul of the repatriation system since its establishment over 60 years ago.

The Committee draws the attention of the Senate to the following clauses of the Bill:

Clause 84-Lack of parliamentary scrutiny

Sub-clause 84 (6) provides that the Commission may determine a scale of charges in respect of the treatment at its hospitals and institutions of veterans (otherwise than for war-caused injuries or diseases) or persons other than veterans. Under sub-clause 84 (7) the Commission may determine that persons in a specified class of persons are to be exempt from paying the charges fixed under sub-clause 84 (6). There is no provision for parliamentary scrutiny of the scale of charges or of the exemptions determined by the Commission.

The Committee draws the clause to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (v) in that it may be considered to subject the exercise of legislative power insufficient to parliamentary scrutiny.

Clauses 97, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 106, 107 and 108-Non-reviewable discretions

Under Part VI of the Bill the Commission may grant to a veteran a clothing allowance (clause 97), an attendant allowance (clause 98), a decoration allowance (clause 102), a Victoria Cross allowance (clause 103), a recreation transport allowance (clause 104), special assistance or benefits (clause 106), a temporary incapacity allowance (clause 107) and a loss of earning allowance (clause 108). The Commission may also grant a benefit towards the funeral expenses of a veteran, a dependant of a deceased veteran, or a service pensioner (Clause 99, 100 and 101). There is a right of review in respect of only one of these allowances and benefits, namely the attendant allowance (see clause 134). In respect of the grant of the other allowances and benefits the Commission's decision would be final, subject only to challenge as to its legality pursuant to the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. Because no criteria are given for the exercise by the Commission of its discretion in the grant of these allowances and benefits the scope for such review would be limited.

The Committee draws these clauses to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (iii) in that they may be considered to make rights, liberties and/or obligations unduly dependent upon non-reviewable administrative decisions.

Clause 105-Lack of parliamentary scrutiny

Clause 105 empowers the Commission, by instrument in writing, to establish a Vehicle Assistance Scheme for the provision of motor vehicles to veterans and for the payment of allowances towards the cost of running and maintaining the vehicles so provided. The instruments establishing, varying or revoking the scheme must be approved by the Minister but they are not required to be subjected to any form of parliamentary scrutiny.

The Committee draws the clause to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (v) in that it may be considered to subject the exercise of legislative power insufficiently to parliamentary scrutiny.

Clause 110-Lack of parliamentary scrutiny

Clause 110 states that a veteran or a dependant of a deceased veteran who travels for the purpose of obtaining treatment and an attendant accompanying such a person are to be entitled to the payment of travelling expenses `subject . . . to such conditions so the commission determines'. Such determinations by the Commission are not required to be subjected to any form of parliamentary scrutiny.

The Committee draws the clause to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (v) in that it may be considered to subject the exercise of legislative power insufficiently to parliamentary scrutiny.

Clause 116-Lack of parliamentary scrutiny

Clause 116 empowers the Commission, by instrument in writing, to establish a Veterans' Children Education Scheme to provide education and training for eligible children. As with the Vehicle Assistance Scheme the instruments establishing, varying or revoking the scheme must be approved by the Minister but are not required to be subjected to any form of parliamentary scrutiny.

The Committee draws the clause to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (v) in that it may be considered to subject the exercise of legislative power insufficiently to parliamentary scrutiny.

Paragraph 119 (7) (b)-Ministerial determination

Under paragraph 119 (7) (b) the Minister for Defence may determine service in the Defence Force of a specified kind to be `hazardous service'. Where a claim is made in respect of the incapacity from injury or disease of a member of the Forces or the death of such a member which relates to `hazardous service' rendered by the member the Commission is required to determine that the injury, disease or death was defence-caused unless it is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that there is no sufficient ground for making that determination. If the service of the member of the Forces is not determined to be `hazardous service' then the member or the dependant of the member does not have the advantage of this criminal standard of proof: the Commission is merely required to decide the issues relevant to the claim to its reasonable satisfaction.

Despite the importance of determinations of `hazardous service' to the claimants concerned there is no parliamentary scrutiny of such determinations. The Committee drew attention in its Eighth Report of 1985 to the lack of such scrutiny in respect of similar determinations under section 107J of the Repatriation Act 1920 as amended by clause 25 of the Repatriation Legislation Amendment Bill 1985. The Private Secretary to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs responded to this comment on 16 August 1985 indicating that what might be designated as `hazardous service' had yet to be decided:

`In some circumstances, it might be possible to define it by a generic description of the service (e.g. parachuting duties), at other times on the basis of service with a specific Defence Force group (e.g. service with the Special Air Service Regiment), or by a description of particular incidents (e.g. neutralising an unexploded device).

The Department of Defence has advised, however, that the Minister for Defence may consider a highly sensitive operation should be declared as `hazardous service'. In these circumstances, issues of national security could require that such a determination not be made public. Even if there were to be a legislative provision requiring the tabling of determinations, it would need some companion provision whereby the Minister for Defence was enabled to issue a conclusive certificate to avoid tabling specific determinations. This in turn raises the further question whether a conclusive certificate would be required to be tabled. Whether legislative provisions of such complexity can be justified in the present circumstances would require further consideration.'

The Committee assumes that it has been concluded that tabling and disallowance of determinations of what constitutes `hazardous service' cannot be justified since the provision remains unchanged in the present Bill. However the Committee still takes the view that the determinations are of sufficient significance in the scheme of the legislation that some mechanism should be found whereby the Parliament may be informed of such determinations (other than those which may concern matters of national security) and may debate the making of a determination or the failure to make a determination in respect of particular service. The Committee also notes that it would be concerned at the use of conclusive certificates if the issue of such certificates were not to be clearly restricted to situations involving considerations of national security.

The Committee draws the provision to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (v) in that it may be considered to subject the exercise of legislative power insufficiently to parliamentary scrutiny.

Clause 122-Non-reviewable decision

Clause 122 enables the Commission to pay to the legal personal representative of a person who has died or to distribute among the dependants of such a person any accrued amount of pension, allowance or other benefit unpaid at the death of the person or any amount which has become payable after the death in respect of the grant of a claim made before the death of the person. Such an amount may be not insubstantial since the Commission may grant pensions with effect from a date 3 months before the date on which the claim for the pension was lodged with the Department. By virtue of sub-clause 122 (4) the Commonwealth is not to be liable to any action, claim or demand in respect of any amount paid or distributed in accordance with the clause. The effect of this clause is to prevent any review of the exercise by the Commission of its discretion under the clause. Thus, for example, if the Commission were to distribute an amount unequally among the dependants of the deceased, a person who felt aggrieved by that decision would not be able to challenge it.

The Committee draws the clause to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (iii) in that it may be considered to make rights, liberties and/or obligations unduly dependent upon non-reviewable administrative decisions.

Paragraph 127 (1) (c)-Reasonableness of time and place

Sub-clause 127 (1) empowers the Secretary, by notice in writing, to require persons to furnish information, to produce documents and to appear before a specified officer to give evidence or produce documents. While in each case not less than fourteen days notice must be given for the person to comply with the requirement, there is no limitation as to the reasonableness of the time and place at which a person may be required to appear before an officer. Failure to attend at the time and place notified would constitute an offence carrying a penalty of a fine of up to $1,000 or 6 months imprisonment or both unless the person concerned was incapable of complying with the notice.

The Committee has expressed its concern in relation to a number of similar provisions that the failure to require that the time and place specified be reasonable may result in the provision operating harshly in some cases. Accordingly the Committee draws the provision to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (i) in that it may be considered to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties.

Clause 128-Self incrimination

Clause 128 provides that a person is not excused from furnishing information, producing a document or giving evidence on the ground that the information or evidence or the production of the document may tend to incriminate the person. The clause is subject to the usual proviso that any information so furnished, evidence so given or document so produced is not admissible in evidence against the person except in proceedings for a failure to furnish information, give evidence or produce a document or for furnishing information or giving evidence that is false or misleading.

As is its usual practice the Committee draws the clause to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (i) in that the removal of the privilege against self incrimination may be considered to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties.

Clause 131-Lack of parliamentary scrutiny

Clause 131 provides for the payment of travelling expenses to persons attending before the Commission to support claims or as witnesses and to persons accompanying such persons as attendants. As in clause 110 the entitlement to travelling expenses is in each case expressed to be `subject to such conditions as the Commission determines'. There is no provision for parliamentary scrutiny of such determinations. Furthermore, whereas under sub-clauses 131 (1), (3), (5) and (7) the relevant travelling expenses are to be prescribed, the travelling expenses to be paid to attendants under sub-clauses 131 (2), (4), (6) and (8) are to be such as the Commission `considers reasonable'. If it is intended that the Commission will determine these expenses inaccordance with a standard scale then it is suggested that any such scale should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. If, on the other hand, the Commission is to determine such travelling expenses on a case by case basis then it is suggested that its decision should be subject to review by an independent, quasi-judicial body like the Veterans' Review Board.

The Committee draws the clause to the attention of the Senate under principles 1 (a) (iii) and (v) both in that it may be considered to subject the exercise of legislative power insufficiently to parliamentary scrutiny and in that it may make rights, liberties and/or obligations unduly dependent upon non-reviewable administrative decisions.

Clause 206-Blanket statutory defence

Clause 206 creates statutory defences where a person sues the Commonwealth, the Commission, a medical practitioner working at a hospital or other institution operated by the Commission or an employee of, or a person working for or on behalf of, the Commission claiming that he or she-

(i) contracted Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by reason of having been administered blood supplied by the Commission or the Australian Red Cross Society (the Society);

(ii) contracted AIDS by reason of having been involved in the taking, testing, handling, producing, supplying or administering to a patient of blood so supplied;

(iii) contracted AIDS from a person who contracted the disease in a circumstance specified in paragraph (i) or (ii); or

(iv) is a dependant of a person who has died as a result of contracting AIDS in any of the above circumstances.

In such an action it is to be a defence that-

(a) the blood administered had been tested using equipment and methods approved under the Blood Donation (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) Ordinance 1985, similar State or Northern Territory legislation or the Regulations and had been certified free of antibodies to the virus HTLV III; or

(b) the Commission or the Society, as the case may be, complied with the requirements prescribed by the Ordinance, similar State or Northern Territory legislation or the Regulations in respect of the taking of the relevant blood and the testing, processing and handling of that blood.

The Committee is concerned about two aspects of this provision. First, it places persons who have contracted AIDS or the dependants of persons who have died as a result of contracting that disease in a different situation from other persons in pursuing an action for negligence because it elevates into a statutory standard a particular method of testing blood and particular procedures to be followed in the taking of blood and the handling of blood. If the blood has been tested in accordance with that method and if the prescribed procedures have been followed then the person is not to have a cause of action even though they have contracted AIDS. Secondly the Committee suggests that the provision as drafted leaves in some obscurity the standard of care to be met in complying with the prescribed requirements in respect of the taking of blood and so forth. To the extent that those requirements are not a simple matter of following a step by step check list but involve matters of judgment-for example in determining whether the statements made by a blood donor in a declaration that he or she has not engaged in certain sexual activity are true or false-some standard of care would seem to be envisaged but none is specified. The Explanatory Memorandum states that the clause `will not provide blanket protection where, for example, negligence on the part of the Commonwealth, the Commission or a medical practitioner is shown'. However the Committee is concerned that the clause may provide the Commonwealth, the Commission and medical staff with protection from suit on the basis that the prescribed requirements were carried out even though those requirements may have been carried out in a less than satisfactory manner.

Accordingly the Committee draws the clause to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (i) in that by limiting the scope of an action for negligence brought by a person who has contracted AIDS or the dependant of such a person who has died of the disease it may be considered to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties.

Paragraph 208 (1) (a)-Strict liability

Paragraph 208 (1) (a) provides that a person shall not make a false or misleading statement in connection with a claim for a pension, allowance or other benefit under the Act. The more usual form of such a provision would be to create an offence only if a person `knowingly' makes a false or misleading statement (see, for example, sub-clauses 127 (5) and 168 (2)). Because the requirement that the person making the statement knows that it is false or misleading has been omitted in paragraph 208 (1) (a) it may be thought to create an offence of strict liability: that is, it would be sufficient to secure a conviction if it were proved that the statement was in fact false or misleading even if the person making it believed it to be true.

The Committee draws the provision to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (i) in that it may be considered to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties.

General Comment

The Committee notes for the information of the Senate that clause 119 continues in force the change in the standard of proof for the determination of veterans' entitlements made by the Repatriation Legislation Amendment Act 1985. By virtue of that change the Commission is requested not to grant a claim if it is reasonably satisfied that there is no material before it raising a reasonable hypothesis that the injury, disease or death giving rise to the claim was war-caused. Previously, in order not to grant a claim, the Commission had to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there were insufficient grounds for granting the claim: see Repatriation Commission v. O'Brien (1985) 58 ALR 119 per Gibbs CJ, Wilson and Dawson JJ at 128.

The Committee recognises that this change in the standard of proof for the grant of repatriation benefits is clearly a matter of government policy. The Committee also recognises that in strictly legal terms a claimant bears no onus to prove his or her claim before the Commission. While the Committee therefore takes the view that the change in the standard of proof is not a matter on which it should formally make comment under its Terms of Reference, it draws attention to its concerns with provisions which reverse the traditionally accepted onus of proof in other contexts, most particularly in criminal proceedings: see pages 26 to 32 of the paper on `The Operation of the Australian Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills 1981-1985', tabled in September, and see also the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on The Burden of Proof in Criminal Proceedings (Parliamentary Paper No. 319/1982).

VETERANS' ENTITLEMENTS (TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS AND CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1985

This Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 16 October 1985 by the Minister Representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs.

The Veterans' Entitlements (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 1985 will provide arrangements for the transition from the existing Repatriation Act 1920 and other supplementary legislation to the Veterans' Entitlements Bill 1985.

The Committee draws the attention of the Senate to the following clauses of the Bill:

Clauses 42, 43 and 44-Retrospectivity

The Repatriation Legislation Amendment Act 1985 altered the standard of proof applicable in respect of claims for pensions by requiring that the Repatriation Commission not grant a claim if it was reasonably satisfied that there was no material before it raising a reasonable hypothesis that the injury, disease or death giving rise to the claim for a pension was war-caused. Previously, in order not to grant a claim, the Commission had to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there were insufficient grounds for granting the claim: see Repatriation Commission v. O'Brien (1985) 58 ALR 119 per Gibbs CJ, Wilson and Dawson JJ at 128.

In its Eighth Report of 1985 the Committee drew attention to the fact that sections 69, 70 and 71 of the amending Bill (as it then was) applied the altered standard of proof to claims made before 15 May 1985, to applications for review by the Veterans' Review Board made before 15 May 1985 and to certain applications for review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of decisions made before 15 May 1985. The Committee suggested that such retrospective alteration of entitlements might be considered to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties. The Private Secretary to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs responded to this comment on 16 August 1985 stating that:

`It is a matter of Government policy that the [reasonable hypothesis modification intended to overcome the effect of the High Court decision in O'Brien] should be applied in a consistent manner to all decisions made after the date of effect of the Amendment Act. It is the Government's view that personal rights flow from the determination of Commonwealth liability to pay a pension rather than the mere act of lodging a claim.'

Clauses 42, 43 and 44 of the present Bill are similar in effect to sections 69, 70 and 71 of the Repatriation Legislation Amendment Act 1985 although the Committee is pleased to note that the terms of these clauses have been clarified so as to overcome any doubts similar to those which the Committee also raised in its Eighth Report concerning the continued application of the more advantageous criminal standard of proof to claims lodged before 15 may 1985. While it is clear that this provision will put applicants in a new and less advantageous position, the Committee indicates as a matter of record that it accepts the Government's view that the application of the altered standard of proof in the determination of claims and appeals after the date on which the amending legislation came into operation does not involve any retrospectivity (even though such claims and appeals may have been lodged or initiated prior to the commencement of the amending legislation).

Clause 59: Reasonableness of time and place

Clause 59 amends the Acts set out in the Schedule including the Seamen's War Pensions and Allowances Act 1940. New paragraph 30 (1) (c) to be inserted in that Act is in similar form to paragraph 127 (1) (c) of the Veterans' Entitlements Bill 1985 and the Committee's comment on that paragraph also applies to this provision.

Self incrimination

New section 31 to be inserted in the Act is in similar form to clause 128 of the Veterans' Entitlements Bill 1985 and the Committee's comment on that clause also applies to this section.

Strict liability

New paragraph 58 (1) (a) is in similar form to paragraph 208 (1) (a) of the Veterans' Entitlements Bill 1985 and the Committee's comment on that paragraph also applies to this provision.

MICHAEL TATE

Chairman

27 November 1985


Senator MISSEN —I wish to make one comment about the matters raised in this report. There is a statement on pages 27 and 28 with which I do not entirely agree and I do not think that it quite represents the decision of the Committee. I will read the relevant section relating to the question of retrospectivity:

While it is clear that this provision will put applicants in a new and less advantageous position, the Committee indicates as a matter of record that it accepts the Government's view that the application of the altered standard of proof in the determination of claims and appeals after the date on which the amending legislation came into operation does not involve any retrospectivity (even though such claims and appeals may have been lodged or initiated prior to the commencement of the amending legislation).

While that may be technically correct, it still led people into the position where they commenced applications while this onus of proof provision was in a different condition. They proceeded with those matters, often incurring considerable expense and they then found that they were subject to a very great difference in the law as it is now. Those who brought applications which have not been heard find themselves in that difficult position. I suggest that the matters raised by the Scrutiny of Bills Committee require considerable attention in this debate.

There are many factors involved in the whole system of repatriation which require attention. Not least of these is one which I hope may be overcome by this legislation. That is the question of delay. I refer the Committee to remarks made in the case of Perrott at the Federal Court by Mr Justice Kirby when he drew attention to the beneficial intentions of the Repatriation Act, as it was. He went on to say:

The veterans and their dependants are an ever dimnishing number of persons in Australia especially deserving of generous treatment within the law. The costly time consuming proceedure of appeals and reviews has been referred to a number of times in this Court.

His Honour concluded that public funds may be better expended on veterans and their dependants, rather than `upon the costly and time consuming administrative and legal proceedure about compensation et cetera. I believe it is necessary to put those factors before the Committee because I am not sure that this legislation will do anything to overcome those problems. I hope that this will be considered and that some attempt will be made to overcome them.

Finally, I refer to the letter which the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers' Association of Victoria wrote to me on 17 July. I concede that the Bill has been improved since that date, but these words express the feeling that was widespread at that time:

The veteran community is most incensed at the proposed Veterans' Entitlements Bill 1985; it is looked upon as repressive and effectively repudiates the Government's obligations to many of those who, without qualification, answered the call to serve their country when its very existence, as we have known it, was under threat. Those veterans are now in the twilight of their lives; it must be accepted that in those years the call on the Department designed to foster their interests must increase. However, in this legislation, the Government proposes to institute draconian changes to entitlements and benefits. The savings expected to flow from this legislation are, we suggest, infinitesimal in the overall budgetary considerations; at the same time they assume gigantic proportions to the now prematurely aged (because of his service to his country) war veteran, not only to himself but for the welfare of his widow should he predecease his wife.

I hope that the Government and the Parliament will take account of that sort of sentiment. There is a strong feeling that we in this country should have looked to what we were doing for the veterans. We should not just be concerned now to change matters when they are in the process of receiving the benefits. We have known for a long time that these people would get old. We have known that they served their country and that they deserve excellent consideration by this Parliament and the people in it.