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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2487

Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(4.47) —The amendment effectively negates the Government's decision to limit repatriation benefits to members of the defence forces who enlist or are appointed for the first time before the commencement date of the new legislation or to persons who enlist or are appointed after that date but are involved in hazardous or peacekeeping service. Senator Macklin asked whether the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) will take the option of determining whether an event constitutes hazardous service before, during or after the event. I cannot specifically answer that question, except to say that the Cabinet has decided that the Minister will have the opportunity on any occasion he deems fit to determine what is hazardous service and to make a recommendation to the Government. I would imagine that if, for example, an international incident of terrorism were to take place on an off-shore oil rig and we required combat troops to handle that situation, that would be without any doubt hazardous service and as such the Minister would gazette it. Similarly, as Minister for Veterans' Affairs I have the responsibility for gazetting our peacekeeping obligations. The Minister for Defence does not do that; that responsibility rests with the Minister for Veterans' Affairs.

I was led to believe that, conditional upon the Minister for Defence giving that undertaking, he would carry out those obligations in the House of Representatives debate and that provided that I had confirmation of that act in the Senate debate-I refer to a letter which I had incorporated in Hansard this morning-there would be very little difficulty with the Senate on this matter. No new members of the defence forces will be affected by the changes mooted in legislation until they have completed three years service. The Minister for Defence has given a written undertaking that in that time he will produce such legislation. I suppose that the point of difference that Senator Macklin has raised-Senator Lewis seems to endorse that view-is that he wants to see it before agreeing to the clauses in the Bill.

The Government has created an additional definition here. Previously we only had `peacekeeping'; now we have added to that `hazardous circumstances'. We must acknowledge that in the preparation of this legislation an error was made in clause 69 in that a person with hazardous service has not been prescribed as a member of the Forces. This is a drafting error which will be fixed up in the autumn session and backdated to the commencement of this Bill. As the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) has said:

Whilst very demonstrably a vast array of activites are conducted in peacetime by the Defence Forces which ought not of themselves to attract particular attention in repatriation legislation because the problems confronted are not really all that different from those encountered by sections of the civilian community, nevertheless there are a substantial number of areas of service activity to which that does not apply. It will now be incumbent upon me to arrive at an appropriate definition of what constitutes hazardous service.

The Minister for Defence went on:

Whilst not abusing the sensible efforts of government to eachieve a reasonable approach on this issue, my inclination would be to err on the side of being supportive of the role performed by the services in the situations in which they find themselves.

That is the very question that Senator Macklin raised. The Minister continued:

Some of their training activities, insofar as the general community is concerned, are abnormally hazardous. Requirement to do that for peacekeeping forces is generally agreed and I do not think I need to deal with that at any point.

The Government has taken every conceivable step to reach a conclusion on this matter so I would ask the Committee to support the Government's position and reject the amendment.

Requests agreed to.

Clauses 68 and 69 agreed to with requests.

Clauses 70 to 80-by leave-taken together, and agreed to.

Clause 81 (Application of Part V).