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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2495

Senator MACKLIN(5.16) —I have circulated amendments similar to those just moved by Senator Lewis. Senator Lewis's amendments propose the insertion of new sub-clauses 119 (8), 119 (9) and 119 (10). My amendments proposed the insertion of new sub-clauses 119 (8) and 119 (9). However, I indicate that we also support the amendment moved by Senator Lewis inserting new sub-clause 119 (10). The problem has been set out fairly clearly by Senator Lewis. It arose with the application of the May legislation both to people in the prior-determination area and those under review. I believe that, in keeping with the movements that have been made in a whole range of other areas, it is fair and reasonable that when these types of changes are made they should operate from the date at which the Bill comes in. For example, not so long ago we changed the requirements for applicants under the first home owners scheme. We allowed people who had submitted applications for loans under the old scheme to be judged under the old criteria if it were advantageous to them, or simply to withdraw their applications and submit new applications under the new scheme. I agree that when these changes are made there has to be some cut-off date. However, it seems to me to be fair that that cut-off date is decided in such a way that people who are already in the system and seeking whatever benefits and provisions are available are dealt with according to the provisions that applied when they went into the system. I would have thought that would have applied a fortiori to those people who had been given some type of determination but who are now under review.

I add a specific query of my own to the concerns that have been voiced by Senator Lewis. It concerns the operation of clause 119 in regard to diseases whose causes are unknown, diseases which up to now have been acceptable for the granting of benefits-for example, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Parkinson's disease, motor neuron diseases, and the like. Under the new provisions there seems to be a complete dearth of references to diseases of unknown aetiology. I would have thought that, considering the wide-ranging debate that has taken place in the community, some attention would have been paid to this matter and comments made on it. Concern has been expressed by the entire veteran community, yet the Bill and even the explanatory memorandum make no reference to how these diseases are proposed to be treated. If the Minister says that he has no idea we ought to be able to look at a draft which specifies how they are to be treated. If it were the intention of the Minister to exclude these diseases, that intention should have been made clear. In a challenge to the High Court of Australia, obviously in response to the Acts Interpretation Act, the High Court would examine the Minister's intention in the second reading speech and would be able to determine it accordingly. We are really in the dark at the moment with regard to this range of diseases because we do not know what the Government's intention is. Hence, we are flagging a process of going to the High Court to get another determination on section 47 of the Repatriation Act similar to that in the Law case or the O'Brien case to get precise clarification of the situation. That does not necessarily make good law. If we know what the Government is attempting to do in regard to these diseases at least we can vote for or against it. At the moment, because there was no discussion about the matter either in the second reading speech or in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill, I am unaware of the situation regarding diseases of unknown aetiology and the onus of proof.