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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2590

Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(12.06) —I move:

That the requests be not pressed.

We find a conflict of views exists between the Government and the Opposition and between the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate has expressed its views and has made considerable amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Bill. It has made requests to the House of Representatives in the belief that the views of the Senate should prevail. However, the House of Representatives, as the legislative arm of the Parliament, has determined, at the behest of the Government, that the requested amendments will not be made. I remind the Senate that it has a heavy obligation to consider the Government's views on this matter. Governments are made in the House of Representatives. The Government has consulted with the veterans community over a considerable period and come to the conclusion that a number of changes should be made, which has culminated in the presentation of the Veterans' Entitlements Bill. The Government's legislation, which originated in the House of Representatives, was amended considerably, affecting a whole range of Government policy and Budget considerations.

There will be considerable reaction within the veteran community if we do not overcome the impasse that exists between the Government's view and the Opposition's view as expressed in the requests that have been made. Many matters were expressed, both in the second reading speech which was delivered by Mr Holding in the House of Representatives and in my response to the Senate's considerations in the past few days. The Bill represents a considerable number of improvements in the benefits available to different groups of veterans. That is a considered view which was arrived at as a result of considerable negotiations and discussions which finally culminated in the presentation of the Bill after negotiations between me and the Returned Service League, which organised a veterans' summit several months ago with a view to presenting its response to the original Veterans' Entitlements Bill which lay on the table of the House from 30 May this year.

The legislation provides for benefits to go to war widows upon remarriage, extends treatment benefits to veterans who receive pensions of 50 per cent or more, and provides for benefits to veterans who hitherto have not been covered by repatriation and who served in various auxiliary capacities in the Vietnam war. The Schedule I presented and which the Senate agreed to incorporate covered some 20 improvements and concessions in respect of a whole range of issues, such as the 40-year rule. Amendments were made to clause 119 to meet the needs of both the veteran community and the Government.

The Senate now has opportunity to re-examine the decisions it made yesterday. The Government has reaffirmed its position by rejecting the requests that were made by the Senate. I trust that the Senate will look at these matters in an objective way-I understand that that is the next process that has to be gone through-to overcome the delays, uncertainty and even havoc that will surround the Veterans' Entitlements Bill if the conflict between the views of the Senate and House of Representatives, as expressed in the Government's decision to reject the Senate's requests, is not resolved.