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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2591

Senator LEWIS(12.12) —It is somewhat difficult to respond to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) said in the other place last night because the House of Representatives Hansard is not yet available. So I can respond only to what I recall having heard Mr Holding say last night on the broadcast. I must say that I totally reject some of the things he said. Mr Holding said that there were a large number, about 35, of requests for amendments made by the Senate, which he said was an enormous imposition by the Senate on the Government's legislation. In fact, the requests fall into just a few categories. Most of the 35 requests involve the House of Representatives agreeing to amendments which implement the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills. They are technical, parliamentary amendments. They are not of such a nature that the Government could say they are a terrible imposition. After all, the Government has had a copy of the report of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee for some considerable time and could have indicated to the Senate how it was proposing to deal with it. That would have dealt with a large number of the 35 requests.

One of the other main categories involves what I call the AIDS amendment. The Government has accepted that amendment as being in accordance with what the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) is doing, in any event. So that is two categories of requests out of the way. Let us look at the rest of them. There is the simple amendment in regard to the definition of allied veterans which would maintain the existing position and certainly would not cost the Government any funds at all in this Budget. However, if it did, it would be less than half a million dollars and probably less than $100,000. So I cannot see that that measure would be terribly expensive.

The next category of requests relates to repatriation cover for new enlistees in the defence forces to ensure that they continue to be covered as they are at present, until such time as the Government gets around to bringing in its military compenstion legislation. Again, I do not know how much that measure would cost, but the difference between what the new enlistees would be entitled to recieve under workers compensation and what they would be entitled to receive under repatriation cover could not be terribly large. I cannot see that measure having a very substantial effect on the Budget. Yet, if my memory serves me correctly, I heard Mr Holding saying that these measures would cost the Government half a billion dollars-hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sheer terror tactics will not achieve anything in this Parliament. The truth of the matter is that the Parliament will find out the actual cost. We will not be misled by nonsense spoken in the other place by which Ministers, and others perhaps, endeavour to frighten the hell out of people as to what the costs or ultimate effect of a measure might be.

The rest of the requested amendments are probably relatively insignificant. They are certainly insignificant in regard to cost. The Minister was talking about a dollar a week for some fellow with a decoration. The Government already accepts the retrospectivity provisions, although it wants to handle them departmentally instead of legislatively. So the rest of the requested amendments, as far as I can see, are relatively financially insignificant. For Mr Holding to allege in the other place that these measures will cost the Government half a billion dollars is, frankly, just not true. I do not want to use that other word, which is unparliamentary, but the truth is that what Mr Holding was saying is not true. Hence, the Opposition will press its requests.