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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2591


Senator MACKLIN(12.18) —The Government has proposed that the Senate not press its requests. This has happened previously in this chamber. The Government has made a number of proposals in regard to the Veterans' Entitlements Bill. I must say that its method of negotiation has been rather odd, inasmuch as I have had absolutely no communication whatsoever from the Government with regard to the legislation coming back to the Senate. I discovered, in the normal course of events as Whip, that the legislation was coming back on. There was no communication from the office of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt). No discussions at all on this matter were held with me as the Australian Democrat spokesperson in this area. I thought that was rather odd, if the Government had some further information it wished to bring forward with regard to the legislation.

I find the argument that the Senate is not entitled to amend legislation one of the oddest I have heard in a long time. The argument was used in the debate yesterday, so I am now getting used to the idea that the Minister is maintaining this line. It so happens that the constitutional structure of Australia is such that a Bill has to pass both Houses of Parliament. I do not think that requirement has changed at least in recent times. I have been relatively busy and have not noticed that to be the case. This chamber has as much right to amend legislation as has the House of Representatives, except for the limitation on our powers with regard to money Bills. This is why a number of these had to be couched in terms of requests and not amendments.

I also do not accept the arguments put in the House of Representatives that, if we press these requests, on 5 December it will be almost the end of the Western world as we have come to know it. Because of the effect of the sunset clause which was introduced in the Repatriation Legislation Amendment Bill in May, on 5 December certain parts of that legislation will fail and we will revert to the situation that existed prior to the introduction of that legislation. Provisions for the structure and operation of the determining authorities are contained in a separate piece of legislation which was passed by this chamber at the end of last year. They will in no way be affected. The veterans' entitlements will merely revert to those that existed prior to the consolidation of the repatriation legislation. No changes will have to take place and not one single veteran will be disadvantaged. Indeed, some veterans will be markedly better off because the old section 47 of the Repatriation Act, even on the Government's reckoning, is a better section for the veterans than clause 119 of the Veterans' Entitlements Bill. If this occurs, the only people who will benefit will be the veterans.

We have supported all along the consolidation of the repatriation legislation. The first public suggestion for consolidation was made by me at the second annual conference of veterans organisations in Australia, when Senator Messner was Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I suggested that consolidation of repatriation legislation needed to take place. We stand by that; however, we also stand by the amendments and requests that we supported and the amendments and requests we moved that had the support of the Opposition parties.

Question resolved in the negative.

Resolution reported; report adopted.