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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2780

Senator LEWIS —My question which is addressed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs concerns the misleading telegrams he has been sending to ex-service organisations claiming that it is the Opposition's fault that the Veterans' Entitlements Bill is `stalled in Parliament until at least the autumn session'. Is it not a fact that the Bill is stalled in the House of Representatives and has not been brought back into the Senate, the only House of Federal Parliament still sitting at the moment? Is it not further a fact that this is because the Government adjourned the House of Representatives last Friday without bringing the Bill before the House of Representatives for debate?

Senator GIETZELT —It is true that the Veterans' Entitlements Bill is not able to be completed because the amendments that were moved in the Committee stage of the debate in the Senate last Thursday and Friday meant in effect that an impasse was reached in respect of the views of the Senate and those of the House of Representatives. The result is that it is not possibel for the Government to proceed having regard to the fact that 16 amendments to the Bill were passed-the overwhelming majority of which were not acceptable either to the House of Representatives or to the Government. There is no possibility of the 20 additional improvements and benefits to the Veterans' Entitlements Bill being put into effect before Christmas, as had been promised by the Government in its commitment to the veterans' community.

We were criticised during the debate when it was said that there had not been consultation with the veterans' organisations. However, consultation produced a Bill which was passed by the House of Representatives. This Bill was emasculated by the Senate, despite the extensive consultation that took place with the veterans community. Consultation showed there was not unanimous agreement between the Government's position and that of the veterans community on only two major questions. Those two matters could have been resolved if there had not been a view taken by the Senate which was distinctly different from the view taken by the shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs who informed me and my office on many occasions that there would be speedy passage of the Bill through both Houses. In the House of Representatives in fact it was supported by most Opposition speakers. However, when the Bill came to the Senate it showed a pigheaded and cussed position in respect of the Bill. Consequently, that Bill will not now be able to be brought back either to the Senate or the House of Representatives until the autumn session.