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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3207


Senator NEWMAN(12.45) —The matter of public interest which I wish to raise today relates to the Fedorczenko Legacy Fund. I would briefly like to tell the Senate about it today.

Earlier this century a man immigrated from Poland to Australia. He had just spent many years in a Russian prison camp in Poland where he was separated from his wife and his children. His family were believed to have been taken to Russia and killed. Mr Fedorczenko loved his new country; he did not want it to suffer the same kind of communist dictatorship that he himself had suffered. So when he died in 1983, at the age of 83, he bequeathed all his assets to the Commonwealth to protect his adopted country against a possible communist invasion.

After legal challenges to Mr Fedorczenko's will, the legacy was eventually received by the Department of Defence on 26 November 1985. The Chief of the Defence Force and the Secretary to the Department had many discussions about the matter and eventually decided that the money should be used solely by the Australian Defence Force Academy. It then took until March 1989 before a decision was taken to invest the money and use the income rather than to use the money at once.

I remind you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that the Defence Department received this money-$100,000-on 26 November 1985. It took until March 1989 before a decision was even taken about what to do with the money. As yet, however, the money has not even been invested. It has been sitting in a trust fund earning nothing, waiting for the Department of Finance to approve an investment in a fixed term bank deposit. In actual fact, this bureaucratic dithering has meant that Mr Fedorczenko's hard earned money and generous bequest for the defence of Australia is being wasted.

The $100,048 which he left for the defence of Australia is now worth $78,285 in real terms-a waste of some $21,763 of that man's hard earned money which he hoped might contribute to the defence of Australia. If that legacy had at least been sitting in a fixed term deposit since November 1985 whilst the bureaucrats dithered, it would at least be now worth $123,654 after inflation-a gain of $26,606. There is simply no justification for such irresponsible delays and bureaucratic indecision.

That money, for example, could have been put to very good use in things like scholarships to help put students who have qualified for a place at the Defence Force Academy through their higher school certificate year in secondary school. Every year the three services select 50 students each to receive a $1,000 scholarship for their higher school certificate year. Since November 1985 an extra 23 of those students could have been funded just from the interest of the Fedorczenko legacy had it been invested properly. Alternatively, it could have been used, for example, to help cadet organisations at disadvantaged schools throughout Australia to get the equipment and the kit that this Government will not provide for them and makes them find for themselves.

So strapped for resources as Defence is at the present, one would have thought that any extra money would have been appreciated, treated properly and used for any one of a myriad of purposes relating to the defence of Australia, as Mr Fedorczenko had wished. Instead, his patriotic concerns and his kindness have met with an ungrateful procrastination of which the Department of Defence ought to be ashamed.

It does make one wonder whether there are any other trust funds sitting in the Defence Department gathering dust. If there are any other patriotic Australians who would like to contribute to the defence of Australia, I would say to them, `Beware'. Defence is clearly not too good at managing its own money-we know that well enough; it also has not done too well with the management of Mr Fedorczenko's money. So it probably is not too wise to consider leaving a legacy to the Defence Department in the future until it learns to manage its own money.