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Tuesday, 28 September 1993
Page: 1252

Senator COLSTON —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and it relates to his announcement in August that he would establish an advisory council to provide him with independent advice on veterans' and related issues. Have any steps now been taken to appoint such a council? If so, what are the details of the action which has been taken?

Senator FAULKNER —Thank you, Mr President.

  Senator Newman interjecting—

Senator FAULKNER —Senator Newman should not show her ignorance. Since I became minister in March, I certainly have set a high priority on consultation with the ex-service community. I announced on 13 August this year that I would be establishing a ministerial advisory council to provide me with independent advice on veterans' issues. At the time I announced that this council would run for the life of this parliament.

  Last week I was able to announce that Justice James Muirhead had agreed to chair the ministerial advisory council. His appointment is in keeping with the recommendation made to me by many of the ex-service organisations that the council ought to be chaired by a distinguished person who was perceived by all in our community as independent. Jim Muirhead is an ex-serviceman with a very distinguished career in law and administration. He is a former administrator of the Northern Territory, a former royal commissioner on the inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody and a judge of the Federal Court of Australia.

  Today I am able to announce that the council comprises 10 members in total. The other members of the council are Mr Peter Alexander, the national secretary of the Australian Veterans and Defence Services Council; Ms Val Buswell, who is a member of the National Women's Consultative Council, an ex-service woman and a member of the War Widows' Guild; Mr Alan Gawler, who is the chairman of Legacy's National Pensions Committee; Major General `Digger' James, who is the new national president of the Returned Services League; Air Vice-Marshal Sam Jordan, who is Chairman of the RSL National Veterans' Affairs Committee; Mrs Marie Kays, who is the national president of the War Widows' Guild of Australia; Ms Yvonne McLaren, who is a board member of the Australian Vietnam War Veterans Trust; Mr John Methven, the immediate past national president of the Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia; Air Vice-Marshal John Paule, who is executive officer of the Regular Defence Force Welfare Association of Australia; and Mr Bill Weir, who is the national secretary and treasurer of the Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-servicemen and Women.

  These members have been selected on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to the ex-service community and their wide experience and knowledge of issues that affect ex-service men and women and war widows. This is the first time that such an advisory body has been set up. Nothing was done in the years and years of conservative government in this area. It will enable me, as the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, to communicate directly with the veteran community. It clearly demonstrates my commitment as minister and the government's commitment to consultation with the ex-service community. It will ensure that the ex-service community has a high level, ongoing input into veterans issues.

Senator Newman —About time, too!

Senator FAULKNER —Those opposite never did anything, they stand condemned for it and Senator Newman knows it. These new arrangements mark the beginning of a period when the ex-service community will have a genuine input into the government's deliberations on important issues that face veterans and war widows in this country.