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Tuesday, 28 September 1993
Page: 1256

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defence Science and Personnel) (3.07 p.m.) —Senator Reid has raised with me, both in correspondence and previously in the parliament, the question of the representation of the group she has mentioned again today. The question of establishing the size of any ministerial advisory council is obviously a little vexed in that one wants to be as broadly representative as possible but at the same time one seeks to ensure that the committee is contained within some sort of reasonable numerical strength that will enable it to meet regularly and be properly resourced. Obviously those questions are very important.

  I am certainly willing to involve the group which Senator Reid identifies in some of the other consultative mechanisms I have established. That includes state consultations, which I hold regularly with the leaders of ex-service organisations. I have also indicated that I am happy to meet with that group as I continue my consultative program with a range of ex-service organisations and their executives and leadership.

  That is not to say that the range of mechanisms that have been established in the department itself—for example, the treatment monitoring committees and involvement with our client needs and attitude survey—will not continue. I think Senator Reid ought properly to regard the ministerial advisory council as the establishment of yet another consultative mechanism, but certainly at a senior level with direct access to the minister and a capacity to give the minister independent advice.

  I hope Senator Reid will appreciate that it is not possible to have all groups represented on the ministerial advisory council. I have attempted to maintain broad representation. I have certainly sought nominations for the advisory council from a range of ex-service organisations and they have been provided.

  I also stress to Senator Reid—and I think this is an important point—that the people who have been appointed to the ministerial advisory council have been appointed as individuals. Inevitably, of course, because nominations have been sought from major ex-service organisations, there will be a suggestion of representativeness about those who serve on the ministerial advisory council, but they have been appointed as individuals and I am sure they will approach this task with the sort of responsibility that comes with membership of such an advisory council.

  While I cannot say that I will be able to extend the advisory council, for a whole range of reasons, including the questions of resources and of trying to maintain as representative a group as possible, I assure Senator Reid and the Senate that I will involve the group that she has mentioned, which I agree with her has an important role to play, particularly with the families of Vietnam veterans, in whatever consultative mechanisms are appropriate. I give her that commitment today.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.