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Thursday, 21 February 1980
Page: 287


Mr SCHOLES (Corio) -I want to raise more than one matter in this short adjournment debate. The first matter I wish to raise is one which I think the Government should take into consideration. President Carter, when announcing his initiatives relating to Afghanistan and other places, indicated that those who suffered financial loss because of those initiatives would be compensated by the Government of the United States. On Monday of next week, those people who in good faith paid deposits on visits to Moscow for the Olympic Games have to make a decision on whether they will meet the full cost of the tickets they have reserved or else forfeit their deposits. Those people who make what most likely would be a rational judgment not to take the risk with a large amount of money which they most likely cannot afford, will be asked to suffer the loss because of events beyond their control. But I do not want to say any more about that matter because I think it is selfexplanatory. It is a matter which the Government's conscience has to play with and on which this Parliament will not have any influence.

I wish to raise, very briefly, one other matter. Today, a deputation from Victoria came to this Parliament in connection with the conditions of service of Defence Force reserves. In this Parliament today, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) raised a matter relating to restrictions on compensation cover which is available to persons in Australian Government services who are required, because of the nature of their employment, to take risks beyond those which would normally be expected of an employee. That situation also applies to the defence forces. Those persons who serve in a theatre of war are in fact covered by the repatriation Acts. Persons who enter the reserve forces and who, in the course of their training or other activities directly related to that service are injured, have a maximum cover for compensation purposes of six months. No matter what the nature of the injury, or how serious the injury, they are barred from further compensation. They are on their own. In Victoria, they have been advised to take out insurance with a private commercial insurance company to cover what is properly a responsibility of the Commonwealth. It is not my intention to canvass the debate which has already taken place but I make the point that any suggestion that the Government is going to increase the importance of or the numbers of persons in the reserves must be taken with a grain of salt while situations exist where the Government is not prepared to accept its obligations in respect of persons in that service.

At this time I take the opportunity to make one other point about the reserves. The Government has embarked upon a campaign, one in which I have taken part, to encourage employers to give recognition and support to employees who take part in reserve military activities as persons, quite properly, who are doing something of value for their country. However, the Commonwealth Government does not give that support to its employees when they take part in reserve services. In fact, if a person becomes unemployed in a period shortly before he undertakes the normal training period which reservists are expected to undertake annually, and thus becomes ineligible for unemployment benefits, that person first loses the benefits while he is engaged in reserve activity- which arguably may be correct- and is subsequently required, upon the completion of his training, to serve a seven day waiting period before his benefits are restored.

The Commonwealth asks private employers to support employees who take part in Army reserve activities but finds itself unable to support equally those people who, through no fault of their own, have become unemployed for some period before the three months during which they undertake military service. By Government decision, such people lose a week's unemployment benefit upon their return from training. This, if I may say so, is miserly and irresponsible.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.







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