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Wednesday, 26 March 2003
Page: 13568

Mrs VALE (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) (3:05 PM) —Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the chair to add to an answer.

The SPEAKER —The minister may proceed.

Mrs VALE —I would like to add to my answer to the question about defence personnel and anthrax vaccinations in the 1991 Gulf War deployment. I can confirm that no personnel on ADF operations during the 1991 conflict were given anthrax vaccinations, and I confirm that a few personnel seconded to allied forces may have received the vaccinations. The member for Denison tabled three documents to support his claims that my press release yesterday was misleading. Firstly, he tabled a transcript from Senate estimates that refers to an official DVA confirming that 200 ADF personnel had been given anthrax vaccinations. What the member left out was that the official was referring to vaccinations that were given to ADF personnel many years after the 1991 conflict. Secondly, he provided a table from—

The SPEAKER —If the member for Chisholm has a point of order I will hear her, but I will not tolerate interruptions from the floor.

Mr Kerr —Perhaps I left out something that wasn't in the document.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Denison.

Ms Burke —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I fail to see how the minister is adding to an answer when she is responding to documentation she has only just received. If she were seeking indulgence, that is another thing, but she is not adding to an answer.

The SPEAKER —Any reference to the Hansard record—any reference—will reveal that all that the minister has had to say has been entirely relevant to the question she was asked.

Mr Swan —Mr Speaker, further to that ruling, if the minister is going to be given a chance to answer the question again, can we ask the question again?

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Lilley. That was a frivolous and unfounded point of order.

Mr Leo McLeay —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is it appropriate that the addition to the answer takes longer than the answer itself?

The SPEAKER —The member for Watson is warned. The minister has the call.

Mrs VALE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. The member for Denison did cite three documents in his question and I think it is appropriate that those documents be responded to. Secondly, the member for Denison provided a table from the report I released yesterday that indicates that 192 people believe they were given the anthrax vaccinations in 1991. Again, the Department of Defence has advised that this is not the case. I draw members' attention to the title of the table, which reads: `Individual immunisations reported by Gulf War veterans'. It is not a table of actual vaccination numbers. Lastly, the member for Denison tabled a response to questions on notice from the member for Cowan. In response to the question of whether anthrax was given to Gulf War veterans, the answer provided says: `Yes, to a small number only'.

Mr Tanner —We thought you said no.

The SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne is warned.

Mrs VALE —As I said, this refers to the small number of ADF personnel seconded to allied forces. My media release yesterday was 100 per cent accurate.