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Thursday, 25 November 1971
Page: 3720


Mr BARNARD (Bass) - I move the following amendment-


The CHAIRMAN - I suggest that the Opposition seek leave to withdraw the amendment and the amendment thereto.


Mr Uren - I seek leave to withdraw the amendment in my name.


The CHAIRMAN - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


Mr BARNARD - I move:

Before paragraph (a) insert the following paragraph: by adding at the end of the definition of "Australian soldier" in sub-section (1.) the following words: and includes a serving member of the permanent forces'.

I have moved this amendment because 2 honourable members from the Government side have had the courage to stand up and support the Opposition's proposal in this respect, to provide for an extension of the War Service Homes Act to cover those who have joined the armed Services I am now referring to the regular forces of this country on a permanent basis for the duration of their service.


Mr Swartz - May I interrupt?


Mr BARNARD - I am not very happy about it.


Mr Swartz - In view of the circumstances there has been a lot of confusion in relation to this until we can get things sorted out I suggest that the Committee report progress.


Mr BARNARD - No. I think you ought to let me put my case on this. I would be very happy to comply with the request of the Leader of the House later.I understand his motive in suggesting this. But there ought not to be any doubt in the minds of honourable members opposite about what the Opposition proposes in relation to this matter. After I have made my explanation the Opposition will be very happy for progress to be reported. Undoubtedly there are honourable members on the Government side who believe that there ought to be an extension of the War Service Homes Act to provide for those who join the Navy, the Army or the Air Force on a permanent basis and who serve this country in that capacity whether their service is in Australia or overseas or, as the Government terms it. in a prescribed area. The amendment I have proposed clearly puts this proposition. I understand the objection that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) had in relationto this matter. He does not believe that members who joined up for a day or a week that is, those who come within the description of serving in the Citizen Military Forces ought to be entitled to the benefits of the war service homes legislation. Neither do we believe that, but we do believe that the benefits ought to be extended to provide for those who volunteer to serve in the armed forces.

I think that the amendmentI have proposed meets the wishes of both the honourable member for Moreton , (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for La Trobe, both of whom have had the courage to stand up and say that they support this proposition. The honourable member for Moreton put to us the reasons why he believes the scheme ought to be extended. He pointed out some of the anomalies to which I have already referred. I referred, for example, to those who fly into Viet nam on special service. The Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) has not done his homework. He does not understand the Act. It is quite clear that he had to get the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) to come to his assistance and ask that progress be reported. I suggest that the Minister ought to do his homework and he ought to understand the Act. He simply does not understand it.

I do not want to go back over all the anomalies that have been referred to during the course of this debate, butI want to emphasise with all sincerity the proposition that has been put by honourable members on this side of the House. There is a clear case for the war service homes legislation to be looked at so as to bring within its ambit those who join the armed Services of this country to serve Australia, whether their service be in Australia or outside it. However ridiculous it is that the Minister for Housing has not done his homework.I believe that I can substantiate my claim that he has not. The plain fact is that, as the honourable member for Moreton pointed out, anyone who joined the armed Services as a volunteer during the 1939-45 war the honourable member for Moreton referred to the Air Force had a TX number, a QX number, a VX number or an NX number or the appropriate prefix according to the States of the Commonwealth in which they enlisted. They were entitled to assistance through the War Services Homes Division whether their service was in Australia or outside.

Someone referred to the Victoria Barracks. How ridiculous it is for the Minister to use that as a valid argument when the plain fact is that any member who served in the Victoria Barracks during the last world war and who had a prefix X before his number was entitled to assistance from the War Service Homes Division. I ask the Minister to look at this Act andlearn something about it. His lack of knowledge of the Act is a disgrace to this Parliament.

There are members on his side of the House who would support what I have said in this respect. All we are asking for is justice for those who have served this country. The honourable member for Moreton referred to those who served in HMAS 'Sydney'. I apologise for the fact that when I first spoke on this matter I referred to HMAS 'Melbourne'. I meant HMAS 'Sydney'. How can the Minister justify a situation in which those who serve on the 'Sydney', taking troops to Vietnam, and who are stationed there overnight in an area patrolled by HMAS 'Perth' are not entitled to the benefits, when everyone serving on the 'Perth' would be eligible for the benefits of the war service homes legislation. Because they happen to go to Vietnam as a member of the crew of the Sydney' the Minister says to them: "You are not entitled to the benefits of the war service homes legislation.'

I put it to honourable members opposite wilh all sincerity that all we want to do is ensure that those who serve this country - who are prepared to accept the responsibilities, whether as members of the Navy, the Army or the Air Force and who are prepared to join and be called upon to serve this country overseas - are entitled to the benefits of the war service homes legislation. That is the only suggestion the Opposition makes in relation to this matter. It is a reasonable proposition. I believe that the Minister now acknowledges that this is a reasonable proposition because he has agreed with the Leader of the House that we ought to report progress. I make one final appeal to honourable members opposite. I hope that when progress is reported they will use whatever influence they have on the Minister - who does not know the Act, docs not understand its implications and does not understand how it was applied to those who served during the last world war and the First World War - to see that he accepts this proposition, which is a reasonable one.

The honourable member for Moreton made a very good point when he asked: What will it cost this country?' It may mean an increase in the appropriation, but the plain fact is that when one looks at it in relation to the overall Budget it is just a matter of peanuts. The honourable member for Moreton put it in a very descriptive form. He said it was a question of peanuts, but the Minister and the Government must accept some responsibility for this. They consistently have opposed any action on the part of honourable members on this side of the chamber to bring about what, after all, is a change that would be acceptable to al) Australians.


The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Progress reported.







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