ANZAC Day Commemoration (Veterans' Advisory Council) Amendment Bill

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:39): I rise to speak on the ANZAC Day (Veterans' Advisory Council) Amendment Bill 2017 and indicate that I will be the lead speaker. We will be supporting the bill. There are a number of matters that I wish to raise. Firstly, members will recall that the Premier embarked on a program of disposing of boards and committees that he or his government felt were redundant or no longer appropriate in relation to the delivery of advice and services undertaken.

When this exercise was undertaken a few years ago, the ANZAC Day Commemoration Council, which we are about to abolish, was salvaged and put into the list of committees that were to have further consideration. The further consideration has occurred. It appears that the government has not asked the ANZAC Day Commemoration Council whether or not they want to continue, but they have clearly been briefed and told that they are going and that their services are no longer required, as I understand it, after 30 June this year.

I want to thank all those who have served on the ANZAC Day Commemoration Council for the work they have undertaken, for the advice they have given and for the consideration of the applications for grants, which has been quite a significant task. In relation to the abolition of this council, the options for the government are that the council's area of responsibility—namely the processing, the recommendations and the decisions on grants in respect of funds allocated—can be transferred to the Veterans Advisory Council, which continues to operate and has its advisory function, or, alternatively, it can be taken in-house, that is to Veterans SA, which is a small department that is accountable to a minister.

It seems that the government has chosen the latter option. I do not think that that is the best model, but we on this side of the house are reassured that the application of the funds, whilst after 30 June the sole determinant party will be the minister, at the very least, the Veterans Advisory Council will be required under statute to receive all grants, whether or not they are recommended so that they may at least have some input, if they wish, in advising the minister in respect of such claims. We are advised further that the Crown Solicitor has been consulted and that this second option, which has been taken up, is not only legitimate but avoids the statutory authority reregulating for the purposes of the Veterans Advisory Council if it were to take up that responsibility.

In any event, the last of the four years of ANZAC Day commemorations in respect of conflicts and important events during World War I and the centenary of that conflict are drawing to a close. Obviously, the funding allocations to support events into 2018, which celebrate the cessation of that conflict 100 years ago, will be covered by grants now being considered on the recommendation and determination of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Council.

The four years of 100 years of recognition since the World War I conflict period will remain essentially under the determination of this committee. We are told that thereafter, for the purposes of the 2018-19 financial year, for example, applications will be received early next year (as they usually are, in January) and will close in April. They will then be determined by whoever is the Minister for Veterans' Affairs post the March 2018 election. For that financial year, we are advised that the funding allocated will revert back to its previous level of $100,000.

Obviously that reflects that the period of the centenary of World War I will have ceased, and I think everyone rightly acknowledges that this was an important period of four years on which considerable effort has been made and funds contributed by the Australian government and also state governments around the country to support the recognition of that centenary of World War I.

We on this side of the house may not have identified this as the preferred model but we are not going to be opposing this bill. The members will conclude their service; we thank them for it. I just mention one thing, and that is that the Veterans Advisory Council—this is the surviving council— has a representative on it from the RSL, as it should. In fact, the current President of the RSL is on that council. In the annual report of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Council 2015-16, there is a list of fund allocations that were made in that financial year, and unsurprisingly this council, which we are about to abolish, lists all of the different parties that received grants. They might be $500, they might be $50,000.

Quite predictably, we see listed there On Flanders Fields Project Consortium, the Paracombe Primary School and the Peterborough History Group. This is a snapshot of people and organisations which have joined in the centenary and have sought either a small or reasonably large lick of money to celebrate that centenary. I note that not only have the local branches of the RSL received moneys, as they should, but in addition to that, the RSL SA Branch received $10,000 for the ANZAC centenary commemorative event for remaining World War II veterans; $30,000 for the Centenary of Service DVD and regional tour celebrating 100 years of RSL; and $45,000 for a RSL Virtual War Memorial. Obviously, that is $85,000 just to that one organisation.

I also note incidentally that they did not even allocate the whole amount of money. There was about $15,500 left out of that fund which I assume will roll over to the next year's $100,000. In any event, I make this point: everyone knows the RSL is in financial difficulty. I will not go into the reasons why at the moment, but they are facing some severe financial circumstances, so much so that they have announced that they are going to sell up the property at Linden Park currently occupied by the Royal Australian Regiment. I am very concerned about this as the local member because they need the money and they need the asset—indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker, as you would know as a member and regular attendee—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm their number one ticket holder, apparently.

Ms CHAPMAN: —at important events for that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Right below The Queen.

Ms CHAPMAN: Yes, and it even has a beautiful picture adorning the walls. They have a lot of Labor Party members in my electorate whose portraits are hung, but we are very happy to hang yours.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Well, I'm an Independent now.

Ms CHAPMAN: So, now that we have an Independent—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm an Independent now

Ms CHAPMAN: —we are even happier. We might elevate you even further. I want to say that the minister has also supported a reconsideration by the RSL of the sale of that site. I thank him for making that contribution because it is almost impossible to believe that what is clearly a premier organisation for returned service men and women now in Australia, particularly here in our state which has branches across the state, would sell off an asset that is high performing, well used and very much loved and not look at other assets and land in the South-East or other property that they could use to remedy their financial plight.

But what I do not want to see—and I am putting the minister on notice here—is recommendations of large licks of money going to the RSL in future allocations that may be used to help them prop up their budget. I do not want a situation where we are going to be putting money into any entities that are clearly in financial difficulty. I am not going to go into any further detail about their plight, but they are in a difficult financial plight, and I will be looking at the annual reports of the Veterans Advisory Council and the Veterans SA annual accounts to ensure that those grant funds, approved in the future by minister after 2017, are properly applied. With that, we support the bill.