Thursday, 14 February 2019
Treatment Benefits (Special Access) Bill 2019; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
I am pleased to introduce the Treatment Benefits (Special Access) Bill 2019. The bill will provide medical treatment to eligible members of Australian civilian surgical and medical teams who worked in South Vietnam from October 1964 to December 1972 under the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization aid program.
During the Vietnam War, Australian civilian surgical and medical teams were engaged by the then Department of External Affairs to provide medical aid, training and treatment to local Vietnamese people in South Vietnam as part of Australia's contribution to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization aid program.
This measure was to be introduced in 2020; however, Australian civilian surgical and medical team members raised concerns that waiting another 18 months was not ideal for an ageing group, some of whom have serious health issues.
This government has listened to these concerns. We are committed to ensuring this small group can access medical treatment as and when they need it, and so we have decided to bring forward this measure to 1 July 2019.
The bill recognises the fact that civilian surgical and medical teams working in South Vietnam had a unique role in working for the Australian government in a conflict zone where they were exposed to hazards and dangers.
The bill also recognises that the teams provided invaluable aid to Vietnamese citizens, often in difficult and traumatic circumstances.
This bill will provide eligible civilian surgical and medical team members with access to medical treatment through a DVA gold card.
DVA is aware of approximately 200 surviving members of civilian surgical and medical teams who will benefit from this bill.
Civilian surgical and medical team members can already receive compensation and treatment for medical conditions related to their employment in South Vietnam under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988administered by Comcare.
The bill would increase the level of medical assistance available to civilian surgical and medical team members by extending medical treatment to any injury or disease including those unrelated to their work performed in South Vietnam.
Civilian surgical and medical team members will also be eligible to receive a pharmaceutical supplement and payment for travel costs related to receiving medical treatment.
This bill will mean improved range and access to medical treatment for civilian surgical and medical team members as and when they need it.
I commend this bill.