Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment (Veterans Reform) Bill 2015

Written on the 17 March 2015

17 March 2015
COUNCIL - Second reading 


GEORGIE CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan)

I am also very pleased to speak to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment (Veterans Reform) Bill 2015. As has already been stated, a bill which was essentially the same bill was introduced into this place last year. The bill amends the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 to provide for the conversion of a right of interment for interring cremated human remains of deceased identified veterans for 25 years to a perpetual right of interment, and in the case of other family members, where the interment of cremated remains can be identified, they can be moved in those specified circumstances by various family members if it is deemed appropriate.

The bill is important, and I am pleased that there is bipartisan support for it. I want to comment initially on what the previous Minister for Health did. He understood the necessity for this issue to be considered, and did so through, as he alluded to in his contribution, the advisory committee that he put together. I also pay tribute to the RSL state president, Major General David McLachlan, who back in 2013, when the issue was first raised, really understood the importance for family members and those veterans who have gone before us of what we need to do to respect their memory.

Mr Finn has spoken articulately on this issue this afternoon. He reminded me of various trips I have had the privilege of taking over the years, including to Gallipoli and Beersheba, and the enormous and very moving moments one has when visiting those war graves and understanding the significance of the service given to our country by war veterans over many years. As we approach the centenary of Anzac, this becomes even more relevant.

In view of those sentiments, it was important that the bill be introduced. As I said earlier, the former Minister for Health, along with Major General David McLachlan, fully understood the issue. An article published in the Age during 2013 stated:

The RSL has raised concerns about cemeteries scattering the ashes of veterans after time limits have expired and the cemetery has been unable to contact relatives.

Therefore it was something about which the RSL was concerned, as well as the former government. The issue had not been addressed. We initiated what was the Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2014 in this house in order for that problem to be rectified. An extract from the second-reading speech of that earlier bill stated that it was a relatively straightforward bill, that it would not create any huge partisan divisions, that there would be bipartisan support as there is for the legislation today and that the changes were relatively small. However, they were significant changes, representing a change in the way we as a community recognise those veterans and honour and manage the limited tenure of the cremated remains of those deceased veterans. That was what was so important.

It is therefore very disappointing for me that some members have come into this place and politicised the issue. We know what the former government did; we know what the RSL's views were; and the RSL certainly knows what the former government did. Mr Drum spoke about the achievements of the former government and referred to a number of initiatives, and I recognise the work that he and other ministers in the former government did to initiate grants to restore the community war memorials and the avenues of honour, the Spirit of Anzac prize that is being undertaken and the significant work that was undertaken looking into the future needs of war veterans. The bill introduced in 2014 was partly in recognition of those needs, and it is important that I place on the record the work of the previous government.

I suppose it is comforting to know that the RSL understands the work that was done. Many members of the community, including the war veterans community, understand the work that was done. Therefore I was a little disappointed to read in a media release from the Andrews government:

This legislation was introduced into the previous Parliament but unfortunately wasn't brought on for debate by the former Liberal government.

We all know why that was. It was because for the last six months of the previous government the government business program was blocked every single week. I cannot believe the audacity of the government in making it sound like it has initiated this measure when in fact it was the previous government that consulted those people and worked in this area and on the bill that was introduced in 2014. However, because of activities in the other place, that bill was never passed.

Mr Finn It was pretty low what they did, really.

Ms CROZIER I do not think it gave that bill any dignity, and the operations of the then opposition certainly did not give the chamber the dignity it deserved in the context of that bill. I am glad that we are debating this bill today and that we have bipartisan support in getting it through. As I said, it is important in this year of the centenary of Anzac that this bill pass today. I look forward to it doing so, and with those words I commend the bill to the house.

Motion agreed to.

Read second time.

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