17 February 2019
Transcript - #2019029, 2019

Interview with Justin Smith, Macquarie Weekly, 2GB, 3AW, 4BC & 6PR

Subjects: Fast-tracking support to SEATO doctors and nurses.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Hello, Treasurer.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Nice to be with you, Justin.

JUSTIN SMITH:

What’s the Gold Card going to mean to these people?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, it will mean that they will get the support that they deserve for their service as part of the South East Asian Treaty Organisation, particularly medical support. These people have been denied justice for fifty years. They performed vital roles in Vietnam during the conflict, providing medical assistance and training and support to the Vietnamese people and to local medical staff. And, for many, many years, they have been fighting to get access to the benefits that Defence Force personnel who served in Vietnam have received. And, now, the Coalition Government has taken the decision, it has been a long time in the…

JUSTIN SMITH:

It sure has, it sure has…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Taken the decision to give them the access to that Gold Card. And, now, we’ve decided to bring it even forward a year. So, these benefits will start to flow from the 1st of July this year.

JUSTIN SMITH:

You and I have met these people and they’re really something, aren’t they? They are good people.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

They’re brave Australian men and women and none other than the current Governor General, Peter Cosgrove, has been a big supporter of their cause. While they were denied by Veteran’s Affairs the benefits because they weren’t technically part of the Australian Defence Force, they were supporting Australia’s objectives, they were working in war-like conditions. And, as part of the South East Asian Treaty Organisation, these doctors and nurses- more than 450 of them- really served our country and served the Vietnamese people with distinction and bravery.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Yeah, absolutely. I know this is sort of personal business for you and it has been many years in the works. Why did this one touch you so much?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I was contacted by members of my constituency who had served in Vietnam as part of these medical teams, and when they showed me the photos and told me the stories, it really had an impact. And, then I spoke to other people who had joined in the SEATO surgical and medical teams and they too thought that this had been justice denied. I spoke to some of my colleagues in the Parliament, Darren Chester the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs and Nicolle Flint the Member for Boothby in South Australia, and many others. They, too, had met people who served in Vietnam as part of these teams and thought that they were deserving of support. So, it’s been a group effort. There is no single person that should get the credit other than those brave Australian men and women who served in the medical teams in Vietnam.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Treasurer, thank you very much for your time. Congratulations, well done to you and the team.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I’m really pleased that these people, after fifty years, have had justice come their way and they will now get the medical support and the recognition they deserve after serving our country.