17 December 2018
Transcript - #2018098, 2018

Interview with Justin Smith, Drive, 3AW

Subjects: DVA Gold Card

JUSTIN SMITH:

Treasurer, thanks for your time.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Nice to be with you, Justin.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Long past you, long past you, isn’t it?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, this is justice that has been delayed, but fortunately not denied. And these very brave men and woman who served in Vietnam as part of the South East Asian Treaty Organisation Aid Program are going to get the Gold Card. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, because a number of these people are suffering the ailments and the illnesses that come with their age, but also that come with their service.

JUSTIN SMITH:

It should never have been the case, Josh, why was it allowed to go on for so many years? Why was it never recognised before then? It just seems so simple.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, as you know these medical and surgical teams, they provided aid and training and treatment to the local Vietnamese people, but they weren’t part of the ADF in a technical sense. So, I think there was the institutional inertia against creating a special class or an Act of Grace for these particular people. But, as you know and I am sure you have heard it from Dot Angel, these men and woman performed in war-like conditions. They suffered the same ailments and issues that our Defence Force personnel suffered and therefore, this is an appropriate recognition of their service.      

JUSTIN SMITH:

There was a concern, is that concern is still there, that it will set a precedent?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Oh, look, there are some people who have raised these issues. But I think every case is different and no lesser authority than Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor General, but also former Defence Force Chief…

JUSTIN SMITH:

And Vietnam veteran…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

And Vietnam Veteran. In his own words, he said from my clear, personal experience at that time, South Vietnam was a warzone in which great personal hazards were there for anybody who identifies as working for or aligned with the Coalition nation’s supporting the Government of South Vietnam. And very plainly, the men and women of the Vietnam surgical teams, there at the behest of the Australian Government were no more free agents than was I. Very clear.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Yeah, absolutely. Josh, there is one problem with this and I know you have been a champion for this cause. However, it does appear when we get into the fine print, they’ve got to wait until July 1 2020. And I asked Dorothy Angel that question, I asked her what she would say to you about this.

DOROTHY ANGEL:

A lot of us, including myself, may not be around in eighteen months-time. So, therefore, there is a matter of urgency to get this matter through.    

JUSTIN SMITH:

They’re not well and they are very old. That is a long time to wait, Josh. Is that really going to be the date, July 1 2020?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, look, I hope it is much sooner than that. I will be speaking to the Veteran Affairs Minister, Darren Chester, who has been a big supporter of this and deserves much credit. He and I will work to see if we can do this as quickly as possible, bearing in mind it will require some legislation. I assume it’s non-controversial and has support of the Labor Party and then we can move to legislate it and get justice and the Gold Card for these people as soon as possible.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Sorry, I am going to have to put the screws on you. When do you think you will be able to get this across the line?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, Justin, what we need to do is speak to the drafters, look at the Parliamentary timetable, speak to the opposition and work through that process.

JUSTIN SMITH:

When would you like it to happen?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I would have liked it to have happened yesterday, as you know. When I got elected to the Parliament in 2010, not long after, some of these men and women came and saw me, told me their stories, I spoke in the Parliament about it. We were interviewed by the Progress Leader. I have written to successive Veteran Affairs Ministers about it, both Labor and Liberal, and made an issue of this particular injustice. So I have always wanted this to happen, ever since I became aware of the issue. But now that it has happened, I am also very pleased to have played a small part in it, but now we need to try and get this Gold Card to these people, as soon as possible.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Thank you very much, Treasurer. I appreciate the time.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good to be with you and your listeners.