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12. Hon RICK BARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Defence: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the treatment and care of New Zealand veterans who attended commemorations in Crete that “We need to do better for the future … I am concerned about this and I guess as a nation we do owe them an apology”?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence) : I am and was concerned that we need to properly respect our veterans. It is clear that the $2,000 was not sufficient, and we will be doing better in the future for the 70th anniversary commemorations. I apologise to the Crete veterans that I did not achieve the level of support that the public and they would have reasonably expected.
Hon Rick Barker: Will the Minister confirm that at the beginning of this year a New Zealand Air Force aircraft was scheduled to take the veterans to Crete, providing them with similar commemorations to those provided by the Australians to their veterans, and can the Minister explain why this plan was shelved, leaving our own veterans to make their own way to Crete and to fend for themselves, unlike their Australian comrades, who were treated with appropriate care and respect?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I was advised that that was the original plan, but of course the earthquake occurred, and there was a huge deployment of the New Zealand Defence Force assisting in Christchurch. Of course, we have a much higher level of tempo operations than was previously the case. It would be fair to say that the Government collectively has learnt from this experience, and will be doing better in the future.
Hon Rick Barker: Does he believe that if Australia hosted its Crete veterans to a luncheon following a national war memorial service for the Battle of Crete in the Australian Parliament, the veterans would be served a meal that befits their status in the community, or a meal such as was served to our veterans here in the Grand Hall that consisted of soup, bread rolls, sausage rolls cut in half, tomato sauce, and a lamington for dessert? Why does he believe that half a sausage roll is appropriate?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I know that the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs has deep respect for the veteran community. I am aware of the many events that she attends; of course, the event was hosted here. She is, in fact, leading the planning of World War II commemorations for the future, and she will be reporting to Cabinet in September of this year going forward.
Hon Rick Barker: Will the Minister defer on the retrospective payments to our veterans who went to Crete, or will the Minister take a leadership position by making a meaningful apology to the veterans, and reimbursing those who travelled for reasonable costs they incurred; if not, why not?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I am discussing this issue with my Cabinet colleagues. There are some challenges around retrospectivity, but it is a matter I am discussing with Cabinet colleagues.
Hon Rick Barker: With the Minister’s renewed enthusiasm for the concerns of veterans, will the Minister lobby the Government for a response to the Law Commission report on support for veterans—now a year overdue—to fix the fact that veterans are being supported less well than ordinary Kiwis who have access to accident compensation, and when will the vets get some action from the Government on this vital issue?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I know that the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs is actually dealing with this issue.