June Harper, Ron Lawrence, Minister Warren Snowdon, Allan Devereau, Don Young and Brian Fennell talk about the needs of war veterans and war widows at the Hervey Bay RSL.
June Harper, Ron Lawrence, Minister Warren Snowdon, Allan Devereau, Don Young and Brian Fennell talk about the needs of war veterans and war widows at the Hervey Bay RSL. Karleila Thomsen

Tough questions for minister

WHEN Hervey Bay veteran Ron Lawrence fought in the Second World War he returned home in a plane minus his left kidney and with damage to other areas of his lower body.

Mr Lawrence was serving overseas when he was told to use a bulldozer to fill in bomb holes left in the area after an air raid.

He had a severe accident while operating the bulldozer, injuring his left hip and right knee, along with losing a kidney.

He also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

He was given only 10 years to live but he has been defying that diagnosis for 67 years. He will turn 95 in the first week of December.

When new Veteran Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon met with members of the Extremely Disabled War Veteran Group at their national conference at the Hervey Bay RSL yesterday he heard many similar stories and was keen to reaffirm his commitment to providing the veterans with the support and help they need.

Mr Snowdon is replacing Alan Griffin in the role and it was made clear yesterday what high regard the previous minister was held in.

But Mr Snowdon assured the veterans, who had travelled from all over the country, including WA and NSW, to attend, that he would be equally committed.

Mr Snowdon was the minister for defence science and personnel and said he would bring that experience to his new role.

“Veterans hold a very special place in the hearts of all Australians, myself included,” Mr Snowdon said.

“I will continue the hard work of the Labor Government to date in delivering the highest level of support available to the veteran community.”

It wasn't all smooth sailing for the new minister yesterday.

The microphone was turned over to the crowd and he was asked some difficult questions about bringing the Extremely Disabled War Veterans' pensions in line with other pensions and was also reminded of the issue of time when it came to meeting the needs of veterans, most of whom are now entering their early 80s.

Jack Carter, a past president of the group in the NSW Hunter Valley and Newcastle area, told the minister that if he was going to do something for veterans “make sure it's within the next four years”.

“We are living on borrowed time,” he said.

“It's very, very borrowed time.”

Mr Snowdon acknowledged the questions of veterans and said he was more than willing to hear their concerns.

“I like people with opinions and with attitude,” he said.

“They have sacrificed for this country, now it's our turn to give back to them.”



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