Submarine special operations to be accredited as warlike
The Government announced in the 2010–11 Budget that it
will accredit submarine special operations conducted in the period
1978 to 1992 as warlike service. Accreditation as warlike service will provide
Australian military personnel involved in such service with access
to the Service Pension from age 60 and also access to a Gold Card
from the age of 70 years.
Special submarine service – examined by the Clarke
The Report of the Review of Veterans’ Entitlements (the
Clarke Review) examined submarine special service operations to
assess whether they constituted warlike service. In the late 1970s to the early
1990s, some Royal Australian Navy (RAN) submarines, filled with
special intelligence equipment, were regularly deployed in areas to
the north and west of Australia. Submissions to the Clarke Review
claimed that the special operations were conducted in an
environment in which overwhelming force could have been expected if
the submarine had been detected. The Clarke Review commented that
the operations were covert and thus it was unable to elaborate
further on the nature of the tasks performed in its report. The
Clarke Review found that due to the classified nature of the
operations, the assessment of the service and whether it met the
warlike definition could only be made by the Department of Defence.
The Review reported that it had deliberated extensively about the
nature of the operations with the authors of submissions and senior
Defence officials and concluded that there was no evidence to
substantiate a description of the special operation service as
warlike. As a result, the Review recommended that the service be
classified as non-warlike service.
Peacetime service as warlike service
In addition to the submissions regarding submarine special
operations to the north and west of Australia covered by this
budget initiative, the Clarke Review received 44 submissions to
have various forms of peacetime military service accredited as
either ‘warlike’ or ‘non-warlike hazardous
service’ under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act
These claims included personnel involved in covert intelligence
gathering or covert signals and also major peacetime accidents like
the Black Hawke helicopter crash of 1996. Generally, the Clarke
Review did not recommend that peacetime service should be
accredited as warlike service under the VEA. The exception to this
was the accreditation of some peacetime mine clearing and bomb
disposal work post World War Two (WWII) in the South Pacific and
this was given effect with the Veterans' Entitlements (Clarke
Review) Act 2004.
While accreditation as warlike service for mine and bomb
clearance work does show that some peacetime service has been
recognised as warlike service for the VEA, it is exceptional.
Generally, governments have not wanted to have peacetime service
recognised as war or warlike service in the VEA, as it would then
diminish the special recognition given to the special service
provided for in the VEA. This view was emphasised in Prime Minister
John Howard’s media release when announcing the
Government’s responses to the Clarke Review
The Government will continue to provide special
recognition and comprehensive assistance to those who have served
Australia in times of war, at personal risk of injury or death from
an armed enemy.
In keeping with this approach, we have accepted
the Clarke Report’s
recommendation that there be no change in the incurred danger test
for Qualifying Service. However, we reject the view that this test
has been interpreted too narrowly.
Governments have considered that illness/injuries/death incurred
by Defence Force staff during peacetime activities should be
covered by workers’ compensation arrangements, as applies to
public servants generally.
A precedent for other claims?
War, and warlike service, involves action against an armed
hostile enemy force in a time of conflict. Section 7A of the VEA
describes qualifying service. It essentially refers to risk and dangers incurred
while a service person was engaged in service during a period of
hostilities from an armed enemy force.
The proponents of the submarine special service insist that, had
they been detected, they were at great and overwhelming risk and
danger. However, the detail of the special submarine service has
not been made public due to the apparently ‘top secret’
nature of its operations. Nor has there been any publicity relating
to its operations, such as might be expected if it had engaged in
any conflict with, or discovered any covert operations by, other
forces or nations. Therefore, the Government’s decision
implies acceptance that the risks the operations ran should be
given the same recognition as warlike service. This is even though
the submarine operations were not during a period of hostilities
against an armed enemy force, hitherto a requirement for the
classification of war and warlike service. This budget initiative
might therefore set a precedent for the accreditation of other
claims relating to dangerous peacetime military service.
. Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, Commonwealth of
Australia, Canberra, 2010, pp. 301–2, viewed 16 May 2010,
Department of Veterans Affairs, Report of the Review of
Veterans’ Entitlements, (the Clarke Review), 2003, pp.
342–54, viewed 15 May 2010,
. Ibid., p. 342.
. P Yeend, Veterans’ Entitlements
(Clarke Review) Bill 2004, Bills digest, no. 134,
2003–04, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2004, viewed 15 May
. J Howard (Prime Minister), Additional
benefits for veteran – government response to the
Clarke Report, media release, Canberra, 2 March 2004, viewed
15 May 2010,
7A Qualifying service
For the purposes of Parts III and VA and sections 85 and 118V, a
person has rendered qualifying service:
(a) if the person has, as a member of the Defence Force:
(i) rendered service, during a period of hostilities specified in
paragraph (a) or (b) of the definition of period of
hostilities in subsection 5B(1), at sea, in the field
or in the air in naval, military or aerial operations against the
enemy in an area, or on an aircraft or ship of war, at a time when
the person incurred danger from hostile forces of the enemy in that
area or on that aircraft or ship.
. The Clarke Review, op. cit., pp.