Monday, 20 August 2012
Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2012; Second Reading
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
“the House declines to consider this bill until such time as the Government introduces legislation to index military superannuation pensions for Defence Forces Retirement Benefit (DFRB) Scheme members and Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (DFRDB) Scheme members aged 55 and over in the same manner as aged and service pensions are currently indexed.”
The Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill makes a series of minor technical amendments to various pieces of legislation that impact upon veterans. These amendments are generally noncontroversial and the coalition supports the measures contained in the bill. However, the legislation can be made better and the coalition will seek to do that. First and foremost, we will draw a line in the sand tonight. We will seek to legislate for fair indexation as a prerequisite for passing this legislation. Enough is enough. We have called for this, we have gone to an election on this, we have introduced a private member's bill in the Senate for this, the Leader of the Opposition has reannounced this, at the RSL at Bendigo, and we will now seek to establish this as a requirement for passing this legislation. Once this legislation is agreed to by the House the coalition will seek to make the Veterans' Pharmaceutical Reimbursement Scheme the fair system it deserves to be.
We do not move this amendment lightly. The bill before the House makes important legislative changes which we support, although we seek to make the pharmaceutical benefits scheme aspects better. We believe that this government, now, needs to consider and introduce fair, just and equitable arrangements for military superannuants. We will prevent the passage of the current bill through the House until fair indexation is introduced. We are drawing a line in the sand now. The time has come for this parliament to deliver this important reform. The government speaks about reform often but, in the government's words, every reform it does is historic, monumental or world leading. All I ask, all the coalition asks, is for a simple reform so that veterans have the same entitlement to the indexation of pensions as age pensioners in Australia do. It is a simple request—there is no hyperbole about the world's greatest reform.
The coalition has a very proud record of supporting ADF personnel, whether serving or in retirement.
We believe in the unique nature of military service. In the case of veterans and ex-service personnel, we are committed to fair indexation of military superannuation pensions. We committed to it as a policy at the 2010 election. We introduced a private member's bill. As I said, the Leader of the Opposition has reiterated that there are no ifs and no buts. The government is fond of telling people that we will not roll back the carbon tax. Let me say very clearly to the nation. Do not doubt that we will do both of these things. We will legislate the fair indexation of military pensions and we will roll back the carbon tax. We will do them both.
The Leader of the Opposition has formally recommitted the coalition on a number of occasions since the 2010 election. On 20 September 2011, at the RSL national conference in Melbourne, Tony Abbott said:
It has long been to me and my colleagues in the Coalition, verging on the scandalous that defence retirees do not enjoy the same indexation arrangements as other people who have retired.
In Bendigo on 5 March, the Leader of the Opposition, together with the shadow minister for veterans' affairs, Senator Michael Ronaldson, signed the coalition's pledge to deliver fair indexation. The pledge says in no uncertain terms that the coalition is committed to our veterans and to delivering fair indexation to 57,000 military superannuants and their families. It says that the coalition will ensure that DFRB and DFRDB military superannuation pensions are indexed in the same way as the age pension and service pensions for those aged 55 and over.
The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for veterans' affairs signed two large pledges. Senator Ronaldson has one of them and I have one of them. If anyone doubts our commitment to fair indexation, walk into my office and there you will see it, signed by the Leader of the Opposition—a pledge a metre high and half a metre wide, a pledge which could not be clearer. Do not believe the government's hyperbole. We will deliver this important reform.
Frankly, I would rather we delivered fair indexation to military superannuants now. I would rather the government agreed with the amendment we are moving tonight, did the right thing and indexed military superannuation the same way the age pension is indexed. My colleague Senator Ronaldson, who, as I mentioned, is the coalition spokesperson on veterans' affairs, has committed the coalition to this policy at every veterans forum and at every opportunity. In conjunction with these commitments, the coalition has also taken concrete steps to fairly index pensions.
As I said, Senator Ronaldson introduced my fair indexation bill into the Senate on my behalf on 18 November 2010, a bill designed to provide fair, just and equitable indexation for DFRB and DFRDB military superannuants. On 24 March 2011, the Greens and Labor called for a Senate inquiry into the legislation. The coalition opposed yet another inquiry. The Greens and Labor used the inquiry to oppose fair indexation—the first time the parliament has ever opposed fair indexation. On 16 June 2011, in a shameful day for the Senate, the coalition's fair indexation legislation was defeated by Labor and the Greens.
Again, be under no illusion—the coalition is resolutely behind the policy it has stated time and time again, the policy it transparently took to the 2010 election. That is why I stand in the chamber this evening to seek to amend the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2012—so that the issue of fair indexation receives its proper hearing.
Labor's record on military superannuation reform is nothing more than a litany of hyperbole, hot air and inaction. Let us not forget that, before the 2007 election, Labor led the veteran community to believe they would fix military superannuation indexation.