House debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2012; Second Reading

6:46 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

In speaking on the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 and the coalition's amendment, I seek to represent those in my electorate who have served in this country's armed forces, those who continue to serve in the armed forces and all the people in my electorate who honour and respect our veterans. Sadly, honouring and respecting our veterans is not unanimous in this country, and I feel it is not unanimous in this parliament either.

While this bill makes a number of important legislative changes that the Liberal-National coalition supports, there is still something missing. Fair treatment of our veterans is missing. The coalition has long recognised that this particular element was missing and has moved on numerous occasions to correct the situation. I speak of course of fair indexation. In 2010, the Liberal-National coalition announced a commitment to fair indexation, but this government has repeatedly signalled that it does not want that particular type of fairness for our veterans. The government has blocked every move to make the treatment of veterans fair. The coalition's commitment included fair indexation for veterans who are superannuants under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme, or the DFRB and the DFRDB.

The reason the coalition made this commitment is that we believe our veterans deserves a fair go. Without fair indexation, the level at which our veterans are looked after declines. It will decline this year. It will decline further next year. It will continue to decline as long as the real cost of living keeps increasing faster and further than the indexation.

I would like to use a specific example here to illustrate my point. I have received numerous letters from veterans who tell me that they are being ripped off by this unfair indexation. I spoke with John Markham, in my electorate, about the advice he was given about DFRDB at the end of last financial year. He was told, in a letter:

… the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has recently announced an upward movement in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the past six month period from September 2011 to March 2012. As a result your DFRDB pension will increase by 0.1% on 12 July 2012.

The letter then goes on to advise that the increase means an extra $1.03 in his gross fortnightly pension—that is a mere $1.03 added to his gross fortnightly pension. But, because the Australian Taxation Office changed the way they withhold tax, his net fortnightly pension actually went down by $30.97. Does that sound like fair indexation—an extra dollar a fortnight that is gobbled up by a $32 a fortnight tax take by this government? What can this veteran splurge on with those extra funds from that indexation rate of 0.1 per cent! As another veteran pointed out to me, during the same six months the ABS statistics for expenses paid by a pensioner increased as follows: transport costs went up 1.1 per cent, or 11 times the DFRDB rate; insurance costs, up 1.6 per cent; rents, up two per cent; and health costs, up 3.2 per cent, 32 times the DFRDB rate. But these are national figures, of course, and in North Queensland we can only dream of cost increases like that! The cost of body corporate insurance for the kinds of units and apartments that many veterans live in has increased by 200, 500 and as much as 1,000 per cent throughout North Queensland, so you cannot tell me the cost of living has gone up just 0.1 per cent in my neck of the woods.

The very least anyone with any respect for our veterans could do is vote for fair indexation. I am left wondering what it is that this government has against our retired Defence Force personnel. They seem to have this thing against our Defence forces and other good Australians who work in the Defence forces. Maybe the government would prefer these people just went away. Perhaps the Greens are controlling their puppet government on defence matters as well, because it is after all Greens policy that they want a reduction in Australian and global military expenditure. At least they are upfront about it. Their belief, according to their stated principles, is:

… genuine security rests on cooperation, fair economic and social development, environmental sustainability, and respect for human rights, rather than on military capabilities.

I suppose fairies and mushrooms can be thrown into that as well! The Labor government demonstrated with their budget in May that they do not even want to maintain the existing Defence Force. In fact, I spoke in the debate on the appropriation bills about how this government is worse for our Defence forces than the Taliban. How much respect can the government have for defence and our Defence personnel when they are slashing—


No comments