House debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2012; Second Reading

7:35 pm

Photo of Wyatt RoyWyatt Roy (Longman, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise tonight to speak to the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. Let me begin tonight by acknowledging the contribution of the previous speaker, the member for Herbert. He and I have had many conversations about this issue and I know his heart is very much in this fight. It is good to know that we stand on this side of the House together trying to achieve a positive outcome for our veterans.

Last month I held the Longman Veterans' Community Forum, an opportunity for the veteran community to raise their concerns about matters pertaining to veterans affairs as well as ask for clarification on any questions they have about veterans affairs policy. I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleague Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson for his time in attending the Longman Veterans' Community Forum and for taking the opportunity to take on board the feedback from members of my community who are personally impacted by the decisions made with regards to veterans affairs.

During this forum many and varied concerns were brought to light, including the difficulties individuals are experiencing with the administration of veterans affairs services. The member for Herbert had an excellent example of that, of one cent being chased down from a veteran. The difficulties include the lack of mental health support services and the culture of disrespect that our veterans feel they are met with by the broader community, including when they return from service abroad. The attendees of the forum felt that more can be done to support them and honour the sacrifices made and the unique nature of military service.

All of the points that were raised at the community forum were very valid and worthy of further consideration. But these concerns pale in comparison to the overarching veterans affairs issue that was raised at the community forum. The very first comment of the day and the first question that was put to me and to Senator Ronaldson was about fair indexation of the Defence Force Retirement Benefits, DFRB, scheme, and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits, DFRDB, scheme.

Attendees at the forum wanted to know what was being done to achieve fair indexation of those two military superannuation pensions. They were unhappy that despite the many allusions by the federal Labor Party members to delivering fair indexation they had not seen any change of their position on this issue.

Earlier this year our DFRDB and DFRB recipients were delivered a meagre 0.1 per cent increase via indexation, which for some translated into a mere 47c per week increase. After consistent campaigning from the Liberal-National coalition on this issue it is most disappointing that, two years on, Labor is still holding out from delivering fair indexation.

The answer to their questions, which I had to give to the veterans in my community, was not encouraging. I wanted to be able to say to the local veterans in my community that their federal government was in the process of taking steps to fairly index the DFRDB and DFRB. I wanted to give them some hope. But the reality is that this was not the case. While many Labor members are prepared to talk the talk, it would seem that they have never been prepared to walk the walk. It is beyond belief that this Labor government has not delivered fair indexation. At every opportunity, this Labor government has walked away from the veterans of Longman and of this country. And we on this side of the chamber have provided many opportunities in this place for Labor, the Greens and the Independents to act.

Not only have Labor failed to take the lead to deliver for our veterans, they have taken active steps to block the coalition from delivering it. It would seem Labor are desperate to avoid giving our veterans the respect that is due to them. After the 2010 election, the coalition introduced legislation to implement fair indexation of the DFRDB and DFRB, but Labor sided with the Greens to ensure that our veterans would not receive a fair go. This politically motivated decision means that instead of directing funds into securing the future of our veterans, this federal Labor government decided to continue their reckless spending spree and addiction to failed government programs.

I cannot help but wonder when I see that the Labor-Greens government can find $10 billion of taxpayers' money to sink into a dodgy clean energy finance corporation but cannot find money for our nation's veterans. They can find $10 billion to keep their mates, the Greens, happy. I cannot help but wonder where this Labor government's priorities are, for they seem to have forgotten the very people that they once claimed to represent. The Labor members of this place would rather stand next to the Greens than stand up for our veterans.

I also cannot help but be discouraged when I speak to veterans who are telling me that they are struggling to buy their groceries, pay their electricity bills and put fuel in their cars. I am hearing them tell me that they are forgoing even the smallest of luxuries because the money is not available, because their payments are able to buy less and less. In real terms, they are watching their payments decrease, rather than stay constant or increase. As the cost of living skyrockets for all Australians, this Labor government continues to make decisions that are in fact making cost-of-living pressures worse, not better, and this is putting more strain on the already stretched budgets of those relying on the DFRB and DFRDB.

I have veterans telling me that the last increase they got was a mere 47c—an increase which does absolutely nothing to alleviate the cost increases across the board that we have seen recently. It does not buy a loaf of bread or a litre of milk. It does nothing to help them get by. They are telling me that 47c a week is an insult. They are right. How can those opposite stand idly by as our veterans struggle like this? Why is it that Labor members of this place are more at home standing next to the Greens instead of standing up for our veterans?

Our veterans should not find themselves in this situation. Our veterans, who have given us so much—made so many unthinkable sacrifices for our country and our future—deserve to be treated fairly. They deserve for their military superannuation to be treated with an indexation that reflects the cost of living. This is about fairness, justice and equity for military superannuants relying on pensions which are not keeping pace with the cost of living.

The Liberal-National coalition have fought long and hard for action on this issue. And we are not about to give up. I am not about to give up. We are committed to delivering fair indexation for military superannuants. We believe that the DFRB and DFRDB military superannuation pensioners aged 55 and over should have their pensions indexed in the same way as age and service pensioners. We will not end the fight for fair indexation for our DFRDB and DFRB recipients until that is delivered. We remain absolutely committed to fair indexation and will continue to put pressure on those opposite until they finally concede that the veterans of Australia are worthy of having their military superannuation fairly indexed.

I am proud to stand up for delivering a fair go for the veterans in my community. Should the coalition win the next election, we will move to fairly index the DFRDB and DFRB in our first budget, finally giving veterans in my local community and across the nation a fair go. I am convinced that the only way—I am sorry to say that it has come to this—to achieve fair indexation is to change the government. Whatever we will achieve in this place, I am afraid that Labor will once again team up with its Green mates in the Senate and deny veterans a fair go. But I am hopeful that maybe, just maybe, we will be surprised by a change of heart from the Labor Party.

I call on the Independent members in this place tonight to support this amendment, and support our veterans with fair indexation of the DFRDB and DFRB. I know that the member for Lyne and the member for New England have previously supported our fight for a fair outcome for veterans on this issue and I encourage them again to stand up for veterans in their electorates and around the country to deliver a fair result. I note that it has been reported in local media that the member for Dobell has also come out in support of fair indexation for veterans, and I call on him to indeed support them when it counts—in this place tonight, with this amendment.

Let's not delay one more day, one more hour. The time has come for this parliament to make a stand. Our veterans have waited long enough to see a resolution. These men and women have proudly served our nation. It is time the nation recognised the unique nature of military service and delivered fair pension indexation to these men and women.

As the elected representatives of this nation, let's make a stand in this place tonight and deliver a fair go for our veterans. It is no longer acceptable that this Labor government continues to linger around the edges of policy while at the same time wholly dismissing the everyday concerns of veterans, ex-service personnel and their families. The lack of fair indexation for the DFRDB and the DFRB, and the consequences of this, is something that our veterans deal with every day of their life. The onus is now on those members opposite. They know what they should do. They should stand up and support our veterans. They should stand up for fair indexation of the DFRDB and the DFRB. I know it has been a long wait for our veteran community, but let's not make them wait any longer. I implore members to finally honour our veterans and fairly index the DFRDB and the DFRB by supporting the coalition's amendment tonight.


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