Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2015 Budget Measures) Bill 2015; Consideration of Senate Message
I thank the member for Batman, the shadow minister for Veterans' Affairs. This bill comes back to the House for concurrence following amendment in the Senate and the agreement of the two major parties.
On 7 September this year the Senate referred schedule 2 of the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2015 Budget Measures) Bill 2015 to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee for inquiry and report. That report was finalised on 25 September. The government has noted the report of the committee, and its recommendations, and thanks the Senate for its work on the inquiry.
Schedule 2 of this particular bill proposes a single appeal pathway, consisting of a claimant's initial right of review to the Veterans' Review Board, with a second tier review to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The shadow minister is quite right to say that this came out of the former government's 2011 MRCA review. It is widely agreed by all areas of the ex-service community that a single appeal pathway is needed.
The amendments proposed by the government and endorsed by the Senate remove this schedule from the bill to allow for further negotiations to occur to enable final agreement on schedule 2 to be reached. I am confident we will do that in the Autumn session next year. However, to ensure that the other schedules of the bill can move forward, we have removed schedule 2 from the bill.
Schedule 3 authorises the exhumation of the remains of those dependants of service personnel that are buried in the Terendak Military Cemetery in Malaysia. I should note that allowing this schedule to pass enables the exhumation to take place. Ultimately, of course, it will be up to the families to decide whether they wish to repatriate their deceased family member. This is an important measure as part of the government's commitment to offer repatriation to all those Australian service personnel and their dependants that are buried at Terendak. I thank the opposition and the shadow minister for his regard in this matter, and I commend the amendments to the House.