Wednesday, 20 February 2019
I've spoken in this place many times before on the immeasurable commitments and sacrifices that our Australian Defence Force members make to serve our nation. I'm proud to have spoken on this topic many times before in this term of parliament. Today I again place on record my unwavering support and gratitude to the brave men and women who currently serve our nation, and also to our veterans for their service and contribution to the Australian way of life.
I come from a military family myself, with my father serving in the Navy during the Second World War as a signalman on board the HMAS Ararat. Enlisting at the age of only 20, he served in the Second Australian Imperial Force until Allied victory in the Pacific. I know only too well the stress that military service can place on veterans and their families, which is why I'm always privileged to be able to make time to meet with local RSL sub-branches, to meet with their members and veterans on the issues that are important to them. We must ensure as parliamentarians that we are doing everything we can to support our veterans.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a meeting of the Sherwood-Indooroopilly RSL Sub-branch with president Glenn Mostyn and their members. They told me of their serious concerns regarding the draft report by the Productivity Commission into the Veterans' Affairs legislative framework and supporting architecture for compensation and rehab for veterans. In particular, the Productivity Commission has suggested that the Department of Veterans' Affairs be dismantled and that a new single ministry for Defence personnel and veterans should be established.
Mr Mostyn, the RSL sub-branches and indeed other veterans in my local community have spoken to me and have since told me that this is a short-sighted plan which will only create more problems. We know DVA is not perfect—it needs reform—but it is critical to ensure that our veterans receive the care and support they deserve. The suggestion by the Productivity Commission of a single ministry overseeing both Defence personnel and veterans could result in a serious conflict of interest created by moving policy into the Department of Defence, essentially making them a self-insurer with no independent policy decisions.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs was established almost a century ago as a part of Australia's commitment to its World War I veterans. The DVA operates for all veterans, and questions remain as to whether a new statutory authority would be available for veterans and their loved ones without a claim. It's of vital importance that we work side by side with our veterans to improve the DVA rather than simply dismantling it. Today I'm calling on the government to hear this message and to make it very clear that the Department of Veterans' Affairs will remain, but improved and enhanced. There are over 2½ thousand veterans in my community and thousands more across the country. I know that the commitment and sacrifice that they make must be recognised and honoured. Today I do that again in this parliament.