Thursday, 1 August 2019
Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Partner Service Pension and Other Measures) Bill 2019; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
I am pleased to introduce the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Partner Service Pension and Other Measures) Bill 2019. The bill is designed to improve outcomes for former partners of veterans, and separately, extend benefits available to Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who served on submarine special operations.
As the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, I recognise the Australian community has a clear expectation that veterans and their families will be well looked after and, of course, as a government, we are absolutely committed to putting veterans and their families first.
Schedule 1 of this bill will improve financial outcomes for the former partners of veterans. Schedule 2 of this bill extends benefits available to ADF members who served on submarine special operations. Schedule 3 of this bill is a technical amendment to align marriage related definitions in veterans' legislation with the definition of marriage made by the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, known as the Marriage Amendment Act.
The amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) under schedule 1 align all of the partner service pension provisions for former married and non-married partners to ensure equity in treatment. This will ensure a modern legislative provision that recognises the differences in relationship types and removes any discrimination. Once this bill is passed, all eligible former partners of veterans will remain on partner service pension after separation from their veteran partner for a period of up to 12 months.
Additionally, where special domestic circumstances apply, including domestic abuse, legislative instrument amendments will allow all former partners to remain eligible to receive partner service pension until they enter into a new relationship. This preventative measure, part of the government's fourth National Action Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, will assist partners to leave a violent relationship by providing them with financial support.
The amendments to the VEA under schedule 2 will extend the benefits available to ADF members who served on submarine special operations. Operations between 31 December 1992 and 12 May 1997 will be recognised as operational and qualifying service, giving access to the disability pension and assessment of claims for treatment and compensation, as well as eligibility for the service pension at age 60 and the gold card at age 70.
Once this bill is passed, for those veterans involved in submarine special operations between 31 December 1992 and 12 May 1997, their service will be recognised as operational and qualifying service under the VEA.
Further, the period between 13 May 1997 and 30 June 2006 will not require legislative change, and will be subject to future determinations of non-warlike service, providing further support to eligible ADF members involved in submarine special operations.
Schedule 3 is a technical amendment arising from the changes to the definition of marriage made by the Marriage Amendment Act.
The Marriage Amendment Act amended the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) to remove the restrictions that limit marriage in Australia to the union of a man and a woman and allowed two people the freedom to marry in Australia, regardless of their sex or gender.
These amendments will mean better outcomes for veterans and their families.
I commend the bill to the House.