Tuesday, 23 May 2023
Questions without Notice
Tania Lawrence (Hasluck, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. How has the Albanese Labor government improved support for veterans in its first 12 months?
Matt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I thank the member for Hasluck for her question and congratulate her on her first 12 months as the member for Hasluck. It's been fantastic having her as part of team WA on this side of the chamber.
All Australians can be proud of what we've achieved for veterans together over the course of the last year. Supporting defence personnel, veterans and families is one of the key priorities of the Albanese Labor government. When we came into government, the Department of Veterans' Affairs was chronically underfunded and under-resourced. That has had serious consequences for veterans. The former secretary of the department made that clear in estimates last year—that the department, based on resourcing constraints from the previous government, would have never cleared the veterans compensation backlog.
We've now turned that around. In September last year, the claims backlog was upward of 45,000. Now we're down to about 36,000, a 20 per cent drop from the peak. That's due to the investment of the Albanese Labor government. We're delivering $322.3 million to employ and retain additional staff in DVA, to get through the backlog and make sure it never happens again; $341.1 million to fund the modernisation and sustainment of ICT systems that the former government left to degenerate; $46.7 million to fund the delivery of 10 veterans and families hubs across the country, unlike the opposition who announced hubs and then didn't fund them; and a $24-million veteran employment program.
We fixed the backlog in paying invoices to those that provide services to veterans. We have increased the annual totally and permanently incapacitated payments by $1,000. We've enhanced crisis support for working-age veteran families and extended this to grandcarer veteran families. We've improved access to mental health supports, including $22 million to extend the PTSD therapy dog program and $2 million to continue mental health awareness and suicide intervention training. Veterans will also be able to better access GPs with the tripling of the veterans access payment. We have expanded defence homeownership for both defence personnel and veterans, and we're developing a Defence and Veteran Family Support Strategy.
Vitally, we've acted on all 13 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide interim report, including fixing staffing and resourcing in the department, bringing the claims backlog down, improving access to information for loved ones and breaking down the barriers that were deterring people from giving evidence to the royal commission. And we're reforming more than a century of veterans legislation, which has been an absolute nightmare for veterans and their families, by simplifying this into a single scheme. After just one year, we can now confirm that DVA is better funded than it has been in three decades. We will ensure we're laying the strongest possible foundations for a better future for our veterans.