Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Matters of Public Importance

Military Superannuation Pensions

4:52 pm

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

Before I start on today's matter of public importance, I want to say something, and I do so more in sorrow than in anger. The government in question time today reached a new low in its deliberate campaign of vilification and personal attacks on the integrity of the Leader of the Opposition. It was in true Labor form of playing the man and not the ball aka former Premier Anna Bligh's disgraceful attacks on then opposition leader Campbell Newman.

In question time today, Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan attacked the Leader of the Opposition for not doing radio. It is true that Mr Abbott did not do radio today and the reason is that there was a private funeral today in Canberra for one of our own killed in Afghanistan on 29 August. As a mark of respect for the family and for the memory of this young man Mr Abbott had decided not to do radio and other media today. After Acting Prime Minister Swan's attack on the Leader of the Opposition, the Manager of Opposition Business in the House, Christopher Pyne, spoke to the Leader of the Government in the House, Minister Albanese, behind the Speaker's chair, which is convention, and explained all this to him. This was communicated to Acting Prime Minister Swan, yet, despite being alerted to the situation, Mr Swan again repeated the allegation, which left Mr Abbott with no choice but to publicly explain the situation to the House.

My views of Acting Prime Minister Swan's behaviour are, quite frankly, unprintable. His behaviour will quite rightly be viewed by the ex-service community and indeed all Australians as beneath contempt and, regrettably, will undoubtedly be a precursor to the behaviour of the Labor Party between now and the next election.

I will just read through the text of today's matter of public importance so that there is no doubt about it. It reads:

The Gillard Labor Government’s ongoing failure to deliver fair, just and equitable indexation of DFRB and DFRDB military superannuation pensions.

I know that some from the Labor Party will be speaking on this MPI today, and I know that Senator Wright, the Greens spokesperson, will be speaking on this today. When they do so, I want them to tell this chamber and I want them to tell representatives of the ex-service community who are here today and others who are not here today exactly what is precluding them from supporting fair indexation. If I get the chance, I will go through some of the comments that have been made by some in the Australian Labor Party and some in the Greens about this measure.

The Australian Labor Party went to the 2007 election with a policy to do something in relation to fair indexation; they promised to do something about it. Senator Lundy, the member for Eden-Monaro and others wrote a letter, which has been referred to in this place before, to Minister Wong and asked her to do something about implementing the Australian Labor Party's policy of the 2007 election. Nothing has been done. The coalition went to the last election with a commitment to do something about fair indexation. History shows that we were not elected. History shows that there was a convoluted relationship between the Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party—a disastrous partnership on any account.

On behalf of the shadow minister for defence science, technology and personnel, I brought a bill into this chamber seeking fair indexation, seeking that those on DFRB and DFRDB would be treated in the same way as those on the age pension and the service pension. The Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens had the opportunity then to match actions with words, deeds with commitments, but they failed at the hurdle. In my view, it was a dark day for the Senate when those men and women, the 57,000 DFRB and DFRDB recipients and their families, were denied fair indexation.

Two weeks ago, we sought to amend an amendment bill in the other place in relation to a variety of veterans matters. Indeed it was a bill that was not time sensitive. Despite the carry-on of members Oakeshott and Windsor and others about it, and the comments of the Greens and the other Independents in the other place, there was no time sensitivity in relation to it. Effectively, what we sought to do was to halt that bill until fair indexation legislation or a bill had been introduced. This was in the main a bill that was seeking to sort out a number of matters that were not time sensitive. They could have been done in March and April of next year. We had drafted the bill for indexation. We introduced the bill into this place. The government needed only to send it off to the parliamentary draftsman in the House of Representatives and it could have been introduced, quite frankly, the next day. It was not, and it was voted down.

Indeed, today in the other place, a motion will be moved by the Independent member for Lyne, Mr Oakeshott, who has been parading around the country giving some indication that he would be putting forward a motion for which there would be an outcome, which would address fair indexation. I will read the start of this motion. It says that it 'calls on the government to consider increasing military superannuation payment indexation'. 'Consider' is not seeking action. They are weasel words from the member for Lyne: 'consider fair indexation'. He had the opportunity to actually vote for fair indexation not consider it, and he failed at that hurdle. I want to make it absolutely clear that every senator on this side of the chamber and every opposition member of the House of Representatives has signed up to a commitment that Tony Abbott believes the opposition has signed up to—that is, in the first budget of an incoming Abbott government, if we are given the great honour to be elected, we will bring in that legislation and make the funds available for fair indexation. Indeed, this is a commitment signed by the Leader of the Opposition and signed by candidates and members all over the country. I ask Labor Party members to take a very long, hard look at this and see whether you are, indeed, prepared to make that commitment.


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