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Monday, 13 August 2007
Page: 58


Mr RUDD (Leader of the Opposition) (3:57 PM) —I move:

That the House:

(1)   affirms its recognition of the sacrifices made by Australia’s veterans;

(2)   accepts its obligation to ensure that veterans’ sacrifices are acknowledged and that benefits earned by veterans are paid to them on a just and fair basis;

(3)   acknowledges in particular the plight of our most severely disabled veterans;

(4)   acknowledges that the value of the Special Rate Disability Pension (TPI and TTI), Intermediate Rate and Extreme Disablement Adjustment Pensions have eroded under the Howard government; and

(5)   supports Labor’s policy to index the remaining portions of the above general rate disability pensions to movements in male total average weekly earnings, in recognition of the more severe work and lifestyle effects suffered by the recipients of these entitlements.

There is perhaps no greater duty that we as a nation and as a parliament have than to honour, remember and express our gratitude to those Australians who have served in the defence of our nation in times of war, because our security and liberty have not come without a price. It is why all of us are immensely proud of all our men and women in uniform—those who have served and returned and the 100,000 Australians who have died in the service of their country. For those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of our nation and in pursuit of peace, their courage and service should never be forgotten. For those veterans who have returned, and especially those with disabilities, we owe an equally great duty. It is why this motion that I have put before this House is so important. All of us share an obligation to ensure that the support we give to our veterans and their families, through pensions, benefits and other services, are given on an ongoing, just and fair basis. In so doing, we need to recognise the circumstances of our most severely disabled veterans and to do all we can to support them and their families to live happy, fulfilling and rewarding lives with as little discomfort and anxiety as possible.

It is particularly disheartening and, I believe, dishonourable that, over the past decade or so, the value of the special rate disability pension—the TPI and TTI—the intermediate rate and extreme disablement adjustment pensions has been eroded. It is why recently I announced that a Labor government would increase benefits for our nation’s most severely disabled war veterans. Labor would index all above general rate pensions to movements in the cost and standard of living. This will mean that TPI, TTI, intermediate and EDA pensioners will be substantially better off if these measures are introduced under a future Labor government. At present, it is only the above general rate component of these pensions that is indexed to movements in the consumer price index and male total average weekly earnings. The general rate component is indexed to CPI. Under Labor’s plans, both components will be indexed to whichever measure delivers more to veterans—CPI or male total average weekly earnings. According to current projections, after the first four years of these increased benefits being paid to our veterans, recipients will be $30 better off each fortnight, giving them an extra $1,700 in their pockets over that time.

In addition, Labor have supported the catch-up payments announced in the recent federal budget for special and intermediate rate pensioners. Our commitment is on top of these payments. This means that, under Labor’s plan, all special rate TPI veterans will get the $50 catch-up payment plus the future security of knowing that payments will be fairly indexed so that they can continue to get the support they need.

Labor’s commitment to veterans pensions will benefit more than 43,000 Australians with disabilities who have fought abroad for our nation in the Second World War, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, the Gulf War, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. Regrettably, the government have indicated that they will not make any changes to the current indexation arrangements for veterans pensions. Labor is committed to increasing the benefits for the most severely disabled veterans in recognition of the more difficult work and lifestyle limitations that they share. I am pleased that the leading veterans groups, including the TPI Federation, the Vietnam Veterans Association, the Vietnam Veterans Federation and the RSL have welcomed Labor’s approach in this area.

The truth is that neither side of politics has got the treatment of our veterans and their families completely right. It is why Labor—and me personally—are deeply committed to ensuring that we recognise, respect and support those who have given our nation the peace, security and prosperity that we all enjoy.

I conclude where I began. There is no more fundamental obligation that we have as a community than to ensure that those who have fought for our country and those who have suffered injury as a consequence of engaging the enemy for our country should be looked after properly by our country. This is a basic axiom of national decency, and that forms the basis for the principles which we have enunciated today. We would encourage the government to reflect again on the position we have put forward in the hope and expectation that they might also support it to ensure that our veterans can have that secure commitment into the future.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Is the motion seconded?


Mr Edwards —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.