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Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Page: 4679


Senator JOHNSTON (Western Australia) (15:03): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Bob Carr) to a question without notice asked by Senator Ronaldson today relating to Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits recipients and the carbon tax.

Obfuscation and bravado is clearly no substitute for even a passing interest in veterans' pensions. This minister today has been caught out because he has absolutely no knowledge or understanding of what people are doing in the real world. Veterans are doing it tough, and I will tell you exactly why a little later on.

The responsibility of government involves an awful lot more than having a deep cultured voice and a thespian demeanour. This minister brings to the table of charade of knowledge that is so thin as to be almost as thin as this government's prospective budget surplus. There are 57,000 DFRDB personnel. They have been misled; they have been lied to; they have been effectively cheated of their vote in the 2000 election.

Pensioners have received compensation. The question to this minister was: what is going to happen to DFRDB recipients? He did not even know that Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits is referred to as DFRDB. He was groping around looking for what is one of the most important things. These are people who have given great service to their country and this minister simply does not know or care or understand about them. He is dismissive. He was clearly inconvenienced by having been asked a question on the plight of these pension recipients in the face of this carbon tax based upon a lie. It was a lamentable performance.

It makes me worry about our standing with our near neighbours and further abroad when this man is in charge of diplomatic issues. To be so dismissive, to be so disdainful and, frankly, to be so ignorant says a lot about why we have had, since 2007, 350 boats and more than 19,000 people arrive on our shores. When he goes back to his office I can just imagine the first thing he will say to his staff is, 'What the hell is DFRDB? What is it? What on earth is MTAWE?'—male total average weekly earnings. He has no concept of the day-to-day lives of ordinary Australians. He does not even know or understand the massive betrayal, given that Kevin Rudd said, before the 2000 election:

A Rudd Labor government will maintain a generous military superannuation system, in recognition of the importance of the ADF and the immense responsibility placed on personnel in securing and defending Australia.

… … …

The Military Superannuation Review is the latest example of the Howard Government refusing to release vital information about the operation, costs and alternative policy approaches that should be considered in this area.

'A Rudd government will provide a fresh approach.' So he held out the opportunity and the prospective opportunity for DFRDB recipients to have an indexed system that was 'much fairer and more generous'. What did they do? On 21 August 2009, Lindsay Tanner said:

The Rudd Government is satisfied, after considering Mr Matthews’ report, the purpose of indexation of civilian and military superannuation pensions should continue to maintain the purchasing power of the pension.

We are aware that this will disappoint many superannuants ...

In short, all of the promises by Rudd and Labor were cast aside by this callous government. They wonder why their primary vote is at 30 per cent. It is the great lies: the carbon tax, the 2009 defence white paper and of course the promises to veterans to index defence DFRDB pursuant to MTAWE—and we know that that was the great lie. This minister has no idea about it. (Time expired)