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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16379

Ms O'BYRNE (1:45 PM) —As I rise to my feet, hundreds of disabled veterans, their families and supporters are outside Parliament House demonstrating against the Howard government's failure to deal with the myriad of issues affecting their pensions and benefits. If I am not wrong, this matter is going to be touched on by another of my colleagues very soon. The reality is that this government remains prepared to send more Australians to armed conflict overseas. Equally real is that the government seems totally oblivious to the need to adequately provide for those service men and women and their families, as well as for those who have gone before them.

I visited the rally early this morning. They told me that they have taken this step because they have reached the conclusion that cabinet is just not listening to what they have to say. They want to know why the government has failed to honour its 1996 election promise to stop Centrelink treating TPI disability pensions as income. They want to know why the government has allowed TPI pensions to erode by around $60 per fortnight since March 1998. They want to know why the government will not benchmark the TPI pension as it does other major pensions. They also want to know why the wife and child of SAS Sergeant Andrew Russell, who died in the service of this country in Afghanistan last year, cannot get adequate compensation for their tragic loss.

What saddened me most of all was the fact that those who have served this country and who have suffered disability as a result look upon the government of this country as being `mean and tricky'. Like the ex-servicemen, their families and supporters outside today, I want to know why this government fails to treat them with the dignity they deserve.