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Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Page: 20


Mr NEUMANN (10:17 AM) —I had intended to make quite a bipartisan speech in relation to veterans’ issues <Error> <ParagraphNumber> 590 </ParagraphNumber> <Location> w:r </Location> <ParagraphText> because I understood that, in fact, the </ParagraphText> <PreviousParagraphText> It is possible and, indeed, it is right to look for and make savings, but this should not be at the expense of entitlements. My concern as shadow minister is that there is not enough information. We do not know the impact that this will have on the 26,000 plus people receiving this payment. My message to the veteran community is that your concerns are important to the coalition. The coalition is committed to maintaining an economically responsible approach to providing effective support for the needs of veterans, their families and their community. I assure you that the coalition’s focus is on entitlements, compensation and support for the physical, mental and social needs of veterans and their families. We will continue to hold the government to account whenever there is any change to entitlement or action that impacts on the veteran community. </PreviousParagraphText> <NextParagraphText> We also made a commitment that we would engage in a review of the Clarke review and all its recommendations, which the Howard government had four years to act upon and did not. If you want to talk about compassion and understanding to the veterans’ communities let us be real and talk about history, because the Howard government has form on ignoring the needs, the aspirations and the health issues affecting veterans’ communities and also people who have served in our military and at the RAAF base at Amberley in my constituency of Blair in south-east Queensland, where people who worked on F111s were exposed to these sorts of things. </NextParagraphText> <Text> Reference to Bill is missing ID data. BillName = because I understood that, in fact, the </Text> </Error>

because I understood that, in fact, the

Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Budget Measures) Bill 2009 was agreed to by both sides of politics. But I cannot let pass some of the comments made by the member for Greenway in relation to some of the issues she has raised. If the member for Greenway wants to talk about compassion, understanding, empathy and even sympathy, I refer her to the deseal-reseal issue which affected thousands of people in south-east Queensland. We made an election commitment before the last federal election that we would engage in a parliamentary inquiry to look into the effectiveness and efficacy of what happened to those thousands of men who were exposed to chemicals which affected them and their families for years.

We also made a commitment that we would engage in a review of the Clarke review and all its recommendations, which the Howard government had four years to act upon and did not. If you want to talk about compassion and understanding to the veterans’ communities let us be real and talk about history, because the Howard government has form on ignoring the needs, the aspirations and the health issues affecting veterans’ communities and also people who have served in our military and at the RAAF base at Amberley in my constituency of Blair in south-east Queensland, where people who worked on F111s were exposed to these sorts of things.

Let us be a bit fair dinkum about this and also acknowledge the fact that the Rudd Labor government, following the Harmer review of pensions, will allocate $1.1 billion over four years to provide extra financial support in the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio. I see no quibbling from those opposite about that. Over 320,000 service pensioners and war widows or war widowers will benefit from the pension changes. The minister was talking this morning about the pension reform bill in this House. The truth of the matter is that single service pensioners and war widows will receive a boost to their pension of up to $32.49 a week and service pensioners paid to the couples’ rate will get an extra $10.14 combined a week. These increases will be in addition to normal indexation and will apply from 20 September 2009.

I heard no acknowledgement from the member for Greenway about the impact of the global recession upon the government’s budgetary situation. It is almost like we live on an island, not just geographically but financially, and Australia’s economy is not impacted by the global recession. The truth of the matter is that the Rudd government is working long and hard in relation to these particular issues and we, in fact, have form when it comes to actually assisting and cushioning the impact of the global recession upon the Australian community and also engaging in nation building for recovery. Across my electorate, and electorates across the country, we can see that happening.

The truth is that the Rudd government is assisting veterans and their communities, including those people who have suffered tremendously because of the failure of the Howard government—the 2,000 people involved in the ‘pick and patch’ work and the forgotten people from the F111s. I commend the recommendations of the Hon. Arch Bevis, the member for Brisbane, who was the chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and the Defence subcommittee. I urge the government to follow those recommendations lock, stock and barrel, and also to take steps in relation to the review of the Clarke review. We called for submissions in September last year and there were 472 submissions in that regard. I ask the minister and also the Prime Minister’s advisory council to come back with a response as quickly as possible in relation to that, and I acknowledge the efforts of the Atomic Ex-Servicemen’s Association in that regard.

I see the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the House. I understand that he wishes to make a statement in relation to the terrible circumstances in PNG, so I seek leave to continue my speech later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.