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Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Page: 12795

Mr GRIFFIN (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs) (10:40 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to present legislation that will give effect to a number of minor measures and amendments that will enhance the administration of the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio.

This bill will introduce measures that will improve the way we provide support to our veterans and Australian Defence Force personnel.

These changes will ensure Australia’s veteran and defence force communities receive the compensation, benefits and entitlements they deserve and in a timely manner.

They are a demonstration of the government’s commitment to continually review, update and improve the services and support we provide to our current and former military personnel.

The bill will extend eligibility to certain Australian Protective Service officers deployed at the Australian nuclear test sites for the period 20 October 1984 to 30 June 1988.

This period is within the extension period recently granted to Commonwealth and Australian Federal Police which was intended to include Australian Protective Service officers for the duration of the extension.

However, due to organisational changes to the Australian Protective Service, Australian Protective Service officers were not eligible as nuclear test participants for the period 20 October 1984 to 30 June 1988.

This bill will rectify that situation.

The bill will also enable Defence Service Homes Insurance to pay a State Emergency Service levy, collected from Defence Service Homes Insurance policy holders, to the New South Wales government to assist with the cost of providing emergency services in that state.

In addition, the bill will extend, from three months to twelve months, the period within which claims for non-treatment related travel expenses may be lodged under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act.

This will benefit veterans and their dependants who travel for non-treatment related purposes such as attending review meetings or obtaining medical evidence.

Furthermore, the bill will enable certain entities under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to specify the manner in which notices and other documents may be served.

This will ensure that the legal effect of such notices and documents is protected.

The bill will make it clear that the Specialist Medical Review Council may review a decision of the Repatriation Medical Authority to not amend a Statement of Principles.

The bill also provides for the Specialist Medical Review Council to review both versions of a Statement of Principles that relate to a particular condition even if an applicant has requested a review of only one of the Statements of Principles.

Other amendments in the bill will ensure that the policy in relation to an initial war or defence-caused injury or disease that is aggravated, or materially contributed to, by service under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act and the payment of a pension to the dependant of a veteran who was a prisoner of war, operate as originally intended.

The bill will protect the interests of certain compensation recipients under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act by requiring that the compensation payment is made to an account in the recipient’s name.

Finally, the bill will enable a Victoria Cross recipient to receive both Victoria Cross allowance under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and a Victoria Cross allowance or annuity from a foreign country.

These proposed changes will result in positive outcomes for many.

This bill continues the government’s ongoing commitment to supporting Australia’s current and former service personnel and their families and ensuring their wellbeing now and into the future.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Dr Stone) adjourned.