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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 278

Mr SNOWDON (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health) (10:11 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to present my first piece of legislation in my new role as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, and in doing so I want to thank my predecessor, the Hon. Alan Griffin, the member for Bruce, for the magnificent work he did within the portfolio during his tenure.

This legislation will benefit a number of deserving Australians and addresses some anomalies to make the system work better for the very people that it is designed to serve.

These measures will improve support services for veterans and serving Australian Defence Force personnel.

For example, under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act, the bill will extend the period for lodgement of claims for non-treatment related travel expenses from three to 12 months.

This change creates greater flexibility for veterans and their dependants who, for example, are required to travel to attend review meetings or obtain medical evidence.

In addition, the bill will extend eligibility for non-liability health care for malignant neoplasia under the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act to certain Australian Protective Service officers involved in the British nuclear tests between 20 October 1984 and 30 June 1988.

The bill will also tighten the processes regarding the serving of legal documents and notices. Protection of these processes will assist the delivery of services under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.

Importantly, amendments in the bill will ensure that the policy relating to the aggravation of an initial war- or defence-caused injury or disease 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 also enable Defence Service Homes Insurance to collect a state emergency service levy from policy holders, to assist the New South Wales government with the cost of providing emergency services in that state.

The bill will also enhance the operation of the Specialist Medical Review Council by making it clear that the Specialist Medical Review Council may review a decision of the Repatriation Medical Authority to not amend a statement of principles.

Furthermore, the Specialist Medical Review Council will be able to review both versions of a statement of principles even if the applicant has requested a review of only one of the statements.

This will protect the integrity of the regime and ensure that the statements of principles for a particular condition are aligned.

Importantly proposed amendments will protect the interests of certain compensation recipients under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act by requiring that the compensation payments are made to bank accounts in the recipients’ names.

Finally, Victoria Cross and decoration allowance recipients will be eligible for both a Victoria Cross or decoration allowance under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act plus a similar allowance or annuity from a foreign country.

The proposed changes, whilst relatively minor, will result in more positive outcomes for the veteran and service communities.

Ongoing review of the system that serves those who have served us is a promise that this government will keep. With this bill, I present changes that not just are of benefit today but will secure essential support for our veterans into the future.

Debate (on motion by Mr Turnbull) adjourned.