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Thursday, 12 December 2013
Page: 2593


Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Minister for Defence) (13:05): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to present legislation that will improve and update Veterans' Affairs legislation.

The bill will clarify the approval and authorisation arrangements for travel for treatment for eligible persons and attendants under the Veterans' Entitlements Act and the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act.

In 2012-13 the department processed over 165,000 claims for reimbursement for travel expenses for treatment purposes.

Travel expenses can include costs for transport, meals and accommodation for eligible persons and where necessary an attendant to accompany the eligible person.

Amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act and the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act will make it clear that the Repatriation Commission may approve or authorise travel for treatment, before or after the travel has been undertaken.

Further amendments in the bill will enable special assistance under the Veterans' Entitlements Act and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to be delivered in a more timely manner.

This will be achieved by enabling special assistance to be provided by legislative instrument instead of by regulation.

The result will be a more streamlined and therefore quicker process for providing special assistance to veterans, members, former members and their dependants.

Amendments in the bill will update the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act as a consequence of the enactment of the Legislative Instruments Act and will replace obsolete references to pharmaceutical allowance and telephone allowance in the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.

These allowances were replaced by the MRCA Supplement in 2009.

Minor amendments will also ensure that the Veterans' Entitlements Act debt recovery provisions will be applicable to all relevant provisions of the act, the regulations and any legislative instruments made under the act.

Other amendments in the bill will rationalise and align the maintenance income provisions of the Veterans' Entitlements Act with the Social Security Act.

The remaining amendments in the bill will make minor technical changes to Veterans' Affairs and related legislation.

Although relatively minor, the amendments in the bill will clarify, update and improve the accuracy of Veterans' Affairs legislation.

Debate adjourned.