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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9180


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (19:53): I rise to speak on the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. Today's bill includes nine changes to various pieces of legislation which are technical and non-controversial in nature. The coalition will support the passage of the nine adjustments in this bill, which include clarifications under the Veterans' Entitlements Act, the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act and others. For example, the legislation will rationalise the maintenance income provisions of the Veterans' Entitlements Act by addressing redundant definitions and aligning definitions with those in the Social Security Act.

As the member for Fadden has already indicated, the bill presents the House with an opportunity to implement real change for veterans. As this legislation amendment bill includes important legislative changes and is intended to change conditions for veterans and ex-service people, it is more than appropriate that all avenues to improve the lives of veterans and their families be considered in this context. As such, the coalition has proposed two amendments to rectify indexation for military superannuants and to rectify provisions in the Veterans' Pharmaceutical Reimbursement Scheme.

I have said previously in this House that the only way to deliver this very important reform is to change the government. Today's amendments mean that this need not be the case in the short term. The introduction of this bill in the House is an opportunity to effect real change for our veterans; it is an opportunity to pass these very important amendments. They are important because veterans—as well as the coalition—have had enough of this tired Labor government, which refuses to support their community. It is an opportunity to commit this country to fair indexation of military superannuation pensions under the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Scheme, the DFRB Scheme, and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme, the DFRDB Scheme.

Fair indexation is one of the most important issues affecting the veteran and ex-service community. I spoke in my maiden speech about Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera, which is in the Ryan electorate, and I acknowledged the very valued contribution made by their service men and women. In that speech, I recommitted to fair indexation of the DFRBS and the DFRDBS. It is a community to which I recommit myself again, and it is an issue for which I will continue to fight. As such, I, with my coalition colleagues, am drawing a line in the sand when it comes to supporting veterans, and I call on the Labor Party and the Greens to finally accept that it is time for indexation. It is time that this parliament delivered for veterans.

This issue is not new, and the coalition has a proud record on which to stand when it comes to supporting veterans. The Leader of the Opposition first announced our commitment to fair indexation on 27 July 2010, more than two years ago and prior to the last election. Since then, on 18 November 2010, the coalition, in the Senate, introduced legislation so that we could finally and effectively deal with this issue. At that time, the Labor Party and the Greens did what they do best—referred the issue to an inquiry. As veterans know, this is merely this Labor-Green government's way of delaying and delaying, hoping that the issue will go away.

We opposed an inquiry because by 2010 there had already been more than six parliamentary inquiries, and I remind the members on the opposite side of the House that every single inquiry prior to 2011 held into fair indexation had supported its implementation. Instead, Labor and the Greens used that inquiry as a pretence to oppose fair indexation, the first time ever that parliament had done so. Finally, on 16 June 2011, in what can only be called a day of disgrace for the Senate, the Labor Party and the Greens combined to vote down the coalition's fair indexation legislation. On that day, the Australian Labor Party and the Greens demonstrated that they do not care about the lives of military superannuants and their families.

Since then, the coalition has maintained its strong commitment to fair indexation, and earlier this year I signed the coalition's pledge to deliver fair indexation. This pledge has also been signed by the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow minister for veterans affairs and many other members of the coalition. That pledge says:

The coalition will ensure DFRB and DFRDB military superannuation pensions are indexed in the same way as age and service pensions. All DFRB and DFRDB superannuants aged 55 and over will benefit.

Just this morning, my office received yet another letter from a constituent in Ryan, asking what my position is on this policy and asking what the coalition will do for military superannuants. In my electorate, I represent many groups, including the Returned Services League with sub-branches at Gaythorne, Kenmore-Moggill and Indooroopilly-Sherwood, as well as the Australian Army Aviation Association, the Veterans Support and Advocacy Service Australia and the VSAS Toowong branch, the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam Association, and the many members of the Australian Defence Force at Gallipoli Barracks in Enoggera. The Defence community and the veteran community want fair indexation, and they know it should happen now.

I can say with pride that, should the ALP and the Greens continue to neglect this issue by not accepting the coalition's amendments and should we the coalition be elected by the Australian people, the coalition will deliver this reform in our very first budget. This was a promise at the 2010 election. It will be a promise at the next election, and I can give an ironclad guarantee that a coalition government will deliver this important reform. At present the average DFRDB pension is a meagre $24,386. In June 2012—

Debate interrupted.