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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1576


Mr GRIFFIN (Bruce) (10:59): I have to pick up on a couple of points by the previous speaker, the member for Lindsay, in her response to the motion moved by the member for Ryan. The member for Lindsay talked at the very end about the fact that what the government were doing was changing the indexation arrangements to make them fairer and to ensure that they would be in line with other pensions—except that they are changing the other pensions. They are changing the other pensions. She said the government are improving the indexation measures for up to 60,000 Defence Force superannuants across a couple of schemes, and that will improve their living standards. Yes, but at the same time they are proposing, from 2017—and they have maintained this commitment—to alter the other benefits that these people are often entitled to and to adjust their indexation methodologies down. If you are someone who is a TPI pensioner, someone who suffered most grievously for your service for your country and you happen to also be a DFRDB recipient, the bottom line is your superannuation will go up by less than your pension will effectively go down with respect to what the changes would have been. It is just a joke.

But, rather than hear from me as a politician or from other politicians, let us hear from some of the ex-service personnel organisations what they have been saying about these particular changes from this government. In a media release, the National Round Table of Defence and Ex-Service member Organisations, which covers all the major ex-service organisations other than the RSL—and I will come to them in a minute—said:

The budget proposal to reduce the adjustment of the Veterans Disability Pension by reverting to using the CPI only will hit our disabled veterans hard and particularly our most disabled veterans who are totally and permanently disabled and rely on the Veterans Special Rate Disability Pension for the compensation payments. Implementing this decision would reverse a hard won concession legislated for with crossparty support by the Australian parliament in 2007.

The recent pay decision which purportedly "in no way reflects the value that the Government places on ADF personnel" is but one of a number of decisions in the 'employment package' for ADF members which have the effect of reducing the value of their total remuneration in a time of rising living costs hitting those in the lower ranks disproportionately.

Again I quote, from a media statement by ADSO, the Alliance Defence Service Organisation, who, I might add, were the group of organisations who led the charge in pushing for the changes in respect to superannuation indexation. The heading of their statement is:

GOVERNMENT'S CHRISTMAS PRESENT TO ADF FAMILIES—HIGHER RENTS AND CHARGES

It says:

'This is a total betrayal by the Government to members of the ADF and their families', says National President David Jamison. 'Not only do they grudgingly provide a pay increase that is less than CPI and therefore an effective pay cut, but they then impose charges on ADF members and their families that are higher than the 1.5%.

'A total betrayal': this is from the guy who led the charge in pushing for those changes in relation to superannuation indexation. Those two organisations between them cover a range of associations, from the Vietnam Veterans Association and Vietnam Veterans Federation, the SAS Association, the RAAF Association, the Naval Association, Legacy and War Widows Guild to the Defence Force Welfare Association. And this is what the RSL said in a statement:

… the National Board of the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) passed two motions deploring recent decisions about rates of pay for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the indexation of some veterans' entitlements by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) …

It goes on:

Concerning the change to indexation arrangements for some veterans' entitlements in 2017, Rear Admiral Doolan—

that is Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, RSL National President—

said 'this decision is at complete odds with the earlier welcomed decision of government to move away from the CPI for the indexation of superannuation entitlements for some DFRB and DFRDB recipients. In putting forward that welcome legislation in 2014 the Government argued that indexation by CPI was unfair. How can they now contends that indexation by CPI for some veterans' entitlements from 2017 is fair?'

That is a very good question, and a question completely ignored in the motion moved by the member for Ryan. Again I quote, from the Vietnam Veterans Federation:

Before the election, indexation that was linked with increases in the cost-of-living only was declared by the Coalition to be unfair whilst indexation that was linked to increases in the average-wage as well as the cost-of-living, was declared by the Coalition to be fair.

…   …   …

That change will disadvantage 180,000 veterans and war widows.

Were we taken for a ride?

Did the Coalition promise fair indexation for a restricted group of military superannuants simply to get veterans on side for the election knowing they'd get much more for their money back by inflicting unfair indexation on a very much larger group of veterans after the election?

Should veterans and war widows be treated like this?

Should they? Of course they shouldn't.

This government needs to get honest with the veterans community and with the defence community about what it has actually done and what it is trying to do, and the impact that will have on veterans and Defence Force personnel in this country. (Time expired)