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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 5671


Senator FEENEY (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for Defence) (11:50): by leave—I table an addendum to the explanatory memorandum relating to the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment Bill 2011. The Veterans' Entitlements Amend­ment Bill gives effect to a number of 2011 budget measures. The first measure creates a new prisoner of war recognition supplement payable at $500 per fortnight to former prisoners of war. The new supplement will be tax free and will not be treated as income for the purposes of the income test. The supplement is payable in recognition of the hardships these men and women endured during captivity. It is expected that approximately 900 former prisoners of war will benefit from the new supplement, which will be payable from 20 September 2011.

The second measure clarifies and affirms the original intention of the compensation offsetting policy which applies to disability pensions and has been in place since 1973. Compensation offsetting is applied to disability pensions to ensure that a person does not receive compensation under the Veterans' Entitlement Act and compensation from another source for the same incapacity. The amendments to the compensation offsetting provisions are being made in response to a decision of the full Federal Court, which highlighted the need to clarify and affirm this aspect of the legislation. I might, as an aside, note that that decision of the full Federal Court is referred to in the addendum as 'the Smith decision'.

The amendments make it clear that compensation offsetting is to apply where a disability pension and compensation from another source are payable in respect of the same incapacity and do not require that the incapacity result from the same injury or disease. As the amendments are clarifying and affirming the legislation, they will not result in any change to the compensation offsetting practices currently being applied. No current disability pensioner's rate of disability pension will change because of the amendments in schedule 2 of the bill.

The final measure will rationalise payments for veterans and members who are undergoing treatment for war or defence caused injuries or diseases. The bill will remove the current overlap in the allowances paid to veterans and members who are unable to work due to episodes of medical treatment and recuperation for war or defence caused injuries or diseases, and it allows the government to better target assistance to those in need. Under this measure the payment of the temporary incapacity allowance will cease from 20 September 2011, with future payments being better targeted through the payment of the loss of earnings allowance. The cessation of the temporary incapacity allowance will have no impact on a veteran's or member's rate of disability pension. From 20 September 2011, all eligible veterans and members receiving treatment or recuperating from war or defence caused injuries or diseases will be assessed consistently against the criteria for loss of earnings allowance.

These measures continue the government's commitment to targeting and enhancing services and support to our veterans and members and their families. I commend the legislation to the Senate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Stephens ): The question is that the amendment in the names of Senator Xenophon and Senator Wright be agreed to. All of that opinion say aye, against no. I declare it lost.

Senator Xenophon: The ayes have it.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Xenophon, are you seeking a division?

Senator Xenophon: Yes, I am.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Xenophon, under the standing orders a division may not be held before 12.30 pm today, so the matter before the chair must be postponed until that time. This means the bill itself cannot move until that time, and we will have to move to the next bill.