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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 777

Senator ELSTOB —My question is addressed to Senator Grimes who is representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I note in the latest Budget that spending in the Veterans' Affairs portfolio is expected to rise by 14.5 per cent and that the great bulk of this increase is in the area of pensions and allied benefits for eligible veterans.

Senator Archer —Dear Dorothy.

Senator ELSTOB —No, it is not a Dorothy Dix question. Can the Minister explain the large increase in spending on pensions in the Veterans' Affairs portfolio in the Budget?

Senator GRIMES —I am afraid that Senator Archer is wrong-it is not a Dorothy this time. Yes, I am aware that Veterans' Affairs expenditure actually increased by 14 per cent, which is higher than the percentage increase in most departments and certainly higher than in my own. One explanation for this is the increased aging of the population of veterans who more and more are qualifying for service pensions. The second reason is the increases in the level of pensions received by service pensioners and others in line with increases in social security pensions. A third reason has been the increasing number of people qualifying for disability pensions as a result of rulings by various courts and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. That was a matter of concern for the previous Government and it is also a matter of concern for this Government. Another reason is the initiative taken by the Government in the Budget to improve veterans hospitals and to improve services generally. The Government, like previous governments in this country, recognises the necessity to provide adequate compensation and care for those who fought in various wars. The simple fact of the matter is that the number reaching the age of retirement, the age when geriatric diseases affect them, is increasing and that inevitably increases the Department of Veterans' Affairs budget by a higher percentage than the budgets of most Government departments.