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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 970

Senator HEARN —Is the Minister for Veterans' Affairs aware that in recent weeks a number of State governments have announced concessions for ex-service and war widow pensioners, particularly in regard to concessional or free travel entitlements? Can the Minister say how valuable these concessions are to the ex-service community?

Senator GIETZELT —Since I became the Minister for Veterans' Affairs just over two years ago I have made many recommendations to all the States. I have been assisted by my colleague the Minister for Transport in suggesting that all States should have uniform policies on travel concessions for widows. Concessions did exist, but were withdrawn for some obscure reason a decade or so ago. I am pleased to announce that as a result of those representations a number of concessions have been granted by most of the States. Authorities in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia have agreed to provide travel concessions to groups of people, including war widows in receipt of pensions paid by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. From 1 July in New South Wales concessions will apply to war widows, as well as to a number of disabled ex-servicemen. The specific details have been announced by the Minister for Transport, Mr Unsworth. He has extended a much wider range of concessions than we, as Federal Ministers, had requested. Whilst I am not normally in the business of congratulating the Queensland Government, I must say that it took some initiative on this matter on 1 October last year. Victoria did also in November. All the States are moving to a uniform system so that people who travel, not only within the State but also interstate, will have concessions granted to them, having regard to the price that they paid in serving their country during war. This applies to veterans and, in some cases, war widows.

I have also been informed that Mr Debus, the Minister for Finance in New South Wales, and Mr Joe Berinson, the Minister for Budget Management in Western Australia, have exempted repatriation beneficiaries from the financial institution duties in those States. I am now told that the only State that imposes a State tax on the payment of pensions is Tasmania. All other States have either exempted such duties or, as in the case of Queensland, never imposed such a duty. We have made considerable progress in these matters in recent times.