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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2214

Senator GILES —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. It relates to recent changes in the Veterans' Entitlements Act which allows war widows to continue to receive benefits after remarriage. In particular, it has been claimed that war widows are becoming victims of some unscrupulous elements who seek, ultimately, to exploit the deceased husband's war service. Can the Minister please comment on these claims?

Senator GIETZELT —The Senate will be aware, having passed the Veterans' Entitlements Act, that there was an acceptance by government of the need to recognise, in legislative form, the right of war widows to remarry and an acceptance of the principle that the benefit was a compensation payment for loss of husbands due to war service. There has been some criticism of this from various quarters of the veteran community despite the fact that it was unanimously recommended by the advisory committee that was established by the previous Government to examine the veterans' legislation in its various forms since 1920. However, I reject the notion that a deceased husband's war service has been cheapened by the Government's decision to allow war widows to retain their benefits on remarriage. That has been effective since 29 May 1984. Some suggestions have been made that war widows have become hot property as a result of that concession adopted by the Government. I totally reject that for a number of reasons. I can understand that a war widow, having lost her husband due to war service, may not want to experience the long periods of loneliness that flow from such a loss. The opportunity to remarry does not in any way affect her compensation, as this Government recognises that it is a compensation for the loss of earning capacity of a husband. Any suggestions that veterans or other persons are somehow taking advantage of war widows in that respect is utterly rejected. It is a suggestion that ought to be condemned, particularly having regard to the fact that the War Widows Guild has campaigned over many years for that right to be recognised in legislation. Therefore, in those circumstances, I reject entirely any suggestion that some people are taking advantage of war widows, by seeking marriage, or of various groups who now receive a benefit that I believe should have always been enshrined in legislation.