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Wednesday, 12 May 2004
Page: 23005

Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) (11:35 AM) —Over the years Australia has developed a comprehensive repatriation system to serve the veteran community. This government is committed to taking opportunities to enhance repatriation services to meet the changing needs of our veterans and their dependants. The government provides a range of benefits to compensate veterans and their dependants for injury, disability or death resulting from their service during wartime or other conflicts. The changes made by the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Electronic Delivery) Bill 2004 will improve the efficiency of the delivery of those benefits and other services that are provided to veterans and their dependants under the Veterans' Entitlements Act.

The bill is designed to achieve two purposes: firstly, the unification of all the existing lodgment provisions in the Veterans' Entitlements Act and, secondly, provision for both the electronic and physical delivery of documents to the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The bill contains a series of amendments that will enable the electronic lodgment of the documents required by the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the provision of benefits under the act. In providing for the electronic communication of claims, applications and other documents to the department, the amendments will not impact on the existing arrangements that provide for the physical delivery of those same claims, applications and other documents.

The government have demonstrated a commitment to veterans and their families to improve the repatriation system to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of those who have served their country. The government's announcements last night are testimony to our record in delivering certainty and security for the veteran and war widow community. Under the Howard government, the overall spending on veterans' affairs is now a record $10.6 billion for 2004-05. The passage of this bill provides for another step forward in the government's ongoing program to enhance service delivery to the veteran community and builds on the government's commitment to the use of new technologies in service delivery. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.