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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 192


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (10:50 PM) —I thank senators for their support for the Veterans’ Entitlements Amendment (2005 Budget Measure) Bill 2005. It will benefit up to 44,000 Australian veterans, war widows and widowers by giving them access to the government’s seniors concession allowance. The allowance was introduced by the government in December 2004 as an election commitment to help older self-funded retirees pay the costs of water, sewerage, electricity, rates and motor vehicle registration. A similar allowance, the utilities allowance, was also introduced to assist Australia’s older pensioners. The bill will extend eligibility for seniors concession allowance to holders of the gold repatriation health card who are over the veteran pension age and who are not already eligible for seniors concession allowances or the utilities allowance. Once the legislation is passed, the first payments will be made to eligible gold card holders in December of this year.

The government has a strong record in the veterans’ affairs area and has committed further funding for it in the budget. The budget does build on the strong support we have provided to the veterans and Defence Force communities, including last year’s commencement of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme, which is now working to meet the needs of generations of veterans. The Australian repatriation system remains a vital commitment to those who serve in the defence of our nation. Under this government, the repatriation system will continue to work to meet the needs of serving members, veterans and their families. I thank all members for their support. I thank the minister for her attention to this particular matter, which will deliver real benefits to our veterans and their families.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.