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Thursday, 19 June 2008
Page: 2853


Senator MINCHIN (12:56 PM) —I am pleased to confirm that the coalition supports the Veterans’ Entitlements Legislation Amendment (2007 Election Commitments) Bill 2008. Our shadow minister for veterans’ affairs, Bronwyn Bishop, outlined in the other chamber the reasons for our support of this measure. We acknowledge that this does deliver on an election commitment made by the Australian Labor Party, and the coalition support it, both for that reason and for its substance. It proposes to extend entitlements to veterans, war widows and war widowers by amending the Veterans’ Entitlement Act 1986. It contains three specific measures, which I will not detail, but which we do support. The financial impact of this measure is quite small. The financial impact is only $700,000 in 2008-09, $1½ million in 2009-10 and $2.3 million in 2010-11. It is a relatively small financial impact, but it is important to those who will benefit from it. We are happy to indicate our support.

Throughout our period in government, we put enormous effort into supporting Australia’s veterans and improving their pension conditions. We are very proud of our record. While we support this bill, we will be watching the new Labor government’s policies in relating to veterans very closely. We are well aware of the experience that veterans had under former Labor governments, when there were significant cuts to many of the programs for veterans. Indeed, there is in the budget in another area a change to the eligibility for the partner service pension that the Prime Minister himself did not even seem to be aware of when asked about it during question time yesterday. That particular matter is being examined by, appropriately, a Senate committee before it is considered next week. We will be examining the effect of those changes very carefully. In the interests of brevity, I simply indicate our support for this bill and the measures it contains.