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Thursday, 28 October 2010
Page: 1040

Senator RONALDSON (1:06 PM) —I rise to speak briefly on the Veterans’ Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2010. It is not my intention to delay the Senate for too long today. This bill makes a number of minor housekeeping amendments to legislation affecting our veterans and ex-service people. I note that this bill was first introduced into the House of Representatives in November last year and lapsed when the election was called. It has been pushed through the parliament in the first three sitting weeks of this new parliament, which will ensure that the measures in this bill benefit our veterans.

While not opposing this bill, the coalition expresses some concern about the measures to enable the New South Wales state Labor government to charge an SES levy on insurance policy holders in that state. The state Labor government is so cash-strapped it is now expecting ordinary insurance policy holders to pay for their reckless spending. This is indeed a great shame. I note that this legislation allows for other state governments to also tax insurance policy holders with SES levies without requiring additional legislative change by the federal parliament. Insurance based taxes and levies are grossly unfair. They penalise those who choose to look after themselves. In Victoria we have the fire services levy, and in regional Victoria this is a big issue. The New South Wales state coalition did not support the SES levy; nevertheless, the state Labor government rammed it through. I note that in the other place, when this was being debated, one person who, not surprisingly, was very keen on increasing taxes was the member for Corangamite, Darren Cheeseman. He is well known for providing no support to the fishing industry. Darren Cheeseman is a great taxer of the people of Corangamite.

Another measure in the bill, to extend coverage of the white card to eligible Australian Federal Police officers who worked at Maralinga in the 1980s, is a welcome step. It is a continuation of arrangements put in place by the previous coalition government for British nuclear test veterans.

There are six other measures in the bill, which include: extending the period in which claims for medical related travel expenses can be lodged with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, from three months to 12 months; a technical change to the way documents are served under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004; a change to enable injuries sustained before 30 June 2004 to continue to be covered by the VE Act, where nominated by the veteran for that to occur; provisional amendments to include prisoners of war in the MRC Act so that compensation can be paid to eligible dependants of a POW taken prisoner after 1 July 2004; an alignment of the review and appeal processes between the Repatriation Medical Authority and the Specialist Medical Review Council; and, finally, minor amendments to the way lump sum payments are made under the MRC Act.

I am pleased to say the coalition is not opposing this bill and I commend the bill to the Senate.