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Federal Labor calls on Veterans' Affairs Minister to explain why he opposes increasing pensions.



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ALAN GRIFFIN, MP Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs Shadow Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Shadow Special Minister of State

FEDERAL LABOR CALLS ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS MINISTER TO EXPLAIN WHY HE OPPOSES INCREASING PENSIONS

Federal Labor today slammed Veterans Affairs Minister, Bruce Billson for attacking a plan to increase benefits to 43,000 ex-Diggers who are severely disabled.

Federal Labor challenged Mr Billson to explain why he opposed increasing benefits.

This weekend, Federal Labor announced it will increase benefits for our nation’s most severely disabled war veterans, however, Mr Billson slapped down the plan.

Mr Billson must tell the veterans why he is against increasing their pensions and a fair go. Australia has a veterans affairs minister who does not want to support veterans.

A Federal Labor Government will restore the value of the Special Rate Disability Pension (TPI and TTI), Intermediate Rate and the Extreme Disablement Adjustment Pensions by indexing the whole of these pensions to movements in Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is greater.

On current projections over the first four years after implementation the recipients of these pensions will be $1,700 better off with their pensions building to $30 a fortnight.

This announcement affects those who fought and served in conflicts including World War II, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, the Gulf War, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It has been budgeted $61 million from September 20, 2008 - the day of indexation.

There has been no other issue that has been the subject of greater sustained and passionate concern in the veterans’ policy area over the last ten years.

In 1997 when the Howard Government indexed a range of other pensions they left out the above general rate disability pensions. Since that time there has been an erosion of these pension’s values compared to the broader community.

For example in 1997 the Special Rate Disability Pension represented 46.3 per cent of MTAWE. On the most recent figures available it now only represents 42.9 per cent. If it had of maintained its 1997 value it would now have been $70 a fortnight higher.

The Howard Government provided only partial MTAWE indexation in 2004 after sustained protests from the Veterans’ community.

This announcement will mean that the three pensions will not continue to have their value eroded. Instead they will now be indexed against both the CPI and MTAWE to ensure that their value is maintained. This will take place in the first budget set by a new Rudd Labor Government.

MELBOURNE May 7, 2007

Rod Hilton (Griffin) 0403 831 179