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War widows demand justice.



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Senator Mark Bishop Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Senator for Western Australia

MEDIA RELEASE

Media Details: Senator Mark Bishop 0419 959 892 or Peter Reece 0414 677 441 Parliament House (02) 6277 3101

11th July, 2002 ref:m&pr

026/02

War Widows Demand Justice

The extraordinary case of a Queensland war widow denied a widows pension for 25 years through apparent departmental negligence requires immediate investigation, Shadow Minister for Veterans’Affairs, Senator Mark Bishop said today.

What is worse, there may in fact be countless others who have been similarly denied their entitlement because their claim has not been satisfactorily investigated. This means that for those in need, as many are, they have been denied a pension of $446 per fortnight, the Gold Card, and the $25 000 grant to widows of ex POW (Japan).

For widows who have accepted their rejected claim in the past at face value, without having taken advice or appealed, they may well be advised to do so.

The case of Mrs Palmer, who remained legally married to her POW veteran husband who died in 1975, though separated for many years, is very disturbing for its administrative implications - and hence the need for others to question the veracity of their own rejection.

On the facts available it seems clear that Mrs Palmer’s application for the war widows pension was rejected due simply to a file note to the effect that her husband had already married in 1942, and therefore her marriage to him in 1946 was not legitimate. The fact that Mr Palmer was in Changi as a prisoner of war at the time and that the allegation of marriage in 1942 was false, seems to have been overlooked.

Yet despite repeated inquiry and FOI applications, the family has been denied a proper reconsideration.

Now is the time and the Minister must as a matter of urgency demand a full investigation. Furthermore Mrs Palmer and her family should be given a full explanation, as well as access to the files for their satisfaction.

The persistence of Mrs Palmer and her family is to be admired, but they should not have been forced to approach the media to see justice done. Clearly Mrs Palmer has endured a very difficult life with little support for herself and her family. She deserves better.