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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14606

Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (13:02): I also rise in support of the Australian Veterans' Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019. In response to some of the comments made by the member for Cunningham in relation to some concerns about the budget, I do wish to assure the House and the member that this government is absolutely committed to putting veterans first and to putting veterans' families first—which is why we continue to invest in improving the system of care and support available to the veteran community. This year's budget includes a total investment of more than $11½ billion in services and support relied upon by more than 280,000 veterans and their families—an increase of more than $300 million from last year. And we are continuing to fund the largest reform in the Department of Veterans' Affairs' history. This is making it easier and faster for veterans to access the services that they need, when and where they need them.

Veterans play an important part in Australia's national identity, for the service that they have given in defending our nation and putting their lives on the line for their loved ones—their wives and husbands, sons and daughters, family and friends—in defence of our nation. Since early 2018, the government has been working closely with the ex-service organisations to draft a defence covenant, to allow the Australian community to recognise and acknowledge the unique nature of military service and to support veterans and their families. This bill gives Australian veterans the respect and appreciation they deserve from their fellow country men and women, which is one part of the government's recognition package, to recognise and identify veterans in our local communities. This bill will grant veterans in our community exclusive rights and privileges, through acknowledging the distinctive nature of Australia's armed forces in past and current conflicts and assisting ex-service personnel and their families across the country.

The bill contains two key and practical initiatives by which we, as Australians, will be able to recognise our veterans for their commitment to defending our nation. The first aspect of the bill is outlined in schedule 1, which is aptly entitled the Australian Defence Veterans' Covenant. The covenant finishes with an oath: 'For what they have done, this we will do.' This oath signifies the contribution our veterans have made to the communities and the lifestyle that we live today as well as allowing those who take the oath to reflect on how we can work towards a better Australia for today's generation and also for tomorrow's. This bill envisages that the oath be taken at commemorative ceremonies such Remembrance Day and at other times during the year when we can recognise the achievements and sacrifices of those who have defended our nation and their families.

The other major feature of the bill is the government's introduction of the Veterans' Recognition Program. The program will include the issuing of a veterans' card, a newly-designed veterans' lapel or reservist pin and a print-out of the Australian Defence Veterans' Covenant. The bill will not change existing entitlements for those who currently receive the Department of Veterans' Affairs gold or white heath cards and orange pharmaceutical card but provides a significant declaration of the Australian government's intention to apply a construction to Veterans' Affairs legislation which is to the benefit of Australian veterans and their families. The veterans' card will be available to anyone who has served in the Australian Army, Navy or Air Force for one day of continuous full-time service. Some reservists will be eligible to receive a veterans' card, although those who are not will receive a reservists' lapel pin.

The government is making it easy for those who currently use the DVA gold or white card to receive the program, where the veterans' card will simply be a redesign and be reissued along with a lapel pin and copy of the covenant to recipients in the coming months. Veterans who currently do not have a DVA health card but are currently eligible will be able to apply through My Service on the DVA website.

The government is currently also in discussion with various business and community organisations about a variety of concessions for veterans, with a list of participating businesses and their discounts and concessions to be made available to the public shortly. There are thousands of veterans in my electorate of Robertson, all of whom will be able to receive the government's recognition package over the next few months. This will provide significant concessions and benefits for local veterans. I look forward to working with local businesses and RSLs in providing support and recognition for our ex service men and women.

As this bill describes, the government is supporting the family members of veterans through the recognition package. This will benefit members of Brisbane Water Legacy, located at Port Frederick in my electorate of Robertson. I would like to acknowledge the significant distribution that Legacy makes to the lives of 1,400 widows in our local community. In particular, I would like to thank the Brisbane Water Legacy board of directors, including the President, Max Davis; the Vice-President and deputy chairman, John George; the Finance Director, Tony Morton; and the CEO and company Secretary, Peter Lawley. The facilities and welfare programs they are able to provide means veterans, widows and their families are provided with comfort and support when they need it most. I hope to continue to work alongside them as this government delivers this package in recognition of their sacrifice for their country.

In closing, Australian veterans deserve recognition for all they have done in defending not only the land on which we live but the values we stand for as Australians. This bill will be part of our government's commitment to those who have served Australia gallantly and the families they have supported along the way. This government is absolutely committed to putting veterans and their families first, which is why we continue to invest in improving the system of care and support available to the veteran community. I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Laundy ): The question is that the bill now be read a second time. I call my good friend and fellow equine enthusiast the member for Moreton.