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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5987

Mr SNOWDON (LingiariMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health) (18:30): I thank the departmental officials for being here to give me advice on the questions you are about to ask. Are you asking them too? How does that happen?

Mr Bruce Scott: I am first.

Mr SNOWDON: This budget maintains Labor's strong commitment to our veteran community, with a $12.3 billion budget, a $200 million increase on 2010-11. This increase mostly comes in health care costs. Because we have an ageing veteran population, their demands upon health services are getting greater, therefore resulting in increased expenditure. It delivers on our election promise to provide a $500 per fortnight supplement to our much-deserving prisoners of war, which you will have seen announced only recently. It provides an additional $8 million per annum to the Australian War Memorial after a careful and considered review which was inaugurated, you will recall, in October of last year. It contains a number of measures to simplify the system and improve access for veterans. It is fiscally responsible and in line with the government's commitment to bring the budget back to surplus in 2012-13.

I might just concentrate briefly on some of our overall priorities, because I think they are relevant. Looking after our ageing veterans and their families. Over 180,000 of those people we look after our 80 years or older. That is a significant proportion of the client group. Secondly, and a very significant area for me in my view and I think for the community, is ensuring that our younger wounded, injured and ill veterans are properly cared for. Forty per cent of the ADF has now been deployed in the last decade and 50 per cent of those have been deployed more than once. They are significant figures. Our election commitments were honoured in this budget through the Veterans' Pharmaceutical Reimbursement Scheme, which has been allocated $30.1 million, and the Vietnam Veterans Education Centre in Washington with $3.3 million.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I am happy for my comrades from the other side to have a chat.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): Thank you, Minister.