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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5992

Mr SNOWDON (LingiariMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health) (18:54): Firstly let me address the pharmaceutical reimbursement scheme. I understand the rhetoric, but I think it is genuinely seen as a very great benefit to the veteran community. While I appreciate that political points can be made, the fact is that we will be investing $30.1 million over four years to reimburse eligible veterans' out-of-pocket expenses relating to pharmaceutical prescriptions. I do not think we should apologise for that; I think it is a bloody good thing to do. I know that it has been well received across the veterans community. The measure will address the out-of-pocket costs experienced by some veterans when their annual concessional patient pharmaceutical co-payment costs exceed the value of existing pharmaceutical assistance provided through the pension or veteran supplements. And it does, as you say, deliver on our election commitment, for which you should be pleased.

Mr Robert: It is a term late.

Mr SNOWDON: You may say it is a term late, but it is a commitment which I am nevertheless pleased that we have been able to deliver. You talked about the increase from election costs to $30 million. As the secretary pointed out at the estimates, this reflects the addition of year 2014-15 to the budget costing and the use of a fiscal amount rather than cash.

In terms of the best funding, I acknowledge the report and believe it was a good document, but we have operated in a fiscally responsible way. We have looked at all of our funding and the $8 million funding reduction for the Veteran and Community grants program and the Building Excellence in Support and Training program are important parts of our fiscal responsibility. The funding reduction aligns with the decline in the veteran client population and the number of grant applications. There are synergies here; this is not just some arbitrary cut. The funding of $4.4 million per year will continue to be made available through these programs and savings from this measure will be redirected to support government priorities. I have been to a number of conferences where I have made this very clear and been upfront about the government cutting these programs—I have not run away from them. I think one of the things that we jointly need to do—and I am not saying this as a point of political difference, because I do not think it is—is to look from now into the future and consider how to manage a declining population. That means we need to talk about current programs which may not have the demand they have had previously, and where we have got the capacity to change the program directions or the funding base for those programs, and redirect that money to other areas of need. That is what we have done in this instance and I do not apologise for it.