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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9316

Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Minister for Defence) (17:46): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to sum up the debate before there is a substantive motion to return the bill to the House. I thank all those from both sides of the House for their contributions to the debate and for the warm reception the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill 2014 has received. The bill will benefit members and former members of the ADF. It will enable the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission to retrospectively recalculate certain permanent impairment compensations using a new methodology, thereby removing a technical barrier in the existing legislation. The new methodology resulted from a review of the military compensation arrangements and is to be used where a person has a MRCA injury or disease and an injury or disease already accepted under the Veterans' Entitlements Act, the VEA, or the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, the SRCA.

As the House would appreciate, anything we can do to make life a bit easier for our veterans, particularly those with eligibility under multiple acts, is a positive thing. In the situation where a person has a MRCA injury or disease as well as an injury or disease under another act, the compensation payable under MRCA is assessed, taking account of conditions under the other two acts, the VEA and/or SRCA, to ensure that any compensation paid is assessed on a whole-of-person basis. No person will be disadvantaged by the application of this new methodology. Where the new calculation would result in a lower amount, the person's permanent impairment compensation will be maintained at the existing amount. There is no disadvantage.

The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission began calculations in January of this year, and this is what highlighted the technical barrier in the existing legislation that prevented the retrospective recalculation of transitional permanent impairment compensations in some circumstances. These circumstances are where the person's claim for permanent impairment compensation was a subject of a claimant initiated review by the Military Rehabilitation and Conversation Commission or a review by the Veterans' Review Board or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the AAT. Under the existing legislation, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission has no power to reconsider these decisions. The bill will enable the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission to complete these reviews for the benefit of members and former members.

It is a good bill. It is a no-disadvantage bill. It seeks to provide better care for our veterans. In that light, I was surprised, I must say, by the accusation by the member for Batman, the shadow minister for veterans' affairs, amongst other things, when he had the temerity, the audacity and the blatant effrontery to say this government has no policy direction in the area of veteran affairs. I may have taken the member for Batman with a modicum of seriousness if indeed the Labor Party had had a veterans policy at the last election, but it did not. So forgive me, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I just excuse the comments by the member for Batman as simply vacuous air with no substance. The coalition has a strong veterans policy. It has a strong commitment to our fighting men and women. Our indexation of DFRDB and DFRB superannuants is testimony to that strength of our concern for veterans. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

A message from His Excellency the Governor-General has announced recommending appropriation for the purposes of the bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: If no member wishes to consider the bill in detail, I will put the report question forthwith. The question is that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.

Question agreed to.