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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3454

Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (09:57): I rise firstly to commend Senator Michael Ronaldson, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, for his championing of and leadership on the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Legislation Amendment (Fair Indexation) Bill 2014, because it is legislation that will finally give veterans in my electorate of Robertson a fair go. It demonstrates how the government is committed to veterans and their families. It is about recognising the unique nature of military service, in particular for our military superannuants aged 55 and over. The coalition pledged that it would deliver this commitment not just before the 2013 election but also in 2010. When these important changes finally come in to place on 1 July, the government will have delivered on its pledge.

This bill will index the Defence Force retirement benefits scheme, known as DFRB, and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme, or DFRDB, pensions in the same way as age pensions and service pensions. I spoke recently with veterans to Gosford RSL Sub Branch—a sub-branch that has been in existence since 1917. Sub-branch vice president David Russell said that fair indexation is a valuable part of making sure the right compensation and care is provided. David served overseas in the Royal Australian Air Force for 33 years in East Timor, the Middle East, Somalia, Kuwait and beyond. He said that only the coalition and Prime Minister Tony Abbott have listened and are delivering a fair go. David is one of 56,000 veterans across Australia—over 13,000 in New South Wales and nearly 200 in my electorate of Robertson—who are DFRB or DFRDB recipients.

Mick Wardle, the president of Terrigal-Wamberal RSL Sub Branch also told me stories of half a dozen veterans on the DFRB or DFRDB pension in his sub-branch. One of the men served for more than 20 years, mainly in Vietnam. He was a full colonel in the Army and is a distinguished veteran in our community. Mr Wardle said that many veterans are struggling severely with the cost of living under the current pension scheme and that their lack of indexation has been an unresolved grievance until now. Another resident, Mr Gordon Clunes, served for three decades in the Navy in Korea, Malaya and Borneo. He is now a member of Woy Woy Ettalong-Hardys Bay RSL Sub Branch and respected former leader of the Central Coast naval association. Mr Clunes said that, despite 30 years of service, he also was feeling cost of living pressures, partly because of this unfair indexation.

It happened because in the last parliament Labor and the Greens refused to listen to our veterans. Right across the Central Coast there are veterans like Mr Clunes, Mr Russell and others that deserve a fair go, and only the coalition is delivering this fair go for some of our most valuable and respected citizens. I take the opportunity to thank the presidents of various subbranches in my electorate for their passion, advocacy and commitment to this particular issue, including Greg Mawson, president of Gosford RSL subbranch, Wally Sheargold from Davistown, Bevan Router from Woy Woy Ettalong-Hardys Bay subbranch, Danny Wilmott from Mangrove Mountain and Mick Wardle from Terrigal Womberal RSL.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Randall ): In accordance with standing order 193, the time for constituency statements has expired, but I know it would suit the convenience of the Federation Chamber to continue with constituency statements. I call the member for Bendigo.