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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Page: 150

Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Minister for Defence) (09:05): It is a great pleasure to sum up the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2013. As I said quite briefly last night, this bill clarifies, improves and updates veterans' affairs and related legislation. It is part of the coalition's commitment to cutting red tape and removing redundant legislation. Furthermore, the bill takes another firm, concrete step towards fulfilling the coalition government's four-pillar election commitment to veterans and their families, which includes recognising the unique nature of military service.

Along with supporting this bill, let me categorically state not only for this place but also for the nation that the government will implement our commitment to deliver fair indexation for DFRB and DFRDB military superannuants aged 55 and over and that it will come into effect from 1 July this year. It is a firm commitment, a commitment that the Prime Minister when opposition leader signed a number of covenants with the defence community about. It will come to pass and it will be a great day in this place when the coalition brings about justice on this matter.

The amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act and the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act will clarify the approval and authorisation arrangements for travel for treatment for eligible persons and their attendants. Travel expenses for treatment can include the cost for transport, meals and accommodation for eligible persons and, where necessary, an attendant to accompany the eligible person. In 2012-13, the Department of Veterans' Affairs processed over 165,000 claims for travel expenses for treatment.

Amendments to the act will make it clear that the Repatriation Commission may approve or authorise travel for treatment before or after the travel has been undertaken. Other beneficial amendments in the bill will enable special assistance under the VEA and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to be delivered in a more timely manner. Changes to these acts will enable special assistance to be provided by legislative instrument instead of the current practice of using regulations. This will result in a streamlined and quicker process for providing special assistance to veterans, members, former members and their dependants. The remaining amendments in the bill will make minor changes to clarify and update veterans' affairs legislation and will further align the VEA with social security law.

These are good changes. They make a difference to the lives of veterans. I believe that they will be supported widely by both sides of the House, as they should be. As a nation, I think we have one of the best veteran systems in the world and it is our strong intention to continue to ensure that remains the case.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.