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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1572

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (10:45): I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak on this motion, and I congratulate the member for Ryan for raising these important issues. As a close parliamentary colleague and fellow member of the class of 2010, I have observed the member for Ryan's unwavering commitment to veterans affairs issues since her first day in this place. This commitment stretches back generations, to her great grandfather Sir George Pearce, who served in this place as Minister for Defence and established the Royal Australian Air Force. It is fitting that the member for Ryan should represent a region that includes the Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera. This is home to several units, including the 6th RAR who represented our nation with such distinction and at great loss in Afghanistan.

The member for Ryan's maiden speech highlights her dedication not only to her troops but also to this very issue she has raised in this motion here today. With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to quote from this speech:

Let us never forget these brave Australians and all of our troops and veterans who have answered the call whenever their country has asked. Equally we must never forget that these courageous men and women have volunteered knowing that they put their lives at risk to ensure our safety. It is timely to remind the House of the coalition’s commitment to ensure that their entitlements reflect the contributions and sacrifices they have made through the indexation of the DFRDB and the DFRB.

It must therefore give the member for Ryan and her constituents such pride to read the first line of this motion:

That this House:

… congratulates the Government on honouring its election commitment to change indexation arrangements for Defence Forces Retirement Benefits and Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits military pensions;

Of course, this change was only possible with the election of a coalition government. Since coming to office just 18 months ago, we have delivered on our commitments to veterans and their families. We recognise and understand the unique nature of military service, and this financial year will deliver more funding to support veterans and their families. We have restored veterans' advocacy funding, which was cut by the previous Labor government, providing an additional $1 million each year to the Building Excellence in Support and Training program.

This coalition government has also mental health at the forefront with a commitment of more than $179 million to meet the mental health needs of the veteran and ex-service community. This includes funding for online mental health information and support, GP services, psychologist and social work services, specialist psychiatric services, pharmaceuticals, PTSD programs, and in-patient and out-patient hospital treatment. The government's funding for veteran mental health treatment is demand driven and is not capped. We have expanded eligibility for services provided through the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service; broadened the comprehensive system of health care for veterans with certain mental health conditions; and deepened our engagement with younger veterans through an online presence, including social media. Veterans can now access specialist treatment for certain mental health conditions, with a referral from their GP, and there is no need for a veteran to submit a claim for compensation in order to be eligible to receive this treatment.

The Department of Veterans' Affairs provides training and resources to mental health practitioners, and last year the Prime Minister and the Minister for Veterans' Affairs launched the Prime Minister's Advisory Council on Veterans' Mental Health. It is abundantly clear that this government is committed to the veteran community and that it will continue to do all it can to support our veterans and their families into the future. I have regular contact at meetings and community events with many members of the local Bennelong veteran community, so ably represented by: Bernie Cox, President of Ryde District RSL Sub Branch; John Curdie, President of Epping RSL sub-Branch; Cecil Williams, President of North Ryde RSL Sub Branch; and Chris Cody, President of Gladesville RSL Sub Branch.

I refute the contribution of the member for Batman. I again commend the member for Ryan for her unflagging dedication to these issues, applaud the government for our efforts in this area and proudly commend this motion to the House.