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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1107

Senator CHILDS —Has the Minister for Veterans' Affairs seen criticism by ex- service organisations that no increases in war disability pension rates were provided in the latest Bugdet? Why were disability pensions not increased at the time even though other pensions were increased significantly? What is the legal basis upon which disability pension rates are set and adjusted?

Senator GIETZELT —There has been some minor criticism by some of the smaller ex- service organisations about the failure of the current Budget to provide increases in war disability pensions, even though social welfare pensions, war widows pensions and other allowances were increased. I believe that criticism to be entirely misplaced. The Government has accepted that its prime responsibility at this stage is to increase social welfare based pensions to its objective of representing 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Government has also recognised that, as some pensioners were already entitled to free medical treatment, due to the impact of Medicare on the consumer price index and the automatic adjustments that followed there was particular need to provide for increases in those social welfare based pensions.

The disability pension that Senator Childs referred to is a compensatory pension-it is not social welfare related-and therefore it is paid according to the assessed degree of Service related incapacity. This means, of course, that it is tax and means test free and is not treated as income as far as Service pensions are concerned. The Government's emphasis in this Budget was designed to meet its obligations and responsibilities in respect of social welfare type payments. I draw the Senate's attention to the fact that until 1977 the disability pension was adjusted by Government decision. Since then it has been automatically adjusted at six-monthly intervals according to movements in the CPI. That is laid down in section 35AAA of the Repatriation Act. I can say that recipients of disability pensions have not been disadvantaged in any way by the Budget increases to other pensions which are social welfare related. Their turn will come when the appropriate CPI adjustments are made.