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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26350

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Western Australia—Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (3.35 p.m.)—I present two government responses to committee reports as listed on today's Order of Business. In accordance with the usual practice, I seek leave to incorporate the documents in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows—

Inquiry into aspects of the Veterans'Entitlements Act 1986 and the Military Compensation Scheme (MCRS)

Dear Chairman

I refer to your Committee's report on aspects of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 and the Military Compensation Scheme which was tabled on 18 September 2003.

I have noted the five recommendations made in the report to which I make the following responses:

Recommendation

That the Department of Veterans' Affairs ensures that all staff responsible for providing advice on offsetting have access to up to date information and appropriate training;

Response: Agree

Recommendation that the Department creates a centre of expertise:

for delivery of expert advice to staff, veterans and widows about the operation of sections 30C and 74 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986; and

for quality assurance on the final calculations of offsets.

Response: Agree in principle.

However, there are significant logistical problems to be overcome before expertise could be concentrated in a single national location.

Recommendation

That the Department must ensure that all potential recipients of lump sum compensation understand the implications for their pension of accepting a compensation lump sum; that upon accepting a lump sum, their pension will be offset for life.

Response: Agreed

In cases where a pension is already in payment and lump sum is subsequently sought. However, in some cases a lump sum payment may have been made by a private insurer before the Department is advised.

Recommendation

That comprehensive and expert information be given to potential recipients once claims have been accepted, detailing the MCRS lump sum and VEA pension, with a complete cost schedule, including the rate of offset; and

Response: Agree.

However, due to variations in interest rates and inflation factors over time the information can only be indicative and will not be an exact cost schedule.

Recommendation

That this information be provided to potential recipients before they are required to make a decision about whether to accept a lump sum or a pension. It should also include any other likely payments that will impact on recipients' future payments (for example, CPI increases).

Response: Agreed

In cases where a pension is already in payment and lump sum is subsequently sought. However, if a lump sum has been granted first, and a claimant subsequently seeks a disability pension for the same condition under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986, the condition would have to be first accepted and an initial pension assessment made before the effect of the lump sum on the pension could be calculated and a final pension entitlement advised.

Yours sincerely

DANNA VALE MP

—————

Government Response to Report 56 of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Recommendation 2

Where the provision of accurate information on the status of State and Territory legislative compliance cannot be provided at the time of the public hearing, the Committee must be provided with updated evidence as it is available, up until the tabling of the Committee's report.

The Government accepts Recommendation 2.

The Committee's inquiry into ratification of International Labour Organization Convention No. 182: Elimination of the Worst Forms of ChildLabour occurred in unusual circumstances, in that Australian law was not fully compliant with the Convention at the time of the inquiry. These circumstances represent an exception to the standard practice under the Government's treaty making policy pursuant to which treaties are not brought before the Committee until all necessary domestic implementing legislation is in place. The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) and the Attorney-General's Department (AGD) presented the Committee with the most accurate information on State and Territory legislative compliance available at time of the public hearing, i.e. 13 October 2003.

Subsequently, the AGD completed a formal review of the compliance of State and Territory legislation (including Western Australia) with the Convention. The review determined that, in addition to New South Wales and Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia also fully complied with the Convention. Formal advice to this effect was issued by the AGD on 26 November 2003 and made available to all States and Territories (including Western Australia) by DEWR the same day.

In relation to any future inquiries by the Committee that may be conducted under similar exceptional circumstances, the Government will endeavour to ensure that the Committee is provided with any updated evidence as it is available following the public hearing, up until the tabling of the Committee's report.