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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 1059

Mr SNOWDON (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health) (12:42 PM) —I thank the member for Corangamite for his contribution and his comments and observations, and other speakers: the members for Shortland, Macquarie, Blair and Fadden. It is clear that there is no division on this issue in this parliament, and that is a very important thing.

As we know, the Veterans’ Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2010 will make a variety of changes to veterans affairs portfolio legislation that will improve the ways in which we provide support to our veterans’ family members and dependants. You will have heard that included in the bill are changes that will provide eligibility for free cancer treatment to certain Australian Protective Service officers involved in patrolling the exclusion zone at Maralinga between 1984 and 1988. The officers will be included in the existing scheme that provides such treatment to Australian Defence Force members and Commonwealth employees who were involved in the British nuclear testing program during the 1950s and 1960s, and who were subsequently employed at Maralinga.

The bill will give veterans more time to make claims for non-treatment-related travel expenses, which is a very important thing. These changes will extend from three months to 12 months the period within which the non-treatment travel claims may be submitted for reimbursement. This change, as I am sure you would be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, will benefit veterans and their dependants who travel for non-treatment-related purposes such as attending claim reviews or obtaining medical evidence.

The bill will also enable Defence Service Homes Insurance to contribute to the cost of providing emergency services in New South Wales through the payment of the State Emergency Service levy. As you heard from the member for Corangamite, the levy will be collected from Defence Service Homes Insurance policyholders and remitted to the New South Wales government.

The bill also includes minor changes to improve the operation of the Specialist Medical Review Council, firstly by making it clear that the Specialist Medical Review Council may review a decision of the Repatriation Medical Authority to not amend a statement of principles. Secondly, Mr Deputy Speaker, as I am sure you would now know, the changes will provide for the Specialist Medical Review Council to review both versions of a statement of principles that relate to a particular condition even if an applicant has requested a review of only one of the statements of principles. The bill will also clarify the relevant provisions of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act to ensure that compensation will continue to be payable to eligible members in the circumstances where an initial war- or defence-caused injury or disease is aggravated or materially contributed to by service under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. The bill will also ensure that the payment of a pension to the dependant of a veteran who is a prisoner of war will continue as originally intended after the commencement of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004.

Other changes made by the bill will protect the interests of compensation recipients under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act by requiring that certain compensation payments are made to an account maintained in a compensation recipient’s name, which of course is most important. Additionally, the bill will also enable Victoria Cross and decoration allowance recipients to receive both Victoria Cross or decoration allowances under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and a Victoria Cross or decoration allowance or annuity from a foreign country. Finally, the bill will enable certain entities under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to specify the manner in which notices and other documents may be served. This will ensure that the legal effect of such notices and documents is protected. Changes made by the bill demonstrate this government’s commitment to continually review, update and improve the services and support we provide to our current and former military personnel and their families. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.