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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 33

Senator COLBECK (Parliamentay Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (11:26 AM) —I first note the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. While he makes nice warm and fuzzy comments about not discriminating, he does show in his comments the discrimination that many north islanders display against my home state of Tasmania. He might look at history to see how much our state has contributed towards the very positive progress of this country.

Senator Chris Evans —It was an attack on the Tasmanian Liberal Party, not on Tasmania.

Senator COLBECK —I still think his discrimination is unfounded and perhaps he ought to look a bit closer and talk to a few of us a bit more as well. Obviously, the government will not be supporting the requests for amendments moved by the Democrats. I note that the Democrats have moved similar requests for amendments to previous veterans' affairs bills, most recently the Veterans' Entitlements (Clarke Review) Bill 2004 and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Bill 2004.

The Veterans' Entitlements Act does not discriminate regarding the sexual preference of a veteran when granting benefits. However, the legislation does not recognise the partner of a veteran in a same-sex relationships as being a dependant who may claim benefits such as war widow or widowers pension or partner service pension. The proposed amendments impact on existing pensions and benefits under the Veterans' Entitlements Act, not just on the proposed utilities allowance and seniors concession allowance, and the government does not accept that there is significant support in the veteran community for any change to existing arrangements.