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Tuesday, 15 September 1987
Page: 53

Mr LEE —Is the Minister for Veterans' Affairs aware of the widespread concern in the veteran community following a recent Federal Court of Australia decision on the entitlements of totally and permanently incapacitated veterans over the age of 65? Can he advise the House what action the Government intends to take to ensure that elderly TPI veterans do not lose their disability pensions?

Mr HUMPHREYS —I am very pleased that the honourable member for Dobell has asked me my maiden question. I can assure honourable members that he is a very hard-working and dedicated member of this Parliament. Actually, he sent me a telegram on the very issue on which he has asked a question.

Mr Beale —Will you put it on notice?

Mr HUMPHREYS —I do not intend to put it on notice. I am certainly aware of the widespread concern in the veteran community and the widespread concern of all honourable members on both sides of the chamber, especially the honourable member for Farrer, who is now shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. I had the pleasure of addressing the executive committee of TPI pensioners in Canberra and I was informed in no uncertain circumstances that if we did not fix up the problem pensioners would be marching on Parliament House with fixed bayonets. I can assure honourable members that I was very concerned about that so I reported the matter to the Prime Minister. I must say also how appreciative I am of the support I have received in the Cabinet on this very issue.

The recent Federal Court decision threw into doubt the entitlements of TPI and intermediate rate pensions to be paid for life by implying that veterans might cease to be entitled once they passed the retiring age. I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister announced the Government's decision at the Returned Services League national conference on 31 August 1987. The Government will not allow the Federal Court's interpretation of the new Veterans' Entitlements Act to stand. An amendment to the legislation will be introduced in the Parliament as soon as possible so as to ensure that TPI and intermediate rate pensions, once granted, continue to be payable indefinitely, except where there is evidence of fraud, a significant improvement in health or a resumption of employment. The Government's decision reflects a strong commitment to ensuring that the veterans receive what is due to them as compensation for their services to the nation.