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Thursday, 21 March 2002
Page: 1942

Mrs VALE (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) (6:19 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill is a package of minor, technical and consequential amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 and related acts. Some of the amendments implement minor policy changes for the Veterans' Affairs portfolio relating to the income support and disability compensation systems. The bill also includes consequential amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999.

The proposed social security amendments result from the introduction of the payment of the income support supplement to war widows and widowers under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 in 1994.

The income support supplement is an income and assets tested payment made to war widows or widowers who do not receive the age or service pension. In 1994, the responsibility for income support payments previously paid to war widows and widowers through the social security system was transferred to the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The introduction of the income support supplement under the VEA enabled war widows and widowers to receive both the war widows or widowers pension and income support supplement from the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

To implement this payment, amendments were made to the VEA, with consequential amendments made to the Social Security Act 1991. Subsequent acts have made further consequential amendments to both of those acts.

This bill completes the consequential amendments, removing some minor anomalies which may have had an adverse effect on some widows and their partners. Some of these anomalies have resulted in a small number of instances where it has been necessary to make an act of grace payment to the surviving partner of a widow or widower, because they have been ineligible for a bereavement payment.

Most of the remaining amendments made to the VEA and related acts are consequential, minor or technical in nature. Some of them involve minor changes in policy to eliminate some unintended anomalies that have become evident in the original legislation.

Other changes involve a clarification of the legislation to reflect the original purpose of provisions, or changes to further improve the management of the Veterans' Affairs portfolio.

This bill demonstrates the government's ongoing commitment to improving the repatriation system to benefit those in the veteran community who most need our help.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Ms Livermore) adjourned.