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Thursday, 26 October 2017
Page: 12140

Ms LAMB (Longman) (10:43): Yesterday I was celebrating the visit from the shadow minister for defence, Richard Marles, when he visited Remembrance House in Burpengary to talk to a group of returned service men and women. Remembrance House is quite literally a house. It's actually a home, a place for veterans to live and adjust to civilian life. It's a great initiative. We're very fortunate to have one in Burpengary; it's one of two in the country. The other sits in the member for Herbert's electorate up in Townsville. At this meeting with the honourable member, the shadow minister for defence, Richard Marles, we were resoundingly told of how difficult it can be for veterans to find decent, secure work that matches their needs. And, as a strong advocate for the veteran community, I heard this loud and clear, and I have been taking action since.

I hold the position of the chair of Labor's Australian Jobs Taskforce, a caucus committee listening to people around the country involved in the job market: people in work who are looking for more work; people who are actually looking for any work at all; businesses; industry leaders; job service providers; and councils and state governments, of course. It's an initiative of the Labor Party to help shape policy that will move Australia forward. As I said earlier, listening to people is the only real way to formulate strong policy, particularly in this space of employment. So recently I have been holding a number of conversations with those in the space of employment for veterans, as part of this task force, and we've heard some very interesting things. We've been told in these conversations what the barriers are to people finding work and what support our veterans need in finding work, and of course we have been asking them what the solutions are to finding that work and helping them with that support. It's always good to get their views and their recommendations.

In the years that the Abbott and Turnbull governments have been in power, too little has been done for the veterans of Australia—in particular, too little has been done to help them find decent and secure work upon returning to civilian life. I'd have to say that, until Labor gets into power at the next election, I'm more than happy to lend a hand and support any changes that support veterans, no matter how small those steps are.

I'd now like to turn to schedule 4 of this bill. These changes are by no means sweeping reforms—the department has already been able to facilitate these employer initiative payments; this bill just legislates them—although, again, we'll welcome anything that helps our veterans. While strengthening the legislative foundation of payments is of course a good thing, it's not groundbreaking reform. What we really need, though, is this government to take a stronger, more considered and deliberate approach, making sure that meaningful policy enacts positive change for our veterans.

I also support changes in schedule 5 of this bill, which amends the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, as well as the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 for Defence related claims. This schedule will facilitate information-sharing between the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission and the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, with respect to certain service related compensation claims. The way that the system currently works is that, if someone's discharged for medical reasons, they have to undergo a medical. Then they have to go to the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation to organise payments. When they go there, they have to organise for another medical assessment. And then, if they go to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, they have to go through another. These amendments in schedule 5 of the bill go to making sure that the complicated and lengthy claims process for people seeking assistance from the department is smoothed and is easier for them. Enabling that sharing of information between the departments will assist the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation in making speedier superannuation benefits assessments and, in turn, assist the department in recognising a person's entitlement to incapacity payments. It's one of the issues with the current process. I've heard time after time that it's lengthy and it's complicated; for vulnerable people, it's additional stress that they just do not need. So of course I support schedule 5. As long as proper safeguards to protect veterans' privacy are in place, Labor and I are always supportive to changes to improve this process. So I'm happy and pleased to support this bill. I'm happy to support procedural processes that smooth the way forward and cut red tape for our veterans.