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Thursday, 26 October 2017
Page: 12164

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (12:10): As foreshadowed in my speech on the second reading, I would like to say that Labor will be supporting all of the government's amendments to this bill. Obviously, one of the amendments that we are very, very pleased about is the amendment relating to the Veterans' Review Board. This is, I think, an important amendment that addresses the concerns of the ex-service community and apprehensions that were discussed during the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee process. These changes are important to retain the unique nature of the Veterans' Review Board as a place where veterans can have their voices heard. So I do think that this amendment is suitable and, as mentioned in my speech on the second reading, has the benefit of removing the section that would limit the ability of veterans to be heard. This is, I think, an important measure, to keep faith with the veterans community. As I said also, Labor welcomes the aligning of the principles of the Veterans' Review Board with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, but it was important to us that the nature of the Veterans' Review Board be maintained. So we did bring this to the attention of the government, and I'm very pleased that the government has an amendment that will deliver that.

Also, I would note that there are amendments that the government has circulated which seek to restore the concessional pharmaceuticals to those veterans who had lost them as a result of the government's unfair asset-test changes. We do know that these changes to the asset test saw more than 13,000 Australians receiving a Veterans' Affairs pension losing part of that pension or indeed being kicked off the pension. While it has been two years too late, it is pleasing to see the pensioner concession card finally being restored to those who had lost it. But I would hope that the government continues to ensure that a wide range of concessions which were received by those part-pensioners who no longer receive them are still available. As to those concessions that were provided by councils, it is unclear what the government has done and how the government has pursued ensuring that those concessions are reinstated. It took two years to reinstate the Commonwealth benefits and it is my understanding that the states, in principle, have agreed. It is incumbent on the government to ensure that all concessions by all three levels of government are restored to this group of people, because Labor did not support this change. We were very, very clear, under the guidance of our great shadow minister, who made it very, very clear that we thought this was an unfair change. So I do hope that the minister responsible for the Department of Social Services preserves these concessions and ensures that they are reinstated for these people.

The remaining elements of these amendments seek to address some minor technical amendments. On the whole, we will support the government's amendments. We think they improve the omnibus bill and therefore they have our support.

Question agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.