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Thursday, 22 August 1985
Page: 167

Senator ZAKHAROV —I direct my question to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Considerable concern has been expressed by sections of the ex-service community about the impact on war widows of the 14 May economic statement and the Veterans' Entitlements Bill now before the Parliament. Can the Minister reassure the veteran community that changes to be announced are of minimal impact and will enable the Government to improve pensions and services now provided?

Senator GIETZELT —The 14 May statement very clearly expressed the view, as have the Prime Minister and I on many occasions, that no existing war widow will be affected by that statement or by any proposed legislation, including the Veterans' Entitlements Bill. However, some concern has been raised that the introduction of the 40-year rule will in some way impede or debar from entitlement to a war widow's pension the widows of veterans who subsequently die. Firstly, I want to state quite categorically that the widows of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners will automatically get their war widow's pension on the death of veterans. In the case of a veteran in receipt of a disability pension who dies as a result of an accepted service related cause, the widow will also automatically get the war widow's pension. For example, if someone in receipt of a 20 per cent disability pension dies from an accepted disability condition such as emphysema, that person's widow automatically is entitled to the war widow's pension. However, in the case of a person who dies 40 years after his period of service from a disability which is not already accepted as being war caused, the widow has the opportunity of using the veterans' determining system-that is, the single determining officer and a Veterans Review Board-to test the claim on the basis of the civil standard of proof.

I want to stress that the legal opinion given to me, in response to the reaction that has taken place following the general review of war veterans' entitlements, substantiates the view that the Government had on 14 May-that the onus of proof will not be placed upon those applying for a war widow's pension or a general disability pension.