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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2449


Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(11.18) —The Government rejects the amendment for a number of good and valid reasons. The war widow's pension is a compensation for the death of a veteran as a result of war service. That is why we have extended the legislations so that a war widow upon remarriage will still be able to be recognised as a war widow, irrespective of the financial capacity of her second or third husband. The pension is in recognition of that fact; it is regarded as compensation. If a woman in civilian life is compensated for the loss of her spouse, this compensation is not cut, as a result of some other decision, upon her remarriage. We do not think it is fair that any cut should apply on the remarriage of a war widow.

When a veteran receives a TPI pension special provision is made for the automatic grant of war widow status to his wife. It is hardly appropriate-and it has never been suggested by anyone in the veteran community-to grant a compensation pension automatically to a widow where the veteran received, for example, a 10 per cent disability pension arising from impairment to his hearing and somehow or other he is injured and dies from those injuries, which are totally unrelated to war service. That is what the amendment seeks to do. It shows a total disregard for the concept of compensation for a service-related death and that is why we have the determining system. If the veteran who has been granted a disability pension of 10 per cent or anything up to 100 per cent for an accepted disability and he dies from that, there is no problem with his spouse becoming a war widow. There is no problem at all because he has died from an accepted war-caused disability. Of course, that is the whole basis of the determination system. As one of my officers has pointed out to me, the widow of a veteran who receives a 10 per cent disability pension because she needs to wear glasses could, under this amendment, be classed as a war widow even if her husband was killed in a car accident in which he was a passenger. This has never been suggested as a valid approach by the veteran community. Currently, over 165,000 veterans receive disability pensions at various rates, including the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated veterans. This proposal would cost $10.25m in the first full year and costs would escalate quickly as veterans died, because, on the basis of the adoption of this amendment, anybody in receipt of a minor disability allowance would automatically be granted a war widow's pension. I do not think that the amendment is reasonable. It is overgenerous and it is not one that anybody of whom I am aware in the veteran community is suggesting ought to be accepted.