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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2455

Senator MACKLIN(11.54) —by leave-I move:

(7) That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendments:

(a) Sub-clause 23 (1), leave out paragraphs (a) and (b).

(b) Sub-clause 23 (3), paragraph (b), leave out ``, not being a veteran who has attained the age of 65 years,''.

(8) That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendments:

(a) Sub-clause 24 (1), leave out paragraphs (a) and (b).

(b) Sub-clause 24 (1), paragraph (c), leave out ``that'' (first occurring).

(c) Sub-clause 24 (2), paragraph (b), leave out ``, not being a veteran who has attained the age of 65 years,''.

(9) That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment:

After clause 24, add the following new clause:

Exceptional disability allowance

``24A. (1) Where

(a) a veteran is not entitled to receive a pension under section 24 by reason only of the operation of sub-paragraph 24 (2) (a) (i); and

(b) the Commission is satisfied that the degree of incapacity of the veteran from war-caused injury or war-caused disease, or both, increased after the veteran ceased to engage in remunerative work,

pension is payable to the veteran under section 24 notwithstanding that sub-paragraph.''.

The situation we are dealing with here is again one which I think is of considerable concern to the veteran community. This issue is somewhat hard to determine in absolute terms. We all know of veterans who have come to us at times suffering from various war-caused disabilities and who have not availed themselves of the facilities provided by the previous repatriation Acts and which, of course, will be provided in the future by the Veterans' Entitlements Act. Those veterans, for whatever reason, have wished to restrain the burden on the taxpayer. They feel that they can battle on on their own in their business or employment and not accept their just deserts under the legislation, not only as it has been drawn up but also as this Bill provides. I do not think those people deserve to be penalised at a later stage, which is what this part of the legislation will undoubtedly lead to.

When those veterans retire, either at the normal retirement age or earlier because their dis- abilities have got the better of them and they find they can no longer carry on, I think they expect to be paid a special rate of pension if they are entitled to it. I emphasise that the people I am talking about are the people who, had they applied before the relevant time, under this legislation, would actually be entitled to the special rate of pension. I am talking about the people who, under this legislation, would be entitled to the pension if they had applied for it before but who will now not be entitled to it simply because they chose not to burden the taxpayer. That seems to me to be very odd. The Government is actually increasing the costs by insisting that anyone who is entitled to it, at any stage, will have to go out and apply for it because that person knows that if he waits until further down the track he will be ineligible. I should have thought that it would not be in the interests of the Government, the taxpayer or anybody else to operate in that fashion. Hence, I believe that those disabled veterans who, because of their determination not to give in to their incapacity, not to become a burden on the taxpayer, the repatriation system or the veterans' entitlements system, as presumably it will come to be called from now on, and who have not applied before the age of 65 for a special rate of pension will not be eligible to do so. I believe the effect of the Government's legislation will be to increase costs rather than to decrease them. I think it would be unfortunate if we were now to force all of those veterans to take whatever is due to them under the legislation as early as possible, merely to protect themselves. One would imagine that the costs and the impositions caused by those injuries would be exacerbated by increasing age.

I am not at all sure that I want to go extensively into the matter of the interpretation of the reason for having the totally and permanently incapacitated pension. I could go back to the 1920s and the introduction of it by the Minister at the time, but I am not at all sure how relevant most of that discussion would be to the item before us because, after all, many of these things, particularly those in relation to this area, have over the years been variously interpretated as to what they are supposed to be about. I believe that the point I have already put is consistent with the general thrust of the understanding of the veteran community about who does and who does not get the TPI pension. I leave it at that. I think there is a general understanding and I think that understanding has been violated by the way this provision has been drawn up.

I turn to the matter of the mandatory rate of 100 per cent incapacity before a TPI pension is considered. The Commission has the power under the legislation to review this. A veteran could go before a departmental medical officer and in due course the 100 per cent pension could be reduced, thereby nullifying the first test that needs to be passed with regard to clause 24 for a person to be eligible for a TPI pension.

There certainly needs to be a provision for an exceptional disability allowance to cover those veterans who, at the retirement age of 65, find that their war caused injury or disease has caused their health to deteriorate to a marked extent. I am not talking about the normal aging process; I am talking about deterioration caused by the extent of the war-caused injuries or diseases.

I wish to give an example that I have which puts the problem in a fairly concrete fashion and enables us to look at the types of problems that will be coming into the office of every member of Parliament shortly. It is an example of a former prisoner of war of the Japanese who has 16 accepted disabilities but who, because of financial and family problems, worked until he was forced to retire at the age of 65 years, even though he should have left the work force years before. We have all met such people. On retirement he was receiving a 100 per cent general rate of disability pension. When his medical condition deteriorated he applied for an intermediate or special rate of pension but this was refused because he had retired from the work force. He can never become a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman even though, before he reached the age of 65, his accepted disabilities had gained him an assessment greater than the 100 per cent rate. That is a very good example of the type of problem that we are confronting. I hope that the amendments that I have moved will be acceptable to the Government as a result of problems that have been shown up since the veteran community has had time to digest the earlier amendments to repatriation legislation and work out their implications.