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Thursday, 9 December 1993
Page: 4274

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defence Science and Personnel) (3.08 p.m.) —In relation to the specific case that Senator Reid has raised, I am happy to progress that with her privately. I think that is an appropriate way for us to proceed in that instance. I believe that the services that the Department of Veterans' Affairs is providing to our ageing veterans and war widows are appropriate services. I believe that we are particularly sensitive to the changing needs of veterans and war widows in our community.

  As Senator Reid knows, in many forums that we both attend where veterans, war widows and representatives of ex-service organisations are present, I do stress the nature of the challenges that governments and ex-service organisations will face in the future. Currently, 30 per cent of our veterans and war widows are aged 75 years and over. By the turn of the century more than 60 per cent of our veterans and war widows, our entitled beneficiaries, will be over the age of 75 years.

  That means that the sorts of services that Senator Reid has referred to will, I think, become more important to veterans' affairs beneficiaries. Senator Reid is also right to point out the fact that the profile of carers receiving carers pensions will also change. Not only are the beneficiaries getting older, but the carers in many instances, as Senator Reid knows, are getting older also. I think Senator Reid ought to acknowledge that our programs are very much focused on the importance of the health and the independence of Australian veterans and war widows. We are committed to seeing veterans and war widows, wherever possible, remain in their homes and remain independent for as long as possible. Their health and their independence is of vital importance.

  I am happy to deal with Senator Reid privately on the specific instance that she mentions. I do not believe it is appropriate that we talk about individual cases in this procedure of taking note of answers to questions without notice. I give Senator Reid a commitment that I will have a discussion with her and look closely at the individual case that she refers to. But, from the surveys that we have conducted within the Department of Veterans' Affairs about our client needs and attitudes, many of these trends that have been identified in Senator Reid's questions are obviously occurring more broadly across our ex-service community, as has apparently occurred in the one case that Senator Reid mentioned. They are important challenges for the future. There is a need for our services to reflect the changing nature of the veteran community—the fact that we have an ageing community. This government has been committed, and will remain committed, to ensuring that the repatriation health care services that we provide are most appropriate to Australian veterans and war widows into the future.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.