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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4143

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (15:05): I am responding with further information for Senator Hinch relating to a question that he asked of me last week concerning Mr Martin Rollins and matters related to the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

The Department of Veterans' Affairs acknowledges that it did not handle the case of Mr Martin Rollins well, and that it can and it must do better for our veterans and for their families. I'm advised by DVA that, following various appeals by Mr Rollins, DVA ultimately commissioned an external independent investigation into their handling of his case. This investigation involved the review of a large volume of documents and extensive correspondence between Mr Rollins, the independent investigator and DVA. The investigation also identified systemic issues that have informed the major reform program currently underway to transform DVA processes, systems and culture.

Senator Hinch referred to an email in his remarks to the Senate last week. The Department of Veterans' Affairs has confirmed that the email referred to by Senator Hinch both exists and was considered by the independent investigator. In view of the email and the statements contained therein, it is difficult to see how this change in policy did not disadvantage Mr Rollins.

Following the independent investigation into Mr Rollins' case, I am advised that DVA reversed its decision in relation to his claims and provided Mr Rollins all benefits to which he was entitled. Based on this information, it is evident that there were, and may still be, cultural issues in the department that do need to be addressed. Accordingly, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and I have asked the new secretary of DVA, Liz Cosson, to review the findings of the independent investigation; to identify any shortcomings, particularly as they relate to the culture of the organisation; and to report to the government as soon as possible.

In response to the question that Senator Hinch asked relating to costs, I am advised by DVA that a total of approximately $609,000 has been expended since 2009 to address Mr Rollins' claims and the subsequent independent investigation of DVA's handling of the case. Of this, approximately $506,000 was expended on the independent investigation and report, with the balance of around $103,000 expended on addressing Mr Rollins' claims.

The Secretary for the Department of Veterans' Affairs is meeting with Mr Rollins' solicitor this week to discuss Mr Rollins' concerns and to ensure that he is receiving the support that he needs. I am aware—through you, Madam Deputy President, to Senator Hinch—that this is a matter that is within the purview of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. However, I do understand your very serious interest and I undertake to you and to the chamber to continue to engage on this matter and to provide any information that you should require.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Minister. I know that this was a particular question around an individual, but I just remind ministers that their answers need to be quite short and succinct.