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Aborted package reveals contempt for veterans' grievances.



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Senator Mark Bishop

Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Senator for Western Australia

MEDIA RELEASE

EMBARGOED UNTIL 6 AM 20 FEB 04

Aborted Package Reveals Contempt for Veterans’

Grievances

The rage of Australia’s veterans will continue with the full revelation of the mean and tricky (now cancelled) response to the Clarke Report by the Howard Government.

This process started as a stalling device prior to the last election, with no intention of doing anything honourable for veterans and war widows.

Over 3000 veterans and war widows made submissions to Clarke and hundreds appeared to give evidence all around Australia over 12 months. Then deadly silence for another year.

Now they learn that it was all for nothing. After more than two years the Government was about to default on the expectations it encouraged. It is no wonder that veterans feel duped.

Of the 109 recommendations by Clarke, only five were to be accepted costing $100 million over four years instead of the package of changes.

The majority who sought access to the Gold Card have been refused. So have the claims by veterans from the British atomic tests of the 1950’s, and those who served with BCOF in Japan after 1946.

War widows have been ignored, as have WW II ex-prisoners of war from Europe, and all others who believed their service was due greater recognition.

The only significant Clarke recommendation accepted was the exemption of veterans’ disability pension from the means test at Centrelink - conceding what the ALP has sought by way of amendment in the Senate twice in the last five years, but rejected by the Government each time.

The T&PI campaign over the last four years has been belligerently rejected - the Government believes that T&PI’s are well paid.

The content of the leaked (cancelled) ministerial statement now forces the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to consider the nature of their relationship with the veteran community.

The Government fully intended to take the veteran community for granted. They never had any intention of delivering and now their deceit is clear to all. Veterans know that any change in the future will be minimal, reluctant and forced.