Diggers take shots at Prime Minister

19 Mar 2013

Arising from our ADSO Fair Go Campaign Rally at Rooty Hill recently the Sydney Daily Telegraph has taken a keen interest in the matter with Simon Black following up on his first article   PM snubs veterans with his latest article in Mondays Daily Telegraph here .

That was an abridged version. Here is the complete article: 

AUSTRALIAN ex-servicemen and women have warned Prime Minister Julia Gillard they have the power to deliver western Sydney to Tony Abbott if she refuses to make changes to the military superannuation scheme.

Under the current scheme, tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), an individual on a military pension can receive thousands of dollars less per year than someone on an aged pension, which is referenced at the very minimum to 27.7% of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE).

Diggers said they have been heartened by meetings with both the PM and opposition leader Tony Abbott in the last week but warned they wouldnt be “led up the garden path”
“Were at the end of our tolerance,” Defence Force Welfare Association National President (DFWA), David Jamison, said. “Hopefully these meetings werent designed solely to placate.”
Mr Jamison said his organisation had been working behind the scenes with MPs trying to find a solution.
“(But) if that solution is not part of the budget announcement we believe we have been led up the garden path again,” he said. “If needs be we can work hard to swing elections.”

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information reveal individuals on Defence and Commonwealth Defined Superannuation Benefits (DCDSB) hold the difference in a number of Western Sydney electorates as well as dozens of others nationally.
The seat of Greenway, held by Michelle Rowland, has 92256 registered electors. Of that number 4305 are on DCDSB, making up 4.67 per cent of the electorate.
With the seat only held by a margin of 0.88 per cent their votes could swing the seat in the September Federal Election.
The same is true in Anthony Albaneses electorate of Grayndler, Lindsay – held by David Bradbury, Reid – held by John Murphy, and Banks – held by Daryl Melham.
In six other electorates their votes would shrink the margin to a knifes edge.
In 44 of the 150 Federal Electorates individuals on DCDSB exceed the margin, in some cases by as much as double.

Federal President of the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers Association, John Coleman, said people on commonwealth defined benefits would stand shoulder to shoulder with Diggers in lobbying for indexation changes.
“People are really really angry about this,” Mr Coleman said. “Its been going on for so long.”
“Ive talked to members all over the country and they will vote on this.”

Economist for the DFWA Peter Thornton cited a 2001 statement to the senate select committee finding CPI was “not a measure of cost of living” but was “a measure of inflation…there are differences between those two”.
“Twelve years later (and) the money were supposed to be living on has been steadily eroded,” Mr Thornton said.
A spokesperson for Julia Gillard confirmed the PM had met with the Diggers and said she would consider “alternate costings” to the governments estimate of $1.7 billion if they were provided to her.

But Mr Thornton said the governments costings around the program were an example of “the dark arts”.
“The costs of the program are a projection over 40 years,” he said. “Look at us. Well all be dead before the 40 years are up.”

He also pointed out the governments $1.7 billion cost had treated the payments to veterans as a lump sum debt, “but this cost is ridiculous because no debt exists. Instead payments should only be treated as a non-discretionary obligation sourced from Consolidated Revenue when they fall due”.
“The Governments cost is completely disingenuous,” he said.
Tony Abbott last week resigned a commitment to change the indexation around military superannuation, stating that: “As far back as 2007, Labor led people to believe it would provide a fairer deal for ex-servicemen and women”. “Labor has never delivered.”

A spokesperson for Mr Abbott said the coalition had costed changes to the scheme at $100 million.

Mr Thornton said the estimate was consistent with his costings but stated: “this commitment does not cover all retirees”.
“It only covers those over 55 years of age on older military schemes now closed,” he said.
“When you consider younger veterans or widows who rely on the current military super scheme then wheres the equity in that?”