INDEXATION COMMITMENT REAFFIRMED
For those who may have missed yesterday’s question time in the Senate, below is a transcript of what Senator Ronaldson said in answer to a question from one of his colleagues, Senator Sean Edwards, about Veterans’ Affairs. Senator Ronaldson re-confirms the Governments commitments to indexation. He also reminds Labor that they had their opportunities to vote for the measure in the last Parliament but didn’t.
Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (14:57): My question is to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator
Ronaldson. Can the minister outline to the Senate the government’s plans for veterans and their families?
Senator RONALDSON (Victoria—Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (14:58): I thank Senator Edwards for his question. The government does have a very comprehensive plan for our veterans. Prior to the election, we released a comprehensive policy. My predecessor, Warren Snowdon, and the Labor Party did not release a policy for veterans prior to the last election.
Senator Edwards: You’re joking!
Senator RONALDSON: No, I am not joking. Probably for the first time in history, the Australian Labor Party thought so little of Australia’s veterans that they did not even bother to release a policy. What we will do during this term of government will be underpinned by four things. The first is recognising the unique nature of military service. The second is maintaining a stand-alone Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The third is tackling the mental health challenges facing veterans, particularly contemporary veterans. The fourth is supporting veterans advocacy and welfare services. At the heart of our commitment will be our promise to those veterans on DFRDB and DFRB that they will get fair indexation—the fair indexation they have quite rightly been demanding for a number of years.
We are also going to do something about Labor’s withdrawal of advocacy funding. The glue that holds the ex- service community together is advocacy and welfare funding. Without any notice at all, a million dollars was ripped out of advocacy and welfare funding—
Senator Ruston interjecting— Senator RONALDSON: There is an interjection over there from someone who has absolutely no idea about
the roles or responsibilities— (Time expired)
Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (15:00): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. What are the
government’s plans for the fair indexation of military superannuation pensions?
Senator RONALDSON (Victoria—Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (15:00): Mr President—
Senator Lines: How would you know?
Senator RONALDSON: I will tell you how I know—I conducted a hundred veterans forums around the country while the Australian Labor Party and the former minister had their backsides plonked in Canberra; they were not listening to veterans and were doing nothing for them. There are 57,000 DFRDB-DFRB recipients aged over 55, and their families, who are not getting their pensions properly indexed. They are not indexed like service pensions; they are not indexed like age pensions. Those opposite clearly think that is fair, but this government does not think it is fair and this government will do something about it. This government made a promise at the last election and this government will keep that promise.
Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (15:01): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate of any opposition to the government’s plans?
Senator RONALDSON (Victoria—Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (15:01): I suggest to Senator Edwards that he keep a very close eye on those opposite when their heads start to drop. They had two opportunities to support the proper indexation of pensions—one in this place with the Fair Indexation of Military Superannuation Entitlements Bill that I introduced, which the Australian Labor Party voted against, and in the other place they could have voted for the fair indexation bill but again they refused to do so.
In an 11th-hour bid, a week out from the election, they brought in a half-baked attempt to address the issue. No- one was fooled by it. The veterans were not fooled by it. The veterans were not fooled by the former minister, Dr Kelly, and he lost his seat of Eden-Monaro. Of course, Senator Lundy cried crocodile tears for years about this issue but, when given the opportunity to come in here and support those 57,000 people and their families, she was left wanting. (Time expired)
Senator Abetz: Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.