Media Statement: Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Tuesday, 8 September 2015
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, David Feeney, has been exposed playing games with important legislation that will make a real difference for Australian veterans and their families.
Legislation to provide veterans covered under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) with access to the same appeals pathway as those who are covered under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) was due to be debated in the Senate yesterday.
The changes would implement the recommendations of the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements that was completed in 2011 and unanimously supported by ex-service organisations and the former Labor government.
Despite voting in favour of the legislation in the House of Representatives and publically supporting the legislation as recently as one day before it was due to be debated in the Senate, Mr Feeney and Labor performed a breathtaking about-face at the 11th hour to withdraw their support and delay these reforms.
In a statement released this morning, Mr Feeney claims Labor back flipped because it was concerned that the new legislation would prevent veterans covered by the MRCA from accessing an internal review conducted by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) as a first step of the appeal process.
“Instead, the proposed amendments will remove internal reconsideration by the MRCC from the appeals process altogether.” David Feeney MP, press release, 8 September 2015
This is a blatant falsehood.
Under the MRCA section 347 enables the MRCC, on its own initiative, to reconsider an original decision made by it. There are no time or reason restrictions on the provision. The Bill retains section 347 completely unaltered. It is section 347 that will enable the Commission to undertake an internal review.
It is the policy of the MRCC, agreed by the Government, that any appeal which goes to the VRB will be automatically reviewed by the MRCC before the appeal is heard. This is identical to the operation of the appeal model under the VEA.
Mr Feeney has either been caught out misleading Australian veterans in order to try to justify Labor’s 11th hour backflip, or he has again failed to do his homework.
Either way, this is alarming behaviour from the person who purports to be Australia’s alternative Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
Furthermore, it is remarkable that Mr Feeney did not bother to raise these matters with me earlier.
The ex-service community has been calling for these reforms since 2011. The Coalition Government is determined to deliver them.
There is no need for Labor to delay any longer.
Media enquiries: Minister Ronaldson: Mark Lee 02 6277 7820 or 0408 547 381