Lambie distracts from real question at hand

12 Sep 2015


Generations of Australian servicemen believed the sedative bromide was added to their food and beverages to suppress sexual urges.

Long days, excessive exertion, extreme exhaustion in all male company alone were enough, without any chemical intervention, to suppress any idea of nocturnal extra-curricular activity, particularly during combat, but the myth persisted.

The contrary evidence was, even if administered bromide had little effect on Australian troops on leave in Cairo during World War I and other exotic adventures.

As the Senate this week considered changes to the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (2015 Budget Measures) Bill 2015, disruptive Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie predictably attempted to distract the debate from its actual purpose.

She has again demanded a “Royal Commission” into alleged ADF abuse, particularly sexual, insisting that former defence force chiefs Governor General Peter Cosgrove and NSW governor David Hurley be hauled before her proposed inquisition.

The debate was actually about simplifying the appeal processes for compensation under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 from three to two, removing the option of a funded legal appeal to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.

The changes mean all veterans will have access to the same appeal process.

Veterans seeking compensation have traditionally had two options to seek redress from perceived unfavourable decisions, the Veterans Review Board then the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

While neither is perfect, both were intended to protect already vulnerable appellants from the adversarial nature of Australian legal process and its punitive costs.

They comprise members familiar with military customs and service plus a lawyer to provide advice and oversight.

Both are supposed to operate under the principle that the benefit of doubt should lie with the appellant, though unsuccessful claimants don’t always interpret decisions that way.

Veterans appearing before the VRB or AAT have access to experienced, trained advocates funded by ex-service organisations, who should provide those services at no cost.

It is not unknown for unscrupulous “advocates” to demand compensation for their efforts, usually as a percentage of back-paid benefits.

Such individuals are a pox on the system and deserve to be exposed.

There is also no need to involve fee-charging lawyers, as Lambie is supporting.

Limited legal aid is already available for those appealing to both the VRB and AAT.

The losers in the proposed amendments, which most veterans’ organisations have supported, would not be appellants but specialist lawyers who fear the loss of a lucrative income stream.

Lambie quotes in a letter to Veterans’ Minister Michael Ronaldson opposition to the amendments from KCI Lawyers and notorious compensation litigants Slater and Gordon.

Is she really serious?

Providing funding to lawyers to represent appellants guarantees only the lawyers will be compensated, not necessarily a satisfactory outcome for veterans disputing decisions.

As always self-promoting Lambie misses the point and seeks to distract with a dose of sexual abuse allegations.

As generations of old Diggers now discover bromide additives may actually be taking effect, perhaps the senator should also consider a cup of tea, a bromide and a good lie down.