Q&A: Claims Australian war veterans ‘left with inadequate support’

28 Apr 2015

Claims Australian war veterans had been left with inadequate government support and allegations records of war were being “sanitised” fuelled debate on veteran care on Q&A, with one politician on the panel admitting further assistance “may not be possible in this particular budget”.

View the Panel’s discussion here 

Vietnam veteran Don Tate and another permanently injured war veteran, Peter Thornton, questioned the panel on veteran care, and argued that current government financial support was inadequate, having diminished dramatically over the decades.

“Our economic loss only equates to approximately 65 per cent of the minimum wage. Outside of welfare supplementation, how are TPI (total and permanent incapacity) veterans expected to live on that?” Mr Thornton asked.

Former Deputy PM Tim Fischer admitted to “slippage” in the Australian government in caring for its veterans, and said there had been “one lot of legislation go through since the last elections which corrected one of those slippages,” but conceded there was “unfinished business”.

Arthur Sinodinos said changes to the indexation of some welfare payments had occurred but admitted he wasn’t sure other grievances could be properly addressed, “in the current budgetary environment”.

“I think in sheer numerical terms they (veterans) have been left behind,” he said. When probed if the government had a duty of care no matter the cost, Mr Sinodinos admitted more needed to be done. “Perhaps we need to go further … but that may not be possible in this particular budget,” he said.

Mr Tate also questioned the faith Australians could place in accounts of the nation’s military history. He claimed a number of omissions by The Australian War Memorial, including the existence of one platoon he fought in, had led to further stress over the subsequent years.

“This has affected me very badly,” Mr Tate said claiming he had been accused of lying about his participation in the Vietnam War because of the omissions.

A surprised Senator Sinodinos denied knowledge of the particular “sanitisation”, and suggested that “events get interpreted in different ways,” but added the Mr Tate’s account was “troubling.”

“With respect to the Defence Department … it is more likely to be a stuff up than conspiracy, but I’m happy to follow up,” he said.

Anzac historian Carolyn Holbrook took the opportunity to question the allocation of government funds for Anzac commemorations. “I would like to have a conversation about the amount of money that the Australian Government is spending on commemorating Anzac and the First World War as compared the amount of money being allocated to veterans in need,” she said.

“The Australian Government is spending approximately $430 million on commemorating the First World War. A way to understand that is Canada is spending zero, absolutely nothing.”

The panel revisited Mr Tate to discuss his TPI pension.

“I would like to say as a TPI veteran, this is a national disgrace what both governments have done to the veterans who have fought for this country,” he said.

“Our pensions and our superannuations have been terribly eroded right through the years and each party says they’ll correct it when they come into power. As soon as they do, they completely ignore it. It’s a national disgrace,” Mr Tate said.

His comments were met by strong applause from the audience.