LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch has strongly supported the Fair Indexation of military pensions in Parliament, saying that Australia’s veterans have waited a long time for reform.
“This government was elected with a four-pillar policy for veterans and their families, which included recognising the unique nature of military service, maintaining a stand-alone Department of Veterans’ Affairs, tackling mental health challenges faced by veterans and their families, and providing adequate welfare and advocacy support,” Mr Entsch told Parliament yesterday.
Underpinning this was the commitment to deliver fair indexation for the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefit for military superannuants aged 55 and over.
“In Leichhardt we have 588 recipients who can take advantage of the new arrangements from 1 July. This bill recognises that those who have served our nation should not be treated differently from age and service pensioners.
“Our determination to introduce our fair indexation policy delivers on a very legitimate grievance of the veteran and ex-service community and is a significant win for them.”
Mr Entsch emphasised that work would continue, particularly in relation to post-service support for the number of younger veterans returning from areas of conflict.
“By ending the previous government’s wasteful spending, paying off debt and restoring the economy to a robust position, we will be in a far stronger place to consider better support for veterans and their families in the future.”
He also outlined the range of other measures that the Government is undertaking to show support for veterans and ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen.
These include a renewed focus on veteran mental health, the restoration of a $1 million funding cut for advocacy and welfare services, reaffirming the commitment to keep DVA as a stand-alone department and the continued provision of educational support for veteran’s children.
Mr Entsch also referenced commentary in the media which claimed that the Anzac remembrances are coming at the expense of care for our veterans and their families.
“This is certainly not the case,” he said. “Over the four years of the centenary of Anzac we will spend $650 million on dedicated mental health services and $50 billion on providing support for veterans and their families. This is a very significant investment and certainly one that has been very well earned.
“Over that same time, financial commitments to the centenary of Anzac amount to $145 million.
“I think the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Sen. Michael Ronaldson, put it well when he said:
“By 2018, we must have left a legacy in the minds of younger Australians, in particular, about the service and sacrifice of past generations, of the responsibilities to care for those who have defended our rights and way of life.”
Mr Entsch said that as an ex-serviceman and patron of the Vietnam Veterans’ Motorcycle Club in Far North Queensland he had a good knowledge of the needs of older veterans, particularly Vietnam veterans.
In addition, being the patron of the Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra provided him with an opportunity to work with, and talk to, a lot of younger veterans.
“For many of our veterans it is not about money; it is about recognition of service,” he explained. “That is why this bill is so important. We must never stop looking at ways to improve the support that we provide to those who have served our nation.”
Mr Entsch ended by congratulating Gordon and Susan Chuck on their remarkable work in leading the campaign to have the Avenue of Honour established after the loss of their son – Private Benjamin Chuck – in service in Afghanistan.
“It is a beautiful place of reflection and something very, very special.”