Greens back bill to introduce fairer indexation for veterans
Senator WRIGHT: As Greens spokesperson for veterans' affairs I am pleased to rise in support of this bill which sets out to index certain veterans' pensions more fairly. This legislation has been a long time coming. It relates to pensions under two closed schemes: the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme; and Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme. This bill would bring the indexation method for these into line with the age pension and comparable benefits. These pensions take into account not only the consumer price index but also male total average weekly earnings and the pensioner and beneficiary living cost index.
It is important to note that only recipients aged 55 and over will be eligible for this change in indexation from 1 July 2014. The Australian Greens support this bill in accordance with our long-held policy position on this matter. We acknowledge the work of the many people in the veteran community who have campaigned tirelessly on this issue-and I can certainly bear witness to the effectiveness and assiduity of their campaigning. This includes the Defence Force Welfare Association, the Returned and Services League, the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations and the Vietnam Veterans' Federation. Three Senate inquiries in recent years have recommended this change in indexation. We note that the measure is costed at a significant $4.4 billion over the forward estimates and that the government has introduced the bill in order for it to take effect from 1 July 2014. As I said, it has been a long time coming, it has taken many inquiries and a lot of campaigning, and I am pleased to be supporting the bill today.
When it comes to supporting veterans the Greens believe that if we are prepared to make the significant decision to send people away to serve Australia in our name, often in situations that are hazardous and distressing, we have a full responsibility to accept the decision that we have made and to care for them properly when they return home. We must be responsive to the needs of the veteran community and invest in robust solutions to meet the challenges they face when they return to Australia and when they leave the services, which can be a difficult time of transition for many veterans. Caring for veterans means ensuring they can access proper support, including mental health and wellbeing services, and making sure their financial needs are appropriately supported.
When the Greens presented our fully costed election platform in relation to veterans' affairs last year, we devoted a number of elements to supporting veterans and the families who support them. The Greens recognise that veterans' families face unique challenges as a result of their loved one's service in the ADF but do not always receive the care and support they need.
We know that carers play a crucial and often unrecognised role in the welfare and support of veterans who have been either physically or psychologically injured.
This legislation, from 1 July 2014, will apply only to veterans aged 55 and above. I acknowledge that many in the community would have been hoping that the eligibility would be broader and not limited to those of that age. I understand this legislation will benefit approximately 45,000 veterans and that extending the changes to those aged under 55 would mean that another 160,000 veterans would enjoy fairer indexation. I acknowledge the work of those who have advocated for fair indexation for veterans, regardless of age, and invite the government to consider their arguments further.
The Australian Greens stand firm in the conviction that, if we are prepared to commit people to military service as a nation, we must then be prepared as a community to support them appropriately and properly upon their return. It is only fair, it is only just, it is only right. We have long advocated for the support of veterans and their families in the unique challenges they face. Fair indexation is an important step on this journey and I look forward to working with the government on all the issues that will make a difference to veterans-fair indexation, support services and others. I commend this bill to the Senate.