Standing up for Canberra

Budget cuts a betrayal of veterans

The member for Kooyong went through a range of promises. He talked about promises; well, I just want to remind him of some other promises that were made 12 months ago by the Prime Minister of today. He promised Australians there would be no cuts to health, no cuts to education and no cuts or changes to pensions.

Perhaps the Prime Minister thought those words were meaningless, or perhaps he thought it was just a throwaway comment that no-one really paid much attention to. I can assure the Prime Minister that Australians believed him—they trusted him and took him at his word. So you can imagine the betrayal felt by millions of Australians when he became the Prime Minister and, through his horror budget, broke each and every one of those promises. He cut health, he cut education and he cut pensions.

Perhaps the worst betrayal was felt by our war veterans —those who have selflessly served our country. The Abbott government has shamefully betrayed our war veterans by slashing Labor's fair indexation system for veterans' pensions, which will impact more than 280,000 for veterans including 140,000 service pensioners and 84,000 war-widow pensioners. Under the Abbott government's cruel budget, veterans' pension indexation will be linked to CPI only from 1 September 2017. The current indexation system, as we all know, links pensions to whichever delivers a higher pension out of the CPI, the MTAWE or male total average weekly earnings, or the pensioner and beneficiary living cost index. This indexation was introduced by the Labor government to reflect the actual daily cost of living for those on veterans' pensions—those who selflessly served our country.

If the Abbott government's indexation system had been in place for the last four years, a veteran on a single pension would be $60 a fortnight worse off. That is $1,560 a year worse off, and that is only over four years. In addition to these cruel cuts to veterans' pensions, veterans will also have to cope with other budget measures including: axing the three months backdating of veterans' disability pensions for new recipients, costing new recipients up to $8,405; scrapping the $870 seniors supplement for some veterans; and cutting $217 in annual payments for the children of war veterans—which is just outrageous. We have seen the response to that in this chamber and right across the nation. They will also be hit with a GP tax, the petrol tax and the increased cost of prescriptions and pathology. Veterans rightly feel betrayed by the Prime Minister's broken promises.

Do not just take it from me: I have had plenty of conversations with veterans over the course of the last five weeks and since this cruel budget was released, and there have been a number of statements made by veterans that show they are not happy. They feel incredibly betrayed.

There was this statement from 26 August—this week. The national spokesman for the Alliance Of Defence Service Organisations, David Jamison, said in his media release that the veterans' disability pension budget is a disaster. He said:

… The leaders of the national veterans' organisations are bewildered by the Government's budget proposal to wind back the level of indexing the Veteran Disability Pensions to the pre 2007 formula of CPI only.

He says in this release that this: … means that the incomes of our most disabled will no longer keep pace with community income standards.

Jamison says: … there was no justification for this unfair proposal because after all, the Veteran Disability Pension is a long-recognised compensation entitlement not a social security payment.

He also says he has written to the Prime Minister asking for this proposal to be dropped and calling on all parliamentarians to reject it in the name of fairness for our veterans.

The Vietnam veterans peacekeepers are not happy either. They regard these budget measures as: 'A slap in the face for veterans: pensions under attack'. They say: 'Service pension concessions under attack' and: 'Backdating of pension claims scrapped'. They are so not happy.

They are also very concerned about DVA offices in regional areas and Centrelink services being scrapped. They say: 'Senior supplements scrapped'. 'Is this the thin edge of the wedge?' they ask.

It is unacceptable and shameful that the Abbott government has betrayed those who have served our country. Veterans took the Prime Minister and the Minister for Veterans' Affairs at their word when they promised no cuts to pensions before the election.

Download a copy of this speech.