Justice for our War Veterans and Widows - 10 Sep 2007

FEDERAL LABOR LEADER

KEVIN RUDD MP

AND

ALAN GRIFFIN MP

FEDERAL LABOR TO IMPLEMENT FAIRER INDEXATION OF ALL VETERANS’ COMPENSATION PENSIONS

A Rudd Labor Government will increase benefits for all of our nation’s disabled war veterans and war widows – to help with the increased cost of living.

Veterans and their widows are suffering from cost of living increases including huge mortgages and rents, petrol and grocery costs.

Veterans have sacrificed so much for our nation and they deserve more than having this Government tell them they have never been better off.

A Rudd Labor Government will offer a fairer regime of indexation of these payments by ensuring that all disability and war widows’ compensation payments currently administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be indexed by reference to movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE), whichever is greater.

This announcement is a further step by Labor on the road to ensuring that our Veterans and their Widows receive the compensation that they so richly deserve.

In May this year, prior to the Budget, Labor announced that we would index the full amount of the compensation pensions provided to our most severely disabled war veterans to movements in both CPI and MTAWE, whichever is greater. That announcement at the time, and since then, was opposed by the Howard Government and the current Minister, Bruce Billson.

Today’s announcement builds on our earlier commitment. It will affect the indexation arrangements currently applied to General Rate Disability Pensions and the Domestic Allowance component of the War Widows’ Pension by applying the same indexation arrangements to these payments as currently exists for the Service and Aged Pension.

It is estimated that this announcement, combined with Labor’s announcement earlier this year will affect nearly 140,000 disabled war veterans.

They include those who fought and served in conflicts including World War II, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, the Gulf War, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are already seeing veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan needing assistance. As of June 2007, 141 soldiers who served in Afghanistan and 65 from Iraq will be affected by Federal Labor’s announcement.

In addition today’s announcement will also affect more than 110,000 war widows. The Howard Government has steadfastly refused to index the domestic component of the War Widows Pension over a long period of time, despite the Clarke Report in 2004 making the recommendation to do so.

In contrast to the Government’s inaction in this area, Labor is committed to ensuring that these compensation payments to our Veterans and War Widows retain their value over time.

Our veterans and their widows have paid a very high price for their service to our country. This is about fixing an injustice.

We have listened to our nation’s veterans and their widows and we have responded to their concerns.

Labor’s announcements will take place in the very first Budget set by a Rudd Labor Government. The first day of indexation after that budget will be September 20, 2008.

Today’s $55m announcement (over the forward estimates) builds on our prior commitment to indexation of above general rate pensions.

Mr Rudd is due to address the National Congress of the RSL on the night of Tuesday 11 September 2007 and will further outline these announcements.

Labor has also already committed to a comprehensive package of mental health initiatives, increased suicide prevention measures, a study into the health of Children of Vietnam Veterans and a working group to reduce the administrative burden faced by the ex-service community.

Further Information (02) 6277 4374