Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 3:55 AM

(Tuesday 2 March 2004)

Veterans in a spin over pension announcements

The Prime Minister today announced some significant changes in relation
to pension arrangements for veterans and war widows as part of the
Government's response to the recommendations of the Clarke Committee.

This is the Government's second attempt to address the outcomes of the
Clarke Committee - which recommended more than $6oo million dollars
worth of changes - after the first attempt was rolled in the party room
two weeks ago. This time the Government has at least attempted to
address the major issues but has simply not gone far enough and in some
instances has created further anomalies which will be the cause of
frustration and disappointment for veterans and their families for years to come.

But the spin doctors have been hard at work putting out the message
that the Government is being "generous" to veterans and war widows with
package worth $267 million over 5 years. They say that "this is
evidence of the strength of the Government's committment to the veteran
community". The facts however tell a different story.

For example, the changes to exempt veterans' diability pensions from
the means test applied by Centerlink is said to be worth $100 million
over 5 years. This was a 1996 Election promise by the Government which
it has taken 8 years to honor and in the process deprived this very
same group of veterans around $150 million.

In 1997 the Government introduced pension indexation to the CPI or
MTAWE (whichever was the greater) for all the major DVA and Centerlink
pensions except for some DVA disability pensions, in particular the TPI
pension. That has meant a steady erosion in real terms of the TPI
pension to the point where it is now $78 per fortnight below its 1997
level. The savings to Government in the last year alone is some $55
million and over the last 7 years approximately $250 million.

So the Government's "generous" package of $267 million does not come
near the nearly $400 million that it has already saved by not honouring
its promise and in not properly indexing the pensions in the first place.

And the TPI pensions will continue to be eroded over time. The new
arrangements only apply to the "above general rate" portion of the
pension. That means that 60% of the TPI is indexed to the MTAWE or CPI
whichever is the greater but 40% remains indexed to the CPI and
continues to reduce in real terms. Of course there is no catch up for
the $78 per fortnight that they have already lost.

The Clarke Committee was set up to review veterans' entitlements and to
address the multitude of anomalies. It considered more that 3000
submissions from organisations and individuals and organisations and
made more than 100 recommendations.

The Government's response has created more anomalies than it has
resolved. We now have two classes of ex POWs - those who were
prisoners of the Japanese or the North Koreans and are eligible for an
ex-gratia payment of $25,000 and those who were prisoners of the Axis
powers and get nothing. We have two classes of veterans with
disability pensions - the 45,000 above the General Rate who get that
part fully indexed and the other 115,000 on the General Rate who only
get indexed to the CPI. We have veterans who were involved (for even 1
day) in the Berlin Airlift who have access to the Veterans'
Entitlements Act but members of the SAS who spend years in hazardous operational readiness training who are not.

The Government had an opportunity to show that it really understood the
needs of the veteran community and had a real commitment to do
something about it but instead it has come up with a "never mind the
quality look at the price" approach. Let's face it the increase the
Government proposes of $50 million per year in the $10 billion a year
veterans' budget is an increase of .005% and is not generous it's an insult.

For comment please contact :
Jim Dalton (Endorsed Senate Candidate for WA) on 0413 186 988

Authorised by:

Laurie Rushton
Registered Officer & Party Secretary

34 Wilkinson Drive WODONGA Vic. 3690

Ph: 0403 879 878 email: