Monday, 24 May 2010
Private Members’ Business
Military Superannuation Pensions
The matter of military superannuation indexation is the single biggest issue affecting the veteran community and the most important, according to the vast majority of ex-service organisations. The issue has, in varying forms, existed for at least two decades, yet the most recent manifestation of the issue can be traced back to the promises made by the Rudd Labor government in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, when they promised:
To restore the value of compensation and prevent further erosion due to unfair indexation.
The Rudd Labor government has not done that. The Rudd Labor government has not even bothered to respond to the review into military superannuation arrangements, also known as the Podger review, which was publicly released two years and five months ago today. In fact, Minister Tanner, in a media release dated 21 August 2009, completely contradicted that election promise when he said:
This government unashamedly lied to all veterans at the last federal election. Veterans have every right to feel betrayed by this Rudd Labor government—a government that at the last federal election promised so much but has since delivered so little, a government that has wasted taxpayers’ money through poorly targeted spending programs and a government that continues to tax and spend, all the while wilfully neglecting the veteran community. Veterans have every right to be disappointed and disillusioned with the Rudd Labor government.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I and the coalition have always considered and will always consider service rendered by our military personnel as unique. Although I have not served in the ADF, I have had many opportunities to experience the many facets of service life through, for example, my work as the shadow minister for defence science and personnel, through my participation in the ADF parliamentary program and most recently by spending a week with Australian troops on the ground in Afghanistan with my colleague Stuart Robert. I would argue that one need not have served in the military to understand the unique nature of service. To those that think otherwise, I would simply suggest they talk to the spouse, mother, father or child of a current serving member. They will, I have no doubt, convey to you the uniqueness of their relative’s service. One of the finest summations of the uniqueness of military service I have read to date comes from David Jamison, the President of the Defence Force Welfare Association, who said:
In volunteering for military service, the individual accepts the surrender of his or her basic rights under Article 3 and places his or her life, liberty and security of person in the hands of the State. This surrender is not unconditional, though in extremis, it is absolute.
The coalition truly appreciates the unique nature of military service, which is why we continue to oppose the Governance of Australian Government Superannuation Schemes Bill 2010 in its current form, for it will further blur the distinction between military and non-military service. The indexation of military superannuation is a very complex issue. While I am of the view that the proposal to index military superannuation more fairly has merit, the cost of such charges remains substantial. It is worth noting, however, that at the time the Podger review was tabled, this government had a $23 billion surplus. That was the time for the Rudd Labor government to take action, as promised. Now, however, the task at hand is much harder given that the Rudd Labor government has incurred debts of $93.7 billion. But it is pursuable in the longer term.
Labor’s 2007 election policy document said that a Rudd Labor government would ‘maintain a generous military superannuation system in recognition of the importance of the ADF and the immense responsibility placed on personnel in securing and defending Australia’. Of course, those in the veteran community know that the Rudd Labor government took them for a ride. They know that they were used purely for political reasons, and they know that they can no longer trust the Rudd Labor government.
To conclude, I want to assure the veteran community that the coalition remains committed to introducing a fair, equitable, financially responsible military superannuation system and that we will pursue these reforms when in government. We will bring the nation’s accounts into line so that any measures we enact are affordable and sustainable.