Media Releases

BUDGET 2011: Veterans paying the price for Labor's reckless spending

No new money for commemoration in the lead up to the ANZAC Centenary adds further disappointment to this year's Veterans' Affairs budget.

Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson said cost blow-outs and cutbacks to grassroots veterans' assistance characterise a disappointing Veterans' Affairs budget from Labor.

"Australia's veterans, and their families, will feel the burden of Labor's reckless spending", Senator Ronaldson said.

"This Budget will not address cost of living pressures facing Australia's veterans, especially those DFRDB and DFRB superannuants who rely on inferior indexation of their superannuation pensions."

"Labor's 2011-12 Budget for veterans is a major let down.  Commemoration and grass-roots advocacy are all suffering from Wayne Swan's political pursuit of a Budget surplus that will not be delivered. 

"Veterans and their families struggling with the cost of living have every right to feel let down by this Budget", Senator Ronaldson said.

Still no funding for the Centenary of ANZAC

"Labor has failed to commit any funding for commemoration for the ANZAC Centenary."

"Despite Labor's hand-picked ANZAC Centenary Commission only six weeks ago calling on the Government to support projects now in time for the Centenary in 2015, there is no new money to begin this process."

"Projects such as the ANZAC interpretive Centre in Albany remain in jeopardy because the Gillard Labor Government has not committed any funds to begin construction of this significant project."

"This centre cannot be built overnight.  Labor must commit funds soon or this project will not be ready in time for the November 2014 deadline."

"Whilst the Government cannot find funds for commemoration in Australia, it will spend $3.3 million on an Vietnam War education centre in the United States.  Surely, if money for commemoration is so tight, it is better spent in Australia than overseas?"

Advocacy funding slashed

"$8 million has been slashed in grass roots veterans' advocacy funding", Senator Ronaldson said.

"In 2007, Labor promised to increase funding to ex-service organisations by $8 million, but in this year's Budget it will take this money away."

"Labor's decision to cut funding to this vital area has the potential to jeopardise the implementation of recommendations from the Advocacy Funding Review released earlier this year.

"Moreover, younger veterans making claims for assistance, and veterans in regional areas will particularly suffer from these cutbacks."

"Ex-service organisations regularly tell me they need more, not less, funding to enable them to reach out to more veterans, especially younger ones.  Their claims are regularly more complex, too.

Pharmaceutical scheme cost blow-out

Labor's much maligned Pharmaceutical Reimbursement Scheme nearly faltered at the first hurdle.

"Labor's 2010 election policy committed $18.2 million to reimburse the cost of pharmaceuticals for those veterans with Qualifying Service who receive a disability pension", Senator Ronaldson said.

"However, Labor's scheme will now cost $30.1 million.  Despite the $12 million cost blow-out, 1,500 of our most disabled veterans will still be excluded, as will war widows and orphans."

"Labor must justify this enormous cost blow out."

"Labor's complex scheme of reimbursement will not come into effect fully until 2013 and will not provide immediate financial relief to veterans or their families.  Labor has not ruled out changes to the pharmaceutical co-contribution, which may still push costs even higher."

Australian War Memorial

The Coalition is disappointed that only $1.7 million of the $25 million required has been committed to the redevelopment of the World War One galleries at the Australian War Memorial.

"The Coalition announced $25 million for this work in February, yet the Gillard Labor Government will instead conduct a $1.7 million 'feasibility' study into this work.

"However, there is no funding to ensure that the findings of this feasibility study can be implemented in time for the ANZAC Centenary in 2015."

"After being dragged kicking and screaming into addressing the crippling financial situation at the Australian War Memorial, the Coalition welcomes the additional $8 million per year in operational revenue at the Memorial."

Other measures

The Coalition welcomes the $500 per fortnight payment to Australia's ex Prisoners of War.

"This unexpected benefit to Australia's remaining ex-POWs will provide them with greater financial security", Senator Ronaldson said.

"This measure builds on the Coalition's one-off ex-gratia payments paid in 2001, 2003 and 2007 of $25,000 to ex-POWs who were interred by the Japanese, North Koreans and Germans and Italians (respectively) during World War Two."

"The Government must also explain its decision to remove access to the relatively more generous Temporary Incapacity Allowance in favour of the cheaper Loss of Earnings Allowance for veterans hospitalised as a result of their war or defence caused injuries", Senator Ronaldson said.

11 May 2011