Second Reading – Fair indexation of Defence benefits
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (19:59): I would like to thank the member for Leichhardt for his good grace. I rise to speak in support of this bill to fairly index Defence Force retirement and death benefits. This bill will benefit more than 56,000 ex-service men and women across Australia, including 556 in my own electorate of Hinkler. During the 2013 federal election, the Palmer United candidate, Rob Messenger, told Hinkler constituents that the coalition would never deliver on its commitments to fairly index DFRB and DFRDB pensions. But today we are doing exactly what we said we would do. We are addressing the longstanding grievance of the veteran and ex-service community about differing and inequitable indexation arrangements that apply to these pensions—that is, compared with the age and service pensions.
We first announced our policy in June 2010. We have not flip-flopped or made unrealistic promises, like our opponents have. There have already been more than half a dozen inquiries, all of which supported fair indexation. So my message to the veterans of Hinkler is this: the time for inquiries is over. Australia’s veterans and their families are finally getting the fair go that they deserve. Countless constituents in my electorate have been requesting these changes for years. However, I acknowledge that some veterans argue that these changes will not benefit every age group concerned. This has been an ongoing issue for decades and, despite numerous changes in government during that time, little has been achieved. No piece of legislation will ever keep every person happy, but this bill is a hell of a good start.
Under the legislation there will be no change to the way these pensions are indexed for those the under age of 55, until they reach the age of 55. And as part of the DFRB and DFRDB pension that is currently unindexed, it will continue to be unindexed. Members with significant past service, but modest superannuation pensions, will not incur a taxation liability resulting from the changes to indexation. At the end of the day, this bill recognises the unique nature of military service, and it ensures that recipients have their pensions indexed in the same way as the age and service pensions. This means more money in the pockets of people who have proudly served this nation.