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Senate

Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Omnibus) Bill 2017

Revised Explanatory Memorandum

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, The Honourable Dan Tehan MP)
This explanatory memorandum takes account of amendments made by the House of Representatives to the bill as introduced.

Outline And Financial Impact

Outline

The Bill comprises nine Schedules that will implement several small, but necessary amendments to veterans' affairs legislation to clarify, improve or streamline the operation of the law.

Schedule 1 - Veterans' Review Board

The Schedule 1 of the Bill amends the provisions of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (Veterans' Entitlements Act) under which the Veterans' Review Board operates. The amendments made by Schedule 1 will modernise and improve those operations by aligning certain provisions with similar provisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975.

Schedule 2 - Specialist Medical Review Council

Schedule 2 amends the Veterans' Entitlements Act to modernise Part XIB, which establishes the Specialist Medical Review Council (the SMRC). The amendments proposed would improve the SMRC's operation by: simplifying the appointment process for councillors; progressing whole-of-government requirements for digital transformation; removing red tape in commencing reviews; and providing for reimbursement of certain travel expenses. Related miscellaneous amendments are also proposed.

Schedule 3 - International arrangements

Schedule 3 of the Bill repeals and replaces section 203 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act to provide the Minister for Veterans' Affairs with the power to make arrangements with foreign governments to cover the provision of benefits and payments including rehabilitation that are comparable to those provided by the Repatriation Commission or the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission under the:

·
Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986;
·
Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004;
·
Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988; or
·
Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests and British Commonwealth Occupation Force (Treatment) Act 2006.

Schedule 4 - Employer Incentive Scheme payments

The purpose of Schedule 4 is to amend the Veterans' Affairs portfolio Acts, the Veterans' Entitlements Act, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act) and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 to strengthen the legislative foundation for providing certain rehabilitation assistance to eligible serving and former Defence Force members, reservists and cadets.

The assistance essentially involves payments to employers under the Employer Incentive Scheme in the form of wage subsidies to encourage them to engage injured veterans who have found it difficult to compete in a tight labour market.

Schedule 5 - Disclosure of information

The purpose of this Schedule is to amend the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act to facilitate information sharing between the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) and the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) with respect to certain service related compensation claims.

The proposed amendments would implement a recommendation by the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements (2011) (the MRCA Review) intended to improve the information sharing framework for incapacity and superannuation benefits between the Department and CSC.

While the Department is authorised to request information from the CSC to assist with the calculation of incapacity payments, there is no express provision to allow the Department to provide information to CSC to assist with the CSC's assessment of superannuation benefits. At present, all requests to the Department for information from CSC are undertaken in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 1982. This process is cumbersome and time consuming, and accounts for approximately 20 per cent of all Freedom of Information requests received by the Department.

Schedule 5A - Pharmaceutical benefits

Schedule 5A amends the definition of "concessional beneficiary" of the National Health Act 1953 to ensure that a person who is eligible for fringe benefits under section 53A of the Veterans' Entitlements Act comes within the definition of a 'concessional beneficiary' and therefore is eligible for discounted pharmaceuticals as a holder of a Pensioner Concession Card.

Schedule 6 - Delegation

Schedule 6 of the Bill amends the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to provide for the delegation of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs powers and functions.

Schedule 7 - Legislative instruments

Schedule 7 would amend the Veterans' Affairs portfolio legislation to exempt certain legislative instruments from subsection 14(2) of the Legislation Act 2003 and updates the name of an Act from the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act 2006 to the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests and British Commonwealth Occupation Force (Treatment) Act 2006.

The amendments will enable these legislative instruments to incorporate material contained in another non-disallowable legislative instrument or other non-legislative writings as in force from time to time.

Schedule 8 - Minor amendments

Schedule 8 of the Bill will repeal redundant and spent provisions administered in the Veterans' Affairs portfolio concerning benefits that are no longer payable under portfolio Acts, and make amendments consequential to those repeals. The Schedule will also make some minor corrections to clarify existing provisions of the Veterans' Entitlements Act.

The Schedule also includes consequential amendments to other Acts which result from the amendments that repeal the redundant and spent provisions of the Veterans' Entitlements Act and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.

The removal of these redundant provisions and the clarification of other provisions will simplify veterans' affairs legislation and make it more accessible for individuals wishing to interpret the current provisions.

Financial Impact

The Bill has no financial impact.


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