Second Reading SpeechVale, Danna, MP (Hughes, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, LP, Government)
That this bill be now read a second time.
Today I also introduce the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2003.
The government is very conscious of the need to make things as easy as possible in the new scheme, especially in the early transition period.
I am pleased to say that this bill provides for members who have service on both sides of the commencement date to make a deliberate choice to take advantage of the new military rehabilitation and compensation scheme benefits.
A member who suffers an injury or illness after that date will be able to combine prior impairments from the SRCA and the VEA with the new arrangements to get the best possible outcome.
Importantly, this bill will ensure that equivalent income taxation and income and assets testing rules apply to the new scheme in the same manner as applies under the VEA and the SRCA.
The government has also recognised the need for all compensation entitlements to be administered by a single body whether they arise under the VEA, the SRCA or the new scheme.
This bill enables the new Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission to take responsibility for the operation of the SRCA as it relates to claims from defence service, currently managed on behalf of Comcare and the Department of Defence by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
I am pleased to say that the government has decided not to proceed with the proposal to offset future grants of the VEA special rate (the TPI pension) by the Commonwealth-funded component of superannuation. We have heard the concerns of the veteran community and the strong representations on their behalf. We agree it would be unreasonable to treat differently two veterans with the same service and the same incapacity.
I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Edwards) adjourned.