Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2013 - Second Reading 13/02/2014

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:06): We have just witnessed another example of the Labor Party's attempt to disrupt the proceedings of this parliament. So far, all year, we have been debating one series of bills: the carbon tax repeal bills. The Labor Party have stacked out the speakers list; there has been filibustering in the carbon tax bills debate beyond understanding. What we have just heard from the shadow minister on this veterans' affairs legislation was simply a repeat of the second reading speech—nothing new was contributed. This is a technical bill for which it took the speaker some 15 minutes to indicate support.

There is other important legislation which needs to be addressed here, but I will draw to the Senate's attention—and, because proceedings are being broadcast, to the attention of those who may be listening to the debate—the extent of the Labor Party's interest in veterans' affairs. In the words of the previous speaker, the shadow minister, this bill was introduced into the Senate on 22 August 2012. I take the previous speaker's word for that, even though I have not checked the date. The date on which the legislation was first introduced fell some 18 months ago. This demonstrates that the Labor Party when in government could not manage the program of the Senate. The same date fell 12 months before the 2013 election, so the Labor Party had a full 12 months to introduce what the shadow minister now says is important veterans legislation. Even so, the Labor Party has not until now bothered to have it brought before the chamber for debate.

These facts are symptomatic of the Labor Party's approach to veterans' matters. The minister said a couple of days ago that there were two occasions on which the Labor Party could have supported the coalition's motion for fairer indexation of veterans' pensions. But the Labor Party in government refused to support it. They are clearly not prepared to assist veterans with a fairer indexation of the entitlements.

If you listened in the past to the former minister in question time and during his ministerial statements, you heard that the arrangements by the previous government for the Centenary of Anzac were practically non-existent and that those in place were a bit of a shambles. Fortunately, the government has changed: we have a minister who is keen to progress the interests of veterans. As Senator Ronaldson has mentioned on a number of occasions, the issues which need to be addressed will be addressed by the present government.

I am delighted that this bill—which the Labor Party claim as their own and which was introduced into the chamber some 18 months ago but which, for whatever reason, was never dealt with by the previous government—is now being dealt with. Hopefully, with the support of the Labor Party—and, I assume, the support of all other parties in the chamber—the legislation can now be passed, albeit some 18 months late.

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