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representatives vote 2019-11-28#13

Edited by mackay

on 2019-11-29 15:40:32


  • Bills — Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill 2019; Second Reading
  • Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill 2019 - Second Reading - Criticism


  • <p class="speaker">Phillip Thompson</p>
  • <p>I am absolutely disgusted by the member for Greenway's actions to quieten me when I'd clearly said I wanted to talk about veteran suicide. What you've just done is inappropriate and disgusting. Veteran suicide should be bipartisan. We should be working together, not working for cheap political points. Why does this need to happen? We should be working together. I will start by saying only three days ago I got a phone call from a mate in Townsville to tell me another veteran, a friend of mine, had died by suicide only a couple of days before. This is where people in this House should be working together&#8212;not running away but working together. Veteran suicide and suicide prevention are all of our business. The political pointscoring that we're seeing from those opposite is absolutely disgusting. Suicide prevention is our business.</p>
  • <p>I'd like to start again and speak about this bill. The Prime Minister, with Minister Chester, announced we would extend eligibility to the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme to allow any current and former Australian Defence Force member who has had at least one day of service access to home building insurance through the scheme. For the last 100 years the scheme has provided home building insurance to eligible ADF members and veterans in recognition of their service and sacrifice to our nation. Eligibility for insurance under the scheme is currently, broadly speaking, restricted to individuals and their widows and widowers who have seen warlike service or those who are currently serving in the ADF with at least four years service or eight years for reservists.</p>
  • The majority voted in favour of an [amendment]( to the usual [second reading motion]( *that the bill be read a second time*, which is parliamentary jargon for agreeing to the main idea of the bill. The amendment was introduced by Blair [Shayne Neumann]( (Labor).
  • ### Amendment text
  • > *That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:*
  • >
  • > *"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House criticises the Government for failing to:*
  • >
  • > *(1) address the high number of veterans experiencing homelessness, as highlighted by recent reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute;*
  • >
  • > *(2) fix Australia's broken aged care services for veterans, as highlighted by the current Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety; and*
  • >
  • > *(3) respond to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's northern Australia insurance inquiry recommendations to urgently fix the wider crisis in the northern Australia insurance market".*
  • <p>The amendments proposed to the Defence Service Homes Act, subject to being passed by parliament, will expand the scheme's eligibility requirements to all current and former members of the ADF regardless of their type or length of service. This includes reservists and peacekeepers as well as widows and widowers of individuals. It will reduce the cost of home building insurance for around 350,000 ADF members, veterans and their families and provide cost savings to individuals who take up the scheme's insurance. This will ease the cost of living for those ADF members, veterans and their families, particularly those located in regional and northern Australia, like my electorate of Herbert.</p>
  • <p>From 1 January 2020, all current or former Australian Defence Force members who've had at least one day of service will be eligible to access the home building insurance scheme through the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme. Dependent on passing of the legislative amendments, expansion of the scheme's eligibility requirements will come into effect from 1 January. The number of ADF members and veterans who are currently ineligible to access home building insurance through the scheme, as I said before, is estimated to be around 350,000. The impact of this change is expanding the scheme's eligibility requirements, which will address the current disparity in eligibility criteria and recognise the service and commitment of all those who've served the ADF. Approximately 350,000 ADF members and veterans who are currently ineligible for the scheme will be able to access the concessional home building insurance offering.</p>
  • <p>In Townsville, insurance is a big issue. Only recently, working with the member for Dawson, we got the Assistant Treasurer to come to Townsville to talk about insurance. There are homes that aren't insured and there are also strata that have been told they can't get insurance, so we are working with the insurance companies and CEOs to ensure that people in the north can get affordable insurance. This is just another way we've helped the veterans in my region&#8212;definitely in Townsville&#8212;who find it hard to get insurance.</p>
  • <p>The scheme's current eligibility requirements do not recognise all those who have served our nation. As such, the disparity between ADF members and veterans&#8212;now we're all called veterans, whether we've done one day of service or we've seen warlike operations&#8212;who can and cannot access home building insurance through the scheme based on the individual's type and length of service will be changed. ADF members who are posted to regional and northern Australia are not eligible for the scheme, face significantly higher home building insurance premiums and, consequently, increased cost-of-living pressures. And we know that high cost-of-living pressures can be a cause of veteran suicide, especially around this time of year as we move into Christmas. It's something that we, in this place and the other place, should be working together on&#8212;that is, to lower the high cost-of-living pressures and, in turn, lowering our high rate of veteran suicide. <i>(Extension of time granted)</i> I will give credit where credit's due, and I thank the shadow minister at the table, the member for Kingsford Smith, for allowing me to continue, because veteran suicide is a top priority of the government and of everyone in this place, or it definitely should be.</p>
  • <p>For the vast majority of those serving in the ADF it is an overwhelmingly positive experience, and it's good for the individual, it's good for our community and it's in our national interest. But I want to add that not all veterans are broken; not all veterans are wounded, injured or ill. And for the ones that are, that's okay, because it's about post-traumatic growth. We all have had bad experiences happen in our lives, and the view or the stigma that 'all veterans are broken' is something we need to actively change. I believe that meaningful engagement and meaningful employment gives meaning to one's life. If I can stand before you in this place and talk about my own mental illness and about how we can all work together, I truly believe that in this place, and the other place, we will all work together to lower the high rate of veteran suicide and the high rate of stigma around mental illness and suicide.</p>
  • <p>A lot of veterans leave the ADF and transition into civilian life successfully, having had a career that has set them up with the skills, training and attitude to succeed. You wouldn't have to lob a stone very far in this place to hit the veterans here or hit the people who support our veteran community in the challenges that we face. But, veterans work hard&#8212;very hard. Veterans are the ones&#8212;although there are other people too&#8212;who like to get up early and get on with the job. It's important that we recognise the unique nature of military service, the strength we have within our veteran cohort and the opportunities that should arise from their service.</p>
  • <p>But like all Australians, our defence personnel are not immune from mental health challenges and the tragedy of suicide. This is pertinent and relevant to me; I was told only a couple of days ago a friend had died by suicide. Suicide in the serving and ex-serving community is a very serious and complex issue, and the government, with the crossbench, are working hard to ensure Defence Force members are supported both in and out of service, and that there are wraparound services to help the families. This does include breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. Only yesterday, Open Arms reached out to the family of our mate who died by suicide. They got counselling straightaway. It's extremely important that we acknowledge the good work of Open Arms as well as other mental health and wellbeing services around the country. All veterans and their families are eligible to call Open Arms if they're in distress, or if they just need a chat.</p>
  • <p>Every year, more than 5,500 people leave the military, so improving the transition experience is vital. Just as enlistment is an important part of the ADF, transition back into civilian life is equally important. There needs to be a soft landing on the way out. There has to be a transition process that ensures our veterans don't just fall on their face. There has to be, once again, bipartisan support for working with those transitioning to ensure that people leaving the military feel as good as when they went in, or, if they don't, that they move into something meaningful in their life.</p>
  • <p>Regardless of time served, members can now access coaching, including career planning, full service documentation, skills recognition, resume preparation, job search programs and financial literacy education. Former ADF members are able to access this support, including employment support, for up to 12 months after transition. I think it's a great step forward to have the Prime Minister's Veterans' Employment Awards, which encourage organisations, and definitely defence industry, to employ veterans, our former serving people. We're the ones who use the equipment, the ones who take it on operations or use it back here in Australia, so veterans are very well equipped to work in defence industry. I spoke to defence industry primes only a couple of days ago, and my words to them were: 'Hire more veterans, because the skill sets they bring will reward your business tenfold.'</p>
  • <p>In recent years this government has focused on supporting the mental wellness of veterans and their families. That support includes a $5 million investment in The Oasis Townsville, as well as other organisations around the country, which brings all organisations under one roof. It keeps everyone together. It helps veterans and their families find the support they need quickly so they can get back out there and get on with their lives. It's very important that we're talking about cost-of-living pressures with this, because lowering cost-of-living pressures can only help veterans. It's something I've been working very closely with the Minister for Veterans' Affairs on, as well as with Liz Cosson, the department's secretary. I think we all know that we need to relieve as much pressure as we can because, if the bills stack up and times are tough, especially at this time of the year, it is hard for veterans out there&#8212;especially in North Queensland, my patch.</p>
  • <p>I thank you for the opportunity, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I thank the chamber for granting me extra time.</p>
  • <p>Honourable members: Hear, hear!</p>
  • <p class="speaker">John McVeigh</p>
  • <p>On behalf of the chamber, I thank the member for Herbert.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>