The Returned Services League (RSL) has taken aim at Prime Minister Tony Abbott for his government’s proposed changes to index veterans’ payments to match the rate of inflation rather than the higher rate of average male weekly earnings.
Nearly 300,000 military pensioners and war widows would be affected by the changes to veterans’ pensions – a decision the RSL believes will threaten the quality of life and the dignity of those who fought for our country.
And whilst Mr Abbott, who is in Turkey for the ANZAC centenary at Gallipoli, met with the RSL last month to discuss the changes, he refused to back down on the decision to match veterans’ pensions to CPI, and has since held back the public release of documents which explain how the changes would affect ex-servicemen as well as the ones left behind by the fallen.
Ahead of Treasurer Joe Hockey’s second budget, veterans groups are using the ANZAC commemorations to remind the government to support the veterans who have defended Australia.
Veterans groups, including the RSL, the Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Servicemen & Women (TPI), the Defence Force Welfare Association and the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations have been working hard to change Mr Abbott’s mind, claiming: “The budget measure will have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the veteran community whose only source of income is the service pension. To qualify for the service pension, veterans must have had qualifying service, which by its definition implies that the veteran faced danger from the enemy and was prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice.”
“It’s all very well to commemorate the fallen – and we support the centenary commemorations – but we have to fully support the living as well,” said TPI national vice-president Pat McCabe.
According to McCabe, veterans’ payments are a form of compensation under law that compensates them for their sacrifice, and should not be treated simply as a form of welfare payment.
Earlier this week, TPI wrote a letter to Mr Abbott refreshing his memory of a statement made by former Prime Minister Billy Hughes in 1917: “We say to them, ‘You go and fight and when you come back we will look after your welfare’ … we have entered into a bargain with the soldier, and we must keep it!”
“It’s that bargain they have broken,” Ms McCabe said.
Read more at Sydney Morning Herald.
It seems that Woolworths and co aren’t the only ones cashing in on the ANZAC centenary – only this time the protagonists are justified. And whilst the ANZACs are ‘fresh in our memories’, there is no better time for veterans groups to lobby on behalf of those who have sacrificed their lives for our wellbeing.
In a statement made by Mr Abbott at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane earlier this week, he said that while the troops were supporting Australia overseas, Australia would support their loved ones back home.
“We will support them on your behalf, as you support us,” he said.
It’s all well and good to make these claims as part of a farewell to soldiers, but what of their welfare upon their return?
The changes to veterans’ payments are expected to save around $65.1 million from 2017, but, as with the Age Pension and other welfare payments that will be thrown into the same basket, will progressively erode veterans’ income as each year passes. And if the government can work out the annual savings created by cuts to military pensions, it would be interesting to see if it knows how much it would save by cutting back on the very generous pensions and payouts of the politicians who sit at home enjoying the protection provided for them by our servicemen and women.
Whilst we may not all agree on the where and why of our soldiers’ participation in wars and ‘police actions’ around the world, we can all agree that they should be well compensated for their incredible service and bravery whilst defending our way of life back home. This is just another idiotic example of how Mr Abbott and co, in order to find savings for their bottom line, will take from those who need it most instead of targeting their corporate cronies and well-to-do constituents.
What Mr Abbott needs to remember when rubber-stamping this decision is that the soldiers fought for the way of life of the common Australian citizen – not just the wealthy. Why should our soldiers and the loved ones of the fallen have to sacrifice their dignity for the government’s bottom line, when they have sacrificed so much already? It’s time to show some class, Mr Abbott. Go on – surprise us …
What do you think? Do you feel that finding savings from the pockets of our brave soldiers and war widows is justified? Does $65.1 million in savings justify this decision? Would you feel better if these savings were received by reducing benefits to corporations, politicians and the wealthiest two per cent?