Proposed New Veterans’ reforms: Government confirms it will add a year long delay

Proposed New Veterans’ reforms: Government confirms it will add a year long delay

28 Feb 2024



The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP

Member for New England

Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs



  1. February 2024


Proposed New Veterans’ reforms: Government confirms it will add a year long delay


•              Labor announces year long delay for veteran’s reforms with start date pushed back from 2025 to 2026

•              Labor’s draft Bill threatens to create four categories of veterans’ entitlements instead of one

•              Labor’s draft new laws already 2 months overdue from Royal Commission’s deadline.


Despite the very first recommendation of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide stipulating that reforms to veterans’ entitlements should commence “no later than 1 July 2025”, the Federal Labor Government has today confirmed it will drag the timeframe out for another year to 1 July 2026.


Former Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, also warned today’s release of draft reforms risked creating four categories of veterans’ entitlements, when the purpose of the reforms was to consolidate entitlements into one streamlined and harmonised process.


“The Royal Commission made it clear that the new draft Veterans’ Entitlements, Treatment and Support (Simplification and Harmonisation) Bill should have been ready for consultation on 22 December last year. The government failed, and it has been released today more than two months late,” Mr Joyce said.


He said the first recommendation also stipulated that if the new laws were passed by Parliament then the “Government should ensure that, by no later than 1 July 2025, the new legislation has fully commenced and is fully operational”.


“Today we find the Labor Government won’t deliver on that timeframe either. Instead, the Minister has announced a further year long delay saying “it is proposed that the new model for veterans’ compensation commences on 1 July 2026”.


“That’s one year later than the very first recommendation of the Royal Commission. If Labor can’t deliver on the first recommendation, what hope is there of Labor delivering on the others?,” Mr Joyce asked.


He said the delays were a direct result of Prime Minister Albanese’s decision to dump the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs from Cabinet.


“One would presume that the Ministers lack of ability to get this on to the legislative agenda is because he is not in Cabinet. When a Minister is not in Cabinet their legislation goes to the back of the cue,” he said.


Mr Joyce said the discussion paper attached to the draft new laws included many wishy-washy phrases such as veterans would be “potentially eligible for increased” payments or that they “may now become eligible” for entitlements.


“They’re not the sort of words that indicate clear, concise and simplified criteria,” he said.


“When people enlist they don’t say to themselves ‘I may be required to go overseas but I will only consider that order’. The same people who are now veterans, are probably not very tolerant of words that mean nothing when it comes to concrete delivery of outcomes,” he said.


Mr Joyce said veterans’ entitlements had become a confusing mess over the decades with entitlements and compensation often determined by different rates and on different eligibility criteria.


The three Acts are the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA); the Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence Related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA); and the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA).


“While the Coalition welcomes the government’s proposals to harmonise and improve some of those entitlements, for example in areas such as funeral allowances and improved disablement entitlements, the government is not proposing to harmonise all entitlements across the three Acts. It is simply cherry-picking what will be harmonised,” he said.


“We will have veterans covered by the old MRCA; and then veterans covered by the old DRCA; and then veterans covered by the old VEA; and then a new category of veterans covered by the new MRCA. That’s not a simplified and harmonised outcome.”


“When you combine three Acts you should be able to not differentiate between the benefits. Otherwise, you will merely get the previous three Acts with one new name.”


Mr Joyce said submissions on the draft new laws would close in late April and urged veteran organisations to insist the government sticks to the Royal Commission’s timeframes.

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