OPINION - Make military votes matter

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ROSS EASTGATE, Townsville Bulletin June 30, 2016 

Ross Eastgate

MANY veterans’ organisations believe Australia’s first double dissolution election in decades will finally empower them to make a difference.

Armed with all the modern tools of discourse and communication from social media to online petitions they are mobilising their numbers to influence outcomes on July 2.

While there are electorates with large concentrations of serving and former defence members, there is no single, dedicated electorate to represent that community’s views.

There is a growing number of ex-service personnel represented in both Federal Parliament chambers but they mostly have proved disappointing when representing the wider defence community’s views or indeed listening to its genuine concerns.

There are more running in this election including one attempting to recover a seat lost at the last election.

Having veterans in parliament is no guarantee critical veterans’ issues will be adequately addressed.

There was some initial optimism when Fadden MP and former intelligence officer Stuart Robert was appointed Veterans Affairs Minister but his star spectacularly crashed and burned.

Those veterans who dealt with the Gold Coast based MP quickly discovered his priorities were mostly based on self interest

Some organisations energised by the advent of the Turnbull Government regenerated previously unsuccessful submissions only to be disappointed to receive identical bureaucratic rejections.

Those who harboured optimism their issues might be represented by the variety of rogue independents quickly discovered actual outcomes were inversely proportional to noise generated.

Therein lies the rub.

Take a cross section of the wider defence community and compare it with a cross section of Australian society and you will discover they are almost identical.

The defence community thinks and more importantly votes in the same proportions as that wider community with only a small margin of difference.

There will be almost equal percentages in each sample of those rusted on to the mainstream political parties as there will be of those attracted to minor parties and so-called independents.

Realistically among the issues which energise the majority of Australians, defence and veterans issues are not high on their priorities.

The economy, education, health and even LGBTIQ issues always rate higher than defence.

While each of the many veterans’ organisations may agree internally on the issues which affect them and the outcomes they desire, they are not united in how to do that.

Nor are they universally effective in communicating those issues either internally or externally.

Many are being lured by the seductive but simplistic siren calls of political fringe dwellers who promise much but in reality achieve little.

Australia’s parliament will always be dominated by the major parties.

Single-issue or personality- based parties do not thrive or survive in Australia’s robust political environment.

Given the dilution of veterans’ votes across all electorates, protest votes could have the opposite effect to that intended.

Veterans’ interests will always be best served by supporting a major party and attempting to force change from within.

Your vote is vitally important but will be more effective placed where it actually counts.

ELECTION 2016 - POSTER- AUSTRALIAN DISABLED VETERANS

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ADSO Policy Objective - Restoring veterans’ disability payment (VDP) obligations

Veterans Disability Payment. VDP is a compensation Payment for wounds and injury caused in military service. It is NOT a welfare pension. VDP has two rates: impairment  for pain & suffering and Incapacity for the inabiity to work.

There are two issues relating to the Billy Hughes PM 1917 Promise:  “We say to them  –  ‘You go and fight, and when you come back we will look after you’ ….we have entered into a bargain with the soldier, and we must keep it!”  

That Promise gave rise to a national obligation, to maintain for disabled veterans and their families a replacement income that maintains a reasonable standard of living and a non discreptionary financial  commitment to it. Successive Governments have broken the obligation. 

1. The Veterans’ Disability compensation payment for Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Persons/Special Rate (Impairment with Incapacity to work) has declined to an amount that no longer maintains a reasonable standard of living. .  This is unconscionable and a sad reflection on the Nation’s obligation to care for its most severly disabled veterans and their families. The benchmark standard must be restored.

2. The Veterans' General Rate Disability compensation payment (Impairment without incapacity to work) was wrongflly excluded from the  2009 Harmer Review of Commonwealth pensions and its recommended and accepted structural increases . The purchasing power parity that previously existed was lost and must be restored.

Both the LNP's and the ALP's Veteran Policies have continued to ignore both matters.

 

ELECTION 2016 - ADSO MEDIA STATEMENT - VETERANS POLICIES - HOW THE PARTIES COMPARE

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Over the last two month the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) have sought, in some cases pleaded, with all political parties involved in the electoral process to release their policies relating to members of the ADF and the veterans community, including all their families.

The intent was to better inform those communities of the various party policy positions and thereafter compare the policies against ADSO’s major policy objectives. 
 
As most parties have now announced either in whole or in part their policies relating to veterans, a status report in the form of a chart has now been prepared. It is appended herein and highlights the comparative degree to which each party intends to address the key issues of most concern to the serving and veterans’ communities.
 
Although ADSO welcomes the seemingly strong bi-partisan positions on mental health issues and tackling suicide and homelessness rates, the Alliance remains disappointed that the major parties remain largely silent on the following:
 
1. Restoring veterans’ disability payment obligations; 
 
2. Removing the discriminatory provisions of military superannuation schemes; and
 
3. Enacting an Australian Military Accord formally stating the obligations of the Nation to its service personnel and their families.
 
To the current serving men and women of the ADF, and to the veterans’ community, including your families and friends: ADSO does not support or oppose any political party, nor advocates voting for any candidate. It supports or opposes as necessary policies likely to be detrimental to your well-being and interests. In that spirit, this report is offered to allow you to cast your vote on polling day in an informed way. 
 
After the election ADSO will continue to regularly update the chart during the 45th Parliament as we continue to pursue on your behalf our stated objectives by engaging with all sides of politics in the newly elected Parliament, and by informing the Australian electorate about the issues our representatives must address going forward.
 
The Status Chart will be updated on our website and facebook as required
 
Contacts: ADSO Campaign Co Directors Ted Chitham (0418) 733 887 and Alf Jaugietis  (0438) 282 284
ADSO National Spokesman David Jamison  (0416) 107 557
 
United we stand, divided we fall
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The Military Accord

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The Australian Defence Force (ADF) was formed to defend Australia, and protect its people and its interests. The service men and women who make up the ADF are Australian citizens who while serving, must forego basic Human Rights enjoyed by other citizens. They must comply with the additional legal and disciplinary requirements of Military employment.

When necessary this will include taking up arms against Australia’s enemies and defeating them in battle using lethal force. They will be
called upon to make personal sacrifices - including the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice - and in every sense to act honourably in the service of the Australian people.

In return, Members of the Australian Defence Force must always be able to expect, from the Commonwealth Government on behalf of their fellow Australians, fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service. They further expect that those who are injured in service to the Nation and the families of those who die as a result of their service will be suitably cared for and sustained.

This mutual obligation forms the Accord between the Nation, the ADF and each individual member of the ADF. It forms an unbreakable common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility from which the "ANZAC Spirit” has emerged that has sustained the ADF in conflicts throughout its history.

The Military Accord is an ADSO major objective that both the Government and the Opposition have ignored in their Election 2016 Veteran Policies and at a time when the nation is celebrating the ANZAC Centennary.

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MEDIA STATEMENT - VETERANS POLICIES EMERGE FROM THE WILDERNESS

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DKJ4Over a period of two month leading up to the election the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) implored all political parties to consider early release of their policies likely to impact serving and former ADF members and their families. The intent was to distribute those policies to them. Those calls fell on deaf ears, until the ALP made a veterans’ policy announcement barely two weeks before polling day.

Although belated, that announcement was welcomed. But the veterans’ community remained seriously disappointed that there appeared to have been little attention given to redressing their key issues. either now or into the foreseeable future. With less than a week before the election a trickle feed of veterans’ policies from other Parties are beginning to emerge. That includes ones from the Government which ADSO’s National Spokesman, David Jamison, welcomed.

Mr Jamison observed that the Government had increased its funding commitments and had picked up several of ADSO’s key policy objectives to support veterans. However, disappointingly, the policies excluded mention as to how or even whether any of the three following key objectives were to be ever addressed:

1. Enact an Australian Military Accord formally stating the obligations of the Nation to its service personnel and their families;

2. Restore disabled veterans compensation payments for its loss of value and provide our most disabled veterans with an income level enabling them to live
with dignity and provide for their families; and

3. Remove the discriminatory provisions of the military superannuation schemes.

ADSO calls on the Government, the ALP and all parties not already supporting its objectives, to reconsider including them in current election platforms. 

ADSO is analyzing known policies from the political parties and is about to release a report card comparing their veteran policies against the Alliance’s major objectives.

Contacts
ADSO Campaign Co Directors: Ted Chitham (0418) 733 887 and Alf Jaugietis (0438) 282 284
ADSO National Spokesman: David Jamison (0416) 107 557

United we Stand, Divided we Fall

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