Veterans short-changed by new Act

National Government reasons for rejecting a recommendation by the Law Commission to give veterans a payment to cover funeral expenses don’t stack up, says Labour’s Veterans’ Affairs spokesperson, Phil Goff.

The Veterans’ Support Bill passed its Third Reading in Parliament last night, excluding the payment recommended by the Commission and supported by the RSA and veterans.

“The National Party’s decision, supported by the Māori Party and Peter Dunne, to reject the Law Commission’s recommendation is mean-spirited and penny pinching.

“Next Monday we will honour the service of all veterans when we commemorate the start of World War One a hundred years ago.

“I’m sure the Government’s tributes to all who have put their lives at risk in service of their country will be sincere. However for the political parties who rejected the gesture of thanks towards veterans for their service proposed by the Law Commission, statements of gratitude will ring a little hollow.

“The Government has declined to follow the recommendation with the comment ‘not at this time’ and the promise to review the decision in the future.

“But the fact is that 28 per cent of our veterans will have passed on over the next five years.  As veterans have said to me ‘they’ll give it to us when we’re all bloody dead’.

“The payment acknowledges the cost borne by families separated for long periods from their loved ones and the anxiety about their well-being. It also acknowledges that families shared in the cost of the trauma suffered by veterans and the effects it had often throughout their lives.

“The cost is small, $7.4 million a year declining by $1 million every two years as the ranks of our veterans thin. This is less than the amount which has been cut from payments to veterans each and every year under this Government’s term in office.

“Those who have benefitted from the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents’ generation can surely acknowledge our debt to them by making this small gesture. In Government, Labour will move quickly to legislate to provide this payment to our veterans," Phil Goff said.