I rise to speak on the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Legislation Amendment (Fair Indexation) Bill 2014 which will deliver this government's election commitment to fairly index Defence Force retirement benefits, Defence Force retirement and death benefits and pensions for recipients aged 55 and over from 1 July 2014.
It would be remiss of me not to follow on from some of the comments, in particular the amendment that has been put forward by the member for Denison. I remind the House that the member, in the 43rd parliament—the parliament immediately preceding this parliament—was an influential player, as were most of the crossbenchers in a hung parliament. I put it to this parliament that if the intent of the member for Denison was truly honourable, if the intent of the member was to benefit the DFRDB recipients, then that would have been dealt with and pushed through on the back of his hearsay in the last parliament.
The reality is that there is a legacy that has been left behind not only by Labor but also by the crossbenchers in their inability to get this situation resolved. It is truly only the coalition who have been resolved in our capacity and resolved in our commitment to ensure that our brave men and women—who have served and who today provide us, as a nation, with a blanket of security that we sleep under every single night—are those who are honoured. It is they who we should not leave behind. It is they who need to be indexed fairly.
I would also like to acknowledge the advocacy work of Stuart Roberts, the member for Fadden. He has travelled the length and breadth of this country advocating. He has been the champion of the course not only in Queensland but also throughout my electorate. He was only there recently in his capacity as Assistant Minister for Defence, again, advocating for this very issue.
I am proud to say that there are over 1,300 eligible people in the electorate of Wright. In addition, there are nearly 19,000 people in Queensland who will be eligible as a result of this.
The coalition government first committed to delivering fair indexation on 27 June some 10 years ago. But at each step, we were blocked and there were hurdles in front of us. Despite losing the 2010 election, a private senator's bill was introduced, and in 2011 this bill was voted down by the Labor-Greens alliance—the very alliance that had power from the crossbenchers who are now seeking to move amendments to this bill.
In 2012, Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott, signed the coalition's Fair Indexation pledge—a pledge that today we have stood by and a pledge that we will deliver on, because that is the coalition way. When we say we are going to do something, we do it. It is a far cry from what we have seen time and time and time again from those on the other side of this place, who continually say one thing before an election and do another after.
There is still evidence of that misrepresentation even surrounding this bill. Let me take you to a time frame: on June 16 2011 Labor cemented its position as an anti-fair indexation party when it combined with the Greens in the Senate to vote down the coalition's fair indexation bill. Then on 22 August 2012, Labor again combined with the Greens to block the coalition's second attempt for fair legislation indexed to the military superannuation pensions. And on 13 March 2013, Labor yet again blocked the coalition's third attempt to legislate for fair indexation of military superannuation by blocking debate in the Senate.
But there was a last-ditch effort. The then Minister for Veterans' Affairs reaffirmed his fair indexation policy in a letter from his office dated 12 June, 2013 which stated, 'The government has no plans to change the current arrangements.' But at the 12th hour, we saw a private member's motion from the then Defence minister saying that he would have a look at fair indexation. But that private member's bill was far inferior—so inferior—to the bill that is before us now. Today, in 2014, I stand before you proud that we are finally able to address the egregious inequities for men and women who served this nation.
I would also like to acknowledge, wholeheartedly, those RSL and sub branches in my area who have advocated tirelessly through my office for what they believe is a fair deal. It would be improper for me not to acknowledge their contributions: in particular, the Mudgeeraba-Robina President, Steve Boyle, who hosted the then shadow Defence minister, Senator Ronaldson, who came through and advocated when we were in opposition: 'Give us the chance of government and we will deliver for you.' We have done it, and we will continue to do it. There is also Tamborine Mountain president, John Brookes—thank you to all those guys; Kooralbyn Valley, John Forbe-Smith—a personal friend of mine; Jim Bumba; Sandy Lloyd, who I know from a previous life to this House—Sandy is an exceptional president; Laidley president, Brian Ranse; and Logan Village president, Terry Flanagan. All of these guys have been tireless in their pursuit of this endeavour.
I thank Errol Guilfoyle, from Beaudesert, who hosted a forum attended by Senator Ronaldson, who gave an overview of this issue. I thank the Helidon president, Neville Watterson; the Gatton president, Les Nash, who, during lunch after an Anzac Day ceremony, asked that if I do nothing else for the branch I should deliver this reform. Les, tonight I am proud to be able to stand in this House and implement these reforms that I gave a commitment to you that I would. I thank the Boonah president, Geoff Whittet; Grahame Drynan, in Rathdowney; Peter Prenzler in Kalbar; the Forest Lake president, Peter Foley; the Grantham Ma-Ma Creek President, Donnie Nielsen—none of these people get paid. They do it because they believe in the cause, and they believe in the position of the coalition. Thank you to all those guys.
Of course I extend my appreciation to the RSL branches, to Nerang president, Geoff Stephan, and to Canungra president, David Day; and to Ronny Smith in Withcott for the work that he does over there with the Withcott Progress Association, which is an outstanding monument. Ronny has enhanced an outstanding Anzac Day community spirit in that community. I also want to recognise the National Servicemen's Association in Beaudesert; Johnny Crauford, from the Springbrook War Memorial; and Veterans Support and Advocacy Service Australia, which operates throughout Wright. It would also be remiss to not acknowledge the advocacy work of those that have fallen, for whom we have attended funerals this year, who would be proud to know that we are producing on this.
In order to ensure that I do not consume time and to allow my colleagues to give their contribution, let me conclude by saying that this is a good day. We have delivered on a commitment that we have been steadfastly committed to for many years. It is a shame that we have been blocked at every step. It is somewhat disingenuous for a previous speaker to say that those on the other side of this House are proud of the work that they have done in this space. All I remember of the work done in this space by those on the other side of the House is a defence budget which is as low as it has ever been since 1938. We will fix defence and we will fix indexation, because that is what we were elected to do. I commend this bill to the House.