OUR Diggers continue to fight a personal battle with the federal government for a “fair go” on military superannuation pensions.
For a decade, veterans say they have been well behind Australians on welfare pensions because their pay-outs are based on the Consumer Price Index rather than the average weekly earnings used to calculate aged and welfare pensions.
The Defence Force Welfare Association for the Lyne electorate is particularly worried that when our forces return from Afghanistan from next year, those who retire will face the same financial struggle veterans have been forced to live with for years.
The group’s convener, Noel Slattery, who retired from the airforce after 28 years, said the government was potentially discouraging Australians from an army, navy or airforce career paths.
“I wonder if the Australian Defence Force and government have realised that their recruitment for all the military is going to suffer because these days, when somebody is choosing a career, superannuation is a very important factor,” Mr Slattery said.
“If would-be career military people find out they don’t get superannuation like everybody else, that will turn them off.”
The organisation runs a national advertising campaign online, in print and on television to highlight the issue to coincide with Anzac Day.
Local member Bill Lord, 95, who served in the army for 33 years, said he felt betrayed by the government. “I feel hurt as a senior citizen. I served 33 years in the army and what the Australian Government is doing to me now is saying you don’t count,” he said.
“I’m so far behind with my pension against the cost of living that it’s just simply not fair.”
With next year’s federal election looming, both veterans say the issue could make or break the government.
“It’s hotting up and going to become a very big issue in Parliament,” Mr Lord said. “It’s so important that so many marginal seats are tottering and the slightest influence will result in the Labor Party losing seats.”
Mr Lord established the local branch in 2010 and enlisted Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott to raise the issue in Parliament, but the motion was passed.
Mr Slattery has since met with Mr Oakeshott and will continue the fight for a fairer deal.