Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester has once again failed to rule out key recommendations from the Productivity Commission (PC) that have caused enormous concern among veterans and their families. 

In an interview on Sky News this week, Minister Chester was quizzed on the Morrison Government’s failure to respond to the 2019 PC inquiry into the veteran support system in more than a year. 

When asked if he would rule out a recommendation in the report to abolish Gold Cards as we know them, including for all veteran dependants, he failed to do. 

This follows his refusal to rule it out in Question Time in the Parliament last year.

In his interview, the Minister also squibbed on an opportunity to reject a recommendation to outsource Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) services to an independent commission. 

The final report of the PC’s Inquiry into the veteran compensation and rehabilitation system was released on 4 July 2019, yet the Government has so far failed to announce whether it will adopt or reject any of its 69 recommendations. 

While there are many sensible findings in the report, the proposals to scrap Gold Cards and outsource services have caused considerable anxiety among ex-service personnel and organisations, including many elderly and vulnerable war widows.

The veteran support system needs reform, however Labor believes veterans and their dependants deserve to have access to all the medical treatment they need, and to have their own stand-alone government department in DVA. 

There is nothing stopping the Minister from responding to the PC review now, ahead of the delayed Federal Budget in October, or coming out and rejecting these options in order to provide peace of mind for ex-service men and women. 

Labor has been constructive and willing to support Government policies in the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio, including welcoming assistance for veterans during the coronavirus crisis. 

Instead of attacking Labor, the Minister would be better placed focusing his energy on providing a Government response to the PC Inquiry and providing the veteran community with certainty.

Our veterans and their families deserve to know what the Government’s plans are when it comes to the veteran support system, and not continue to be left in the dark.