Veterans’ pensions under fire

Mark Dodd From: The Australian February 25, 2010 12:00AM 

THE Rudd government has cast more than 63,000 veterans and their families on to the welfare scrap heap by failing to index military pensions, the Defence Force Welfare Association claimed yesterday. Unlike with the age pension, which is indexed, the government had chosen to ignore the collapse in purchasing power of military superannuation beneficiaries, DFWA national president David Jamison told The Australian. The hub of the association’s concerns are a government-ordered military superannuation inquiry in late 2008 headed by superannuation specialist Trevor Mathews, which recommended the super scheme be left untouched. 

Describing the report as “flawed” and “biased”, the DFWA said it wanted answers from the government about why it had failed to safeguard military super pensions. “For the very first time, we’ve had an inquiry which has not recommended adjustments to the military pension,” Mr Jamison said. “This has caused us to look at the method of how the review was conducted.”

DFWA executive director Les Bienkiewicz said veterans deserved better treatment from the government.”We’re owed a debt of gratitude. But it seems the government’s attitude is – once they’re out – let them go on to the welfare scrap heap,” he said. In a statement yesterday, Mr Jamison questioned the relationship between Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry and Mr Mathews. 

Mr Mathews was commissioned by Senator Sherry to undertake the review on June 26, 2008, with hearings in Canberra in July and the report released in December 2008. “But on 30 July, 2008, some five days after holding hearings, Mr Mathews commenced employment as the chief executive officer of Friends Provident UK, one of the biggest pension and insurance companies in the UK,” Mr Jamison said. “The degree to which the CEO of such a major company could find time to research, deliberate on and then write a report on such a complex issue could prima facie be questionable,” he said. 

Last night, Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry strongly denied that the inquiry was flawed but admitted former servicemen were upset by its findings. “I understand that former defence force and public sector retirees may be disappointed with the outcomes of the Matthews review but to focus their substantive concerns into a personal attack on my integrity and that of Mr Matthews is very unfortunate,” Mr Sherry said. “Mr Matthews was entirely appropriate to head the review. He is a world leader in this field and a proud Australian who even accepted no pay for this work.”

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