1. Ballot for ANZAC Cove 25 April 2015. On Thursday 27 September 2012 the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs the Hon Warren Snowdon MP issued a press release advising of a limit of 8000 on the number of Australians who could be allowed access to the ANZAC Day commemorations at Gallipoli on 25 April 2015. This press release also advised that there would be a ballot for these places after a period of public consultation. This period of consultation will close on 30 November 2012.
The National Executive will debate the content of an overall RSL response to the ballot proposal at the forthcoming meeting in Canberra on 13 November 2012. Factors which will be taken into account are:
•the reality that the number of descendants of Australian Gallipoli veterans is unknown but is estimated to be as high as 1 million
•the fact that most Australians who have attended the Dawn Service at Gallipoli over the past decade have been young Australians backpacking in Europe
•the fact that ANZAC Cove is in a relatively remote area of Turkey requiring most who attend the Dawn Service to travel there by bus from Istanbul before camping out on ground sheets and sleeping bags
•the sometimes inhospitably cold and wet conditions at the commemoration site at that time of the year
The content of the submission decided upon by the National Executive will be posted on the RSL National web site. Individual Members, Sub Branches or Branches may opt to make separate submissions to Government on this topic.
2. Adverse decisions by Department of Health and Aging contested. I wrote to the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP on 27 October urging reconsideration of two recent adverse decisions of the Department of Health and Ageing. The first was the decision to remove the Medicate Provider number 10315 for Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT). I made the point that notwithstanding informal advice from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that holders of Gold or White Cards for specific conditions will still be able to access HBOT based on clinical need, the decision will still leave those ex-service personnel without a DVA Medical Treatment Card liable for the full cost of treatment.
I explained to the Minister that whilst the League understands that patients suffering from cancer or diabetes will still have access to HBOT, those ex-service personnel who do not have these diseases will be required to pay the full cost of HBOT treatment.
The second decision about which we have concern is that to close the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. Whilst we acknowledge that dental arrangements funded by DVA are not affected by this closure; and that members of the ex-service community with a Gold or White Card for specific conditions will continue to receive dental treatment under DVA arrangements, the League considers this decision disadvantages those ex-service personnel with a DVA Medical Treatment Card.
We await the Minister’s response.
3. Military Court of Australia Bill 2012. The RSL has continued to steadfastly oppose this legislation for the reasons explained in earlier newsletters. Recent events suggest its future is uncertain. The formal position is that the legislation remains before the House of Representatives. It was placed on the parliamentary business paper for consideration on Wednesday 31 October but, in the event, was not debated. Since then it has been difficult to ascertain quite what is intended. Some informal advice indicates the Bill was shunted out for consideration at a future sitting of the House of Representatives. Other advice suggests the Bill has to all intents and purposes been withdrawn because of the substantial changes that would be needed to accommodate issues raised during the Parliamentary Committee hearings into the proposed legislation. There is also speculation that the Bill will not reappear during the life of the current parliament.
We will continue to monitor the situation closely.
4. Attendance at Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association 2012 Conference. I attended this conference at Wellington during the period 14 to 17 October 2012 at the invitation of the National President of the RNZRSA. At their specific request my address to the New Zealand conference focused solely on the ANZAC Centenary and on how our two organisations can best work together towards the common commemorative goal.
5. Visits to RSL Sub Branches and WA State Branch Conference. During the past month I have had the privilege of visiting the Cobram/Barooga Sub Branch straddling the Murray River between New South Wales and Victoria; the Stephens Sub Branch in suburban Brisbane; the WA State Branch Conference at Perth; and the Gosford RSL Club for the annual conference of the Extremely Disabled War Veterans. I thank all RSL members who made me so welcome on all these occasions and for the admirable work they are doing in promoting the objects of the League. It was most heartening to meet new and younger members of the League on some of these occasions and as is evidenced by the content of this newsletter, we continue to be very active on behalf of both the ex-service community and those who are currently serving in the ADF.
6. Indexation of Military Superannuation. As yet there has been no response to my letter to the Prime Minister which formed part of my National President’s Newsletter No 6 of 2012. There has however been a development in the Parliament with the Independent Member for Kennedy, the Hon. Bob Katter MP introducing a Private Member’s Fair Indexation Bill into the House of Representatives. Mr Katter raised this possibility with me when I called on him at Parliament House when seeking his support for the RSL stance on the Military Court of Australia Bill 2012. I have since had informal discussions with other members of Parliament about the prospects for Mr Katter’s Bill and will seek to keep RSL members advised of developments.