Senator Jacqui Lambie – Media Statement
Veterans’ Health Gold Card Bill Introduced to Senate by Lambie
On Remembrance Day 2015, Independent Senator for Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie tabled in the Australian Senate a private members Bill which broadens the terms of reference of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 to ensure that every Australian who has served in war or war-like operations automatically receives a Health Gold Card.
“A Health Gold Card guarantees that our Veterans receive, free of charge, in a timely manner – the best medical treatment Australia can provide. The average Australian will be shocked to learn that our Veterans, including Peace Makers and Keepers who have put their lives on the line overseas – under the current Government system, still have to fight to officially qualify for a Health Gold Card.
And sadly that fight – which can take years, is killing our Veterans. Our Diggers are self-harming or committing suicide as a result of the extra psychological trauma they are forced to suffer while fighting the government for access to proper medical treatment.
The passage of my Private Member’s Bill will take away our Veterans’ fight for a Gold Card. They’ll automatically qualify for the best medical treatment Australia has to offer – if they’ve served in war like or war conditions. Our Veterans who have risked their lives for our freedoms and our families’ protection will not have to justify a need for access to a Gold Card once my Bill is debated and passed.
The fact that successive governments have not automatically provided this high-level, free medical treatment to members of the ADF who have risked all in a war zone – is a national shame. If we aren’t prepared to properly look after our Diggers when they come home – then don’t send them in the first place.” said Senator Lambie.
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Senator Statement Speech
Today is Remembrance Day and I’d like to pay tribute to all Australians who have served and sacrificed to ensure that we live in a beautiful free democratic country.
In Relation to Tasmanian war casualties:
The Companion to Tasmanian History published by the Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies at the University of Tasmania provides some statistics regarding Tasmanian casualties across various conflicts. These include:
- The South African (Boer) War: 27 Tasmanians killed
- The First World War: 2,432 Tasmanians killed
- The Second World War: over 1,100 Tasmanians killed
- The Korean War: 22 Tasmanians killed
- Indonesian Confrontation: 2 Tasmanians killed
- Vietnam War: 17 Tasmanians killed
According to biographies provided on the Department of Defence website for the ADF’s 41 casualties who have died in the war in Afghanistan, two personnel are identified as born in Tasmania – Corporal Richard Atkinson and Corporal Cameron Baird VC MG.
As well as reflecting on the casualties of our states and nation – this is a day when we reflect of the sacrifice made world-wide by all who believed democracy, basic human rights, freedoms and liberties are values worth dying for.
I’m reminded that going into WW1 there were only 7 free democratic countries in the world (England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, America and Italy) who were prepared to shed blood – in a world wide fight against absolutism.
And then again in WW 2 there were only 6 democratic countries who were prepared to take on the dark forces of totalitarianism, in a life or death battle.
Mr President, you’ll recall Italy had turned fascist between the end of WW 1 and the beginning of WW2
And now today – Freedom House says that in 2014 – out 195 countries in the world 88 countries or 45% are free – 59 or 30% are partially free and 48 or 25% of the world countries are not free.
Its at this point I’m reminded of the brutal lesson that each generation must learn – and I pray its learnt from books, films, the internet – or stories of the old warriors – that is Freedom is not Free.
History proves that Freedom is a delicate flower that demands nourishment from a terrible fertilizer –
… made from the blood and bones of those patriots who love basic, democratic human rights and liberties so much – that they are prepared to give their own lives in the protection of those values and political systems.
Automatic Health Gold Cards for Veterans
Today I will table a Private Members Bill which I’m convinced will help reduce the suicide, self-harm and homelessness rates of the people that we paid tribute to – servicemen and women of Australia’s Armed Forces.
I ask all senators to seriously consider my Private members bill which simply expands the range of service personnel who officially qualify for the Heath Gold Card – which is the best medical treatment that Australia can provide – free of charge.
An undeniable and unprecedented Veterans’ suicide and homelessness crisis grips Australia today.
This crisis was created because of poor management of Australia’s Military Resources and Defence Personnel – by successive governments.
These governments’ compounded their error by attempting to cover up the true nature and scale of our Veterans’ suicide and homelessness crisis.
The VETERANS’ ENTITLEMENTS AMENDMENT (EXPANDED GOLD CARD ACCESS)
Private Member’s BILL 2015, I will table in the Senate today will properly address our nation’s shameful Veterans’ suicide and homelessness crisis.
By guaranteeing with this legislation, automatic free access to the best possible medical treatment in Australia, for the men and women of our ADF and Federal Police, who have served their country in war or war-like operations…
… this parliament will stop the harmful and all too often – deadly, bureaucratic fight our Veterans are forced to undertake so they can obtain a health Gold Card.
As described in this legislation’s Explanatory Notes:
- The purpose of the Veterans’ Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 is to amend the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986(Cth) so that all veterans, including peacekeepers and peacemakers or former members of Australia’s Defence Force, who have served in war or war-like operations, (and for related purposes) are provided medical and psychological treatment free-of-charge – as a right of service – the best medical treatment Australia has to offer i.e. Health Gold Card benefits.
- At present, there are three categories of repatriation, depending on service and medical needs:
- Orange Card (pharmaceutical only),
- White Card (specific conditions) and a
- Gold Card (all clinical health needs).
- While repatriation efforts have improved in recent decades, as witnessed by high rates of self-harm and homelessness – there are still many people who have served Australia who’s medical and psychological needs are not addressed.
- The Veterans’ Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 is an important first step in ensuring a more effective transition between national service and civilian life.
- The Veterans’ Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 broadens the terms of reference of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 to ensure everyone who served in war or war-like operations receive vital, necessary and timely medical and psychological treatment – whether or not the condition or injury was caused by war or contracted during war or war-like operations.
This legislation is a direct result of events that transpired at a meeting of Veterans that was organized Dr Raymond Huntley at Burpengary, QLD on Wednesday the 21st of May 2014.
At the gathering of Veterans – consisting of former ADF members mainly from the Army, who had served in Vietnam and younger Veterans who had recently served in Middle East conflicts – Dr Huntley asked all the Health Gold Card holders to stand.
About a dozen people stood. Dr Huntley then asked those who had obtained their gold cards in 2 years or less to sit. 2 Veterans sat.
Thought this process of gradually increasing the number of years it to obtain Gold Cards, questioning, and then asking veterans to sit – it became clear very quickly, that most veterans had to wait about 5 years before they received a health gold card.
Two Veterans had to wait over ten years to access the medical benefits that the coverage of a Health Gold card gives. After Dr Huntley had finished that exercise – which in reality was for the benefit of myself and two other Liberal politicians, a former digger who had served in the Middle East spoke to the group.
He had a tragic story. He said a number of his comrades that he’d served with in war in the Middle East had taken their own lives. And one of the main reasons, he said – which had pushed his Veteran friends to take that terrible decision to kill themselves – was the psychological harm that occurred to his mates while they fought the Government to obtain a Gold Card.
The Middle East Veteran said that many of his friends would have preferred to fight the Taliban, rather than fight the bureaucrats who decided whether our Diggers received the best possible medical care that Australia can provide to her wounded warriors.
Then from the floor of the meeting this younger veteran suggested that many lives could be saved – if the Australian government automatically gave a Health Gold Card to all veterans who have served in war or war like conditions.
And from that moment my office has worked hard to present this legislation to the parliament, in the unshakable belief that it will lessen the risk of further harm and help stop our Veterans from taking their own lives.