The media continues to live up to my expectations. Clearly they live and die by their motto of 'Never letting the facts get in the way of a good story'.
The latest case at point. Recently we were invited to be disgusted at the way the Government treats our war veterans. The media seized upon the fact that a number of our Crete veterans had to pay their way over to the 70th anniversary of the German landings on the Island. No matter that the veterans were part of a private tour party on an extended trip. No matter that their trip was subsidised by the Crown. The story was designed that we should be outraged that a cruel Government did not pick up the whole tab and shocked that the Minister of Defence, representing the Government and the people of New Zealand, was there and had his travel costs picked up by the taxpayer.
But what you weren't told about is the extraordinary generous policy that provides a one-off, no questions asked, grant of $2,000 to any and all veterans with qualifying operational service to allow him/her to visit the country they fought in. Could be North Africa, Greece, Crete, Italy or the Pacific or anywhere else New Zealanders fought during WW2 along with Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam and through to Afghanistan (although perhaps it might be a little while before anyone wants to go back there). The grant can be accessed at any time and is not tied to any particular anniversary.
The best information available to me suggests there are approximately 70,000 veterans eligible for this grant. Some will have taken it already but if we stick with the 70,000 figure the policy creates a contingent liability for Government of something in the order of $140 million. Chickenfeed not.
I am not aware of any other Commonwealth country that has such as policy in place. I know that both the Australian and American veteran communities are consumed with envy when they are appraised of this entitlement. They have nothing remotely similar.
So, back to where I started. The Kerry Woodhams of this world should stop interviewing their typewriters and coming up with shock horror stories that just don't stack up against the facts. Yes, Government can always do better when it comes to honouring our veterans and we await with anticipation their response to the Law Commission Report on the rewrite of the War Pensions Act 1954. But insofar as allowing veterans to return to the battlefield they fought over there is a silver plated scheme in place, paid for by Mr & Mrs Taxpayer, which is the envy of veteran organisations around the world.