It is no great secret that many veterans are frustrated by the time taken by Government to bring forward new legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Law Commission Report into the War Pensions Act. The Act is now 57 years old and seriously out of date. The result is that injured service personnel are considerably disadvantaged compared with what is available under ACC to the rest of the population. This needs to be put right and put right soon.
Veterans are aware this is a major exercise involving eleven separate government departments while the replacement Act will require three other major Acts to be substantially amended. But time is not on the side of many of our older veterans.
Phil Goff had an heaven sent opportunity to press the buttons of the 400 delegates present with an 'up front' commitment to the speedy resolution of the matter. Instead he delivered a rambling speech which dealt, in part, on his military links. It was pretty much devoid of policy detail and his throw away remark that "Labour will legislate to give effect to the Law Commission's recommendations" mirrored the position of Government. It went down like the proverbial.
In contrast John Key and Judith Collins had delegates eating out of their hands. Especially welcomed was the advice that any WW2 veteran wishing to attend the 70th Anniversary Commemoration events being planned over the next few years in Africa (Alamein), Italy (Cassino), the Pacific and the D-Day landings would have their expenses including business class travel, meals and accommodation paid for subject only to them having a medical clearance to travel. There will be no ballot. If they want to go and can go then they will go.
And it does take a certain courage to admit past mistakes. There was justifiable criticism that the party of WW2 Crete veterans who went on a private pilgrimage to Crete earlier this year could have been treated better. The Government acknowledged this. That party is having all its expenses refunded in line with the new policy just announced.
Another initiative announced by Minister Collins was that the long proposed 'Peace Park' across the road from the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington will be completed in time for the commemorations marking the start of WW1.
It requires more than words to acknowledge the debt of gratitude owed our veterans and action speaks louder than words. But even some words from Phil Goff over and above platitudes would have been welcomed.