Chapter 1



On 14 February 2019, the Australian Veterans' Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019 (the Bill) was introduced into the House of Representatives.1
On 14 February 2019, pursuant to the Senate Selection of Bills Report, the provisions of the Bill were referred to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee (the Committee) for inquiry and report by 22 March 2019.2

Conduct of the Inquiry

Details of the Inquiry were placed on the Committee's website at The Committee also contacted a number of organisations and peak bodies to notify them of the Inquiry and invite submissions by 6 March 2019.
Submissions received by the Committee are listed at Appendix 1. The Committee also held one public hearing on 18 March 2019 in Canberra. The witnesses who appeared at the hearing are listed at Appendix 2 and the Hansard transcript is published on the Committee's website. The Committee thanks those who made submissions and appeared at the hearing.

Background to the Bill

In recent years, some in the Australian veteran community have called for a form of military covenant to be enshrined in Australian law.3 In September 2018, the Senate passed the following motion:
That the Senate—
acknowledges the sacrifices made by the veteran community in serving our nation;
notes that there is a strong need for multipartisan support to address veteran issues; and
calls on the Federal Government to:
(i) consult with the veteran community and draft legislation to enshrine the Military Covenant into legislation at the earliest possible juncture, and
(ii) announce publicly the commitment to enshrine the Military Covenant in legislation, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice marking cessation of hostilities in the Great War.4
In October 2018, the Government announced a package of initiatives to recognise the role and service of veterans and their families to Australia.5 This included the development of an Australian Veterans' Covenant, Card, and Lapel Pin. The Bill makes provision for the establishment of the Covenant and the issue of the Pins and Cards.

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill states that '[t]he object of this Act is to acknowledge the unique nature of military service and the sacrifice demanded of those who commit to defend our nation'.6

Summary of the Bill

This section outlines the four parts and one schedule that comprise the Bill.
Part 1 establishes the short title of the Act; its commencement (the day after the Act receives Royal Assent); its object; and definitions. In the Bill, 'veteran' refers to a person who is serving, or has served, as a member of the Permanent Forces or the Reserves.7

Part 2

Clause 5—General recognition

Clause 5 sets out the Commonwealth's acknowledgement that military service demands unique sacrifices of veterans and their families, and that the Commonwealth is committed to supporting veterans. It notes that veterans may require support to enjoy good health and wellbeing and to access employment and training, housing and justice. Clause 5 also states that support should be provided in a way that is sensitive and respects their military service and dignity as individuals.

Clause 6—Australian Defence Veterans' Covenant and Schedule 1

Clause 6 establishes that the Parliament endorses the Australian Defence Veterans' Covenant (the Covenant) on behalf of the Australian people.

Clause 7—Beneficial interpretation of legislation

Subclause 7(1) states that the Commonwealth is committed to decision-makers interpreting the provisions of three existing Acts to benefit veterans or their families (if consistent with the purpose of the relevant provision).8
Subclause 7(2) adds that the Commonwealth is committed to decision-makers deciding claims under these Acts in a manner that is fair, just, consistent, and promotes public trust and confidence. Decisions should also be made using only the evidence required to meet the relevant standard of proof, and in a time period proportionate to the complexity of the claim.

Clause 8—Cooperation

Clause 8 states that the Commonwealth 'is committed to working cooperatively with veterans, their families and ex-service organisations to address issues facing veterans'. The application of Part 2 is clarified in Part 4, so Part 4 will now be outlined.

Part 4

Clause 10—Part 2 does not create or give rise to rights or obligations

Clause 10 establishes that Part 2 does not:
create or give rise to legally enforceable rights or obligations;
provide grounds for a decision to be reviewed or challenged; or
enable an action, suit or proceeding to be instituted in reliance on the terms or operation of Part 2.

Clause 11—Act not intended to exclude similar State or Territory laws

The intention of the Bill is not to exclude or disturb any State or Territory laws that provide for the recognition of veterans or their families, or prevent such laws being made in the future.9

Part 3

Clause 9—Issue of pins, cards or other artefacts

Clause 9 permits the Commonwealth to issue pins, cards or other artefacts to veterans and their family members.10

Financial implications

The Bill's financial implications total $11.1 million over the forward estimates.11

Scrutiny by other committees

The Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights had not reported on the bill at the time of tabling this report.

Structure of the report

Chapter 2 of this report provides an overview of issues raised in evidence and contains the Committee's views and recommendation.

Note on references

References in this report to the Hansard for the public hearing and Senate Estimates are to the proof transcripts. Page numbers may vary between the proof and the official Hansard transcripts.

  • 1
    House of Representatives, Votes and Proceedings, No. 159–14 February 2019, p. 2088.
  • 2
    Journals of the Senate, No. 140–14 February 2019, p. 4667; Selection of Bills Committee, Report No. 1 of 2019, 14 February 2019, p. [1].
  • 3
    See, for example, the Defence Force Welfare Association, 'Military Covenant webpage', updated 15 February 2019,; Alliance of Defence Service Organisations, (accessed 22 February 2019).
  • 4
    Journals of the Senate, No. 116, 12 September 2018, p. 6219.
  • 5
    The announcement also mentioned funding for the Kookaburra Kids Defence Program and SoldierOn Fussell House, initiatives which are beyond the scope of the Bill. The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister, and the Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, 'Recognising and respecting our veterans', Media Release, 27 October 2018.
  • 6
    Clause 3.
  • 7
    For the definitions of 'Permanent Forces' and 'Reserves' see the Defence Act 1903.
  • 8
    The Acts are: the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA) and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA).
  • 9
    Explanatory Memorandum (EM), p. 7.
  • 10
    The Bill does not define 'artefact', The Department of Veterans' Affairs indicated that the term has a broad meaning, and suggested that it may issue other items in the future, such as new cards. Ms Liz Cosson, Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Proof Committee Hansard, 18 March 2019, pp. 27–28.
  • 11
    EM, p. 1.

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