Parliamentary Questions – Veteran Affairs Answers – Update 9 Sep 19

A number of Parliamentary Questions were asked by Dan Bidois MP for Northcote and Matt King MP for Northland.  I will let you make up your own mind if you consider the answers pertinent, accurate or deserve further clarification.  Official answers are in Blue

29999 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (20 Aug 2019): Which, if any, of the recommendations from Professor Ron Paterson’s report from his review of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 are planned to be actioned by officials through a process or operational changes?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: I plan on taking a paper to my Cabinet colleagues in the coming weeks that will consider potential policy and legislative changes as a result of recommendations from the Paterson report.  Until Cabinet has considered this paper, it is not in the public interest to provide further detail on the Government response to the recommendations of the report. (Watch this space the Minister has had the report from the VAB for over 2 months now and the Patterson Report for over 12 months)

30000 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (20 Aug 2019): Which, if any, of the recommendations from Professor Ron Paterson’s report from his review of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 have been actioned by officials through a process or operational changes?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: I plan on taking a paper to my Cabinet colleagues in the coming weeks that will consider potential policy and legislative changes as a result of recommendations from the Paterson report.
Until Cabinet has considered this paper, it is not in the public interest to provide further detail on the Government response to the recommendations of the report. (Watch this space the Minister has had the report from the VAB for over 2 months now)

30001 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (20 Aug 2019): Will all three services be represented on any future Veterans’ Advisory Board?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: Appointments are made to the Veterans’ Advisory Board from time to time to ensure it has the right mix of skills and experience to undertake its duties.  If the Board feels it requires the perspective of a specific service it is able to appoint a representative of that service to attend its meetings and provide advice. (We look forward to some equality in the appointments in future.  Currently, there is no VAB established although looking at the VANZ website it would give you the opinion that there is.  There is still no RNZN or Ex RNZN member listed although it is believed that the current Warrant Officer of the Navy has been or was co-opted as an observer to appease those Blue members of the Defence Force.  Come on Ron there are three services in the NZDF and they don’t all wear Green.)

30002 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (20 Aug 2019): Will a new Veterans’ Advisory Board be established in 2019?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: The Veterans’ Advisory Board is established under section 247 of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 and members are appointed to the Board from time to time. The current membership of the Veterans’ Advisory Board, as of August 2019, is published on the Veterans’ Affairs website https://www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz/boards-and-panels/veterans-advisory-board/veterans-advisory-board-members  ( Our Assn has been advised by VA that this VAB had a life until 30 Jun 2019.  No c0mmunications has been seen or advised that it is still continuing work and if it is what are the terms of reference?)

30003 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (20 Aug 2019): When, if at all, will a review of pre-1974 deployments with regard to the classification of “Qualifying Operational Service” be conducted?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: All members of the New Zealand Armed Forces who served prior to 1 April 1974 have qualifying service under the Veterans’ Support Act 2014. The current focus is to review coverage of deployments occurring after 1 April 1974. A review of earlier deployments will not be considered until after this has occurred. (It is interesting to note that during the second reading of the recent amendment to the Veterans Support Act this question was raised by three MP’s and acknowledged by the current Minister of Veterans Affairs and still we get no review of the pre 1974 deployments)

30004 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (20 Aug 2019): Was the right of all ex-servicemen and servicewomen to be buried in a service section of a local cemetery withdrawn, and if so, what consultation supported the withdrawal and how was the withdrawal communicated to serving and ex-serving members of the Armed Forces?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: The Burial and Cremation Act 1964 is administered by the Ministry of Health. Eligibility for who may be buried in the Service section of a public cemetery has changed over time. Originally, burial was limited to returned servicemen. In 1983, an amendment expanded coverage to include persons who served in Her Majesty’s Forces and their spouses. In 1997, an addition was made to the 1983 amendment which required the person who served in Her Majesty’s Forces to have served on operational service declared by the Minister of Internal Affairs. The 1997 amendment also allowed for the burial of a de facto partner.
The amendments made to the eligibility criteria occurred before the establishment of Veterans’ Affairs in 1999, so information on the consultation or communication process is not held by Veterans’ Affairs.  (None the less if you consider a man who gives 20 years of his life to the service you would have thought VA would take up the baton and make it right)

30005 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (20 Aug 2019): Is the right for an ex-serviceman or woman to be buried in a service section of a local cemetery under review?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: The Burial and Cremation Act 1964, which may provide for the burial of members of Her Majesty’s Forces who have been on operational service and their spouses or partners in part of a public cemetery set aside by the local authority, is administered by the Ministry of Health. The Act is currently under review by the Ministry of Health. Veterans’ Affairs will work with the Ministry of Health as work progresses.  (The Assn is attempting to find out when this Act will be reviewed and when public submissions will be sought)

30095 (2019). Matt King to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (21 Aug 2019): Does the Minister believe that Royal New Zealand Navy personnel who served with the Far East Strategic Reserve have been appropriately recognised by the New Zealand Defence Force?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: The New Zealand Defence Force is currently reviewing a variety of service in South East Asia between 1950 and 1989. Service with the Far East Strategic Reserve is included in this examination. Each period of service will be assessed against the Government’s principles for medallic recognition. Subsequently, any service which meets the requirements of operational service will receive appropriate medallic recognition. (Your Assn has been plugging this track with NZDF for over 4 years and finally we might get a result from our constant written communications.  CDF has advised that the investigation phase has been completed and the analysis phase will be completed by 30 September with recommendations to the Minister thereafter.  Watch this space)

30097 (2019). Matt King to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (21 Aug 2019): Are Royal New Zealand Navy personnel who were stationed with the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve deemed to have served in a war or emergency for the purposes of the War Pensions Act?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: The War Pensions Act 1954 was replaced by the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 (the Act). There is no provision under current legislation to deem service as war or emergency.  Qualifying Operational Service can be declared under the Act based on exposure to serious harm as defined in the Act. Posting to a specific formation will not in itself meet the threshold. Ships deployed into specific operational areas, over a specific period, to carry out specific tasks, may meet the criteria. Those Royal New Zealand Navy personnel who participated in a conflict recognised as qualifying operational service while stationed with the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve have cover under the Act.

30314 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Defence (Minister – Ron Mark) (22 Aug 2019): Are the rules for awarding Long Service and Good Conduct Medals to military personnel being reviewed as at 21 August 2019, and if so, when will the review be complete?

Hon Ron Mark (Defence (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: The review is complete. The changes to the eligibility rules will be announced once the governing Royal Warrants and accompanying regulations have been approved.  (if you look at Breaking News on the NZDF Medal website you will see that this has been an ongoing saga with delay after delay and back in 2015 it was expected that ex-service personnel would be able to make application by the first half of 2016.  It is amazing that a Public Service Medal can be struck by this Government in their first term and this review has been going on well before 2011 when the first principles were approved. http://medals.nzdf.mil.nz/news/archive2011.html#long)

New Question posed by Dan Bidois MP for Northcote

30552 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark) (27 Aug 2019): Has the Minister taken the interim report he received from the Veterans Advisory Board in June to Cabinet as of 27 August 2019?

Hon Ron Mark (Veterans (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: No. I plan on taking a paper to Cabinet on that matter in the coming weeks.

31199 (2019). Dan Bidois to the Minister for Veterans (03 Sep 2019): Has the Minister taken the interim report of the Veterans’ Advisory Board he received at the end of June to Cabinet or a cabinet committee, as of 3 September 2019?

Hon Ron Mark (Minister for Veterans) replied: Reply due: 11 Sep 2019

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3 Responses to Parliamentary Questions – Veteran Affairs Answers – Update 9 Sep 19

  1. gunther says:

    damn…doesn’t anyone anymore know how to do things yesterday…jeezus wept..

  2. Neal Catley says:

    To the casual reader, the content of MOD’s replies to MP Dan Bidois parliamentary questions should at best be considered not only extraordinarily pompous but, flippant and farcical. It is a truism that MOD’s influencers have from time to time suggested that ex military organisations, like our Association, meet with MOD and his staff to help ‘clear the decks’ – so to speak. Why would any competent organisation wish to do that? When the stock standard ‘talking head’ response is: “I plan on taking a paper to my Cabinet colleagues in the coming weeks that will consider potential policy and legislative changes as a result of recommendations from the Paterson report. Until Cabinet has considered this paper, it is not in the public interest to provide further detail on the Government response to the recommendations of the report.”

    Also, MOD’s reply to pre 1974 deployments is in a word, nonsensical. Why for heaven’s sake should ex military personnel deployed to the FES prior to 1974, without any in-depth review, only be considered eligible for Qualifying Routine Service? It is common knowledge that level of qualifying service is presently identical to ACC benefits/entitlements that non military Mr/Ms Joe/Josephine Bloggs on the street receives.

    MOD’s response to current VAB membership:
    Quote.
    The current membership of the Veterans’ Advisory Board, as of August 2019, is published on the Veterans’ Affairs website https://www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz/boards-and-panels/veterans-advisory-board/veterans-advisory-board-members .
    Unquote.

    After interrogating many Veteran Affairs URLs the response is:
    Search results for: VAB memberships as at August 2019
    “No search results were found matching “VAB memberships as at August 2019”.
    In other words, unsurprisingly, MOD has not appointed any serving or ex RNZN person to the VAB.

    The response to the review of the Burial and Cremations Act is certainly a ‘RIB-TICKLER!’ “Not me Chief – I’m Radar!”

  3. gunther says:

    I too went and looked up the VAB and as you say, Neal, nothing has changed. I am still awaiting a reply from the Minister re his award and what it was for. I get the feeling we are treated like errant children that should be placated with a pat on the head “there’s a good lad”.. over the years have had phone calls from different Ministers spokespersons, usually a colonel who tackles the hard questions or tries to fend off what is being asked, never the Minister himself, I’m talking about Ministers of Defence. Can’t wait for the day when the current Minister heads our way.

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