Veterans Affairs Minister Andrew Gee threatens to resign on eve of budget over funding shortfall
By political reporter Matthew Doran and Hugh Hogan
Veterans Affairs Minister Andrew Gee has launched a stunning attack on the federal government, revealing he was on the cusp of announcing his resignation from cabinet because he was being refused funding for his department.
- Andrew Gee announced he had been moments away from quitting the front bench
- He says his department is working to process 60,000 veterans’ compensation claims
- He has asked for $96 million to clear the waiting list
The clearly emotional Member for Calare called a press conference in Orange on Saturday, announcing he had convinced the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to find more money to process veterans’ compensation applications.
Mr Gee said there was a massive backlog of 60,000 unprocessed claims within his department, labelling it a “national disgrace”, and said he had asked for $96 million to clear the waiting list by the middle of next year.
When he raised the matter with senior members of the government earlier, he was told he would only get about a quarter of that money in next Tuesday‘s federal budget.
Mr Gee said Barnaby Joyce and Scott Morrison had commited to allocating money to the program.(ABC News: Hugh Hogan)
Mr Gee spoke to the Deputy Prime Minister on Saturday morning.
“I told him that the media was waiting outside the office, and as courtesy I was letting him know as my leader that I was going to resign from cabinet,” he said.
“That followed quite a bit of activity, and the end result is that the $96 million to help process and clear this backlog of 60,000 claims is now going to be forthcoming.
“I accept that in politics and in life you have to make compromises, but my personal integrity is not up for compromise.”
Mr Gee said the “budget process” had closed ahead of the Tuesday economic plan being revealed by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
But he said he had a commitment from Mr Joyce and Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the money would be allocated to the program, even if only a part of it appeared in the budget papers.
He laughed, somewhat nervously, when was asked how he felt knowing it was his threat of resignation on the eve of an election which forced the government’s hand.
“It may not turn out to be the best career move, and it is a slightly unorthodox way of fixing budget wrongs, but we appear to have got there,” he said.
“If we don’t get there, then again, I won’t hang around.”
The minister said it was simply unacceptable how many claims were outstanding.
“Some have been there for years. They range [in time], depending on what claims they are,” he said.
“They’ve just been banking up for a long time.”
Mr Gee, who holds the safe Nationals electorate of Calare on a margin of 13.3 per cent, denied he was merely posturing.
“These are Australians we should be helping,” he said.
“They sign up to put their lives on the line for our country.
“They don’t do it for the money, they do it because they love their country.
“Our country’s got to love them back. It’s as simple as that.
“That’s why I was going to I was going to pull the pin today. There’s no two ways about it.”
I would think a clean out of ALL senior bureaucrats from the dept would be an excellent start. We might see some movement then in processing claims.
They are always cleaning out a huge backlog. More staff and more computers make no difference. They are a government political organization!
They should only be responsible for veterans.
They are not equipped to handle commemorations. Slide that off to the AWM and keep politicians’ grubby hands off the veterans’ money.
On top of that they are incompetent.
Veterans are at the bottom of the Governments thinking and action plans. Watch how they line up from the Prime Minister down to have that photo opportunity and shake the hands of the Seat Polishers in the Defence force, but never are they front and centre when the body bags are brought home, or when that Veteran is at his/her wits end and contemplating ending their lives. It is always some one else’s problem, the Pollies only create the problems they never try to fix them. That is why we have 60,000 Veterans waiting in line for an answer from some Desk Jocky who isn’t interested in the out come, just the secure pay check.