Veterans Affairs Minister Andrew Gee threatens to resign on eve of budget over funding shortfall
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.”