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National offers fools' gold to veterans

Hon George Hawkins
Minister of Veterans' Affairs

13 July, 2005
Media Statement

National offers fools' gold to veterans

Veterans' Affairs Minister, George Hawkins has dismissed National's veterans' policy as a cynical attempt to bribe our old soldiers with a piece of glitzy plastic and a re-packaging of policies Labour has already put in place.

Mr Hawkins said National's policy contains very little that's original or sincere, including its 'apology' to Vietnam vets.

"During a total of 18 years in government since the end of the Vietnam War the National Party paid lip service to New Zealand veterans of that conflict. Dr Brash's hollow promises now smack of 'too little too late'.

"As for Dr Brash's other policies: the Government has already announced a review of the War Pensions Act, a Veterans' Advisory Board already exists and consultation is well underway on a service medal for veterans.

"Dr Brash even tried to proclaim 2006 as the 'Year of the Veteran' – a day after I announced it at the RSA conference.

"The so-called 'gold' card promise of priority housing and health care would quickly lose its shine.

"Priority housing would make little difference to veterans when National has said it intends to sell off state houses and is likely to scrap income related rents. In health, everyone over 65 is already entitled to cheaper health care through the Government's PHO initiatives, but operations are carried out on the basis of need.

"This Government looks after the housing and health of all New Zealanders on a 'needs' basis, a concept Dr Brash has previously championed. In addition, eligible veterans also receive fully funded medical treatment and medicine.

"Veterans should be very wary of Dr Brash's call for a wholesale 'review' of Veterans' Affairs New Zealand (VANZ). If Don Brash hadn't snubbed the RSA annual conference opening this week he would have heard huge praise for the success of VANZ and the world-leading case management system.

Mr Hawkins also dismissed National's piecemeal promises to veterans who had suffered exposure to Agent Orange.

"We are already in the process of consultation with veterans through a joint working group on Agent Orange.

"This Government has already apologised for the failure of previous governments to acknowledge that Vietnam veterans served in a toxic environment," said Mr Hawkins.


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