The Royal New Zealand Artillery
For your welfare, the Committee endeavours to have some input into Government policy on veterans, as part of its range of activities. For example, in submissions to Professor Ron Patterson, for his report on the operation of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014.
The Minister for Veteran Affairs, Mr Ron Mark, has recently publicised the survey being made about a Covenant by the nation towards veterans.
Tony McLeod, our President, has asked me to report to you on the survey. The following comments reflect my personal experience as a TF soldier from 1973 to 1981, and as a lawyer.
1. The survey is being run by the Veterans’ Advisory Board. The Veterans Affairs website describes it as an independent statutory body. Its members tend to be former senior Army officers, with post-service experience in Government. Its role is set out in section 247 of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014, a copy of which is set out as an attachment.
2. The Board will be advising the Minister in August 2020. You will immediately see that the General Election occurs in the following month, and a new political line-up is possible.
3. Overall, the idea of a national Covenant looks worthy at this stage.
4. With a sufficient support among veterans, the current, next, or subsequent, Government might implement a Covenant. Veterans might lobby at that stage for precise rights consistent with such Covenant, and for Budget funding.
5. With a measure of cautious optimism, I participated in the survey. It can be found as follows:
5.1 At https://www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz/news-events/articles/the-veterans-adv... or
5.2 By Googling veterans affairs nz covenant.
6. The survey has a number of multi-choice questions. Where comment is required on the survey, you might want to consider the Observations below. They represent my personal views. If you agree with an idea, express it in your own words.
7. If you have any comment, you can ring me at 027-4220411.
31 May 2020
ROLE OF THE VETERANS’ ADVISORY BOARD
247 Veterans’ Advisory Board
(1) This section establishes the Veterans’ Advisory Board (the advisory board).
(2) The function of the advisory board is to provide advice to the Minister on its own motion or on request, including advice on policies to be applied in respect of veterans’ entitlement.
(3) The Minister may give terms of reference on the advice that the advisory board provides to the Minister.
(4) The advisory board may, subject to any provision of this Act or regulations made under this Act, determine its own procedure.
1. Full support can only be given when the exact wording of such Covenant is known.
2. Such Covenant is essential for a just recognition of the contribution of veterans to the public interest of New Zealand:
2.1 The activities of the veterans of World War 2 are so well known as to need no comment.
2.2 The operational service of older veterans in Korea, Malaya, Borneo, and Vietnam contributed to stabilising the region from 1950 to 1975. That operational service has turned out to be a solid basis for links with (now prosperous) South Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore, in the areas of trade and of diplomacy.
2.3 The operational service of younger veterans in peace-keeping missions (e.g. Bosnia, East Timor, and Afghanistan) has solidified the reputation of New Zealand in international relations, particularly at the multi-national level e.g. the United Nations. That reputation contributes to the success of New Zealand e.g. in international trade negotiations such as Trade Agreements in the Pacific
2.4 Routine operations (such as RNZN patrols and RNZAF flights) in the South Pacific deepen connections with the region’s major powers (e.g. the USA) and minor powers (e.g. Samoa). They form part of the Government’s Pacific Reset policy, to deepen links in the region. Further, they contribute to protection of the environment.
3. Such Covenant promotes the morale of existing and future service members, by an assurance of loyalty after service.
4. To prevent a change of mind by any subsequent Government, such Covenant should be supported by all political parties. As was the Vietnam Apology. That is, by parties which believe in peace-keeping as the principal activity of the Armed Services, through to parties which focus on the operational role and who see that expenses for veterans post-service are an integral part of military expenditure.
5. Such Covenant needs to be enacted in legislation. Likely in the Veterans’ Support Act 2014.
6. Such Covenant must be the guideline by which the activity of Veterans Affairs, and of all other Government Ministries and Departments, is measured.
Extent of the Covenant
7. Such Covenant needs to directly bind the Government.
8. Such Covenant should also bind local government entities, such as the Auckland Council.
9. Such Covenant needs to benefit all veterans of the New Zealand Armed Services, irrespective of nationality. That is, also citizens of Britain, Australia, Fiji, and so forth.
10. Such Covenant is not to detract from any current right, nor does it create a bar against any claim by a veteran.
11. Such Covenant should be accompanied by the statutory recognition of certain rights, such as:
11.1 An entitlement of non-citizen veterans to a priority in citizenship or permanent residency.
11.2 An entitlement of appropriate veterans (e.g. those with wounds, those with operational experience, or those with long service) to practical assistance to buy a house, just as the returned servicemen from World War 2 received funding by way of a rehabilitation programme.
12. In implementing the Covenant, the Government needs to allocate an extra Budget amount to fund requirements arising from the Covenant.
13. Such Covenant should be accompanied by the creation and funding of an independent agency, to ensure that veterans can properly claim their rights under the Covenant. In practice, the Government should fund a Legal Service (similar to the Public Defender Service). It should be headed by a respected jurist, such as a retired Judge or a senior lawyer. The Service would represent individual veterans in important cases against the Government.
14. Such Covenant should be accompanied by a recognition that a veteran engaged in a dispute in court over an entitlement has no liability for costs to the Government, if unsuccessful in the dispute.