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Character. The measure of the man.

My grandmother spoke about character a lot.   To grandmum character was the mark of the person.

Can you be relied on?   Do you tell the truth?   Will you do the right thing, even when it's difficult?

I don't know Ralph Blewitt very well,  but I like him.   I've spent hours on the phone with him, and several days together with him, even sharing a small hotel room.

I have seen his love for Ruby his wife - and his passion for his brothers in the Royal Australian Regiment and its former members in the RAR Association.   And I like what I have seen of his character.

Like many returned servicemen Ralph Blewitt has found it difficult to live a decent life in Australia on the TPI payment.   We have allowed Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefit Scheme (DFRDB) and other service pensions and payments to fall behind.

Military superannuation pensions are currently indexed to the CPI. The CPI was abandoned in 1997 for aged and other welfare pensions because it did not protect purchasing power.

Aged and other welfare pensions are indexed annually by the greater of three measures including the CPI, the new Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI) or Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE).

Aged, welfare and Member of Parliament (MP) pensions rose between 130% and almost 140% between 1989 to 2009.

Pre-2004 MP superannuation pensions have been generously indexed to the salaries of today’s MPs and you will have seen those huge jumps this past year, making our PM more highly paid than the US President.

Military superannuation pensions rose 70% between 1989 to 2009.   Member of Parliament pensions up 140%, military pensions up 70% over 20 years.  This link sets out the differences in a scholarly paper.

It's a fact of life that for former servicemen and women those few Aussie dollars buy a lot more in parts of South East Asia than here in Australia - and like lots of returned men Ralph Blewitt lives offshore.

Which brings me to Ralph's character.

TPIs and other returned service people are entitled to the Gold Card for health care in Australia.   Most trips to the doctor, the specialist, pathology - they're covered.   Quite reasonably, those expenses are covered only in Australia - our government doesn't pay for expenses incurred overseas.

Until recently, veterans living overseas had their Gold Card cancelled.  Whenever Ralph returned to Australia, he had to get a letter of coverage, then do battle with his treating doctors to access what was always his right as a returned Australian serviceman - that is medical care paid for by the taxpayer - nothing much more than a day one Illegal Centrelink Seeker is granted upon their illegal arrival by boat.

Here's where the story turns.   

Instead of just bitching about it, or fixing it for himself, or getting and keeping the Gold Card he was entitled to with a mate's Australian address - Ralph Blewitt went in to bat for the other former service people in the same position.

Along with a bloke called Kevin Bovill, Ralph stuck with the to-and-fro of correspondence with the government departments.   He kept at it, he didn't give in to bureaucracy.

And along with Kevin Bovill he won.   Australian returned servicemen and women who live overseas are now entitled to an Australian Gold Card which is recognised upon their return to Australia.

If you've never had to prove your entitlement to be looked after by the nation that you looked after as a servicemen, then you probably won't understand this note about Ralph.  

But I've seen the emails, I've seen the bureaucracy and I've seen how this bloke Blewitt went in to bat.   It spoke of a man driven by the welfare of his team, his brotherhood, the group above self.

It was done by a bloke who didn't take shortcuts, who met the challenge head on.

A man who is highly regarded by his mates.

As grandmum would say, a man of character.

 

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