A proposed digger discount card has failed to attract any companies to sign on, almost four months since Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled it.
During the Invictus Games in October, Mr Morrison announced an Australian Veterans’ Card and an Australian Veterans’ Lapel Pin to help honour returned service men and women.
The scheme encourages businesses to offer discounts on everything from groceries to power bills for more than 300,000 veterans.
But, during a Senate estimates hearing, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) revealed that while dozens of businesses had expressed interest, none had formally signed up.
Under questioning from Labor, DVA secretary Liz Cosson declined to name the 39 businesses that had come forward.
“What we’d like to do [is] keep working with them because some of them haven’t actually locked in,” Major General Cosson said.
“They’re just looking at how they might provide the discount.”
The revelation comes as the Government this week introduced legislation to Federal Parliament to establish an Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, which forms part of a wider recognition package, including the discount card and lapel pin for diggers.
“The covenant, card and lapel pin will allow the community — whether they are employers, businesses, community groups, veteran or sporting organisations — the opportunity to recognise the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served our nation,” Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester said.
But Labor’s Veterans’ Affairs spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth questioned when returned service men and women would see any benefits.
“This is a discount card without a discount in sight,” Ms Rishworth said.
“It has been more than three months since it was first announced and veterans don’t know what they are getting from this Government.”
In a subsequent statement, the DVA clarified that the 39 businesses represent “around 300 outlets nationwide including the retail, service industry and tourism sectors”.
“These businesses have reached out and confirmed their interest in participating, and in almost all cases, we have confirmed the nature of the discount or special offer,” it said.
“These businesses are currently doing the necessary work to ensure their staff and systems are in place, to be ready to participate when the program is formally launched.”
The DVA has also confirmed it has decided not to use new cards as originally planned, but to rebadge existing healthcare cards.
“Upon receiving feedback, it was decided the best approach for the new veteran card was to redesign the existing DVA health card, rather than creating a separate card,” the department said.
The revamped cards and other recognition measures are expected to cost around $11 million.