Thursday, 8 October 2020
Questions without Notice
I do thank the member for Lindsay for her question and her interest in the more than 1,200 veterans that live in her own electorate. The importance of the Australian Defence Force has been clearly illustrated on the home front over the past 12 months. With Operation Bushfire Assist and Operation COVID-19 Assist we have seen more than 15,000 ADF personnel deployed on a range of tasks to assist our civilian agencies. I think it has given Australians a great deal of comfort to see our Navy, our Army and our Air Force personnel helping out on the ground, in the air and at sea, with activities like the mass evacuation of people from the bushfire impacted communities—the holidaymakers and locals who were evacuated last summer during the bushfires. So, on behalf of the parliament, I say to all the men and women in uniform, who wear the uniform with such great pride: thank you for your service to our nation.
Service in the Australian Defence Force is largely a positive experience for most personnel, but there are certainly risks to their physical and mental health. It's critical that our budget, the federal budget, supports the wellbeing of serving personnel when they make their transition to civilian life. This week, the Treasurer announced $340 million in new measures as part of an $11.7 billion annual allocation to the Department of Veterans' Affairs to support more than 300,000 veterans and their families. Among the highlights this year was $23.7 million to establish a joint transition authority and a range of other measures to support veterans as they make that step into civilian life, into employment or perhaps to start their own business. I take the opportunity to send a message—a simple message—to corporate Australia: hiring a veteran is good for your business. They have resilience, they have teamwork, they have leadership skills and they have problem-solving skills. Hiring a veteran is good for your business.
We believe in a partnership approach to the issue of supporting our veterans and we're working with the Department of Veterans' Affairs and ex-service organisations and aiming to continually improve our performance in that regard. We recognise that there is always more to be done in this area, but we're confident that we are on the right track. I think the approach that we are taking has been well received by the veteran community and certainly this week by the RSL national president Greg Melick, who released a statement after the budget, which I would like to quote from: 'The broadening of the Prime Minister's Veterans' Employment Program and the additional resources being provided to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, as well as the range of Medicare enhancements, will all be of benefit. Australia's veterans and their families have provided great service to our nation, but often this comes at significant mental and other costs, so it's important the appropriate assistance and support is provided. The latest budget initiatives recognise this, and the RSL welcomes them.' The 2010 Australian of the Year, Professor Pat McGorry, from Orygen, wrote: 'Orygen welcomes the Australian government's budget announcements regarding increased support for veterans.'
Finally, can I say to any veteran who is listening today and who is struggling at the moment in these very challenging times: You are not alone. Help is available. Stay in contact with your mates, and, if do you need some help, reach out to Open Arms on 1800011046.