Monday, 22 March 2021
Resolutions of the Senate
Consideration of Senate Message
It is no doubt a poignant day. I look behind me, and probably one of the strongest things that was said to me was, 'I can't go to the grave, because my son's only six feet away.' What a terrible indictment. There is nothing that we can say that takes away the pain of people who have lost a son, a daughter, a father, an uncle—someone they love—for a reason they wish they had the opportunity to resolve. They wish they had an opportunity to go back and speak to that person. No doubt they go over it again and again in their minds thinking: 'Why didn't I pick up on that sign? Why didn't I realise it was going to go from an imminent threat to an actual threat, that something was going to happen? Why wasn't I there?' And the answer is that you can't pick that and, unfortunately, you're probably looking at a problem that started years before the tragic event actually occurred.
I want to compliment Heston Russell, who's also behind us, for the work he's done. He has been resilient, he has had resolve, he has walked up to the fray and starting with basically nothing, from a point of zero, has been able to drive an agenda. All we do in this chamber is create the numbers that resolve the problems of other people. Other people do the footwork. The footwork was done predominantly by those behind me and those representing the people behind me.
I don't for one second pretend to the gallantry and the service of the member for Braddon, the member for Townsville or the Assistant Minister for Defence. For my small part, I was in the reserves and I'm a member of the RSL. But my family has a very long history with the services. As I've said a number of times, tragically my seven great-uncles were all killed—that meant issues pertinent to people who have served and basically at times the anger people have about being cast out. My father was repatriated after being smashed up, as he called it. For while a there, I used to argue with him over why he got so upset about a paltry change in his Vets' Affairs payment. I don't know what it was—$30 or $40. And it wasn't worth anything; he'd become a successful man. I couldn't work out why he would worry about it. But he would say, 'Give me back my leg and I'll give you back the money.' He was just trying to square up with something in his life which he couldn't quite square up with. The story he always gave me was: 'You don't know what it's like. After you've been smashed up and you've been through the repat hospital, you're sort of just kicked out onto the street. You wander around and try to find a home. You try to find someone to mix with. Your mates are still in the services. You go to places and you just become a kind of inconvenience to them, and you know it and you feel it.' He said you feel like your physical ability has been taken away and your support structure has been taken away. I can only imagine that that's a minor form or a similar form to what's felt by so many people who come out of the services and, after doing so much for that nation, are trying to find that space where it all makes sense.
For someone in the services, it's not just that they offer their life in whatever form it is to their nation; they also step away from other opportunities which they would have had if they'd stayed at home. They might have married that girl who left. They might have been able to build up that business that never happened. They might have been able to be around their parents when they passed away. Their life would be different. Instead, they picked up the gauntlet and they did what our nation asked them to do. We all get very patriotic and jingoistic about it. They go out, seek out the enemy, kill or capture them, by day or by night, regardless of the season, weather or terrain. Out they go in whatever form that engagement and that process requires of them. And we go, 'Rah rah, isn't it wonderful.' We wave the flag and turn up to the Anzac Day march, but after that most people go home and forget about it. And other people are left there, and for some there's that ticking time bomb. There's that monkey that they just can't get rid of, and there's the issue that they can't resolve. What I hope, in the substance of this, we create the venue that fleshes that out and hopefully come to some form of process where we can deal with it in a better way. If it saves one life, it was worth it. If it saves one person's life, it was worth it! The big thing in trying to convey this in discussions with the Prime Minister and others—in the politest form—it's not about what we want; it's about what they want, because they're the ones that are close to the pain and to the hurt and to the loss. We can't explain to them why our position is better than theirs. If this is what they want, then this is what you give them.
I'd like to also thank the other members of the defence committee, of which I am a member. I'd like to also acknowledge the dignified way that the member for Braddon and others have pursued this. They're doing this to bring a resolution, not to bring accolades and laurels onto themselves. They want to bring about an outcome. They don't want to bring about something to go on a corflute or something to go in a brochure they send out to their electorate. They did it because they think it's the right thing. I want to commend members of the opposition who have contributed. I know that the member for Hunter is very proud of his son. I go into his office and he's got his photos up there. I know he's a warrant officer—first class or second class?