House debates

Friday, 12 June 2020

Constituency Statements

Sheean, Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy)

10:05 am

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This week I've been speaking in this chamber, and the main chamber, about the Northern Territory and how proud I am of their response to COVID-19 and doing the right thing, which is now allowing us to open back up. I've spoken about the need for federal investment in our industries. I've spoken about the cattle trade, I've spoken about our agricultural output, and how that can be greatly improved with some attention from the federal government. I've also spoken about defence industry support for my electorate in Darwin.

I am always absolutely amazed by the strength of the people of the Top End in peace time, and I always take the opportunity to reflect on their strength during wartime. In 1942, Darwin was significantly bombed, as most of you would know. On that same evening the island of East Timor, or Timor-Leste, was invaded by the Japanese. Bands of Australian commandos took to the hills. They fought on throughout that year.

Then, later that year, in December, they were being resupplied and were evacuating the wounded by ships, like the HMAS Armidale. When the HMAS Armidalewas struck by the Japanese, it started sinking. A young Tasmanian man jumped from the safety, or potential safety, of the life raft, back on to the Armidale, and started taking down the Japanese that were killing his mates in the water. I don't understand why the Prime Minister of Australia has decided that Teddy Sheean's bravery was not enough—an 18-year-old young man's bravery, giving his life for his mates in the water.

The Prime Minister seems to think we're going to use more taxpayers' funds and bring in an eminent Australian like Dr Brendan Nelson to try and cover up his failures, to try and give him a bit of a workaround. I think it's unnecessary. The unanimous decision of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal, which has always been followed by the government of the day, was that Teddy Sheean should have a Victoria Cross, but the Prime Minister thinks he needs to have a review into that decision. I don't understand why that is required.

But I've got some new information for the Prime Minister. He seems to need new information. I spoke to a guy called Ray Leonard, the last remaining survivor of the HMAS Armidale. Ray, who is 95 and has just had his 76th wedding anniversary with his wife, Beryl, said to me, 'I am disappointed and Teddy Sheean deserves a VC. (Time expired)