Monday, 15 June 2020
Questions without Notice
Sheean, Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy)
Will the Prime Minister reverse his decision to deny Teddy Sheean a Victoria Cross? Surely the Prime Minister regrets denying this honour to a man who strapped himself to the gun of a sinking ship to shoot down enemy aircraft and save his mates.
The bravery, service and contribution of Teddy Sheean is not under question. He was an incredible and brave Australian, like 40,000 others who lost their lives during the Second World War. Each and every day of those six years, acts of bravery, acts of selflessness and acts of sacrifice took place. At that time, over the course of that campaign, there were a small number of Victoria crosses that were handed out. And there were a very small number who were mentioned honourably in dispatches, particularly from the Navy, and Teddy Sheean was one of those.
When you look back into the history, 80 years ago, you've got to be very careful about putting yourself in the position of those who stood before you and made these decisions. All I'm seeking to do is assure myself, with the responsibilities that I have, that the policy test that was adopted by the previous government can be held by our government. There needs to be compelling new evidence that would justify the revisiting of that award. The valour inquiry found there wasn't. There has been a subsequent tribunal which was not reviewing the decision of the valour inquiry but was initiated by a separate process. Each of those inquiries have come to different conclusions, so I am simply seeking to honour the system. I have advice from the CDF on this matter and—
Opposition members interjecting—
The interjections come from those opposite. I sought advice from the CDF and I have accepted his advice, but I have also asked for this very specific issue to be addressed. I'm simply seeking to preserve the integrity of the honours and awards system, and I will receive that advice from the eminent Australians Dr Nelson, Dr Shergold, Brad Manera and David Bennett, the former Solicitor-General, who are eminently qualified to look at this specific issue. I want to thank the member for Bass and the member for Braddon; Guy Barnett, a former member of the other place; and the Premier of Tasmania for the constructive engagement I've had with them. They have been engaging with me on this issue for some time. I've respected and appreciated their meetings with me. We are working through this issue. We just have to make a decision that is consistent with government policy and respects the honours and awards system. But I want to make this very clear: Teddy Sheean was a great and brave Australian. There is no dispute about that.