Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Questions without Notice
Sheean, Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy)
My question is addressed to the Prime Minister, and I ask: does the Prime Minister agree that it is entirely inappropriate for polling to be done in Tasmania on whether Teddy Sheean should receive a Victoria Cross?
I'm unaware of what the Leader of the Opposition is referring to. So this is not something that I have any knowledge of. I'll tell you who I'll be listening to, Mr Speaker, on this on this matter, and this matter alone, and that is the expert panel that I have appointed to address the very specific issue regarding the matter of the VC for Teddy Sheean, a very brave Australian. But there are other voices that have spoken on this matter. Les Carlyon has said:
If Australia were to grant VCs as the result of a government acting on recommendations to this inquiry, we would have introduced a two-tiered system. … In other words there would be a VC and a VC with an asterisk …
John Howard has said that to order honours for past deeds is an 'inherently hazardous exercise'. Retired Brigadier Chris Roberts, a respected military historian, has said retrospective awards would have 'the potential to cheapen the VC' and would 'have the potential to bring a degree of ridicule on retrospective awards'. The secretary of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association in London said 'to make an award of the Victoria Cross of Australia to someone who performed an action which was not recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross at the time' was 'risking lowering the status of the VC for Australia below that of the Victoria Cross.' What all that means is that, if you're going to make a decision on these matters, you take it very seriously and you consider it all very seriously, and that is exactly what I've done. The panel approach that I've put in place has been done after I have consulted with the Chief of the Defence Force, who was very supportive of the panel approach put in. I also consulted the Governor-General, informing these views.
I want to ensure that any recommendation I might make to Her Majesty would be done on a very considered basis. I am open-minded as to the views of the panel that would be put to the government to make a further consideration. I have no interest in this matter becoming a matter of political debate for partisan purposes. I understand the popularity of this point which the Leader of the Opposition has sought to engage in. I will not engage in such crass popularity when it comes to the integrity of the VC. I know my responsibilities on this matter and I will exercise them very carefully.
The question was very specific. It just invited the Prime Minister to oppose polling, to oppose populism, on this. That was the point of the question. If he can't do that, he should sit down.