House debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Statements by Members

Sheean, Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy)

1:36 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Politics and political polling certainly should play no part in awarding of the Victoria Cross, and neither should bureaucracy. The only criteria that should apply are merit, conspicuous gallantry, self-sacrifice and devotion to duty, all in the face of the enemy. This is what the statute requires for consideration for the VC. The independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal determined last year that Teddy Sheean's actions in December 1942 passed this test and that he should be awarded the Victoria Cross. But we learned last month that the Prime Minister personally intervened to block the tribunal's recommendation. At first he flat-out rejected it, only to relent in recent weeks because of mounting pressure, and he has now belatedly offered a face-saving review of the independent tribunal's decision. But the review will not consider the merits of Teddy Sheean's actions. Its only job is to see whether a departmental policy has been followed.

A military decoration should never hinge on whether someone has filled out the right paperwork. The integrity of our honours and awards system is not strengthened by holding awards hostage to bureaucracy. The people of my electorate are sending me postcards that call on the Prime Minister to do one thing: uphold the recommendation of the independent tribunal to award Teddy Sheean the Victoria Cross, because merit is the only thing that should matter.