House debates

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Questions without Notice


3:05 pm

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel. I note the $11.8 billion committed to Australian veterans and their families in this year's budget. Can the minister update the House on the steps the Morrison government is taking to improve the wellbeing of the Australian veteran community?

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Deputy Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Herbert for his question. I note also his record of military service, with deployments to both East Timor and Afghanistan. It is a rare privilege in this place to work in a portfolio that can make such a difference—a portfolio that actually saves people's lives. I've worked in partnership with my staff, with ex-service organisations and the Department of Veterans' Affairs for the past three years now, and we've achieved some great results together. It's also rare, though, to work in a portfolio that enjoys such bipartisan support at a federal level. I think that's because we all respect the men and women who put on the Navy uniform, the Army uniform or the Air Force uniform and work to keep us safe in challenging times.

This government is proud of its record of support for the men and women who serve in an ever-changing world. We have seen the very best of our Australian Defence Force in action over the past two years at home here in Australia, in the work they did during the summer of bushfires, more recently during flooding and storms and, of course, over the past 18 months in supporting domestic agencies with the coronavirus response. They truly have been outstanding; they've served with great distinction. But that service does not come without some risk of injuries, whether they be physical or unseen mental health concerns. My friend who asked the question, the member for Herbert, knows this very well from his personal experience. He was seriously wounded in Afghanistan, in an IED blast. He knows that recovery and transition to civilian life can be a difficult experience for many of our veterans.

It's true that most veterans do transition well—although some do demonstrate appalling errors of judgement and become members of parliament! But I've received plenty of advice, actually, from veterans who are members of parliament on both sides of the House. I see the member for Solomon nodding; he has also provided me with plenty of advice in this role. But I would say seriously that we do need to remind our veterans community and remind the Australian community more broadly that our veterans do become great citizens. They make an enormous contribution to our nation beyond their military life, and, for those who do need some form of support, it's important that we let them know that help is available. Please don't suffer in silence. Please reach out to organisations like Open Arms on 1800011046. We are continually working across this parliament to improve the system of veteran support, and this year's budget included $11.8 billion to support an estimated 325,000 veterans and their families.

I would like to make one final point to our veterans and their families. Despite the shenanigans you sometimes see in this place, this chamber respects your service. It understands that the freedom to exercise in this place every day was secured through your enormous sacrifice throughout many generations. We also recognise the eternal vigilance of today's service men and women, and, for that, we offer you a very simple thank you for your service.

3:08 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I join with the Minister for Veterans' Affairs in paying tribute to all those brave men and women who serve us in uniform. I pay tribute to the sacrifice that they make—including the sacrifice that members of this chamber have made in the past—and I commit, along with every member of this parliament, to ensuring that we do better in looking after veterans when they return home.