Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Questions without Notice
Sheean, Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy)
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Minister Reynolds. In July 1940, the mortally wounded Leading Seaman Jack Mantle trained his weapon on a swarm of Nazi Junkers attacking HMSFoylebank. Jack Mantle was awarded the Victoria Cross. Two years later, HMAS Armidale was hit by Japanese aircraft and began to sink rapidly. Eighteen-year-old Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean was wounded during the attack. But, rather than flee, he strapped himself to his anti-aircraft cannon and opened fire. That decision to tie his fate to a gun sinking to the bottom of the ocean brought down two planes and helped save the lives of 49 crew. You have the power to recommend Teddy for Australia's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. Our question from Tasmania is this: what more could Teddy Sheean have possibly done to earn a Victoria Cross?
I thank Senator Lambie for that question. I am very well aware of the heroism and service and sacrifice of Teddy Sheean. He did the Australian Navy a great credit and he is worthy of significant acknowledgment. The issue you raise in terms of a posthumous Victoria Cross is a very challenging policy issue, which does not in any way detract from his worthiness or his service. I will take that question on notice because I'll have to find out the status of this and I will come back to you at the earliest possible opportunity.
The government has had the Teddy Sheean report before the awards and honours tribunal since July 2019; we are nearly 12 months on. Your government has blocked every effort to get it released because, you say, you are preparing a response. How long does it take to say 'accept' or 'does not accept' on a document? What is the holdup?
Garry Ivory, the nephew of Teddy Sheean, wrote to the Prime Minister in February asking for an update on when to expect a response to the government. Garry Ivory is yet to hear back. Teddy has been waiting for recognition for 78 years. How long is the Prime Minister planning to keep his nephew waiting?
Again, I'll take that on notice and I'll get back to you at the earliest possible opportunity. As I said, I do understand the passion for his service and his contribution to our nation, not only of Tasmanians but of all naval personnel and in fact of all Australians. But the awarding of a posthumous VC is not an easy issue. I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can; you have my word on that.