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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 3270


Mr LLEW O'BRIEN (Wide BayDeputy Nationals Whip) (15:00): My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Will the minister update the House on how we're supporting our veterans and their families? What services and programs have the government delivered since the 2017 budget?

Mr CHESTER (GippslandMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Deputy Leader of the House) (15:01): I thank the member for Wide Bay for his question and his longstanding interest in veterans' issues and also recognise his service in a different uniform, that of the Queensland Police Service. We argue about a lot of things in this place, but there's one area in which there's no question at all that we do have bipartisan support, and that is our commitment, our obligation and our honour to care for the needs of veterans and their families. I want to thank members across the chamber. Many of you attended Anzac Day commemorations in your own electorates on 25 April. It's a day for us to respect and remember the service of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. In the order of 102,000 Australians have lost their lives in conflicts throughout our history, and many more have been wounded in those conflicts and peacekeeping missions.

As the Prime Minister himself has said on many occasions, the best way for us to remember those who have served and to recognise their efforts in earlier conflicts is to look after the veterans of today. As a new minister in this portfolio, I'm determined to make sure that we put the interests of veterans first—more precisely, put the interests of veterans and their families first.

Currently, there are 288,000 Australians who are assisted by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and the government invests in the order of $11 billion per year to provide support services to them. This includes services provided by the medical profession and access to veterans' and veterans' families' counselling services. We know—as all members across the chamber know—that the impact of mental health issues on veterans and their families is one of great concern. We're making sure that mental health treatments are applied effectively and in a timely way because the faster we can provide support to our veterans, the better the chances of recovery.

A key part of the government's commitment to our veterans is also assisting in the transition from the ADF to civilian life. The Prime Minister, through his Veterans' Employment Program, is encouraging industry and businesses throughout Australia to recognise the benefits of employing veterans throughout the nation. I have a simple message to corporate Australia and the wider business community: employing veterans will be good for your business because they have the skills, values and work ethic you need and will make a valuable contribution to your business.

We should be proud in this place and we should be proud as Australians for the work we do to support our veterans across the nation, but we can always do things better. A hundred years ago, the newly formed Repatriation Commission set out to do the right thing by our returning soldiers and the families of those who didn't return. The DVA itself is continuing to transform—and I want to thank the former ministers in this place for the work they undertook over the last 12 months—the way we offer services and the way we support veterans and their families. On behalf of all members on both sides of the chamber, I want to thank those veterans for their service and also thank those who continue to serve in the Australian Defence Force. You should all be proud of your efforts to keep us safe.