Veterans’ portfolio takes seat in highest table in gov
VETERANS and defence personnel will have a voice at the highest table in Federal Government for the first time in 27 years.
The Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel, Darren Chester, sat in the outer ministry until the mini-reshuffle yesterday, when his portfolio was elevated into Prime Minister Scott Morrison's cabinet.
The move has been welcomed by the military community who has previously voiced frustrations about having to deal with a revolving door of ministers - with seven of them in less than seven years, including a stint in the role by current Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for just 68 days.
Mr Chester's promotion comes as the Morrison Government moves to highlight its commitment to veterans' affairs with the announcement of unprecedented measures to tackle the scourge of military suicides with a Royal Commission-style National Commissioner for Veterans and Defence Suicide Prevention.
The Prime Minister will make a further announcement today about a $10 million boost to mental health counselling and career support for young veterans in response to serious gaps in services for those who leave Defence early in their lives.
Herbert MP Phillip Thompson, a war veteran himself, said the Minister's role was a "hard complex role" that deserved to be in cabinet.
Current and former military personnel aren't reflected in the Census, but estimates by Townsville City Council and Townsville Enterprise suggest defence personnel and their dependants account for about eight per cent of the population of Australia's largest garrison city.
Mr Chester, who has served in the portfolio for 700 days, said he was "honoured".
"While we have achieved a lot, we know there is more to do and we are absolutely committed to ensuring our veterans and their families are looked after," he said.
Mates4Mates Townsville Manager Denis Devantier said the elevation of the veterans' affairs portfolio was "another positive step" to ensuring the issue were prioritised.
"Over the past year the discussion and awareness around suicide among veterans has definitely been gaining momentum, locally and nationally, but we know there's still more work to be done in this space to ensure suicides are reduced," he said.