Doorstop Interview, Parliament House Canberra

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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4 August 2022

SUBJECTS: Climate Change Bill; Nuclear energy; Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

JOURNALIST: I understand you had a meeting yesterday with John and Robyn Halloran?


JOURNALIST: What message did they have for you after the death of their son earlier in the year?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: John and Robyn explained to us the tragic circumstances of their son's passing and we expressed on behalf of the government our sincerest sympathies to the family and thanked them for his service to our nation. They've pointed out some issues that they would like to see the new government look at in terms of protocols that are put in place for situations such as this. And myself and Matt Keogh, the Veterans' Affairs Minister, have committed to the family to work with Defence and Veterans' Affairs to look at those procedures and ensure that we're listening to the veterans, we're listening to Defence Force personnel and their families. But they are tragic circumstances, and our thoughts and prayers are with their family.

JOURNALIST: There have been three deaths, suicides, in serving ADF members in the past three months. Is it enough to wait until 2024 to act on the report? What do we need to do now to stop this?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, we'll get the interim report next week, which will provide some interim recommendations about what the government can do. Obviously, the Labor Party called for the Veterans' Royal Commission, and we supported the call of families that were pushing the then Morrison government on this important issue. The Commission is doing a good job. They've heard from hundreds of witnesses, thousands of pages with materials. And I think the fact that their timeline had to be extended by a couple of years is evidence of the number of Australians that want to have a say in this, but also the difficulty and the complexities of this problem. We will await the findings not only of the interim report, but the longer term report, we'll do all we can in the interim, to make sure that Defence and Veterans' Affairs have the capability to deal with these issues and to put in place measures to ensure that we hopefully over time reduce those shocking statistics.

JOURNALIST: You haven't seen the report yet. But if the interim report makes recommendations for the Labor Government, will you implement them?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, obviously we will have a look at the report and see what it says. We can't, we can't sort of predict what those recommendations are going to be. But we will make sure that we work with Defence and with Veterans' Affairs and do all that we can to strongly implement those recommendations as quickly as possible and make sure that the support is there for Defence Force personnel and veterans in the future. Thank you.


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