• Hannah Phillips

This Week in Parliament

Darren Chester, the Minister for Veterans Affairs, appeared at the National Press Club on Wednesday when he gave an address entitled ‘Is This As Good As It Gets’.

He asked whether this is good as it gets for Australia, the regions, the Parliament and for veterans.

He said that we could be more positive, respectful and constructive.

He told his audience that when he was Minister for Infrastructure he would regularly ring his Labor counterpart, Anthony Albanese, to discuss issues with him and they would often reach agreement on the measures to be taken.

He also said that he was supported by a very good departmental Secretary, Liz Cossen, who was a former major general in the Army.

He says that his portfolio invites bipartisanship, adding that he puts veterans and their families first.

The best economic security for veterans is for them to have a job so a lot of emphasis is being put on encouraging businesses to employ veterans who have highly transferrable skills.

At the moment the unemployment rate among veterans is about 8%.

Some of this is due to the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) although the extent of this is over-stated and the mechanisms in place to deal with it are very sophisticated.

Anyone who has served one day in the defence forces is entitled to treatment for PTSD.

He said people who are active in the defence forces have a lower level of PTSD than the general population but once they transition out the incidence goes up.

This means there have to be better supports for transitioning service people.

During the Invictus Games Mr Chester will conduct discussions with other Veterans’ Affairs Ministers on post service support for veterans.

Commenting on the National Party he said that it had recently experienced one of its biggest membership growth spurts which will enable it to win more seats in larger regional centres although, to do this, the Nats will have to become a party of small business and public sector workers in the bush.

He said that regional electorates are diverse.

They favour same sex marriage, the environment and more spending on health and education even though the electorates are generally older and poorer than urban electorates.

This means that the party has to take a position on health and education.

He made the point that he was concerned that country children consistently scored lower than their city cousins.

He said there was room for improvement in the regions.

He said there needs to be a positive attitude because this is not as good as it gets.

On climate change he pointed out that rainfall was the lowest it had been in Gippsland for 90 years however he does not know whether this is seasonal variability or the consequence of anthropomorphic atmospheric change.

He said that farmers are learning to adapt to it but they also want reliable power from coal fired power stations in the La Trobe Valley to run energy intensive operations like dairy farms.

Responding to a question from Inside Canberra about the transition to employment programme, the Minister said that the Prime Minister’s initiative to get more veterans into work was proceeding well.

It involved training for people while they were still in the service so they understood what the private sector requirements are.

The other aspect is to work with employers so they are aware of the advantages of employing former service personnel.

Watch the video with Michael Keating’s question here:

From the Gallery • Eurosatory2018 was held in Paris over the week. Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne went over to showcase a number of Australian Defence companies to the world.

•In this Parliamentary week in 1991 it was the day after the first challenge to Prime Minister Hawke by his deputy Paul Keating. New Ministerial arrangements were announced in the House and the Opposition sought to get the former Deputy Prime Minister to explain to the House his resignation from the Ministry.

• Medicines Australia has announced Elizabeth de Somer as their new Chief Executive Office this week.

• Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne will visit the Kingdom of Tonga and Solomon Islands on 13 and 14 June 2018. Minister Payne’s visit to Tonga and Solomon Islands coincides with a period of high engagement with Australia’s Pacific partners through Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018 (IPE18).

• The Prime Minister was on the election trail with candidate for Braddon Brett Whiteley on Thursday.The Prime Minister visited a UTAS Rural Clinical School with Health Minister Greg Hund, Senator Richard Colbeck and the candidate and former Member for Braddon.

• The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands the Hon Rick Houenipwela and his wife Rachel came to Parliament for a state visit this week. The pair were greeted by a ceremonial guard and had meetings with various Members including the Prime Minister.

• Foreign Minister Julie Bishop delivered the keynote speech at the Australian British Chamber of Commerce Business event at the Ivy Ballroom in Sydney on Thursday.

• May’s unemployment rate in Australia is down 0.2% to 5.4%

Want to know more? Subscribe to Inside Canberra