Sunshine Coast Federal MP Andrew Wallace has called for bipartisan support for our veterans and slammed budget cuts to Veteran Wellbeing Centres.
Eight proposed wellbeing centres, predominantly in regional Australia including the Sunshine Coast, were axed in last week’s Federal Budget with the Labor Party deeming the centres “rorts and waste”.
The Coalition committed $70 million in the March Budget to support the creation of a further 14 Veteran Wellbeing Centres, based in locations with a significant veteran population.
Labor have cut $23.3 million from the Coalition’s Budget commitment, resulting in veteran communities across Australia being denied access to support and advocacy services.
“This is about backing our veterans on behalf of a grateful nation” Mr Wallace said. “It is disappointing to see Labor turn its back on regions like the Sunshine Coast and unthinkable to see cuts for veterans’ services.
“A re-elected Coalition Government would have been able to deliver much-needed services including support for transition, employment, and health for our veteran community.
“Instead, Labor’s budget razor gang has struck again with yet another cut that affects regional Australia including one of the fastest growing regions in the country with a large veteran population.”
Sunshine Coast Young Veterans President Peter Kennedy said cuts to the veteran hubs were disgraceful”.
“This is a complete disrespect to our veterans and their families,” Mr Kennedy said.
“If you’re a veteran and you wake up this morning to read this, you shake your head, and you ask yourself why
did I bother – why did I bother serving my country if my nation doesn’t care about me. It’s a very sad day to be a veteran.”
RSL Sunshine Coast and Regional District President Ian Hall said the veteran hubs serve a beneficial purpose for the veterans and their families.
“I’m rather surprised because I thought as a result of the Royal Commission, which is being conducted at the moment, it has been identified that these veteran hubs are needed and are beneficial to veterans,” Mr Hall said.
The two Sunshine Coast advocates said the knock back will unite the community and strengthen their resolve to support veterans and their families.
“If we can do anything towards advantaging the situation for veterans and for these hubs, then we will go in and we will fight for them,” Mr Hall said. “The veteran community here can see the need for these hubs, so therefore, as always, mates will look after mates, and we will go into fight to make sure this occurs.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Barnaby Joyce, has demanded an urgent explanation from Prime Minister Albanese as to how veteran support services were deemed wasteful in Labor’s first budget, while radical protest movements such as the Climate Warriors Training Program and the Environmental Defenders Office, were being provided with millions of dollars in ongoing funding.
Mr Joyce warned that veterans were not getting a fair deal out of the Federal Budget following the decision of the Prime Minister to dump the position of Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, from the Cabinet.
“That means veterans are not getting a voice at the very table where funding decisions are being made,” Mr Joyce said.
“When Labor said it was going to axe programs that they considered to be rorts and waste, no one thought that was going to be the important support services for our veterans.”
Veterans looking for counselling or support services can contact Open Arms for free and confidential 24/7 support on 1800 011 046.