Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (6.43 pm): I rise to speak on the Queensland Veterans’ Council
Bill 2021. The title of the bill is a misnomer. It is misleading. It implies that it will deal with veterans
issues. In reality, the government is proposing a bill which is really an asset management body for
Anzac Square in Brisbane and the Anzac Day Trust Fund. As it stands, it is not a body to provide
recommendations and advice on veterans matters.
The explanatory notes say that the bill aims to establish a Queensland Veterans’ Council, or
QVC, as a statutory body which will deal with both the administrative and management issues of Anzac
Square and the Anzac Day Trust Fund and provide advice to government. That advisory role, which
has relegated the wide range of issues facing veterans to be ‘other matters’, is an afterthought. The
Veterans’ Council and its members should not be solely managerial. It also needs to understand the
range and breadth of issues affecting veterans of all ages and experiences.
Anzac Square was dedicated as Queensland’s state war memorial 12 years after the end of the
First World War, in 1930. Over the 91 years since then the Brisbane City Council has been the trustee
and borne the cost of maintaining the parkland around the memorial. This bill will transfer that
responsibility to the state. In anticipation, the government allocated an annual $2.4 million in last year’s
budget for the ongoing curation and oversight of Anzac Square.
Another legacy of the First World War was the establishment of the Anzac Day Trust Fund
100 years ago, in 1921. Funds from state government grants provide annual payments to institutions,
organisations or associations to help ex-service personnel and their dependants. Previously a board of
four trustees administered it. Now that will be undertaken by the Veterans’ Council. Both have their
origins in the aftermath of the First World War.
So too does every region, town and community across this state have its own war memorial and
commemorative sites. In Gympie these include Normanby Hill Remembrance Park, Gympie Memorial
Rotunda, Imbil War Memorial, Kandanga War Memorial, Gympie War Memorial Gates, Cooloola Cove
Vietnam War Memorial and the Amamoor School memorial orchards. Memorial Lane in Gympie is
unique and is the site of Gympie’s pictorial war memorial, with murals along the lane. There are
memorial halls in Widgee, Wolvi, Traveston and Theebine, which also has a memorial roll of honour.
There is a memorial park in Tin Can Bay. There are war memorials in Tin Can Bay, Widgee and
Glenwood and a cenotaph and memorial grounds in Rainbow Beach. A number of Gympie schools
have even established their own memorials. It does not matter how small the towns are, these sites
demonstrate the pride and respect Gympie has in its connection with serving men and women. It is
reflected right across the community.
Almost daily we hear and read about the difficulties faced by our current and returning service
men and women. We have a duty—we have an obligation—to provide them the support and assistance
they need. It is important that the government seeks advice from those who know and understand the
complex issues facing the veteran community and their families. The RSL reminds us that the veteran
community has been a continuous thread in our communities for more than 100 years. Gympie has an
RSL, and Tin Can Bay and the Mary Valley have an RSL subbranch. Currently the RSL in our
community takes on the role of supporter and adviser and is the conduit between government agencies
and the men and women who need help. It provides ongoing support to veterans and their families. The
Gympie RSL has a human resources section which provides a veterans support service.
It is disappointing that this government’s obsession with bureaucratic and political appointments
was reflected in the proposed membership of the QVC. To only allow two veteran representatives to
the QVC pays lip-service to the real-world experience of the veteran community. It meant non-veterans
making decisions on issues only veterans have an in-depth knowledge of. The government thought only
two veterans would be enough.
The committee received 12 submissions from a wide range of organisations representing
veterans and returned services men and women. Among them were Australian War Widows
Queensland, former executive members of the Queensland Veterans’ Advisory Council, Queensland
Advisory Committee for the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary, the RSL, Legacy, the Royal
Australian Regiment Association, Royal Australian Air Force Association Queensland Division and
Defence Force Welfare Association Queensland. Every one of them—all of them—were concerned
about the lack of veteran representation. They pointed out that the government should ensure veterans
have a majority voice by increasing representation. They were also concerned that the focus was going
to be on the administration of the trust fund and Anzac Square. This would have relegated the wide
range of issues facing veterans to ‘other matters’ as an afterthought.
Submissions to the bill highlighted the need to increase veteran representation on the QVC to
half or more. They also proposed: that the chair have a military background; that public servants did not
override the experience of returning service men and women; that public servants have an advisory
role on the QVC; and that decisions on the activities of the Anzac Day Trust are only made by veteran
members of the QVC.
The government has a notorious track record in having to amend legislation which it has only just
introduced. The government will move to amend its membership to a fifty-fifty representation. They
should not have played politics with veterans. It is inexcusable to suggest that veterans would not get
the majority say.
Our communities rely on the dedication and hard work of veterans, as well as support groups,
stakeholders and volunteers, to hold many of our commemoration events, such as Anzac Day and
Vietnam Veterans Day. They are often hosted by RSL branches and other organisations across
Queensland. They create opportunities for Queenslanders of all ages to reflect on and commemorate
the service of our service men and women, both past and present.
We have much to be proud of from our serving personnel, both now and in the past. They have
a breadth of knowledge and experience which should not be ignored. This is why the LNP amendments
should be supported. Our amendments recognise the issues put forward by many in the veterans
community. The LNP amendments will give back control of veterans issues to veterans themselves.
They will ensure a majority of members are veterans and the chair is a veteran. The prime role of the
council should be to deal with veterans matters, not just an asset management role. It will make the
Veterans’ Council match its title—that it will be about veterans and not just an asset management body.
I support the LNP amendments.