The Coalition is calling on the Albanese Labor Government to reinstate critical funding for veteran support services today, including $5 million to build a Veteran Wellbeing Centre on the Sunshine Coast.
Visiting the Sunshine Coast, home to one of the most populous regions of ex-serving ADF personnel, Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Barnaby Joyce said the Albanese Government’s priorities are out of whack.
“It all started with the Prime Minister’s decision to dump the position of Minister for Veterans’ Affairs from the Cabinet,” said Mr Joyce, who is visiting the Sunshine Coast seats of Fairfax and Fisher.
“Veterans are not getting a voice at the very table where funding decisions are being made, and since then we’ve seen Veteran Wellbeing Centres cut from areas like the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay.
“Our veterans have served their country, and this is the thanks they get. It’s time our veterans got a fair go.”
According to the 2021 Census, there were 496,300 people who had previously served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), with Queensland (95,900 people) home to the highest number of previous service members.
Gold Coast (13,577), Sunshine Coast (12,485) and Wide Bay (12,312) have the highest population of ex-serving ADF personnel.
Federal Member for Fairfax Ted O’Brien said the proof is in the data.
“The Sunshine Coast is home to one of the largest populations of veterans in Australia according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Census data, so it is imperative we have the appropriate services available to support their needs,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The former Coalition Government understood and respected the needs of Australian veterans and committed more than $5 million to build a Veteran Wellbeing Centre here on the Sunshine Coast.”
“The Albanese Labor government on the other hand swiftly ripped this funding from the budget and continues to snub Sunshine Coast veterans.”
The former Coalition Government committed $70 million in the March 2022 Budget to support the creation of 14 new Veteran Wellbeing Centres to join the six already operating nation-wide, based in locations with a significant veteran population.
However, in the October 2022 Budget, the newly elected Labor Government invested $46.7 million to expand the Veterans’ and Families’ Hub network by just 10 additional hubs – a cut of $23.3 million.
Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said he will continue to fight for a Veterans Wellbeing Centre on the Sunshine Coast but applauded the efforts by local ex-serving ADF personnel who continue to stand up for their mates.
“The strength of character and incredible work done by the likes of Young Veterans President Peter Kennedy, will go it alone to provide a wellness hub for veterans in Beerwah doesn’t make this right,” Mr Wallace said.
“I applaud PK, but that doesn’t let this Labor Government off the hook. This is about supporting veterans and their families on behalf of a grateful nation. How can the Labor Government possibly stand in an RSL, or at an Anzac Day or Remembrance Day service, knowing they have turned their back on veterans in regions like the Sunshine Coast.”
The 2023/24 Federal Budget papers have also confirmed that funding for veteran’s hubs would fall to zero dollars within three years.
The impact on veterans’ services was compounded by Labor’s decision to cut $15 million in funding to RSL, Soldier On and Disaster Relief Australia for veteran employment programs.
The eight sites for veterans’ hubs axed by Labor are:
- Mackay (Qld)
- Wide Bay Burnet (Qld)
- Sunshine Coast (Qld)
- Mid-north coast region (NSW)
- Wagga Wagga (NSW)
- Greater Melbourne
- Mornington Peninsula
- Greater Sydney
Veterans looking for counselling or support services can contact Open Arms for free and confidential 24/7 support on 1800 011 046.