Motion: Teddy Sheean VC

I thank the member for Braddon for moving this motion, and it does give me great pride to stand here to speak to it. This private member's motion follows my own in June this year on the same subject, in which I made the following remark:

The matter of whether Teddy Sheean deserves a Victoria Cross is settled. The 2019 report of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal outlines in comprehensive and compelling detail why the Tasmanian 18-year-old should be awarded the Commonwealth's most distinguished military honour.

I am pleased to be able to stand here just three months later knowing that Teddy Sheean has finally been awarded the Victoria Cross that his selfless actions merited.

The member for Braddon and I share Teddy Sheean. Teddy was born in Lower Barrington in the north-west of my electorate, but he grew up in La Trobe, a few short kilometres away from his birthplace but just over the Lyons border in Braddon. It is fair to say that the people of Latrobe claim Teddy as theirs, and I am sure that in the years is to come an appropriate memorial will be erected in the town to mark the fact that he has now been awarded the Victoria Cross. I look forward to that day.

The campaign to see Teddy Sheean awarded the Victoria Cross has been one of decades. None has waged it longer than Garry Ivory, a nephew of Teddy's, and Guy Barnett, a former Tasmanian senator and now a minister in the Tasmanian Liberal government. Without the tireless efforts and dedication of these two men, Teddy would not have received the Victoria Cross that his actions had merited. It is right that Garry and Guy be acknowledged as the primary drivers of this campaign. But it is necessary to point out that this day would not have arrived if it had not been for the dedication to duty of the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal, which recommended that Teddy be awarded the Victoria Cross; it would not have arrived if not for the efforts of tens of thousands of ordinary Australians who put their names to petitions and postcards demanding that the Prime Minister reverse his initial decision to refuse to abide by the tribunal's recommendation; it would not have arrived if Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie had not, in her own unique and less than subtle way, shamed the government and its Tasmanian MPs; and it most certainly would not have arrived if it had not been for Labor leader Anthony Albanese declaring that a future Labor government would abide by the recommendation of the independent tribunal and grant the Victoria Cross to Teddy Sheean if this government did not.

These combined efforts, some led by the community and others by elected parliamentarians of all stripes, resulted in the Prime Minister revisiting the issue. As a face-saving exercise, he did not reverse his refusal immediately but constituted a new panel to review the appeals tribunal's recommendation—an appeals panel of an appeals panel. The findings of the new panel, headed by former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson, were never in doubt. This time the PM accepted the recommendation and made the request of Her Majesty, and Teddy Sheean finally was granted the VC his actions merited.

On the day the Prime Minister made the announcement, I was in Triabunna, a small town on the east coast of my electorate. I was sitting in my car just before heading to a meeting, and a man tapped on my window. You never know what you'll get when someone taps on your window, but this was a good one. He wanted to thank me for my efforts in the Teddy Sheean campaign and the thousands of postcards I'd collected and forwarded on to the PM, and he asked, 'Has there been an update?' I was delighted to let him know that, just 30 minutes beforehand, the Prime Minister had announced that he would recommend Teddy for the VC.

Last week I received two cards from constituents who had sent in postcards asking the PM to reverse his initial refusal. Catherine thanked me for giving her the opportunity to be involved in the cause, while Lynn said she was over the moon at the result. Neither of these women knew Teddy. They have no links to him other than being Tasmanian. The same can be said for most who signed and sent in their postcards. People often included small notes and personal touches, and many were from veterans who included their service numbers and records. Every single person who sent in a postcard was invested. They cared enough to fill in the details, pay for a stamp and put their postcard in a letterbox. Their request was a simple one—that the Prime Minister abide by the recommendation of the independent tribunal. There was nothing in it personally for the 2,000 Tasmanians who sent in their postcards—no prize, no recognition. They just wanted to right a historical wrong. They knew down to their guts that an 18-year-old kid born in Lower Barrington who'd died a hero, thousands of miles from home, firing a gun aboard a sinking ship and saving his shipmates, deserved the Victoria Cross. Lest we forget.