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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Transcript of Interview with Paul Murray
Drive – 6PR Perth

Topics: Fresh WA Senate Election, damage caused by the Carbon Tax and MRRT, National Anzac Centre Albany, plans for the Centenary of Anzac, veteran mental health. 

PAUL MURRAY: Michael Ronaldson, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, joins me in the studio. Michael is also the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac. It's going to be a big deal here in Western Australia. Of course, the Anzac fleet left from Albany, which I think is one of the reasons that Michael's here. However, if you do have a question on veterans' affairs, I'm sure he will do his best to answer it, and so we'll take your calls on 92211882.

Good afternoon, Michael.

MICHAEL RONALDSON: Good afternoon, Paul.

PAUL MURRAY: There is a Senate by-election on that probably you've heard about.


PAUL MURRAY: Would that have anything to do with your appearance?

MINISTER: No, no. The trip was to go down to Albany and have a look at the National Anzac Centre down there, but as the Special Minister of State, the Australian Electoral Commission is part of my - they're under my bailiwick, although they are an independent statutory authority.  I have made my views very clear about the fact that these lost votes were a very, very poor reflection on the Australian Electoral Commission. The people of Western Australia should not have to go back to the polls again in early April. It is very, very disappointing. I made it quite clear to the former commissioner, who has now resigned, that we can never have a repeat of this again.

Having said that, I'm very confident that the people of Western Australia would have looked at the last six months of the Abbott Government and said that the decision they made first time around should be repeated or, if not, strengthened...

PAUL MURRAY: …So you reckon you'd get your three positions?

MINISTER: Well, I'd like to see Slade Brockman get up in that fourth spot. I mean, the only way, quite frankly...

PAUL MURRAY: Come on, Michael, I have to turn on the cold showers if you keep…

MINISTER: …Well, look, he's a good man, Slade. I'd like to see him there. Paul, there is no doubt that the Labor Party's intransigent in relation to the carbon tax and the mining tax. People are saying  they're no different. They see in Tony Abbott a strong leader who said he'll do what's required to get rid of that carbon tax, a $620 million impact on Western Australia last year, $1.1 billion around the country on the manufacturing sector. We've just got to get rid of it.

PAUL MURRAY: You think the Barnett Government's helping you out at the moment?

MINISTER: Well, look, I don't want to reflect on what happened with the former Treasurer. These are obviously deeply personal matters.

PAUL MURRAY: Will that impact on the way West Australians think about the Liberal Party?

MINISTER: No, I don't think so, Paul, because I think people have seen in these six months that Tony Abbott is a very strong leader, he knows that we have inherited a dreadful situation and when you get rid of those imposts, such as the mining tax and the carbon tax, in this great state of yours, it gets this monkey off your back and starts again.

PAUL MURRAY: But if the mining tax isn't raising any money, how can it be doing any damage?

MINISTER: Well, the trouble with the carbon tax and the mining tax is that none of our competitors overseas have got these taxes imposed on them, and this 1.1 billion impost on Australian manufacturers is actually a tax that no one else overseas pays and we can't compete.

I mean, you know as well as I do that Western Australia's going through a transition stage now and we want to make sure that that development continues and we want to see the great state of Western Australia, which makes a huge contribution to national output, we want to see Western Australia in the best position to deliver that. The only way that we can do it, quite frankly, is to get the three senators and even Slade Brockman elected. I know it's a big ask, but we want to see them there so we can guarantee the removal of those sort of taxes and get back and start paying some of this dreadful debt off.

I mean, $10,000 million a year in interest repayments before we start building a road between here and Albany. It's crazy stuff.

PAUL MURRAY: Let's get you off politics and get you on to the centenary of Anzac. What will we see here in WA?

MINISTER: In Albany on 1 November this year is the start of the centenary commemorative period and what I want to see is - I mean, you know and I know how important Albany is. I want, on 1 November, all Australians to know that this is where the story started. These were ordinary men from my home town of Ballarat in Victoria, throughout New South Wales, and you see the memorials, you've seen them, where the uncles and the brothers and the sons were effectively taken off the farms, out of the small business, and they thought it was a journey of excitement. It became, of course, a journey of horror. And they gathered in Albany and they left from there in huge numbers.

PAUL MURRAY: What a sight that was. That photograph of that fleet assembled down here is something else. Yeah, that harbour.

MINISTER: It just is quite extraordinary. Now, to some extent, I think it's the untold story of this nation's history and I'm sure that after 1 November the 100 years that people will understand what Albany's place is in our nation's history. The centre down there, the Anzac Centre, it's nearly a $10 million project. I was down there today looking at the development. They have, in the space of five months, literally, gone from sand off to a building. So that centre will be very...

PAUL MURRAY: …What will it be like? Will it be an interpretive centre?

MINISTER: It will be an interpretive centre to the extent it will tell the story. In fact, they were telling us today that there will be 30 stories of Anzacs and when you walk in...

PAUL MURRAY: Personal stories?

MINISTER: Yeah, you'll be able to track those through and if you've got no interest in history, which I'm sure everyone will, but if you've got no interest in history, even the views are worth going down there for. It is absolutely spectacular. But this is a really important place in Australia's history and I don't think enough people know about it.

PAUL MURRAY: Lays claim of course to the first dawn service Albany - part of the whole ANZAC tradition.

MINISTER: Yeah absolutely. And look when you look at where these men ended up. Now six months later in April next year of course we'll see that 100 years in Gallipoli and there will be some 10,500 Australians and Kiwis there. There's been a ballot process that we've gone through and nearly 50,000 Australians put in for the ballot and I think that shows the level of interest, the level of commitment and I want to see every one of those people who don't get into the ballot, even those who do down at Albany over the next four years, over the next ten years to have a look and I think all Australians will be really proud of what's happening.

PAUL MURRAY: I'm sure you're right. So we'll just ask you to put those headphones on…


PAUL MURRAY: …because I have told people that if they do have questions about your portfolio that you might be able to answer some questions. Drew from Baldivis is on the line. Hi Drew. Michael's listening.

CALLER DREW: Yeah g'day Paul. Thanks for taking my call. Yeah Minister I'd like to ask about a subject that’s been occurring on and off for many years which is the [indistinct] benefit that has money stuck in MSBS. I was in the military for nearly 10 years. I served my country, I went overseas on deployment multiple times including operational deployment to the Middle East and the way that my country thanked me is to lock my super up and CPI for the rest of my working life. And all I've heard about since then from successive governments, is rhetoric and talk including from the Prime Minister recently talking about how he would look into it which basically as far as I can see equates to he'll do nothing about it. So what I want to know is when is something going to be done to make this equitable and fair for veterans?

MINISTER: Drew, thanks very much for that question. Now part of your MSBS is locked away and is as you know is only increased by CPI. The other half of the box is actually getting returns in the open market. The group who's not getting that of course are the DFRDB, the DFRB recipients and we have promised to do that. I've taken that matter through cabinet and we will make some announcements about that shortly. And those…

PAUL MURRAY: Is that in the contest of the budget?

MINISTER: It is and indeed this was a commitment that was made over the last three years. Those on DFRDB-DFRB Paul are only CPI indexed, it is grossly-grossly unfair and we intend doing something about that and there's some 57,000. Now Drew has raised another matter that's actually not in my portfolio. I know there is some angst about it but those on the newer scheme are far better off than those under the old DFRDB-DFRB scheme which I'm sure Drew would acknowledge.

PAUL MURRAY: Okay Drew, well it sounds like there might be some good stuff coming down the tube at you.

We had a discussion last week on this program, Michael, about post-traumatic stress disorder which appears to be a sort of growing issue for Veterans' Affairs. Are you satisfied that people with PTSD - that the hurdles that they have to jump to get compensation coming to them are not onerous because that was the sort of line that was coming to us last week.

MINISTER: Paul, what I have said when I was sworn in was that I was not to sit back and repeat the mistakes of the past. Now the Vietnam and the treatment of those Vietnam men when they returned was absolutely appalling and they were a group of people who were doing no more and no less than serving the nation at the nation's request and what we did to them is still there even today and we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. I've made it quite clear to the department that those mental health issues are pivotal. I'll be making some announcements about how we're going to get the best advice in relation to that over the next week.

The contemporary veterans - the face of the department will change over the next five years in a way we've never seen it change before. Now we've got an ageing Second World War veteran population now. They've very old men and women and five years time regrettably there'll not be many of those men and women left. We've got the Vietnam era, the Korea, Malaya, Borneo era and we've got these contemporary veterans and not many people realise it but there's nearly as many people who served this nation in the last twenty years has served in the whole of the Vietnam and Korean war, about 60,000.

Now some of those men and women will come back and they'll be fine and they'll go and they'll get back into civvy street and they'll get back to their jobs or they'll do something else - some will not. And we've got to make sure we look after those men and women as soon as their issues arise and not try and deal with them about 10 or 15 years later when the damage quite frankly is done.

PAUL MURRAY: So we're going to expect an announcement specifically on post-traumatic stress disorder in a week?

MINISTER: In relation to the consultative group which is going to be advising the Prime Minister and myself that announcement will be made shortly. So we are very very serious about this. And my ADC is sitting across the road from you at the moment, I think as a…

PAUL MURRAY: I thought she was security.

MINISTER: No, she's my ADC. I'm very fortunate and Alana has just returned from Afghanistan herself. So she's the modern face of the Australian Defence Force. She'll be the modern face of the Department of Veterans' Affairs although I don't think she'll be a client for it some time yet but - so these are the contemporary veterans and we're going to make sure we do not repeat those past mistakes.

PAUL MURRAY: It's been good to talk to you Michael. Thanks a lot.

MINISTER: Thanks Paul.

PAUL MURRAY: Michael Ronaldson, Minister for Veterans' Affairs.


Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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