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The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC


27 October 2018

Darren Chester with Basil Zempilas and Monique Wright (Weekend Sunrise)


MONIQUE WRIGHT: The Federal Government is to make a major announcement today on new benefits for returned servicemen and women and their families.

BASIL ZEMPILAS: The Minister for Veterans' Affairs Darren Chester is here at brekkie central to reveal those details. Minister, good morning to you. It sounds terrific, the introduction of a new Veterans’ Card, just tell us how it's going to work.

DARREN CHESTER: Good morning guys. And I guess in the spirit of the Invictus Games and as we lead up to the centenary of Anzac now in just a month's time or so, it's important that Australians have opportunities to respect and recognise our veterans beyond just those couple of times of the year. So, the idea of the Veterans' Covenant is a promise, a pledge we make as Australians to those who serve. And the Veterans’ Card will fit underneath that as something that is more tangible that perhaps businesses or other corporations might want to offer discounts to veterans and their families. So we think it's the right mix between the symbolism of the pledge and the Covenant, but also the practical action that we can all take on a daily basis.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: We know that some big companies like Woolies, Coles, Bunnings, Kmart have all got on board and say that they're going to support and give discounts to veterans. What about small businesses? Will there be any compensation from the Government for them, a lot of whom are struggling to make a living now?

DARREN CHESTER: There's no obligation on anyone to offer a particular deal to a veteran, so there'll be no compensation from Government in that regard. This is about recognising those who serve, there's about 80,000 people now who put on a uniform for us. There's 25 million Australians. On behalf of a grateful nation we think it's a reasonable thing for us to do to say if you're a business or a corporation you might want to offer some sort of a particular discount to a veteran and the card provides a mechanism for easy identification. There'll be one card that will be recognised right throughout Australia. But in terms of the broader issue, the idea of the Veterans' Covenant is more about just this pledge, this oath we can promise our veterans and their families that we'll support them. The Government does provide more than $11 billion per year to veterans and their families already. We just think this is a way that everyday Australians can do something tangible as well.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: It's a terrific idea but there will be some pressure, won't there? Small businesses will feel a pressure to offer this to them, whether they can afford to or not.

DARREN CHESTER: I think that's a reasonable point you raise, Monique, but I think more to the point small business will feel like they want to do it. When I meet with Australians and we talk issues surrounding veterans, they're very proud of the service of Australian servicemen and women and they want to do something more. So I think we're going to give them the vehicle to do that if they want to. There's already many businesses, I've been right throughout regional Australia, there's already small RSL clubs doing something similar just for their club and businesses in their small towns are already doing it. So this will, perhaps, formalise it to some extent and allow for an easily identifiable card right around Australia.

BASIL ZEMPILAS: Minister, there's other announcements as well, today. What are they?

DARREN CHESTER: It is an exciting day. The Prime Minister's obviously in town for Invictus, which has the closing ceremony tonight, and we're announcing some extra funding for a program called Kookaburra Kids, which is for current serving men and women and their families, where the kids can get a bit of a break if they need one and there's some holiday camps and things organised. It's primarily around helping families impacted by mental health issues. It's been a successful program, we want to see that continue out. It's, I think, $7.6 million in additional funding. And another project which will allow veterans and their families to have accommodation while staying at Concord Hospital getting treatment, and that's $6.7 million for Fussell House through the Soldier On organisation and in partnership with the New South Wales Government.


MONIQUE WRIGHT: That's such a great idea, where families can stay together when the veterans are getting treatment, which is going to help them then when they get home. Look, a terrific idea. We hope the closing ceremony of Invictus goes well today. There's certainly a real public push to recognise our veterans in a very public way, which is a good thing.

DARREN CHESTER: Well, Invictus has been very special and to see the crowds cheering our veterans, to see the support they've received has been something quite spectacular.

BASIL ZEMPILAS: Well done. Great announcement today, Minister, thank you.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: Thank you so much.


Media Contacts:

Whil Prendergast: 02 6277 7820
DVA Media: 02 6289 6466
Office of the Hon Darren Chester MP, Canberra

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546) or visit