House of Representatives, Private Members' Business
Watch Matt's speech here
As a member of Parliament, I've had the opportunity to do and experience things I would never have previously dreamed of.
In 2017 I participated in a visit to Australian Defence Personnel in the Middle East and Afghanistan, where we lived and trained alongside personnel for 10 days.
That opportunity gave me a valuable insight into the lives of the men and women in our defence forces.
We had the opportunity to learn of their experiences on the ground and to ask what we as their elected representatives can do to further support them in their roles, both here in Canberra and across the country.
Our Navy, Army and Air Force do an incredibly challenging job in often very difficult circumstances and it is important that we always support them.
As a Western Australian MP and a dad, I'm very conscious of the toll taken on any families by a FIFO lifestyle.
When I went to the Middle East, I remember standing at Darwin airport watching a Defence Force mum saying goodbye to her young family before flying out on her deployment with us.
While over there, I spoke to countless troops—sailors, air men and air women—about their families, who go up to six months or more without being reunited. That really brought home the personal sacrifice of each and every individual on the frontline and behind the scenes.
Last week this was reinforced. I had the opportunity to take part in Exercise Talisman Sabre in Queensland, the principal biennial Australian and US military training exercise that combines our Navy, Army and Air forces in high-end war fighting.
I want to thank all of the ADF personnel that enabled my visit. I have nothing but respect and admiration for our ADF members. We have an obligation to ensure that all of our personnel are kept safe, here and abroad, both mentally and physically. The same goes for when they come home.
When a person enlists in the Australian Defence Force, they undertake a commitment to our country and, necessarily, maybe placing their health and wellbeing on the line in service to our nation. In return, we are compelled to look after them and their families, both during and after their time in the Defence Force.
This commitment is more than just about their physical health. It is about taking a holistic view of the member and their loved ones.
For those who service has had a greater impact on, we have a duty to care for them and their families, now and into the future.
When an individual serves in the ADF, their family serves with them. Military families make so many sacrifices. As I said before, we're well aware that many service men and women are deployed for months at a time. This separation would no doubt cause emotional stress for them, their partners and their children. When personnel are not on deployment, they are on regular repostings to different bases around the country, meaning that they have to choose between uprooting their whole family and living apart for periods of time.
The various defence establishments around the country are not all bad, though. They also go a long way towards stimulating local economies, particularly in regional centres like Townsville, which thrive from the economic contributions of personnel and their families being based there. The Department of Defence estimates that defence activity in the region contributes approximately 20 per cent of the gross regional product. The presence of defence facilities in regional areas not only increases spending in local communities; it results in increased social and environmental support and investment, community involvement, educational and training opportunities and health access.
Similarly, a significant number of veterans make great contributions to the defence industry long after they've hung up their boots, making an ongoing contribution to our nation. For example, more than 20 per cent of Boeing's defence subsidiaries—Boeing Defence Australia and Insitu Pacific—are veterans, and many are in management positions. Last year, Boeing Defence Australia was recognised for its support and recruitment of veterans and received the inaugural Prime Minister's veterans' employment award, Veterans' Employer of the Year.
Our Defence Force personnel put their lives on hold in the service of our country. They take risks and make sacrifices, sometimes committing their lives and wellbeing for the good of the country. In return we must do everything in our power to support them.
As I've heard at meetings of local RSLs and from family and friends, and as I've discussed with many constituents in my electorate, these risks and sacrifices, mental and physical, are very real. They are hard to manage. They take a huge toll on individuals and on families.
Veterans and their families need our full political and community support.
So I take this opportunity to thank all of our soldiers, sailors and aviators, deployed across the globe and based all around Australia, for everything that they do.