MEDIA – ABC TV News Breakfast – Transcript – Anzac Day

DARWIN, 25 April 2021

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM, HOST: In the Northern Territory, the sun rose over the Esplanade in Darwin as the Last Post rang out at the Cenotaph. Services were also held in Palmerston, Katherine, Adelaide River, Alice Springs, and smaller communities across the Territory. We can now go to Darwin and speak to Luke Gosling, Labor MP and retired Australian Army officer.

Welcome to Weekend Breakfast this morning, Luke Gosling. Now you’ve been to the Palmerston service, I’ve been told. How was that?

LUKE GOSLING, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: It was fantastic in Palmerston, such a vibrant community and with the Army base of Robertson Barracks just nearby, there were loads of families out, and it was a great march, big crowds, And it was a really solemn occasion. I got to catch up with  crowds. And it was really charming to catch up with some matesI hadn’t seen for a while, and it was a beautiful dawn service here in Darwin this morning. So it’s been a big day here in the far north and a beautiful one.

IBRAHIM: And on this day, what are you reflecting on in particular?

GOSLING: I’m fourth generation [veteran], so it’s those that have gone before us, but also the next generation coming after us. My daughter Sally wore my dad’s dad’s World War Two medals, my pop. So it’s a time to think of all those who served, those that have given the ultimate sacrifice. And out at Palmerston Ray Palmer, the father of Scotty Palmer, who was a Territory lad killed in Afghanistan with the 2nd Commando Regiment. We reflected on those that like Scott over the generations, have given their life for our great country. And so it’s a time to think about those who have gone before us and for families to come together and to remember those that have served, those that we’ve lost, but also with hope for the future.

IBRAHIM: Luke, you spent about 13 years. In the Army and various leadership roles. Was it difficult for you to transition from the military to civilian life?

GOSLING: Yeah, it was, and I think that everyone has some difficulties in transition, but overwhelmingly veterans transition out of the Australian Defence Force and just, you know, kick on and work through those those feelings of the loss of identity and purpose that comes with serving for our nation, and just make awesome contributions throughout society, in the private sector and in the not-for-profit sector, in all parts of our society.

But there is no doubt that you have your ups and downs. And that’s why it’s been so important that we finally have this royal commission into veteran and defence suicides, because anyone who pulls on the uniform for our nation should have the best possible system of support. So it’s been great to have that confirmed recently. It’s, as a Vietnam veteran said to me, “too late for some, but it will be a lifesaver for others” as we improve that system of care.

IBRAHIM: Just on that issue itself. A lot of people and a lot of families who’ve lost their loved ones have said that there isn’t enough support for war vets. What’s your thoughts on that? What can be improved?

GOSLING: It needs a systematic review and an arm’s-length review, which is why federal Labor’s been pushing for a royal commission with so many other veterans in the community and ex-service organizations, because we need to make sure that we’ve got the best possible system of support. And there’s no doubt that the ESO sector, the ex-service organisation sector, can be supported more to provide support. But we also need to get our supports for families improved, there’s more that we can be doing. We should be proud of the system we have at the moment, but it is letting some veterans fall through the cracks. So it’s great that we’re going to have a systematic review to improve those systems and link them up, case manage individuals where they need it, so that they can get on with life.

IBRAHIM: Luke, I want to bring your attention to the recent Brereton report. And you were among several military people who opposed the move to strip the meritorious unit citation from the whole Special Operations Task Group. Why is that?

GOSLING: I just thought it wasn’t a good recommendation. I represent the people of Darwin and Palmerston. There are quite a few in our community here that received a meritorious unit citation for service with the Special Operations Task Group, but also from my service, I know many that were in that organisation that performed an outstanding and very difficult job in Afghanistan. I worked in Afghanistan and I know how difficult the operating environment there was.

But to strip that meritorious unit citation off everyone for the sins of a few that still need to be worked through the legal process, I thought was not a good idea. And that’s why I spoke up strongly against that stripping, and obviously welcome that the Government have said that that award will not be taken off those brave Australians.

IBRAHIM: The MP Andrew Hastie, who also served as an SAS officer in Afghanistan, has said that there needs to be more openness to public interest reporting of Australia’s war effort. And if there had been, then some of those events that we saw in Afghanistan would not have happened. Do you think there is a need for more transparency in the military?

GOSLING: I think it’s important that when members of the Australian Defence Force are overseas representing our nation, that our nation is there with them and with them in support. So that does mean that it’s important that the public understands, it’s communicated to the public what our fellow Australians, our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, are doing in harm’s way. What is the objective? And that we can measure that, get updates on how that’s going, because it is really important that our men and women in uniform, whilst doing these difficult roles overseas, have the support of the community and the knowledge that it’s an important role.

And as the son of a Vietnam veteran, I don’t want to see what happened to that generation where the public didn’t understand and didn’t treat them well on their return. Hopefully, the the biggest-ever crowds in Darwin for a dawn service this morning tells me, certainly here in the capital of northern Australia, that the service of our serving men and women is totally appreciated.

IBRAHIM: All right, MP Luke Gosling, thank you so much for your time this morning.

GOSLING: It’s been great, have a wonderful day.

ENDS