Decision Maker

Darren Chester

  • Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel

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Petitioning Darren Chester, Scott Morrison, Anthony Albanese, Darren Chester, Shayne Neumann

A Royal Commission into the Veteran suicide rate in Australia

This is my much-loved son, David. David loved his 20-year career in the Royal Australian Navy. On February 1 this year, my David took his own life after a crippling battle with Post-Traumatic Stress injury. He desperately wanted to stay alive, but David was failed by a broken system that is seeing more than one veteran a week take their own life. More than one death a week. That’s why I am calling for an urgent Royal Commission into veteran suicide rates. This petition is about the systemic failures the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), who had numerous opportunities to save my son and they failed. David was just one of too many veterans losing their battle with PTSD. This failure has created a whole new warzone for our veterans, one they can’t come home from. The people at ADF and DVA want to help, but their hands are tied by protocols and procedures. They are bogged down in paperwork and do nothing for the well-being of those that seek their help. Since WWI, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and families and friends have been asking for a Royal Commission into the systemic failures that result in the suicide of our veterans. I don't want to be the mother that fights for a Royal Commission and I don't want to be the mother that has lost her child, but in their own words: my hands are tied. I will not stop until we see action by our Government. I owe it not only to my amazing son, David but to all veterans and their families. This is a national tragedy, and something needs to be done about it. I call on the Australian Government to establish a Royal Commission with wide terms of reference to examine and make recommendations regarding the Australian Veteran suicide rate and what can be done in practical terms to address this tragic situation. If you agree that this is a national crisis that needs to end - please, sign and share this petition. Julie-Ann Finney, proud mother of Dave Stafford Finney. If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. This petition was originally started by Phil Essam.

Julie-Ann Finney
263,269 supporters
Petitioning Darren Chester, Darren Chester MP, Andrew Laming, MP, Phillip Thompson, MP

Australian Defence Members & First Responders Killed-In-Service

Award a Killed-in-Service (KIS) clasp on their campaign or service medal to complete their story of personal service and sacrifice. KIS 4 KIS Keep it Significant 4 Killed-In-Service Story telling is important to our nation. As Australians, we do this through our honours and awards system. We award medals to athletes to celebrate their sporting achievements and to those who have excelled in academia and community service. We award bravery medals to everyday citizens who risk their lives for others. We honour Defence families with a remembrance pin. Yes, we also award medals, citations, clasps and commendations to Australian Defence Members & First Responders. These tell the story of where they served and for how long. But of those Killed-In-Service both overseas and at home, in response to emergencies, conflict and disaster, we do not officially personalise their sacrifice or conclude their record of service. Acknowledging their Personal Sacrifice is the Right thing to do!  __________________CALL for ACTION ______________________________  Please write to the Minister to express your support and include a return address for a response. The Hon. Darren Chester MPMinister of Veteran AffairsEmail: Cc: Andrew Laming MPAustralian Government (LNP)Email: Gosling MPAustralian Labor PartyEmail: Hastie MPAustralian Liberal Party (LP)Email: _________________________________________________________________ This campaign was the initiative of Warrant Officer Class 1 (Rtd) Kerry Danes, CSM  to honour fallen comrades in the Australian Defence Force and First Responders who have been Killed-In-Service.  Why the Wattle?The wattle is our national floral emblem linked to the Australian Bravery Association, the Order of Australia awards system and the highest office of the land - our Governor General, so it holds an appropriately prestigious place in the life of our nation.  Our Numbers Original petition at has over 31,543 signatures. Combined we have close to 45,000 signatures supporting this campaign (as at 22/04/18). We have also included a proposal to the Australian government for medallic recognition for those Injured or Wounded in Service, including recognition for those suffering mental illness due to service.

Kerry and Kay Danes
15,087 supporters
Petitioning Luke Foley, Bill Shorten, Gladys Berejiklian, Matt Thistlethwaite, Michael Feneley, Andrew Constance, Darren Chester, Scott Morrison, Melinda Pavey, Dominic Perrottet, Anthony Roberts

Cruise ships don’t belong in Botany Bay

We move to petition that no part of Botany Bay is developed or redeveloped to become a cruise ship terminal. Botany Bay is a place of natural beauty, steeped in history with so many generations having used and lived off the bay for centuries. The region is dotted with smaller bays, beaches and coves, and is used by thousands of Sydneysiders all year round for swimming, fishing and enjoying the natural beauty of the Australian coast. Today, Botany Bay and its array of beautiful beaches is under threat from further heavy shipping.  The Federal Government is not willing to accommodate cruise ships at Garden Island, and as a result Molineux Point and Yarra Bay have now been earmarked as two locations to be redeveloped for the purpose of creating a new cruise ship terminal. This would devastate numerous pristine beaches within Botany Bay, destroy the aquatic environment, create traffic chaos on the roads surrounding the proposed sites, and reduce property values in the area. The infrastructure surrounding the proposed sites at Botany Bay is not currently up to standard to meet the current needs of the area. The addition of a cruise terminal would only worsen an already difficult situation. No trains, poor quality and overcrowded roads, poor bus services and no room for insfrastructure growth...this is a recipe for a community disaster. The community within the south-eastern suburbs of Sydney are very proud of their history, and the natural beauty within the local area. We enjoy our beaches, and keep them clean and pristine for all to enjoy. Let’s not lose any more of our history and natural beauty by building cruise ship terminals at Molineux Point and Yarra Bay. Join our group on Facebook, “Save the Bay Coalition”, or follow on Instagram!

Chris Cafarelli
10,118 supporters
Petitioning Darren Chester MP

Save the tracks now or the Casino to Murwillumbah Railway line will be lost forever.

Our roads are so bad. There's too many trucks and too many road accidents. Traffic congestion is growing fast as tourists pour into our region and our population is constantly increasing. Carbon emissions from transport are growing and are currently 18% of our emissions. Trains could cut that by 60%. We need to let State and Federal governments know we want trains on the Casino to Murwillumbah track as soon as possible. The last thing we need right now is to lose our railway track and rail trail legislation in any section of the line would mean losing the current protection of the whole rail corridor. Tumbarumba rail land has now become crown lands following the recent rail trail legislation and the State government can do what they like with it. The North Coast of NSW has a high proportion of elderly, people on benefits, indigenous people and students. Many are unable to drive or afford a car. The lack of public transport causes suffering to the most vulnerable groups in our community. We need rail services on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line because of the urgent issue of climate change. Mass transport and rail are the most efficient and safe means of travel. The disastrous effects of climate change can be seen in the March 2017 flood in Lismore. All across the world nations are turning to rail as the most equitable and sustainable mode of transport.

Beth Shelley
2,555 supporters
Petitioning Linda Reynolds, Darren Chester, Governor General of Australia

“Great bravery in extreme danger” yet denied awards due to “maladministration”!

Following the extensive media articles published on the 24th and 25th September 2017, the Australian public and the national press asked the Governor General to intervene in the matter of the recognition of the bravery for two diggers, Captain Tony Gilchrist and Sergeant Andy Street, who risked their lives on over 180 deadly missions in Iraq in 2005. To date, neither Tony or Andy have heard anything from the Department of Defence or the Governor General. Street and Gilchrist were denied gallantry awards despite the evidence of their outstanding bravery provided from the British and US military, the FBI, Australian Commanders and other key witnesses, one of which was their ‘boss’ in Iraq, Pete Norton GC. Norton was awarded the George Cross for his work alongside Street and Gilchrist. He is the current Chair of the exclusive Victoria Cross and George Cross Association whose members includes the likes of Keith Payne VC and Ben Roberts-Smith VC. Norton knows exactly what constitutes gallantry and bravery in combat. Even the Australian Defence Force’s own Honours and Awards Directorate agreed that both Gilchrist and Street deserved recognition for gallantry. Instead, both men were given somewhat token awards for ‘distinguished service’, identical to those awards given to ADF members deployed in training, administration positions and those in command who do not see combat. The acts of digging by hand for booby-trap explosive devices, searching for bomb components amongst the bodies of 150 civilians killed in a single terrorist atrocity, hunting through crowds for a second suicide bomber immediately after a suicide attack and surviving multiple attempts on their lives including RPGs, buried IEDs, snipers and mortars were just a few of the acts of bravery well above and well beyond that expected of a distinguished service award recipient. This lack of understanding of the roles of Street and Gilchrist in Iraq forced both men to appeal for a review of their service and possibly be considered for gallantry awards. The review process took nearly 10 years through the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (DHAAT). The DHAAT were entirely responsible for the denial of gallantry awards for Andy and Tony. The Tribunal ignored over 1,300 pages of written evidence and oral and written statements given by actual witnesses who served alongside both men in the US-led Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell (CEXC). The Tribunal (which then, and still to this day, contains no member with similar operational ‘on-the-ground’ experience nor any gallantry awards), overruled witness accounts that recommended that Street and Gilchrist deserved medals of gallantry during their time as the “Baghdad bomb-hunters”. The Tribunal ignored the oral evidence provided from Australian Commanders in charge of all Australian troops deployed in the Middle East at the time of Street and Gilchrist’s deployment. Other witness statements that were dismissed were from fellow members of Andy and Tony’s ten-man patrol team, whose UK and US members were awarded a George Cross, a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery, a Mention in Dispatches, a Bronze Star, two FBI Shields of Bravery and a FBI Medal of Valour between them. Inexplicably, the Tribunal produced a single, handwritten, unofficial note allegedly written by a high-ranking ‘Australian General’ - with no connection to the men or their unit - that they used to justify the denial of awards. Surprisingly, as the media reports were quick to recognise, the DHAAT reported that they could not identify what constitutes gallantry! So why did they ignore the testimony of the likes of Norton - a soldier awarded the very highest medal for gallantry? ALL the witnesses had much more operational experience of bravery than the entire board of the DHAAT. This is surely not to be ignored when the Tribunal could not even identify what gallantry was? Following the ‘bizarre’ decision of the DHAAT, Street and Gilchrist approached those agencies that are charged with overseeing the conduct of Government organisations such as DHAAT. The Office of the Inspector-General ADF, the Defence Ombudsman, the Directorate of Investigations and Recovery and the Defence Public Interest Disclosure unit were apparently unable to investigate the Tribunal’s decision, citing that the DHAAT was freely able to make decisions that are “…functus officio in respect of this [DHAAT] review, and [they] cannot legally amend or revise this decision…”. This apparent impunity means that the DHAAT is untouchable, despite clear evidence that the Tribunal members may have omitted key information, ignored witnesses, or were subject to external influences in their decision-making process. For example, undisclosed links between the Tribunal board members and the previously mentioned ‘Australian General’ subsequently came to light which questioned the very independence of the Tribunal when it came to Gilchrist and Street. What now? Is it right that both men give up their fight for recognition? Should these two war heroes now pursue actions against the DHAAT in a court of law? Is this even possible? In a further development, as the original Daily Telegraph article noted, Street returned his Commendation for Distinguished Service medal and Certificate to the Governor General, citing that the DHAAT report had confirmed that his medal had been awarded incorrectly due to ‘Defence maladministration’. Despite numerous letters and emails written by Street, the Tribunal and Governor General both appear to refuse to talk to each other, leaving Street frustrated and angry. There is one option left: We can officially request intervention from the Governor General – the person whom is ultimately responsible for Australian honours and awards. For this to happen we need public support. If we can raise a significant number of signatures via then an official request for a response can be sought. The Governor General is the Commander-in-Chief of the ADF and is Chancellor of the Order of Australia and therefore can make a difference. Please remember that Gilchrist and Street have tried everything they can. Their story has appeared on the front page of national newspapers, has been featured on TV’s Channel 10 News, The Project and ABC’s Four Corners. They have the support from the likes of Senator Jacqui Lambie, the FBI, the US and UK military including the Chair of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. Both men have already been accepted for gallantry awards by the Defence Honours and Awards Directorate. Gilchrist and Street were recognised by Brendon Nelson - the Director of the Australian War Memorial - as having saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives by risking their own on a daily basis. Despite this, not a single response has been issued from the Governor General, Defence or the DHAAT since the media reports of September 2017. All the Australian, British and American members of the CEXC made a promise to each other. For the men who saved each other’s lives and hundreds of others, they promised that their actions would not be unrewarded. This is our last chance to appeal to the Governor General to recognise the Australians - Tony and Andy – and their acts of gallantry, lest they are forgotten. The media reports are available here:    

James Davis
1,029 supporters
Petitioning Christina Mitchell, Darren Chester, Russell Broadbent, Greg Hunt MP, Bridget McKenzie

Fair Entry for Rural Students to Monash University School of Rural Health Medicine Program

Despite a shortage of rural doctors in Gippsland, aspiring medical students that adore the region and wish to study, live and work there are prevented from doing so by a nonsensical policy made by Monash University regarding entry to their Medical Degree.  Federation University graduates from Gippsland are currently forced to move across the state or even interstate due to a Monash University policy that prevents their entry to the Monash University medicine program. The irony of the situation is that this program is delivered in Churchill at the Monash School of rural health, in the very same location as these students have completed their undergraduate degree.Recently, the national Budget allocated $95 million towards the new Murray Darling Medical school network. This school aims to train rural doctors without students needing to leave their region. However, Monash School of Rural Health had the ability to do just this: if only they would change their ridiculous and somewhat discriminatory policy. Monash school of rural health is located in Churchill, sharing buildings with Federation University who delivers a Biomedical Science degree that meets criteria for entry to all Australian Medical Schools except the Monash School of Rural Health. Monash will only accept students who have graduated from their own Biomedicine degree. Monash have been approached and asked for a rationale behind this decision, to which they have offered none. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that Monash University maintains this policy for financial gain; ensuring increased popularity for their own Biomedicine program. This Monash University policy means that Gippsland students wishing to study postgraduate medicine must move (or commute an exorbitant distance through traffic or on subpar public transport) to Monash's Clayton campus for 3 years to complete their Biomedical Science degree, before they can move back to Gippsland and study Medicine at Churchill (with placement opportunities throughout Gippsland). Otherwise, students can study biomedical science at Federation University Churchill before moving across the state or interstate to complete their medical degree. This Monash University policy is harming not only the students but the patients of Gippsland. Please help us change this policy by signing and sharing this petition if you would like to see doctors that are trained in and STAY IN GIPPSLAND.

Molly Barry
981 supporters
Petitioning Tony Abbott MP, Anthony Albanese MP, Mr John Alexander OAM MP, Dr Anne Aly MP, Karen Andrews MP, Kevin Andrews MP, Adam Bandt MP, Julia Banks MP, Sharon bird mp, Julie Bishop MP, Chris Bowen MP, An...

The hiring of specialist trained Gender Surgeons in each Australian State and Territory

To the honourable members of the Australian Parliament,  I, Elizabeth Kazon, an Intersex Transgender Female, and my fellow LGBTQIA+ individuals, allies and supporters, call upon you to without delay hire surgeons within the Medicare public health system to perform sex reassignment surgeries, thus making these certified Life Saving Surgeries, affordable for all Transgender and Intersex Australians. Within Australia, Medicare pays a rebate for some Male to Female Sex Reassignment Surgeries and some Female to Male Sex Reassignment Surgeries, however as there isn’t the possibility to have these surgeries performed in the public health system, private surgeons have a virtual monopoly, making these necessary surgeries unaffordable for a majority of Transgender and Intersex individuals. Furthermore, advancements are being made in these surgeries, however there is no opportunity for the private surgeons to learn and use these new techniques as they are constantly backlogged with patients who have no alternatives. The approximate cost in Australia to have a Penile Inversion Vaginoplasty is $18’000 excluding aftercare, fights and accommodation. A new surgery, the Peritoneum Pull-Through Vaginoplasty has been pioneered and is being performed oversees for approximately $20’000-$40’000 USD. This cost is relatively affordable when compared to the $100’000+ payable to have Phalloplasty performed in Australia. These prices are unaffordable, and it should be offered within the public system. In addition, it is with great conviction that we also believe that breast enhancement, breast reduction, Buttocks enhancement and buttocks reduction should also be performed for those holding a valid Intersex or Transgender Diagnosis as such procedures have been proven to greatly improve Transgender and Intersex individuals’ mental health.  We the undersigned call upon you, the Australian Parliament, to without delay, put pressure on the individual states and territories to hire and train 1 specialist surgeon per capital city in Australia plus at least 4 specialist nurses to assist them. These surgeons collectively should be proficient in the following new and older techniques to meet the needs of the Transgender and Intersex Individuals of Australia: ·         Peritoneum Pull-Through Vaginoplasty, ·         Sigmoid Colon Vaginoplasty, ·         Penile Inversion Vaginoplasty, ·         Facial Feminization Surgery, ·         Voice Feminization Surgery, ·         Tracheal Shave, ·         Breast and Buttock Augmentation, ·         Mastectomy, ·         Hysterectomy, ·         Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy, ·         Metoidplasty, ·         Phalloplasty. Yours with hope, 

783 supporters
Petitioning Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans Affairs

Veterans Discount Card Let Down. Govt uses private company: APOD. Too hard for some to use

The Federal Govt recently launched the Veterans Card hoping hoping to win brownie points from everyone. Whilst the card, covenant and lapel pin are nice recognition, it is supposed to include great discounts from hundreds of Australian businesses. So most veterans were expecting to see a simple list of businesses to be listed on the Dept of Veterans Affairs (DVA) website (at minimal cost to taxpayers). However, many veterans are now very upset that the Govt has done a secret deal with a private company to run it: Everyday Savers Pty Ltd trading as Australian Partners of Defence (APOD). Members are expected to join APOD and it is believed that APOD will earn fees when veterans redeem discounts online and pre-pay by credit card. Regretably, most discounts are disappointing and many require the veteran to pre-purchase a $100 gift voucher to receive a pathetic $2.50 discount. This APOD partnership with the Federal Govt needs to be reversed as it is envisaged that this partnership may cost veterans and taxpayers dearly. It is also too difficult for many older veterans to use, especially if they do not have access to the internet. To support this petition please write to your local federal member and the Minister for Veteran Affairs, Darren Chester. In the meantime, I suggest all 33,000 of us boycott APOD and just ask for a "veterans discount" at every business you visit. Even if a business does not usually give a "veterans discount", most will if asked. There are 33,000 of us veteran about to receive a Veterans Card so let us use our strength in numbers. For more discussion from veterans visit the face book group page "Australian Veterans Card Support Group"

Iain Green
557 supporters
Petitioning Department of Veterans' Affairs, The Hon Darren Chester MP

Stop the banks ripping off our military to the tune of $250million

Summary: I have recently discovered that Australian banks are charging higher interest rates on home loans for military members as they are ‘subsidised by the government’ and the military ‘can’t have everything’ (phone call from NAB home loan specialist) pocketing over $250 million over the past 10 years. Sadly, military members are being ripped off by the banks, and the Minister responsible doesn’t seem to know or care! Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, The Hon Darren Chester, you must hold the banks accountable and ensure the same interest rates are made available for DHOAS and non-DHOAS loans. Banks are rorting $2 million a month, when will it stop? Please share, comment, let your military friends know. With enough people we might make a real difference for the military and their families. The detail: The Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme (DHOAS) was established by the Australian Government in July 2008 to support Australian Defence Force (ADF) members in owning their own homes, with an initial 10-year budget of $864 million. DHOAS provides a monthly subsidy to ADF members through payments towards their home loans – up to $500 / month. However, the loans must be made through one of 3 banks (National Australia Bank (NAB), Australian Military Bank and Defence Bank) which limits competition and has seen a disparity in interest rates between DHOAS loans, non-DHOAS loans at these banks and loans offered by other providers. I discovered this when negotiating a home loan rate with the NAB retentions team last week, I had a DHOAS eligible loan and a non-DHOAS eligible loan – exactly the same in all other areas. The DHOAS loan was quoted at 4.16%, while the non-DHOAS loan was 3.9%. When I queried why the DHOAS loan was higher, I was told ‘because you get subsidised by the government’, when mentioning that was not a good reason I was further told ‘well, you can’t have everything’. This variation in interest rates means that almost a third of my subsidy is lost in higher interest every year! With other banks offering even lower rates, my subsidy is almost worthless, and it all goes straight to the bank. The reality is, the banks are charging more for DHOAS loans, and skimming a portion of the subsidy for their own benefit and arrogantly declaring that because military members are getting subsidised by the government they can charge more. THIS IS NOT RIGHT! While it is hard to determine exactly how much money has been rorted from military members, here is a realistic calculation: NAB is charging at least 0.26% more interest for DHOAS (my own experience). There are on average 25000 loans each year, for the past 10 years (ANAO report). If the average home loan is $384000 (ABS) this equates to more than $250 MILLION! This means that these banks are profiting significantly off our military, and our government is letting it happen. I called DHOAS and they admit banks charge more, yet what can you do? A lot I hope! I have emailed the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, who is responsible for DHOAS, and I have had no response - hopefully this petition will get his or the media's attention. After all the issues that banks have had, especially the NAB, I am surprised that no one seems to care. Maybe it’s because the government receives commissions in return from the loan providers? ANAO notes that over the same 10-year period the banks will pay commissions near $170 MILLION… the whole process is a rort, and it’s the military members who have to deal with it. This petition is for Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, The Hon Darren Chester to hold the banks, and themselves accountable. To force the banks to provide the same interest rate for DHOAS loans as any other variable or fixed rate loan. The Hon Darren Chester MPMinister for Veterans’ AffairsMinister for Defence PersonnelMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC  PO Box 6022House of RepresentativesParliament HouseCanberra ACT 2600 Telephone:(02) 6277 7820Email: Please sign this petition, share it widely and if you know anyone with a DHOAS loan let them know. If you have a DHOAS loan and story to share, then please comment - the more people we can get, the greater chance we can actually get a decent subsidy.

ADF Member
197 supporters