03 June 2010

Does NSW Government take the position of Minister Assisting the Premier on Veterans' Affairs seriously?

Okay, I've held off for far too long in not discussing this issue (I am a Labor man and hail from a distinguished Labor family) but enough is enough on the issue of the New South Wales Government changing Ministers Assisting the Premier on Veterans' Affairs like you're changing a baby's nappy. In the time span of just about a year and a half - since the new portfolio of Veterans' Affairs was created on 23 January 2009 - the Government of the day (Labor) has changed Ministers three separate times.

First Minister:

Graham West MP - 10 months and 12 days in the position

Second Minister:

Peter Primrose MLC - 5 months and 14 days in the position

Third & Currently Serving Minister:

Frank Terenzini MP
- incumbent in office since 21 May 2010

According to the Department's website, which can be found here, the new position created in January 2009, "ensures that ex-service men and women have a single point of contact for bringing their needs and interests to the attention of the NSW Government."

Furthermore that "the State Government provides many services to veterans and their families across a range of areas including health, disability and transport among others. The creation of a portfolio will facilitate access and equity for veterans in the delivery of these services."

In NSW, this function encompasses three broad areas of responsibility: (1) Commemoration; (2) Heritage; and (3) Education.

Why has the NSW Government changed Ministers three separate times in less that one year and a half?

I argue that the lack of continuity in this fairly new position causes problems and concerns. Changing ministers quickly and regularly in a newly created portfolio sends a negative message. The three broad areas of responsibility outlined above (Commemoration, Heritage and Education) do not have any true level of consistency from the start because the Ministers have been changed rapidly and without notice to the veteran community. The public and more importantly veterans -- who have fought for our country -- have the perception that the constant change is a lack of respect for them and the issues they face.

By the time a new Minister starts to get a grasp for the new portfolio, the issues involved and meets veterans and ex-service organisations he is then moved to a different portfolio. I have met Messrs Graham and Primrose during the time they held the veterans' affairs portfolio. I must confess that I thought Mr Primrose (despite his lack of military experience) was an excellent fit for the position and was very disappointed that Premier Kristina Keneally moved him out of the position after only five months and 14 days.

I only briefly met Minister Terenzini last week and am impressed by his background. But how long will the Premier permit Mr Terenzini to stay in the position of Minister Assisting the Premier on Veterans' Affairs?

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