Gippsland MHR Darren Chester happy to be back in federal cabinet

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester during the swearing-in ceremony conducted by the Governor-General David Hurley.
Gippsland MHR Darren Chester during the swearing-in ceremony conducted by the Governor-General David Hurley.

GIPPSLAND MHR Darren Chester says moving the veterans' affairs and defence personnel portfolios into the federal cabinet highlights the government's commitment to veterans and their families.

Mr Chester returned to the cabinet, three years after he was dumped by then-leader Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Chester has been retained as Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel, which was previously in the outer ministry.

The move was part of a cabinet reshuffle prompted by the resignations of Senators Bridget McKenzie and Matt Canavan.

Newly-elected Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud will return to the agriculture ministry, which was previously held by Senator McKenzie, who resigned from the cabinet and as deputy leader over her handling of sports grants.

Mr Chester announced last Monday he would not contest the deputy leadership.

Senator Canavan stepped down from the cabinet in order to back Barnaby Joyce's unsuccessful bid for the party leadership.

Mr Chester said he was honoured to be reappointed to his ministries.

"I understand this is the first time in 27 years the veterans' affairs portfolio has been included as a cabinet portfolio, reflecting our government's commitment to putting veterans and their families first," he said.

"During my time as Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, I have met with hundreds of Australian Defence Force personnel, veterans, and their families right across Australia.

"Their feedback and suggestions have helped form government policy to further support our veterans and their families, particularly during their transition back into civilian life.

"We have implemented free mental health care for life for all veterans, regardless of whether the condition is a result of their military service.

"We will continue to implement policies such as the six veterans' wellbeing centres across Australia, new employment initiatives, the digitisation of World War 2 service records, the Veteran Covenant, Card and Lapel Pin and improved access to mental health first aid for ex-service organisations."

Last week the government announced it will establish a National Commissioner for Defence and Suicide Prevention to investigate suicides among ADF personnel and veterans.

"While we have achieved a lot, we know there is more to do and we are absolutely committed to ensuring our veterans and their families are looked after," Mr Chester said.

"Our ADF personnel are highly skilled and well-renowned around the world for their professionalism, expertise and humanity.

"As their minister, I am committed to ensuring they are well supported and have the training and resources they need to perform at their best.

"The ADF must continue to attract its share of the best and brightest young Australians to serve in uniform, and we are committed to ensuring they will receive the support, respect and recognition they deserve."

Mr Chester said he would be working with Mr Littleproud, who will continue as Emergency Management Minister, the ADF and federal and state agencies to see how Defence personnel can be utilised in emergencies, as they have been during this summer's bushfires.

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