One of Australia’s newest members of parliament has vowed to fight for veterans during his time in politics.
The new Liberal MP for the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, Gavin Pearce, reflected on his time in the army during his first speech to parliament, saying too many veterans were taking their own lives.
The former sergeant major said he couldn’t help but feel partially responsible.
“I still agonise with the notion that maybe I should have seen it coming, I should have picked up on the signs, I should have stopped this,” he said on Wednesday.
“I live with those memories every day, and it’s something that I live with every night.”
He praised Prime Minister Scott Morrison for focusing on the mental health of veterans and the wider Australia community, vowing to do his bit to help the diggers.
“I want to make sure they are reconnected to family, to a job and to a new way of life,” he said.
“I want all business owners and all employers, right across the nation, to know that employing a veteran is good for your business.”
Mr Pearce won the Tasmanian seat from Labor’s Justine Keay at the May election, one of two electorates in the Apple Isle the coalition snatched from the opposition.
The former beef farmer thanked the community for their support during the election, and also when his wife passed away from cancer.
“My little boy and I were nurtured by that community, as they gathered around us. I couldn’t have done it without them and they are a wonderful family of farmers.”
Australia’s biggest dairy is in Braddon, he boasted, before saying the local farmers are the nation’s true environmentalists.
“They deal with every challenge before them, but what they shouldn’t have to deal with is extremist protesters invading their farms, endangering their workers, their family and their livelihoods.”
Mr Pearce also said small businesses should have less red tape to deal with, to ensure they can grow and create more jobs.
The Tasmanian shared a story involving former governor-general Peter Cosrove, from the pair’s army days.
“I recall General Cosgrove addressing a meeting of staff and senior advisers, which ended up with him banging his hand on the table in exasperation saying, ‘I’m sick of senior people telling me what I can’t do. I need you to start telling me how I can’.
I received that message loud and clear, and think that’s a message that will serve me in good stead as I represent the people of Braddon.”