BIG PLAN: Senator Barry O'Sullivan (left) chats with returned serviceman Michael Blaine and LNP candidate for Blair Teresa Harding about their campaign for a veterans recovery centre to be based in Ipswich.
BIG PLAN: Senator Barry O'Sullivan (left) chats with returned serviceman Michael Blaine and LNP candidate for Blair Teresa Harding about their campaign for a veterans recovery centre to be based in Ipswich. Rob Williams

Harding backs 'unfunded' veteran centre

TERESA Harding has vowed to fight for $1 million in funding for a veterans' recovery centre in Ipswich if elected today.

The LNP candidate for Blair has received the backing of Senator Barry O'Sullivan, who said he would do his level best to ensure the funding was delivered if Ms Harding was not successful in her own campaign, even though it has not been budgeted for by the Coalition.

The plan has received the support of Ipswich returned serviceman Michael Blaine, who is also an Ipswich RSL Sub-branch member.

Blair MP Shayne Neumann said "a veterans centre in Ipswich is a good thing" but noted that the project was unfunded and unbudgeted, and therefore "pie in the sky".

Mr Neumann said Ms Harding's "cynical tactic" was raising veterans' hopes on the cusp of an election with no funds in the budget.

Ms Harding said that in the electorate of Blair there were more than 2000 military members and more than 3500 veterans.

"We are finding the young veterans don't have enough support as they transition after coming back from conflict," she said

"So I am giving a commitment that if I am elected, with the help of Barry O'Sullivan, we will get $1 million for a veterans' recovery centre here in Ipswich."

Ms Harding, formerly in the army herself, said she would work closely with ex-service organisations and RSLs to get the right mix in the centre including services such as physical rehabilitation, psychological services, employment, reskilling and education services, advocacy support and family respite.

Mr Blaine, who spent 23 years in the army in places such as Somalia and East Timor, is a Totally and Permanently Incapacitated pensioner and volunteers for the RSL as a pensions and welfare advocate.

"This (recovery centre) is very much needed," he said.

"There are so many young veterans out there who need a place to go and people to talk to in order to get the information they need.

"We need to have one central area where they can meet and relate to other veterans and get the psychological and family support services they need.

"It is not just the veterans that need help. It is the wives and children as well."

Senator O'Sullivan said he had been working on such a centre for several years and had relatives who were returned service people who had discussed what was needed.

"I have spoken to the head of the RSL about what assistance we could provide, so when Teresa said she wanted to get a pilot going somewhere, I wanted to make a strong pitch that we have it here in Ipswich," he said.

"That is because of the number of veterans and because this is an army community…and where veterans remain with their families long after their service.

"So I took the time to go to the Middle East and talk to our troops for 10 days…in the United Arab Emirates."

Based on his discussions Senator O'Sullivan said the recovery centre was a concept he was determined to make a reality.

"As to the source of the funding, I don't have a specific slot I could show you and run the finger down the budget, but when I set my mind to get an outcome I go and get it," he said.

Senator O'Sullivan said the funding would likely come from the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Mr Neumann said that if returned as Blair MP, and if the Coalition was returned, he hoped the LNP came good on their promise.

"But this is unfunded, unbudgeted and people in Blair are entitled to be very cynical that days before the election the LNP candidate thinks it is a good thing to do," he said.

"We have seen these unreal promises by the LNP before the last state election.

"If she was fair dinkum about it she would have got a genuine commitment from her side of politics to deliver it as I did with the $500,000 for the Ipswich Rugby League with the upgrade of the North Ipswich Reserve."



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