New hope for soldier's Victoria Cross as PM orders a review
A FRESH review ordered by the Prime Minister on whether to award Teddy Sheean a posthumous Victoria Cross has given advocates new hope the Tasmanian war hero will finally be recognised for his heroic feats.
But Scott Morrison's move to convene an expert panel to consider whether there was new evidence in the push for the honour has been criticised by political opponents, who say Sheean's actions had already proven to be worthy.
The PM said overturning a decision almost 80 years after the young sailor's actions in 1942 would require compelling reasons.
Mr Morrison said the panel would provide him with advice on whether a 2019 review by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal had any significant new evidence compelling enough to support a VC recommendation.
The tribunal recommended a VC be awarded, but it was denied by the Government last month.
Former Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson will lead the panel, which also includes barrister David Bennett and Peter Shergold, who was once Australia's top public servant.
Sheean died in 1942 when the HMAS Armidale was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese bombers in the Timor Sea.
The 18-year-old strapped himself to an anti-aircraft gun as the vessel went down, and is credited with saving the lives of many of his crewmates.
Tasmanians have for years pushed for Sheean to be recognised with the country's highest wartime honour, and his nephew, Garry Ivory, said the review gave the family renewed hope.
"I'm very hopeful this will be the thing that gets us the VC,'' Mr Ivory said.
"I've never given up hope. I'm a little bit excited at the moment, but not overly, because we've been shut down before."
Veterans Affairs Minister Guy Barnett said he was looking forward to reviewing the panel's terms of reference and again making the case for Sheean to receive a VC.
"I remain of the view that Teddy's extraordinary bravery deserves our country's highest honour,'' Mr Barnett said.
Senator Jacqui Lambie said experts had already said there was new and compelling evidence during the previous appeal.
"This is all about kicking the can down the road and hoping that we all forget he's the Prime Minister who ignored the independent advice from his own panel of experts who said Teddy earned that VC, and he's being denied it by a PM who thinks he knows better,'' she said.
Federal Labor said the tribunal's recommendations were unanimous and that the government's response to them has "trashed the process".
The panel is due to report back to the PM by July 31.
But Mr Morrison said the Government would always uphold the integrity of the Victoria Cross and what it stands for.
"The evidentiary standards for recommending the award of the Victoria Cross always have been, and always will be, the highest,'' he said.
The panel is due to report back to the Prime Minister by July 31.
Originally published as New hope for Sheean VC as PM orders review