‘Bitterly disappointing’: War hero denied top honour
PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has outraged advocates for Tasmanian war hero Edward 'Teddy' Sheean to be awarded a Victoria Cross by rejecting the unanimous finding of an independent tribunal in favour of the posthumous honour.
Sheean died strapped to his gun after shooting down a Japanese aircraft while trying to save his shipmates as they escaped the sinking HMAS Armidale in 1942.
Born in Latrobe, he is one of Tasmania's best-known wartime servicemen and was just 18-years-old when he died.
Veterans' Affairs Minister Guy Barnet said it was bittersweet day after a 17-year campaign to have Sheean's World War II actions honoured and did not accept the Prime Minister's decision.
"Last year's Tribunal inquiry into Sheean's actions was a merits-based review established by the Federal Government based on my application for a review consistent with the Defence Act," he said.
"During two days of public hearings held in Hobart last March, the Tribunal heard from myself as the applicant, the Sheean family, Royal Australian Navy (as respondent), RSL Tasmania and a published naval historian.
"The evidence presented was overwhelming and compelling in favour of a Victoria Cross. Based on that evidence, the Tribunal unanimously found that Sheean meets the eligibility criteria for the Victoria Cross for Australia.
"It is staggering that the Federal Government has not accepted the Tribunal's recommendation that Sheean be posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his pre-eminent act of valour."
Mr Barnett said the decision went "against all of the evidence" and was "bitterly disappointing".
"I do not accept the Prime Minister's decision and will ask the Federal Government to reconsider," he said.
"I will further consider all available options to ensure Teddy Sheean receives what he is entitled to."
The decision was revealed after crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie questioned Federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds CSC over delays in the process in Senate question time on Tuesday.
"The Government and yourself have had the Teddy Sheean report from the Awards and Honours Tribunal since July 2019, we're nearly 12 months on," she said.
Senator Lambie labelled the decision a "slap in the face for Teddy and his family, who have been on this case for decades".
"The bureaucracy's always been afraid of revisiting Sheean's case, and that cowardice has just been extended today," she said.
"They've made a decision to deny him the honour he deserves because they're afraid of the precedent it will set.
"There are four possible tests for whether someone should receive a VC, and you only need to reach one. Teddy's an outstanding example of all of them."
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said it was the Government's policy "and the expressed views of Her Majesty the Queen" that consideration of the awarding of the Victoria Cross would only occur in light of compelling new evidence or if there was evidence of manifest injustice.
The spokesman said there had been no compelling new evidence presented by the Tribunal to support a reconsideration of the decision by authorities to recognise Ordinary Seaman Sheean with the award of Mention in Dispatches in 1942.
"This in no way detracts from the service, dedication and sacrifice of Ordinary Seaman Edward 'Teddy' Sheean, for which our nation remains eternally grateful."
Sheean's nephew Garry Ivory said he will call Scott Morrison to reconsider.
"It passed all the merits and it's gone back to the Government and they refused to act on it," he said.
"I just feel that that's an injustice again for Teddy. It's bad news I know, but there's still hope.
"We won't give up. The motto for the HMAS Sheean is fight on and that's exactly what we're doing."
The Government spokesman said there were no further options to appeal the decision.
Originally published as 'Bitterly disappointing': War hero denied top honour