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Veterans’ Affairs Minister Andrew Gee grilled over controversial call

The minister responsible for Australian troops has distanced himself from a controversial change involving veterans.

A ministerial memo has been sent to public servants at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs ordering them to stop using the term “thank you for your service” in press releases, websites and social media posts.

The phrase is widely used as a public sign of thanks towards Australians who have served in the armed forces.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is extremely fond of the phrase.

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The controversial memo, sent with Veterans’ Affairs Minister Andrew Gee’s signature, was issued to staff, claiming he no longer wanted the phrase used.

“Do not use the phrase ‘thank you for your service’,” it said.

Camera IconAndrew Gee has found himself in hot water with veterans. Credit: Supplied

While the memo has his signature on it, Mr Gee denies ever seeing or approving it.

“There is no ban on saying ‘thank you for your service’,” he told 2GB radio.

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“That’s an internal departmental memo that I didn’t draft, didn’t see, didn’t approve it.”

Mr Gee said when he became aware of the memo he instructed his staff to take it down .

“I will always acknowledge the enormous service and sacrifice of our servicemen and women,” he said.

The Minister went on to argue that correspondence being sent to veterans and their families with his signature on it was “too bureaucratic in tone”.

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However, Mr Gee was after a “more compassionate approach” to the template changes.

“Out of all that, someone whom I’ve never met drafted an internal memo and stuck it up on an internal website,” he said.

Radio host Ben Fordham grilled the Minister about whether he had ever expressed the view that he did not like the phrase.

QUESTION TIME
Camera IconThe controversial memo, sent with Veterans’ Affairs Minister Andrew Gee’s signature, was issued to staff claiming he no longer wanted the phrase used. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Gee said he preferred ministerial correspondence to have more of a “personalised” approach.

“If I‘m writing to a family member who has lost a loved one, then I want it to be a personal letter, and I don’t want it to be overly bureaucratic,” he said.

Fordham hammered Mr Gee about whether he was referring to the phrase as being overly bureaucratic.

“Have you ever expressed a view to anyone that you’re not a fan of the phrase thank you for your service?”

Mr Gee said the phrase was fine to use when appropriate and not as a “throwaway line”.

“When I‘m drafting letters to people, and that correspondence is going out in my name, of course, I will thank them for their service and their sacrifice,” Mr Gee said.

“The correspondence needs to be personalised, and that is what I’m trying to do with the department.”

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