Monday, 22 February 2021
Private Members' Business
Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention
I am very proud to second this motion, and I won't stop championing a royal commission for defence and veteran suicide no matter how much spin those in the federal government throw out there. I need to make it really clear, though, that more needs to be done now. That much we can all agree on. More needs to be done now, and we must commit the resources to doing what we need to do to keep our people safe and well. That all has to happen now.
What has really disappointed me recently, when I asked members of the federal government why they weren't supporting a royal commission into veteran suicide, is when they said, 'On our side of politics, we don't want one because it will cost too much.' Let me ask: at what cost are our veterans and our service people are dying? What is the cost to overall a system that is clearly broken?
Are those opposite really going to sit there and say that $100 million—which is what the Minister for Veterans' Affairs says a royal commission into veterans' suicide will cost—is too much? Are they really going to say that that is too much to stop those who have served our country dying by suicide? It's shameful.
Those opposite don't want to stand up for a royal commission into veterans' suicide. I understand that some are totally silent because of the shame that they feel in not standing up and representing the defence and veterans' community. I understand that shame. Some wanted a royal commission, but are being told to pull their heads in and fall back into line, because the Liberal Party doesn't want a royal commission into veteran suicide. Are they going to say that that's not money well spent? How can you put a price tag on getting the best recommendations from the most open, transparent and independent process that we can possibly have? How can you put a price on that?
The member who spoke before me, the member for Fisher, said that we've had 400 deaths since 2001. Official records say 500—just 100 off. What's a hundred veterans? What's a hundred patriots? But there have also been many suggestions from the veteran community that that figure is grossly understated. I know from talking to the veteran community that that figure doesn't tell the whole picture. What also doesn't tell the whole picture are the attempted the many attempted suicides—people who have impaired themselves for the rest of their life in an attempt to stop the pain. How many have been permanently impaired? How many families have suffered over the years? How many families continue to suffer?
Australia hasn't had a royal commission into veterans' suicide for a century. The very first royal commission held by Australia was over what happened to one soldier's welfare after the war—one soldier. We've got 500, 600 or maybe 700 veterans' suicides, and those opposite, the federal government, won't act, and I don't know why. It's pretty clear that a permanent commissioner would become a very important recommendation of a royal commission, but there'll be so many other recommendations that come out of a royal commission. Yes, it'll be a good thing to have the permanent commissioner continue, but let's have that position informed by a full royal commission that's open and transparent and at arm's length from those that run the current system that people say is broken—not just me but also veterans and families. ESOs aren't able to coordinate their support as well as they should because the system is broken. The acts don't support our veterans in the way they should. There needs to be a royal commission, and that's why I support it has my support. The epidemic of veteran suicide is a stain on our nation—it really is—and we have the ability to fix it.
I spoke last week in parliament a couple of times calling on those opposite who have military experience to stand up—and I double down on that call today. They know that the system is broken. They know that a royal commission should be enacted to stop veteran and family suicides, but they're failing to stand up. So I ask again that they show some leadership and some solidarity with those that they have served with who are calling for a royal commission into veterans' suicide. (Time expired)