Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021


Veterans: Suicide

8:00 pm

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie Network) Share this | | Hansard source

I was sitting at my desk and saw the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020. We don't need consequential amendments because the bill never got up in the first place. So let's have a little chat about that, shall we? I don't want to waste any more time this week or next week on the national commissioner, because it is now nonexistent. The government wants to go hell for leather with its national commissioner legislation over the next few weeks. This is the idea it had when the Prime Minister wanted to block the royal commission on veteran suicide. It was the one he said was bigger and better than a royal commission, the one he said couldn't operate side by side with a royal commission. It's that national commissioner—the one he said was a 'take it or leave it' and 'all or nothing' option. Veterans out there know what I'm talking about out.

That was then, and this is now. Now we've had a royal commission announced. The government has done a backflip, finally, and woken up to itself over its stupidity over veterans in trying to give them something that would have been second-class. It's finally done the right thing. But here we go: it still wants to come back to this national commissioner. It's hanging around like a bad smell. I don't mean that personally to the national commissioner. I'm talking about how, instead of giving us a royal commission, the national commissioner itself was a stupid idea in the first place and very disrespectful. The government just couldn't help itself. The government won't let this idea die, so it is planning to push it through the Senate this week. What for? What is the purpose of it? What does the government think that the national commissioner is going to do that the royal commission won't be able to do? The government say it's so the national commissioner can look at future suicides. But we've got coroners who'll do that. It says it's so the national commissioner can update the parliament on how the recommendations of the royal commission are going, but we've got Senate estimates for that. And—trust me—you need them. The government says it's so we're ready to go when the royal commission recommends it. But we've got to get the royal commission going first, don't we? This is how it works. The royal commission has to recommend it, doesn't it? The royal commission has to recommend that the national commissioner be put in place and exactly what their job will be. That is the job of the royal commissioner.

I tell you what: go and get one of the government's crystal balls, because they are beauties. They must be going cheap as chips. If only we could have one of those magic crystal balls, we would all be rich and none of us would be here, I'm sure. Apparently the government knows that the royal commission is going to recommend that we get a national commissioner. But that's not all. These crystal balls are great, mate—trust me. The government also knows that the royal commission is going to recommend a national commissioner to do what the government wants the national commissioner to do. But it gets better. These crystal balls are worth their weight in gold! The government also knows that the royal commission is going to recommend that the national commissioner be designed in exactly the same way the government wanted the national commissioner to be designed. Apparently the government know everything the royal commission is going to recommend.

But don't worry: it's completely independent. I want you all to know that. Don't hit the panic buttons yet. Why else would the government be saying to the Senate now that it's completely necessary for us to put through this legislation before the royal commission has had time to lace up its boots, let alone put on its socks. But I have a crazy idea. I know it's a long shot. I don't have a crystal ball like the coalition thinks it does. I reckon most of the Senate is going to struggle to polish up the crystal ball enough to see what the government sees. So why doesn't the government just do what the royal commission recommends? Right now we have this bizarre game of 'Who's on first?' going on. The government is recommending the Senate pass what it reckons the royal commission will recommend in the form it recommends the royal commission recommends before the royal commission recommends anything. Are you keeping up with me out there?

Great, because we need to be ready for it to recommend what the government recommends it recommends. Are we all up there yet? Lovely. There is where we're all at. It's great up here. Isn't it fun and games? This is where we're at: it's an absolute circus up here. I tell you what, they treat us like we're a pack of donkeys, and what for? What's the point of all of this faffing around? It is completely obvious to anyone who looks at this for one second that the only reason we're going through this whole charade is so that the Prime Minister can save what face he has left over veterans! He has none left. I can tell you: 'You have none left, Prime Minister. We had to drag you kicking and screaming to get veterans and defence personnel what they deserved, a royal commission.' And now that he's lost that fight, he wants a consolation prize. Well, I'm not interested in helping the Prime Minister. I have no interest whatsoever in helping the Prime Minister save face. What I'm interested in is making sure we give the royal commission clear air to do their job without any influence or interference from this government. I'm putting it out there now!