Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide

8:03 pm

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

Well, the royal commission is here. Veterans, serving members and their families are finally getting the moment of truth they deserve. We have fought so hard for this—so hard. It has taken years of campaigning. Average, regular people, people who have been broken by their service and people who have lost a most important loved one in their lives stood up against the indifference of government departments and government ministers, and of our own Prime Minister, and said, 'Enough is enough.' They were not going to lie down and be quiet anymore when the government tried to sell them out with a cut-rate commissioner—the national commissioner, the defence minister's mate and supposedly better than a royal commissioner. The convenient solution that was designed by the very departments that we knew needed to be investigated. They weren't going to let Defence and DVA control the narrative, control the story and continue to cover their own backsides at all costs. Those days were over. They weren't going to let up until we solved the very serious issues that have destroyed families and livelihoods again and again for far too long.

This fight started 10 years ago. I could never name everyone who has been involved with pushing for a royal commission for the past decade. We had the Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association standing outside DVA offices with placards eight years ago, protesting what was going on. Until the very day we got the royal commission they were still out there. We've had soldiers show as much bravery calling out their own as they would show on a battlefield. We have had mums, dads, friends, loved ones, advocates, families who have been in the ADF for generations and generations, and Aussies who we've never had anything to do with but who still knew we needed to fix what is going on. This royal commission is thanks to all of you—every single one of you—over the last eight to 10 years. We thank every single one of you—those who came for a day at a rally or whatever. We thank you for your support along the way. You're the people who made this happen, and you should be so proud.

I have something I need to tell you now. This fight isn't over. This fight has only just begun. We have a royal commission, but we can't stop here. We have to make this royal commission one that will change the country forever, one the government can't ignore. This is our chance to fix what has gone so wrong for our defence personnel and our veterans. This is our last shot. There will be no more inquiries and no more reviews. Once this is over, we should never have to have another inquiry into veterans suicide. This is the last time—one last push. I need you to give it everything you've got left.

The royal commission needs to hear every story. The commissioners need to know what's going on out there—the reality, the truth. If you don't tell them, they won't know. They are not mind-readers. Those who love their mates should put in a submission. Those who have lost their loved ones should put in a submission. Those who are being terrorised and bullied at the hands of high-ranking soldiers right now should come forward and put in a submission. If the commissioners don't hear from you, they won't know. If you don't tell them, they just won't know.

If you're worried about retribution or backlash from your superiors, know that you will be protected. You can do a submission without putting your name on it. You can go in camera and give evidence behind closed doors. That is the choice you have. These are protections for you to speak out. Those protections will never again be as strong as they are right now with this royal commission.

I say to all of you out there who have a story to tell—your time is now. It is now or never. Do it for your country. Do it for your mates. Better still, do it for yourself.