Senate debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023

Statements by Senators

Royal Commission Into Defence And Veteran Suicide

1:40 pm

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

I did an interview last week with an ABC journalist who wanted to know if I was shocked that Defence wasn't handing over documents and reports to the royal commission into veteran suicide. I wish I was shocked. Because it is absolutely disgusting. But this is the way Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force operate, with no repercussions. They're not interested in doing the right by diggers. All they care about is marking their own homework.

The fact that a commissioner, Commissioner Kaldas, had to come out publicly in the middle of a royal commission to ask them to hand over documents is absolutely appalling in itself. The Commissioner Kaldas at the National Press Club last month told Australians that Defence and the DVA were stonewalling the royal commission, moving at a snail's pace, when the veteran suicide rate is a national crisis. Veterans, mothers and many of us fought for years for this royal commission. This can't just be another inquiry that gets ignored and its recommendations are swept under the carpet. I congratulate the Commissioner Kaldas for having the integrity to call out 'deep-rooted culture and systemwide issues within the Department of Veterans' Affairs.'

Veterans are taking their lives in record numbers. My office is getting calls from veterans desperate to have their claims processed. As Commissioner Kaldas has said: 'When it comes to protecting the health and wellbeing of servicemen and women, the evidence that this royal commission has uncovered date suggests there has been far too much talk and not enough action.'

When the deadline for public submissions to the royal commission closed last Friday, a total of 6,000 submissions had been received. Good on you for having the courage to come forward and give it. If that doesn't show you that they've have had a gutful of the Chief of the Defence Force and the way that senior command is running our Defence Force and our national security, I think that says it all. Honestly, there is time for you to come forward and give all those documents that have been requested, CDF. Start showing some bloody courage. Start showing some leadership, mate. Quite frankly, your time is up and it is time for the Minister of Defence to get into you and actually give you a choice: pass the documents over or bloody leave. Leave today.

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator, your time has expired. I will remind the chamber that some of the language used was unparliamentary. I appreciate your passion, but we have to maintain respectful dignity in this chamber.