It is about time the Morrison Government has finally come around to the idea of a Royal Commission into veteran suicide.
Veterans, their families and Labor have been calling for this since 2019.
Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, we have lost more veterans to suicide than soldiers killed in combat, while more than 18 defence personnel and veterans have taken their own lives this year alone.
While we are disappointed this has taken so long, Labor now stands ready to work with the Government in a bipartisan way to ensure this Royal Commission is vested with all the powers and resources it needs.
The Government needs to consult widely and wisely on processes, timelines and Terms of Reference.
The Commissioner, or Commissioners, appointed must be of the right standing andbe independent from the Australian Defence Force in order to ensure trust and confidence in this process.
In particular, we are concerned that the Government has said it wants to have a “standing Royal Commission” in tandem with a Royal Commission to look at this issue in an ongoing way.
Many veterans and families do not support the Government’s proposed National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, and the legislation is stalled in the Senate.
Labor, along with many in the veteran community, has said it is open to a permanent body to tackle this issue, but only if this is a recommendation coming out of an independent Royal Commission, which must happen first.
The work of Julie-Ann Finney and Karen Bird, and the other brave mothers and families of veterans must also be acknowledged. They have campaigned tirelessly for a Royal Commission, despite the personal grief and pain they have experienced.
Many parents of veterans who have tragically taken their own lives have said a Royal Commission will allow them an opportunity to have their say and be heard, while providing a powerful voice for their children.
Today’s announcement is a crucial step forward on this journey.