Western Australian Veterans Issues Minister Peter Tinley said his Commonwealth counterpart Darren Chester’s dismissal of a royal commission into veterans’ suicides begged the question of where the savings from not holding the inquiry would be spent.
While agreeing with Mr Chester’s assertion that money would be better spent on providing frontline services for veterans than lining the pockets of lawyers in a royal commission, Mr Tinley wanted details on when, where and how the funds would be disbursed.
Earlier this week, Mr Chester was reported as saying: ‘I don’t want to spend 100-odd million dollars paying lawyers when that money could be spent on medical assistance, mental health specialists providing on-the-ground support for our veterans.’
At the same time, he admitted the Commonwealth did not know how many veterans died from suicide each year and it did not have reliable national figures for veterans in general.
A long held assertion by the States and Territories is that the Commonwealth should include a question in the Census to identify Australia’s veterans.
The resultant data would go a long way to identifying where veterans lived in the community and help inform the targeted delivery of support services for them and their families.
As stated by Veterans Issues Minister Peter Tinley:
“Although Mr Chester has admitted that the Commonwealth does not know how many veterans suicide each year, I know that he recognises the seriousness of this problem.
“My own experience as a veteran supports my belief that we are facing an increasingly dire situation that will worsen as the longer-term impacts of trauma and stress from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan manifest among veterans.
“One interpretation of Mr Chester’s dismissal of the need for a royal commission is that the Commonwealth is on top of the problem – which is patently not the case.
“But I welcome him flagging that the $100 million the Commonwealth will save by not holding a royal commission will be better spent on frontline services for veterans and their families.
“WA will watch with great interest to see where that $100 million shows up in the next Federal Budget.”