Feb 5, 2020

Statements by Members – Veterans: Suicide – Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (13:30): Last week I rang Julie-Ann Finney. I rang her on the day after the anniversary of her son’s tragic death from suicide. He was a veteran who took his own life. I rang her just to ask how she was going. At that point, she still hadn’t visited her son’s grave because she was determined not to do that until there was a royal commission into the extraordinary—and tragic—number of veteran suicides. The announcement by the government this morning not to go down the road of a royal commission but to have a National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, is an important step forward. It isn’t what Labor and the veteran community asked for, but I’m not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I spoke to Ms Finney this morning, and she was able to visit her son’s grave for the first time last night with the knowledge that there was some progress on these issues.

Labor will ensure that any implementing legislation will give the commissioner all the powers of a royal commission, including the ability to launch own motion inquiries, compel the production of documents and other evidence, and conduct public and private hearings. We’ll also work to ensure that the commissioner and the advocate are appropriately resourced and able to do their jobs. We owe it to all those affected by these tragic events to understand why they happen and to act to prevent them.