5AA RADIO BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s call for a Royal Commission into Veterans’ Suicides.
DAVID PENBERTHY, HOST: Let’s talk to One Tribe. Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the Federal Labor Party, joins us. Albo, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning.
PENBERTHY: Hey Albo, we thought we might set the usual political party politics argy-bargy side to focus on your call today for a Royal Commission into the deaths of our military veterans. You probably haven’t seen today’s Advertiser yet. But there’s a mum on the front-page Julie-Ann Finney, who’s from Blair Athol, and her own son who was a was a serviceman, a veteran, he ended his life.
ALBANESE: David was her son.
PENBERTHY: And this is just a shocking blight on our nation. What do you think we can do about it?
ALBANESE: We can listen to the families of veterans. There has been too many mothers and fathers that have had to bury their sons and daughters. There’s been too many sons and daughters left without a mum or a dad. And I met with Julie-Ann Finney last week. She is a courageous, committed, passionate woman who lost her son. David was a sailor. He left the Defence Force. There were a couple of flags, essentially should have signalled, in my view, and certainly in her view, much greater intervention and assistance than occurred. Now, we can’t bring David back. But what we can do is put in place an inquiry in which we examine if we are doing everything we can to provide the support that’s necessary. In any one year, we lose more former veterans to taking their own life than we lose in the last couple of decades of conflict around the world in which we have participated. These figures are horrific. You are more than twice as likely to commit suicide if you’re a woman who’s a former veteran than if you haven’t served. Now, these people put their lives on the line for us. They sacrifice so much to defend our democracy and our way of life, to protect us against terrorism and fundamentalism around the world. And that’s why I essentially have been convinced by veterans themselves to support what is their call for a Royal Commission that would examine the full range of issues and come up with a comprehensive suite of measures to do what we can to hopefully, of course, it is always difficult to suggest that you could reduce figures to zero. But what you should be aiming to do is that certainly to minimise how many people are taking their own lives.
PENBERTHY: Albo, is there any great mystery around what we should do, or is it as simple as just appropriately funding services that are easily accessible to people that leave the service?
ALBANESE: The Government is doing some measures. And one of the things that they are looking at and funding now is some quite creative measures including companion animals. Providing people with support in that way. That could that can be important. Providing the full range of measures so that people know that it’s not a sign of weakness to put your hand up and say that you need help. We really need to look at it scientifically, as well, is there a particular period after people leave the Defence Forces in which people are vulnerable? Are there some group structures that can be set up? Is there appropriate and enough support for mental health assistance? All of these measures. And the Government has had a range of reports to it. They are taking action in some of the areas. But in speaking to veterans as I have, not just Julie-Ann Finney, but others as well, including people who are part of my team, Luke Gosling is a former serviceman whose dad was in the Defence Force, his grandfather was in the Defence Force, who has brothers in the Defence Force. And he’s our member up in the Darwin based seat of Solomon. And he’s really, I think, in touch, with people, and he very much encouraged us to do this move. Shayne Neumann, our Veterans Affairs Shadow. But I think, really, one of the things I’m going to say to the Government is that the response in the last 24 hours from the families of veterans has been quite extraordinary. I just have been surprised by just the sheer number of heartfelt reaching-out of family members supporting this move.
PENBERTHY: Hopefully the inquiry gets up. And we know that yesterday we saw the Prime Minister has said that he’s open-minded about it. Anthony Albanese for One Tribe. Thanks very much for joining us this morning on 5AA.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.