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July 08, 2021

The establishment today of the Royal Commission into defence and veteran suicide is welcome news.

Veterans, their families and Labor have been calling for this since 2019.

Since the announcement of the Royal Commission on 19 April 2021, we have called for the Morrison Government to come up with broad and flexible Terms of Reference (ToR), and to ensure the voices of veterans and families are heard.

It is encouraging that the investigation will enquire into systemic issues related to defence and veteran suicides, including the possible contribution of pre-service, transition, separation and post-service issues.

It is concerning, however, that the Government wants to retain its flawed National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention alongside the Royal Commission while the National Commissioner legislation is stalled in the Senate.

Labor, along with many in the veteran community, has said we are open to a permanent body to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but only if this is a recommendation.

Further, Labor had called for the Government to appoint Commissioners who are of the right standing and independent from the Australian Defence Force, such as a current or former senior judge, in order to ensure trust and confidence in this process.

We broadly welcome the appointment of former NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas as lead commissioner and former Queensland Supreme Court Judge James Douglas QC and mental health expert Dr Peggy Brown AO as the other two commissioners.

It is disappointing, however, the Government has not consulted Labor on the ToR or the appointment of commissioners, and has failed to appoint any of the eminent individuals recommended by an expert advisory group convened by veteran advocate Julie-Ann Finney.

It is important that this Royal Commission now be a bipartisan issue.