01 October 2020

Labor broadly welcomes the Morrison Government’s appointment of an interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, and the release of the Terms of Reference for a review of past defence and veteran suicides.

As a former nurse and a current ACT Magistrate and Coroner, and Army Reserve officer, Interim National Commissioner Dr Bernadette Boss CSC is well qualified for the role.

However, it is disappointing this announcement comes eight months after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the establishment of a National Commissioner, ignoring the pleas of Julie-Ann Finney and other parents of veterans for a full Royal Commission into veteran suicide.

Like Ms Finney and many veterans and families, we are concerned that an interim National Commissioner undertaking an in-house review will not have all the powers of a Royal Commission, as the Government is claiming.

It is difficult to see how a National Commissioner, who is effectively a government official, will have the resources or the independence to ask the hard questions and get to the bottom of veteran suicides in the way that a Royal Commission could.

Labor is reviewing the Terms of Reference and the legislation for the National Commissioner, which was introduced in the last Parliamentary sittings and referred to a Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee inquiry.

We encourage veterans, families and advocates to have their say and make a submission to the Senate inquiry, which closes on 9 October 2020.

Labor will continue to engage with the veteran community and stakeholders, and will come to a final position on the Bills once we have seen the outcomes of the Senate inquiry.