The Morrison Government has confirmed it has taken the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention off the legislation list, after failing to get the numbers needed for it to pass the Senate.
This followed last-minute attempts this week to amend the legislation, which amounted to little more than window dressing and showed that the Government’s approach has been deeply flawed.
However, with Labor and most of the Senate crossbench opposed to the legislation and amendments, the Government realised it could not get the numbers to pass its Bills and decided not to bring them on for a vote.
The reality is this is a humiliating defeat and the Government’s refusal to adopt a Royal Commission into veteran suicide only continues to let down our veterans and their families.
The Attorney-General has complained that the Government did not have more time to secure support for the Bills.
But they have had plenty of time to consult with Labor and the crossbench, having announced the National Commissioner back in February this year and then sitting on their hands for most of the year.
Despite saying repeatedly that the National Commissioner was urgent, last week the Government voted against a motion in the Senate seeking to bring the legislation on for debate.
Families, veterans, advocates and experts have been saying for months they want a fully independent Royal Commission with broad Terms of Reference so we can tackle the terrible scourge of veteran suicides in a systemic way, and not the Government’s approach of a glorified coroner doing desktop reviews.
A Senate inquiry confirmed the concerns of Labor and many others that the National Commissioner won’t have the independence, scope or resources to ask the really hard questions only a Royal Commission can.
The overwhelming feedback from the inquiry was that the scope of the role was too narrow and that interim National Commissioner Dr Bernadette Boss was not sufficiently independent given her long association with Defence and the Defence Minister personally.
Despite Christian Porter’s claims that his National Commissioner model is superior, a number of stakeholders have said it will achieve nothing, and could in fact do more harm than good.
The Prime Minister needs to listen to mothers like Julie-Ann Finney, Karen Bird and others who have tragically lost loved ones to suicide.
Families and veterans have been very clear – they want nothing less than a Royal Commission to get to the bottom of these needless deaths.
Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au