JOINT RELEASE WITH BRENDAN O'CONNOR
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
ACTING SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
MEMBER FOR GORTON
The reported termination of interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, Dr Bernadette Boss CSC, confirm this so-called “rolling Royal Commission” was always nothing more than a marketing exercise by Scott Morrison designed to avoid a proper investigation into veteran suicides.
Many current and former defence personnel felt Dr Boss was not independent enough given her long career in the Australian Defence Force and given she is a long-term friend of the then Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds.
This is why the Government ultimately had to cave in and follow Labor’s lead by establishing the Royal Commission into defence and veteran suicide this year.
The handling of the interim National Commissioner’s termination has been as shambolic and misleading as her appointment in the first place.
It has been reported that Dr Boss’s contract was terminated last Thursday, on the same day the Prime Minister announced the details of the Royal Commission, including the Commissioners and Terms of Reference.
However, it is not clear why she has been removed now and there has been no official Government announcement or explanation.
Last week, the Prime Minister said the National Commissioner enabling legislation, which is currently stalled in the Senate, would be amended to ensure that the National Commissioner will complement the Royal Commission’s work.
Now, the Government is saying a new National Commissioner may not be appointed for another two years until the Royal Commission has concluded.
Labor supports a permanent body to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but only if this is a recommendation of the Royal Commission.
Given the Government has been all over the place on this issue, the best thing they could do now to restore trust and confidence with veterans would be to abandon their National Commissioner Bill and just get on with the Royal Commission.
The reality is the National Commissioner should never have been appointed ahead of a Royal Commission, and it just shows how incompetent and out of touch this government is when it comes to veterans’ issues.