Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 March 2021) . . Page.. 745 ..
In February 2020 Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced he would establish a national commissioner for defence and veteran suicide prevention. While this was a promising first step, the position does not provide the independent oversight needed. A royal commission would afford the issue of veteran suicide the status, resources, powers and scope that the issue demands. A royal commission would pick up the threads of prior and ongoing research and inquiries, while ensuring community input and participation, and placing it at the highest level of inquiry and on the public record.
The community is advocating for a royal commission because they are, by design, fearless and independent. The royal commission’s broad-ranging investigatory powers, including powers of compulsion, the capacity to offer protection for witnesses and the ability to identify systemic and institutional failings, would get to the truth. The process would be broadly respected and the outcomes would be trusted.
A royal commission will not press pause on current and continuing responses to this crisis. We can and should continue to resource veteran mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention while the work of the royal commission continues. Our defence forces have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. We have a duty to ensure that those who have given the commitment to serve are not left to fall through the cracks. We owe it to the veteran community, to those who have died by suicide and to their families left behind to establish the highest form of truth seeking on this issue.
A royal commission is also an important symbol of hope. To look unflinchingly at the truth requires courage. In calling for a royal commission, I ask all of us to have the courage to open an honest discussion about how we, as a government and as a community, can understand and address the issues. It is time for us as a nation to respond to the community’s call to action and establish a royal commission into veteran suicide. I commend the motion.
MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (4.49): I thank Ms Davidson for bringing a very important issue to the Assembly, one close to my heart. I will start by talking about my experience. I spoke about it in 2017 and I will quote from that speech, as a lot of members would not have been in this place when I spoke then. I said:
I also know firsthand from my own experience the impact of defence service and how it can affect families. As an Army wife with limited family support, Fleur held our family together in 2007 when I spent about 10 months away from home as a result of my job. With a very young child who was sick for much of the time, an older stepson, and a job to hold down, she would often find herself in tears at night from loneliness, worry and exhaustion. This is not an uncommon event.
I have also experienced firsthand the effects of returning from active service. It is now about a decade—
this was back in 2017—
since I returned and it is only now that I have the confidence to talk in this place about how hard that was. I am not sure entirely why, I do not dwell on it, but a