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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 March 2021) . . Page.. 750 ..


MS CHEYNE (Ginninderra—Assistant Minister for Economic Development, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Business and Better Regulation, Minister for Human Rights and Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (5.03): I rise tonight to speak in support of the motion, and I commend it being brought today. I acknowledge especially Ms Davidson and the power of her voice as minister and as a veteran in moving this motion and speaking to it so candidly. I also acknowledge Mr Hanson for speaking candidly and sharing again his experience. I remember very vividly his speech in 2017—was it an adjournment speech or MPI?—and the profound effect that it had on me and the insight it gave me to Mr Hanson as well. I thank you again for ensuring those words are heard and that that is understood.

I do not think that any of us in this place today, and certainly not any of us speaking, mean any disrespect. In fact, it is the opposite. I want to recognise the service of members past and present of the Australian Defence Force. Thank you for your service, and I acknowledge that this conversation is emotional and is triggering. I want to assure Mr Hanson that this is not about wedge politics; certainly not from me. This is supported by both houses of parliament on the hill, and I hope that, going forward, we can all work together in that spirit.

Members will recall that in this place almost exactly two years ago I spoke about the extraordinary life and contribution of David Stafford Finney. Dave served in the Navy for 20 years, a long career as a marine technician and electrical engineer, where he was deployed and did tours in Bougainville, East Timor and the Middle East. He lived a life helping others. He was internationally acclaimed as a hero, and it is well-known that he directly and indirectly saved the lives of many. Dave also shared candidly that his service medals were not free. Dave wanted to stay alive. You can still read his powerful words, his stories, where he discussed his service and the impression that it left on him and how it changed him.

Dave wanted to stay alive. Dave died by suicide. This is a tragedy, and it is a national tragedy because one veteran a week is dying by suicide. I said at the time that Dave’s story could not be over and that it was not, and since then his mother, Julie-Ann, has made abundantly sure of that.

Since Dave’s death, Julie-Ann has bravely called for a royal commission, nothing less; a royal commission, properly funded, properly resourced. It is not about issues that will emerge; we know what the issues are now, and I think that was reflected in both of the speeches before mine. It is not something to look into the future deaths of veterans, like the national commission proposes. How will that help? Not something that has a smidgeon of the funding that a royal commission would have. Not a royal commission lite, not some token set up to appease. What is needed is a royal commission to examine the deaths that have already occurred—to determine why they happened, what changes need to be made to the system, how we can do better by our past and current veterans and future veterans—and turn this absolute tragedy around.

Saving lives. That is the heart of this motion—to save the lives of veterans who have already sacrificed so much of themselves in serving their country. This does not mean that other work to support veterans cannot continue through the mental health and


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