Jacqui’s tough warning to PM
Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie has welcomed the news of a royal commission into veteran suicide but has also come with a cautious warning to the Prime Minister.
Scott Morrison on Monday bowed to pressure after facing calls from veterans to implement the inquiry over a mounting suicide toll among ex-servicemen.
Announcing the measure, the prime minister said he hoped the inquiry would prove an "important process" for grieving families.
"I hope that it will be a process by which veterans and families can find some comfort," he said.
Mr Morrison confirmed the inquiry's draft terms of reference would be released on Monday, and the commission would have the power to hold private sessions.
Mr Morrison said he expected the royal commission would be underway by July and take a year to 18 months to complete.
Ms Lambie, a veteran herself, has been a well-known advocate since at least 2014. In a tweet on Monday, she said it was "the end of a fight, and the start of a whole new one".
Speaking to the ABC, she said groups were "quietly celebrating" the announcement but warned, "it's not over, we don't want to get lost in the fog".
She thanked members of the Liberal party who "behind closed doors" had been pushing for a royal commission, "causing a bit of divide".
In my first speech as a Senator, I called for a Royal Commission into veteran suicide.— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) April 19, 2021
It's the end of a long fight. For me, for Julie-Ann, for Karen, for Colleen, for Nikki, for too many to name.
Today's the end of a fight, and the start of a whole new one. #VetsWeForgetpic.twitter.com/RNBZUGyTP8
Today is a victory for veterans and the tireless campaigners for a royal commission into veteran suicide.— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) April 19, 2021
Campaigners like Julie-Ann Finney, who lost her son David to suicide in 2019, and has been demanding that the government act. pic.twitter.com/nfjs5ll2zn
She called to see the draft terms of reference and for answers over who would be the royal commissioner and who will sit on the panel.
Mr Morrison said it will examine "all aspects of service" in the Australian Defence Force, including those who continue to be at risk of suicide.
Mr Morrison said Australians needed to understand more about the human cost of sending troops to war overseas.
But Ms Lambie said she cautious that "the prime minister is saying all the right words but I actually need to see that on paper".
"The next month we'll watch this play out and hopefully we'll be able to contribute," she said.
"We've still got a bit of a way to go yet:"
Who said Independents don’t achieve anything...@JacquiLambie just achieved a Royal Commission for Veterans .👍Jacque— Tony Windsor (@TonyHWindsor) April 19, 2021
Yet she thanked the Prime Minister for "showing the courage to finally come out and call it" and said she didn't want to argue over the delayed response from the federal government.
The measure was a reverse course for the government, which had resisted a push for a royal commission.
It appointed an independent national commissioner to look into veteran suicide on an ongoing basis, which Mr Morrison in December said was a "better answer" than a "one-off" royal commission. He said in Monday's announcement the royal commission will operate alongside the ongoing commission.
"I don't think there's any point in having a go at him about that, I don't think it's going to get us any where, I really just now want to get this started and make sure those terms of reference and we have a completely independent panel on that royal commission," she said.
"We've got past that point now, we need to get on with it, we need to get on with what the issues truly are. We just want to get on with it".
Labor said it had been calling for a royal commission "for some time" with leader Anthony Albanese saying "it is well past time".
Shadow Defence Minister Brendan O'Connor said: "Labor has been seeking a royal commission into veteran suicides for well over a year."
Retired Special Forces officer and Voice of a Veteran founder Heston Russell told ABC Drive "it's a fantastic announcement".
"It's a very key demonstration of the recognition and respect of these issues that have been plaguing generations of veterans".
Originally published as Jacqui's tough warning to PM