Scott Morrison announces a Royal Commission into veteran suicides after 500 Aussies who fought in Afghanistan took their own lives
- Scott Morrison has announced a Royal Commission into veteran suicide
- At least 500 Afghanistan veterans have taken their own lives since 2001
- The prime minster will also establish a National Commissioner
Scott Morrison has announced a Royal Commission into veteran suicide days after calling Aussie troops home from Afghanistan.
At least 500 Afghanistan veterans have taken their own lives since Australia went to war in 2001.
The prime minster will also establish a National Commissioner to make sure any recommendations made by the two-year inquiry are implemented.
Scott Morrison has announced a Royal Commission into veteran suicide
Mr Morrison was emotional when he thanked Australia’s troops for their service
‘I think and I hope it will be a healing process. I hope it will be a process by which veterans and families can find some comfort, but it obviously can’t replace the loss. We understand that,’ Mr Morrison said.
The prime minister has been under pressure from veterans families’ to call a Royal Commission for months.
Tasmanian Senator and former soldier Jacqui Lambie has been urging the prime minister to establish the inquiry immediately.
‘Wake up. We need that royal commission. There is nothing stopping him for calling it today,’ she told Sky News.
Veterans Minister Darren Chester will lead a public consultation process on the draft Terms of Reference and Mr Morrison will consult with state leaders.
The prime minister said the Commission will take between 18 months and two years to complete.
Last week Mr Morrison announced Australia will pull its last 80 remaining troops out of Afghanistan by September.
The Prime Minister was visibly emotional when he announced the news at a media conference in Perth and read out the names of the 41 soldiers who had lost their lives in the war-ravaged middle-eastern nation.
‘These brave Australians are amongst our greatest ever who have served in the name of freedom,’ he said.
What will a Royal Commission do?
The Government intends that the Royal Commission and the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention will be established together and operate in a complementary way to achieve long-term change.
The Royal Commission will look at past deaths by suicide (including suspected suicides and lived experience of suicide risks) from a systemic point of view, while the National Commissioner will have a forward-looking role, including overseeing the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
The National Commissioner Bill currently before the Parliament will be amended to ensure their work complements the work of the Royal Commission and examines deaths by suicide in the defence and veteran community that occur after the Royal Commission has handed down their final report.
Given the complex issues for consideration, and the importance of hearing from Australian Defence Force members, veterans and their families, the Government envisages that three Commissioners will be needed to lead the inquiry. Consultation is underway to appoint these candidates.
Minister Chester will lead a public consultation process on the draft Terms of Reference and the Prime Minister will write to First Ministers inviting their contributions to the draft Terms of Reference with the view of a joint Commonwealth-State Royal Commission.
The Federal Government is committed to ensuring all the systems of support for our veterans and their families are working together, and importantly that when someone who may be struggling reaches out for help, which we are there to support them.
‘This day, we dedicate to their memories. We think of their families, their friends, the life they would have lived. But they gave that for others they did not know.’
With his voice quivering, Mr Morrison added: ‘We can be so proud of them, of their service… we thank them for their service humbly and gratefully.’
Asked if the war was worth it, Mr Morrison said: ‘Freedom is always worth it’.
Australia joined the war in Afghanistan in November 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, the worst terror attack in history.
The US-led coalition swiftly deposed the Taliban government before year’s end, but western troops had stayed for 20 years since, dealing with lingering pockets of resistance and trying to train the local army.
At the peak of the war, Australia had 1,500 troops in Afghanistan and in total 39,000 Australian Defence Force personnel have been deployed on Operations SLIPPER and HIGHROAD.
Since the end of 2013, Australia has only maintained a small training force in Afghanistan rather than active combat troops.
Mr Morrison’s announcement comes after US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he will withdraw remaining U.S. troops from the ‘forever war’ in Afghanistan, declaring that the September 11 terror attacks of 20 years ago cannot justify American forces still dying in the nation’s longest war.
An Australian Platoon from Combat Team Tusk in Afghanistan