MEDIA – Mix 104.9FM – Transcript – About time the Government listened to the community on need for royal commission into veteran and defence suicide

DARWIN, 20 April 2021

KATIE WOOLF, HOST: It’s certainly not the first time that we’ve discussed this situation, and by yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, made the announcement that there will be a royal commission. Now joining me in the studio is Luke Gosling. Good morning to you, Luke.

LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Morning, Katie.

WOOLF: By yesterday afternoon, Luke, we’d found out that this is finally happening, this royal commission. You must have been pleased that the Prime Minister had finally gone down the path that so many have been calling for for such a long time.

GOSLING: Yeah, I was really pleased, Katie. Initially, to be honest, I was confused because lots of people had heard me on radio with you talking about the meritorious unit citation decision, and I thought people were texting me about that. But then someone said, “no, you pelican, have a look on the on the TV, the Prime Minister’s announced the royal commission into veteran and defence suicide”. Which is fantastic news. I’m not being political, but it’s taken the Government a long time to realise that the only way to fix the system and make sure it is as good as we possibly can get it is to listen to all the experts, to listen to the families, to listen to the veterans about their experiences through that arm’s length systemic approach of a royal commission so that we get it right. 

WOOLF: And Luke, as a former serviceman, this is something that you and some other MPs have really been pushing very hard on. I know that you’d been in discussions as well with different families here in the Northern Territory who have been impacted. It’s so important that this happens, but it’s so important that we get it right when it comes to the terms of reference.

GOSLING: Yeah, the terms of reference are essential. And I just want to publicly thank everyone, all those families, all those veterans, all those that love veterans who really got behind this campaign, because it’s worked, it’s succeeded in getting us to this point. The terms of reference now is critical, as you say, Katie, because if it’s not broad-ranging, it won’t get all the voices and it won’t get the best possible recommendations. 

So, you know, I and other veterans have been a bit worried that Minister Darren Chester, hasn’t been very receptive to the idea of a royal commission until now. We’re worried that maybe the Department of Veterans Affairs hands him the terms of reference and he goes with that. So I was glad to hear this morning that he’s going to travel around the country and talk to veterans and families, ex-service organisations. It’s really important that they take on board that feedback, because if we’re going to spend these funds on a royal commission, we can only do it once. We’re going to make sure it’s right. 

WOOLF: You’re spot on. That’s something that you and I have discussed previously as well, is I question whether we need to spend all of that money on a royal commission. Is it better just investing that money on the services that we require? But you pointed out to me that we’ve got to make sure that we know that it’s going into the right areas and that it’s going into the right services, which is so important. 

GOSLING: And despite the best efforts of everyone out there in the veteran support system, we know that to too many of our brothers and sisters are making that fateful decision and leaving shattered families in their wake. So let’s get it right. Let’s do it properly and really encourage the broadest possible terms of reference so that we get the best result. 

WOOLF: And, of course, if you or anybody that you know does need help or support, you are able to get in contact with Lifeline on 13 11 14. Luke Gosling, before I let you go, what’s been the reaction this morning from some of the Territory’s veterans? I know that you were in close contact with many of them and have certainly been on campaigning for this royal commission. What’s been the reaction this morning? 

GOSLING: There’s a bit of relief. And there’s a sense of the nation has listened to the pleas of the veteran and defence community, that there’s something wrong here with our system. And so that sense that at last our voices have been heard, you know, some sadness of the preventable deaths that have happened in the last 18 months and beyond, but a sense of hope that in the lead-up to Anzac Day on the weekend, the nation has remembered its responsibility to the people that go overseas in our name, the people that respond here in Australia to disasters, that do us so proud. 

And instead of just thanking people for their service, we’re going to say, “thank you for your service and we’re going to make sure that it’s the best possible system of support possible”. 

WOOLF: Luke, before I let you go, you and I had spoken a couple of weeks ago about the need for an extension on some of the federal grants when it comes to building your first home and the situation that we’re in here in the Northern Territory, it’s been announced that it is going to be extended. 

GOSLING: Yeah, that’s right, Katie. And I think it was one of your listeners, Mel, who called in and there was a problem with running out of time due to the wet season, that the cut-off was going to be too soon. So it is really good that the Federal Government have listened to that. And for those that were eligible for the HomeBuilder scheme prior to March 31 when it cut off, they only had six months to get the work done. That’s been extended for 12 months, so there’s now 18 months after signing contracts for that construction to commence for the HomeBuilder program. So that’s great news. 

And just finally, Katie, I just want to give a shout-out to Senator Jacqui Lambie and some of the mums, Julie-Ann Finney and Karen Bird, who were really staunch in this campaign. So it was a big team effort. And thanks to everyone who, including yourself, who helped us to campaign for this royal commission. 

WOOLF: Luke Gosling, always good to catch up with you. We really appreciate your time this morning. 

ENDS