Transcript - Mix 104.9 FM - Royal Commission into Defence Suicide and Changes to Social Media Laws

29 November 2021

DARWIN - 29 November 2021

KATIE WOOLF, HOST: The royal commission into veteran suicide, it started on Friday with a ceremonial hearing with participants to begin giving evidence as of today. It was established on July 8th this year to address high rates of suicide among those who have served in the Australian Defence Forces. Now joining me on the line to talk more about this is the Northern Territory's federal Member for Solomon, Luke Gosling. Good morning
WOOLF: Luke, the royal commission. It is going to be considering systemic issues relevant to the death by suicide of defence members and veterans, as well as risk factors and protective measures and the ability or the availability, I should say, of support services. Luke, what are Territory veterans telling you about the royal commission getting underway at this point?
GOSLING: They're very glad that it's begun. There's different levels of faith in the process. I think that's fair to say in that, you know, some people see this as the opportunity to fix the system in a systemic way, as you just mentioned, Katie. Others have seen other reviews come and go, with issues in the system not being resolved. But overall, I think people are hopeful and glad that in particular, the families of those that we've lost will get to tell their son or daughter’s story and in particular with other family members. And that will put together a picture, I think, of where veterans have fallen through the gaps in the past so that we can make sure that we plug those gaps by this systemic change that we need.
WOOLF: Luke, do we know exactly how it's going to work? You know, who are those commissioners are going to be speaking to and hearing from?
GOSLING: Yeah. Anyone can ask to give evidence, either in written form or in person. And in fact, you can ask for a private hearing. I'm assisting a member of the Defence Forces who's still serving in Darwin's family at the moment with issues to do with that individual's case and how that's progressing with the Department of Veterans Affairs. So you would understand, Katie, that some people who are still serving want to be careful, they want to stay employed. Not that tthe ADF would act out against anyone who was making their case known. But just this morning, I've been talking to a member from the Navy who had a serious back injury, and I'm assisting him to get some better assistance. And he's told me about two other people that have been in wheelchairs for some time. I know that a soldier that I served with is still in a wheelchair many years after the injury, and we're still trying to make sure that they're getting more support from the Department of Veterans Affairs. And I think we're seeing some movement in that. But serious injury is going to happen, whether it be on operations overseas or here in Australia, and during training. And we've seen a correlation, I think the royal commission will show this, that it is those whose medical situation, their mental health situation, is not addressed appropriately that not only is there a deterioration in faith in the system. There's a deterioration in the wellbeing of the individual, and that's what we've really got to nip in the bud with better services upfront. And the wellbeing centres, such as the one in Darwin that started in an interim way by Mates 4 Mates is a bit of a start to recognize that people and their families need a lot more support earlier, and that will lead to much better outcomes.
WOOLF: And Luke, this is something you and I have spoken about on numerous occasions, I know that we've had you on the show prior to the royal commission getting underway and you were always very vocal saying that it needed to happen. I'd said to you, “yeah, but is it going to mean that it takes an awful long time and nothing changes in the meantime?” Do you have that confidence that we are going to see some changes in this space that really do try to help our veterans and those that are still serving?
GOSLING: I have confidence Katie that there will be real change come out of this royal commission. Of course, it comes down to the commitment of the Federal Government of the day, Veterans Affairs being a federal issue, but also obviously in Darwin, we've got Paul Kirby, who's the Veterans Minister from the NT Government perspective, and there’s state and territory ministers that focus on on these issues as well. But it is a federal issue. If Federal Labor are successful at the federal election early next year, I'll be pushing to make sure that there's the full support that we can bring to enforcing the recommendations. And likewise, if the current Government continues, I'll be pushing them to make sure that there's sufficient support given to the implementation of the recommendations so that it's not just another parliamentary report that that gathers dust without any real and meaningful change.
WOOLF: Luke, before I let you go this morning just on another topic. I know that nationally it is being reported that social media companies could be forced to reveal the identities of anonymous users in an effort to crack down on online trolling. Now these changes are going to fall under new legislation, which is being drafted by the Federal Government and is expected to be introduced to Parliament next year. It apparently would see companies required to create a complaints process for people who feel that they've been defamed online. And laws would allow courts to force companies to hand over the identities of users if people wanted to pursue legal action. Luke, will this work?
GOSLING: Hard to say, Katie, there’ll be experts that might have a view on how effective this is going to be. But I would say to people, as someone who’s been on the receiving end of anonymous trolls a great deal, you know, you take that it comes with the territory in politics, but a lot of harm’s done to people by anonymous users of social media platforms. So I’d just ask people who do use anonymous sites to just think carefully about what damage you might be doing to someone. And we need to be a bit kinder, I think. If you think you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face then it’s probably not a good idea to say it online. But I think with the changes of laws and some defamation suits that have been happening, this is a moveable feast. I was given some advice recently to be very careful about what other people comment on my page because I might be liable for things other people say. So every now and again you get people who are rude or disrespectful online, so I’ll do that but just be aware that they may be liable in future for any harm that comes as a result of their words.
WOOLF: Yeah and I think it is certainly well worth having a think about, and those who are behaving in a poor way online, just stop. Luke, we will talk to you again very soon, thank you very much for your time this morning.

GOSLING: Thank you, Katie.
WOOLF: That is Luke Gosling, the Federal Member for Solomon.