Mother to be banned from speaking at Royal Veterans Suicide Commission until after federal election

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The Royal Commission on Veteran Suicide has told the mother of a veteran who committed suicide that she will not be able to testify publicly until after the federal election because she plans to run for office, despite already hearing testimony from another witness whose name is also on the list. the vote in May.

Julie-Ann Finney was one of the most high-profile campaigners for the institution of the National Inquiry following the death of her son David in 2019, and an outspoken critic of the Morrison government’s original alternative proposal.

“The committee notes that Ms. Finney has stated that she intends to run for Senate in South Australia,” attorneys for the investigation wrote to Ms. Finney on March 11 in an email obtained by the ABC. .

Under the circumstances, the commissioners do not consider it appropriate for Ms. Finney to give oral testimony in a pre-election public hearing.

The Royal Commission held its first round of public hearings in Brisbane in December, where one of the witnesses was retired Commando Major Heston Russell.

Mr Russell is running for a Senate seat in Queensland and plans to field at least nine other candidates to lead his newly formed Australian Values ​​Party.

He discussed his political ambitions months earlier in a series of public statements on both social and traditional media, confirming in an interview with Sky News’ Paul Murray in early September that he “definitely” “wanted to get involved”.

“The Royal Commission was not aware of Mr Russell’s political ambitions when he testified in Brisbane,” a spokeswoman for the investigation told ABC.

Russell used the December 3 hearing to share insights from his long career with Australia’s special forces and observations on how soldiers were selected, trained and released into civilian life.

His party was officially registered in January.

Julie-Ann Finney (left) meets Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Canberra, along with mothers Nikki Jamieson and Colleen Pillen (right), whose children have also died by suicide.Delivered

Evidence feels ‘somehow contaminated’

Ms Finney has already contributed to the royal commission in a private session and was originally given the chance to speak publicly at the same hearings in Brisbane in December, but told the commission she was not ready yet.

She then asked to appear in the fourth round of hearings underway in Canberra this week.

The committee’s lawyers said they would be in touch “after election results are available” to agree on an alternative date.

Ms. Finney told the ABC the decision left her feeling her evidence was “tainted in some way.”

The inquiry’s spokeswoman said the royal commission is “independent of government and politics”.

“It is appropriate to keep these cases separate,” she said.

Ms Finney announced in December her intention to run for a federal Senate seat in South Australia under the banner of the newly formed Local Party of Australia, which was registered with the Election Commission in March this year.

She achieved national fame in her campaign for the Royal Commission and made the front page of the Daily Telegraph in December 2019.

Julie-Ann Finney in Parliament
Julie-Ann Finney watches the House of Representatives as it calls for a royal commission on veteran suicide.ABC news

Ms Finney led a delegation that met with Scott Morrison in February 2020, a week after the Prime Minister rejected the idea of ​​a royal commission. a standing veteran suicide commissioner.

She went on to say she was not convinced and continued to campaign for the original proposal.

Finney watched from the public stands during an emotional debate in the House of Representatives a year later, in March 2021, when the government said for the first time it would “not oppose” a push by crossbench senators to create a royal. to set up a committee.

Member of Parliament and Veteran Phil Thompson turned to Ms. Finney and said, “I want to talk to you Julie-Anne. That’s why we’re here.”

The government dropped its longstanding reservations and called the investigation last April.

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