The deadline for finalising the backlog of veteran compensation claims should be a top priority of the Albanese government, independent senator Jacqui Lambie says.
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide on Thursday released its interim report which recommended clearing the backlog by March 2024.
Senator Lambie, an army veteran who herself gave evidence to the inquiry last week, said that date should be brought forward.
“Surely we can get onto it quicker than that,” she said.
“Most veterans can’t wait until 2024 to have their claims dealt with. This should be a top priority for the new government.”
Senator Lambie has also thrown her support behind the report’s recommendation for exemptions from parliamentary privilege, to allow greater access to information.
“I have no problem with a change to exemptions of parliamentary privilege for this Royal Commission and future Royal Commissions,” she said.
“They need to be able to question ministers as part of their investigation.
“The way I see it, the Labor Party has to decide: Are they on the side of protecting veterans or the side of protecting politicians?”
Parliamentary privilege can only be waived by parliament and through legislation.
Two previous royal commissions, into aged care and the banks, made the same comments about the impact of parliamentary privilege, according to the report.
The commission also criticised the use of public interest immunity, which stops government from producing documents or answering questions on the grounds the information would damage the public interest.
Senator Lambie said the release of the report was “just the beginning of the journey”.
“We still have a long way to go,” she said.
“But this is an important first step to fixing some of the issues facing our veterans.”