Senator Jacqui Lambie in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra.
Senator Jacqui Lambie in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra.

Lambie accuses veterans’ charity of bullying mum

A senator has accused a charity which includes young Townsville veterans of abusing the mother behind the national campaign for a royal commission into veteran suicide on social media, without having seen proof.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie questioned the Department of Veterans' Affairs over proposed funding for health promotion charity Swiss 8 during Senate estimates this week.

Using parliamentary privilege to claim grieving mother Julie-Ann Finney, the driving force behind News Corp'sSave Our Heroes campaign, was abused by the group.

"Are you aware that their group is abusing Julie-Ann Finney on social media?" Senator Lambie asked.

"So I'm really worried that they really get the whole health and wellbeing thing. Are you aware of that?"

Open Arms National Manager Dr Stephanie Hodson told the committee she didn't "watch social media" and described Swiss 8 as an "exciting young veteran organisation that is trying to do good". In response, Senator Lambie advised Dr Hodson to call Ms Finney "and find out what's going on".

"If they're so into health and wellbeing, you may want to ask a few questions about that before you go giving them any money," she said.

Julie-Ann Finney.
Julie-Ann Finney.

A spokeswoman for Senator Lambie told the Bulletin, she hadn't seen screenshots or evidence of the alleged abuse herself, but had been told so by Ms Finney.

Last month, the Federal Government announced the establishment of a National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention - with the same powers as a standing royal commission.

Swiss 8 founder Adrian Sutter said the claims "were simply not true" and his organisation had been targeted for having a differing view on the merits of a royal commission.

"If that was the case there would have been evidence presented, but there wasn't any," he said. "It's trolls trying to drag us through the mud. We'd never try to upset a grieving mother, we would apologise, but no one has come forward to let us know in person."

Herbert MP and Swiss 8 patron Phil Thompson said respectful debate in the veteran community should be encouraged, and bullying wouldn't be tolerated.

"Nothing that I was given, when I demanded all commentary and correspondence from Swiss 8 executive members had any aggressive language or bullying," Mr Thompson said.

"I would like to see Senator Lambie speak directly with Swiss 8 about any concerns."