Cultural clash on veteran royal commission

Finbar O'Mallon
Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith says the ADF is not doing enough for veterans

Defence insiders are wary of a stark generational divide over the need for a royal commission into veteran suicides.

They have also highlighted the need to streamline a tangle of laws governing veteran entitlements.

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith has made a dramatic intervention into the simmering debate, demanding the heads of the Australian Defence Force should be sacked for their failure to support veterans.

Mr Roberts-Smith wants a royal commission to investigate ADF leadership and their handling of veteran's affairs.

He claims the current state of the ADF was putting off potential recruits.

Australian Defence Association executive director Neil James told AAP there was strong evidence for the need for a royal commission, but wouldn't support one outright.

"It really wouldn't matter to some fair extent which government's in power or who's at the top of the bureaucracy of the defence force, the problem is the law," Mr James said on Friday.

"The ADA is of the view, and it's one shared by a lot of young veterans, that the royal commission wouldn't hurt."

He is more focused on overlapping laws hampering the flow of support to veterans.

That said, Mr James acknowledged generations of Defence veterans saw the world differently.

The youngest Vietnam veteran is 67. By contrast, Iraq or Afghanistan veterans could be as young as 19.

"The Vietnam veterans had to fight for years to get proper treatment so they're a little intolerant of criticism that it's hard for the young blokes," Mr James told AAP.

"So there's some cultural reasons behind this."

His views on a royal commission are not held by RSL national president Greg Melick, who has dismissed the idea of an expensive distraction and waste of time.

But the men agreed that three pieces of legislation underpinning veteran supports were creating roadblocks and confusion.

Mr Melick told AAP the government could act quicker on streamlining these acts.

Senior federal government minister Mathias Cormann said he agreed with the need to support veterans.

"We have done a lot in recent years in terms of providing additional support to our serving and former serving personnel," Senator Cormann told Sky News.

"As a government, as a nation, we have a responsibility to ensure that the appropriate supports are provided on the way through and after their service has concluded."