Palmer United senator-elect wants to suspend NSW governor’s appointment

Jacqui Lambie accuses David Hurley and Peter Cosgrove of a potential conflict of interest in defence sex abuse investigation

Jacqui Lambie at a post-election press airnsconference in 2013. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

The Palmer United party senator-elect Jacqui Lambie has called for the New South Wales government to suspend David Hurley’s appointment as governor and accused the governor general, Peter Cosgrove, of having a potential conflict of interest if a royal commission into defence abuse is launched.

Lambie, a former military police officer, has stepped up her campaign for the prime minister to establish such a royal commission by criticising the appointments of military men Cosgrove and Hurley.

She said that as former defence chiefs both men could potentially be called to give evidence, and might face a conflict of interest.

Hurley, the current chief of defence, has previously urged Lambie to come to him with her concerns about military culture before going to the media.

In a statement on Tuesday, Lambie said: “Given that the current chief of defence, General Hurley, could also be another key witness at any future defence abuse royal commission – and his recent improper attempt to stop my public campaign to abolish the cut-off date for the Defence Abuse Review Task Force – I’m also calling on the government to suspend his appointment to the position of governor general [sic] of NSW.”

Cosgrove was chief of army from 2000 to 2002 and chief of defence from 2002 to 2005. Lambie has not said either men has direct knowledge of defence abuse but says as former military chiefs it would be expected they would give evidence to a royal commission.

“The provisions of the Royal Commission Act of 1902 are quite clear. While the government initiates any royal commission, the governor general as the Queen’s representative formally authorises the investigation and hands down the terms of reference,” Lambie said.

“Australia’s governor general will be placed in a very difficult position if the Abbott government bows to public and victim pressure – and initiates the inquiry. But, if Mr Abbott fails to initiate the defence abuse royal commission – how will the alleged victims know that it wasn’t a sly attempt to avoid an unprecedented political crisis – by placing the governor general in a position which is a serious conflict of interest?”

Lambie wants broad terms of reference for any royal commission and said she believed abuse was widespread in the defence force.

Lambie has previously said she was aware of abuse when she served as a military police officer.