What civil-control-of-the-military really entails

Ministerial control of our defence force is not somehow absolute. As in any Westmister-system democracy it must still comply with the Constitution and the law.

Monday, 09 March 2012
Letter to The Canberra Times
(published Saturday, 14 March 2012)

Mike Reddy (Letters, March 09) mistakenly believes that the Australian [sic] Defence Association somehow represents members of the defence force professionally.

As the relevant, independent, national public-interest watchdog for Defence defence issues we only stick up for anyone when they are slandered or mistreated.

We also criticise anyone concerned when they are wrong and act contrary to the public interest.

The essential constitutional principle of civil-control-of-the-military does not allow a Minister untrammelled power.

Defence ministers are still bound by the Defence Act and by the principles of natural justice, administrative law and the separation of powers generally.

And surely by community standards of fair play and common decency.

Just as the ADA strongly criticised Peter Reith over the children overboard affair, and the whole Howard Government over the AWB-Iraq wheat scandal, we will continue to stick to the facts and independently criticise Stephen Smith’s mishandling of the ADFA skype incident and its aftermath.

And we will continue to confront claims and prejudices about this and other matters that are contrary to the public interest.