Why there is no respect

A correction to an opinion article based entirely on the incorrect claim that serious crimes within the ADF were and are not investigated by civil police. The article also misunderstood why the behaviour of the Minister for Defence is not respected across former and serving defence force personnel.

Letter to The West Australian

Monday, 11 July 2012
Published Saturday, 14 July 2012 in the Weekend West Australian
(under the headline "Why there's no respect")

Daniel Flitton (“Outside review the only course”, West Australian, 11/7) is factually incorrect, and as a result conceptually mistaken, throughout his opinion article on the ADF.

Within Australia the responsibility to investigate and prosecute all serious criminal matters involving defence force personnel has been undertaken by State or Federal police since at least the 1970s.

We saw an example of this at ADFA last year when the AFP were immediately called in by the Academy’s commandant to investigate the so-called “Skype” incident.

Military police handle only minor criminal offences. Generally of the type and degree that civil police no longer bother with in the whole community because of resourcing constraints.

MPs also investigate Service offences under the Defence Force Discipline Act — but these are disciplinary matters that are not civil crimes — and they investigate criminal offences committed on overseas deployments.

The Australia Defence Association has long advocated a Royal Commission into allegations of bullying, harassment and abuse in our defence force.

This is the best way to establish the facts, test allegations, provide resolution to victims, restore public confidence in the ADF, restore ADF confidence in the ability of the Australian community and media to cover defence issues accurately and in a balanced fashion, and stop further politicisation of the issue by the Minister for Defence.

Especially him repeating the abuse allegations time and again, without announcing any resolution of the issue,  seemingly as a distraction when the government is being criticised on other grounds.

Finally, Daniel is quite wrong about why Minister Smith is not respected across current and former defence force members. Or indeed, by most Australians who understand defence issues and the Westminster Conventions governing civil-control-of-the-military.

Our Service personnel are happy to cop deserved criticism.

What they object to is the Minister not reciprocating their loyalty by ever defending them — as people not allowed to answer back — against inaccurate, untrue or unfair criticism.

Just as our attorneys-general are expected to defend the judiciary.

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