By JR on Friday, June 15, 2012
These allegations are undoubtedly true but it would be a mistake to apply civilian standards to them. "Bastardization" is routine in most armed forces -- to toughen up recruits and to reveal those who would crack under harsh pressure if captured. A line has to be drawn but only a Royal Commission would have a reasonable chance of doing so
DEFENCE Minister Stephen Smith denies there's been any attempt to cover-up the extent of physical and sexual abuse in the Australian Defence Force over the last 60 years.
The executive summary of a government-initiated review into Defence abuse was released yesterday, more than three months after Mr Smith made public extracts only.
The summary of the review conducted by law firm DLA Piper was released following a freedom of information request by the ABC.
It states "it is certain" that many boys, young men and young women were subjected to serious physical and sexual assault while they were in the ADF from the 1950s "at least into the 21st century".
The summary says previous report findings and Defence files show very little evidence perpetrators had been called to account.
"(And) there is a risk that those perpetrators now hold middle and senior management position within the ADF and there is a risk that those that witnessed abuse and did not report what they witnessed now hold middle and senior management positions within the ADF," the 25-page document states.
Mr Smith denied releasing extracts from the summary in early March was part of a cover-up. "I released enough material to make the point that these were very serious allegations and very concerning matters," he told ABC TV.
"The materials released today simply serve to further underline the seriousness of the matters I've been dealing with for some considerably time."
The Defence Minister said he didn't know if any perpetrators of abuse were still serving in the ADF. "If you want to get down to individual allegations to determine whether people are still in the system ... you've got to go through a proper fair process," he said, adding people had a right to respond to accusations.
The Piper review includes allegations from 775 people. It suggests the overwhelming majority are "plausible allegations of abuse".
Mr Smith said investigating so many claims over a 50-year period was "complex and complicated". "It can't be done overnight and it couldn't be done as a job lot."
However, the Minister said the fact the Government hadn't ruled a Royal Commission proved it was serious about tackling the issue.
"That may be the most effective way of dealing with these matters," Mr Smith said, adding the Government wasn't too far away from announcing what action it would take.
The review canvasses a range of options including compensation, a public apology, meetings between perpetrators and victims and a Royal Commission.
The Government launched the review following the so-called ADFA Skype scandal in April 2011 when footage of a male cadet engaging in consensual sex with a female cadet was streamed via Skype without her knowledge to a group of cadets in another room.