TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH KNIGHT, CHANNEL NINE NEWS
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 15 JUNE 2012
TOPICS: DLA Piper Review.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: I spoke with Defence Minister Stephen Smith about the abuse allegations a short time ago. Minister Smith, is a Royal Commission the appropriate means to thoroughly investigate these hundreds of allegations.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well it's one of the options. I've made clear for some time now that it's one of the matters that we're considering. It could be a Royal Commission, it could be a reconciliation or apology process, it could be a compensation arrangement. Because we're dealing with over 700 so-called plausible allegations over a five decade period, it's complex and we have to work our way through that carefully and methodically, and that's what we're doing.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: The report says that it's certain that boys as young as 13 suffered serious sexual and physical assault. That is a major concern.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well the whole report itself is of very serious nature and very concerning, and that's why from the first moment that I initially started the process and then received the first phase of the report some months ago, that I've been making clear that these are serious matters and I don't think I can underline that seriousness more than by indicating a Royal Commission is an option. But the allegations still remain untested, so we do have to have a process where those allegations are tested.
There are very concerning findings about minors, about 13, 14, and 15 year old children. But the recruitment these days starts at 16. We've long passed the time when such young children were recruited into the services, but that is one of the very concerning allegations that we find in the report.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: The report also states that some of those alleged abusers could now be in high-ranking positions in the ADF. If they're found guilty should they be sacked?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we've got to take it step by step. There are people who have made allegations; obviously they have rights and we need to respect that.
But anyone against whom an allegation is made, they also have rights, and they need to have a fair process where that allegation can be tested. So clearly there is a possibility that someone who has had an allegation made against them may continue to be in the Defence Force, in the services. But we'll have to take that step by step. It is a possibility.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now the Opposition says a Royal Commission would delay support for victims. Will you commit to providing compensation and a formal apology to victims?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well all of these possibilities are options that are on the table and we're carefully considering them. I'm not quite sure what the Opposition or the Liberal Party are saying. They've spent a fair amount of time recently in Senate Estimates asking why this was initiated in the first place, so I'm not sure about their resolve or commitment. But in the aftermath of the ADFA-Skype issue I received in my office hundreds of complaints of allegations, and I set up this independent process to make sure that we could thoroughly investigate them. We're in the midst of the process. We don't think we're too far away from coming to conclusions. And again whether it's an apology, whether it's a reconciliation mechanism, whether it's a compensation arrangement, whether it's a Royal Commission - we have to very carefully as a Government work our way through the complexities of not just the individual allegations, but also what it means for Defence as an organisation. We have to make sure that we've got systems in place so that these sorts of allegations, and these sorts of alleged instances, don't occur in the future.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Defence Minister Stephen Smith, thank you for your time.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you.