TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH LEIGH SALES, ABC 7.30
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 26 November 2012
TOPICS: Government response to the DLA Piper and Broderick Reviews
LEIGH SALES: Good evening, Minister.
STEPHEN SMITH: A pleasure.
LEIGH SALES: If this inquiry is successful, it will uncover the names of abusers and the names of people who covered up abuse in the Defence Forces. Will that information go to the police?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, one of the options open to the task force headed by former justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Len Roberts-Smith, is to refer matters to the appropriate State or Federal or Territory jurisdictions, either police or investigative agencies, so yes, that is entirely in prospect.
LEIGH SALES: And will people accused of serious and repeated abuse be dismissed from the Defence Force?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, we have to take this step by step. There's a series of some 775 plausible allegations. They will now be tested. They will be tested by the task force. But the - Len Roberts-Smith has made it clear as chair of the task force he needs to make sure that fair procedures and processes are respected. Ultimately, if things are to end up where you indicate or suggest, that would require matters before criminal courts. And the Chief of the Defence Force and his service colleagues have made it absolutely crystal clear in recent times that they have a zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour.
And they've also made it clear or I've also made it clear in my discussions today with media that the Chief of the Defence Force has already ensured that an investigation was done by ADFIS, the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service, on the specific allegations of DLA Piper and the so-called ADFA 24. That's led to a conclusion that, yes, we do believe there are people currently serving against whom allegations were made. It's the Chief of the Defence Force's intention to forward that to the relevant prosecutorial authorities and also to the taskforce itself.
LEIGH SALES: But if you've got a case where somebody who's currently serving is accused, let's say by half a dozen people of abuse, shouldn't that be enough to stand them down, pending an inquiry?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, one of the things that DLA Piper and I have made clear is that none of these allegations have yet been tested. DLA Piper's initial work suggested, as I say, 775 plausible allegations. They now need to be tested and people have got rights in that process.
LEIGH SALES: But my point is that if there are multiple allegations against people, shouldn't they be stood aside on pay or however you like, pending that investigation, given that I think from memory the DLA Piper report made it given clear that it's a real a problem to have people still serving who are abusers and people who cover up abuse?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, provided we've moved from the stage of not just allegation but also having tested those allegations, whether you're in the Australian Defence Force on the military side or the civilian side, people in Australian society have rights of fair process. In the end, these will be matters of judgment for the Chief of the Defence Force, but what the Chief has made clear in the Pathways to Change document released by him and the then Secretary earlier this year, his response and the Government's response to the work done by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, and also in the response today, is that there has to be in the future a zero tolerance for inappropriate conduct, and that will include, as the Chief has made clear, people being stood aside in appropriate circumstances. But we have to go through a fair process arrange minute for that.
LEIGH SALES: What is the threshold for abuse victims to qualify for compensation?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, that will be a matter for the taskforce as the chair, Len Roberts-Smith, made clear today we're not looking at high standards or high civil standards. We have, if you like, struck the amount at comparable to a number of State criminal injury compensation amounts, $50,000. We'll leave that in terms of administering it to the taskforce itself. It's more than, if you like, a symbolic gesture. It's modest compensation. It won't in any way detract from the capacity of an individual to take other action by way of civil claim either against an alleged perpetrator or indeed against the Commonwealth itself. But we don't want to see the same high standards of proof and the - as Len Roberts-Smith made clear today, it'll essentially be a low threshold and the taskforce working its way through and making fair judgments in a restorative justice sense.
LEIGH SALES: Stephen Smith, thank you very much for your time.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Leigh, thanks very much.