TRANSCRIPT: STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 28 MAY 2012
STEPHEN SMITH, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: On indulgence, on a matter on which I have given the Member for Fadden some notice, Members will be aware of a number of allegations raised in News Limited papers today about the repatriation and handling of the remains of Australian Defence Force personnel from Afghanistan, as well as a number of other issues. The allegations relate to an incorrect orientation of caskets; that some ADF human remains were not repatriated in accordance with Defence policy; that the remains of an Afghan local national were handled inappropriately; and that a 16-year-old Afghan minor was detained inappropriately.
I draw Members' attention to evidence given by the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, during Senate estimates earlier today where he addressed these issues in some detail. Anyone who saw the Chief of the Defence Force's evidence will have full confidence that these matters are being investigated seriously, methodically and with due regard for the reputation of the Australian Defence Force and Australia.
Defence had already commenced inquiries into a range of these matters, and in some cases the investigations are complete or close to completion. In particular, I draw Members' attention to the strong evidence of the Chief of the Defence Force that all evidence to date shows that bodies of our war dead were treated at all times with dignity and respect.
Members might recall that in my statement to the Parliament on Afghanistan last week I advised the House that the Inspector-General of the ADF had commenced an inquiry into allegations of flawed Australian Defence Force Investigative Service processes in the Middle East Area of Operations. The Inspector General of the ADF's inquiry includes the repatriation of ADF remains from the Middle East Area of Operations. In consultation with the Chief of the Defence Force, the reference in my statement did not go to any detail out of respect for the families and friends of the deceased. I undertook at the time to advise the House on the outcomes of that investigation as appropriate in due course. The Chief of the Defence Force repeated that today in his own respect.
I commend the shadow Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston, for his respect in today's Senate Estimates hearing for the Chief of the Defence Force's management of these issues. The matters raised are undergoing investigation and the outcomes will be advised as appropriate. This would have been a distressing time for the 32 families of our war dead, and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.