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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13107

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (12:07): Today in the House the coalition offers its strongest and unqualified support to the government as it offers a formal apology to the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who have suffered abuse in the course of their service to our nation. Ours is a unique fighting force—a small but potent military that has delivered a disproportionate effect upon every battlefield on which we have fought. We have a rich military history and we can rightfully hold our heads high amongst the concert of nations when it comes to defending freedom. Our history of military endeavour is second to none. Yet despite this overwhelming battlefield success, there has been a flood of complaints, some going back to the 1950s, of abuse within the ranks.

Our military personnel are our greatest asset. Their wellbeing will always be our No. 1 priority. Their care while serving our nation is not a price we pay; it is a duty we all undertake. By any standard, the litany of abuse allegations are completely unacceptable, let alone by the standards of the finest fighting force in the world, the ADF. This conduct does not accord with the values of our society let alone the values of our military. Our military is a disciplined force; however, the DLA Piper review has made it clear that there have been elements and individuals within the Defence Force who used their power or position and inflicted abuse on those who sought only to serve their nation. We deeply sympathise with and say sorry to those who have experienced abuse at the hands of those who were to be trusted with their leadership and their care. Theirs was a great betrayal.

This abuse should never have happened and every effort must and will be made to ensure that it does not happen again. Our military must train hard and it must fight hard, but as they do we must not allow our men and women to suffer any type of abuse in any way. This is not who we are as a nation and certainly not who we are as a military. Abuse destroys lives, it limits our operational capability and it undermines public confidence in our Defence Force.

We are always at our best when we pause, walk in the shoes of others and reflect on their experiences, when we acknowledge their pain and commit to right that which is wrong. This is the start of that journey. Accordingly, the government will enjoy the full support of the coalition as it establishes its Defence abuse task force and the process it undertakes. We will provide every support to senior Defence leadership and we have faith in their capacity to work with the task force to both assist it in its work and implement its recommendations. Today we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the government in our absolute commitment to care for those who care for us.