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Thursday, 10 September 2009
Page: 6244

Senator LUDLAM (11:19 AM) —I rise to make a brief contribution, which I think will be in substantial agreement with the previous contribution, on the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2009 and the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2009. The Australian Greens acknowledge the importance of acting very quickly to address the implications of the High Court invalidation of the Australian Military Court. We certainly appreciate the extreme importance of a functioning military justice system. The Australian Greens will therefore be supporting the government’s interim measures. The measures include reintroducing the former system of trials by court martial and Defence Force magistrates, and the interim legislation will also give effect to punishments—other than imprisonment—and orders that were imposed by the former Australian military court.

It is important to acknowledge, though, that the military justice system we are temporarily reverting to was abolished because it was deemed unsatisfactory. While the interim measures will seek to transpose some of the improvements adopted by the AMC—and we acknowledge that those attempts have been made—the system remains flawed and should be relied on only as a truly interim measure. So the key contribution from me this morning is really that we are seeking assurances from the government that it will be as brief an interim measure as is legislatively possible.

In establishing the AMC, the military justice system was subject to extensive review, as has been indicated, by the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee. Following the recent High Court decision, the committee’s work, specifically the committee’s recommendation that the AMC be constituted as a chapter III court, has attracted considerable attention, as it has effectively been shown to be correct. It has also shown the importance of Senate inquiries and Senate review of these sorts of matters. The work of the committee and its recommendations should now, obviously, be revisited by the government and used to enable the government to act as quickly as possible to establish an impartial, transparent and independent military justice system.

Lane v Morrison has prompted a need for quick action, as these interim measures are. It has equally prompted a need to ensure that an effective and enduring military justice system be established. To balance the need to act, on the one hand, quickly and, on the other hand, effectively and put this matter to rest once and for all, it is essential that we recall our obligations under the ICCPR to ensure that all Australians are provided with the right to a fair trial. It is essential that we ensure that our military justice system meets the minimum guarantees for a fair trial, consistent with best practice in the civilian justice system and indeed with our obligations under international human rights law.