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Courts martial the answer for Defence dilemma.

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ANU Media Release News from The Australian National University



The Federal Government will need to quickly revive the previous courts martial system to give it some breathing space until a new military justice system can be found, according to an expert in military law at The Australian National University.

Professor Donald Rothwell, Deputy Director of the Australian Centre for Military Law and Justice at the ANU College of Law, says that following the High Court’s ruling yesterday there is an urgent and pressing need for the government to put in interim measures until a new system for trying military offences can be found.

“The simplest and most speedy approach will be to temporarily revive the previous courts martial system which was in place prior to the establishment of the Australian Military Court,” said Professor Rothwell. “This will be a matter of priority when Parliament resumes on 7 September.

“This will grant the government and most importantly, the Australian Defence Force, some breathing space until such time as a new military justice system is designed.”

Professor Rothwell said that while the High Court’s decision yesterday in Lane v Morrison had ruled the Australian Military Court unconstitutional, the system which creates military offences remains intact.

“The Defence Force Discipline Act which creates Commonwealth military law offences remains intact. Defence force members can still therefore be charged with offences under the existing law, however, they cannot immediately be tried before a properly constituted military court.

“The challenge now for the Federal Government will be to quickly remedy the defect which now exists in the administration of military justice,” he said.

Despite the challenge ahead for the government, Professor Rothwell said that decision makers already have the information at hand to help them come up with a suitable response.

“The options for Australia’s military justice system were thoroughly canvassed by a Parliamentary report issued under the previous Howard Government in 2005. The Rudd Government will have those findings as a basis upon which to construct a new system of military justice which is consistent with the provisions of the constitution,” he said.

To arrange interviews: Professor Donald Rothwell - (02) 6125 8948 / 0414 546 830

For media assistance: Martyn Pearce, ANU Media Office - (02) 6125 5575 / 0416 249 245