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Disk containing Defence report on Private Jacob Kovco is mistakenly left in airport lounge and then leaked to Derryn Hinch; ADF Chief accepts responsibility.

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Thursday 18 May 2006

Disk containing Defence report on Private Jacob Kovco is mistakenly left in airport lounge and then leaked to Derryn Hinch; ADF Chief accepts responsib ility


TONY EASTLEY: The Defence Minister, Dr Brendan Nelson, has ordered a special report into the Jake Kovco affair and is reported to want a review carried out of his top brass. 


It follows the latest debacle surrounding the death of Private Kovco who died in Iraq after suffering a single gunshot wound to his head, reportedly from his own pistol. 


First the story kept changing on how Private Jake Kovco died, and now the report on how his body was left behind has been left in an airport lounge and delivered to a Melbourne radio show. 


It's an embarrassing situation for the Defence Department and the new Minister, Dr Nelson; it's also painful for the Kovco family. 


From Canberra, Gillian Bradford reports. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: It's a huge mess and defence isn't even bothering to try to put a good spin on it. 


ANGUS HOUSTON: I'm deeply embarrassed about it and I deeply regret the circumstances.  


GILLIAN BRADFORD: But if the Chief of Defence, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston is mortified, it would still be nothing next to the pain of the senior officer who made the latest error. 


Brigadier Elizabeth Cosson wrote the report into just how Jake Kovco's body was left behind in Kuwait. 


She had it saved onto a CD, which she left behind in a computer on a VIP lounge at Melbourne airport and unfortunately for her, the helpful soul who found that CD handed it to broadcaster Derryn Hinch. 


So who should take the rap? This is what the Treasurer Peter Costello had to say on Lateline last night. 


PETER COSTELLO: If a public servant has left a confidential disc in a public place, that public servant should take the blame. I don't think you can hold the minister accountable for that. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Executive Director of the Defence Association, Neil James, who had 31 years in the Army is more blunt about might happen to Brigadier Cosson. 


NEIL JAMES: For the officer concerned, it's probably a career-ending move. This type of mistake would be the type of thing that would normally end a career. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Other former senior military officers AM has spoken to think this matter has been blown out of all proportion, because it's become so political. 


They suggest Brigadier Cosson should be given a severe reprimand and have the matter recorded on her file, but insist it's not a sackable offence. 


Certainly no one thinks Angus Houston should be offering his resignation. 


Neil James again. 


NEIL JAMES: Well look, the Commander obviously takes responsibility when things go wrong, but I think calls by some people for the CDF to resign over this are just simply farcical and indeed it's a bit hard to hold the minister responsible for an administrative error of this nature. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: But there are now a series of events, which have created the impression of a debacle. It's a fair word to use, isn't it? 


NEIL JAMES: Look I think the term used would be continuing debacle. This is yet another distressing development for the Kovco family and really quite tragic. 


TONY EASTLEY: Neil James, the Executive Director of the Defence Association, ending Gillian Bradford's report.