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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Page: 1310

Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (13:13): I rise today to speak on Labor's support for the Defence Legislation Amendment (Military Justice Enhancements—Inspector-General ADF) Bill 2014. This bill continues the bipartisan approach to reforming the military justice system that has been pursued by successive governments. It entrenches the independence of the Inspector-General by separating it from the military chain of command. It also enables the Inspector-General to be used to investigate a broad range of matters as requested by the minister.

This bill seeks to amend Defence legislation in order to enhance the independence, expand the investigative options and enshrine process safeguards in relation to the role of the Inspector-General ADF. It will amend the Defence Act 1903 and will make clear the emphasis on transparency, predictability and accountability in decision making affecting Australian Defence Force members.

The explanatory memorandum makes clear that the Inspector-General ADF mechanism for internal audit and review of the military justice system is independent of the ordinary chain of command. It provides for the minister to direct the Inspector-General ADF to investigate or inquire into a matter concerning the Defence Force. It makes it clear that the Inspector-General ADF may be prescribed investigative functions that relate to a member's service in the Defence Force other than the military justice system. It makes it clear that regulations can be prescribed that abrogate the privilege against self-incrimination for witnesses appearing before the Inspector-General ADF or inquiry officers appointed by the Inspector-General ADF, as is the case for boards of inquiry and other types of inquiry.

The legislation ensures that testimony given by a witness under any such regulations attracts a statutory bar on that evidence being used against the witness giving it, except in proceedings relating to the giving of false evidence to an inquiry.

The amendments require the Inspector-General ADF to prepare an annual report relating to the operations of the Inspector-General ADF for tabling in parliament; strengthen the independence of the inspector-general by making it clear that where the inspector-general is directed to conduct an inquiry or investigation by the Chief of the Defence Force, the inspector-general may cease the inquiry or investigation if the inspector-general forms a belief that the continuation of the inquiry or investigation is not otherwise warranted, having regard to all the circumstances.

By separating the inspector-general from the military chain of command, the bill ensures that the inspector-general cannot be forced or ordered down an avenue that he or she considers inappropriate. This greater independence provides our Defence Force the ability to investigate failures or flaws in the military justice system and administrative processes as well as incidents, with greater confidence in the integrity, reliability and independence of its investigations.

The transparency and accountability of the inspector-general will improved through the requirement for an annual report. This bill, more generally, goes to the ever evolving and more open culture of the Australian Defence Force and continues the ongoing process of reform of military justice and defence personnel administrative processes. Labor supports this bill.