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Minister for Delays keeps families waiting

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Minister for Delays keeps families waiting

October 3, 2011

It was inexcusable for Defence Minister Stephen Smith to keep the families of soldiers killed in a chopper crash in Afghanistan last year waiting months to receive the official report on the tragic incident.

Shadow Defence Minister David Johnston said it was typical of this Defence Minister who has a track record of sitting on reports and reviews for months on end, releasing them at a sloth-like pace.

“This was not some bureaucratic review that had little impact on anyone, it involved real people, real families, who constantly asked him to show them the official report from the United States, so they could finally get some answers on what happened to their loved ones,” Senator Johnston said.

“To not even get back to these families with an acknowledgement is heartless.”

Senator Johnston said the Defence Minister was making an art form of being stuck in a holding pattern without taking any action or making any decisions.

“Last year Defence actually gave back more than a billion dollars to treasury because it could not spend it, such is the inertia with this Minister at a time when this Government is systemically pulling money out of Defence.”

“He is also sitting on the legislation needed to re-establish the Australian Military Court after it lapsed following the October election, we are still waiting to have it introduced into Parliament 12 months later and in the mean time ADF personnel are being dealt with by the old courts martial system.”

Senator Johnston said there was no excuse to delay the release of the report of the Blackhawk crash last June; given US investigators had reportedly sent the findings to the Minister in February this year - seven months ago.

“I hope for the sake of the families this is not just another broken promise when the Prime Minister says she will ensure it is released today.”