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Senate endorses military justice inquiry.



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MEDIA RELEASE

Senator Chris Evans Labor Senator for Western Australia Shadow Minister for Defence

29 October 2003

SENATE ENDORSES MILITARY JUSTICE INQUIRY

Today the Senate endorsed a Committee inquiry into Australia’s military justice system.

The Committee’s work will begin soon, with the final report due by May next year.

Families of servicemen and women who have died in peacetime accidents or by committing suicide are encouraged to make a submission to the Senate’s inquiry.

Senator Evans, who moved that the Senate inquire into military justice in Australia, said today “I have already been contacted by a large number of families with issues they wish to raise.”

“The Senate seeks evidence about problems with the military inquiry process, in order that it can recommend ways to improve the independence and rigour of all inquiries.

“The Committee expects to hear evidence about a range of military inquiries, not just confined to those concerning the death of a member.

“The Committee will also be examining the quality of military inquiries in general, including into allegations of mistreatment, misconduct and systemic flaws.

“Our troops deserve the highest standards of justice and procedural fairness to be applied in every case, and the Senate is concerned that the current system does not always deliver this.”

Proposed terms of reference contained overleaf.

For comment: Chris Evans 0419 983 593 Mary Wood 0438 983 908

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NOTICE OF MOTION

SENATOR EVANS

Mr President

I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move, that the following matters be referred to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee for inquiry and report by 12 May 2004:

(1) The effectiveness of the Australian military justice system in providing impartial, rigorous and fair outcomes, and mechanisms to improve the transparency and public accountability of military justice procedures.

(2) The Australian Defence Force’s handling of:

(a) inquiries into the reasons for peacetime deaths in the ADF (whether occurring by suicide or accident), including the quality of investigations, the process for their instigation, and implementation of findings;

(b) allegations that ADF personnel, cadets, trainees, civilian employees or former personnel have been mistreated;

(c) inquiries into whether administrative action or disciplinary action should be taken against any member of the ADF;

(d) allegations of drug abuse by ADF members.

(3) Without limiting the scope of its inquiry, the Committee shall consider the process and handling of the following investigations by the ADF:

(a) into the death of Private Jeremy Williams;

(b) into the reasons for the fatal fire on the HMAS Westralia;

(c) into the death of Air Cadet Eleanore Tibble;

(d) into allegations about misconduct by members of the Special Air Service (SAS) in East Timor;

(e) into the disappearance at sea of Acting Leading Seaman Gurr in 2002.

(4) The Committee shall also examine the impact of Government initiatives to improve the military justice system, including the Inspector General of the ADF and the proposed office of Director of Military Prosecutions.