Independent senator Nick Xenophon. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Independent senator Nick Xenophon. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Independent senator Nick Xenophon. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
A senate committee has declined to call for a royal commission into abuse in the Australian Defence Force, instead leaving the decision to the Abbott government.
However, two members of the committee, independent senator Nick Xenophon, and Palmer United senator Jacqui Lambie dissented, saying a royal commission was needed to deal with the scale of the problem.
In tabling its report on Friday, the committee overseeing the support given to sexual and other abuse victims in the ADF recommended extending the term of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce so it could consider new complaints to the end of June 2015.
The committee decided to leave the decision to the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce and the government.
Senator Xenophon, said abuse was a “cancer” in the ADF and only a royal commission could adequately deal with it.
“If we can have a royal commission into the home insulation issue, surely we can have a royal commission into 50 years of abuse in the defence force and it still hasn’t been tackled by defence,” he said.
“There are a number of men who are serving in our defence forces who are rapists who may have gone on to higher rank, who may be in leadership positions in defence forces, who have not been brought to account.”
Senator Lambie called for a royal commission in her dissenting report to the committee.
“Any reasonable person reviewing the evidence presented to the committee would conclude this can be the only way now, given the total lack of confidence by the public in the ADF to properly care for its people,” she wrote.
The Senate committee said it was generally impressed by the achievements of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce.
The taskforce was established in late 2011 to examine some 2400 complaints of sexual and physical abuse in the defence force, many dating back decades.
It determined some 2000 were plausible and so far has paid out more than $46 million in reparations to about 1100 complainants.
But the committee concluded the ADF was showing a lack of urgency in undertaking some critical reforms.
It cited a three-year delay in clarifying when administrative or disciplinary action should be taken over sexual assaults.
The committee also recommended that amending legislation be introduced to make it easier for victims of abuse to claim veterans’ benefits and entitlements.
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