There is great resistance at senior levels of the military to the idea of a Royal Commission into decades of sexual abuse and bastardisation within the defence force.
The brass doesn’t want it. They don’t want the inconvenience and embarrassment. But they will find it hard to head it off now.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith, having lifted the lid on the issue by commissioning a crack team from the law firm DLA Piper to conduct a review, has little choice. If he fails to take action he will be a laughing stock.
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The review into the Australian Defence Force has revealed an endemic culture of physical and sexual assault, including that of children as young as thirteen, and other forms of abuse dating back six decades.
Nothing less than a Royal Commission will deliver the systemic change needed to reverse the damage reaped by the existing culture.
The report, by law firm DLA Piper, is based on 847 independent reports of abuse, involving men and women including allegations of crimes which had been committed against children. The special needs of children, based on their inherent vulnerability and the necessity of incorporating additional protections for children in the ADF, have historically been ignored. Many, according to the reports, were not kept safe and the long-term impacts, as potentially for all child victims of abuse, who have not received the right support, have been substantial.
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Setting aside any questions of consent, it is hard to imagine a more bizarre or unpalatable violation of privacy than discovering that a moment of intimacy with your partner has been secretly filmed and broadcast for the titillation of others. This is the key fact at the centre of the Australian Defence Force Academy “skype” scandal, where an 18-year-old girl, a cadet at the military academy, slept with a guy who had a computer video camera rigged up in his room, creating a virtual porno for the amusement of his mates.
No-one is disputing that the incident occurred. Worse, no-one in defence seems to give much a damn about it either.
In Australia this week we have witnessed one of the more pathetic displays by senior members of our military and their allies in politics and the press, where the issue now seems to be not whether the girl deserves some kind of redress for a life-altering breach of privacy, but whether the military boss at the centre of the original investigation deserves his own little apology for being unfairly grilled over his handling of the scandal.
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