Defence Legislation (Enhancement of Military Justice) Bill 2015

It is a great honour to speak on the Defence Legislation (Enhancement of Military Justice) Bill 2015 this afternoon because it makes amendments to the Defence Act 1903, Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 and Schedule 3 of the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Act (No. 1) 2009. The bill contains a number of important military justice and military discipline related amendments to the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 (DFDA) and the Defence Act 1903 that implement certain recommendations from Defence reviews and reports, reactivate outstanding legislative proposals and deal with other issues identified in the routine use of these acts.

It will make military justice enhancements to the existing military discipline system and extend the appointments of the current CJA and full-time judge advocate, who contribute to the effective operation of the military justice system and the dispensation of military discipline.

In summary, these measures will: clarify the character and status of service convictions for Commonwealth purposes; remove the provisions in respect of the trial of old system offences, or offences under the law prior to the Defence Force Discipline Act; create a service offence of 'assault occasioning actual bodily harm'; create a service offence of 'unauthorised use of a Commonwealth credit card'; clarify the elements of the service offence of 'commanding or ordering a service offence to be committed' under section 62 of the DFDA; enable the fixing of non-parole periods by service tribunals to overcome the problems associated with recognisance release orders; correct a technical error in the charge referral process; correct a technical error in the discipline officer scheme; replace dollar amounts as maximum fines in the DFDA with the more contemporary penalty units system; recognise the Director of Defence Counsel Services; and, finally, extend the period of appointment of the current CJA and full-time judge advocate. Essentially, this bill is part of a range of measures to improve the military justice system. Labor supports this bill. Labor supports any measure that will enhance the military justice system and ultimately improve the valued and unique culture within the ADF. I commend this bill to the House.

Just before I conclude, I would like to use this opportunity to thank the former Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, for 36 years of exceptional service to Army and to our nation. In his farewell speech, David Morrison said:

I am an Australian soldier—always. Duty first, good soldiering. Goodbye.

I know that the focus in recent years has been on the former Chief of Army's extraordinary achievements and leadership on cultural change, particularly that famous YouTube video that went viral around the world where he called for those who cannot be part of an acceptable behaviour in Army to essentially get out. It was an incredibly powerful message. It was a strong message, a message that showed great courage and leadership, and we are all incredibly in awe of David Morrison for delivering that message at a really important time of cultural change in Army, and in the ADF more broadly.

Many would have seen the interviews that David Morrison has done not only on the eve of his retirement but also since then saying that he was an Army man first and foremost. He was deeply committed to good soldiering, as he said in his farewell speech, and deeply committed to ensuring that an Army was prepared for the challenges of coming decades. He delivered on all that and more. Not only did he create a better Army, a better equipped Army, a better trained Army, an Army that experienced unprecedented levels of operations and deployments, he also created the right capability environment for Army to succeed in the future, the right training environment for Army to succeed in the future and, most importantly, the right cultural environment for Army to succeed in the future. Again, I just want to use this opportunity to thank David Morrison for his exceptional service over 36 years. As he said in one of the interviews:

No one loves the Army more than me …

We do believe this, particularly from his commitment to change, in so many different ways, and his ensuring that Army was secured for the future.

In farewelling Lt Gen. David Morrison I would also like to wish all the best to the new Chief of Army, again an exceptional man with exceptional service to date and what promises to be an exceptionally bright future in advancing all the work that David Morrison has done over his nearly four decades of service to Army and to our nation. I look forward to working with the new Chief of Army to achieve those results. I again farewell very fondly former Chief of Army Lt Gen. David Morrison.

 

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