The nation’s military chief has suggested a royal commission into abuse claims in the armed forces could do victims more harm than good.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) chief David Hurley has been criticised for his handling of abuse allegations following the release of a 2012 report that found hundreds of plausible cases since the 1950s.
The lawyer who headed that report, Gary Rumble, says the ADF chief has not done enough to publicly encourage people to come forward with their claims or evidence.
Mr Rumble has called for a royal commission that would allow alleged victims to air grievances, and Defence to send a “strong signal” it took abuse seriously.
General Hurley dismissed those criticisms on Monday, citing the establishment of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) and his subsequent national apology.
He said there was no need for a royal commission because the number of people who’ve heeded his calls for information have been small.
And it could harm victims if they’re compelled to recount their experiences before a public inquiry, he said.
“The basis of DART … is to do no further harm to these people,” General Hurley told ABC radio on Monday.
“Royal commissions act on the basis of compulsion. Compulsion will do harm.”
Defence Minister David Johnston will address defence abuse and the future of DART in the next sitting of parliament.
He told AAP the government is awaiting two reports – DART’s next interim report due in five weeks and a Senate inquiry report after August – that will both be carefully considered.
“I want to be absolutely clear that there is no room or place for any sort of abuse within the ADF,” Senator Johnston told AAP on Monday.