Australia — Stephen Smith ADFA and ADF reviews; Mining Tax

Min­is­ter for Defence Stephen Smith Inter­view with Ash­leigh Gillon, Sky News
ASHLEIGH GILLON: Min­is­ter, thank you for join­ing us.
ASHLEIGH GILLON: How wide spread do you fear the prob­lem of sex­u­al assault is across the Defence Force?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well as you know after the so-called Skype affair I com­mis­sioned through the Sec­re­tary of the Defence Depart­ment, DLA Phillips Fox, now DLA Piper, to go through all of the alle­ga­tions that had come through either to me, my office, Defence or had been made pub­lic by the media, to give us an assess­ment and a judge­ment about the best way forward. 

So we’ve referred to DLA Piper the alle­ga­tions last night on Four Cor­ners, of course they’re very con­cern­ing as have a range of pre­vi­ous alle­ga­tions. But the first thing we need to do is just to method­i­cal­ly and exhaus­tive­ly make an assess­ment about each of the very many alle­ga­tions that have come in and then make a judge­ment about the best way for­ward, whether the best way for­ward is to deal indi­vid­u­al­ly with these cas­es or to look at the poten­tial for fur­ther judi­cial inquiries or hear­ings and that’s a judge­ment we need to make calm­ly once we’ve got some ini­tial advice from DLA Piper. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: How many cas­es of com­plaint have been brought to your attention? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I’ve been express­ly asked by DLA Piper not to have a pub­lic dis­cus­sion about the num­ber of alle­ga­tions we’ve received because they can range from anony­mous alle­ga­tions, which peo­ple don’t want to pur­sue, to sub­stan­tive detailed alle­ga­tions. Suf­fice to say that in the after­math of the so-called Skype affair, and I’m assum­ing in the after­math of Four Cor­ners, we’ve received very many complaints- 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Hun­dreds or thou­sands, what num­bers are we look­ing at here? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well as I say I’m not propos­ing to put a num­ber on them because until I get ini­tial advice from DLA Piper, essen­tial­ly a first sift­ing process, it’s dif­fi­cult to make a judge­ment as to which ones are able to be heard. Indeed some alle­ga­tions may well have pre­vi­ous­ly been exhaus­tive­ly inves­ti­gat­ed either by Defence or by oth­er author­i­ties. So we’re best off tak­ing it step by step. 

What is impor­tant is that when a range of alle­ga­tions were made pub­lic in the after­math of the Skype affair, it was impor­tant to estab­lish an inde­pen­dent exter­nal process, we’ve done that. We’ve set in a sense a cut off of the 17 June lat­er this week, but of course if fur­ther alle­ga­tions come in then they’ll be dealt with in a sen­si­ble way as well. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Is it like­ly that the Gov­ern­ment is going to have to pay huge dol­lars in compensation? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well again I’ve made it clear that I haven’t ruled out any way for­ward. It may require some form of fur­ther judi­cial inquiry- 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Do you think people- 

STEPHEN SMITH: ‑or it may be that some process where peo­ple who in the past have been sub­ject to abuse sim­ply want some­one to stand up and say we’re sor­ry that that occurred and that for exam­ple was the sen­ti­ment last night inter­viewed on Four Corners. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: And of course you can’t com­ment on those spe­cif­ic cas­es but in terms of the sorts of things that we heard, the sto­ries of abuse that we heard last night, do you think those peo­ple deserve compensation? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well again you’ve got to take it step by step. I have not dis­count­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty that there may be some Com­mon­wealth lia­bil­i­ty there so I don’t dis­count that. We have to work through the indi­vid­ual cas­es. We have to make a sen­si­ble and care­ful judge­ment about the best way for­ward. It may well be as I say that deal­ing indi­vid­u­al­ly with a num­ber of cas­es is the best way to pro­ceed. It may well be that a fur­ther legal or judi­cial inquiry is appro­pri­ate. It may well be that set­ting up a process where peo­ple who have been sub­ject to abuse in the past, have the chance of putting their sto­ry and sim­ply get an apol­o­gy or a sor­ry from the sys­tem or from indi­vid­u­als concerned. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Are you lean­ing towards a judi­cial inquiry? 

STEPHEN SMITH: I’m not going to lean one way or the oth­er. I received in my own office news­pa­pers and media out­lets like your­selves received very many alle­ga­tions and made them pub­lic. We now need to sift through those and make a judge­ment about the best way for­ward and that’s what we’re doing. The alle­ga­tions last night like pre­vi­ous alle­ga­tions are very con­cern­ing. They’re obvi­ous­ly very dis­tress­ing as you would expect and under­stand so far as the peo­ple involved are con­cerned but we need to just calm­ly work our way through each of these par­tic­u­lar cases. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: On anoth­er issue, as a senior West­ern Aus­tralian politi­cian of course you’re very famil­iar with the min­ing indus­try; Labor’s left fac­tion is now demand­ing an increase in the amount of mon­ey raised by the pro­posed min­ing tax, the Greens agree and are call­ing on the Gov­ern­ment to set up a sov­er­eign world fund. Do you think now that the Greens and the left side of the Labor Par­ty are aligned on this, there will be a lot more pres­sure on the Gov­ern­ment to change the tax and increase the tax? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well so far as the Min­er­als Resources Rent tax is con­cerned the Gov­ern­ment went to the last elec­tion with a com­mit­ment as to the nature of the leg­is­la­tion. There was an agree­ment between the Gov­ern­ment and the min­ing indus­try and Mar­tin Fer­gu­son the Min­is­ter for Resources has recent­ly pub­lished a draft leg­is­la­tion that reflects that elec­tion com­mit­ment. So far as the Gov­ern­ment is con­cerned, whilst peo­ple are per­fect­ly enti­tled to put a point of view the leg­is­la­tion which reflects our elec­tion com­mit­ment, which reflects that agree­ment with the min­er­al resources indus­try will be pre­sent­ed to the Par­lia­ment and we’re expect­ing that the Par­lia­ment will enact it. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Why not set up a sov­er­eign wealth fund though? What are the down sides of that? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well you’d need to have a con­ver­sa­tion with the Treasurer’s Office, but the com­ments I’ve seen, the pub­lic com­ments I’ve seen go to the Min­er­al Resources Rent Tax. The Gov­ern­ment has a very strong view that it is open to the min­er­al resources indus­try to pay more tax. Col­in Bar­nett in West­ern Aus­tralia reflect­ed that by two bil­lion dol­lar increase in roy­al­ties recent­ly in his bud­get so we believe that the min­er­al resources indus­try can appro­pri­ate­ly pay more tax. We went to the elec­tion with a com­mit­ment and agree­ment and we’ll seek to have that leg­is­lat­ed through the Par­lia­ment in the course of this year. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Stephen Smith; thanks for your time. 

STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you, thanks very much. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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