Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 7 2009 Contents www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
CHIeF oF tHe DeFenCe ForCe’s CoLuMn
y now, you will no doubt
be aware of the recent
successful challenge to
the constitutional validity
of the Australian Military
The AMC was designed to enhance the
independence and impartiality of discipline within
the ADF by trying ADF members in a judicial manner.
It operated for almost two years and replaced
the previous system of trial by courts-martial and
Defence Force magistrates.
I want it to be clear from the outset that
although the High Court has held the AMC to be
invalid, this is certainly is not a reflection on the
sterling work undertaken by the Chief Military Judge,
Military judges, registrar and associated AMC and
registry staff, who worked very hard to implement
what was an innovative discipline arrangement
within the ADF. I would like to take this opportunity
to thank them for their great work and diligence.
Immediately following the High Court’s
decision, a number of measures were implemented
to ensure effective discipline within the ADF. Some
of these measures were interim in nature, such as
the temporary suspension of summary trials, which
have since been reinstituted in a modified form.
Some of the measures are transitionary, moving
trials which would otherwise have been heard by
the AMC to the reinstituted system of courts-martial
and Defence Force magistrates.
Finally, some measures will continue to be
evolutionary, as we seek to merge transitory
measures with those parts of the discipline system
not called into question by the High Court. Legislation
is currently being drafted to affect these measures.
In order to assist you as we embark upon
this period of transition, I have directed some
material be prepared to assist ADF members in
understanding their rights and responsibilities
under our new discipline system. This material
will be available on the Military Justice Intranet
Of course, for those of you who have been in the
ADF for longer than two years, many aspects of our
transitionary system will be familiar to you.
There are two very important points that I ask
you to bear in mind as you familiarise yourselves
with our interim and, eventually, new systems.
The first is that although our discipline system is
changing in relation to the highest level of Service
tribunal, the other parts of our system, such as the
investigation and charging of Service offences;
the Discipline Officer scheme; and summary
authority trials—which make up 96 per cent of
all disciplinary matters in the ADF—will continue
largely unaffected. Therefore, I stress to you that the
discipline system within the ADF remains operative.
Secondly, I remind you that the system
of discipline established by the Defence Force
Discipline Act 1982 is too often considered to be
the only source of discipline within the ADF. This
perspective is a myth and sells short the role each
member of the ADF plays in ensuring the ADF
remains an effective, disciplined force.
The ADF is held in high regard by the Australian
public and the international community not because
of our discipline system, but because of our
reputation for self-discipline, esprit de corps, and for
coming together in the face of adversity to overcome
challenges. This highlights the simple truth that
Australians in general, and the ADF in particular,
work hard to not let down their mates.
Our discipline system exists for those times
when an ADF member does let down his or her
mates, but at the end of the day, it is a port of last
resort. This fact does not change regardless of any
modifications to our discipline system.
In the coming months work will begin to
achieve the Government’s vision of a successor to
the system of trial by courts-martial and Defence
Force magistrates, to which we have had to revert.
The exact form of this new court is yet to be
finalised, but the vision for it is clear.
We must provide the ADF with a first-class
discipline system which affords the greatest
possible rights to a member accused of having
committed a Service offence, whilst providing
effective, efficient support to ADF commanders to
ensure that they have the resources with which
to do their jobs. I believe the men and women
of the ADF deserve no less than the support of a
court that will serve as a reliable backbone to our
Our discipline system exists for those times when an ADF
member does let down his or her mates, but at the end of
the day, it is a port of last resort. This fact does not change
regardless of any modifications to our discipline system.
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