Defence Minister Robert Hill told the Senate this week that he’s treating the inquiry into military justice very seriously. “I have said I am looking for a response expeditiously in this instance because I do think the issues are very serious,” he said. “Where change is warranted change ought to be effected.”
Hill faces an interesting challenge. Defence observers speak of a need to uncouple the complaints process from the chain of command, but not from the military. There’s already enough ill-feeling in the services towards civilian bureaucrats and their grip on purse strings. There are concerns about the loss of corporate memory and esprit de corps – literally – that followed the transferral of in-house maintenance and logistics capabilities to the private sector in the early nineties, let alone gripes about the quality and dedication of civilian personnel. Many of these are justified. Putting military justice under civilian control would only exacerbate matters.
The military is required to function in conditions that no other organisation is expected to perform under – in the line of fire; again, literally.
Military commanders need to be able to act without pen-pushers with endless time and resources second guessing their decisions afterwards. That’s the vital factor that will need to be considered when fixing military justice.
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