At the outset of the inquiry, the committee had reservations about the
terms of reference and the allegations made, which if examined in a public
inquiry would have the potential to further harm individuals caught up in the
Jedi Council affair. A number of submissions received by the committee referred
to documents described as the NSW Police Strike Force CIVET report or the
post-operational assessment. Some submissions referred to different versions of
the document or to documents with different dates. It was suggested the report
was an internal working document reflecting only the views and opinions of the
police officer at Kings Cross Police Station who wrote it.
Importantly, the committee was unable to establish the status of the 'confidential'
CIVET report as NSW Police did not provide it, or any other relevant contextual
information, to the committee as requested by the initial tabling date.
Further, it took NSW Police until 11 May to formally advise the committee that
it would not provide it with a copy of the CIVET report.
The committee is surprised by the content of the letter from NSW Police
and the lengths taken by General Counsel to draw the committee's (and the Clerk
of the Senate's) attention to aspects of Senate practice and procedure as a
basis for refusing to comply with the committee's request to access the CIVET
report. At no time did the committee consider ordering the production of the
CIVET report, and no such order was ever made. The committee is fully aware of
its powers and the possible limitation on its ability to exercise them. It
would have been entirely appropriate for NSW Police to cooperate with the
committee and assist its inquiry by making relevant documents available. That
it did not is entirely a matter for NSW Police. Speculation on the committee's
power to compel the production of documents is irrelevant.
While a draft CIVET report was made available to the committee by
Senator Lambie via an anonymous third party, the document was redacted,
unsigned and variously dated. The committee is unable to rely on this document
to make findings.
Collectively, these factors made it difficult for the committee to proceed
with the inquiry as it was unable to assess the evidence raised in submissions
and establish the provenance of versions of the CIVET report referred to in
The evidence the committee received was conflicting and incomplete with
the potential to further harm the reputation and wellbeing of individuals. The
committee would not normally inquire into unsubstantiated allegations arising
from internal police investigations and Defence reviews, unless they pointed to
systemic failure or a pattern of institutional behaviour warranting further
scrutiny. Based on the evidence, the committee was unable to establish whether these
issues were factors arising from Defence's handling of the Jedi Council affair.
In the absence of evidence to substantiate the allegations, the committee
agreed it was not in a position to undertake further scrutiny of this matter.
In light of the evidence received from Defence and the IGADF, the
committee decided it would not investigate Defence's handling of the CIVET
matter or its investigation of ADF personnel. The IGADF and Defence submissions
rejected outright the allegations raised in evidence. The committee is
satisfied that the IGADF followed due process in its investigations, noting
that the second IGADF inquiry made findings of serious shortcomings with ADFIS
investigative practices and procedures. In light of this, the IGADF recommended
a series of measures to address and enhance the ADF's understanding and
investigation of cybercrime and ICT misuse.
The terms of
reference raise a question mark around the value of conducting a Senate
committee inquiry into a complicated matter based on allegations which are
unable to be substantiated. This committee makes it clear that it does not shy
away from undertaking inquiries into difficult subject matter and tabling
reports with practical and unanimous recommendations. Since 2012 the committee
has completed inquiries into allegations of sexual and other abuse in Defence,
the Government response to the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, the mental
health of ADF serving personnel and the operation of Defence's resistance to
interrogation training. The committee is currently inquiring into the issue of
suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel which has generated over 400
submissions and evidence from five public hearings held across the country.
Each of these
inquiries included information on the committee's website emphasising that the committee could not address
individual circumstances or resolve claims of rehabilitation or compensation
for veterans and ex-service personnel. To attempt to do so would exceed the
committee's remit. However, the committee's findings and recommendations have
been informed by individual circumstances presented in evidence, which have
highlighted administrative failure and suggested where improvement is required.
Committee recommendations with cross-party support have improved public
administration and contributed to legislative reform in the Defence and
Veterans' Affairs portfolio. Most
of the evidence received was able to be published by the committee.
The CIVET inquiry presented the committee with a different set of
challenges. It surfaced from the plight of individuals whose military service
was terminated by Defence for their alleged involvement in the Jedi Council,
including the receipt and circulation of offensive material via Defence's email
system. Most of the evidence received by the committee remained in camera due
to its sensitive nature, often at the request of submitters. In making these
observations, the committee in no way seeks to down play the serious personal
and professional consequences which continue for individuals caught up in this
matter. Defence has acknowledged that the consequences are 'life-threatening'
However, consistent with past practice and focusing on achieving
realistic outcomes, the committee agreed that it was unable to investigate
individual cases and the serious allegations made into Defence's conduct which
could not be substantiated by the evidence.
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