Acting Chief of the Defence Force - Letter to the Editor, Canberra Times
6 June 2012
The article in the Canberra Times (4 June 2012) “Are our soldiers assets or workers?” by Ned Dobos on Monday 4 June 2012 (p.13) includes a number of statements that are incorrect and indeed, offensive.
The article wrongly asserts that people relinquish their rights to life and physical safety when they join the Australian Defence Force and are treated as "assets" rather than "employees". It is true that ADF members are part of a disciplined force that defends our national interests and as such are obliged to accept direction from the military command chain to the extent necessary to achieve the mission. However they do not lose their rights to life and physical safety, as Mr Dobos suggests.
I completely reject Mr Dobos’ claim that people who join the military forfeit their humanity and become an instrument. The ADF’s highest priority is the health, safety and well being of our men and women. Risks to our people are a fundamental consideration for ADF commanders in all decision making. The ADF undertakes very detailed planning for all operational activities to minimise risk for our people, our allies and civilians. All ADF personnel are trained in moral and ethical issues and work in a strictly regulated operational environment. Our rules of engagement are based on the principle of proportionate force.
The men and women of the ADF undertake unique duties in often challenging circumstances. That’s why Defence invests heavily in comprehensive training programs to ensure our people continue to excel on operations. ADF members have a well deserved reputation for their professionalism and their measured approach.
In joining the ADF, members gain a number of benefits, including housing support and free healthcare. This is consistent with our recognition that our people’s health and well being underpins their ability to succeed.
The ADF takes its Workplace Health and Safety responsibilities very seriously. This was recognised again in the 2012 Safe Work Australia Awards where a Navy member won the best individual contribution to workplace health and safety by an employee. Defence units were national finalists in two other categories including the best workplace health and safety management system – public sector.
I am confident in saying on behalf of all ADF Commanders that we care deeply about the health, safety and welfare of our people. Any suggestion that we regard our people as “instruments” is wrong and objectionable.
Air Marshal Mark Binskin
Acting Chief of the Defence Force
6 June 2012