Response to ABC's 730 report on the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, 27 February 2014
4 March 2014
The story titled Navy gang rape victim breaks silence in search for treatment that aired on the ABC's 7.30 program on 27 February 2014 and appears on the program's website, contains significant factual errors.
The story relies on the journalist’s assertion that the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) is part of Defence and speaks for Defence. This is wrong. The DART was established by the previous Government - not by the Department of Defence - in response to the DLA Piper Review. Even the most perfunctory research would have found that the DART is administered by the Attorney General's Department to ensure it remains completely independent from the Department of Defence.
The story then draws from findings of the DART, yet because the DART's independence was not determined by the journalist, and therefore not made clear, those findings are falsely attributed to Defence. Of most concern are the claims made by the journalist that “…the Defence Department no longer disputes the incident took place…” and that “…by the Defence Department's own admission [name withheld] case has been mismanaged”. Defence is not the source of these statements. This was not made clear at all in the story.
By confusing the DART with Defence, the story implies a difference of opinion between Defence and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA). This again is wrong. It is important to understand that the DART assesses claims on the basis of 'plausibility', while Defence and DVA are required to apply a different standard of proof in dealing with such matters as per the obligations of the applicable legislation. The standard of proof Defence and DVA are required to apply is illustrated in various decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Therefore any determination of plausibility by the DART does not automatically infer Defence's acceptance of a claim as implied in the ABC story. The difference between the tests of proof was drawn to the journalist's attention by Defence before the story aired.
The story is devoid of any sense of the purpose of the DART, how it performs its tasks and its relationship with Defence. Defence participates in the DART process in good faith and with good intentions, evident in the Chief of the Defence Force’s (CDF) personal participation and that of the Defence leadership. Given the sensitivities of the claims before the DART, Defence will not engage in detailed public discussion about specific claims, such as those described in the story, particularly while we are working with the individual to address them. To do so would undermine our genuine efforts to engage with complainants in order to understand and address their concerns and may also cause them further harm or distress.
The journalist also wrongly referred to the “Navy Skype sex scandal”. This was not a Navy incident. The ABC's disregard for accuracy in favour of sensationalism works to undermine the community's trust and respect for the men and women of the ADF.
General David Hurley, AC, DSC
Chief of the Defence Force