Defence's problems go right to the cultural core

The DLA Piper review into sexual abuse in the military has unearthed a culture of cover-ups. An unwillingness to accept management failings has to stop both in the military and across the public service.

The latest chapter in Australian defence forces problems with abuse and treatment of women, which has lead to the discharge of some 120 people over the last year, is the tip of the iceberg.

What we are looking at is a much deeper management problem in the Australian defence forces, which extends way beyond sexual and abuse matters. And that deep defence problem is duplicated in many areas of the public service.

That’s why it is important that the Australian parliament forces the government to release the final DLA Piper Review on military abuse which, as I understand it, puts military and sexual problem’s into the wider context of Australian Defence management.

DLA Piper is one of the largest business law firms in the world with 4200 lawyers located in more than 30 countries. The report was one of the most expensive and comprehensive management investigations ever conducted into an arm of the public service. The Defence chiefs are fighting with all their energies to stop that taxpayer funded DLA Piper Review being made available because it tells the truth. They succeeded with the previous government. They must not succeed with the Coalition. (DLA Piper also names a number of senior ex-Defence personnel who were allegedly involved in abuse cover up. Those names should be blocked out on the basis that people are innocent until proven guilty. We don’t want the names. We need a global firm with the standing of DLA Piper to tell us what has really gone wrong).

As I understand it, when the parliament sees the DLA Piper review they will understand that a culture of executive self-interest has enveloped the defence forces, which embraces cover up techniques when anything goes wrong.

The biggest cover up of all is, if course, the horrendous Joint Strike Fighter mistake. The JSF is simply not able to defend Australia yet development proceeds as if nothing has happened. No one will own up to the mistake.

That same attitude extends to other defence matters including other equipment mistakes.

But we see the same self-interest cover-up attitude in so many other areas of the public service. Treasury never corrected its disastrous superannuation report last year, which made fundamental mathematical mistakes. The taxation department has not publicly apologised for it’s bullying of independent contractors using an interpretation of the law that was simply wrong.

The greatest critic of the past taxation law breaking is the current small business minister Bruce Billson.

I could go on and on. Rectification starts at the top. Discharging army personnell is merely attacking a symptom of something much deeper, which the Defence chiefs want to keep secret.