Australian military abuse could lead to payouts

Australia`s defence minister said the government could face a liability.

Sydney: Australia`s Defence Minister Stephen Smith on Sunday responded to a spiralling scandal involving alleged sexual and other abuse within the military, saying the government could face a liability.

The government has announced six separate probes after a female cadet at the nation`s military academy in Canberra revealed to the media that a male cadet had filmed them having sex and broadcast it over the Internet to classmates.

Her allegations unleashed a wave of complaints, some dating back decades, from other former members of the military involving sexual abuse, beatings and other misconduct within the defence force.

"There is a distinct possibility, either in individual cases or more generally, that through the department of defence or through the services, that there is a Commonwealth (federal government) liability here," Smith said in referring to the cases.

"That is why I say we need to proceed carefully, we need to make sure we respect all the rights of the people who are either complaining or raising issues or in respect of whom adverse comments have been made."

On Saturday, the defence force faced the threat of a class action lawsuit after advocates for an ex-recruit who claims he was beaten and raped warned "hundreds" more cases could emerge.

Smith said that every allegation would be thoroughly investigated by an external group of lawyers.

"I have made it clear that the first thing we need to do is a methodical assessment of all those cases to see if anything more needs to be done," Smith told Channel Ten`s ‘Meet The Press’ programme.

But the former foreign minister said he was not talking of holding a Royal Commission into the scandal at this stage.

"There are a range of possibilities. One, for example, would be intense legal work on particular cases, particular individual cases, another might be a use of lawyers or retired judges to look generally at the issue," he said.

Bureau Report