Marise Payne, Minister for Defence and Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of the Defence Force
PAYNE: Well ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being here this afternoon, and thank you so much for having supported the announcement of our 2018 Invictus team here at the Sydney Opera House. There could not be a better location to showcase the men and women of the ADF – the serving members and the former serving members of the ADF who are part of that team and who are going to genuinely make it ‘game on down under’ in October this year when we start Invictus 2018.
We’ll have over 500 athletes from 18 different countries. All of whom have served or are serving in their own countries, all of whom have made an extraordinary contribution and I know that all of Australia will be behind our teams, and make sure they welcome all of the other teams to Australia – and we look forward to a fabulous Invictus Games.
QUESTION: Minister, Emma was just saying before it’s almost double what we took to Toronto last year. How important is that to have given, you know, almost double the athletes this opportunity?
PAYNE: Well, I think it is a really important opportunity because after last year, which was my first close association with Invictus, I had people literally describe their experience as life-changing, who have had a really challenging time in their period in the ADF either through service or otherwise. And to be able to come back from a team event like that and to say that you’re now ready to take on the world is a pretty powerful message.
QUESTION: Prince Harry’s really created a movement hasn’t he?
PAYNE: He has indeed. And I must admit, listening to his speech at Kirribilli House when we announced Sydney as the location for the 2018 games - I don’t know about anyone else, but it certainly gave me goose bumps. His message is very compelling. He really, really cares about the men and the women who are participating in the games, no matter where they come from. Although, I think he probably barracks for the United Kingdom – really cares about all of them and that’s the important thing. Invictus means unconquered and that’s what these men and women are.
QUESTION: A beautiful backdrop for a honeymoon?
PAYNE: [laughs] Indeed. I hope that Her Royal Highness and His Highness enjoy Sydney enormously.
QUESTION: How do you think we’ll go in the games?
PAYNE: Well, we have a very strong team and they’ve proved themselves through all of the trials and the selection process. But I think for many of them, and if you read their bios, as I’ve had the opportunity to do, for many of them standing up and representing their country again, that’s going to be what’s important.
QUESTION: Marise, if we could just ask about the Defence Inquiry. How concerned are you that a Special Forces soldier received a threatening letter?
PAYNE: Well, I can confirm that a letter of that nature was received. It is, of course, a criminal offence and that has been passed to the Australian Federal Police for investigation and it would not be appropriate for me to comment [INAUDIBLE].
QUESTION: Is it concerning though? [INAUDIBLE]
PAYNE: Well any action of that nature is of course concerning, and I will let the Federal police investigation take its course.
QUESTION: Do resources for the Inquiry need to be bolstered?
PAYNE: Well, the Inquiry is ongoing through the Inspector General of the ADF. It has the support and the resources it needs at the highest level, including a Supreme Court judge from New South Wales as the Assistant Inspector General in this context.
QUESTION: Ten News understands that one of the men in the photo who is responsible for raising that Nazi flag has risen to very senior ranks within Army, are you concerned about that at all?
PAYNE: I’m not going to comment on that specific incident. I understand that Army is seeking further information and if CDF wishes to add anything he might.
BINSKIN: It happened in 2007. It was abhorrent. It was handled appropriately at the time and we’ve moved on. And I’m confident that the actions were taken at the lowest level by the commander at the time and it was dealt with.
QUESTION: Sources within Defence have us though that it wasn’t immediately removed and destroyed and it was repeatedly raised. Are you satisfied with the action that was taken?
BINSKIN: With the evidence that I have, I’m satisfied with the action that was taken.
QUESTION: Are you concerned there’s rouge elements in the Special Forces?
BINSKIN: No I’m not. I trust Special Forces 100 per cent, they’re on stand-by 24/7 to protect this nation and I have every confidence in their ability to do that.
QUESTION: So just this morning, some of this overshadows the great work they do?
BINSKIN: They do do a lot of great work and what we’re seeing is historic allegations that have been dealt with appropriately. And I’ll back the Minister, I think it’s absolutely disgusting that a disaffected person thought that they could threaten a witness and then look to influence the Inquiry. That’s a criminal act. It will be handled appropriately.
QUESTION: Can we get you on the Invictus Games? Your thoughts on it?
UNKNOWN: I might get you to face forward.
BINSKIN: The Invictus Games are a fantastic opportunity. I’ve been with Invictus now since it started in London and watching the team members grow and how they’ve become confident and come together as a team is absolutely fantastic. And we get out with them at the training camps and get a good chance to spend some time on the wheelchair rugby court there. And I can tell you my hands have just recovered from last time I did it, but I’m looking forward to getting back out there with them again.
QUESTION: Marise, is this , the letter, is it an isolated incident or have there been other cases?
PAYNE: It’s an isolated incident as far as we’re aware, but I don’t intend to comment on that any further.
BINSKIN: Thank you very much.