General Angus Campbell gives further evidence to royal commission, rejects ‘profound systemic failure’ for specific suicide case

General Angus Campbell continued his evidence at hearings in Townsville this week, after previously saying defense “is not doing enough” to address suicides.

On Friday, General Campbell was asked why an officer — known as Person C — was promoted despite a record of unacceptable behavior that dated back at least five years.

“Do you remember that Person C had received a promotion since that period when reports of unacceptable behavior had begun appearing on AIMS [Army Incident Management System]?” counsel assisting Peter Gray QC said.

General Campbell offered an explanation.

“No decision-maker or delegate had been in a position to consider Person C’s repeated unacceptable behavior displayed over a number of years,” he said.

General Campbell said the incidents related to “different units and environments holistically and (there had been) repeated informal attempts by Person C’s chain of command to correct his behaviour.”

Mother’s probing into son’s suicide led to investigation

The officer in question eventually ceased to serve with the ADF, but only after the mother of a veteran alleged the officer’s bullying had contributed to her son’s death by suicide in 2017.

General Campbell was probed as to whether Person C would have remained in the defense force without the mother’s intervention.

“It’s possible,” General Campbell said.

“Both are possible — that he may have stayed [or] that he may have ceased to serve.”

General Campbell said superiors did not necessarily review a member’s history of unacceptable behavior during the promotion process.

But he rejected the idea put to him by counsel assisting that that was a “profound systemic failure.”

“I see it rather as evidence of a developing system that has in it an innate tension between the responsibility to deal with incidents and seek to develop your people,” General Campbell said.

No legal protection for personnel making submissions

So far, the commission has received 1,683 submissions.

About 13 per cent are from current serving personnel.

But the commission heard there were no legal protections in place for current serving personnel or veterans for “fear that they would get into trouble” for revealing sensitive information.

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