Download the above photograph of the Minister.



DATE: 28 August 2013

TOPICS: Syria; US rebalance. ADMM+.

JIM MIDDLETON: Minister, welcome to the program. 

STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Jim, pleasure. 

JIM MIDDLETON: Syria first: the United States has an awful lot of balls in the air at the moment. Can it manage yet another military entanglement, or the prospect of it in the Middle East, especially all the other strategic imperatives? Especially those of rebalancing its Forces towards the Indo-Pacific. 

STEPHEN SMITH: The United States, Australia, the rest of the international community, can’t turn a blind eye to what’s occurred in Syria. There’s clearly now a preponderance of evidence that chemical weapons have been used. There’s a preponderance of evidence pointing to the regime, there’s still a bit more work and evidence that needs to be effected. But Australia, the United States, other members of international community have made the point that if chemical weapons have been used, and their use has been authorised by the regime, then the international community can’t turn a blind eye. 

Now, what the response is, time will tell. In an ideal world, any response would be authorised by the United Nations. But the world’s not ideal, but whatever response is effected does have to have broad base support within and throughout the international community, and that’s why you’ve seen President Obama and other leaders throughout the world engaged in discussions as to what an appropriate response might be. 

JIM MIDDLETON: What about the pressures, though, on the US Defense Budget and its assets? President Obama is serious when he says he wants to move more US Forces into the Indo-Pacific to meet the strategic challenges there, and yet once again we see another flare-up in the Middle East which is intended, if what we hear publicly is the case, to be a precision strike, but the history of these things is that they had to be creeping involvements involving the US, both Iraq notably, also Afghanistan, for example. 

STEPHEN SMITH: We need to take it step by step. We need to see what is proposed by way of intervention. I think there’s a starting point which is a reluctance to put troops on the ground, a very firm reluctance on the part of the international community and the United States for that to occur. Secretary Hagel has made clear that he has presented to the President an array of options- 

JIM MIDDLETON: But this is not going to be the end of the matter. This might give President Assad a bloody nose, but it’s not going to lead to the toppling of his regime, and that means there are many further problems down the track that will have to be dealt with now you’ve gone this far. 

STEPHEN SMITH: Australia has made it clear that we think the sooner that President Assad leaves the stage, then the better chance there is for stability, peace and security in Syria because we are seeing terrible atrocities occur in Syria, which we condemn, and that’s apart from the horrific use of chemical weapons. We see a flow of refugees from Syria to other adjoining countries – Jordan, Lebanon and the like. So we want to see a stable Syria, but we can’t turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. 

In terms of your earlier question about the United States rebalance, President Obama, Secretary Hagel and his predecessor have made it clear that whatever occurs in terms of the pressure the United States is under for Defence expenditure, just as Australia and comparable countries are, that won’t affect the rebalancing to the Asia Pacific. But any response in Syria, my instinct is that will be targeted, it will be proportionate and will send a signal that not just the United States but the international community condemn the use of chemical weapons and that can’t go unnoticed. We can’t turn a blind eye to that. 

JIM MIDDLETON: There is pressure, too, on the Australian Defence budget. In that context, I wonder what you make of comments like those in key US opinion leaders, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in particular effectively accusing Australia of taking a free ride, quote unquote, under the US defence umbrella. 

STEPHEN SMITH: I reject that analysis. From time to time I see former US officials, former Australian officials, make their remarks. Invariably, they don’t mirror or replicate or coincide with the discussions and commentary and remarks I get from current officials, whether it’s Secretary Hagel, Secretary Panetta or Secretary Gates. And each of those have said that they value very much the contribution that Australia makes. Nothing we have done in defence expenditure has had an adverse impact on our Alliance relationship or, for example, our overseas contributions, whether it’s Afghanistan, East Timor or the Solomon Islands. 

JIM MIDDLETON: You’re off to Brunei for a pretty significant meeting with the ASEAN Defence Ministers, also the US and Russia will be there, Chuck Hagel from the United States obviously. Does it disappoint you that in your time, not only as Defence Minister but also as Australia’s Foreign Minister, there’s been so little movement, such little movement on the key strategic question of the South China Sea, a most important and increasingly important trade route for the world? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, on the contrary, I am going to the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus meeting, which is essentially a Defence Ministers meeting in the expanded East Asia Summit format. Our second meeting. First meeting was in Hanoi three years ago, and that is-

JIM MIDDLETON: That was dominated by the South China Sea. There’s been little movement since then. 

STEPHEN SMITH: There hasn’t been a solution but it’s not as if there hasn’t been attention, either by ASEAN or by China or by the East Asia Summit. But what I am pleased about is we’ve seen, since our time in office, Australia work very hard to see the United States and Russia join the East Asia Summit. We continue to urge China and ASEAN to agree on so-called code of conduct to resolve these disputes, and we will put those views to a meeting in Brunei as we have at other international and regional forums. 

JIM MIDDLETON: Australia has proposed splitting the political from the resource issues as far as the South China Sea is concerned. Have you raised that with your ASEAN and Chinese counterparts and will it be something that you will be putting forward at this meeting in Brunei? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Both Bob Carr and I have made the point to various interlocutors on this issue over the years that one way through, one way to seek to resolve a maritime or territory dispute, particularly where there are resource implications, mineral or petroleum resource implications to contemplate joint developments. And we want these disputes resolved peacefully, in accordance with international law, and if you can resolve them in a way in which there is mutual and joint development, that is one way of not just resolving the matter from a security point of view, it’s also resolving the matter with benefits so far as prosperity, trade and investment are concerned. 

JIM MIDDLETON: Minister, you have been very generous to this program over the years. We thank you very much, and happy travels. 

STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Jim. Thanks very much.




DATE: 30 August 2013

TOPICS: Afghanistan allegations of misconduct.

RUSSELL WOOLF: I wonder, if I can, to get your response to the investigation that is underway into an incident in which we believe Australian troops have mutilated the body of an Afghan insurgent. What can you tell us?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well pretty much what the Chief of the Defence Force issued today. Back in April/May, he and I became aware of this suggestion. He put out a release at the time saying that we were investigating a possible incident of misconduct by Australian soldiers, Special Forces soldiers. We didn’t provide any details at that time, and I subsequently alluded to it in the Parliament, but we didn’t provide any details because the suggestion being made was unusual, puzzling, but also very concerning. And so in some respects it’s regrettable that the issue has come out today, but nonetheless we instituted an inquiry, we want to see the outcome of that official inquiry before we come to any conclusions.

The essential allegation is that after a very fierce fight, our Special Forces Task Group was partnered with Afghan National Security Forces, a very fierce fight, four insurgents were killed. The suggestion or the allegation or the incident is that in order to take identification, the hands of one of the dead were removed to provide what’s described technically as biometric evidence. So that’s the suggestion, there’s no suggestion of mutilation of people who were alive. But nonetheless, that’s highly concerning and we’ve been dealing with that at that level ever since. And as the Chief of the Defence Force General Hurley made clear today, once we’ve got the outcome of that the inquiry will be able to take it further.

RUSSELL WOOLF: Has it taken a long time, if this was [indistinct]

STEPHEN SMITH: In the fog of war, you’ve got to be very careful to make sure that you’ve got all of the evidence and all of your best assessments. So in my experience as Defence Minister over the last three years, when we institute an official inquiry under the Defence Act, they always take time. So we’ve been dealing with this one for a few months now, and we want to get it right, and we have to deal with it very carefully.

We have of course, as soon as we became aware of it, and it did come up the chain of command, when we became aware of it General Hurley immediately made sure the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, General Dunford, was made aware of it. We made sure that Afghan officials at the highest level were aware of it, so we’ve done all of the right things in that respect. And now we just have to await the outcome of the inquiry.

RUSSELL WOOLF: Is there any doubt Minister that it was done?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I don’t, it’s difficult for me to prejudge, but the available evidence suggests that what is essentially asserted occurred. We now have to try and work out what were the facts and circumstances associated with that. When General Hurley and I were together overseas when we were informed, we both found it puzzling, unusual and concerning, so it’s not the ordinary course of event that we would expect from the Australian Defence Force or Special Forces. But this was a fierce fight, circumstances in extremis, and we don’t want to rush to judgment.

RUSSELL WOOLF: Okay, and if it is found that it did happen in the way that we believe that it’s happened, is that then against the rules of law [indistinct]

STEPHEN SMITH: We have clearly said both at the time in April and May when we announced that we were having an inquiry that it’s potential misconduct. But again, one wants to and needs to take it step by step. If the facts are, as generally asserted, are correct, then we also want to know and need to know what was the motivation, what was the reason for proceeding along that path which, in our experience, is unusual, if not from an Australian perspective, unique.

RUSSELL WOOLF: Defence Minister Stephen Smith.



DATE: 29 August 2013

TOPICS: Syria; ADMM+; ADFA Skype incident.

FRAN KELLY: Australia’s Defence Minister Stephen Smith is in Brunei attending the ASEAN Defence Minister’s Meeting. China and the US are also there and the Minister Stephen Smith has met with the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to discuss the issue of Syria.

Stephen Smith good morning. Welcome to Breakfast.

STEPHEN SMITH: Good morning Fran.

FRAN KELLY: British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters over night that the international community had a responsibility to take action against the Syrian Government over the use of chemical weapons even if agreement can’t be reached at the UN. Is that Australia’s view as well?

STEPHEN SMITH: Australia’s view is we have to take this step by step. We can’t turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. It is a crime against humanity. It’s contrary to international law and as a consequence Australia, the rest of the international community has an obligation to respond. But the response has to be in the first instance making sure that there is evidence that chemical weapons were used and I think there is now a growing view or an emerged view in the international community that that has occurred. The next step is to make sure that there is evidence which stacks up and evidence which will persuade or convince or have the international community form the view that the Assad regime was responsible for the use of chemical weapons on its own people. So we need to take that step by step. But there does have to be an international community response to the use of chemical weapons. We can’t turn a blind eye to it for the reasons which William Hague outlined in the grab that you just put to air.

FRAN KELLY: You were discussing this issue I know over dinner and probably beyond with the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and probably others last night. In terms of the evidence that is around, was Chuck Hagel discussing that with you? Are you convinced there is this evidence that it has been used and deployed by the Syrian regime?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well firstly we had dinner last night at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Plus Meeting so it was essentially Defence Ministers meeting in the East Asia Summit format. We had our official dinner last night. I sat next to the United States Secretary of Defense and he spoke with me and with other colleagues and he formally met with the ASEAN Defence Ministers – the 10 ASEAN Defence Ministers in the course of yesterday. And the remarks that he made to us in a sense privately mirrored what he had said publicly, that from his perspective as Defense Minister he had presented President Obama with an array of options for response. But in the first instance President Obama wanted to be persuaded of the evidence and it was very important that not just United States be persuaded of the evidence but the international community generally.

And as I put it earlier I think there’s a view now, effectively a conclusive view that chemical weapons were used. The question now is the evidence to draw the conclusion that it was the Assad regime who authorised and affected that. Now there is a preponderance of evidence to that effect. But in this context putting it historically, the international community is scarred by Iraq, and so we want to proceed in a way in which the evidence is there and it persuades the international community.

Now in an ideal world the response to this would be led by the United Nations Security Council but the world is not ideal, and so if the evidence does not persuade all the permanent five members of the Security Council then in Australia’s view there is an obligation on the international community to look beyond that ideal situation to see what response if any is required. But again to use my expression in the modern day we can’t turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons, particularly if that is by a regime on its own people.

FRAN KELLY: So to sum that up if the evidence is tendered but there cannot be agreement from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, it is your view as Defence Minister of Australia that the world can’t turn a blind eye so Australia would support some kind of military intervention in Syria?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well we also have to make sure that the international community and Australia is persuaded that whatever response occurs is a response which is consistent with international law, is proportionate and which had a basis for international need.

FRAN KELLY: What might that look like in your view – from your experience?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, as I say you’ve got to take it step by step. But whilst a Chapter 7 resolution by the Security Council under the United Nations Charter is the most effective and best mechanism, it’s not the only international legal basis for an intervention. As I said earlier the international community is scared by Iraq in terms of use of intelligence. Iraq then became a substantial distraction in terms of our effort in Afghanistan and delayed our effort in Afghanistan by a number of years. But the world is also scarred by Kosovo where inertia saw the world, the international community stand by while terrible atrocities occurred on an ongoing basis. And so that’s the balance I think that we need to make sure there is solid support in the international community for where a terrible atrocity has occurred, viable evidence is there and the international community does need to make a response.

FRAN KELLY: Have you had any discussions, as Australia’s Defence Minister of what level of Australia’s support, what kind of support Australia might offer?

STEPHEN SMITH: I think in terms of Australia’s role given where Syria is geographically located, no one is looking to us for if you like assistance in a military contribution and certainly no one is contemplating troops on the ground. I think that’s been made pretty clear by all concerned. We have – and this is on the public record, we have Australian Defence officials who are embedded into United States Defence arrangements. From time to time they’ll be involved in planning and the like but that’s done consistent with our embed program and consistent with Australian domestic and international law.

So no one’s looking to Australia to play if you like a military role or a military contribution but-

FRAN KELLY: So beyond boots on the ground, not Australian ships, not Australian planes, nothing?

STEPHEN SMITH: We’ve made it clear that in terms of Syria we would look to a contribution on the humanitarian assistance and relief front, but no one’s looking to us for a military per se contribution. But on the weekend of course we take on the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council, so we will be looked at in terms of providing one of the leads to the international community for a response on this front. So that’s why the Prime Minister has had discussions with President Obama and other international leaders, why Foreign Minister Bob Carr has done likewise and why I’m here of course for regional and Indo-Pacific reasons, but as you’d expect with a gathering of 18 Defence Ministers the topic of conversation is Syria and why I’m having conversations with my colleagues here as well and that will feed into Australia’s collective knowledge.

FRAN KELLY: Can I just ask you briefly, we are out of time, but one of the key issues during your time as Defence Minister was the culture in Defence, sparked really by the ADFA Skype sex scandal as it was called. That case really came to fruition yesterday and the ACT Supreme Court jury found two men guilty over that. What’s your comment as that case winds up? Do you think there has been any impact on the culture of Defence?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, certainly I think we’ve made some very good strides on culture in Defence and zero tolerance for bad behaviour. But the sentencing in that court process is not completed yet so I don’t want to be drawn on that. But irrespective of the outcome of that matter, the point I made at the time was that a young woman, a young member of the Defence Force, had made a complaint that she had been sexually abused.

I made the point very strongly at the time that I thought that the response to her, the Defence response, was inadequate, that she had been let down, and as a consequence of that, and because the response to that by her and by the media and by me was not a business as usual response. We saw, effectively, an avalanche of complaints about conduct in Defence which went over decades, that saw the establishment of the DLA Piper Review, and the establishment now of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, headed by Len Roberts-Smith, but also most importantly, you would have seen the response of the Chief of Army a month or so ago, making it absolutely crystal clear that there is a zero tolerance from the leadership for bad conduct and bad behaviour. My own analysis is that we would not have been in a position to effect all of those things without the response that we saw at the time to a young woman in Defence not being responded to properly or appropriately by Defence, and having her character brought into play when she made a complaint about sexual assault or sexual abuse.

FRAN KELLY: Stephen Smith, thank you for joining us on Breakfast.

STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Fran, thanks very much

FRAN KELLY: Stephen Smith is Defence Minister, joining us from Brunei.



DATE: 26 JULY 2013

TOPICS: Second Annual Australia-Indonesia Defence Ministers’ Meeting; Asylum seekers.

STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much for turning up. Can I officially welcome Indonesia’s Defence Minister Purnomo to Australia and to Perth. Purnomo leads a very high-level delegation from Indonesia, including Admiral Lubis who has just signed, together with General Hurley, the agreement for the sale of five C-130 Hs to Indonesia, and I will come back to that. Also, the Chief of the Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Dunia, and so we welcome the Indonesian delegation.

Purnomo arrived with the delegation on Wednesday, so I greeted him at the airport on Wednesday and on Thursday we had an extensive day in Perth and Western Australia, starting off in Henderson where the delegation saw the work being done at BAE’s shipyard on our Frigates, enhancing the radar and combat capability of our ANZAC Frigates. Also at Henderson, saw some of the maintenance work on our Collins-Class Submarines, and then to HMAS Stirling for a briefing and tour of HMAS Stirling, and tour of one of our ANZAC Frigates which has just returned from the Middle East doing its counter-piracy and counter-terrorism work. Then to the SAS in Swanbourne for a briefing from our Special Forces, a wreath laying yesterday at the State War Memorial at Kings Park and last night an official dinner.

Today we have a formal Indonesia-Australia Defence Ministers’ dialogue. This is the second of what is now an Annual Defence Ministers’ dialogue and adds to the architecture that we now see in the defence-to-defence, military-to-military and the national security architecture between Australia and Indonesia. Two-plus-two meeting between Australian and Indonesian Foreign and Defence Ministers, the annual meeting now between our Prime Minister and Indonesia’s President, the first of which we saw in Darwin last year, and the second in Jakarta in the last month or so. And earlier this year in Jakarta we conducted the second so-called two-plus-two meeting.

The bilateral relationship between Australia and Indonesia is, of course, very important, but it’s also at a very strong and high level, both generally, but also in the military-to-military and defence-to-defence area. The modern relationship is laid out by the Lombok Treaty which came into force in this room in February 2008 when I signed the Lombok treaty with then-Indonesian Foreign Minister Wirajuda, and pursuant to the Lombok Treaty in 2008, we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding so far as defence and national security cooperation was concerned and since then we have enhanced our practical cooperation between Australia and Indonesia on the military-to-military and defence-to-defence front.

As a result of the discussions we’ve had in the course of yesterday and Wednesday, there are a range of areas where we will formally agree today to enhance our practical cooperation. Firstly, in the area of peacekeeping: this is very significant. Indonesia makes a substantial contribution to United Nations peacekeeping. Some 1900 Indonesian peacekeepers take part under the UN flag, and Australia is in the top 12 contributors to United Nations peacekeeping.

Historically, Australia prides itself as having the first boots on the ground under a United Nations mandate when, courtesy of the United Nations Committee, we intervened in Indonesia and separated the fledgling Indonesian Forces from the then-Dutch Forces, assisted in the repatriation of the Dutch, which helped see the establishment of Indonesia as a Republic. We’ve agreed to enhance our practical cooperation on United Nations peacekeeping, including with a view, in due course, to the potential for embedding peacekeepers in our respective contributions to the United Nations.

Secondly, one of the modern challenges – cyber security. We both acknowledge that cyber security is a challenge for us and we’ve agreed to commence and subsequently enhance our cooperation and exchange of information on cyber security.

Thirdly, we’ve agreed to enhance our strategic analysis and strategic communications and strategic exchanges. This will first be reflected by Indonesia’s briefing of Australia on the preparation of Indonesia’s White Paper. When our White Paper was published in May of this year, we had previously agreed with Purnomo that he and his officials would be briefed as the preparation of the White Paper commenced and would be briefed fully before its publication, and that was a very good process. Purnomo and Indonesia have agreed to extend the same courtesy and approach to Australia in the course of the preparation of Indonesia’s White Paper, but we will expand that to other areas of strategic analysis and strategic cooperation.

We’re also proposing to enhance the work that we do together on capability. This is particularly in the area of lessons learned for acquisition, maintenance, sustainment, and we will have exchanges of officers in our respective defence organisations, particularly Defence Materiel Organisation and the Indonesian equivalent.

Finally as a result of our visit to HMAS Stirling and Henderson, we’ve agreed there is collaboration we can do on lessons learnt for maintenance and sustainment of submarines. Indonesia is currently in the process of acquiring up to five submarines in conjunction with Korea. We of course have the Collins-Class Submarine and we have taken a range of steps in recent years to enhance the maintenance and sustainment of the Collins-Class Submarine to get greater availability and greater time in the water itself. So we’ve agreed that there are lessons that we can share on submarine maintenance and sustainment and, importantly, we’ve also agreed to facilitate Indonesia’s access to our submarine rescue facilities at HMAS Stirling. So cooperation on submarine maintenance and sustainment, experiences and lessons learnt, but also collaboration on submarine rescue.

So they are five areas which we’ve agreed in the course of our conversations over the last 24 hours or so to add to the already extensive cooperation that we see with Indonesia, and we will formally do that at the formal bilateral meeting later this morning.

Purnomo, to you and your delegation, can I thank you for visiting Perth. I thank you for visiting Perth. It is not the first time Purnomo has come to Perth prior to becoming Defence Minister. Purnomo was Indonesia’s Energy and Mining Minister, so in that context he has previously visited Perth, but it is his first visit as Defence Minister. It’s our third or fourth meeting this year and ninth or tenth meeting overall, so it reflects the strength of relationship and the importance of the defence-to-defence collaboration so far as Indonesia and Australia is concerned, and indeed it is a good example of what the White Paper, Australia’s Defence White Paper 2013 describes as the importance of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, indeed Indonesia being Australia’s most important relationship in our immediate region.

So, again welcome. Thank you for coming with your delegation and I would like you to make some remarks.

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Thank you, Minister Smith.

STEPHEN SMITH: Sorry, we’ve just got all the microphones on this one.

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: But you know that I am shorter than him so you will not see me fully. Well, first I would like to thank Minister Smith for the very good hospitality here in Perth. I would also like to thank the Government of Australia. We have just been signing the sale of the five C-130H. That is the full contingent with the four C-130Hs that was granted to Indonesia, so the total of nine C-130H will be very, very benefit to us, to Indonesia, since we have a lot of natural disasters in our country.

As you know that, we do have natural disasters such as tsunami, earthquakes, flooding, volcanic eruption that are then need the transportation from point-to-point to bring the logistics, to bring the people, for the rescue operations. That’s the reason in this trip I am accompanied by the Chief of our Air Force, Mr Putu Dunia, in the back row there, because I know that the Air Force is very important in your country. Whenever a natural disaster happens in our country, then usually the military come in first to the rescue, and so with that I would like to appreciate Minister Smith, the Government of Australia and all of you, the Australian people that really pay attention to our country.

Secondly that I would like to stress is on bilateral cooperation, defence-to-defence. It has been very strong and at top peak of relation between Australia and Indonesia. I’ve been talking to Minister Smith, not only in meetings, by also by phone. If it’s something, then I just grab up the phone and talk to him and he calls me so really the people-to-people contact here is very important, and we put that in our reality, not only for us, but our staff, it’s very strong. So I believe in the futures, the cooperation, the relationship between Indonesia and Australia is enhancing, and becoming stronger, especially in defence-to-defence.

We have one philosophy, that if the cooperation relationship between Australia and Indonesia is strong, the economy and security, mainly in defence, then both countries can get mutual benefits from this cooperation. So a lot of achievement we have been making so far between Australia and Indonesia. For instance, the openness between the two countries, Australia sharing the White Paper. The White Paper is the strategy policy of defence, that before was discussed with us before finally published officially by the Australian Government, and also Indonesia in return also doing that way.

So we are planning now to have a consultation with Australian Government, especially with the Minister of Defence. I think then we have greater openness together, the assets we have, what proposal our modernisation, even if our country is in the middle of modernisation of our armed forces. For 15 years, the armed forces have not been able to be modernised because of the economic problem that resulted from the economic crisis back in 1998.

I like to touch on what Minister Smith just mentioned, the cooperation by our Special Forces because yesterday I visited Campbell Barracks and I talked with them and I was so happy because of some of them speak Bahasa Indonesian, some of them very fluently talk Bahasa Indonesian. That really expressed how strong is the Special Forces cooperation with the two countries. Even the last time that our Special Forces came here and worked together and exercised together with Australian Special Forces.

What I would like to get in is under the umbrella of ASEAN Defence Ministers-Plus. When I say it’s plus, it’s plus 8 countries, so total of 18 countries. We will have the joint exercise together in late of September in Jakarta in [indistinct], that about one hour from Jakarta to the south. There will be 18 countries Special Forces together. So you can imagine that 18 countries’ Special Forces, including Australia, will be there and to work together to how we tackle counter-terrorism. There will be the ten ASEAN countries, plus US, China, Russia, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, together there, and we hope to be success, so we would like to have your support in this case to see that this counter-terrorism exercise will be working very well.

The defence-to-defence cooperation mainly that yesterday also Minister Smith mentioned to you, that he visited several defence industrial complexes, and what I wish to do with Mr Smith is how then we can work together in defence industries. So if we can start the different industries, work together in our recruitment, that’s been very strong since, we are also cooperating with PE system and I just recognised yesterday that I visited the PE system, that is doing the repair and working with your defence ministry on the Frigate, so if we can work together, then for us that will save our time, save our costs because we don’t have to go far away to the UK, we can just come to Australia, and in return that Australia will also give service to us, to the Armed Forces.

So this kind of cooperation I think hopefully can be moved forward in the future. And to follow-up bilateral consultations, Minister Smith mentioned five areas of cooperation. I will not repeat it one by one. What I like to share with you is one regarding cyber defence, the Indonesian developing cyber defence. We are developing information system and that covered by also one of the sections in the cyber defence, and also in the communication, satellite communication for us then make our cyber defence hopefully progressing very well.

And the peacekeeping operation in Indonesia now has about 1800 troops all over the world and we do discuss with Minister Smith on how we can work together, because our ambition in the future is to increase, to become one of the ten big [indistinct] in the UN flag for the peacekeeping operations. We are going to keep our peacekeeping operation troops for the peace of the world is 4,000 people. And then for the White Papers, we are now in the progress of finalising our White Paper and soon we will be consulting with Australia also in this case. And the capability, I think Minister Smith mentioned to you before, and in the submarines, you know, yesterday we were also visiting the Collins-Class Submarine, we also visited the camp and we are seeking now how we can cooperate together since Australia is ahead of us in submarine technology.

So with that then, I will stop here and listen from you. I will comment on this.

JOURNALIST: I’m wondering if I can ask you about asylum seekers, which is very topical at the moment. Are you happy that Indonesia was consulted about Australia’s plan to send asylum seekers to PNG before it was announced by our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: We know that Australia and PNG and also with Nauru have the bilateral cooperation to see how that you can solve asylum seekers, but really that is the bilateral cooperation between you and PNG and you and Nauru. We leave that to your bilateral cooperation with them. With Indonesia itself, the Prime Minster Kevin Rudd had the bilateral consultation with our President on July 5th in Bogor, and that was a really beautiful meeting by them, so we appreciate that.

JOURNALIST: Are you happy with that plan, sir?


JOURNALIST: The plan for Australia to send asylum seekers coming via Indonesia to Papua New Guinea?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: That’s really between you and Papua New Guinea, between you and Nauru. That’s your bilateral cooperation. Whatever you do, that’s your bilateral cooperation. That’s your policy, you know. What I like to see is the strong bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and Australia, mainly.

JOURNALIST: Sir, do you think that more could be done to try and stop people losing their lives at sea? Do you think there could be more cooperation or better cooperation between Australia and Indonesia to try to stop people dying at sea, or do you think enough is already happening?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: You know, I have to mention to you that this year itself from January to July 2013, 53 cooperations, joint operations together, between SAR Indonesia, Search and Rescue Indonesia, and AMSA, 52 times to do the joint operations together on the high seas to rescue the – I call it illegal movement of people. So I think this express how then we work together between Australia and Indonesia.

The second thing, you know, you did not realise that we have our liaison officials in Canberra in the RCC, in the Rescue Control, Rescue Coordination Centre, under the umbrella of AMSA, and also your people in our office in Bakorkamla, both of them are becoming very good liaisons, you know to communicate how that happens, you know regarding this illegal movement of peoples. And the third, you know, day-to-day information has also been communicating together between those two organisations. So I think the progress is very good in this case.

JOURNALIST: The Leader of the Opposition has suggested a policy called Operation Sovereign Borders and one of those key policy angles is to turn boats around when it is safe to do so. That’s what Tony Abbott the Opposition Leader says. Do you support turning boats around and do you think it is a good idea, this new policy of Tony Abbott’s?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I would like to refer to the July 5th bilateral cooperation between both leaders, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and President SBY in Bogor at the time. One of the good results, I have to mention to you – two things were discussed in that meeting. One is beef. The first B is beef. The second B is boat people.

On boat people, both leaders agree that we are going to have a special conference and hopefully it will be done, to be held in Jakarta on 20th August. The special conference is on irregular movement of people. What we are going to do is invite, invitation already sent over to the one, as the origin countries. You know, among them is five origin countries – Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the other is Bangladesh – Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also the transit countries – Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and also the country of final destination, quote and unquote, Australia and New Zealand, and also the international organisations like United Nations High Commission on Refugees.

We are going to have that meeting, planned to be held in Jakarta and we hope with this meeting then we will find very good solutions to how then we solve this thing together.

JOURNALIST: But, if, say, for instance the boats keep coming and the Opposition, Tony Abbott, he does take power in Australia, and then turning asylum seeker boats back into Indonesian waters, you are Defence Minister, how is the Indonesian Navy or Indonesian Government going to respond to having these boats sent back into Indonesian waters?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I would like first to present to you how big is our country, and two-third of our country is water, and many peoples in our country, you know, moving from island to island by small boat, like what you see, you have problem with asylum seekers. We have 17,000 islands. Not many of them having a plane, not many of them having a big boat, a nice boat they can transfer. Some of them are also using small boats and some of them because of the big waves also have a problem, and some of them need rescue. Some of them need the Navy to rescue them. So one problem.

The second problem we also have illegal logging. You can easily bring logging out of the country and sold it to the international community. We also have illegal fishing. There are many fishermen from outside the country coming to Indonesia and stealing our fish. We have quote, unquote, South China Sea. We have to [indistinct] our petrol in our [indistinct] South China Sea because our South China Sea is very close with the South China Sea that you also recognise the problem.

So knowing that we have a big country, having two-third of our country with water, some people moving from island to island that sometimes they get a problem, and they need the search and rescue operation, too, they need the Navy. On the other side, our assets are limited. We are not really the rich country. Our Navy also is limited. Our power, our assets is limited. Some of them, yes, we deploy to the southern part of Java island to the western part of Sumatra where the asylum seekers are travelling, but you can imagine the coastline from Sumatra to Java to – long, up in front, it’s long, it’s long.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying it’s not practical and it’s not safe for Australia to turn boats back, that is should not be done? Is that what you are saying?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I think being countries, being neighbour, Australia and Indonesia, having a very good relation today, I think we should talk, we should discuss, we should consult each other. Like, you know, it was happened in Bogor on July 5th

JOURNALIST: So don’t turn the boats back?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Well, we will talk. We don’t want that – if you don’t want to do it also to your neighbour, you know that what you put that will make your neighbour unhappy. I mean, you want to sit down with them, see some kind of solution.

JOURNALIST: So can I just confirm, you just said, we don’t want that?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I didn’t say that we don’t want it. I said let’s talk and sit down, you know, but we don’t want to see the unilateral action.

JOURNALIST: Do you, out of curiosity, as the Defence Minister for your country, do you have a preference in the different plans that have been put forward by the Labor Government or the Liberal Opposition? Do you think there is a better option in your opinion, sending asylum seekers to PNG, or turning the boats back to Indonesia? Which would be your preference?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Well, really, we don’t want to involve in the domestic policy issues in your country.

JOURNALIST: What if it involves your country, though?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: We do, but now the relationship is good. Now you have a Government of Australia, the official Government of Australia and we have also the President SBY, we have myself as Minister of Defence. And what we are keeping the policy is the policy that we have after the two [indistinct] meeting in Bogor. You know, that’s the policy that having both countries going to work together, to have the special conference on illegal movement of people.

JOURNALIST: Is Indonesia concerned at all about the Opposition’s plan though to use the military specifically to help protect borders against these boats?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I have to be frankly with you that I don’t follow the domestic politics of Australia. I know that my counterpart is Minister Smith. I talk with him. We are keeping on track with government-to-government relations so far.

STEPHEN SMITH: You’ve done very well. I was almost about to remind them that they should be civilised and dignified with our overseas guests and not lean to the side of cross-examination.

Could I just make a couple of remarks. Firstly, just thanks. The first question, Foreign Minister Carr, I think, has already put on the record in the last few days that he briefed Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa in general terms about the proposed arrangement between Australia and PNG. That’s the first thing.

Secondly, on the question about can we do more on search and rescue, you might recall that in 2012 – from memory September 2012 – then-Transport Minister, now deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Albanese, Home Affairs Minister Clare and I went to Indonesia, met with Purnomo and his Ministerial colleagues and AMSA then agreed with BASARNAS, both of our respective search and rescue organisations, to enhance their day-to-day cooperation and collaboration. That saw Transport Minister Albanese announce before the end of 2012 a $35 million package to help enhance the capability of BASARNAS and, as Purnomo has said, we now see the exchange of embedded officers, AMSA officers in BASARNAS and vice versa. We’ve enhanced communication, email, phone and fax. We now have got in place a system where essentially BASARNAS has access to the live shipping tracking system that we have. And so there’s been a substantial enhancement of that and that will be ongoing.

The final comment I will make is a question about Mr Abbott’s announcement yesterday and I’m in front of international guests so I will be diplomatic and civilised and polite, but I will simply make this point: after six years of saying he will stop the boats, the leader of the Opposition’s policy is to change a 2-star to a 3-star. That’s all it is. It’s a bureaucratic, organisational chart change. So having said for six years, I will stop the boats, the solution is to change a 2-star to a 3-star.

JOURNALIST: Do you think his plan, Minister, will adversely affect what is a good relationship between Australia and Indonesia?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, it’s the proposal in terms of a military 3-star being in charge of Border Command is a change from the current arrangements where a 2-star is in charge of Border Command and where into Border Command go all the expertise, intelligence and advice from all of the relevant national security, defence and intelligence agencies.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Opposition was rattled by the PNG plan and have put this together to try and look stronger and tougher-

STEPHEN SMITH: As I understand Mr Abbott’s remarks yesterday, he essentially said yesterday, he essentially said here after six years of thinking is my plan to stop the boats. I’m going to substitute a 2-star with a 3-star. He then went on to say, and so far as PNG is concerned, I agree with that. I think that’s what he was trying to say yesterday.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] but what are you going to do as a Government if it doesn’t stop the boats? It hasn’t stopped them so far.

STEPHEN SMITH: We have entered into an arrangement with Papua New Guinea to process asylum seekers who come to Australia in Papua New Guinea, and then Papua New Guinea has agreed to resettle successful asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea. Our analysis is that that will break the people smugglers’ model, that will break the cycle and that will stop the flow of boats coming, and as Immigration Minister Burke has made clear, we always expected that it would take a number of weeks to get all of those processes up and running, that has started in Manus Island. Defence is making its contribution to that, as it has historically on these issues, either the use of Naval or Air Force assets, or construction engineering.

Everyone happy? Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct]

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, with respect to matters of surplus, my very strong advice is you should speak to the Treasurer.

Thank you. Thanks very much.



DATE: 23 July 2013

TOPICS: Launch of SeMPRO.


DAVID HURLEY:              Two activities will be undertaken today. First, the public release of the review into the treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy implementation audit conducted by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and secondly will be the launch of the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Organisation, or SeMPRO, by the ADF.


STEPHEN SMITH:             Thanks very much, David, to General Hurley, Chief of the Defence Force, to Elizabeth Broderick, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, General Morrison, the Chief of Army, Mark Binskin, Vice Chief of the Defence Force, CEO of the DMO, Warren King, Secretary of the Department, Dennis Richardson, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Well, firstly, I am pleased to be here at Russell this morning together with the Chief of the Defence Force and Liz Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to do two things, to note the tabling out of session in the Senate of Liz Broderick’s audit of the implementation of her recommendations into treatment of women at ADFA and to mark the launching of SeMPRO, the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office. 

These both arise as a result of the significant work which Defence has been doing in the aftermath of the so-called ADFA Skype incident back in April 2011. Since that time, we’ve seen a substantial response from Defence which has now culminated in the Pathways to Change document which outlines and lays out the zero tolerance approach that Defence has to inappropriate conduct. 

As part of the response to the ADFA Skype incident, Defence and the Government asked Liz Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to do two pieces of work. To look at the treatment of women at ADFA, the Australian Defence Force Academy, and also more generally to look at the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force. She has published both of those Reports but part of the monitoring of the implementation of her recommendations was for Liz to do an audit of the implementation of both of her Reports and today, her implementation report into ADFA, her first audit is made public.

That audit shows what we have said in recent times, that good progress has been done – good progress has been made but more work needs to be done. I’ll let Liz go through the detail but it is quite clear that the residential support officer system which has been introduced into ADFA has been a success, that the unacceptable behaviour survey is a good initiative, but more work needs to be done, particularly on sexual ethics training. 

So far as the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office is concerned or SeMPRO this is a deeply significant initiative by Defence, strongly supported by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and strongly supported by the Government. This allows reporting of allegations of sexual misconduct or inappropriate sexual behaviour to be made by Defence Force personnel outside of the chain of command. Restricted reporting, confidential reporting outside the chain of command. 

And this is to ensure that every man and woman in the Australian Defence Force can feel confident, comfortable, and safe in making complaints of sexual misconduct or sexual mistreatment and most importantly, the role of SeMPRO is to be victim orientated. It is not an investigative body, it is to provide the method of reporting but also to provide counselling, support, and also to perform a preventative and educative role.

So this is a deeply significant milestone today in the work – the continuing work of the Australian Defence Force leadership, led by General Hurley and the Secretary of the Department and Vice Chief and the Service Chiefs to ensure a zero tolerance for inappropriate conduct so far as the Defence Force organisation is concerned. 

We are also announcing today that Defence and the Government have asked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to continue to play an ongoing role in terms of oversight of implementation of recommendations arising from the various reviews now culminating in the Pathway to Change document. The Attorney-General Mr Dreyfus has agreed to that ongoing role and that is an unambiguously good thing. 

In the course of her work with Defence, with the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary and the Vice Chief and Service Chiefs, there is now a lot of consultation, swapping of ideas and monitoring of implementation as Defence implements our zero tolerance approach. So we’re pleased that the Attorney-General has agreed to that ongoing approach and role. 

I’ll hand over to Liz to let her make some remarks on both of those significant outcomes and in the course of my remarks, I have noticed the Chief of Navy there. Can I apologise for not seeing him earlier. I now acknowledge him and call on the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner to make her remarks. 


ELIZABETH BRODERICK:                            Thank you, Minister. 

Thank you very much Chief of the Defence Force, Chief of Army, Chief of Navy, Dennis Richardson, Secretary, Mark Binskin, Vice Chief of the Defence Force, all senior Defence Force personnel. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here. I start by acknowledging we are meeting on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and pay my respect to elders past and present. 

Before I talk about the audit report, and that is the audit into the recommendations for the treatment of women at ADFA, I just want to say a few words about SeMPRO. The establishment of SeMPRO was one of the most significant recommendations of a review that I led. During the reviews, interviews, and focus groups last year with over 2000 members of the Australian Defence Force both here and in deployed in environments, it became apparent to me and my team that victims of sexual assault and sexual misconduct were not reporting incidents and as such, were not getting the support that they needed. 

The shame associated with being a victim of a sexually related matter, together with a culture of not reporting, not complaining, meant these victims were often dealing with a terrible trauma silently and alone. As well as this, we found that some who did report incidents were not getting the support they needed and were often retraumatised by the system.

SeMPRO is designed to remedy these issues. It will provide a safe supportive and, if necessary, a confidential resource for military personnel to disclose sexual misconduct and assault. As the Minister has said, the huge shift that has happened in Defence today is that SeMPRO is victim-centric or what we call complainant-centric. That type of approach will ensure that those who disclose sexual misconduct are provided with the best possible advice and support right from the outset. It will empower those who have felt powerless, it will restore resilience, and it will give confidence to those who have suffered trauma, often alone. 

So I – today, I really want to congratulate Defence, particularly General Hurley, Dennis Richardson, the Secretary, and Carmel McGregor, who is not with us today but she is the Deputy Secretary of People and Policies, for establishing SeMPRO so quickly and for ensuring that it does reflect the full intent of my report’s recommendations. I also congratulate the Service Chiefs and the Vice Chief who have so openly supported the establishment of SeMPRO as has the Minister and the Australian Government. 

And I also want to acknowledge Kathryn Dunn, who is the head of SeMPRO who is with us today, for her leadership of the organisation and the terrific staff, staff who understand trauma, who she has now working there at SeMPRO, for getting it up and running so quickly. So thank you.

I now wish to turn to my audit report. As a place where future leaders of Australian Defence Force are trained, what happens at ADFA has profound impact and significance for Defence and for our nation. So it’s vitally important that the culture at ADFA is reflective of the values and the standards of the Defence Force and the standards that the community expects of their Defence Force leaders.

It is now more than one year since I made a series of recommendations to improve the treatment of women at ADFA. These wide ranging recommendations targeted many aspects of life at ADFA as well as addressing ADFA’s place within the Australian Defence Force. I was pleased that shortly after the release of the initial report that the ADF agreed to implement all the recommendation, 30 in full and one in principle.

And I think the acceptance and the implementation of the reviews recommendations demonstrates a deep commitment that I have observed from the Chief, from the Vice Chief and Service Chiefs to build a safe and inclusive culture at ADFA where all mid-shipmen and cadets, male and female, can thrive. 

So as you will know, the review’s terms of reference required me and my team to come in and to look at the implementation of the recommendations 12 months on from when the initial report was released and we began that process in November 2012. Before I highlight some of the key findings, let me stress, I didn’t expect that the cultural change of the scale envisioned by the recommendations would be fully achieved in 12 months. I mean, to imagine that would just be totally unrealistic. However, the first 12 months are a critical window in which real change can either commence or stall and that is why this review is important.

We sought evidence of progress in the implementation of our recommendations. The audit was comprehensive and forensic and I appreciate the efforts of all those who supported it, particularly the leadership at ADFA. We conducted an assessment of progress based on inquiry and evidence from a range of sources, rather than just a tick box approach or a compliance audit. So we drew evidence from documentation, qualitative data, quantitative data, focus groups, interviews and survey data and, where relevant, our own observations. 

So what did we find? Well, overarching finding was that ADFA has made significant progress in implementing the review’s recommendations. There is clear evidence that ADFA is working to improve its culture and build a more inclusive organisation for all its members, including women. The senior leaders of ADFA are committed to culture change and have worked with a view to embedding reforms in a sustainable way. 

So, I just want to give you a couple of examples of that. There has been significant progress in establishing what we call the residential support officer program, which the Minister referred to, which is providing better support and supervision particularly of first year mid-shipmen and cadets. The RSOs live right in the accommodation blocks and they provide guidance and, where necessary, act to minimise risk. 

There are significant improvements in training, in information systems, the collection of data, in injury management. And there also is positive developments in a values based approach to training in equity and diversity and unacceptable behaviour. For example, ADFA has expanded its equity and diversity network and has taken the lead in implementing a sexual offence support person network.

So that’s the positive side of the ledger. There are areas though that still require attention and we have been very clear about that in the report. In particular, ADFA needs to continue to develop and implement, with an expert provider, an evidence-based sexual ethics program. Instances of sexual harassment, behaviour, and attitudes which are unwelcome, inappropriate, or offensive continue to be present at ADFA. Interactive expert training is an effective primary prevention tool against such behaviour and it will aid in a more mature understanding of sexual ethics. 

So I strongly urge ADFA to engage with an expert in this field to develop and deliver a robust and targeted program of sexual ethics that enhances the cadets and mid-shipmen’s understanding of respectful and healthy relationships, attitudes, and behaviour. 

As the Minister said, ADFA has developed a promising annual unacceptable behaviour survey and with this tool comparisons will be available over time, not just at ADFA but across all the recruit and training establishments across the Defence Force. This will provide an invaluable tool for leadership to swiftly identify trends, to address issues, and target action. 

The right staff are vital in setting the tone and culture at ADFA. Staff have a direct and powerful impact on cadet and mid-shipmen’s experience and the achievement of superior outcomes. And I am pleased to see that the Commandant now has an increased role in staff selection but I would urge ADFA to continue to do more in that regard to ensure that the commandant has the authority to remove underperforming staff.

Finally, ongoing valuation of the complaints mechanism which exists, its transparency, its accessibility, that is required to ensure that it is as responsive and as effective as possible. 

So this report that I launched today reflects a point in time perspective and it’s – the point in time is 31 March 2013. I know that ADFA has been continuing to progress some of the areas that we identified as deficient and I’m pleased that ADFA will have the opportunity to provide an update on progress later this year when I conduct the audit of the implementation of recommendations across the broader review into the ADF more generally. 

I believe that ADFA will continue to make progress on implementing the review’s recommendation. ADFA’s senior leadership, the senior leadership of the ADF, recognises that this progress must be consistent and sustainable so that cultural change becomes embedded in the core values and operations of ADFA for the long term. 

There is commitment, drive, and creativity at ADFA. I want to congratulate and thank all those who have contributed to the cultural reforms to date and I very much look forward to working with the ADF to see further reforms into the future. 

Thank you. 

DAVID HURLEY:              Ladies and gentlemen, Minister, and Elizabeth. I will begin with SeMPRO. SeMPRO is not just a new support mechanism. SeMPRO represents a fundamental change in the way we approach and manage incidents of sexual misconduct in the Defence Force. By interviewing SeMPRO and the associated ability for restricted reporting or confidential disclosure of sexual misconduct, we are shifting our immediate focus from pursuing the perpetrators or the actual investigation of the incident towards caring and supporting people who have experienced sexual misconduct. 

Our move towards what I have referred to as a victim-focused outlook began three years ago when the Australian Defence Force investigative service started working with Amber McKinley, a highly respected applied victimologist, to examine the way service police handled investigations into sexual offences. Ms McKinley’s initial research supported the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick’s observations that in many cases, the investigator’s expectations didn’t match the victim’s expectation and highlighted the need to reconsider the way we managed and cared for victims of sexual offences. 

I was convinced quite early on that Defence needed to adopt a more – a new approach with a greater emphasis on victim care. That view was reaffirmed when the Sex Discrimination Commissioner recommended that we establish SeMPRO to coordinate timely responses, victim support, education, policy, practice, and reporting for any misconduct of sexual nature. 

There are two primary reasons behind our shift to a victim-focused approach. First, we know that a significant number of incidents go unreported which means there are significant number of people who have been subjected to sexual misconduct but who are not receiving any assistance. The health and welfare of our people is my highest priority and I want to establish a safe and confidential means for people who have experienced sexual misconduct to seek support and advice. 

Second, I want our people to feel empowered and confident that they are in control. Unlike our previous approach, the victim, not the system, will now decide if and when to report a matter for investigation. Over time, I am optimistic that with the right support, people will build trust and confidence to take that action. 

I am aware that some may interpret this approach to mean that the perpetrators will not be held accountable for their actions, far from it. This view does not take into account SeMPRO’s role in prevention. By acting as a central data point and encouraging more people to report sexual offences or misconduct, SeMPRO will be able to analyse prevalence, identify specific trends or risk factors that will enable us to implement targeted prevention and education strategies across Defence. 

I would also like to congratulate Air Commodore Kathryn Dunn and her team for the work they have done in bringing SeMPRO into operation. I know Kathryn in particular is a passionate advocate for victim care. Like Kathryn, I am committed to ensuring we do more to help our people who experience sexual misconduct. 

I would also like to thank the Sex Discrimination Commissioner for her work and her team’s work on the implementation audit of the Australian Defence Force Academy review. To date, we have implemented 13 of the 21 recommendations arising from the review into the treatment of women at ADFA and I am pleased to hear that Ms Broderick views the introduction of the residential support officers as being a positive and valuable addition to ADFA. This not by itself indicates progress, but as she has said, we have moved forward on many fronts. We do, however, share her view more work needs to be done and I look forward to our continued engagement with her and the audit team as we move into the next phase. 

When the Pathways to Change strategy was released, I acknowledged it wouldn’t be a quick fix, that the type of deep, far-reaching reform we are seeking will take a sustained effort over many years. What you have seen through this report and the creation of ADFA – of SeMPRO – I’m sorry – is a thorough example of cultural reform in action. Our strong and visible stance against unacceptable behaviour is one part of the story. There is also a great deal of work to be done right across defence to effect cultural change. We are serious about eliminating unacceptable behaviour and resolutely committed to implementing the cultural reform outlined in the Pathway to Change.

Thank you. I’m now happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST:     What kind of penalties can people expect if they are found guilty of sexual misconduct? 

DAVID HURLEY:              I think each of those cases will have to be determined on the circumstances. I mean, we’re not into mandatory sentencing and so forth. So as you look across the nature of the offences, each will draw both – could draw on either Defence Force discipline action or administrative action in terms of suspension and so forth. So each would be taken on its merits but there are severe penalties. 

JOURNALIST:     Can you give us an idea of exactly what will happen when someone comes into contact with this service? Who will they be in contact with first, and at what point will they be urged to look at things like reporting and investigating? 

DAVID HURLEY:              So, SeMPRO has a mixture of uniform and APS, public servant and professional counsellors. It provides a number of support mechanisms for a person who comes in. So it is looking at trauma informed principles from the Australian practice guidelines about how to handle people who have been in traumatic situations such as sexual offence.              

So they are brought in first of all, and the first issue is to deal with the trauma, get the person righted, you know centred on themselves, and be able to cope with the incident that has occurred to them. We don’t ask at that time to give us any detail about who, when, why or what. The idea is to comfort them, get them into a safe position, let them think through what might be the next step. That’s the restricted reporting side of the house, i.e. we keep that issue to ourselves until we are comfortable that the person is on the right – in the right condition and then might want to make a decision about taking the incident further.               

JOURNALIST:     I have a question for either Minister Smith or for General Hurley. What sort of comfort is it for women in the armed forces that neither of you would have even known about Jedi Council scandal had New South Wales police not pushed the issue?              

DAVID HURLEY:              Well, I don’t think that is a correct interpretation of the facts. The issue was raised in September ’10 when the first incident occurred. It was deemed at the time by ADFIS to be a civil offence, it was handed over to civil police, and was then handled by three police forces, Victorian, AFP and New South Wales, as would be the norm under those police investigations, we would not be informed. And it wasn’t until March this year when the New South Wales Police came forward and informed us of the situation that we took action, that we were able to take action.               

STEPHEN SMITH:             Firstly, I am absolutely satisfied with the conduct and the actions taken by the Defence leadership in this matter. General Morrison is in the audience, he drew this to the Chief of the Defence Force’s attention in April, it was drawn to my attention in May, and we have seen the very strong response from General Morrison, strongly supported by the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary and the other Service Chiefs and me as Minister, outlining a zero tolerance approach for inappropriate conduct.               

Yes, I have seen the suggestion that back in September 2010 the conduct of an employee of a defence contractor was drawn to our attention. As General Hurley has said, that was dealt with by the civilian police authorities. New South Wales Police came to the Defence Force in March of this year with the results of their investigation and the response by the Defence leadership, and leadership since that time, has been absolutely faultless and not only has that brought great credit to the zero tolerance approach that we have seen from General Morrison and General Hurley, that has been acclaimed not just in Australia but internationally as it should be. Because that set the benchmark for a zero-tolerance response, it set the benchmark that if you engage in inappropriate conduct, you will be suspended, you will be punted, and the Chief of the Army and the Chief of the Defence Force have my absolutely strong support for the conduct and the action that they have taken.               

JOURNALIST:     So you’re completely satisfied with the way that the matter has been handled?               

STEPHEN SMITH:             Absolutely. And I have seen references overnight to suggestions of concern from the New South Wales Police. I have had advice this morning from the Chief of the Defence Force, he has spoken to the New South Wales Police Commissioner who likewise is satisfied with the cooperation between the Defence Force and the New South Wales Police.               

JOURNALIST:     General, just back to SeMPRO, will they be collecting evidence for storage and safeguarding in the event that the victim wants to take some sort of action further down the track?              

DAVID HURLEY:              Yes, they will. And that is part of the entry into it. We – there will always be attention in this, and one of the big discussions we have had over the last six to eight months as we took Ms Broderick’s recommendation on this, is what risk does the organisation take on when you are doing this, and you need to work your way through that. But certainly we would be collecting evidence that will assist us further down the track if the victim come – survivor of that sexual misconduct wishes to take action. But it is done in an environment which is far more sensitive to the person than we might have done, you know, fronting up with a policeman, or a military policeman and going straight into an investigative process.               

JOURNALIST:     What is your response to Ms Broderick’s observations that ADFA has more work to do on the question of sexual ethics, teaching and that sort of thing?              

DAVID HURLEY:              Again, let me be very clear on that. We’re thoroughly supportive of the requirement to get sexual ethics into the program both not in ADFA, but broadly in the ADF. The issue became about the approach to doing it, the scalability of delivering the type of education and training courses. So – we have approached a number of professionals in this area. I think we had a false start in trying to address issues about how to grow it, but we have had further discussion on that and we are now in a much more comfortable position to introduce those programs into both ADFA, specifically, and ADF more broadly.               

JOURNALIST:     Why has it taken so long to have a training-based program like this?               

DAVID HURLEY:              When we first looked at the providers, frankly, there was a misunderstanding of what was being offered, ownership of IP, how would you use that IP to grow it in the country – in the ADF sorry? We stepped back and had a fresh look at it, and taken some other advice and we’re in a much better position now.               

JOURNALIST:     So it was in the pipelines for a while, it was just how to implement it?               

DAVID HURLEY:              Yeah how to implement it, rather than not wanting to. It was more about – you know, when you’re dealing with an organisation 50 odd thousand, that you need specific specialists to sit down with small groups of 20 or 30 people, you’ve really got to put that in industrial scale and then how do you do that in this organisation?               

ELIZABETH BRODERICK:                            Can I just make one comment on that General? I think the other thing is the recommendation was to actually engage with an external expert, because the – sexual ethics is a moving game, just in terms of Instagram, Snapchat, the way people use technology, the meaning of consent, those things, and I was very clear that it needs to be evidence-based, research-based with a subject matter expert to help Defence craft what I think would be a leading edge sexual ethics program and that has taken some time as well.               

JOURNALIST:     How much has this office cost to set up, and what is this ongoing funding?               

DAVID HURLEY:              Look I can’t give you a dollar term right now because that hasn’t really been the concentration of it. There are 14 people, four uniform, 10 APS. So there is just the ongoing cost for that. We have set up a 24-7 call capability, 1800 SMPRO. So there are minor costs really for the benefit we will get out of this organisation.              

JOURNALIST:     Minister, this could be your last formal engagement as Defence Minister before the caretaker period kicks into effect, if the election is called at the weekend. How do you reflect on your role in all of this and what would be your advice to your successor?               

STEPHEN SMITH:             I thought you were about to say this might be my last press conference, to which I was going to be ill disciplined and say I was very much looking forward to that. 

Look, time will tell. I have said to my staff and to officials in Defence it is not just what you do, it is what you are in danger of missing. So from my perspective, I remain absolutely focused on the job at hand because I will have a job as Defence Minister longer than I will have a job as a Member of Parliament. So I will be the Defence Minister until the next one is sworn in, whomsoever that may be.

And it is in the tradition of Defence Ministers that people take advice from their immediate predecessor and predecessors, so when I first became Minister, I spoke not just to John Faulkner and Joel Fitzgibbon but to Brendan Nelson and others. And I will happily make myself available for that private advice to whomsoever my successor is. I said, when I made remarks in the House when it last sat, that one of the things that I have been very pleased to do is to sit around the National Security Committee of the Cabinet for nearly six years, dealing with these issues. I have enjoyed that very much. It is a sombre responsibility, but I have enjoyed very much doing that with Ministerial colleagues, but also with a range of quality Australian officials. 

One of the things I am most proud of, in terms of my role as Defence Minister in a portfolio sense, is the very good work that I have been able to do in my view, with the leadership of the Defence Force, General Hurley, the Vice Chief, the Service Chiefs and Secretary, and also with Liz Broderick, in terms of cultural change in the organisation, zero-tolerance, and making the point that as it says in the Pathways to Change document, 24 hours a day, whether you’re in uniform or out of uniform, you represent the nation and if you engage in inappropriate conduct, adverse consequences flow. And I have made the reference to what we have seen in recent times from General Morrison, but also from the Vice Chief in response to other matters in recent times. 

So that’s a good and strong body of work but as both General Hurley and Liz have said, cultural change takes time and it also takes strength of leadership from the top, which we see from General Hurley and the Secretary and the other service chiefs, it also requires from time to time external advice and assistance and that is why I thank Liz so much for her good work, and pleased that we will have an arrangement in place where the Sex Discrimination Commissioner of the Commonwealth will continue to provide advice and assistance to Defence.

I have often believed that for Ministers or members in terms of giving advice to colleagues, current former or future, that advice is always best given privately which I will propose to do at the appropriate time.             

JOURNALIST:     Minister, I just have one last question for you. Do you think it is appropriate that the number of men identified as persons of interest in the ADF’s initial Jedi Council investigation were promoted by the army in the period of September 2010 to March 2013, as well as the army reservist whose alleged allegations sparked the inquiry?              

STEPHEN SMITH:             I will get General Hurley to add any detail as required, but my understanding is that the Reservist referred to has not been promoted, that is the first point. Secondly, in terms of anything which occurred between September 2010 and March 2013, it was only in March 2013 when the New South Wales Police drew to the attention of the Defence Force that there were allegations of inappropriate conduct, there were matters being investigated which for the first time triggered any appropriate response or action under the Defence Force Discipline Act – which brings into play notions of suggestions, or indeed a stripping of promotion. But I will ask General Hurley to add if he wants to.               

DAVID HURLEY:              Thank you Minister. I think the point to remember here is that while a civil offence is being investigated and we are not conducting parallel inquiries into Defence Force Discipline Act potential offences, we we’re not being made aware of what the civil police are doing, and that’s solely to protect the integrity of their inquiries. So if we’re inquiring in parallel with them, you could actually take away the validity of their inquiry by alerting people to what they’re being investigated about.               

So the civil police conduct their inquiry, we have handed it over to them, we don’t conduct a parallel inquiry. When we’re made aware of what they have found and invited in, we look at from both the consequences of their – outcomes of their inquiry and what further it might mean for us. So there might be people they investigated who have no civil offence outcomes, but we look at it and say, yes, you have made potential offences against the Defence Force Discipline Act.               

STEPHEN SMITH:             This may well be my last press conference before I cease being Defence Minister, time will tell. I won’t speak to defence officials, I will have a subsequent opportunity but can I just say to the Canberra press gallery and journalists who take an interest in national security matters, as a general proposition, from time to time there are exceptions, but as a general proposition, can I thank you for the respect and regard that you pay to these deeply serious national security issues.               

Many of you have been in this room with General Hurley or with Angus Houston, from time to time accompanied by myself, where we have dealt with difficult and tragic circumstances for our nation and requests that we have made to you on those occasions and on other occasions for confidentiality or for due process have in the main been respected. That is a professional courtesy which I know is very much appreciated by the Chief and the Secretary. It is also very much appreciated by me. If I have cause to deal with you professionally between now and when I cease being the Defence Minister, I look forward to that occurring in the usual way and I look forward to engaging with you as a private citizen in due course.

Thanks very much.