TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH DAVID LIPSON, SKY NEWS LUNCHTIME AGENDA
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 3 NOVEMBER 2011
TOPICS: Afghanistan; Report by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.
DAVID LIPSON: Stephen Smith, thanks for your time. What's the latest on the situation involving the injured Diggers from Afghanistan now in Germany?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well in terms of the three fatalities, as you would have seen, ramp ceremony was conducted in Tarin Kowt, and we expect to see a ramp ceremony in Australia in the coming days. It's a very private matter for the families and for Army and for Defence. So far as the seven wounded are concerned, three continue to be listed as seriously injured, and four as satisfactory, so that's a good thing. All of the medical advice is heading in the right direction. It's proposed now, again, over the coming days, when the medical advice is correct and the family arrangements have been made that all seven will be returned to Australia.
And so that's something that Army and Defence is organising in close consultation with the families. And again that will be very much a private family, and Army and Defence matter.
DAVID LIPSON: The Afghan soldier, or the father of the Afghan soldier responsible, has said that his son was not a member of the Taliban; is that something you would believe, and how are those investigations going?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well I've said at the time that whilst my instinct was that this was more likely to be rogue ANA rather than infiltrator, that we had not come to any conclusions and do our exhaustive assessment. And the father's contribution, both public, you know, will assist in that.
But we need to do that carefully. We're in the very early days of the investigation. And continuing to manage on the ground the rebuilding of confidence between our people and the members of the Sixth Kandak at that forward operating base.
DAVID LIPSON: Has there been any decision on the other Afghan soldiers who had their weapons stripped from them? Will they be getting them back?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, it's the early hours of the morning in Kabul and Afghanistan now. My most recent advice overnight is that they continue to be doing administrative and training duties, but they haven't yet been rearmed. That will be a matter for Brigadier Khan in the next couple of days.
DAVID LIPSON: There is a report by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner being handed down in just a couple of hours time. You've read the report. What's it found about the culture of ADFA? Is there a need for substantial change?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well at this stage I'm somewhat constrained. Firstly, I was very pleased that Commissioner Broderick agreed to do the report together with her team. She's an independent officer. It's formally a report to the Attorney-General under the relevant legislation - the Attorney-General will table the report this afternoon after question time and the Commissioner, Ms Broderick, will make some public remarks.
So I don't want to pre-empt that. I'm very grateful that she's done the job - both my attitude and the attitude of the Chief of the Defence Force and the Secretary of the Department will be to respond positively and favourably to the report, and very much run with its recommendations.
DAVID LIPSON: Just more broadly then do you believe there's an issue regarding women that is perhaps entrenched, and needs to be addressed?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we know that over the years there have been a number of reviews about ADFA. In the 1990s there was a review called the Grey Review which drew attention to very serious problems, and a range of changes were made.
More recently there's been an internal review, which essentially says that things have very much improved in ADFA, but there remained issues of concern in areas in particularly sexual conduct, use of alcohol and military justice issues. And so no surprise on that front.
I anticipate that the analysis of the report will essentially be that a lot of good progress has been made, but more work needs to be done.
And the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary of the Department, and I are at one in wanting to ensure both the recommendations of this report - and the various other reports into conduct and culture that we've instituted - will essentially be processed and progressed as a job lot.
We don't want to have a series of disparate recommendations. So that may take a bit more time towards the end of this year or indeed early next year, but we want to move forward comprehensively with the recommendations of all of the half dozen or so inquiries that I effected in the aftermath of the so-called Skype affair.
DAVID LIPSON: There's been more leadership speculation today. Julia Gillard is out of the country, Kevin Rudd is being chased through the corridors of Parliament once again today. What do you make of all of this?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well it's in one paper. And I think that's how it should be dealt with. And the Foreign Minister and I, whenever I've been asked, make the same point - which is, we strongly support the Prime Minister, and he continues to say he's very happy doing his job. So it's in one newspaper and frankly it should be treated as such.
DAVID LIPSON: In another newspaper Mark Latham has endorsed you, the Financial Review, he says that as a clean skin, you're in an ideal position to move for the leadership if, when it happens.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well I have said repeatedly that I strongly support the Prime Minister, I'm very happy doing my job, there's not going to be a vacancy, there's no vacancy, and I'm also constrained, historically, to say about what Mark's written today - what I've said about what Mark has written in the past is that I don't think people should bother to read it too carefully, nor take it too seriously.
DAVID LIPSON: Stephen Smith, thank you.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks. Thanks very much.