TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH GEOFF HUTCHISON, ABC 720
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 14 June 2013
TOPICS: Allegations of improper behaviour by ADF members; Howard Sattler comments.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Stephen Smith is the Defence Minister. He joins me in the studio. Good morning to you.
STEPHEN SMITH: Morning Geoff.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Have you seen this material?
STEPHEN SMITH: No. I don't want to and I don't need to. I'm happy to take the advice of the Chief of Army. I strongly support his conduct yesterday and the messages that he's given to Army and the Defence Force generally. When he became aware of these matters he of course discussed it with the chief of the Defence Force and the secretary of the department.
He then briefed me, and I strongly supported what he was proposing to do, in particular strongly supporting the Chief of Army making it clear, on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Force and the leadership of the Defence Force, that this type of despicable conduct will not be tolerated.
All of this grows out of the so-called ADFA Skype incident, where we initiated - the Government initiated a series of reviews into defence culture. They culminated in a document called Pathway to Change, which is now the bible so far as conduct is concerned, together with the work done by Liz Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, into the treatment of women in the ADF generally and in ADFA.
So if you fall short of those standards then you are at risk of being punted, and that's the absolutely clear message the Chief of Army has given yesterday and today, and I strongly support his actions, and I strongly support his message to the ADF and the Army.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: And we'll be playing some of that message in a few moments, because it was strong and it can leave people in no doubt. People have said it's not like the Skype affair, this isn't cadets, it's senior and middle-ranking officers. Is that was makes it worse, because it suggests this is systematic and cultural?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I've suggested and I've said in the past we're not dealing here with, you know, a few bad apples. This is a long-term endemic, systemic, cultural problem which the Australian Defence Force, Army, Navy, Air Force have to get over. I think this differs in two respects from the ADFA Skype incident. Firstly, it's the point that the Chief of Army made yesterday: you're not dealing with young men who've been in the system for a number of weeks. You're dealing with senior, experienced men who've been in the system for a decade, a number of years, and we have both commissioned and non-commissioned officers, so that underlines the gravity of it.
But secondly, it's that old adage, Geoff, it's not what happens in life, it's how you respond to it, and the response from the system in this matter, after two years of work that we've done, the two and a half years that we've done, the Pathways to Change document, the work with Liz Broderick, the response on this is precisely the sort of response that you want. The response on ADFA Skype, everyone would know my view about that. The response on ADFA Skype was wanting.
The response on this is not wanting, and so the precisely correct message has been sent from the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Army down about if you engage in inappropriate, improper, despicable conduct, you are at risk of being punted from the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, and that is how it should be. We want women to join the services and play a role. One of the things we've done is to open up all of the combat roles to women, but a modern Defence Force is not just infantry guys running around with packs. It's a high-edge, sophisticated, technical game, and you can't exclude 51 per cent of the Australian population from that, and we want to encourage women into all of our services.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Do you think this will discourage women from joining the forces?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, obviously it's a-
GEOFF HUTCHISON: It has to, doesn't it?
STEPHEN SMITH: Obviously it's a setback, and I said that yesterday and happy to repeat it, but Chief of - over the last couple of years, since the action that the Government took in the aftermath of the ADFA Skype incident, we've seen some very good things occur.
In the last six months, the Chief of Army has gone to the United Nations, given a report about what we're doing and said to the United Nations that he wants to increase the number of women in the Army because they're too low. About two months ago, the Chief of the Defence Force convened in Canberra a gender and equity and equality conference. These things would've been unheard of a few short years ago.
So we don't want to exclude from making a national security contribution 51 per cent of the population, over 50 per cent of the workforce, particularly in those areas where we know that they can make a substantial contribution.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: So how do you reassure them? How do you reassure their parents this morning?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, the only way you can do that is by precisely what General Morrison has done. The response has been, in my view, absolutely correct, decisive, clear, expressing revulsion at the repugnant actions which have occurred. But what the Pathways to Change document did was to institutionalise for the Defence leadership zero tolerance. What General Morrison has done is now set the standard for the senior officers, the leadership response.
So the next time one of these instances occur, then people will be judged, whether it's the Chief of the Defence Force, the Chief of Army, the Chief of Navy or a commanding officer down the line, they will now be judged not just against Liz Broderick's work, not just against Pathway to Change, they'll be judged as against General Morrison's response, because he has set the benchmark for zero tolerance if you misbehave, if you treat your colleagues in a despicable way, you will be punted.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: General Morrison will be my guest on the program after nine o'clock. Before you go, one observation: we talk about things that demean and degrade. What did you make of the line of questioning to the Prime Minister yesterday afternoon?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I think you said that it might discourage people or women from entering into the army or politics. It might also discourage them from entering into journalism, Geoff.
I have been criticised by Howard Sattler for refusing to go on his show. Well, now people might know why. It was a disgraceful interview. I don't know what he was thinking, but he needs to very seriously consider now whether he thinks it's worthwhile him continuing to make a contribution on Perth radio.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Thank you for your time this morning.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Geoff.