MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
STEPHEN SMITH, MP
TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH LISA WILKINSON, CHANNEL NINE, TODAY
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 12 APRIL 2011
TOPICS: ADFA Skype Incident, ADFA and ADF Reviews.
I'm now joined by the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith. Good morning to you, Minister.
STEPHEN SMITH: Good morning.
LISA WILKINSON: Now, given recent revelations, do you think there's a misogynistic, sexist, bullying culture in our Defence Force?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I don't use those pejorative terms but what I do say, very strongly, is that we've made advances in Defence over recent years, in terms of appropriate conduct and culture, so far as the treatment of women is concerned, so far as conduct in the workplace and respect and dignity for work colleagues, particularly women, but also use of alcohol and the like.
And we know that there's more that we need to do and that's why, in the first instance, I've asked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to look at treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy but also, as you've outlined, a series of other reviews and stock takes and audits about treatment of women in the force generally and their pathways to leadership but also abuse of alcohol, binge drinking, the need to understand that when you're using social media there's a realistic prospect you'll end up being public and, secondly, if you do something inappropriate or adverse and you're anyone from a cadet to someone in uniform, you're effectively representing the Defence Force and representing the nation and adverse consequences flow from bad behaviour.
LISA WILKINSON: The male cadet who filmed the young woman and broadcast it to his fellow students has been allowed to continue his studies while the Academy's head Commodore Kafer has been ordered to take indefinite leave. Why is that?
STEPHEN SMITH: We've got two separate issues. The Vice Chief of the Defence Force over the weekend directed the Commandant, the Commanding Officer at the Academy, to take leave. It was agreed that the sensible thing to do was to have a Defence inquiry headed by Andrew Kirkham QC into all of the handling of the so-called Skype matter.
The cadets concerned, because there's the - there's also those cadets alleged to have been involved in the viewing of the consensual sexual activity, are subject to an Australian Federal Police inquiry. They are under supervision at the Academy and the advice I have is that the Federal Police are very happy with that arrangement because it enables them to conduct their inquiry efficiently and effectively.
But there is a general point and this is one of the reviews I've asked the Inspector-General, the independent Inspector-General of the Defence Force to do, which is the relationship between civil or criminal law and also military law and discipline.
We sometimes can see delays in the investigation, criminal investigation process and criminal processing and the practice in the past has been that while that is underway the Defence inquiry or Defence disciplinary measures are held in abeyance or suspension. So there can be issues of timeliness and I've asked the Inspector-General to look at that and we also believe we'll get some helpful advice from CommissionerGyles when he makes his second report into the HMAS Success matter.
LISA WILKINSON: Okay, well in the meantime you've called for women to be allowed to serve on the frontline. What sort of combat are they going to be involved in?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, currently women have access to about 93 per cent of activity in the Defence Force but they don't have access effectively to combat, frontline roles. They are able at the moment to be in supporting roles but not frontline and so there's an exclusion from infantry roles, there's an exclusion from some naval and air force activities.
The Government indicated in principle in the last Parliament that we believe women should take their place in combat roles, with that to be determined simply on the basis of physical and intellectual capacity, not on the basis of gender alone.
So we've agreed that in principle. The Chief of the Defence Force and the Service Chiefs strongly support that and I've asked the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, to bring forward the implementation of that together with the Chief of the Defence Force and the Service Chiefs so that's strongly supported.
What that also will do, of course, is that in the long run it'll mean that women will have access effectively to all of the leadership roles in Defence and that's a very good thing.
LISA WILKINSON: Okay. Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks for your time this morning.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much.