TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH TOM CONNELL, SKY NEWS
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 14 June 2013
TOPICS: Allegations of inappropriate conduct by ADF members; US Marines rotation.
TOM CONNELL: I spoke earlier today with the Defence Minister, and started by asking him about those allegations.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I'm not proposing to go into any of the details of the allegations. General Morrison has made the same point. He had indicated the general types of conduct, despicable conduct. Suffice it to say that if you fall below the high standards which we have set following the ADFA Skype incident, then you are at risk of being suspended or punted from the Army or the Australian Defence Force.
TOM CONNELL: You mention the so-called Skype scandal. There were, of course, extensive reviews after that. That involved cadets. This time around we're talking more senior members of the Army. Did they get missed when it came to some of those re-education programs?
STEPHEN SMITH: I think there are two points to make here. General Morrison has made the point that in the sense that we're dealing here with commissioned and non-commissioned Officers, experienced people, people who've been in the Army for a decade or more, that does make it more serious than the ADFA Skype incident where you're dealing with young men who've been in the system for 10 weeks or so.
The second difference, I think, between the ADFA Skype incident and this one is the response. Here we've seen the Chief of Army making it absolutely crystal clear that, following all of the reviews that we initiated, the Government initiated in the aftermath of the ADFA Skype incident, all culminating in the Pathways for Change document, the Chief of Army made it clear that if you fall short of the standards set in the Pathways for Change document, if you fall short of the standards set in the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's report into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force and in ADFA, then you are at risk of being suspended, and he's made that crystal clear.
TOM CONNELL: We have had some support in terms of the Army being on track and the Defence Force being on track, at least in terms of getting towards a better level from the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick yesterday, but looking back, what do you think it is about the ADF that appears to make it so much behind other workplaces when it comes to its treatment of women?
STEPHEN SMITH: Every review and analysis that has been done has said, progressively over the years, that progress has been made but more work needs to be done and greater standards have to be met. What we're dealing with here is a long-term, endemic, entrenched, systemic problem. This is not a few bad apples, and in the past people have said oh, it's just a few bad apples, it's isolated, it doesn't reflect the ADF. The first starting point is the acknowledgement that you're dealing with a systemic, cultural problem that you have to get over.
TOM CONNELL: I suppose we'll have to wait and see if there is an impact on female recruits in the Defence Force. You're announcing today the increase of Marine rotations in Darwin. It's going to increase to 1150 by 2014. Any chance that could rankle with China?
STEPHEN SMITH: No. The Chinese understand that we're on a program of a six-month rotation to have Marines in Darwin. That'll grow from the 250 it is this year and last year to 1150 next year. We released recently the social and impact assessment study of that. We have agreed with the United States that year by year we'll do an assessment and make a judgement about when we go to the next level, but we-
TOM CONNELL: Just on that social impact assessment, some members of the local community did raise concerns about sexual assault with the increased presence of Marines. Now, given what we've seen, I suppose you'd call them somewhat related revelations yesterday, are you going to make sure or ramp up any sort of safe checks on how the Marines, the increased presence there, relate to the local community?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, the United States and the Marines themselves understand that there can't be any slack given for bad or inappropriate conduct, that over the last two years the worst we've seen has been a speeding fine and a parking ticket. So the Marines understand that they're in Darwin on a six-month rotation, and they need to conduct themselves appropriately. So they've been given all of the same messages that we would give our own personnel who were serving overseas at the invitation of another country.
But we retain the ambition to step up to 2500. That won't occur before 2016. We will judge each year as we go, but ultimately, as we announced back in November 2011, we want to have a six-month rotation of 2500 Marines through the Northern Territory.
TOM CONNELL: Minister, thanks for your time today.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you. Thanks very much.