TRANSCRIPT: PRESS CONFERENCE
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY AND E & OE
DATE: 22 AUGUST 2012
TOPICS: Review into the Treatment of Women by the ADF; Gap Year Program; DLA Piper.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, thanks very much for turning up. I'm very pleased to be here this morning with the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, and also with the Chief of the Defence Force, David Hurley.
Earlier this morning, I tabled on behalf of the Attorney-General in the House of Representatives the Australian Human Rights Commission report prepared by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force - phase two of her report. And some of you may be aware that after the tabling, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick made some public remarks about her report.
This report arises as a result of the Government's response in the aftermath of the so-called ADFA Skype incident. In April of last year, in the aftermath of the ADFA Skype incident, the Government together with the then Secretary of the Department of Defence and the then Chief of the Defence Force instituted a number of reviews into culture, personal conduct, use of alcohol, use of social media and the like.
And these have now been presented and now subject of an oversight report Pathway to Change - Evolving Defence Culture prepared by the current Secretary and the current CDF. And it's through that prism that we now view general cultural matters and approach so far as the ADF is concerned.
In addition to those matters, I also asked the Human Rights Commission and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to institute a review into the treatment of women, firstly in ADFA, and secondly into the Australian Defence Force.
The Discrimination Commissioner's review into ADFA was released and made publicly available in November of last year and those recommendations were adopted. They are being implemented and will be subject to an independent review by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner commencing in October this year.
Finally in April, we also announced the Government's decision to open the way for women to be involved in all combat roles in the Australian Defence Force.
Let me firstly thank the Australian Human Rights Commission. In particular, can I personally thank the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and her team for their very good work and for the preparation of this review.
Secondly, can I thank the Chief of the Defence Force, General Hurley, his Service Chiefs - the Chief of Air Force, Army and Navy - for their cooperation with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and for their - as the Government does - their welcoming of the report and our agreement to it in principle. But the Chief and his Service Chiefs have been very closely involved with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner in the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's preparation of this report.
The Government welcomes this report. We accept its recommendations in principle and I've asked the Chief of the Defence Force, his Service Chiefs and the Secretary of the Department to start the task of detailed implementation of the recommendations.
Just as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's earlier report into ADFA will be the subject of an inbuilt independent review of implementation of the recommendations, likewise this will also be the subject of an independent review by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner in 12 months time.
This is, in my view, a deeply significant report about the ADF and about the future of the ADF and about the ADF being a modern defence force. And again, I welcome it and indicate my acceptance in principle of its recommendations.
We now have, in three important areas, key reports which the Government has adopted and which Defence have adopted through which we see the prism of the future of the ADF. In general cultural matters I've referred to the report prepared by General Hurley and Secretary Lewis, which is the prism through which we now look at general conduct matters and cultural matters so far as the ADF and the Defence organisation is concerned.
This is now the prism through which we will look and Defence will look and the ADF will look at the treatment and role of women in the ADF into the future.
And finally, in terms of decision making on the job, decision making at the desk, we have the Black Review adopted by the Government and by Defence, which outlines responsibility so far as personal and institutional accountability is concerned.
So in the course of the last 12 to 18 months, we now have three successive pieces of work through which the modern ADF and the modern Defence organisation now has to be seen.
This deeply significant report deals with a range of matters and let me just touch upon some of them.
Firstly, the need for the equal treatment of women in the Defence Force to be regarded as a core Defence value, not just for reasons of equality but also for reasons of operational effectiveness. And the report makes it clear that the equal treatment of women is essential for operational effectiveness and Defence capability in the modern era.
Secondly, there is an under-representation of women at senior levels in the service.
Thirdly, there needs to be an increase in the number of women recruited to and retained in the Australian Defence Force.
Both for men and for women, we need to find a better balance between work and family responsibilities to enhance recruitment and to enhance retention.
Finally, there needs to be a more robust response to allegations, accusations or complaints about sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual conduct or sexual abuse.
There are some important statistics in the report which touch upon some of those and I'll just mention a small number of them.
In terms of the need for greater women representation at senior levels in the force the report states that in Navy in our star ranked officer positions, of the over 50 positions there is three women in those senior ranks and that's despite the fact that officers in the Navy represent 20 per cent of officer ranks.
In Army, of the over 70 star ranked officers, there are four women - about 5 per cent, despite women representing nearly 15 per cent of officers in Army.
In Air Force, in the over 50 star ranked positions, there's only one woman in the star ranked position, despite women representing nearly 20 per cent of officers in the Air Force.
There are a number of findings or recommendations in the report itself which I'll draw attention to and I'll then ask Warren Snowdon, as Minister for Defence Personnel, to make some remarks and then ask the Chief of the Defence Force to likewise make some remarks.
These, I think, are some of the important findings and recommendations of the report:
Firstly, that the equal treatment of women should be a core Defence value and that the failure to treat women equally in the Defence Force and the Defence organisation undermines operational effectiveness.
That women are essential to the operational effectiveness of the ADF because they strengthen the ADF's ability to be an effective, modern, relevant and high-performing organisation. And if women aren't treated equally in the ADF it cuts across the desire of the ADF leadership to be a first class employer with a first class reputation.
Some of the key measures recommended:
That Defence should publish a women in the ADF report each year as a companion document to the annual Defence organisation report.
The targeted measures, including targets or quotas, should be used to increase the representation of women and build pathways for women into senior leadership roles in the ADF.
That the practice of selecting the most senior leadership positions in the ADF from combat core codes should be reviewed with the object of selecting from a broader group of meritorious candidates, particularly women. So, a recommendation that's been accepted in principle that we look to a broader range of roles from which to find the senior strategic leadership of the ADF.
Building a critical mass of women in areas that currently have a low representation of women.
The removal of gender restrictions from combat roles is strongly supported and some suggestions made for the seamless transition in that respect.
Flexible working arrangements for both men and women to better balance work and family responsibilities.
The establishment of a proposed sexual misconduct prevention and response office to coordinate victim support, education policy and reporting for misconduct of a sexual nature.
To include personnel with experience in responding to people subject to sexual harassment or abuse.
A new and more robust approach to responding to unacceptable sexual behaviours and attitudes to make the system more responsible to the needs of complainants, including allowing members to make confidential or restrictive reports of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination or sexual abuse.
And mandatory assessments of an ADF member's ability to perform the requirements of their job if they are convicted of a criminal offence, in particular a sexual offence.
And the termination of an ADF member's service should be considered where they have been convicted of an offence or a service offence and where the retention of the member is not in the interests of the Australian Defence Force.
So, they are some of the key recommendations and findings that I draw your attention to.
I'll askWarrento make some remarks; I'll then ask the Chief to make some remarks. And then inWarren's and my case, subject to the ringing of the bells, we're happy to respond to your questions.
WARRENSNOWDON: Thank you Stephen.
Firstly, let me say how welcomed this report is. It provides us with real opportunities and plenty of challenges. Stephen has outlined many of the recommendations and what they entail, but really, I want to commend the ADF leadership, General Hurley and the Chiefs, for their leadership in actually driving reform in this space.
Currently, only 13.8 per cent of Defence personnel are women. That is too few.
This report provides us with an opportunity to look at the way we deal with the recruitment of women, pathways for professional development for women, opportunities for women and making sure they're treated equally within the Defence Force community. I think it's a magnificent report and it will guide us well into the future.
And I know that the work which we'll do over the next 12 months in bringing many of the recommendations into fruition will be seen when we do the audit and there'll be an audit in 12 months time - will show that progress has been made.
And when we see the changes which will be made I know that we'll see more women involved in key leadership roles, we'll see more women, we'll see women eventually in combat roles and they'll be providing a greater contribution to the defence of Australia.
DAVID HURLEY: Ministers, thank you very much.
Just before I comment on this, could I just publicly use this opportunity to pass on our condolences to the men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force for the loss of three fine soldiers the other day?
The release of the part two of Ms Broderick's report marks the end of a unique period of exploration and examination of many of the fundamental elements of the ADF. The extent of this report, combined with the six reviews conducted last year, leads me to believe that no other organisation or institution inAustraliahas been so exhaustively and publicly examined.
The report reveals an organisation with many strengths and a strong sense of purpose but which must address a number of diversity and behavioural issues which limit it from reaching higher performance levels.
The senior leadership and the members of the ADF have supported Ms Broderick and her team throughout the review. Her team has had unfettered access to our people.
The conduct of this review has also been an intensely personal experience for the ADF senior leadership. Each of the Service Chiefs, as has been mentioned, spent a day with three or four currently serving or retired men or women from their service, listening to their stories of sexual, physical or mental abuse during their time of service.
We have more than a professional interest in bringing the report's recommendations into effect.
The ADF senior leadership accepts all of the report's recommendations in principle and accepts the direction that the report's findings and recommendations point to. Having received the report we will now examine each recommendation thoroughly to determine how we will respond.
When you read the recommendations you will see that many reach to the foundations of the ADF's career development and management processes. Meeting the intent of these recommendations will be a major challenge.
As is occurring with our response to part one of the report, in relation to ADFA, we will consult regularly with Ms Broderick regarding the development of our response.
We intend to integrate our response to the report's recommendations into our cultural reform program as the Minister has referred to, the document called Pathways to Change which we released earlier this year.
Importantly, we have engaged an influential and experienced external panel, our gender equality advisory board, to broaden our approach to implementing the report. The board's members, Mr David Peever, the CEO of Rio Tinto, Ms Catherine Fox from the AFR, Ms Julie McKay from UN Women Australia and Mr Todd Harper, the CEO of the Cancer Council Victoria, have already commenced work with the Secretary and myself.
The Secretary and I recognise that the type of deep and far-reaching cultural reform we are seeking will take time and a sustained effort from all Defence staff over many years to achieve but we are committed to tackling our cultural challenges at their source.
I also thank the Commissioner and her team for their work and look forward to working with them for the benefit of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks, David. Right, we're happy to respond to your questions.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that targets are the best way to deal with the problems we're talking about?
STEPHEN SMITH: The report itself goes through an analysis of the use of targets or quotas or affirmative action, so to speak, and Ms Broderick, the Commissioner, was asked about this, this morning.
She essentially says and the report essentially says you can do one of two things. You can rely upon a trickle-up effect or you can take some positive action to effectively accelerate that process.
She takes the view, and she's recommended it to the Government, through her report, that we should take positive action and we accept that. We agree with that.
We see both in the recruitment, retention and senior roles areas, fewer number of women than we would want to see. So, we're very happy to take that positive or affirmative action.
The Commissioner does make the point in her report and generally that in the end decisions have to be made on the basis of merit or meritorious approach, so she's not recommending that someone who is not merit-worthy for a job be given a job.
She makes the point, for example, that there are any number of women applicants for a position who are unsuccessful in getting that position but because they have applied and been considered showed that they had the merit for the job.
So we're prepared to take, to overcome the structural deficiencies that she refers to, we're prepared to take that positive action.
JOURNALIST: Minister, how long will it take to correct then the underrepresentation of women at an executive level in the Defence Force?
STEPHEN SMITH: As the Commissioner has said, and as General Hurley has said, and I'm happy to say, it's not going to occur overnight. There have been a number over the years of snapshots of Defence conduct or Defence culture and in my experience in the recent period, in the recent period, most of those reviews or reports have said we've made some progress but there's more work that needs to be done.
That was true of the Commissioner's report into ADFA, as it was true of earlier reports into ADFA and I think true of the so-called cultural reviews generally. So, it's not going to occur overnight.
But the important point that, I think that I've made and that General Hurley has also made, is that in terms of cultural attitude and approach, in terms of treatment of women, attitude, approach and outcomes, the ADF and the Government now have two very important documents which provides us both the pathway and the prism through which these issues now must be viewed: the document called Pathway to Change, which was the overarching response to the earlier cultural reviews into use of alcohol, use of social media, personal conduct and the like, which was essentially crafted by General Hurley and Secretary Lewis, which we released earlier this year and now this document.
The heavy lifting, so to speak, will be the implementation of the recommendations, as David has said. Some of those go right to the very foundations of recruitment, retention and promotion through the system but the most important thing is that the Chief, his Service Chiefs and the Secretary, not only welcome the report and are absolutely committed to implementing its recommendations, they were closely involved in assisting Commissioner Broderick to come to her conclusions, as General Hurley has outlined.
Don't hesitate to jump in whenever you want to.
DAVID HURLEY: Just to further amplify that, we're right on the verge at the moment of quite a number of women coming into senior appointments in the ADF but it's not on a systemic sense. So, we've got a wave coming through but when you look behind it, there's a bit of a gap before another group comes.
So, it's how do we correct that and have a constant flow of the right number of women coming into those appointments.
JOURNALIST: General Hurley, one of the key points the Minister makes is that this is necessary not just for equality but for the operational effectiveness of Defence. From your position, how is the operational effectiveness of Defence going to be enhanced by having more women both in senior roles and also having a greater sense of ownership of their careers in the Defence Force?
DAVID HURLEY: I think if you look at the performance of senior women in the ADF at the present time, from Captains of Naval ships to Commanders of units, to Commanders of Air Force squadrons and so forth, it's quite evident that women more than have enough sufficient talent to do these jobs and compete well with their male brethren.
We have to create the opportunity for them to do that and certainly if you see the performance of many of the Navy ships, the first C-17 squadron, for example, all excelled at their work.
We've got every confidence that if we get the right women in the jobs we'll get the right results.
STEPHEN SMITH: These days a modern defence force has to be capable in the modern world and that includes use of modern technology. You go onto a ship these days, you go onto a frigate and the first thing you are confronted with, whether it's on the bridge or in the combat area, is high-use technology.
So cyber, use of high technology, use of modern platforms - these are things which require not a particular gender, they require individual intellectual skills and aptitude. And just as the Chief has said, I've been onto ships or been to our air bases where there are young men and women both doing those roles and they are both equally capable of doing them.
JOURNALIST: As far as getting young women in the front door, was cancelling the gap year program a mistake? Is it something worth reconsidering?
STEPHEN SMITH: I'll make some general remarks and have David add.
When we looked the gap year both in terms of Army, Navy and Air Force, one of the things that struck us was, firstly, a relatively small take-up in percentage but secondly a relatively small retention rate, people doing the gap year but not going on and so we decided to cease that.
I made it clear to the Chief and the Secretary and the Service Chiefs that I had an open mind about reinstituting something comparable to a gap year in future years when financial or fiscal circumstances allowed.
Commissioner Broderick has said that we might want to look at a broader approach, comparable to or equivalent to a gap year to try and rectify some of the recruitment and retention issues. And I'll ask David to add his remarks and analysis about some of the difficulties we found with the gap year per se but we are of course open to the suggestion that the Commissioner has made and obviously open to its implementation.
DAVID HURLEY: In principle, the gap year is a good idea, a good program. But one of the problems we have is our training pipeline, initial entry pipeline is only so big, and every gap year student or member who comes in takes up a full-time training position. So, trying to build a pipeline that could cater for that number was quite difficult for us.
We need to restructure that. So, when you look inside the number of the recommendations in this report, where it talks about try-as-you-buy, and so forth, methods of entry, we'll have a look at that and look at it in a structural sense. Take the lessons we got out of the gap year experience and try to create a better throughput into the ADF.
JOURNALIST: I'm sure there are many men who are in the Defence Force who've also got an interest in your plan to make it more family friendly. By nature, these are long deployments, the Navy, you can be at sea for a long time. How do you make, effectively - how do you make a defence force effective while making it more family-friendly?
DAVID HURLEY: If you heard Ms Broderick's answer to this question this morning, she was quite particular in pointing out that flexibility in the workplace is something that will be extremely difficult or won't work on deployments, operational deployments, long sea deployments, and so forth.
We've got to look at the other elements of the ADF, the other places where people can work. If you look at the structure of the ADF at the moment, the way we manage personnel and manpower, it's one person per job.
We need to recreate the structure of our units to allow people to share those positions, so we can build flexibility into that. That will require some significant changes to our management practices and, also, to - simply to the IT systems, and so forth, we use to manage our people. So, there's a lot of hard, detailed work to be done to put that effect.
JOURNALIST: Mr Smith, may I ask, how the process is going to lift gender bands on all combat roles, where that process is at, at the moment. When do you expect it to be completed and how is it going to carry out? Still going to be a phased withdrawal-
STEPHEN SMITH: I'll make some general remarks then hand to Warren who, as Defence Personnel Minister, runs the detailed implementation of that.
We announced in April of last year that the Government had decided to remove that restriction. That was our in principle decision. My memory is that in September of last year, we formally took that decision as a government and announced it, and we're in the process of implementing that.
We made it clear at the time, and David and I made it clear to our colleagues that, again, this was not something that could be effected overnight, it would require time. But we've been pleased with the progress that we've been making.
ButWarren's had the direct running of that, so we'll getWarrento make some more detailed remarks.
WARRENSNOWDON: Thanks Stephen.
The reality is that we've got until 2015 and '16 to finalise the process. We'll have the opportunity for women who are currently in uniform to transfer into combat roles as of, I think, next year.
That's the plan. And then, as soon as we possibly can, to organise the Navy, Air Force and Army, the three services in the areas where we want these combat roles opened up, organise them so they can actually take women into those roles. And we need to be contemplating what that means.
And Ms Broderick's report raises some issues, and we've had a discussion with Service Chiefs and the Chief about what that might mean, and I'll ask the CDF to comment, but, for example, we had a visit from some Canadian women soldiers who made the point that they didn't think we needed a cohort of women necessarily for that unit to be successful in terms of incorporating women in a combat unit.
Elizabeth Broderick thinks we should be perhaps looking at a cohort. These are the decisions which we need to make after thinking through all of the issues.
DAVID HURLEY: Just in terms of where we're at in implementation of that, we said that we would open combat positions for women for internal transfers into the ADF next year. We already have a process of expressions of interest out in the services to start capturing those who were interested in making that change. We'll wait for all those responses to come in to see what the numbers look like. Slow take up or slow interest at the present time, but that's not to be unexpected, I think.
As we move forward though towards next year, that will be the aim, to open those positions, internal transferees, and then we develop towards opening the door for women to come in off the street.
JOURNALIST: General Hurley, in terms of quotas, do you think that should only be for star ranks, or would it be the lower ranks as well?
DAVID HURLEY: No, we won't have time to have read the report, but if you look at the recommendations, for example, it's looking at quotas to go to the command and staff college, to the senior college, and looking at the different promotion gateways and how we work targets - special targets into those areas.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you General, you said that it was a personal event for you and that you were face-to-face with people who had stories to tell. Can you give us some insight into what you learned from that experience, what were the nature of the stories you-
DAVID HURLEY: I wasn't personally involved. The three Service Chiefs took part in that process.
Not that they're divorced from this on a day-to-day business, but asElizabethwas going around and a number of men and women came up, she said, this morning and privately to express some concerns. In discussion with us, she asked whether we could come and meet with these people and just get a real first-hand experience of what's happened. Because you can read it, you can respond to it, react to it, direct actions take, you know, punish people for what they have done.
But in a process like this, if you look at what we've through with DLA Piper and where we'll go for that in the future, getting a real, you know, grassroots understanding, we thought, was important. And each of the Service Chiefs took part in that process, and I think it helped them as well, just thinking through a number of the issues that were being raised in the report.
JOURNALIST: Mr Smith, can I just ask - forgive me if this has been touched on already.
When the DLA Piper report was released, there were some very strong allegations made, and quite sweeping allegations made, about the possibility of some personnel who'd sinned in the past still serving, perhaps, in senior positions. Are you close to making a decision on how they will be handled - those allegations will be handled?
STEPHEN SMITH: At the time, both the Chief and I said that, yes, that potential was there. The Chief also made it very clear that in the event there are people currently in the system who have been shown to have done the wrong thing, conducted themselves either unlawfully or inappropriately, then he won't have them in the service.
And you'll find in the Discrimination Commissioner's report today a specific recommendation which says, when you are looking at an ongoing ADF person's service or tenure in the force, if they've been convicted of an offence or a service offence, then fitness to stay in the service and the interest of the Defence Force are things that have to be viewed in terms of that person's retention or not in the ADF.
More generally on DLA Piper, I think I said on the weekend that we weren't too far away from this report becoming public, and we've published it today, but I also said I wanted to get this report out first before coming to DLA Piper for this reason, and variously, the points being made.
We've now got the Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force Pathway to Change document, which is a prism for the future on general cultural conduct. We've now got a pathway for the future on treatment of women in the ADF.
DLA Piper necessarily deals with matters in the past, but if there are things that we can learn there, systemic system changes for the future, we will, of course, adopt them.
Now, that this report is down, we're not too far away from DLA Piper. I'm not putting a timetable on it, but we're looking here at days and weeks, not weeks and months.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you another matter? You come from a legal background. Do you find it unusual that Julia Gillard didn't open a legal file for the work that she did for the AWU?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I've long been a lapsed lawyer, and I've discovered over the years as a lapsed lawyer, generally not to give free legal advice.
JOURNALIST: General Hurley, one quick one please. When will RAAF get its first fast jet pilot who's female?
DAVID HURLEY: I wish I had an answer for that question.
I can't give you a time but it is an area we're having extreme difficulty trying to attract women into. And again, Chief of Air Force very conscious of this and looking at the training pipeline and the systems that bring them in.
We certainly get them into the transport field, no doubt, but it's been something that's, I think, annoyed us for a while that we haven't been able to track women into that place and trying to see how we change what we do there.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much, thank you.