Defence Minister Stephen Smith defends female cadet

Last night Channel 10 had a scoop about a sex scandal at ADFA*. A female cadet was allegedly filmed while having consensual sex with a fellow male cadet who then shared the film with other cadets. She could be trouble for breaking the fraternising rules. For a while it seemed that her partner was getting off without penalty. Initially the Federal Police did not think that the matter warranted investigation. They have since reconsidered. Then the Minister for Defence got involved.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith says he cannot imagine a greater “betrayal of trust” if it is true an Australian Defence Force cadet filmed himself having sex with another cadet and broadcast it via webcam.

I suspect that the pressure may now be on the male cadet to quietly resign his position and leave. He certainly hasn’t been left with much wriggle room.

The woman could face her own disciplinary procedures for potentially breaking so-called fraternising rules and going public with the scandal.

Mr Smith said that was entirely a matter for the normal Defence procedures.

“If that is to occur, it will occur subsequent to the investigation of this very serious matter [my emphasis], which is qualitatively different in every respect from any suggestion that the young woman concerned may not have followed appropriate Defence procedure,” Mr Smith said.

“I regard those as very much 10th-order issues.”

Yep, young people having sex is going to happen. Young people filming sex and sending the video around their mates without their partner’s knowledge or consent – not going to happen on this Minister’s watch. I think he has his priorities right.

You know what, I’m going out on a limb here and saying that not only is Stephen Smith a top bloke, but that having a feminist PM has helped create an atmosphere where Ministers can speak up and say ‘this is not how we treat women each other.’

This from our Prime Minister:

“But if I can make a point more broadly, any conduct that treats a woman in a way that her dignity is pushed aside, that engages in misusing trust, breaching trust, going out of the way to embarrass her dignity and sense of self-worth, is disgusting conduct and we would all repudiate it,” she told Fairfax Radio in Brisbane.

“It’s not what we would want to see in this country.”

Damn right.
*The Australian Defence Force Academy is a separate entity to Duntroon – the Australian Army Officer Training establishment.
Attribution: Quotes from the Sydney Morning Herald article linked to in the text.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, law & order, relationships

Tags: , , ,

45 replies

  1. (And I don’t get to say this often enought, but…) YYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY for those responses!

  2. The head of the navy has his head screwed on right as well, with his new carrot and stick approach to the drinking/drugs/sex issues in the navy.

  3. I heard that the woman cadet was actually set up by the fellas right from the start and that when the woman found out she complained, was ignored and took it public as a result.
    Dunno if that is accurate but if it is, or close, it adds a whole dimension to the matter.

  4. I’m so glad! We do t often hear of this sort of thing being taken seriously by those in power. Good on ‘im!

  5. I don’t think I’d go quote so far as to say Stephen Smith is a top bloke all round (too much internal ALP history there for me), but he certainly made the right call here, and it was refreshing to see someone at ministerial level take this really seriously.

  6. @ Hannah’s Dad – yeah I read that in the Canberra Times today too. Nasty if true.

  7. Audio of a Sky News interview with Stephen Smith on this here:

    He is pretty awesome.

  8. Thanks for the audio Grahame. I’m really pleased with his response. It is such a clear message!

  9. and here i was thinking that i couldn’t fangirl stephen smith more!

  10. And I have to add that I heard a bit from an interview with Peter Reith (remember he used to be Minister for Defence with Howard), in which he said that the senior echelon in the Defence Forces can’t cope with women, just don’t get the impact of sexual harassment and try to hide behind ‘process’ to avoid doing anything about the issue. So, as much as I loathe Reith, yay, for him as well. It’s good to see a variety of powerful men speaking out.

  11. This young woman is so brave, imagine the pressure you are under when your reporting of something is big enough to get the leaders of your country making a statement about it.

    And yes, they were such pleasing statements from both Minister Stephen Smith and the Prime Minister.

    So is now a safe time to come out and say that I have a bit of a thing for Stephen Smith (he and Penny Wong are the foxiest politicians in this country by a long way)? Or is it never really the right time to admit to a crush on a politician?

  12. Don’t worry blue milk, you’re not alone on the pollie crushes. I’m just getting over my long-term Tim Holding thing, and Rob Oakeshott’s ramblings aren’t entirely unpalatable to me.
    /possibly OT overshare.

  13. Perla – yours is my favourite comment for the year, so far. Loved it.

  14. Brilliant. Kudos to Stephen Smith and Julia Gillard. And most of all to the young woman who has come forward about this, in spite of all the censure she’s faced as a result.
    (Don’t get to say that all that often ;))

  15. Well, yay!

  16. Great post, Mindy – thanks.
    And on Smith: it just keeps getting better.
    From here: (my emphasis)

    ”The dealing of another disciplinary matter, at the same time as the investigation is starting on the Skype incident raises very serious issues of judgment and runs the risk of colouring the entire perception in the way this has been handled.”

    “It’s a matter of deep regret to me that the issue has moved to the way Defence has handled this matter rather than dealing clearly and methodically with a very serious criminal investigation.”

    I like this, too:

    Mr Smith said he read a briefing note on the matter on the weekend which included initial advice from the Federal Police that the allegations did not warrant a criminal investigation.
    “I queried that and said I’ve long been a lapsed lawyer but I’m not confident that is right,” he said.

    (As a result of Smith’s “querying”, it appears that there is now further investigation into whether charges should be brought.)

  17. what happened to Kate is unforgivable and reprehensible, yet I feel I must state Kate has not been mistreated by ADFA. She was grossly mistreated to the point of abuse by the men involved in the sex skyping incident. But the ADFA themselves have treated her with no disrespect or insensitivity.
    A little perspective is needed. And yes, attitudes towards women in the ADF is not exemplary by any means, but more men treat their female colleagues with respect than those that don’t. There were a lot of inaccuracies and conclusion jumping in the initial story and responses to it.

  18. I’m going to respectfully disagree there Pirra. It was reported on the news last night that she was summoned to apologise to her colleagues for embarrassing them and was only stopped at the last minute by the intervention of a senior officer for having to apologise because some a*sehole invaded her privacy. [see following comment] She only went public because she was being ignored. The first time she heard about any of this was when she was summoned to an interview with ADFA investigators. She is going through this whole horrible process and they insist on having a disciplinary hearing on another matter. Trying to shut her up much? I don’t think she has been given much support at all by ADFA who seem to be trying to carry on as though it is business as usual.

  19. And I will have to respectfully disagree as I know for a fact that she wasn’t asked to apologise or give a speech. More truths will come to light.
    The invasion of privacy and humiliation she has suffered is horrific, inexcusable and utterly repugnant. But the public and the media have the wrong end of the stick about her treatment by the people at ADFA trying to help her.

  20. I’m sure there are a lot of people at ADFA trying to help her, and a lot of good officers people at ADFA who are just as horrified at what happened to her. I suspect there are also some who think that because she is ‘that type of girl’ this is all her fault too.

  21. Public perception of her isn’t the issue. What she’s going through is awful and I wouldn’t wish that on any one. Yes, she’s very brave to speak out and I applaud her for it, she had nothing to lose, the humiliation was already complete by the gross and repugnant actions of the soldiers involved in the Skyping..
    And my response to her ordeal is the same as every one else’s here….the only difference is that I take issue with the suggestion that the ADFA has done nothing to support her or treated her wrongfully because I know that to be false. ADFA cannot control the perception some people will ultimately have of her. That’s the shitty double standard all women have to work with in this day and age, not just women in the ADF but ALL women. She is a victim not only of a gross betrayal of trust but also of the genderising so prolific in our society.

  22. YMMV but I think holding a disciplinary hearing was a bad move. It essentially said that minor matter was of equal importance to having a sex film you had no idea you were in broadcast. That is unsupportive and a massive fail in my books.
    Also, I’m not talking public perception, I’m talking the perception of some of her fellow cadets the people she is going to have to work with and for.

  23. Thanks, blue milk. My inner fangirl gets a fair airing!

  24. Massive fail regarding her prior charges…. I’m not permitted to comment on that (unless other things come out in the media)
    People will judge other people by their own sets of morals. The ADFA cannot force any cadet to do otherwise. Is it wrong that she will may be viewed this way by her colleagues? yes. Is it illegal? No. There is no law that says you have to like or hold your fellow colleagues in high esteem. The ADFA is no different.
    All she can do is hold her head high and know that in this instance, she did nothing wrong.

  25. I didn’t mean to suggest that the ADFA should be policing people’s opinions, but that there is a culture there that supports low opinions of women. There is some dirty laundry starting to be aired already. Of course the people airing the laundry have their own axes to grind, but there is probably a kernel of truth in there.
    Re the charges: Senior figures have admitted that they did the wrong thing there.
    I think that senior defence figures are quite brave and silly to be taking on the Minister. I think Stephen Smith is a straight talker and if he thinks that it needed to be out in the open then he is going to ensure it stays out in the open and gets fixed. It looks like they want to cover it up. Please note I am not saying that everyone at ADFA is bad, but that there is a nasty culture there that needs to be gotten rid of. Kate was a victim of it and this time the victim spoke up. How many others have kept quiet?

  26. I’m just saying, there is a lot more to this situation than the media or the public know. judgement is best left until more is known.
    There’s a culture in SOCIETY that supports low opinions of women. What makes any one think the ADF would be any different? And I am not suggesting that makes it okay. It doesn’t. Change has to start somewhere.
    Stephen Smith may be a better Defence Minister than any we have had in a long time, but even he is still a politician.

  27. I’m guessing that ADFA would have preferred change to happen a little less openly, but I hope they take the baton now and run with it.
    Stephen Smith is indeed a politician, but I think he’s taken a risk with this one and I hope he gets supported for it.

  28. Change has been happening within the ADF, little by little over the years. Certainly not fast enough, but show me anywhere in society where it is moving fast enough, hopefully this might mean it goes from glacier to snails pace at the very least…(one can hope) .
    Of course ADFA would have preferred to have had the grace to handle this internally and not played out in the media.
    Kate says her reasons for going public was because she didn’t receive an answer to what would happened to the men involved in the scandal.
    But the ADFA couldn’t give Kate a straight answer on what would happen to the perpetrators because the investigation was still pending…you can’t give an answer for punishment until you know what the actual charge will be. They could only give her hypotheticals. (Which she deemed not good enough, as is her right) Her fear was that nothing would happen.

  29. Her fear was that nothing would happen

    Entirely understandable when you read some of the other stories that are coming out from other people who’ve experienced rape and harassment within the ADF. For example Mindy’s link at 26 – just two examples from that link

    “I had a cadet in my actual division who was actually stalking and harassing another first-year female,” the ex officer said today.
    “He blatantly lied to me and my divisional sergeant.
    “I asked for action to be taken against him in the way of formal charges. They wouldn’t do it.”

    And the woman who was raped and then told to “suck it up”, and her partner’s career threatened.
    I’d say she had some pretty good reasons for being afraid it would be ignored – or worse – and my fave thing the Minister said today was that he supported what she’d done in going to the media.
    What with his response, and the draft laws for plain packaging for tobacco, I’m pretty pleased with our government today.

  30. People have been very quick to jump all over this rushed story. I won’t be surprised when this story goes very quiet once all the details come to light.
    As for Stephen Smith, all I can say is, he’s a very clever politician.

  31. I suspect he has learnt how to use the news cycle Pirra. It may well be that when the other side of the story comes out the Canberra Times is the only one that actually reports on it, unless it is a particularly slow news day.

  32. I don’t believe there is any “other side of the story”. Seems pretty clear from the emerging stories of various ex-ADF peeps that there’s an endemic problem with this sort of stuff in the ADF, and certainly the Minister knows how to use the media cycle, but since he’s been using it to say it’s unacceptable behaviour rather than to try to cover it up or blame the victim I see absolutely mothing wrong with that.
    Trying to tar someone as a “clever politician” is a pretty see-through ploy.

  33. July can’t come fast enough.

    Senator Minchin said while the alleged behaviour of the male cadets should be condemned, the female cadet, known only as “Kate”, had a track record of bad behaviour.
    “(Commodore Kafer) has here a female officer cadet who has apparently gone AWOL, apparently been drinking contrary to the rules, who has engaged in fraternisation when she shouldn’t have,” he told Sky News.

    So she is no angel. So what. [edited] Senator Minchin are you saying she brought this on herself, because that’s what you seem to be saying. Sickening. You know what Senator, if she had engaged in fraternisation and it wasn’t televised – no one would know. It would not have hit the media. It was the slimy little prick who broadcast it who caused all this to happen. Senator Minchin you say the male cadets should be condemned but I don’t see that in your comment. You don’t single anyone out except Kate. Why is that?

  34. Seconded, Mindy, what a … Words fail.

  35. I am assuming those last comments are in part directed at me.
    There’s only so much I am permitted to comment on,
    1. The young man who violated Kate WILL lose his job and will most likely face jail time. There’s not much to say there really. Even without breaking a commonwealth law (filming Kate without her knowledge removes consent, making it a non-consenual sexual act) he is at the very least guilty of Conduct Unbecoming which in itself carries military jail time. Either way, he’s a repulsive little man who will get what he deserves.
    2. Kate’s prior behaviour is being talked about because during her 9 weeks at ADFA she has consistently faced disciplinary actions on various charges and those prior charges (not her sexual behaviour) are what put her career in danger.
    The reason this is being talked about is because
    a) when being punished for her most recent charges, it was said to be seen as punishment for going public (no, it’s because she was charged and pleaded guilty to unlawful drinking and being AWOL )
    b) so that when her career is terminated it is on the public record that her career was in jeopardy before she went public about what happened to her.
    The mens prior behaviour has not been discussed because as far as I know none of them have faced disciplinary action on any other issue or been charged for any other offence aside from the charges they now currently face for the way they violated Kate.
    In no way am I saying her military record is grounds for violating her. It is however grounds for termination of her career. Just as the crime committed against her is grounds for termination of the careers of the men who did this.
    As for the esteemed minister, he’s the boss man. What’s said in public is not always what is said in private.

  36. Sorry Pirra, I should have made it clear that my comment [and I expect Rebekka’s subsequent comment] was about Senator Minchin’s comments, not yours. I understand that you have an inside track on this for whatever reason and appreciate you bringing balance to this discussion. I think the existing charges against Kate could have been dealt with better, but I do understand that Defence like any other department is a slow moving bureaucracy and there is no need to look for malice when usual procedures will explain the situation. But someone should have thought about how it would look to the outside.
    Senators Minchin’s comments just smack of victim blaming and as another in a long list of powerful white men seeming to defend the actions of the male cadets involved it’s just not a good look.

  37. I realise the wording of the article gives a very strong implication that the Senator is blaming Kate for what happened to her and that your comments were more about his reaction and response to the situation.
    (I don’t like the way his comments were reported. The MSM are very good at victim blaming. The part of his comments in quotations, the part I believe he should be judged on, seem to be only a part comment…the structure of his words suggest to me there was more said that was not reported. I am not actually defending him, I agree with you that the report of his response smacks of victim blaming, but the wording of it just reads funny to me which tells me it’s not just the Senator implying Kate is at fault, but also the media she went to for help.)
    But I do believe the comment above yours was directed at me. Which is why I made my last comment and I do wish I could speak more openly on this. Also, I did get one thing wrong…when I said Conduct Unbecoming carried a military jail sentence, it doesn’t. The penalty for Conduct Unbecoming is termination of employment. (Discharge)
    And because the young man who did this will be charged with a civilian crime, he will be tried as one.

  38. A little more, with the Defense Chief denying that there’s a broader problem. He’s also pointing out that these are new cadets. I’m not sure if the same structure applied at the ADF as as Duntroon, but the standard intake procedure involves not allowing brand new students to leave the campus for a certain period of time (I think 6 weeks, though this is very hazy memory!). The studies done by Michael Flood (unfortunately only accessible with a subscription) on young men in the military are very disturbing, and counter the claim of an ‘isolated incident’ pretty well… major trigger warnings on that piece, btw, for those who can even access it…

  39. Sorry, a little unclear: the requirement that cadets not leave the campus can result in two things: first, that which it is designed to do, create strong bonds between the new cadets (problematic in the context of homosociality like this) and second, can make the culture quite inward-looking and self-affirming, and third, of course, makes the celebration on leaving the campus far more intense than the ‘usual uni scene’ the chief is trying to create an equivalence with…

  40. Argh it makes me ill.
    😦 😦

  41. The waters just get muddier.
    I would like to know if the male cadets involved have been told to leave though. If not that says a lot about this whole thing.

  42. Was trying to wait a few days to cool down before sharing my thoughts, but the drama seems to continue!

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