Setting aside any questions of consent, it is hard to imagine a more bizarre or unpalatable violation of privacy than discovering that a moment of intimacy with your partner has been secretly filmed and broadcast for the titillation of others. This is the key fact at the centre of the Australian Defence Force Academy “skype” scandal, where an 18-year-old girl, a cadet at the military academy, slept with a guy who had a computer video camera rigged up in his room, creating a virtual porno for the amusement of his mates.

ADFA: business as usual, again.

No-one is disputing that the incident occurred. Worse, no-one in defence seems to give much a damn about it either.

In Australia this week we have witnessed one of the more pathetic displays by senior members of our military and their allies in politics and the press, where the issue now seems to be not whether the girl deserves some kind of redress for a life-altering breach of privacy, but whether the military boss at the centre of the original investigation deserves his own little apology for being unfairly grilled over his handling of the scandal.

It is faintly hilarious that men who are trained to kill for a living and can live for weeks in the jungle on a single shard of beef jerky are such delicate little petals that a bit of criticism from the relevant government minister has them reeling. Not only reeling, but calling in their chums under the old mate’s act to try to shift the focus away from themselves and onto the minister himself, as a form of payback for a government that dared to ask whether there might be a bit of a problem here.

Defence should realise that there is a significant gap between its own views on what constitutes a problem, and the views of the general community as to what is or isn’t acceptable. I’d say that the seriously besieged Defence Minister Stephen Smith was much closer to the general community in his handling of the Skype scandal than many men in the military.

Given that ADFA was the place which in the 1980s introduced the world to the practice of “woofering” – whereby male cadets were hand-cuffed to chairs and had a vacuum cleaner attached to their balls as a zany initiation prank – we shouldn’t be that surprised that there is such a significant gulf in perceptions.

In political terms the battle in the Skype scandal has been fought between Defence Minister Stephen Smith and the officer in charge of the Academy, Commandant Bruce Kafer. When details of the scandal broke last year, it emerged that Kafer had taken the highly questionable decision to proceed at the same time with a trifling and unrelated disciplinary matter against the girl in question. Whether it was or not, the risk with such an approach was always going to look like the girl was being victimised for being a trouble-maker. Beyond that there was a more human question of compassion which some people would argue Commandant Kafer had failed.

People making that argument included the Defence Minister Stephen Smith. Smith was furious. He described Kafer’s decision variously as “stupid, insensitive, inappropriate, wrong.”

Smith might have gone hard but it was a reflection of his frustration – undoubtedly shared by many people in the community, no-one more so than the parents of kids bastardised in the military – that the ADF remained in serious denial about the need to get serious on behavioural issues.

As if to prove those concerns, the reaction from many within the ADF to Smith’s comments and his subsequent handling of the affair has been both contemptuous and treacherous. His original intervention was seen as audacious and out of line, as if as Defence Minister he had no right to comment on the issue at all, let alone with such force. And now, after the release of the inquiry into the Skype scandal, there is a concerted campaign by some to discredit Smith as being somehow anti-defence, even as indifferent to the personal safety of our troops in the field.

Smith has been the subject of some fatuous analysis by commentators who are close to the military. There was one absurd Machiavellian suggestion that Smith, as a putative leadership aspirant in the ALP (which he isn’t), knew that he had poor standing with female voters (for which there is no evidence) and had seized the issue to get some feminist runs on the board.

The biggest problem with the deeply suspect denouement to this episode is that the actual report into it has not really been released at all. The public has only seen a very vague four-page version, arguably because of legalities surrounding the case, and since then it appears that both Defence figures and the Defence Minister’s office itself have been involved in a campaign of leaks and counter-leaks to take pot shots at each other. Classy. It would make more sense to release the whole report, even if you have to black out a few passages which are before the courts.

As things stand though all that has happened is that Defence seems to have claimed this as some kind of victory, with Bruce Kafer now happily back in his job as the head of ADFA, and the girl at the centre of the scandal probably wishing she had never said anything at all. But even now that he his job back, there are still plenty of men the Kafer camp who think he needs an apology. Surprisingly, they include Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who has long been an admirable critic of the modern culture of preciousness, yet has this week been leading the chorus for Mr Kafer to be handed his very own cut-out-and-keep sorry note.

Get over it boys, you won. It’s just a bit sad that anyone would see this as a victory at all, given the sordid nature of the whole affair.

Most commented

69 comments

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    • MilitaryMan says:

      12:13am | 07/05/12

      Mr Penberthy,
      Would you prefer if the ADF ceased to exist?
      The continual abuse of us and our every step will lead to our disbandment. Then who will protect you from our evermore unstable world? You? I doubt it. If the ultimate goal of the media and ‘society’, as its so often quoted, it to make defence so open, free and, well lets face it, soft, then you have opened the way for our enemies to show themselves and help themselves to our country’s space and resources. Our system, that has weathered over a centuary, descended from a system that has lasted for over 600 years, must work. Its processes are developed to work, they take time like any process though, and the public must realise this.

      More often than not the events that actually occured are wildly different to those reported in the news media. Take the latest Navy scandal, the shower scene on HMAS Parratmatta. Only one outlet reported the actual reason for her initial distress at seeing a hand with a mirror in it in the shower cubical behind her. She thought the officer in question was dead. It was only realised later what he was really up to.

      May I raise on more point to those who have been comparing Skype to a rape or such assault. It was consentual, and there is a school of thought which suggests she knew the camera was there. Don’t webcams have lights that show they are recording? At civilian univesities, a survey done by Melbourne Uni reported, one in six girls are raped. undoubtedly more experience such actions as kate was involved in.

      ADF bashing will not bring on reform. It will prevent people from joining an organisation that is portrayed, by the people it protects, an rotten to the core.

    • Andy Evans says:

      10:56am | 21/03/12

      I am amazed that such a badly written, misinformed piece of drivel dresses up as “opinion” merits publication!  Was the Editor on holidays?
      The author has trotted out every military cliche, perhaps framed by watching a few war movies in his adolescence.  What he hasn’t done is bother to acquaint himself with the Defence Foce Discipline Act, the Defence Law Manual, concepts such as “Chain of Command” and the independance of the ADF from the government.

      On that basis, I suggest the author should have disqualified himself from commenting anywhere other than at the pub with his mates.

    • Simon says:

      01:47pm | 19/03/12

      Its been a week since I have heard a Defence-Force -Bashing-Story on what now I have perceived to be a leftist leaning website. Enough already, this is old news. Lets just agree that there are Good and Bad Apples in EVERY Bunch, that includes the Public Service, Private enterprise and the ADF, and move on, or can we expect all you leftist media types and posters on this site to hold Placards condemning each and every soldier past and present as (post from Gerry) ‘Drug Crazed Killers’ this upcoming ANZAC day?
      I would suggest that unless everyone knows the FULL FACTS off the case, they should just let it be, and not make snide comments.

    • Gerry says:

      07:55am | 19/03/12

      A very sick society some of us are becoming. Cover up after cover up and not just in the army. Footy clubs protect their druggie rapist players the same as the Army. Most Iraq and Afghanisan USA soldiers are on dangerous coctail of drugs so how the hell do we stand a chance for a safe and orderly society. Just the same as Julian Assange he uncovered corruption and now the USA want to shut him down because he told the truth. God help us!!!

    • BT says:

      02:44pm | 19/03/12

      I’m Sure you’re speaking from you vast experience on your multiple tours with the US soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • SteveKAG says:

      07:09am | 19/03/12

      “that a bit of criticism from the relevant government minister has them reeling.”

      You are understating that to no end.  The guy was publicaly humiliated in front of 22m people and was suspended for nearly 12 months.  That is not a little bit of criticism.

      In my mind the two issues are not even related and we should stop linking them altogether.

      The commadant deserves and apology and the girl deserves justice.

    • Max Beta says:

      06:46am | 19/03/12

      The new line being spun here is that it’s all just down to inexperience and youth. Just some grog-sodden Uni rag among the first years. And somehow that either doesn’t matter - or if it does, then its society’s responsibility.

      Won’t wash.

      These young folk aren’t a ragbag of scruffy, toey conscripts. They volunteered. For Armed Service. In defence of our country.

      They volunteered. For a standard fo training and discipline beyond the ordinary. Beyond some stupid uni college schoolies antics. 

      They volunteered for ADFA training. At considerable expense to the nation, and if they are any good at all, at some risk to themselves. And in uniform, they represent our Country.

      It shouldn’t be just any old Hooray Harry from Shore who gets to stamp about in uniform at Duntroon just for the sheer fun of shootin, rootin and boozin.

      If the ADF is doing its job properly, it has selected, by application, reference and interview,  suitable mature young candidates for three or four years of demanding education and demanding and dangerous military training.

      If ADFA does its job properly, those young people should be being given and learning both responsibility and discipline, in a demanding but well-structured environment , by a properly trained, skilled and managed chain of command.

      If the system is unable to provide a suitable standard of recruit, that is down to the ADF - and ADFA and its chain of command.

      If ADFA and its chain of command is unable to either manage its recruits in barracks or to maintain a proper standard of discipline - relative to experience - then let the responsibility fall where it MUST lie.

      With the recruits themselves and with the ADFA chain of command, including Commodore Kafer - an officer of wide and considerable experience.

      ADFA must look to its recruiting, discipline and chain of command overall if it is to succeed in overcoming repeated and entirely self-inflcited embarrassments, that are to the detriment of its own and its graduates reputation.

      Stephen Smith, as responsible Minister, is right to express his views with considerable firmness. And publicly backed by General Hurley as Chief of ADF, no less, and by a Liberal ex-Minister for Defence, Dr Nelson.

      Kafer is ADFA Commandant. He must bear much of the responsibility. It’s his show.

    • Andy Evans says:

      10:46am | 21/03/12

      The ADF never wanted ADFA, it was a gift from Malcolm Fraser.

      Many in the ADF would love to see the end of it, and go back to seeing single service officer training with degree courses provided by mainstream Universities.

    • Ros says:

      06:01am | 19/03/12

      You don’t see a pattern here David, Gronski’s report can’t be released, other than to a favourite Journo. Kirkham’s report can’t be released, other than to a favourite journo, (and Walkley award winner for breaking this story), and on this occasion apparently an early draft which is critical of Kafer.

      You repeat the story that Kafer did not offer Kate the opportunity to delay her proceedings on the other matters but not the version that says she, on advice from her legal counsel and after much discussion with a student counsellor, decided to go ahead.  Finkelstein would be on to you!

      So which version is true, Kafer did not ask, or as many have said, he did. And said from the time that Kate chose to go to the media 4days after ADFA was informed and 3 days after they referred the matter to the police. The only evidence of the contrary, that he didn’t, Smith quoting Kirkham. And Riminton, the favoured journo, quoting an earlier Kirkham. But as you point out, but don’t seem to place any importance on, nobody, apart from the favoured journo, has seen the Kirkham in any of its forms. And Kirkham hasn’t said.

      Here’s a thought, the earlier draft said, because Smith said, Kafer didn’t ask. But then the draft was circulated and Kafer and staff at ADFA (including quite conceivably, Kate’s legal counsel and student counsellor and more, quite the conspiracy, professionals behaving badly all over the shop, thank god we have got journos) sought correction of this item because it was wrong. Now we only know that Kirkham said in his final report that Kafer might have been better to ask, because Smith said so. But then leaks the version pre proof reading by affected parties. Doesn’t strike you as odd? You don’t think Smith lied, but do think most of the ADF hierarchy have, (The Secretary of Defence, from the limited information we have had, seems to have been on Smith’s team), because that is the only option available to support your contentions. It hasn’t crossed your mind for example that Smith quoted selectively and carefully from the earlier uncorrected version, and when he didn’t get away with it, leaked the draft only because he couldn’t leak the final, it would have screwed him? No, each to their own.

      You might have come down in the last shower we didn’t. But then we don’t have the access to ALP spin merchants the way you do.

      Do you know if Kafer had the power to delay those proceedings against the will of Kate? What would you be saying if he had delayed against her wishes? How come the AFP haven’t been asked to find out who leaked the draft, as with the video?

      As for the frat house thing, which others have quite rightly ridiculed, ADFA had previously suggested to other unis that they all look at producing a code of conduct of students covering such as this unfortunate sort of event. They weren’t interested, currently they fly under the radar and the gross behaviour of some of their students is unnoticed, certainly by moral up rights like you. Of course why would they agree knowing the dislike of our military by the chattering classes allows them to escape scrutiny themselves? And let’s face it, most of our chattering classes are products of these unis and would know full well what sort of abuses occur, even possibly the journo grads. But in a morally relativist world, that doesn’t matter does it.

    • wakeupcall says:

      05:27am | 19/03/12

      Pembo Whilst you were correct and brave to call for Muslim wills that discriminate against women to be banned, the reason you were right was because Muslim women were being treated less than equally. What the Kafer enquiry and Piper ‘abuse’ enquiry are about is gender inequality. Many Australians think that the Government is determined to run a multicultural gender Jihad through the ADF the same way as through the Vic police. Unless handled very carefully and done relatively slowly, with a balance between merit and positive discrimination, the result will be a fractured, ineffective, toxic organisation. It is likely that the Jews will soon bomb Iran triggering war and conflict of severe proportions - we can ill-afford a demoralized and dysfunctional ADF.  Such cultural change exercises are about affirmative action not equality under law: singling people out on the basis of race and gender and promoting some (Muslims, blacks women) and demoting, overlooking or not appointing others (white men). You have given a very selective account of the Kafer problem. Many Australians will see it as follows; many commentators have agreed. Smith stepped in to try to change the outcome of a qasi-judicial disciplinary process. Under administrative law this is improper. He accused Kafer of making legal errors. He called his decision stupid. He stood him down and accused him of insensitivity. He publicly damaged his reputation. Kafer’s decision was found to be correct legally. It has been reported that Kate was given an option of deferring the unrelated disciplinary proceedings but wanted to have them dealt with, on advice. If this is true, he could hardly have said no. Smith backed off intervening when his lawyers told him it would be improper. He issued a statement soon after correcting himself that was barely reported.  He should have known better. He could, and should, have taken Kate aside, given her a placement in his office and kept an eye on her, and protected her. Instead the publicity has further traumatized her and damaged her reputation and future career.  He should have dealt with the matter behind the scenes using tact and diplomacy. It was foolish to use her to achieve his greater purpose.

      The so called abuse enquiry risks being seen as a Trojan horse, designed to run a multicultural gender Jihad through the ADF. Under pressure, in a recent 7.30 report interview, the ADF promised to promote more women, minorities and Muslims. Many Australians think that this is what the ALP and the Greens demanded. Given that the ADF ‘Abuse enquiry’ was triggered by the Skype scandal, the Government’s spin is designed to make people think the alleged 775 cases of abuse were sexual abuse, or serious related sexual misconduct. The Government did not tell the truth: the ToR are misleading. The terms of reference of the abuse enquiry effectively define abuse as: ‘bullying, harassment or intimidation, and related matters’. The Human Rights Commission defines harassment to include conduct that the victim finds offensive on grounds of race, gender, religion, or ethnicity. It can include telling jokes, sending emails, displaying pictures or screen savers, asking personal questions, debates or discussion, being overlooked for promotion or given unpleasant tasks. Hey presto, an insensitive joke now becomes ‘abuse’! Little wonder that over a period of 60 years 775 alleged cases have arisen.  see p xxi http://www.defence.gov.au/culturereviews/docs/DLA Piper Review_Volume 1_Extracts.pdf

      Pembo - if you are a true champion of free speech, as you would like to appear, then you will allow alternative opinions that challenge yours. If you are another media agency that just censors what you disagree with then you are no better than those you criticize. What are you scared of?.

    • Distraction? says:

      03:27am | 19/03/12

      “There was one absurd Machiavellian suggestion that Smith, as a putative leadership aspirant in the ALP (which he isn’t), knew that he had poor standing with female voters (for which there is no evidence) and had seized the issue to get some feminist runs on the board.”

      I don’t believe Smith did it to up his woman vote - but wasn’t there some other issue at the time that the Government was being hit hard on? I do recall even at the time, the suggestion was made that the Government went in so hard over this to try and get away from everything else it was having problems with (I think it was the Malaysian solution and the High Court ruling against it had just occurred when this story broke?).

      Over-reacting to this was in-line with how they over-reacted to the 4-Corners story on Indonesia’s processing of Australian animals. The public (and media) loves politicians who go for the over-the-top knee-jerk.

    • Diamantina Dick says:

      09:08pm | 18/03/12

      No I can see why Penbo never went to ‘nam…

    • Against the Man says:

      07:09pm | 18/03/12

      Smith screwed up pure and simple and you can’t change that fact. Four Corners, Craig Thompson, Carbon tax lie, ALP against the defence forces all working to my favour.

      ps: TChong I win again smile

    • Mark says:

      08:59pm | 18/03/12

      Agree Smith wanted an immediate scapegoat and it was Kafer.  Weak man that Smith is.    Same with Bob Carr, took days for his ego to noose him.  Rudd’s ego was noosed as well.

    • valerie irons says:

      06:59pm | 18/03/12

      my war on terror is my war on the mass media

    • Mark says:

      06:16am | 19/03/12

      Valerie, The media keep the politicians, businesses, sportspeople etc honest.  You kill off the mass media and you have the same situation you had in USSR in the cold war years.  People go missing, gulags and salt mines.  Be careful what you wish for.

    • Alun says:

      06:21pm | 18/03/12

      Well the defence people do believe and learn that ‘the best form of defence is attack’, so I don’t know why we’re so often surprised by their audacity. And sometimes, their stupidity.

    • stephen says:

      05:51pm | 18/03/12

      I think that this episode is a bit of a beat-up.
      Our soldiers are excellent, and one episode of a girl who was taped having sex is surely poor form, but, though she is a victim of very bad taste and certainly bad character, something much worse happened at St. John’s College in Sydney recently, when a resident female was forced to drink alcohol when she told her coercers, in no uncertain terms, that she was allergic to the stuff.
      She drank under duress and was shuttled off to hospital in a critical condition.
      A small article in the local papers was the only light which shed this.

      ADF personnel are like us, they make mistakes, they sometimes squelch on their bills, and some have affairs, (and for some reason, in the Navy, there are no urgent calls to port for abortions) yet when they are not on the battlefield, they are supposed to resemble Jason Of The Argonauts.

      When they swing their rifles in parade, are their sabres made of gold ?

    • Kelly says:

      12:35pm | 19/03/12

      I think we just expect higher standards of behaviour from our armed forces. Don’t lessen the violation of Kate by trying to compare her experience to an incident concerning alcohol consumption by another woman. Both are appalling. but it’s not a competition to see who was the most violated.

      It’s a bit like telling a woman she wasn’t raped that bad. Everyone deals with things differently. Some women and men deal with sexual assault better than others. Personally I would be mortified if I had been filmed having sex unknowingly in the first instance, and secondly would be disgusted to know it was being streamed for the enjoyment of others. It is such a violation of trust.  I think calling it ‘poor form’ is an extreme understatement.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      08:15am | 19/03/12

      @james… and what if they were threatening her with harm? Honestly, there are ways to make people do things regardless, it’s what gets ASIO, CIA, etc off.

      She may have also decided the only way to get them to leave her alone was to show them she was allergic, young people tend to take the approach of “that’s just an excuse, DRINK!!!!”.

    • james says:

      12:25am | 19/03/12

      Nobody force that girl to drink anything. If she can’t say “no”, knowing how allergic she is, how is that anyone’s fault but her own?

      Just say no and she would have been fine.

    • A guy in Canberra says:

      05:40pm | 18/03/12

      I would love to see the Minister of Defence release the full report to the Minister for the Arts (?) - and then place the media under the same level of scrutiny that you have the ADF (uniform component). Let’s flog your each and every action, and drag you through your own media circus with no right to response. This was done in a 1% fashion recently with the presenters of a morning chat show after some less than positive remarks were made about a serving military member. And you did not like it one little bit when the ‘public’ openly revolted against you the media!

      Perhaps one day you will realise that the ADF is a pretty good reflection of the Australian populace as a whole - and that that is what you actually don’t like, and are even more loathe to accept. Rather than call out the military as scape goats, lets start to actually do something positive and have a closer look at our own society as a whole.

      I for one am pretty sure that if you were forced to do that with any form of honesty then for the most part you would all sit in silence, with your heads hung so very rightly in shame!

    • Super D says:

      05:16pm | 18/03/12

      Just think a few months before the incident these kids were probably at schoolies doing much the same or worse.  Defence had them for a few months, I’d hold their parents, schools and communities that had them for the prior 18 years as being a greater influence on their behaviour.

      This isn’t the first and won’t be the last young girl to be betrayed by a fella.  Inside defence or out.

    • Louisa says:

      08:10pm | 18/03/12

      Exactly, Super D. But no-one wants to face that fact, because then it might be their fault and they might be expected to do something about it. It’s easier and more expedient to blame the ADF’s alleged culture. That way society doesn’t have to look at itself and take responsibility for producing these boys in the first place.

    • Marilyn Shepherd says:

      03:16pm | 18/03/12

      DIAC dictate too and no minister has the balls to stand up to the ingrained racism.

    • colroe says:

      03:34pm | 19/03/12

      I knew another guy called Marilyn once.  He was not the sharpest tool in the shed, and he had a coarse mouth to boot.  He, like you Marilyn, pretended to know it all but in reality he knew nothing.  Do some decent research and temper your language if you want people to take you seriously, otherwise you are wasting your time with inane comments.

    • Bryan says:

      03:11pm | 18/03/12

      David your statement

      “This is the key fact ..... where an 18-year-old girl, a cadet at the military academy, slept with a guy who had a computer video camera rigged up in his room, creating a virtual porno for the amusement of his mates.”

      With all due respect your description - “a virtual porno” is a bit over the top is it not? The fact that just about every 15+ movie, raunchy music video or TV show is just as bad if not worse should put things into perspective.

      Lets not get to prissy or hyperventilate with the this shemozzle. I don’t agree with what occurred, how it was portrayed by media, defence personnel and the defence Minister. It is without a doubt a casualty of or ever lowering moral standards in society. But relative to what we - the public - are served up in the movie, media, music, TV and entertainment industry it was par for the course and almost to be expected.

      For the media (and Politicians) to make such a hue and cry about this is lame and hypocritical. We - the public - are being trained like Pavlov’s dog, to wait for the sound of a bell to react with a trained response. Mate all I can say is there is no woof, woof from a large portion of us!

      PS The reaction from Steven Smith deserves a Logie. If this was not a vote buying exercise then nothing is.

    • T says:

      07:59pm | 18/03/12

      The ritualistic denigration of the military by all and sundry may have ultimately led to the Yumi Stynes affair. Smith gave the signal, dog whistle if you will, and Stynes responded.

      This is what happens when leaders sink the boot into soldiers for political gain.

    • LLauren says:

      07:47pm | 18/03/12

      the difference between what we see in the form of movies, tv, etc is that they are all consenting participants.

      whether or not we’ve ‘seen worse’ doesn’t take away the fact that she did not consent to being broadcast to her peers.

    • Tony says:

      02:35pm | 18/03/12

      Oh yeah, the military code is alive and active!

      Why is it that defence is the only arm of the public service that actually dictates to the minister; somewhat upsidedown in my view.

      Over the years I have known quite a few military folk, the scenes you have touched on are mild compared to some of the stories I have heard.

      Good onya Steve for throwing a shot over their head. It is high time we had a defence minister whom will standup for his portfolio and not be brow beaten by defence.

      Make no mistake, there is no win in this for defence. Now that these behaviours have hit the public arena, they’ll either have to change or suffer the recruitement consequences.

      Well done Stephen Smith!

    • L. Mountbatten says:

      04:34pm | 18/03/12

      Please provide proof of this statement: ‘defence is the only arm of the public service that actually dictates to the minister’

      Who is dictating anything to the minister?

    • T says:

      02:32pm | 18/03/12

      I remember labor were traveling very badly before the Skype incident. It served as a useful circuit breaker. Smith’s disproportionate response is coming back to haunt him. It seemed out of character at the time and I suspect he was acting on orders from above. Now he has to take one for the team. Smith has lost the confidence of the defence forces and must go. It is sad because he is a capable and honorable man but no amount of spin can change what he did. It was wrong and now he must pay the price.

    • L. Mountbatten says:

      01:53pm | 18/03/12

      Gee Penbo…you’re a couple weeks late on the bandwagon….but I suppose whipping a dead horse is as good a form of Sunday Exercise as any.

      “The biggest problem with the deeply suspect denouement to this episode is that the actual report into it has not really been released at all. The public has only seen a very vague four-page version”...correct, and Smith is responsible for this, not the ADF and lets not mention he sat on the report for four months…explain that?

      “Not only reeling, but calling in their chums under the old mate’s act to try to shift the focus”...is there proof to your claim that “they” are calling “their” old chums up? or is this is simply former officers speaking up, because they can? Heaven forbid ex military people are allowed to think for themselves. Paul Keating comments all the time on Labor issues….is this because his old chums are calling him up or is he just speaking about a group he used to work for?

      “Defence seems to have claimed this as some kind of victory, with Bruce Kafer now happily back in his job as the head of ADFA”...Please provide some proof of this statement..from a current serving member..who is claiming this victory?

      “Get over it boys, you won.”..and this is the problem isn’t it..you and your media mates have beaten up this so called rift, not the military, you are the ones who have taken the focus away from this girl. Right from the start of this “affair” you were reporting the wrong parts of it, you added rumor and speculation into the reporting (much like you are now), which resulted in the minister to go half cocked (and that was his error) you did not allow due process.
      Perhaps the fourth estate should start looking at themselves about more closely and start examining how they report things. A little accuracy would not hurt..particularly on the Punch.

      I will remind everyone that we have never heard anything form CDRE Kafer on this issue, because he is not allowed to make comment. So only ever get one sort of the story…keep that in mind before you sully his reputation any further.

    • Joan says:

      01:51pm | 18/03/12

      `slept with a guy who had a computer video camera rigged up in his room, creating a virtual porno for the amusement of his mates.` It would hardly be porn if they had just slept .  The girl just 8 weeks in the army was breaking army regulations, then went to media - hardly actions of an innocent babe abroard. Any way courts will deal with that. As for Smith he`s no knight in shining armour as he would like us to think- - the man overreacted, hysterically by demoting Kafer simple as that. The ADF right to doubt his judgement since her over reacted on this issue.  The media love Smith and Carr and so are blinded to the failures shown up last week by both men. Australia deserves a better Defence Minister and Foreign Minister.

    • Meph says:

      11:27am | 19/03/12

      @Robert Smissen

      Can you please cite sources that she is a habitual rule breaker. I’ve not seen any reports of such at this time.

      Add to that if her punishment was a days pay docked and confined to barracks for a week, it was a pretty minor infraction.

      I’m guessing that we are missing a great deal of detail into this issue, and what’s more, is any of it really any of our business.

      We have a highly deplorable event that occurred that is currently being investigated by the appropriate authorities. We have the individual targeted by said deplorable act up on unrelated disciplinary charges. The military isn’t forcing her to stay, so if she feels she is being victimised by having the unrelated disciplinary charges dealt with, why hasn’t she quit/spoken up/complained?

      If you boil it down to the bare facts, it seems like there could be another agenda lurking around. On face value, it almost appears to make no sense at all.

    • Robert Smissen of country SA says:

      10:34pm | 18/03/12

      @ Marilyn Shepherd, I think your language to Joan is rude to say the least, to quote Ghandi “it takes a small minded person to put down another, to make themselves appear clever”.Joan has some very valid points, the young woman in person was a habitual rule breaker, hardly the sort of person other ranks would trust with their lives. Do you believe Smith would have been so heavy handed & ham-fisted if the infractors had both been male? ? I think not. It is very important that people like her are weeded out of the academy in the early stages, from her constant infractions of the rules she has without a doubt shown her total unsuitability to lead troops

    • Greg says:

      10:03pm | 18/03/12

      @ Louisa, a well written, logical and reasoned post with excellent reference to the factual evidence.

      But It’s all wasted on Marilyn, who is impervious to all reason, logic and common sence.

    • Louisa says:

      08:05pm | 18/03/12

      Er, Marilyn, the ‘thugs in the ADF’ have actually said nothing. They aren’t allowed to speak publicly.  The low-life who had sex with her and filmed it and the others who watched were not long-term military members; they’d been in a couple of months, the same as she had. At that stage, their behaviour is more reflective of the homes they grew up in and the society they lived in than the ADF. Think about that. It’s a way bigger indictment on our society than it is on the ADF. CDRE Kafer properly referred the matter to the police. He also ensured that she received pastoral care and counselling.

      The ‘sin’ for which he has been so publicly flogged was one of allowing already-pending charges against her to be heard. For which she was fined one day’s pay and grounded for a few days. That’s it. And contrary to what you may have read, she actually agreed that the charges should proceed and pleaded guilty.  The report that exonerated CDRE Kafer was written by a completely independent lawyer. The sex-discrimination commissioner ‘s recent review also found that CDRE Kafer had started implementation of a reform of ADFA culture way before the Skype scandal erupted. But don’t let the facts and a little perspective get in the way of your usual anti-military rant.

      Young women are raped and attacked on the campuses of other universities all the time, but no-one takes that subject on and publicly humiliates the university hierarchy. It’s way easier to have a go at the ADF hierarchy, because the cowardly reporters concerned know that they are sitting ducks because they not permitted to fight back publicly. Smith knew that too.

      You’re the one calling other posters cretins, Marilyn. So who’s the thug?

    • Martin says:

      06:29pm | 18/03/12

      You sure your name isn’t john?
      You usually have a very warped view of things, but congrats. You have outdone your previous weirdness.

    • Marilyn Shepherd says:

      03:04pm | 18/03/12

      Joan, why do you cretinously believe what the thugs in the ADF say?

      So what if she had a bit of trouble adjusting, did that give the thugs the right to treat her the way they did?

      Honeslty the callousness of some who call themselves human is beyond beliefl

    • Roundley says:

      01:26pm | 18/03/12

      There are two disappointing things about the constant coverage of this ridiculous incident. One is that pundits in the media make assertions about factual matters without any actual insight into what happened. I work at ADFA (non-military) and therefore have some privileged insights. No media report has accurately presented what happened or the surrounding circumstances; the closest being Waterford’s article in the Canberra Times at the time. Yet the media pundits are prepared to say whether CMDT Kafer did the correct thing or not. The illustration of the horribly biased delivery of (alleged) news through all media channels is disappointing.
      The second thing is to highlight this incident between students at ADFA who have been enlisted military for less than three months and suggest that they represent the military as a whole. More accurate comparisons could be made between the individuals involved in the “Skype incident” by looking into residential colleges on University campuses around the country. Yet that connection is rarely (never?) made. I suspect that it would look less unusual in that comparison, although still reprehensible, and it would generate significantly less outrage.
      Sure, there’s nothing (morally) good about the incident as it has been reported, but those shortcomings are not unique to, or particularly specific to, the military element of the university campus on which it took place.
      Our military members are held to a different level fo expectation. I am proud of the way that they deliver on and exceed those expectations routinely. For reasons that cannot be fathomed, there is never a “good news” story about ADFA, yet fine young men and women routinely perform with excellence on a national and international stage, led by military staff of the finest mettle. The university environment there is one of excellence too with world-leading research informing a first-rate education. The place is not nirvana, but it is a well-managed campus where our future military leaders are formed in the constant tension of developing young adults and the distractions of modern life. You would never know that to read about ADFA in the media.
      Finally, in my view, Smith shot from the hip. The issue is that he is not prepared to step away from impulsive, ill-informed comments that he was prepared to shout into the media once more carefully-considered information comes to hand. The correct thing for him to have done in the first place was to be more circumspect in publically making character assessments in the face of a clearly complex, emotionally-charged event. As a Minister and public figure he should know better, and he should have been better briefed.

    • Happymonkey says:

      09:03am | 20/03/12

      Thank you, Roundley. A voice of reason.

      The hysterical shrieking of the media over this whole issue is absurd.

      Penbo - this article is disappointing. I thought at least you’d be able to wade through the beat-up and speak with some indication of research, inside knowledge or journalistic intergrity and reason. Shame.

    • SirenP says:

      11:44am | 19/03/12

      Support what you say fully.  And look at what happened at St John’s College at Sydney Uni last week - will the Minister(s) for Education intervene? I think not. Sexual and alcohol related incidents are far more prevalent in these institutions than we old fogies realise.  ADFA serves a vital role in our country and is, in the main, well managed and produces great grads..

    • Angry God of Townsville says:

      01:24pm | 18/03/12

      What is your actual point to this rant Penbo. I have read it twice and am struggling to see what you are actually trying to say.

      Just a quick question for you though. The Frat house behaviour described occurs in most Uni’s. When the next sexual assault occurs at Sydney University, do you think that the Minister in charge of Education or the Vice Chancellor to have to front the media is a similar way to this issue. The ALP has shown with the Heiner affair what it really thinks about sexual assault, so the most logical assumption is that Smith wanted this issue to boost his profile.

      There is issues between this government and Defence. The government chose this issue to try and impose their views and the report has shown that it backfired. The minister led the assault on ADFA and CMDR Kafer and made public statements that “showed is anger at the incident”. Who the f cares if he was angry, he was wrong, and his continued statements show that the discord between Defence and Smith will not be repaired until the next election.

    • Schnelly says:

      02:10pm | 20/03/12

      Uncle Fester, perhaps you should have gone to a real university. Down here in Victoria at Melbourne, Latrobe and Deakin Unis the ‘Frat house behaviour’ is worse than at ADFA. At least at ADFA they have a discipline system to instill discipline and try to control the behaviour of that age group.

    • Uncle Fester says:

      12:25pm | 19/03/12

      Shit I missed all the ‘Frat house behaviour’ while I was at QUT! Oh that would be because there’s no on-campus living.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      01:22pm | 18/03/12

      Defence is a smozzle of rorts, incompetence and plain waste. No political party or defence minister will ever change that condition. In the theory of (western) civil - military relations, the civilian government is supposed to control the military through the defence minister. In Australia, defence does it’s own thing and if a defence minster tries to interfere or reform the system, they will burn him or her. I suspect that the military’s PR campaign is more payback over attempts to reform the system than over the skype scandal. The sad thing is that ADF has shattered its image of an apolitical organization and is as political as the Wehrmacht of the 1930s ever was.

    • Schnelly says:

      02:04pm | 20/03/12

      Sproket, yes you are correct, there are plenty of uniformed personnel in DMO, however they pale into insignificance compared to the numbers of public servants. Most uniformed people only spend one posting in the DMO and are very keen to get out after seeing the waste, rorts and being treated like crap by the public servants. You soon realise that in the DMO, no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, there will be a public servant that will stop you. If you speak out, you will have the support of the military but not the public service which carries all the power. Thank you to the unions for that one.

      Anyone who thinks that the military actually run the Department of Defence, needs to think again. In the Australian Department of Defence it is the tail the wags the dog and the military just has to do the best they can with what they get given.

    • sproket says:

      07:30am | 19/03/12

      @Flanker. Harden us sunshine, play the ball, not the man. Stop acting like the ADF!

    • sproket says:

      07:28am | 19/03/12

      L.Mountbatten theres plenty of uniforms in DMO

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      09:51pm | 18/03/12

      @LM- I’m not the only one that thinks that:

      http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/russells-war-on-accountability-20120316-1v9x5.html

      @Flanker- there is a great deal of historical evidence that the Wehrmacht, particularly the General Staff did play a significant role in German politics of the 1930s. Read your history. The Night of the Long Knives was in part a concession to the military and in part because the leader of the SA, Roehm had become a political liability. Hitler only became supreme leader through the backing of the military. Of course when he became supreme leader, he built up his own alternate power structures such as the SS, only answerable to him. The main point was that the ADF is meant to be an apolitical beast. Waging an unofficial vendetta against their own Defence minister is not a good look

    • Flanker says:

      07:57pm | 18/03/12

      “The sad thing is that ADF has shattered its image of an apolitical organization and is as political as the Wehrmacht of the 1930s ever was.”

      Comparing the ADF to the 1930’s Wehrmacht, out of all the comments I have read on the punch this year, this has to be the most insulting, pathetic, and just plain wrong one.

      Grow up.

    • L.Mountbatten says:

      04:37pm | 18/03/12

      “Military’s’ PR campaign”..please provide a link to the PR Campaign.

      Also recommend you don’t mix up the terms “Defence” and “ADF”. Defence has rorts and is wasteful….largely due to DMO…non uniformed public servants.

    • kitteh says:

      01:17pm | 18/03/12

      I knew several people (male and female) that went through ADFA. After a short time there, their attitude towards the general public and their standards ranged from smug superiority to outright contempt. There was a clear dichotomy in their thinking - they believed that as a part of the armed forces (although after a few months, they could hardly claim any significant experience), their moral compass was ‘different to ours’ (direct quote).

      They were young and clearly embracing their new ‘identity’. Maybe some of them have changed for the better now - I didn’t stay in touch, so I never found out; after hearing some of the crap they spewed about women, gays, Asians, and pretty much ‘everyone else’, I dropped the friendships fast. The most ardent women-bashers were female, which was particularly hard to hear. Maybe I ‘didn’t get it’, but if ‘it’ translated to bullying other women and the less blokey men in order to be accepted by the male students, I didn’t want to.

      Six months isn’t long. From the attitudes I saw and the stories I was told, there was some harsh indoctrination going on there - from both upperclassmen and staff. You had all the elements there - isolation, brutality and repetition of a message, coupled with a sense that being part of said group made you somehow superior. Judging from recent events, nothing has changed since then, and the ‘us-versus-them’ thinking is still firmly in place.

      ADFA needs to become more transparent. If they have nothing to be ashamed of, there’s no reason to be secretive. Clearly, the older guard are happy to be insular, even if that means the organization rots on exposure to sunlight. Even the most idealistic young person entering the Academy with a strong moral compass and sense of the wider community would have a hard time standing up to this kind of culture.

    • BT says:

      02:29pm | 19/03/12

      I think to state that all members of the Defence Force have a superiority complex or are sexist/racist is a little Ironic considering your grouping 35,000 people into a stereotype in the same paragraph complaining about their lack of gender/race awareness and tolerance. Just Saying.

    • BJ says:

      07:46am | 19/03/12

      It isn’t just ADFA. The whole military have a superioity complex. Why would they care about community values?

    • Timmeh! says:

      03:08am | 19/03/12

      Actually you should look up “The third wave”.

      Some people take to discipline like a duck to water. Suddenly they have purpose in their lives, they don’t need to think, and they are told where to go, what to do etc. Just regurgitate the mantra and you suddenly have lots of new friends!

      The more enthusiastic ones start acting in a way they think will help the group, or the way their leaders want them to.

      I suspect this is why people are recruited into terror groups, religions, etc.

    • Tim says:

      01:15pm | 18/03/12

      Kafer handled the matter in 100% the correct way and Smith tried to use him as a scapegoat by playing the politically correct game for white knights.like yourself.
      Now its backfired and Smith should apologise.

    • BP says:

      03:26pm | 19/03/12

      @DOB. Yes he did, yes he did and yes he should.

      There simple enough for ya? No one ever claimed the military aren’t answerable to civilian authority in this country. If they have please provide your evidence.

      Sinple fact is that there were already charges laid against the female cadet under the DFDA and there is a timeframe for these matters to be dealt with as a matter of procedural fairness.

      What you are advocating is that any victim of what may be considered a serious crime should be absolved of any and all misdemeanours they themselves have committed. That being the case why have the misdemeaners in the statute books in the first place?

      In the miklitary they serve a very specific purpose which is to maintain discipline. As a supposed ex defence member you should understand that. Unfortunately you sound like one of those who spent a short time in and couldn’t make the grade and as usual blame everyone but yourself.

    • Tim says:

      01:15pm | 19/03/12

      Are you guys honestly saying that Kafer should have broken procedure for this girl? Think about what you’re advocating, that an authority figure should break the rules if he feels like it.

      Yeah I’m sure the minister would find that totally appropriate.

    • sproket says:

      07:25am | 19/03/12

      thats right Timmeh - Kafer, instead of using his craium and considering the effects on the cadet, public perception, media ramifications, and effect on the defence Force overall, just pulled out the rule book (Defence Law Manual Volume 3) and followed the procedural bouncing ball.

      Any monkey could do what he did.


      The issue is, as the head of an educational institution and as a senior leader, a lot more was expected of him and he failed miserably.

    • Timmeh! says:

      03:01am | 19/03/12

      I think Kafer handled it in a purely administrative way, that didn’t break any rules, but Smith was looking for a more compassionate approach.
      This would have been to put the small matter on the back burner until the serious matter was dealt with.

      Problem with the ADF and Police forces, is they automatically close ranks to protect each other. the current problem simply comes from soldier boys getting their noses out of joint because Smith doesn’t just mindlessly support them and sing their praises.

      Anyone who criticises them is their enemy.

    • DOB says:

      12:01am | 19/03/12

      No, he didnt. No he didnt. No it didnt. And no, he shouldnt.

      There. Simple enuff for ya?

      Hate to tell you this buddy but the military is answerable to the civilian in this country.  Sorry ‘bout that. Thats the way it is. You dont like it, I’ll buy you a one way ticket to somewhere else. And by the way Im telling you that as ex-military who’s seen this sort of stupid shit up close.

    • sophie rose says:

      12:43pm | 18/03/12

      The old boys club is alive and well.
      I have cringed ant some of the comments that have been aimed at Stephen Smith, and if anyone is owed an apology he is. Abbot should just shut up and stay out of it.

      Trying to punish the victim for being a ‘trouble-maker’ would appear to be the military version of slut-shaming - whereby a rape victim is blamed for the rape because she must have done someting to lead the rapist on.

      Maybe it’s more that the military doesn’t want women to join up so is gleefully rubbing it’s hands together at the thought of showing those uppity women what’s in store for them if they dare to try to enter.

      Whatever it is, it’s absolutely disgusting for anyone to behave like this

    • BT says:

      02:26pm | 19/03/12

      @ Boltsafe,
      Well put mate.
      @ Sophie Rose,
      A correct analogy would in fact be saying that someone who is the victim of a crime gets away with a separate crime that they themselves have committed. As for the ADFA scandal, you can hardly base the actions of a small group of 18 year olds to be the attitude of the entire defence force. To do so is nothing short of dismal. The Victim in this instance is the young female, not the defence minister or the ADFA Commandant. The sooner that society realises that the ADF is not an organisation of sex starved rapists the better. The reason that this is an alluring occupation is that, as proven by MAJGEN Wilkie, Regardless of sex or race you can achieve position based on merit and performance.

    • Boltsafe says:

      08:37am | 19/03/12

      I am honestly astounded you managed to compare an individual being diciplined for breaking the rules to ‘slut-shaming’. Yes. Thats exactly what ADFA was doing . They wern’t following protocol and charging the individual for her wrong doing. (like they would do for any soldier sailor or airman regardless of gender) They wanted to ‘slutshame’ her.

      Pfft?

    • Mayday says:

      12:18pm | 18/03/12

      I don’t understand why any woman would want to be in the armed forces and this latest incident just reinforces that opinion.

      I wonder if the Israeli army has similar problems, women there have been active participants for decades, or is it because women have only been in the forces for a relatively short time here in Oz?

      Looked up Wikipedia and its says “Starting from 2009, some religious soldiers and officers left IDF ceremonies because women were singing. Religious soldiers felt that their religious freedom was being infringed if they were forced to listen to women singing”

      So we have problems with men treating women as sexual “toys” while over there the men are refusing to listen to the women sing because its against their religious beliefs!

      I repeat my earlier comment, I know we need soldiers desperately but why any woman would choose to join the armed forces has me beat?

      And “Woofering” that may help explain why some men have an aversion to vacuuming.

    • Smashmellows says:

      03:28pm | 19/03/12

      The trouble is that most of the commentary on this issue comes from people that do not have a clue about the ADF.  Penberth,y I’m unable to grasp the barb regarding beef jerky and the jungle - Kafer is Navy.  Basically you should all shut up and let Defence get on with it’s job of training young men and women to take the lives of opposing combatants.

 

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