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Transcript of interview with Jon Faine: 774 Melbourne: 8 March 2012: Labor Party; Defence reviews.

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Minister for Defence - Interview with Jon Faine, 774 Melbourne

8 March 2012



DATE: 8 MARCH 2012

TOPICS: Labor Party; Defence reviews.

JON FAINE: Stephen Smith, the Defence Minister has called in, and Mr Smith, good morning

to you.

STEPHEN SMITH: Good morning, Jon.

JON FAINE: Is this why you had to stay in the Defence portfolio, instead of being moved to

Foreign Affairs, because you had to manage this crisis?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, it’s entirely a matter for the Prime Minister to make the allocation of

portfolios, I made that clear last week, it’s not a matter for the exercise of any discretion of

Ministers, but entirely a matter for the PM and-

JON FAINE: I understand that, but was it her opinion or yours that you should see this


STEPHEN SMITH: Well I said at the time, entirely a matter for the Prime Minister, firstly,

secondly I also said last week that there’s a lot of unfinished business in Defence, cultural-

JON FAINE: This is that unfinished business, is it not?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, cultural change is one thing, as all of the reports that were released

yesterday make clear, but it’s also transition in Afghanistan, capability, budget matters, there

are a lot of challenges, it’s a portfolio I asked for in 2010, and I’m very happy to meet those


JON FAINE: You can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs, so are you going to have to

push through the resistance that we’re seeing even this morning still, to cultural change

within the ADF?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, there’s no resistance from the Defence leadership. Yesterday one of

the documents that was tabled was a document essentially called Pathway to Cultural

Change, produced by the Chief of the Defence Force and the Secretary of the Defence

Department, supported by the Service Chiefs. It’s a frank assessment about weakness in the

past, about Defence not having always kept to the highest standards, about a blind eye

having been turned on occasions on the need for Defence to not just adhere to the higher

standards, but also understand that the world and Australian society has changed in a

diversity sense, and that’s a very good prism through which any inappropriate conduct now

needs to be, and should be and will be viewed.

It’s a zero tolerance, and so that’s a very good document going forward. It’s not going to

happen overnight, but we’ve now got a very good reference point and I strongly support it,

it’s produced by the Chief and the Secretary, and supported by the Defence leadership.

JON FAINE: Retired General Jim Molan on AM this morning, had this contribution to make to

the debate.

JIM MOLAN: I reckon that we, that the Australian public, deserve better than what we saw

today, we need a Defence Minister that can run the Department and that is the equivalent of

the two men of great integrity and achievement that were standing beside him, seeing him

up there, I was so uncomfortable compared to those two men, he continually spoke about

holding Defence to a higher standard of behaviour than the general population. Well, I

believe that applies to him. Every Australian should question Stephen Smith in how he does

his job.

JON FAINE: A higher standard? Are you asking Defence to maintain a higher standard than

the rest of the community?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well firstly, Jim’s entitled to his view, he’s a retired Defence personnel, he’s

entitled to his view. But people shouldn’t ascribe to him the views of the current Defence

leadership, firstly.

Secondly, when I talk about Defence needing to stick to a higher standard, it’s because

Defence Force personnel, Defence organisation people represent the country, represent the

nation, and there are adverse repercussions for the nation if there’s inappropriate conduct.

Now the highest standard is not a point that I make in isolation, when you read the report,

the Pathway to Change, produced and tabled by the Chief of the Defence Force and the

Secretary, they say Defence has to keep a higher standard than the rest of the community.

So it’s not me imposing a standard on Defence, it’s an analysis, it’s a view that the leadership

of the Defence Force now applies to the Defence Force generally.

Now in terms of Jim’s general comment about the Australian public taking an interest, yes,

the Australian public should take an interest in the need for cultural change in Defence. Yes,

the Australian public should take an interest in the way in which Defence and the

Government responds to one of the issues yesterday, which is driving through that cultural

change, but also, how do we respond to the fact that we now have over 700 plausible

allegations of prior abuse, sexual and other abuse, in the Defence Force, over the period

going from 1951 to 2011.

JON FAINE: All the way through, sure, we’ve just spoken to Catharine Lumby, before you

joined me on the program this morning, about a parallel experience that’s been gone through

and undertaken in the world of men’s professional sport, particularly the AFL and the rugby

league, do you see the parallels?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I think when Defence establish some of these reviews, which was done

at the time with the former Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Huston, one of the things that

was done when we looked at a range of cultural issues, whether it was treatment of women,

whether it was personal conduct, alcohol abuse, was to go through some of those experts like

Catharine, to learn from the experience of other organisations, and that is now the challenge

for Defence.

But I again make the point, yesterday we saw a Pathway to Change document which is an

overarching document that covers all of those various reviews-

JON FAINE: But change requires that people actually do things differently, change requires

change, you can’t keep going the way you were, paying lip service to change, that won’t


STEPHEN SMITH: Well firstly, I don’t think it’s fair to Defence, or generally to say there’s

been lip service. Every report and analysis, whether it was the Sex Discrimination

Commissioner, Liz Broderick into ADFA, whether it was use of alcohol, whether it was

personal conduct, whether it was social media, there’s a strand through all of those which

essentially says, over the years Defence has made improvements, yes, we have made

progress, but there is-

JON FAINE: Made them, or pretended to make them?

STEPHEN SMITH: No, no, made them, but there is a long way to go, and the overarching

document produced by the Secretary and the Chief, now provides the prism through which all

of those issues now need to be handled and dealt.

JON FAINE: Okay, I’ve only got a few minutes before the news Minister, and you’ve got

important committee meetings to go to, alcohol is the elephant in the corner of the room.

Every report that’s been done, points to a booze culture in the ADF, in the academies, at high

rank, in the mess, at the ranks. You have another problem, a separate parallel, but related

problem, and until you deal with that, I’ll submit to you, you can’t make progress on the


STEPHEN SMITH: Well, alcohol and use of alcohol, or abuse of alcohol, is one of the issues,

and that was one of the reviews that we established and that was produced and tabled

yesterday, and yes, there are a range of measures there that need to be adopted, including

making sure that alcohol in the Defence Force is priced appropriately, and that there’s no

financial incentive, you know, to buy up and drink up big-

JON FAINE: But that’s always been a feature of military life.

STEPHEN SMITH: It has, and the report yesterday makes it clear that that feature has to


JON FAINE: And then, I’m watching ads on TV at the moment, we’re promoting a lingerie

football league coming to Australia.

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I’d have to confess Jon, I’ve been focusing on Defence matters, I

haven’t been looking out for ads-

JON FAINE: I understand you wouldn’t be, and I’m not expecting you to be, but the point I’m

making is clear, as a culture, we have a problem, we can’t talk about it seriously, and expect

something to happen at one level, whilst commercially the marketplace is going in the precise

opposite direction.

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I’m not sure that that really is an accurate reflection of the modern

Australia, and the contemporary view that Australians have about conduct in their society.

JON FAINE: And that’s the debate we have to have.

STEPHEN SMITH: And yes, and in the context of that debate, it is absolutely essential that

Defence reflects modern day community standards.

One of the points made in the Pathway to Change document yesterday produced by the Chief

and the Secretary, Defence needs to understand that the world has changed; that we’re a

much more diverse society, and community standards have changed, and they need to be


JON FAINE: Thank you, minister, I’ll have to leave it there-


JON FAINE: Defence Minister Stephen Smith, in the national capital.