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Transcript of interview: 3AW, Drive wtih Derryn Hinch: 7 March 2012: The Kirkham Inquiry

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Drive with Derryn Hinch on 3AW - The Kirkham Inquiry

March 7, 2012

Derryn Hinch - There is an interesting story today after a press conference held by the Minister for Defence Stephen Smith. The Herald Sun coverage of it has “Commandant Commodore cleared over Skype sex scandal”.

This is a scandal involving a young girl and male cadets - where a male cadet and his female colleague had consensual sex back in March of last year. It was filmed without her knowledge and streamed to four other male cadets in another room. The female cadet finally went to the media when she got no satisfaction from the military brass.

But when it says Commandant Commodore cleared, well he hasn’t been in a way because the report which was prepared by Andrew Kirkham QC, found that commodore Kafer “made an error of judgement”. That’s when he proceeded with a disciplinary action against the 18 year old female cadet at the centre of the scandal.

But they have now decided, according to Mr Smith, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshall Mark Binskin, has decided that Commodore Kafer could resume his duties; this will occur this week.

Interesting thing though - Mr Smith when he held that press conference said that the Kirkham Inquiry would not be made public. Would not even be made public in a redacted form, in a censured form. He says that “It has been decided by the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary and I that the Kirkham Inquiry will not be made public, even in a redacted form, in the end we came to the conclusion that was not possible”.

Now, they are saying it is very sensitive. Sensitive to whom? I imagine it is sensitive to the Defence Department, sensitive to the academy. On the line the Shadow Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston. Good afternoon.

Senator Johnston - Derryn - how are you?

Derryn Hinch - I am well, I am going to give you a free kick here because this is just not good enough.

Senator Johnston - Well look I have some sympathy with the Department not releasing the nitty gritty, bear in mind the fellows who did this have been charged in the Supreme Court of the ACT. And that this is all of course in the old expression, sub judice. Which you know more about that than most of us, I have to say.

Derryn Hinch - That is true.

Senator Johnston - Secondly they are kids, they are all under 20 years old. Now I have some empathy for the Minister not releasing this even in a redacted form, so I am on the Ministers side to that extent. But can I tell you the main thing that the Minister is wearing a bit of egg

on his face about is that the inquiry found that Commodore Kafer, who has been stood aside for the last 12 months, has done nothing wrong. And yet the Minister in his press release today says he still thinks it was an error of judgement.

That is the issue. Now he has paid a lot of money for Kirkham QC to do an inquiry, and Kirkham says that Commodore Kafer should be reinstated and indeed Air Marshall Binskin, Vice Chief of the Defence Force, says that he is going to reinstate him this week, as commandant of ADFA. And yet the Minister is still saying that he thinks he has done the wrong thing. Well I have got to tell you I think that is a lot of egg on the Ministers face.

Derryn Hinch - Yeah but surely the Commodore should not have gone ahead with the disciplinary action against the 18 year old when she was the victim.

Senator Johnston - Well you see the inquiry has found that the conclusion to proceed was reasonable and that the Commandant did not make an error of judgement - and I am looking at page 3 of the Ministers press release today - in so going forward. Now you know the inquiry is very clear and Kafer should be reinstated according to the QC. You know the Minister has said that he regarded the whole thing as somewhere between completely insensitive and completely stupid and of course Kafer was stood down on the basis that - I think fair to say - that the Minister had lost confidence in him.

Derryn Hinch - That is true, and he was very angry.

Senator Johnston - And he was very, very angry and he said he had the full facts; well Kirkham QC has now conducted the inquiry. Which the Minister has had since the 13th of December and has sat on. And of course Kafer has a very good reputation around the place you know.

Derryn Hinch - I remember that too. But with the Defence Minister coming under the gun here and because he has had the report since December 13, that is three months that have gone by - this man could have been reinstated three months ago.

Senator Johnston - That is exactly right. And I think he is owed an apology quite honestly. Because he has been made a political football and the Minister is the only person in Defence who believes he has done anything wrong. The inquiry has completely exonerated him - and I don’t use the word exonerated lightly - he has been exonerated. He is a good man and should get back into his job and do the good things he was doing before this all happened.

Derryn Hinch - But when they say the inquiry report will not be made public, in a redacted form, why can’t it be said that we can’t do it at this time. Because once the court action is all over the Government can release it.

Senator Johnston - Well I agree with your view Derryn and we want to get to the bottom of why - once the court cases have finished, and once the matters have run their course - we can’t have a redacted version so people’s privacy can be protected. I think the Minister is in error to that extent, and I agree with you on that point.

Derryn Hinch - Alright, we will wait and see. Thanks for your time, I appreciate it.

Senator Johnston - Good on you Derryn.

Derryn Hinch - Thank you, bye.