Dickhead removal strategy
The Australian Defence Force is one of this country's most admired organisations. It lies at the heart of our national self-image, it is one of our largest employers, and unlike a lot of organisations it provides a real method for young people from relatively poor backgrounds to secure ongoing employment and skill development, to find meaning in and through their work, and to attain a degree of social mobility that is not as available in Australia today as we might hope.
There is a positive pattern at work in the ADF. Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG is every bit cut from the same cloth as, say, Ted Sheean or Sir Neville Howes VC. Actions like those of Roberts-Smith, and recognition of those actions, reinforces the high esteem in which the ADF is held. The positive bias toward the ADF is such that we seem immune from sinking to the low place where we found ourselves during the 1970s, where Vietnam veterans were social outcasts and were excluded from the recognition and adulation given to other veterans.
There is also a negative pattern. If you accept that Corporal Roberts-Smith is a product of training and tradition then the same is also true of the grubs who perpetrate and cover up for sleazy and criminal incidents.
The odd negative incident won't damage the high esteem in which the Australian Defence Force is held: but a pattern of incidents over many, many years will.
The Australian Defence Force defends Australia, and in Australia women aren't tokens, they aren't barely tolerated; women are centrally important members of the community. The ADF isn't some sort of sheltered workshop for Guys Who Want To Only Want To Be With Guys But Not In A Queer Way. If you can't handle women, you're going to be crap on the battlefield. That's why you punt these guys; not because it's PC, but because military necessity demands it. During times of war you bring your best people to the fore and weed out time-servers and game-players, so start with the sorry little wankers who pick on females.
If someone behaves like a dickhead behind the lines, chances are they'll be a dickhead when it really counts. As that commenter in the Oz said, if you're going to videotape a woman who's been fooled into having sex with you, why would I want you watching my back? You're probably setting up a videocam to film my head getting blown off rather than looking out for your mates. Punt these dickheads now.
If you're going to cut the Defence budget, don't skimp on supporting those dodging bullets in Afghanistan. Don't cut that submarine/tank/plane. Undergo dickhead removal and you'll save a motza and boost this country's defences at the same time. I thought Peter Reith was going to do this, but in Children Overboard he showed that he's more problem than solution. The DRS worked best with his departure.
Smith and Clare have really stuck their necks out by getting involved in disciplinary issues - they'll either succeed greatly or fail greatly, and though the odds are on the latter (not only in terms of this government, but all governments) it will be fascinating to watch.
By contrast, hasn't Minchin made a right clown of himself? The commandant of ADFA bent over backwards to help his son so he thinks they're Christmas. In environmental debates Minchin shows himself to be someone who surrounds himself with people who only tells him what he wants to hear - much like the worst military officers. It is best that this man should be departing, better yet if it were sooner.
It's one thing to fulminate about leaving military justice to the military, but that works only if you can trust them - which you can't. The crowd who advises you that rustbuckets are ready to go, that a small bunch of wankers deserves the benefit of the doubt, can't expect a politician to stand between them and the public who pays for them. The military brass have always taken their chances in taking on politicians - military officers are highly regarded, politicians aren't, who are you going to believe? - but there is such a pattern where military justice is a contradiction in terms that a canny politician just might land a few blows.
Note that the Governor-General hasn't spoken yet. Consider her background, then consider that she's the Commander-in-Chief, she ranks above Air Marshal Houston - and note that she hasn't spoken yet. I doubt that she's too busy arranging flowers or whatever to take careful notice of these developments.
We deserve a better military than this. Given that we look up to our military and at the same time recognise them as us at our best, then we'd be a better country if we had better people to look up to. Let us have more of the courageous Angus Houston, of truth-to-power in 2001 and the no less dexterous chopper pilot of 1979, rather than the weary figure today who must announce another death, another disgrace, another disappointment. What comes next? Dare we hope for better, and what would it look like?