Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Fog Of War

CHANNEL TEN reporter and Walkley award winner Hugh Riminton has published a follow-up piece in the Age today that should be read, especially by anyone who saw this little blog’s thoughts a day or two ago. Riminton points out that the copy of Kirkham QC’s draft report he has seen suggests subterfuge and double dealing at Defence, and one of the points he makes is quite alarming. As he puts it: 
To take one example: ''[Her] room was not plastered with shaving foam,'' as I had reported last year. Kirkham discovered that it was not shaving foam but ''Jif cleaning liquid''. It was smeared on her door - or in his phrasing ''applied'' - in sufficient volume to stain the carpet. By publicly denying it was shaving foam but not revealing it was another similar agent, Defence exposes itself to questions over whether it is distorting or withholding information and misleading the public.
Riminton has a physical copy of the report, one assumes, and it would be a great favour if he were to post it somewhere – or promise to do so when he has mined whatever journalistic advantage remains in keeping the contents to himself. There is more than idle curiosity to this hope because the mess in Stephen Smith’s portfolio gets more ludicrous as it grows murkier. If Defence erased mention of the Jif and did so to mislead, as Riminton says it did, then it is playing very fast and loose with the truth and someone must be held to account.

But at the same time, other citations in Riminton’s defence of last year’s Scoop Of The Year don’t really help his defence all that much. That’s why an open copy of the leaked report would be so handy.

RIMINTON 2011: Kate maintains that during that conversation, Commodore Kafer said "he'd like me to address my division (of cadets) because they'll be angry". Specifically, she says Commodore Kafer said "it might help if she apologised (to her classmates) for bringing the division into disrepute by going to the media".
SMITH, March 7, 2012: The Commandant did not order or advise the female officer cadet to apologise to cadets in her Division for having gone to the media;
RIMINTON 2012:  well, actually, Riminton has nothing to say that would resolve the discrepancy between Kirkham’s report and his words of last year.

See, it really would be nice to see that leaked report. And then there is this: 

RIMINTON 2011: As Kate left Commodore Kafer's office she walked past a sergeant. In a growling sneer, he said, "You've gotta be kidding, don't you?"
SMITH, March 7, 2012: No Sergeant had spoken offensively to the female officer cadet on leaving the Commandant’s office
RIMINTON 2012: Kate's account that she was advised to apologise to her cadet peers for going to the media, that she was sneered at by a sergeant, and that she was abused by cadets at a morning assembly on April 6, 2011, is also dismissed. But if Kate was not subject to vilification or abuse, if her consistent and detailed accounts are unreliable, Kirkham offers no explanation as to why, on the day after the story broke, deputy commandant Paul Petersen felt it prudent to move Kate ''away from her peers'' to accommodation in the officers' mess.

But the biggest mystery of all is this: Kirkham says Kate was not abused at that morning assembly, for that is how Defence summarises his findings, when Riminton’s said she was called a slut. Riminton now wonders how thorough Kirkham’s investigation must have been for this information not to have found its way into the report.

So, what to believe?

Kirkham is incompetent or crooked.

Defence is incompetent and crooked

Riminton is incompetent, crooked and being played by Stephen Smith

Kate is a liar

Stephen Smith is incompetent, rash and not feeding Riminton the full truth

and, most baffling,
Every single soul who attended that morning assembly is so crooked and such an accomplished liar that a QC could not winkle the truth out of one of them.

A copy of the draft report would be handy for all to see. Perhaps, instead of leaking it to a sympathetic reporter (as he almost certainly did), Minister Smith might like to table Kirkham's handiwork in the House. Then we can all have a look.


  1. When I joined the Army in the 1980's, political correctness was only in its infancy and hadn't infiltrated. At the Recruit Training Battalion, Kapooka, outside Wagga Wagga(1RTB it was called) women and men were kept separate. There was a reason for this, learned and built upon from centuries, nay! millenia, of accumulated wisdom.

    1. I'm hoping that 1735099 might join in and give some bi-partisan support.

      Bob, despite being some chip-on-the-shoulder, miserable Lefty shit-stirrer, is an Aussie Vietnam Veteran; a fair man and a good man; of that I am sure. His story, and those of his ilk, which are many, need to to be told and understood. Not in some namby-pamby way, but a fair dinkum blokish way.

    2. Yes Andrew, all that wisdom has been sacrificed to the God of idealism. God help us in future wars!

    3. "His story, and those of his ilk, which are many, need to to be told and understood."
      Already has -

  2. I think we can safely assume that they are all incompetent, crooked or liars. Otherwise they wouldn't be in this silly mess.

  3. I'll take (C) and (E) for a hundred, thanks Profesor

  4. A room "plastered with shaving foam" is completely different to Jif cleaning liquid smeared on her door in sufficient volume to stain the carpet.

    By attempting to convince us it is the same thing, Riminton exposes himself to questions over whether he is distorting information and misleading the public.


  5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.March 11, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    The moral of the film called Rashomon applies here. There is no one truth of the matter. The report should be released for public digestion. There the matter should end; no-one comes out of it well.

    The real baddie though is Smith, who failed to apologise for destroying, without a good enough reason, a military man's career.

    1. I agree with you, Lizzie. Truth is nebulous sometimes and no-one in this sorry saga is looking good.
      In the 1970's, my other half was in the air force. Female recruits, of whom there were few then, sometimes were "pressured" by their male counterparts, especially after an evening in the mess. As there were no female officers on that particular base at the time, the women complainants were directed to me as the wife of... I'd give them tea and sympathy and a little talk on social rules of engagement usually involving the merits of behaving like a "lady". The offending male(s) I understand, would be sent along to the the PE instructor for some extra workouts and that was usually the end of the matter. Some of these young recruits were then, and apparently still are, socially and emotionally naive. Some have only just left home. Allowances need to be made for inexperience and ignorance on the part of the young. I'm not sure what excusses apply to defence ministers and journos, though.

  6. The answers three:

    Riminton is incompetent, crooked and being played by Stephen Smith

    Kate is a liar

    Stephen Smith is incompetent, rash and not feeding Riminton the full truth

    Smith and Riminton are easily in cahoots; Smith's inquiry into the affair came back with the results that Smith wildly overreacted and that Defence as not at fault, and Riminton as chief disseminator of Smith's wild overreactions. That the report won't be released proves the point. Smith and Riminton can say whatever the hell they want(and be sure of an audience), as noone can authoritatively contradict them, and anyone who might try will find the end of their Defence career rapidly approaching, or their media career ending in flames (what with the powers the Fink's Ministry of Agitprop shall have).

    As for "Kate," she should never have been accepted into ADFA in the first place. Recruitment psychological testing is supposed to keep people that can't accept discipline out of the service. How could any man or woman serving under her command ever take her seriously after what she has done? Come the time when she will wash out of training on her own merits, she will reappear in the media, kicking and screaming about sexism once again, and we'll get to go through all of this all over again.

    1. "As for "Kate," she should never have been accepted into ADFA in the first place. Recruitment psychological testing is supposed to keep people that can't accept discipline out of the service."

      Exactly so. A close relative is a junior officer in the RAN. I asked him what the talk was at on his ship about this. He said (paraphrasing) that the AFDA is regarded as a joke. It takes kids straight out of school who have no life experience and no maturity. Inevitable result: incidents like the "Kate" affair.

      My relative went through 3 months of psychological and other testing before being accepted as an NEOC. There were (IIRC) 30 applicants from Victoria of which 4 were accepted. It's a reasonable bet this doesn't happen with AFDA applicants.

  7. "people that can't accept discipline out of the service"
    So you're calling what happened to her "discipline".

    1. PhillipGeorge(c)2012March 12, 2012 at 10:03 AM

      Not "discipline" on its own but an even more challenging thing/ word: "responsibility"

      Why is an 18yo a child that needs protection? Are the ADF employing child soldiers? There's a signed on UN charter covering that.

      In every culture everywhere "old enough to bleed, old enough to ..........." is collective wisdom - a time honoured wisdom. Ie. Lock up your daughters or find them a husband or whip them if they screw up.

      Having sat with a psychologist who does debriefing from real abuse, real vomit inducing 'victims of satanic ritual abuse' counseling, the difference between the genuinely abused and any 16 year old who dresses whore-like, flirts slut-like, and fantasizes about seducing her all-grown up and morally responsible 20 something year old teacher" is a night and days, black and white world away from anything resembling real "victimhood".

      So can an 18y.o. decide if they want sex? Obviously not. So don't employ them. Extend those kindergarten years out another decade and have soldiers with degrees in "diversity outreach consultancy". Labor men and women, with his and hers toilets in convenient battlefield locations.

    2. Of course it's discipline. She has got to be able to take a bit of sexual ribbing, otherwise she'll be useless. Once in the army men and women should share accommodation, showers, and everything else. There should be no distinction. What's a bit of skype-ing of a skylark any way. Far too sensitive - chuck her out on that ground alone.

  8. There's an alternative explanation, which is that the full report is critical of CDRE Kafer's judgement but that Smith had the released version doctored because he was leant on by what appears to be a powerful pro-Kafer lobby within and without the Department. But his simmering resentment, plus the triumphalism of the Kafer lobby, encouraged him to, as they say, have a bet each way and leak to Rimington. If this is true, then Smith can't now officially release the full report, because it would reveal him not only as a dissembler, but weak.

    BTW, ADFA is widely regarded in Canberra as having a bad culture. People I know who've worked, studied or taught there over various periods of time claim that the students are and always have been a bunch of snotnoses. This may be unfair and there probably isn't much that Kafer could have done about it, given its apparent long term entrenchmnent, but the opinion is worth noting.

    Consuela Potez

  9. I vote for c d & e, and I suspect Riminton is a more devious goose than the minister. Walkley Award winner - it figures.


  10. Numbers, you are being obtuse.

    The "discipline" issue is not about the "after-action attitude adjustment", but about the events that brought it on.

    You full well know about Unit and Camp Standing Orders etc. These tend to have paragraphs about "fraternisation": be it between staff and students or among the student body.

    Being busted whilst playing "hide-the-sausage" in barracks whilst on a course is a likely starter for disciplinary action.

    If I were staff at that establishment and had been made aware that the "gentleman" concerned had also arranged for his mates to view proceedings, without the knowledge of his “partner”, there would have been a substantial charge list to answer.

    Consensual horizontal folk dancing breached "house rules". Broadcasting said activity breached a whole lot more military and civil laws, not to mention trust.

    Both parties demonstrated a disdain for the rules and incredibly poor tactical sense. The bloke concerned displayed an unconscionable level of poor behaviour and attitude.

  11. PhillipGeorge(c)2012March 12, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    or put that another way.
    can a soldier be battle ready, psychologically tough, prepared, fit for combat, resolute, self sufficient, confident -----

    yet not quite able to handle people seeing them have sex or a lover who turns out to be a cad?

    yeh, right - the ADF and the Ministry of Defense - just to illustrate a point.

  12. Rimington typifies all that is wrong with the Canberra Press Gallery. They remain mute regarding this government's abysmal performance so as to milk their "inside contacts". Trouble is, as Rimington's case highlights, they are the ones who get milked.

    If you play the tart, you're going to get rooted.

    It seems incomprehensible that Smith was once considered to be the ideal replacement for Gillard. Unfortunately, his refusal to apologies to Commodore Kafer, and his refusal to release the report, has shown him to be of the same ilk.

    It is not that the ALP can't produce a half-decent Defence Minister. Bomber Beazley seemed to be on top of the portfolio and had the respect of the senior officers, but Smith should not be there.

    Gillard should have recalled Beazley from Washington and offered him the Senate vacancy instead of the used Carr. He would have done a better job as Defence Minister and Smith could have been shuffled off to some other less contentious portfolio.

  13. The military machine was never designed to accommodate females. On the pretext that the Israeli's employ front line female soldiers (haven't done so since the failed invasion of Lebanon in 2005)the idealists have opened the door for the female combat soldier in the ADF. Big mistake! Smith, the Defence Minister, is the champion of affirmative action and has met a lot of resistance from the military hierarchy over this issue. The Skype affair has been used as a political lever by Smith to implement the very bad policy of allowing women to fight alongside their male counterparts on the front line.

    Smith has no military experience. He also has no appreciation for the kind of person that is required to become a professional soldier. Very few women would be able to fit this role as the selection and criteria demands now stand, not to mention the training and the need to maintain a high physical fitness level that is incumbant on the professional soldier.

    So what happens when down the track the Army has not filled its quota of females for front line duties? Political pressure will ensure that the standards will be lowered, just as the standards were lowered in all our police forces to accommodate gender equality. When an organization is forced to lower its selection criteria and training standards to accommodate a political agenda all kinds of problems begin to appear, not the least being a lowering of morale and loss of esprit de corps among the troops.

    We now have 774 complaints from within the military of assorted offences, some of a sexual nature or gender issues. Not all of those complaints may be criminal in nature, but the number of those complaints in itself is very telling. Would there be such a high number of complaints if women were trained at their own establishments and kept within rear echelon employment, as they used to be?

    1. Recommended physical standards for RAN officer cadets (aged under 35)

      Men 25
      Women 10

      5km walk
      Men 42 minutes
      Women 43 minutes

      25 (both sexes)

      Men 704
      Women 6.9

      The armed forces will end up like Victoria Police where men don't like being paired with women because when the heat is on they can't cope as well.

    2. I've had one lock herself in the truck at a pub brawl!

    3. I remember many years ago (mid 80's) ago, a senior parachute instructor when told all physical standards for females were to be 15% lower than males. H replied along the lines - I cannot guarantee a wind 15% slower, ground 15% softer, parachutes 15% larger - so we will not change the physical standards.

      I would have followed that guy into combat, not someone who was given a conceded pass....

      PS I saw a physical copy of the reply...this is not an urban myth.


    4. If the idiots that push their political agenda were to gather evidence as to how gender equality has reduced the fighting ability of our police forces and military, I'm quite certain they would have it by the bucketload. Problem is, they are not interested in guaranteeing that police forces and the military maintain their fighting edge. All these idiots are interested in, and this includes both sides of the political fence, is maintaining the female vote and in seeing their ideals enforced no matter the consequences!

  14. A cashed up media outlet might well make an FOI application to Defence for a copy of the report. The evidence that it has been leaked to Riminton would undermine a claim that it is exempt, although possibly only in respect of those parts of it that Riminton has used. He (and possibly persons from Smith's office (or Smith), and from Defence) could be summonsed to appear as witnesses (or in some other manner be called upon to say how he got the report. Of course, one could expect the government to resist disclosure, and the FOI review bodies do not hava a proud history of standing up to the government.But even a report of the effort to get the report, and in particular of evidence given, would be newsworthy and might even force the government to give up. This tactic has produced results in the past.