SUBJECT/S: Potential ADFA Royal Commission; Defence Minister’s comments on ASC; Same-sex marriage




CHRIS HAMMER: We’re joined now by Michelle Rowland, she’s the Labor member for Greenway in Sydney’s West and also the Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism. Good Morning.



HAMMER: Now we’ve just heard news that there is a recommendation to hold a Royal Commission into the sexual abuse at ADFA, the Australian Defence Force Academy. Is this something that should win bi-partisan or all party support?


ROWLAND: I think that combatting any form of abuse in the defence forces is something that clearly has bi-partisan support, and as you say this report has literally just been handed down. Labor is going to be studying the recommendations very closely. Those recommendations could end up having very serious ramifications ranging from a Royal Commission to other measures. We’re going to consider them very closely, because above all else we want to ensure that our defence personnel are all treated in a proper manner, that Australians know that their defence men and women are being treated properly and do see this as a viable career path for them, and there is no place for any form of abuse in the defence force whatsoever.


HAMMER: Do questions need to be asked about the actual existence of ADFA as a separate university for defence force personnel. The argument has been put in the past that if people join the defence force and go to a regular university, they will then better represent the views of the wider community and then continue on for military training at places like Duntroon.


ROWLAND: Again this is an issue that we will be looking at very closely. I think that those issues have been canvassed for some time now, we had everything from the DLA Piper Report to the Task Force that was tasked into looking into some of these specific issues, so I think that anything that also encourages people to see this as a good career option is something that needs to be closely considered.


HAMMER: Now on matters defence the Defence Minister, Senator David Johnston, has said he wouldn’t trust the Submarine Corporation to build a canoe. Now setting aside what he calls a rhetorical flourish, doesn’t this lead to more serious concerns about the Submarine Corporation – that it’s running projects over budget and over time.


ROWLAND: I think this points to more serious concerns about this Government’s attitude to defence. In the House of Representatives this morning we had a Government that wasn’t even prepared to defend its own Minister of Defence on comments he had made. It also points to the fact that it is a Defence Minister who doesn’t attend National Security Committee Meetings because, in his own words, he’d “probably have nothing to add”. I mean, we’ve got to ask here, what is this Minister doing? How is this Minister actually running his portfolio? He clearly has very little confidence of his own colleagues and making comments like that, especially when this Government promised before the last election to build these submarines in Adelaide, it’s absolutely untenable for this Minister.


HAMMER: So he should go?


ROWLAND: Oh look in my view it’s absolutely untenable.


HAMMER: Another issue, Senator David Leyonhjelm has said that he will bring a Private Members Bill into the Senate to legalise same-sex marriage. Is it time for Australia to embrace same-sex marriage?


ROWLAND: Well if this goes to the Parliament, Labor Members and Senators have a conscience vote on this issue. The Coalition doesn’t have a conscience vote on this matter. I think rightly attention has turned in recent times to, “well look if we are going to have a proper vote on this issue, we can’t have one where parties are hamstrung and need to vote in a particular way”. I think if we get to a situation where the Coalition is willing to give its MPs and Senators a free vote then the Parliament will make up its mind on that, and I think in a much more representative way than it has done to date.


HAMMER: Is this a matter of, do you think, of when rather than if? That at some time in the future Australia will inevitably move to embrace same-sex marriage.


ROWLAND: It’s an interesting question because this is one of the arguments that is put forward by proponents and obviously it has widespread community support. As to a matter of inevitability I think it depends on who you are asking. I certainly would appreciate, and I think all of your viewers would appreciate, the fact that Australia has considerably moved forward in recent times of its treatment of same sex couples in a variety of other laws, everything from superannuation to other rights. I think that that was very important and I certainly think not many people thought that was going to be inevitable, but the reality is that was taken through in a bi-partisan manner and that’s where we see real change happening.


HAMMER: Okay Michelle Rowland thanks for your time this morning.


ROWLAND: My pleasure.