Army rapped over Australian sex scandal

2011-04-07 12:15

Sydney - Australia's defence minister on Thursday berated senior military officials for their "serious error of judgment" in mishandling a sex scandal as claims of a new case emerged.

It follows a young female cadet at the elite Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) going public after a male recruit allegedly filmed himself having sex with her and broadcast it via Skype to his friends.

As Smith defended the woman's actions in airing her allegations on Wednesday, it emerged that she was being hauled before a disciplinary hearing on alleged claims of drinking and being absent without leave.

Smith said holding the unrelated hearing while the 18-year-old was distressed over the sex scandal was "inappropriate, insensitive or completely stupid".

"This is really a very serious error of judgment," he said.

"It was somewhere in the range between being completely insensitive and completely stupid and I could not be stronger on that."

He refused to offer support to the head of the ADFA Bruce Kafer when given the chance on Thursday.

Another allegation

"I want to come to a concluded view about the issues that I've raised before I'm drawn on that particular point," Smith told reporters.

The case is being examined by police and defence officials have warned that anyone found to have committed a crime faces termination of their military career.

In unrelated allegations at the same academy, ABC radio ran an interview with a woman who claimed her 19-year-old niece was raped at the facility.

Rather than being offered counselling, her commanding officer reportedly told her to "suck it up".

"Defence did absolutely nothing - in fact she was told by her commanding officer to suck it up," the woman said, adding that the culture was that if you pursued action, you were embarrassing the army.

"(The culture was that) it was a boy's club and that women shouldn't have been there, and that was the attitude that they had," she said.

Australia's military has gained an unwanted reputation for having a drinking and sexist culture, underscored in a recent 400-page report about incidents on the supply ship HMAS Success in 2009.

The report examined allegations of a "predatory culture" and drunken misconduct among sailors, including the keeping of a list known as "The Ledger" which put dollar values on sexual conquests with female colleagues.