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The Standard You Walk Past Is The Standard You Accept

June 14, 2013
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There are some excellent quotes in this three minute speech by Australia’s Lieutenant General David Morrison.  The Youtube transcript is almost unrelated to what he said, so I’ve transcribed it at the bottom.  It’s not just about the military.  It’s about life.  It’s about a world that we all live in, and the attempt to reassert supremacy by men who are angry and bewildered at the loss of some of their privilege.  This isn’t a “what about your daughter” speech, and I’m glad of that, because that’s patronizing, not including.  Gen. Morrison says the Australian Army needs to fully include and encourage its women soldiers and officers to achieve its mission.  And that’s not just about the Australian Army.  That’s the world.  Humanity needs to fully include and encourage women. 

A few choice quotes:

[Women] are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future.  If that does not suit you, then get out.  You may find another employer where your attitude and behavior is acceptable, but I doubt it.  The same goes for those who think that toughness is built on humiliating others.

Every one of us is responsible for the culture and reputation of our army and the environment in which we work.  If you’ve become aware of every individual degrading another then show moral courage and take a stand against it.

No-one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian Army.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

Some background.  The Australian Army is dealing with some of the same issues as the US armed forces.  In 2011, a cadet secretly streamed video of himself and a female cadet having sex, in the so-called Skype Scandal, which sounds a lot like the recent story of nonconsensual recording and disseminating at West Point.  And a panel review found a pattern of ignoring reports of sexual assault and abuse in the Australian Army, just like the pattern in the US that led to recent Senate hearings.  Gen. Morrison’s reaction is a powerful message. 

US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno recently acknowledged that the problem in the US Army is much more serious than he appreciated, and I hope he will pay close attention to this as a model for how to position the issue.  It is not just an issue of compassion, it is not just an issue of respect.  It is an issue of mission readiness, and of leadership.  NCOs and officers who cannot keep their own troops from victimizing each other have not achieved the necessary unit cohesion to expect troops to operate effectively in the field.  That’s clearly what Gen. Morrison believes.  I hope it’s what Gen. Odierno believes.  And it is what out officers and NCOs need to be told. 

Transcript of Gen. Morrison’s full speech below the fold:

Earlier today I addressed the media and through them the Australian public about ongoing investigations into a group of officers and NCOs whose conduct if proven has not only brought the Australian army into disrepute, but has let down every one of you, and all of those whose past service has won the respect of our nation.  There are limits to how much I can tell you because the investigations into this network by both the New South Wales police and the ADF Investigative Service are ongoing.  But evidence collected to date has identified a group of men within our ranks who have allegedly produced highly inappropriate material demeaning women and distributed it across the internet and Defense’s email networks.  If this is true then the actions of these members is in direct contravention to every value the Australian Army stands for.  By now, I assume you know my attitude to this type of conduct.  I have stated categorically many times that the Army has to be an inclusive organization in which every soldier, man and women, is able to reach their full potential and is encouraged to do so.  Those who think that it is okay to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this Army.  Our service has been engaged in continuous operations since 1999, and in its longest war ever in Afghanistan.  In all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army.  They are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future.  If that does not suit you, then get out.  You may find another employer where your attitude and behavior is acceptable, but I doubt it.  The same goes for those who think that toughness is built on humiliating others.  Every one of us is responsible for the culture and reputation of our army and the environment in which we work.  If you’ve become aware of every individual degrading another then show moral courage and take a stand against it.  No-one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian Army.  I will be ruthless in ridding the Army of people who cannot live up to its values, and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this.  The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.  That goes for all of us, but especially those who by their rank have a leadership role.  If we are a great national institution, if we care about the legacy left to us by those who served before us, if we care about the legacy we leave to those who, in turn, will protect and secure Australia, then it is up to us to make a difference.  If you’re not up to it, find something else to do with your life.  There is no place for you amongst this band of brothers and sisters. 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2013 11:18 am

    A shame how he refuses to accept the truth of the complaints. I counted at least three “if proven true”s and “alleged”s. He is leaving wiggle room to go backwards and let these guys off if courts find them not guilty. And that’s sad.

    • Hazel permalink
      June 19, 2013 5:18 am

      He may have been limited legally – if he doesn’t say “alleged” then could that be taken to be slanderous? Also, people ARE innocent until proven guilty and I know that where sex crimes are concerned this is a hideous thing because they can be so difficult to prove.

  2. Nathanael permalink
    August 14, 2013 2:59 pm

    “No-one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian Army.”

    Good for him.

    In the US Army, unfortunately, I suspect you could find a lot of people who really believe that the US Army is at its “most effective” when it is exploiting and degrading others, and they have history to point to from the Sullivan-Clinton campaign (oh, look it up) through to the Phillipine Insurrection, and that’s before we get to the 20th century. In short, if the purpose of your army is in fact to terrorize the locals and take their stuff, perhaps the exploitation and degradation of others actualy helps for that purpose. :-P

    Just to be really gloomy.

    • Nathanael permalink
      August 14, 2013 3:00 pm

      The disgusted tongue smiley didn’t come out right in the auto-smiley-converter.

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