Sharing a stage with international film star Angelina Jolie was probably the last thing on Chief of Army David Morrison’s mind when he stared fiercely into a camera last June and ordered sexist soldiers to ”get out”.
But the famous speech, delivered with a cold fury following the ”Jedi Council” revelations about an internet sex ring in the army, went viral on YouTube.
A year on, the global reach of the steely address has helped pave the way for an invitation from British Foreign Secretary William Hague for Lieutenant-General Morrison to share a stage with Jolie, a UN ambassador, at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The personal invitation came as a surprise, he says. But he takes it as vindication of the cultural improvements the Australian Defence Force has made after the Skype affair and the Jedi Council scandal. ”The fact that the chief [of the Defence Force, General David Hurley] and the service chiefs stand up and say to their workforce, ‘There are systemic problems with our culture’ … I can’t recall that ever being done.”
General Morrison’s speech will find a common theme in challenges facing a modern military such as the ADF and the topic of the London summit – the scourge of rape as a weapon of war.
Women, General Morrison will argue, make all armies better.
”It makes great sense when you think about what soldiers do – they protect … Soldiers that have an empathy with the population they’re working among, a respect for themselves, their mates, their country, [have] got to be in a better place. It’s what delineates the soldier from the brute.”
General Morrison acknowledges Defence still has work to do. The ABC’s Four Corners will air on Monday fresh allegations of sexual abuse in the military.
He cannot guarantee it will never happen again. But he vows that if it does, Defence will never turn a blind eye. ”I think I can [give that assurance] – as dangerous as a major claim like that is,” he said.