Just when it seemed safe to assume that the Australian Defence Force had plumbed the depths of stupidity, along came Captain Fiona Sneath to remind us all that the military has a far greater capacity to embrace the moronic than was previously thought humanly possible.
So here we go again.
In a week where it seemed impossible to outdo the incorporation of ‘gender perspectives’ into Navy and Air Force operational planning, this intrepid legal officer banned sailors from marching at the Greenwell Point dawn service.
Reason? It was deemed an occupational health and safety issue.
This sentence is nothing more than a filler so that you can climb back onto your chair.
Yes. You read that right.
The Navy decided that it was too unsafe for sailors to march less than 500m down a well-lit road to commemorate the 100,000 Australians who gave their lives for this nation during times of war.
Basically, it now appears that our primary security strategy as a nation is to make such a joke of the Australian Defence Force in the hope that those who wish us harm will laugh themselves to death.
As I told the Daily Telegraph, you’ve just gotta feel sorry for the sailors who were issued these embarrassing orders. It is not their fault that they signed up to defend Australia with their very lives but are under the command of people who think Anzac Day marches are somehow a contravention of the Geneva convention.
The community backlash against these orders, thankfully, has seen them overturned.
However, in typical Defence fashion, its PR department has attempted to deflect blame for this whole shebang onto the media, which it claims is ‘misleading and incorrect’.
For the record, this is the relevant part of the actual orders issued to Navy members at HMAS Albatross on 4 April 2019:
And this is what the intrepid Captain Sneath told Win News:
The decision to not march in darkness before the Greenwell Point Anzac Dawn service was made on safety grounds.
So when it comes to misleading and incorrect statements, it would appear the media was correct to report that Navy personnel were ordered not to march on ‘safety grounds’ and that Defence PR is being loose with the truth. Again.
The Defence media release issued yesterday also states that due to ‘measures to effectively mitigate safety concerns, that decision was reviewed and reversed the morning of 10 April’.
However, I spoke with a representative of the Nowra RSL this morning. And, unsurprisingly, she confirmed that the RSL had not taken any additional ‘safety measures’.
So unless the Navy is planning to issue a wheel chair to each sailor marching, it seems pretty apparent that there are no additional safety measures in place. That’s probably because there are none required.
If sailors can’t march down a road to an Anzac Day memorial they’re probably in the wrong job. But they can and they are. So someone else is in the wrong job.
By the way, Captain Sneath’s Navy biography contains these comforting words:
From September 2011 to December 2014, Fiona was the Staff Legal advisor to the Chief of the Defence Force. During that time she advised the CDF on a diverse range of matters including the implementation of cultural reviews such as the Australian Human Rights Commission Review into the Treatment of Women in the ADF…
She was appointed as the Commanding Officer of HMAS Albatross in early 2017.
The Navy Times covered this glorious event with the following words:
HMAS Albatross has become a shining example of diversity, with the appointment of its first female CO – CAPT Fiona Sneath.
CAPT Sneath, who is the 38th CO of Albatross since its commissioning in 1948, described herself as “honoured and excited” by the posting.
“It’s always great to see that women can be recognised to perform in challenging and senior positions, but it’s also important to recognise that my selection demonstrates recognition of the importance of not just gender diversity in leadership roles, but the utility of diversity of background and experience,” she said.
In another first for Albatross, CAPT Sneath leads a mainly female command team…
However, let it be noted that most of this all female command team can be excused from this unholy mess. The large majority have since moved on and the orders were signed by a bloke, the current Executive Officer, David Hutchinson.
Somewhat ironically, the Navy Times article celebrating Captain Sneath’s diversity, background and experience featured above another story spruiking the fact that sailors would shortly march down Oxford Street in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
At night, too.
How brave of them.
By now it should be apparent that when words like ‘shining example of diversity’ are used in relation to the appointment of senior officers we should all take cover. No one knows what fresh hell will be unleashed.
Fortunately for Captain Sneath, she now has extra ‘diversity’ in her illustrious and experienced naval career. And she has also won the praise of the Chief of Defence Force, who leapt to her defence in Senate Estimates with these words:
But I do commend the Commanding Officer to bringing the point to attention that we ought to be confident that we’re not asking our people who have to concentrate on their music and on their marching in the dark that it’s done safely.
I’m sure another promotion is in order.
The Chief of Navy is sulking:
I strongly oppose recent media reporting on gender in operations and commentary around Navy marching at the Greenwell Point Anzac Day dawn service, and the combined assertion that our Navy is not prepared to fight and win.
— Chief of Navy Australia (@CN_Australia) April 10, 2019