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Gay-hate campaign in army left unpunished

Richard Baker, Nick Mckenzie
April 13, 2011
The Facebook page.

The Facebook page.

THE Australian Defence Force has failed to fully investigate and punish dozens of serving members linked to an online social media campaign that publicly named and vilified homosexual personnel.

ADF leaders including army chief Ken Gillespie and former defence minister John Faulkner are aware of a complaint made in August last year about the anti-gay Facebook page.

Eight months later, the investigation into the page and dozens of ADF personnel who signed on as "friends" has been shelved and none of the serving members associated with the campaign have been disciplined.

Illustration: Ron Tandberg

Illustration: Ron Tandberg

One of those publicly targeted by the Facebook page, created under the pseudonym "Steve Austin" and featuring the army insignia, was Paul Morgan, an army psychologist who has served in Iraq.

Major Morgan and four other ADF personnel, including two special forces soldiers, were named on the Facebook page as having made a "filthy lifestyle decision".

"This page has been created to inform current and past serving members of the ADF who is biting the pillow," the page said. "I have had other emails from ADF members reporting their suspicions, [but] only confirmed cases of homosexuality will be displayed on this page."

Major Paul Morgan was outed on a homophobic Facebook page designed to expose gay members of the defence force.

Major Paul Morgan was outed on a homophobic Facebook page designed to expose gay members of the defence force. Photo: Supplied

The page allegedly had links to violent and pornographic videos on YouTube depicting homosexuals being executed superimposed over images of Gallipoli and flag-draped coffins of dead Australian troops.

At least one YouTube clip that attacks the sexuality of a serving army officer remains online.

Major Morgan, who has been commended for his work with soldiers affected by the death in 2006 of Private Jake Kovco, said he was unable to discuss the gay hate campaign from within army ranks. The ADF has strict rules on personnel speaking to the media.

However, Major Morgan expressed dismay about his case. "It is very hard being gay in this organisation," he said. "I have sacrificed my whole adult life to the army and the inaction in this case is soul-destroying."

The revelations come days after a series of inquiries were launched into attitudes and behaviour in the armed forces, and a police probe of the Australian Defence Force Academy scandal in which a female cadet was secretly filmed having sex with another student.

It is also just weeks since it was revealed that Australian soldiers in Afghanistan had posted racist slurs on Facebook referring to Afghans as ''sand niggaz'' and ''dune coons'', and joking about running them over.

The Age understands the ADF investigation into the anti-gay Facebook campaign was stalled by inadequate resourcing, with no one

assigned to the job at various stages over the past eight months. A Defence spokeswoman told The Age in a statement: ''In August 2010, the anti-gay social media activities were reported and the ADF Investigative Service was notified.

''During ADFIS inquiries it was reported that one of the members targeted on the website made a formal complaint to NSW Police. This matter is still the subject of ongoing investigation and it is inappropriate to comment further at this time.'' Defence Minister Steven Smith declined to comment.

Friends of Major Morgan have told The Age that he has received death threats and other forms of intimidation since ADF leaders and the government were notified of the anti-gay campaign. One friend said he had been warned by the ADF that he was not to approach the Human Rights Commission about the campaign.

Major Morgan was also advised not to seek external legal advice or speak to the media, a close friend said.

The Defence spokeswoman said the ''anti-gay social media activities … does not reflect Defence's official position, and is not representative of the behaviour and thoughts of the majority of Defence personnel''.

''The attitudes and behaviours described are contrary to everything that the Australian Defence Force stands for and has achieved in welcoming and supporting diversity across the organisation,'' she said.

She stressed that Defence had strict policies on the use of social media, and clear policies for handling breaches resulting in ''unacceptable behaviour''.

The spokeswoman said the ADF had allowed gay and lesbian members to serve openly since 1992, and in 2009 had acted to ensure that couples in same-sex interdependent relationships were entitled to the same benefits as married couples.

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