Military crackdown: ADF says no defence for cyber-racism

BY AMY MCQUIREAUGUST 10, 2011

Originally published by Tracker Magazine. 

 

ADF member Joel Buckley… an enthusiastic poster of extreme racism on social networking sites Facebook. Tracker has blacked out some areas due to extreme language.

NATIONAL: An investigation has been launched into two members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) after they repeatedly posted racist comments on their Facebook pages earlier this year.

Soldiers Sam Borrett and Joel Buckley have both come under fire for their use of the popular social networking site, after their racist rants were exposed on a blog – http://www.theanti bogan.wordpress.com.

Sam Borrett, who describes himself as a seaman in the Royal Australian Navy, earlier this year remarked that he “was going through a few magazines at the local abo shelter, was having soooooo (sic) much fun until the rifle jammed”.

Nine of his Facebook friends gave his comment a ‘thumbs up’.

Another comment from Mr Borrett posted on the blog, dated 12 June, is directed at the Muslim community.

“…they say if a Muslim is born in Australia it is an Australian, LIKE HELL!!!!!! if (sic) a dog is born in a stable its (sic) not a horse!!!!”

Another eight friends ‘liked’ his comment.

Joel Buckley, who poses in his military uniform in the back of a helicopter in one of his Facebook pictures, has been the subject of a series of articles by ‘the antibogan’ website, in particular for derogatory comments he has repeatedly made towards Muslims.

His comments are at the extreme end of the scale (see pic above right).

He is also depicted posing shirtless in front a Nazi symbol, after changing his Facebook name to “Joel Panzerfaust”, a reference to a German military offensive used during World War II.

Mr Buckley also issues a call out for friends to join an anti-Islam, anti-immigration rally held in Newtown earlier this year, and organised by the Australian Protectionist Party (APP). He advocates for friends to join the protest, noting he is “looking forward to putting more boot to more lefty, gutless arse”.

In a couple of photos, Mr Buckley is draped in the Australian flag.

Numerous attempts to contact Mr Buckley were unsuccessful. His girlfriend acknowledged an attempt to contact him, but then ceased correspondence with Tracker after becoming aware we were researching a story.

However, Mr Borrett did respond. He claimed he was at sea with the Navy when the posts were made, and that his account must have been hacked.

Prominent Indigenous photographer Wayne Quilliam, who joined the Australian navy in 1979 at the age of 15, says that he was surprised how much the defence force had changed.

“The funny thing is, when I read (Sam Borrett)’s comment, and when I was sent that racist comment, I sort of sat back and tried to recall whether it was like that when I was there. And it wasn’t,” Mr Quilliam told Tracker.

“Absolutely not. Whether you were a blackfella or not, you basically worked alongside, you fought alongside, you lived alongside. It didn’t matter your race, colour, creed or religion.

“Discrimination wasn’t tolerated.”

The Department of Defence has been quick to distance itself from the race hatred distributed by ADF personnel .

A Defence spokesperson toldTracker the department was aware of both posts, and that action had been taken by the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service.

“While that investigation remains ongoing, disciplinary action has been taken in relation to one member,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson would not elaborate on which employee had been disciplined, or what punishment had been meted out, noting that the type of action taken could not be released under the provisions of the Privacy Act. The spokesperson did not indicate when the investigation would be completed.

“The messages described are not representative of the behaviour and thoughts of the many thousands of serving members, and do not reflect the values of the Australian Defence Force,” the spokesperson said.

“The material has discredited the overwhelmingly positive culture of the ADF.

“Defence treats such comments, and the attitudes behind them, as unacceptable behaviour and antithetical to the Defence, single-Service and Australian Public Service values.

“Defence regrets the deep offence that the private comments of two individuals may cause all Australians.”

The action comes as the Defence Minister Stephen Smith clamped down on social media used by ADF members following a series of embarrassing incidents.

In May, Mr Smith warned of the risks of social media to the reputation of the military after charges were laid against a former ADF member for setting up a gay-hate Facebook page. It followed a public outcry over the Skype sex scandal, where a male cadet allegedly streamed video of himself having sex with a female cadet to his colleagues via the online communication service. It prompted Mr Smith to announce a major social media review.

“That which people [post on social media], which becomes public, particularly if they are representing Australia or representing the ADF, potentially can have seriously adverse consequences,” Mr Smith told media.

“It’s very important that members of the ADF, whether they’re onshore or offshore, understand that at all times they are representing the Defence Force and representing the nation.

“As a consequence, inappropriate behaviour, effectively, in uniform can lead to very serious reputational damage.”

But Mr Quilliam says that the penalty for racist comments should be immediate dismissal.

“People talk about tolerance and educating people, but my opinion is that you spend all this time and energy trying to educate people on these matters, but it’s already firmly entrenched,” Mr Quilliam said.

“In the Defence force, eliminating discrimination in particular is more pertinent than anywhere else because you’re working alongside each other and potentially you will need to go into battle with each other.

“You put your life in their hands.

“The question to them is, will they really put their life on the line if they think a comment like that is being made? I personally don’t think they will.”

But Mr Quilliam says he still believes a career in the ADF is worthwhile for Indigenous youth.

Over the past couple of years, the ADF has focused heavily on an Indigenous recruitment drive.

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