Leading article Australia

Walk the plank

14 April 2016

1:00 PM

14 April 2016

1:00 PM

It’s sad to say but the Royal Australian Navy is fast becoming a joke, if it isn’t there already. The Navy’s history is at least as proud as that of the Army, it’s record as distinguished as that of the Royal Australian Air Force. Indeed, of any Australian Defence Force element, the Navy has the best reputation internationally, and has had for some decades. Which makes the organisation’s latest controversy all the more disappointing.

The presenting problem is Captain Mona Shindy, one of very few female Islamic Naval officers, and most famously and troublingly, the Chief of Navy’s important-sounding Strategic Adviser on Islamic Cultural Affairs. A year ago Shindy was fawned over by the media and cultural establishment, and was even judged NSW Telstra Business Woman of the Year. Obviously awarding such an accolade to a public servant is offensive to actual businesswomen who put capital and livelihoods on the line, but most of them are no doubt too busy running businesses to be spending a night dressed in a bow tie and dinner suit (accessorised with a hijab). The strange spectacle worked well, however, for both Telstra (ever an opportunist when it comes to trendy causes) and the Navy (recently an opportunist when it comes to trendy causes).

But a lot can change in a year. No longer feted by her employer or our media and cultural elites, Captain Shindy is now considered a pain in the stern, for which the Navy can only blame itself. The underlying problem, apart from Mona, is the identity politics now occupying the minds and energy of top brass throughout the forces. The very existence of a Strategic Adviser on Islamic Cultural Affairs – a Grand Mufti-like authority on a religion with a miniscule military presence – is troubling. To turn the role and holder of the office into a cause célèbre is downright dangerous.

It may well be that the Navy (and the Army and Air Force) can do better in accommodating Muslims within the ranks. But to do it in such a gratuitous way was only ever going to alienate and divide defense personnel. Make no mistake, Captain Shindy is the Navy’s own divisive David Morrison whose official biography on the Australian of the Year website now recognizes him primarily as an ‘equality advocate’ rather than a former Chief of Army. But instead of lecturing subordinates on gender roles, ‘Sheik’ Shindy preaches to them the glories of Islam, ensuring that her superiors too know what the Religion of Peace expects of them.

The Admiralty obliged and not only made Islamic-appropriate food, dress and accommodation requirements a Naval priority, but allowed Shindy exclusive use of the now infamous (and thankfully, now shut down) @navyislamic twitter account. This she used to retweet posts from genuine hate preachers, often endorsed with her own hashtags such as #IStandWithTheMufti.

Likewise, she used the social media platform and her celebrity status to criticise political parties, criticise former prime ministers, criticise Israel over Palestine, and to unofficially give the government’s imprimatur to intolerance of free speech. With breathtaking hubris, she had the nerve, as emails released this week show, to request a ‘dedicated media, communications savvy personal assistant who can help me selectively accept high-impact engagements, assist with… effective messaging, help… balance work commitments and my personal wellbeing, protect my… interests when it comes to managing me as a “commodity” and addressing the inevitable vitriol’.

The Navy should have foreseen the inevitable Twitter vitriol. It should have concluded that appointing a Strategic Adviser on Islamic Cultural Affairs is strategically stupid. It should have known that encouraging officers – even senior ones in good standing – to see themselves as valuable commodities is dangerous and diminishes the hitherto good name and reputation of the Senior Service. It’s leaders should be flogged, made to walk the plank, or whatever the current naval punishment is for politically correct treachery. But only after they have explained to the Australian public how they intend to end identity politics and reprioritise the Navy for maritime defense rather than cultural posturing.

In praise of Grace

Full marks to former union official, top columnist with the Australian and valued Speccie contributor Grace Collier for her outstanding work on bringing to the nation’s attention the grotesquerie of Julia Gillard’s and Bill Shorten’s Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. Thanks to Grace’s work – nobody in Australia writes more insightfully on union and IR rorts, including the collusion of big business – Malcolm Turnbull, Michaelia Cash and the crossbench appear ready to disband this disgraceful Labor con. Much like the ‘Safe’ Schools program, the sly use of the word ‘Safety’ to impose a Marxist agenda is again proof of leftist trickery and Labor’s unfitness for office.

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