SYDNEY, Apr 6 – The Australian military was hit by another scandal Wednesday after a young army recruit allegedly filmed himself having sex with a female cadet and broadcast it via Skype to his friends.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said, if proven, he could not imagine a greater "betrayal of trust", after the 18-year-old woman at the elite Australian Defence Force Academy went public with her claims.
She told the Ten Network she only became aware of the incident when she was contacted by Defence investigators who were alerted by another cadet.
The woman, known only as \’Kate\’, alleges she had consensual sex but, unknown to her, her partner had set up webcams in the room with six of his friends watching the feed nearby.
Still photos were also taken and had circulated at the academy, Australia\’s premier college for military recruits.
"It was like my whole world came crashing down around me," she said.
"They had to read the statements that the boys had to make and I actually threw up. I had to be asked to be excused from the interview because it made me physically ill."
The case is being examined by police and defence officials have warned that anyone found to have committed a crime faces termination of their military career.
Australia\’s military has gained an unwanted reputation for having a drinking culture and for the targeting of women, underscored in a recent 400-page report about incidents on the supply ship HMAS Success in 2009.
The report examined allegations of a "predatory culture" and drunken misconduct among sailors, including the keeping of a list known as "The Ledger" which put dollar values on sexual conquests with female colleagues.
It prompted navy chief Vice Admiral Russ Crane to warn last month that if behaviour does not improve he will introduce breath testing of all sailors.
Smith warned that any conduct in the military that tarnished Australia\’s reputation would not be tolerated, and said the woman was right to go public with her allegations.
"I believe a public airing of this issue in all of the circumstances was appropriate," he said.
"I don\’t believe the young woman concerned should be viewed poorly or dimly as a result of bringing this matter to public attention."
Defence force personnel need to be able to trust each other, Smith added.
"In those circumstances I can\’t think of a greater betrayal of trust of a colleague in the workplace than the suggestions that have been made," he told reporters.
"Once that trust has been destroyed then it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the person who has broken that trust to remain as a Defence Force personnel member."
While praising the bravery of Australian Defence Force members, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the country\’s first female leader, said such actions were "disgusting".
"Any conduct that treats a woman in a way that her dignity is pushed aside, that engages in misusing trust, breaching trust, going out of the way to embarrass her dignity and sense of self-worth, is disgusting conduct," she said.
"We would all repudiate it. It\’s not what we would want to see in this country."