Cabinet documents reveal Keating government’s gays in the military debate

Cabinet documents from twenty five years ago have revealed the Keating government’s concerns about allowing gay people to serve in the military.

The cabinet papers from 1992 and 1993 have been made public today and given Australians an insight into the concerns of the government. One issue that the cabinet debated was allowing gay people to be open about their sexuality in the armed forces.

The document’s reveal that then attorney-general Michael Duffy argued in favour of dropping the ban, while Defence Minister Robert Ray put forward the view that a ban on gay personnel should remain. Ray was putting forward the view supported by the Defence Forces’ leaders.

At the time the defence forces had two contradicting policies. A 1986 directive that banned homosexual activity stating that it was; “prejudicial to effective command relationships and to the maintenance of the high levels of morale and discipline necessary for the efficient functioning of the ADF”.

However in 1992 the defence forces had also adopted a policy stating that it had no concerns about the sexual activity of personnel as long as it did not effect operations.

Duffy argued that the two policies were inconsistent, while Ray put forward defence’s position that the band should remain.

“Homosexual behaviour or tendencies destroy the intimate bonding of the group because of the fear that the physical and psychological elements of military cohesion may be misrepresented and mistrusted as sexual in nature and, therefore, intrusive and threatening,” Ray argued in a Cabinet submission.

There was also concern that people wouldn’t want to sign up to serve in the defence forces if they knew gay people would be among the ranks.

“It is likely that a change in homosexual policy would influence the readiness of parents to permit their children to join the ADF and adversely affect its ability to recruit from the very important under-18 age bracket,” Ray argued in his submission.

The submission argued that while there were international human rights obligations in regards to not discriminating against homosexual people, a ban from the military could be justified because of the “inherent requirements of the job”.

The majority of the cabinet disagreed with the concerns and the ban was lifted in 1992.

Since 2009 same-sex domestic partners have had the same access military pensions and superannuation as mixed sex couples, and in 2010 the ban on transgender people serving was lifted.

OIP Staff

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