Kevin Foster reviews 'No Front Line: Australia’s special forces at war in Afghanistan' by Chris Masters

Few organisations defend their reputation more vigorously than the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Long since clasped to the national bosom, the ADF has no intention of being shoehorned out of its prized position at the heart of Australian identity and culture. The first duty of its public affairs personnel is to protect the brand – a brand, it believes, is fragile and under constant assault. In reality, the ADF’s reputation is virtually unbreakable. At one point during 2011 there were six separate investigations running simultaneously into various aspects of ADF culture, including inquiries into personal conduct within the ADF, the use of alcohol, the treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) and in the ADF more broadly. Sparked by the ADFA Skype Sex Scandal, the investigations laid bare a toxic culture of misogyny, bullying, and abuse. What damage did this scarifying experience inflict on the ADF’s standing in the eyes of the public? In February 2012, while new allegations of abuse were still surfacing, Essential Research asked its polling sample ‘How much trust do you have in the following national institutions?’ The ADF came in top, well ahead of the Federal Police, the Federal and High Courts, ASIO, the Reserve Bank, and the Commonwealth Public Service.

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