Our democracy is buttressed by Australia having a non-political defence force. Consistent care needs to be taken to preserve the reality and perception of the ADF's political neutrality institutionally, and its personnel individually. While the Mardi Gras parade continues to include highly politicised floats and activities attacking only one side of politics, it is clearly inconsistent with ADF policy, force unity and public perception for personnel to participate wearing defence force uniform. The one-sided and highly politicised nature of parts of the parade, as an activity, is the problem, not the Mardi Gras itself, LGBTI issues, ADF inclusivity policy or some defence force personnel wishing to demonstrate their "gay pride" publicly. Nor is it analogous with the NSW Police contingent now wearing uniform, not least because this is a separate issue in both principle and practice. The police contingent wear uniform primarily to reassure LGBTI Australians that the era of state police persecution is behind us all.
Letter to The Sydney Morning Herald
Monday, 27 February 2017
A principle of modern society is acknowledging diversity.
Another, time-tested, principle is preserving a strictly non-political military.
The Sydney gay mardi gras is an expression of the first.
Forbidding party-political participation or endorsement by our defence force expresses the second.
While most of the mardi gras is no longer intrinsically political, its parade still includes numerous floats and activities that strongly criticise only one side of politics.
The parade’s one-sided political nature clashes with the propriety of the ADF contingent marching in defence force uniform.
Parade organisers concede the problem, without solving it, in their various attempts to separate the politically contentious bits from the ADF contingent in the order of march.
Wearing uniform in the parade is inconsistent with the justified defence force crack-down on doing so in electoral advertising, other partisan activities and social media commentary.
Just as it would be if ADF personnel wore uniform in any other politically-partisan street demonstration.
The ADF rightly has an diverse workforce and personnel should be free to march in the mardi gras parade individually or collectively.
But doing so wearing defence force uniform clearly breaches the non-partisanship principle.
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