“On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future. If that does not suit you, then get out.”

During a week in which we’ve been left wondering just how deep s-xism really does run in Australian public life, army chief David Morrison’s video message to his troops was like a gust of fresh air. He’s responding to the latest scandal — explicit emails circulated around Defence denigrating women.

As Morrison correctly noted elsewhere, for too long the Australian Defence Force treated exploitative behaviour, bullying, harassment and s-xism as a problem of individuals rather than a systemic one. That has changed, and Morrison’s behaviour this week demonstrates that the army understands both why it is critical that it create a respectful environment for all its soldiers, and why there must be cultural change to foster that environment.

And as part of that, Morrison clearly understands that that must include booting out those who refuse to change.

It’s an example of real leadership that many others in public life should consider following.

* Our regular podcast Crikey calling has all the gossip from Parliament House you could possibly need. Tune in to our latest edition to hear Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane talk to deputy editor Cathy Alexander about whether Julia Gillard will still be PM in two weeks’ time. Plus Keane asks: what is really wrong with the ALP?

Peter Fray

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