Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who joined a gay-hate Facebook page in 2010 have escaped punishment.

Instead the 40 serving members on the page were given written warnings and told to make sure their social networking security settings were in place.

Greens senator Bob Brown has called on Defence Minister Stephen Smith to explain why those ADF members involved in the page were not charged with insubordination when some of the gay and lesbian service members targeted included senior officers.

“Of the contributor and/or subscribers to the web page, who were junior in rank to those targeted, was a charge of insubordination, pursuant to section 26 of the Defence Force Disciplinary Act 1982 (the Act) contemplated; if not, why not?” Brown asked in a Senate Notice Paper.

During the Defence Department investigation, conducted over the last 12 months, no charges were laid against any ADF members found to have joined or contributed directly to the gay-hate page which called homosexuality a “filthy lifestyle decision” and outed some ADF members.

The creator of the page, a former ADF member, was charged with threatening behaviour earlier this year and has appeared before court.

The victim’s solicitor, John Davey, told the Star Observer the ADF’s response was inadequate.

“Much less abusive behaviour is treated much more severely,” he said.

Davey cited a recent case involving a female officer who was charged with insubordination for swearing at a superior officer.

“If you can be charged for swearing offensively at a superior officer, how then is it possible, for upwards of 40 members of the ADF to contribute to a website that has links to, or directly threatens the life of, a superior officer and nothing happen?” he said.

“I think the only reasonable conclusion that can be made from that is the ADF is completely indifferent. Certainly if you read all the ADF’s … workplace bullying documents, they’re great.

“But what my clients and associates in the ADF will tell you is that’s not what’s actually practised. What’s practised is an extreme form of threatening and violent behaviour towards gay and lesbian people that has manifested itself this time in social networking.”

A defence spokeswoman told the Star Observer the ADF had taken “administrative action” and sent a written warning to all ADF members who joined the Facebook page.

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