Newly released emails have highlighted the distress caused to LGBTQI Australian Defence Force employees following Defence Minister Peter Dutton’s ban on events with “particular clothes in celebration” earlier this year. The ban came just days after an Australian Defence Force morning tea was held to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). 

The Age revealed newly surfaced emails in which ADF employees called out Dutton’s “tone deaf” actions and wrote openly about feeling “immediate disappointment and shame” and “slightly disturbed”.

In issuing his orders, Dutton told Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell and Secretary Greg Moriarty to issue a note ending such events, adding that while he would never tolerate discrimination, he also had no interest in pursuing a “woke agenda”.

“I’ve been very clear to the chiefs that I will not tolerate discrimination. But we are not pursuing a woke agenda. Our task is to build up the morale in the Australian Defence Force and these woke agendas don’t help,” Dutton told The Age in May. 

‘A Homophobic Argument’

Obtained under Freedom of Information, one email written by People Services to Associate Secretary for Defence People Group Lisa Phelps said: “to the LGBTIQ community and to particular members of Defence it must have been horrible to have a day that is meant to promote inclusivity and compassion singled out and deemed unnecessary.”

The email went on to say that Defence could have the “odd morning tea or gathering to celebrate or bring light” to a number of causes without jeopardising the “mission to protect Australia’s national security interests”.

“I would ask for some clarification that if we are to cease these events, will the same occur for International Women’s Day, ANZAC Day or Remembrance Day and Harmony Day,” the email asked of Phelps.

Another Defence official requested to speak with someone to “understand what is the motivation and message that is being conveyed.”

Of course, many were quick to condemn the order handed down by Dutton. The Community and Public Sector Union wrote a letter addressed to General Campbell and Moriarty in June.

“LGBTI+ employees have been told before that their existence will undermine military ‘morale’ and distract or even threaten national security. It was then and is today a homophobic argument that has no basis in fact. Yet this view appears to be reappearing at the highest levels in Defence,” the Community and Public Sector Union’s letter read. 

Previous to his time as Minister of Defence, the former Minister for Health had played a large role in the marriage plebiscite.

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