Defence chief clarifies sex assault advice

Angus Campbell has clarified his advice to trainee officers on avoiding sexual predators.
Angus Campbell has clarified his advice to trainee officers on avoiding sexual predators.

Australia's top military officer has declared sexual assault perpetrators are always to blame after copping criticism for suggesting young officers should take steps to stop predators.

Chief of Defence Angus Campbell came under heavy fire for telling first-year cadets to avoid the "four As" - alcohol, out after midnight, alone and attractive.

General Campbell said he intended to challenge the group to do what they could to mitigate risk and take action against unacceptable behaviour.

"I am aware that my comments have been interpreted by some in a way that I did not intend," he told AAP in a statement on Thursday.

"There is never an excuse for perpetrating sexual assault or sexual harassment and the perpetrator is always to blame."

Australian of the Year Grace Tame, who is a sexual assault survivor, criticised the comments.

"I'm not judge, jury and executioner, but that's not helpful rhetoric at all," she said.

"That feeds the idea that this is something that a victim has to foresee and stop themselves, as if they're to blame. That is really unhelpful."

Acting Defence Minister Marise Payne distanced herself from the remarks, saying they were not the words she would have used.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and sexual assault survivor support groups also warned against anything that could blame victims.

General Campbell said his speech aimed to ensure all trainees were aware of how seriously Defence took sexual harassment and assault.

"I acknowledge the importance and power of language in addressing systemic inequality and continue to be informed by the experiences of Defence personnel as we seek to ensure that the ADF is a workplace where all personnel can thrive."

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds is under pressure to resign after she reportedly labelled an alleged rape victim a "lying cow".

Senator Reynolds has not denied the remarks which are said to have been levelled at former staffer Brittany Higgins, who says she was raped by a colleague in the minister's office in 2019.

Australian Associated Press