The kickback couple

“Hey, check this out, buddy.” Ordinary Seaman Bob Chaffey points to his computer screen, which is displaying a photo of a sports car – a brand-new 2010 Mustang in gleaming red. “I’ll have her soon, too.”

“Looks great,” says Ordinary Seaman Rolly Labrosse from over Chaffey’s shoulder. “But the only ride I can afford is this,” he says as he pulls a bus pass from his shirt pocket. “At least until I get on a ship and start earning sea pay. “Hey, how can you afford a new car? What, did you win the lottery?” 

Bob and Rolly are nearing the end of an intense 16-month trades course. Many of the students have been together since they joined the military, and some strong bonds have formed, including a solid friendship between these two. Bob is popular – widely considered the unofficial course leader.

“Well, Rolly,” explains Bob, “it’s very simple.” He looks around to make sure they are alone, then continues quietly: “I’ve been getting free rations and quarters, plus separation allowance, and so I’ve been able to put away a little extra money.” 

“But how can you get paid separation allowance? You and your girlfriend broke up a long time ago, and…” 

“Yes we did,” says Bob, “but the orderly room doesn’t know that. Look, I made a little deal with my ex-common-law-wife: she gets some of my pay, but she agrees she won’t ‘officially’ break up with me until the course is over. It’s all in how you fill out the forms, buddy.”

Rolly doesn’t know what to do next. He confronts Bob later that day, telling him his actions are illegal, but Bob just becomes defensive and dismissive. Still, Bob is Rolly’s closest friend, and has been a big help to him on this course. If this wrongdoing is revealed, it could cost Bob his career, or more. 

Based on a Defence Ethics perspective, what advice would you give Rolly?

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