Invitation – Inquiry into ADF use of Mefloquine and Tafenoquine

On 19 June 2018 the Senate referred to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee a range of matters relating to the ADF use of Mefloquine and Tafenoquine for inquiry and report by 17 September 2018. 

The full terms of reference are to inquire with particular reference to:

(a) the current and past policies and practices for:
(i) prescribing Quinoline anti-malarial drugs to ADF personnel, and
(ii) identifying and reporting adverse drug reactions from Quinoline anti-malarial drugs among ADF personnel;

(b) the nature and extent of any adverse health effects of those who have taken Mefloquine/Tafenoquine on serving and former ADF personnel;

(c) the support available for partners, carers and families of personnel who experience any adverse health effects of Quinoline anti-malarial drugs;

(d) a comparison of international evidence/literature available on the impact of Quinoline anti-malarials;

(e) how other governments have responded to claims regarding Quinoline anti-malarials; and

(f) any other related matters.

The purpose of this letter of invitation is to draw your attention to the inquiry and to invite you or your organisation to make a written submission to the committee by 31 July 2018.

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Allegations of Australian war crimes revealed in leaked inquiry report

Culture of ‘illegal violence’ and drug abuse alleged in leaked Defence report

The explosive confidential report commissioned by Defence contains allegations members of Australia’s elite special forces may have used “unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations”, facilitated by weak leadership and a perceived lack of accountability.

According to Fairfax Media, the report says Defence insiders confidentially described a “disregard for human dignity” by some special forces soldiers.

It also describes concerns special forces officers pressure politicians to agree to missions that might not be in the public interest, and that the spread of former special operations personnel through Defence and other government agencies might hamstring attempts to bring our special forces to heel.

The report was commissioned in 2016 by Major General Jeff Sengelman, then head of the SAS. He was concerned about the impact of years of high-intensity deployments on Australia’s small special forces community.

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RARA endorses RCB service claim as warlike

In a letter to the PM in January 2016, the RARA National President Michael von Berg MC OAM endorsed the RCB’s claim for warlike service. ” ….it is our contention that the facts surrounding the reasons for the RCB deployment has been a subterfuge to overcome the Labor Government’s dilemma to apply its electoral mandate to return all overseas troops and yet retain a strategic presence at Butterworth. This was achieved by deception to disguise the deployment for training purposes to the Australian public”

Read the full text.
20160121 RARC letter to the PM

FIRST COMPREHENSIVE PICTURE OF DEFENCE SUICIDES TO EMERGE

The most comprehensive picture of the incidence of suicide among defence personnel will be released on Wednesday, but mental health advocates are already calling for funding for better research.

By Jackson Gothe-Snape
29 NOV 2016

20150429001127055436 original

The first-ever comprehensive statistics on the incidence of suicide among former defence force personnel will be published this week, following research that required approval by an ethics committee.

But the release is prompting renewed calls for better understanding of mental health in Australia’s armed forces.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) will release estimates of suicide in current and former Australian Defence Force personnel for the past 15 years on Wednesday, using data combined from the Defence personnel database and National Death Index records.

The new information is expected to show the suicide rate among former defence personnel to be significantly higher than the rate in the broader community.

Amanda Rishworth, Labor’s veterans’ affairs spokeswoman and a former psychologist, said this type of information has not been used before and she expects “a good estimate about what the true picture is in terms of suicides, both in Defence and for veterans.”

The first-ever comprehensive statistics on the incidence of suicide among former defence force personnel will be published this week, following research that required approval by an ethics committee.

But the release is prompting renewed calls for better understanding of mental health in Australia’s armed forces.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) will release estimates of suicide in current and former Australian Defence Force personnel for the past 15 years on Wednesday, using data combined from the Defence personnel database and National Death Index records.

The new information is expected to show the suicide rate among former defence personnel to be significantly higher than the rate in the broader community.

Amanda Rishworth, Labor’s veterans’ affairs spokeswoman and a former psychologist, said this type of information has not been used before and she expects “a good estimate about what the true picture is in terms of suicides, both in Defence and for veterans.”

Currently, the Department of Defence has information on active personnel who have committed suicide, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) records when claims of suicides are made by family members, but there is no system for tracking suicides among veterans who don’t make a claim.

The DVA acknowledges the lack of reliable statistics, which prompted the funding of this new study from AIHW.

Karen Court from Overwatch, a not-for-profit that assists former ADF members at risk or in crisis, fears Wednesday’s estimates will again undercount the true rate of suicide.

“The dataset is incomplete and fails to include Vietnam veterans as well as contemporary veterans from both peacekeeping missions in Rwanda and Somalia and the Gulf War,” she said.

“These cohorts have had a significant amount of suicide from within their ranks.”

She also argues that volunteer efforts to track suicides in the community, such as the Australian Veterans Suicide Register, should be given more support.

“Rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’ it would seem logical that the bodies responsible for undertaking these studies request assistance from those undertaking the work in the community already as we have much we could teach them,” she said.

Ms Rishworth is proposing the government funds a national dataset covering veterans and serving personnel to provide the definitive record of defence force mental health.

“What suicide is, is the very awful end to complex mental health problems that haven’t been addressed, and haven’t been prevented,” she said.

“Early intervention is really critical to that and getting a picture of what is happening out there and looking at what we can do better is essential.”

Geoff Neideck, head of the AIHW’s Data Strategies and IT Group, said it was necessary to use “data linkage” to produce the research, a process that involves matching individuals from a block of records with individuals from another.

“The AIHW linked the Department of Defence’s Personnel Database (PMKeyS) with the National Death Index,” he said.

“All data linkage activities require AIHW ethics approvals before they can proceed,” he said.

One-hundred-and-eighteen serving personnel died by suicide between 2000 and September 2016, according to ADF.

The DVA advised a Senate committee that care should be taken in attributing some deaths as suicide without a coroner’s finding, such as drug overdoses, single vehicle car accidents, falls or drowning, which could be accidental or intentional.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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Census 2016 – 9 August

With less than a week to go until Census night on 9 August, you should have received your online access codes but what if you don’t have internet access?

Included in the letter detailing your access codes, is a number to call to request a paper copy of the Census be sent to you. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But according to Paul Versteege of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA), the wait on the phone line is causing concern and chaos for older Australians and it appears that the 300 phone lines provided by the ABS are constantly busy.

“The Census Inquiry phone line is overwhelmed and people are being told to call back later. Many people are not online and are concerned they won’t receive their paper forms in time and will be fined $180 a day for every day they are late.

“The ABS tells us that people should ring before 8.30am or after 9.30pm, when calls drop off. However, this is an entirely predictable mess, resulting from a savings-driven rush into making online completion of the census form the default method of completion.

“We need as much information about older Australians as we can get if we want to make good policy choices in support of our rapidly ageing population. Ignoring the fact, as the ABS has done, that particularly the very elderly are not online, does not show a lot of respect for this section of the Australian community,” said Mr Versteege in a statement.

Once received and completed, the paper form should be returned in the reply paid envelope provided.

There has been much controversy about this year’s Census. Firstly, in the past, paper forms have been the norm, with online access offered as an alternative. This year, online is the preferred option with those requiring a paper copy having to contact the ABS automated line with their passcode to hand. For those who prefer to speak to a person, you can call the Census inquiry line on 1300 214 531. That some households only received the letters with codes and instructions this week, it doesn’t leave much time to ensure a Census form is delivered on time.

Secondly there has been the increased time that details will be stored. While previously they have been retained for 18 months, the details from this Census will be kept for four years.

And lastly, those wishing to boycott the Census under privacy concerns have been warned in no uncertain terms that they face hefty fines – $180 for each day it’s not completed cold be implemented.

On Census night, there will be volunteers knocking on your door to see if you need assistance with completing your Census form online. However, as tempting as this may be if you’re having difficulties, do be careful who you allow in to your home – always ask to see ID and if you’re unsure, close the door.

Are you happy to complete the Census online? Would you prefer to receive a paper form and opt for the online version if comfortable? Have you tried to call the help line and had to wait?

Debbie McTaggart Your Life Choices article dated 3 April 2016

Related articles:
Census 2016: boycotters would face fines
Faith in spotlight in 2016 Census

Army chief lets fly at Diggers’ assassin

AUSTRALIA’S top soldier has voiced the anger of his troops at the assassination of three Diggers by a rogue Afghan soldier, branding it “murder” at a time when the men were defenceless.

Chief of the Army Lieutenant General David Morrison spoke out as bereaved family members joined military top brass, representatives and members of the fallen Diggers’ units and a guard of honour to mark their sad arrival home at the Amberley Air Base, west of Brisbane.

“Let’s not gloss over this in any way, shape or form,” General Morrison told reporters, as relatives of the men spent some private time with their flag-draped caskets.

“What happened to the three soldiers who have just returned to Australia here at Amberley this afternoon was murder.

“Murder when they were defenceless at the end of a long day of training the Afghan National Army, which is an absolute requirement if Afghanistan is to be given the type of security that we all want it to have.”

It is the second time that the army chief has presided over a repatriation ceremony for Australian victims of so-called “green-on-blue” killings by Afghan soldiers.

And General Morrison said he recognised that the deaths of Lance Corporal Stjepan “Rick” Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate had provoked legitimate debate about the ongoing presence of Australian troops in Afghanistan.

“But I would like to just say this: a debate is absolutely appropriate in a great democracy such as ours, and in fact if there wasn’t a debate we wouldn’t be exercising that democracy.”

However, it was not appropriate that the army joined the public discussion about its role in Afghanistan, he added.

“The mission is the one that has been given to us by the democratically elected government of this country and I support the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in their stance here 100 per cent,” General Morrison said.

“I am deeply sorry for what has occurred to these soldiers and, of course, to their families.

“But I am also very proud of the way the soldiers of the Australian Army are performing in Afghanistan now in the service of their nation.”

Mentoring mission changes hands in Afghanistan

TOWNSVILLE based soldiers are now training and mentoring the Afghan National Army’s 4th Brigade, 205 Hero Corps after a recent Transfer of Authority ceremony in Tarin Kot.

A mentoring task force based on the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, have replaced approximately 730 Brisbane-based personnel from 8th/9th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8/9 RAR), who have returned home after a five month deployment as Mentoring Task Force – Four (MTF-4).

The new task force took on the responsibility at the official Transfer of Authority ceremony held at Multi National Base – Tarin Kot on 24 June 2012.

The ADF has moved to change the task force name from the Mentoring Task Force to 3RAR Task Group (TG) to accord with ISAF naming conventions for transition.

Lieutenant Colonel Kahlil Fegan, Commanding Officer of MTF-4, said his team had helped the ANA make significant progress in the past five months.

“Security across Uruzgan province has improved as a result of the increased confidence and competence of the ANA 4th Brigade and its Spring Offensive was particularly successful,” LTCOL Fegan said.

LTCOL Fegan said the relationship between MTF-4 personnel and their 4th Brigade colleagues had been integral to the success of the mission.

“Our mentoring relationship was based on mutual respect, trust and friendship,” he said

“This trust and respect was forged in combat and in the face of adversity – the manner in which Australian and Afghan soldiers went to great lengths to protect each other from unnecessary risk has been most impressive.”

“Working with the ANA and seeing its steady progress has proved to be a highlight for many of our soldiers.”

LTCOL Fegan said the steady progress has put the 4th Brigade in a good position to take responsibility for security in the province.

“I am confident that the ANA 4th Brigade will be ready for transition to security lead in accordance with the established timelines,” he said.

“I am immensely proud of the work my men and women have achieved in building the confidence and competence of the 4th Brigade.

“Several successful recent clearance operations led by the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) are testament to the growing capability of the Afghan National Army, not to mention the dedication and hard work of its mentors.”

LTCOL Fegan said the planning, building and manning of a new Patrol Base at Chaka Juy in eastern Uruzgan province was of particular importance.

“The ANA 4th Brigade determined a need to secure a key supply route from Tarin Kot to Khas Uruzgan, and as a result they established a Patrol Base along the route,” he said.

“They have since manned the Patrol Base and it is clear that their presence is having a positive effect on security in the area with an increase in local traffic security along the route.

“MTF-4 personnel assisted in upgrading the route, transporting stores and equipment, provided specialist trade skills at the build site and mentored security patrols in the area.”

The Brisbane-based 8/9 RAR leave the mission in good hands, with 3RAR soldiers, led by LTCOL Trent Scott, already on the job.

“I have no doubt that the new Task Force will continue to build on the good relationship established by all those before them,” LTCOL Fegan said.

“It has been a rewarding deployment and our men and women are looking forward to returning to their loved ones.”

Media Notes:
Imagery is available from the following link: http://images.defence.gov.au/11123396 

Media contact:
Defence Media Operations – (02) 6127 1999

Stephen Smith locks himself in cone of silence

  • by: Ian McPhedran  From:Herald Sun June 21, 201212:00AM

It is essential for the community to know the true “cost” of going to war, argues Ian McPhedran. Source: The Daily Telegraph
THE Gillard Government and our military top brass want Australians to believe that our casualties in Afghanistan all die quiet, dignified deaths surrounded by their mates.
The truth is somewhat different.
Frantic efforts are made to save them and then deliver them to a field hospital where dedicated surgeons fight valiantly to mend bodies torn apart by high-powered rounds or high explosive.
So, to have every casualty reported in the same predictable, sanitised terms defies credibility and demeans their sacrifice.
The public now seldom hears the real story. That’s because the Government has abandoned its commitment to tell us the full human costs of going to war.
In February 2010 then Defence Minister John Faulkner delivered an extraordinary speech at a CEW Bean Foundation dinner in Canberra.
“If history teaches us anything it is that the only way to secure the public support so critical to a democracy’s military power is to be as transparent and accountable as military exigencies permit,” he said.
“For the first time, the Parliament and the Australian people will be given regular reports about ADF casualties.
“When the Australian Government commits Australian forces, we put Australian lives at risk, and exercise potentially often actually lethal force in the name of the Australian community. It is essential therefore that the community knows not only the reasons, but also the costs of such action.”
As citizens of a robust and free democracy Australians have a right to know at least some of the grim reality
The speech was music to the ears of correspondents who had spent years fighting against a secretive Australian military for greater access to information.
Fast forward 30 months and we have a new defence minister who has a very different approach to transparency.
Stephen Smith spends a lot of time talking, but says very little of substance.
A regular on ABC Radio and Sky News, the mountains of transcripts he generates reveal a master of the endless stream of gibberish.
As public opinion against the war in Afghanistan moves above 60 per cent, Smith has seen fit to implement a policy of censorship contrary to most of what his predecessor said 30 months ago.
He claims that the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan should not be subjected to the extra grief that a public airing of official reports into the deaths of their loved ones would generate.
Since Smith took over even the heavily censored official reports into the fatalities are kept secret.
No one wants grieving families subjected to any unnecessary heartache, but Faulkner was right when he said it was essential for the community to know the true “cost” of going to war.
When a soldier dies in battle they die a violent and horrible death. With luck it is quick, but it is seldom clean.
This is the reality of combat, but as this war becomes increasingly unpopular politicians and their generals don’t want the public to be exposed to the human cost.
Journalists and media outlets risk being labelled “un-Australian” by defence chiefs if they dare to write anything that causes grieving families to be exposed to the terrible facts of their loved ones’ death or the processes involved in repatriating their remains.
Politicians meanwhile seek out new ways to sugar coat the PR message that war is about toiling alongside old friends to train new friends or open new schools and medical clinics. It is not.
War is about killing more of the other side than you lose yourself.
Even details about the actions of our best and bravest are sanitised to the point of insult.
When a soldier saves his mates and wins a medal by his “selfless and gallant actions” he has usually slaughtered a large number of enemy fighters during brutal close quarters battles to the death.
It is not glamorous or indicative of some higher Anzac tradition, it is savage and violent and painful and ugly.
Equally when a Digger is killed by an enemy gun or bomb it is bloody and dreadful and traumatic for his mates who are often left scarred by the experience.
Sheltered from these realities by a campaign of censorship, society is then shocked when veterans return home messed up by the experience and at the mercy of Veterans Affairs.
As citizens of a robust and free democracy Australians have a right to know at least some of the detail of that grim reality.
As it stands the community will know little about future casualties short of the hackneyed press release about brave Diggers and their mates who fought hard in the Anzac tradition.
The wider community, who share only a tiny portion of a family’s mountain of grief, but who fund an expensive military force fighting in a war half a world away, deserves better, much better.
Ian McPhedran is Herald Sun defence reporter

Special forces bear the brunt

  • by: Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor
  • From:The Australian
  • July 04, 201212:00AM

THE death of the 33rd Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan – and the 16th member of the special forces – shows the inadequacy, poor structure and imbalance of the Defence Force.

The special forces are not just the tip of the spear of the Australian Defence Force – they are the whole spear.

They do too much of the work, and bear too much of the sacrifice.

Australia now does wars on the cheap, on the blood and suffering of a few hundred men, the same men, sent time and again into the hell of battle – the dead SAS trooper was on his seventh tour in Afghanistan.

Most of the ADF is not kept in anything remotely resembling combat-ready capability.

We can barely get a sub into the water – and if we could, the one thing it couldn’t do is fight.

We can barely get an amphibious ship to help in a storm clean-up.

Nobody knows how few active pilots we have in the air force.

Our army of 30,000 regular soldiers is one of the smallest in Asia, indeed in the world.

But there is one part of the military that is kept at world standard and always ready to go.

That is the SAS and their special forces partners, the commandos. Our special forces are among the best in the world, and widely acknowledged as such especially by the Americans, but they are a tiny force.

The Gillard government has the smallest defence spending, as a proportion of the economy, of any government since 1938.

Its fraudulent prestige as a committed military ally of the US, and of the nation as a defence power, rests on the magnificent performance and out-sized sacrifice of our special forces.

These men fight and die, not just for our strategic interests but to give us a reputation we don’t deserve as a nation that takes defence seriously.

Our army is far too small, yet the government keeps hinting that when the troops come home from Afghanistan it will be cut.

Yet we are reluctant even to use the army we have properly.

In Afghanistan, the special forces have carried out continuous offensive operations against the Taliban and their allies. There is no reason why regular army units could not carry out such operations.

Our infantry and cavalry are restricted to mentoring and training the Afghans, and see action as they help them.

But the hidden grammar of our strategic policy is clear. The SAS and the commandos are our only offensive military instrument. They perform heroically and never shirk duty. But we ask too much of them.

Their valour is used to cloak the neglect and indolence of a government that has no interest in providing an adequate defence force. It’s time the special forces came home.

New U.S. Army Rifle – The XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System

The XM25 has a range of roughly 2,300 feet – and is to be deployed in Afghanistan soon. I would call it the “Equalizer.” Some call it the “Punisher”.

The rifle’s gun sight uses a laser rangefinder to determine the exact distance to the obstruction, after which the soldier can add or subtract up to 3 meters from that distance to enable the bullets to clear the barrier and explode above or beside the target.

Soldiers will be able to use them to target snipers hidden in trenches rather than calling in air strikes.

The 25-millimeter round contains a chip that receives a radio signal from the gun sight as to the precise distance to the target.

Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, project manager for the system, described the weapon as a ‘game-changer’ that other nations will try to copy.

He expects the Army to buy 12,500 of the XM25 rifles this year, enough for every member of the infantry and special forces.

Lehner told Fox News: “With this weapon system, we take away cover from [enemy targets] forever. Tactics are going to have to be rewritten. The only thing we can see [enemies] being able to do is run away.”

Experts say the rifle means that enemy troops will no longer be safe if they take cover. The XM25 appears to be the perfect weapon for street-to-street fighting that troops in Afghanistan have to engage in, with enemy fighters hiding behind walls and only breaking cover to fire occasionally.

The weapon’s laser finder would work out how far away the enemy was and then the U.S. soldier would add one meter using a button near the trigger.

When fired, the explosive round would carry exactly one meter past the wall and explode with the force of a hand grenade above the Taliban fighter.


The army’s project manager for new weapons, Douglas Tamilio, said: ‘‘This is the first leap-ahead technology for troops that we’ve been able to develop and deploy.”

A patent granted to the bullet’s maker, Alliant Techsystems, reveals that the chip can determine how far it has travelled. Mr. Tamilio said: “You could shoot a Javelin missile, and it would cost about $69,000. These rounds will end up costing $25.00 apiece.”

They’re relatively cheap. Lehner added: “This is a game-changer. The enemy has learned to get cover, for hundreds if not thousands of years. Well, they can’t do that anymore. We’re taking that cover from them and there’s only two outcomes: We’re going to get you behind that cover or force you to flee.” The rifle will initially use high-explosive rounds, but its makers say that it might later use versions with smaller explosive charges that aim to stun rather than kill.

What one of the revolutionary bullets looks like that can be pre-programmed to explode to hit troops that are hiding.