Senate Questions on Notice 9 – RCB Recognition of Service

Senator Brian Burston  (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018

There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer  with our response to the answer.

Question 9 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

Why was Minister Billson’s determination to Grade RCB as “hazardous service” in 2006 not implemented prior to, or after, the change of government in 2007? 

 

Answer 9. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

As a result of a number of representations on 18th September 2007 the them Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence declared that the service of Rifle Company Butterworth should be retrospectively reclassified as either hazardous or non-warlike service.

In 2009 it was found that the instruments had omitted RAAF security personnel. contained incorrect dates, omitted key references and were not registered in the Federal Register of Legislative instruments. In response to the continuing campaign conducted by ex RCB members seeking war-like service, a new review from first principles comprehensively investigated RCB service since inception, locating Government files and documents that were never considered in the 2007 review. 

The 2011 review was not supportive of the classification of RCB services as anything other than peacetime service.

On 21 March 2012 the then Parliamentary Secretary for Defence recommended that the nature of all ADF service at Butterworth should remain as peacetime from 12 August 1966 to the present. A detailed explanation of this decision was provided to the Chairman of the RCB Review Group in a letter dated 19 May 2012. This decision is consistent with the long-standing Government determination that the nature of service of all ADF service at the end of confrontation is peacetime.

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 9.

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The Government response claims that Defence conducted a comprehensive review in 2009 (which it failed to include the RCB Review Group in), claiming to find new material not considered in their 2007 determination.  Why were we not notified and included in that Review?

Unsurprisingly, this led to the same result – non-recommendation of war-like service. The overturning of ex-Minister’s Billson’s decision, because it had not been processed, was a very opportune chance for the government (again on ‘advice’ from Defence), to ‘situate the appreciation’, therefore nullifying a Ministerial decision through an administrative fiat. This latest response to the Question again is another case of stubborn refusal to right a wrong.

DVA Minister – Putting Veterans and their Families First – New Study to Improve Advocacy Services

A MAJOR study to improve advocacy services for veterans and their families has commenced under the leadership of the former Chair of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, Mr Robert Cornall AO.

download 16Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the study was part of the Turnbull Government’s ongoing commitment to put veterans and their families first and delivers on a significant part of the Government’s response to the concerns raised in the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Reference’s committee report: The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veterans.

“Veterans and their families deserve to have easy access to the best services available to them and this study has been established to ensure that happens,” Mr Chester said.

“This study will go a long way to helping our younger veterans and their families navigate the compensation claims and appeals processes and it will address a number of improvements to the current advocacy model which were recommended in the report.

“Mr Cornall has an excellent track record in working with the Defence and legal communities, and I’m confident he’ll bring all his experience to bear on finding new ways to ensure those who’ve served our nation get the best possible advocacy.”

Mr Cornall will talk to younger veterans, female veterans, veterans’ families, ex-service organisations, and the broader Defence community in coming months.

The latest research will be reviewed, veterans’ advocacy services in other countries will be examined, and advocacy models in other areas, such as the legal services, community, and disability sectors will be looked at.

“I hope many individuals and organisations will contribute their experiences and ideas to the study,” Mr Chester said.

Separate to this study, Mr Chester said the recent passage of new veterans’ legislation will also have a big impact on improving the health and wellbeing of those who have served their country.

For more information about the advocacy study, visit  here  or send an email to [email protected].

16 April 2018

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.

RCB Recognition of Service 3 – Senate Questions on Notice

Senator Brian Burston  (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018

There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer  with our response to the answer.

Question 3 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

Is the minister prepared to take disciplinary action against public servants/Ministerial staffers found to be generating deliberate mis-information thereby putting elected Ministers into a situation of contempt of Parliament during Petition hearings now on record on the matter of the RCB petition?

Answer 3. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

There is no evidence of any such prejudicial conduct in this case.

 

 

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 3.

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Try reading the official including Hansard records. On 3 March 14 a Petition was placed before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions (HRSCOP).  This triggered a Nature of Service Branch (NOSB) paper dated 28 Apr 14 to assist the Assistant Minister for Defence (Robert) respond.  Minister Robert duly sent a letter to the Chair HRSCOP on 29 May 14 which included the NOSB paper to maintain the clearly intransigent Defence position. This same document was then presented to Parliament and published in Hansard on 16 Jun 14 by Minister Robert. The contents of both the letter and its support NOSB paper demonstrated distortions, untruths and selective omissions that sought to ‘prove’ RCB service was not warlike when the evidence clearly showed it was: and Defence had that evidence.

On 24 Jul 14, it was brought to the attention of the HRSCOP that the NOSB paper that Minister Robert used was deliberately misleading Parliament, with evidence given to support that assertion.

The RCB Review Group repeated this advice again on 18 Aug 14 directly to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence (Darren Chester), and provided an in-depth rebuttal of numerous assertions made by the NOSB in their paper.   Notwithstanding, Minister Robert, with all of this material at his advisors’ fingertips still chose to present essentially the same position to the HRSCOP on 29 Oct 14. See Hansard  for that data; it is clear that public servants provide the Minister material that is knowingly false and/or fails to provide the full and correct information. It is understood that such action constitutes an offence under certain Codes of Conduct.

The RCB RG provided a further rebuttal to the HRSCOP in its letter and attached document dated 1st December 2014. The response from the HRSCOP  advised that the Committee considered the matter but has no role to investigate, comment on, resolve or follow-up matters relating to the subject matter of the petition, or on any petition.  That means that any outcome from the Petition’s process rests with the appropriate Minister. 

Is this a case of Caesar judging Caesar?

 

RCB Recognition of Service 2 – Senate Questions on Notice

Senator Brian Burston  (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018

There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer  with our response to the answer.

Question 2 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

Given the Minister expresses complete faith in the 2011 DHAAT findings and given that it has been pointed out that the same findings totally ignored all evidence after 1975, how can the Minister continue to believe the flawed findings or worse still, multiple errors failure and mis-information from the NOSB which is the prime source of expert advice on such matters as the RCB claim?

Answer 2. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

The Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (The Tribunal) is a statutory body that has been established under The Defence Act 1903. All enquiries by the Tribunal are undertaken undertaken in accordance with the general principles  of procedural fairness. The inquiry into recognition of service with Rifle Company Butterworth received written submissions from 29 parties, heard oral evidence from five individuals and undertook its own research into the claims. There is no credible evidence to suggest that the findings of The tribunal “totally ignored all evidence after 1975”. On the contrary, the Tribunal’s report cites evidence from Wing Commander Joe Piers (retired) who was commander of the Ground Defence Element from 1979 to 1981.

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer

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The Minister’s answer states there was ‘ no credible evidence to suggest that the ‘findings of the Tribunal totally ignored all evidence after 1975’.

This response beggars belief.

Even a cursory read of the 2011 DHAAT report shows that, under “Evidence” there is no consideration whatsoever of the huge amount of claimant  evidence put before the Tribunal.

It only provides the most shallow pro-Defence bureaucratic argument of pre-1975 events seeking to negate the unanswered evidence put up by the RCB claimants which covers the entire period 1970-1989. 
Of 59 paragraphs constituting the entire DHAAT report, only eight deal with evidence. The rest is padding designed to justify, in our opinion, a pre-determined position. 

The Minister also states ” . the Tribunal’s report describes evidence from Wing Commander Joe Piers (Retd) .. “. It does not; it only lists his name in an Annex. Two unspecified “senior commanders” are mentioned in the procedural part of the report, but what evidence they gave (if any) is not stated. Nor can it be challenged. This is procedural unfairness to the extreme.

RCB’s Claim for Warlike Service Classification 1970-1989 – The Air Force Association calls on the PM for an independent examination.

In its letter to the Prime Minister, The Air Force Association believes “there is a compelling argument supporting an upgrade of the company’s service classification…. Consequently, …. the Air Force Association strongly requests the RCB’s deployment be examined by an independent body to determine the correct service classification.”

Letter Prime Minister – Rifle Company Butterworth Malaysia

Claims Defence lied to Riverina veterans refuted

The Department of Defence has hit back at claims it lied to former soldiers across the Riverina.

It comes after army veteran Bob Bak said the government had incorrectly labelled the military service of almost 9000 men during an overseas operation.

But, reports containing details the operation at RAAF Butterworth Air Base between 1970 and 1989, have since revealed this was inaccurate.

As a result, veterans say they have been stripped of a deserved “war-like service” recognition and its associated entitlements. They have since called for a public inquiry into the matter.

Despite these claims, the Department of Defence last week said Australian Defence Force service at Butterworth had been examined across several independent reviews, that found it to be peace-time service.

“Defence has responded to a number of claims for reclassification of Rifle Company Butterworth service,” a statement read.

“These claims were investigated through extensive research of available records … and found personnel were not engaged in duty relating to warlike operations.”

A department spokesperson said the role of the company was to provide a ground presence, to conduct training and to assist, if required, in the protection of assets.

“Unless authorised, (the company) was not to be involved in local civil disturbances or … security operations outside (base),” the spokesperson said.

ENDS

 RCB Review Group’s comments on Defence’s rebuttal above and previous rebuttals

Our rebuttal of Defence statements made by the then Minister Stuart Robert and his staff at the House of Representatives Petition Committee in 2014 can be seen here

The Government did not respond to that document

Following that, two letters were sent to PM Turnbull seeking his personal intervention and if declined then to appoint an independent (of Government)  inquiry. Neither was  given.

We re-presented  all of the entire evidence  discovered after 2011 to the Defence Department for their consideration. We challenged their response that there was no new evidence since 2011.   Another deception

In our submissions we asked to meet with the Ministers’ officers to discuss  the new evidence supporting our claim. We are still waiting.

Now that the MPs are this week back in their electorates it is a good time to visit them. We expect that the Defence Department will have prepared a letter for the MPs to respond to the letters we sent to  all the MPs and Senators.  Send us a copy of their letter please so we can guide your reply.
Robert Cross

OPINION – New Minister has a Job to Do

TOWNSVILLE should be a priority destination for recently appointed Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael McCormack.

McCormack represents the NSW seat Riverina for the National Party, with his electorate office in Wagga Wagga. Wagga is perhaps best known as the location of the army’s recruit training battalion at Kapooka, also known as Home of the Soldier.

Since McCormack is now also Minister for Defence Personnel he is ideally placed with local RAAF and army personnel to understand the issues faced by itinerant defence families.
He should bring to his dual portfolios some sympathy for the plight of those serving and those who have left the service for whatever reason.

While the affable Dan Tehan made the right noises, many veterans remain disappointed with his inaction on issues such as the ADF’s flawed mefloquine and tafenoquine antimalarial drug trials. This is a major issue for those affected.

Townsville has a significant concentration of veterans suffering the adverse consequences of mefloquine and tafenoquine poisoning yet DVA seemingly on ADF advice insists there is no problem.

To be fair to Tehan, any minister depends on the advice of specialists in the ministries they head.
The same applies to ministerial staff who often believe their prime function is to protect the reputation of their minister and the Government rather than offer frank and fearless advice on behalf of affected constituents.
When that advice is flawed or biased then a minister’s advice is equally biased and flawed.

McCormack could make an early mark by listening to people like Townsville-based veterans John Caligari and Ray Martin who continue to fight for the soldiers they once led, understanding command is a lifelong responsibility.

He should also talk with the wives and partners who struggle to understand why someone they love can return so damaged from operational service and who are then expected to pick up the pieces to keep their relationships and families intact.

McCormack could also make a mark by insisting faceless bureaucrats explain why awards should be granted to those who feel their service has gone unrecognised rather than accept their flawed advice as to why they should not.

Yes Minister

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Former soldier Bob Bak calls for ‘true’ service recognition

The Wagga  Daily Advertiser reports that one of Wagga’s former soldiers says he and more than 9000 other infantrymen were lied to.

When Bob Bak was sent to Malaysia with the Australian Army Rifle Company in 1971 and again in 1976, he was told the purpose of the operation was for training.

Mr Bak said soldiers and airmen stationed at RAAF Butterworth Air Base between 1970 and 1989 were sent for “strategic protection”, with troops ordered to keep the base and its assets secure.

The operation came at a time when the success of communist terrorism in Vietnam was a global concern. The Australian government, in response, said it would commit troops to Malaysia, as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve Land Forces.

Despite being publicly labelled a “peacetime” deployment, Mr Bak said a number of military documents found the government had been “well aware of the seriousness of the threat”.

According to the Rifle Company Butterworth Review Group, this means personnel deployed to the base during this time were serving in war-like conditions.

“Documents clearly outline a cover-up of these tasks as training,” Mr Bak said. “(But) we were at a constant state of readiness. We were given operational rules of engagement to apply when necessary … that put us in danger.”

For this reason, Mr Bak said the group was demanding recognition of war-like service and pushing for the launch of a public inquiry into the alleged cover-up.

Without the appropriate recognition of service, he said every defence member involved in that operation had been denied significant associated benefits and entitlements, like the Service Pension.

The Daily Advertiser understands the criteria for war-like service requires there to be an “existing enemy threat; an incurred danger, resulting from being present during declared rules of engagement and the carriage of live ammunition; and an expectation of casualties”.

“We were told to carry live ammunition during during security patrols,” Mr Bak said.

“It was also carried by nominated members during training outside the base to protect from wild animals and belligerents … We had orders to shoot.”

He said a recorded “direct army order” called on all senior personnel to refer to all matters as “training-related”, despite orders later revealing the deployment of the Rifle Company Butterworth was for the “security and protection of Australian Defence Force assets and service families living on and near the base”.

Mr Bak said he and other service veterans were tired of being ignored by the government and were calling for further submissions to add to the group’s petition.

The Department of Defence was contacted for comment but failed to respond before deadline.

15th February 2018

ALP – Banking Royal Commission Must Include CSC In Terms of Reference

Amanda Rishworth

Labor has written to Treasurer, Scott Morrison and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael McCormack backing calls by ex-service organisation to include the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) into the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into the misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

READ MORE

RCB Review Group Letter to all Federal MPs and Senators

The RCB Review Group Leader Robert Cross’s  letter was sent by email on 2nd February, asking for a read receipt. In addition to that acknowledgement some have replied with written acknowledgements stating that they had referred the matter to the responsible Minister or Shadow Minister. Some others have declined to consider it.

Along with our many supporters who sent letters to their local MP we look forward to the response to our request: We seek your support in recommending this matter to your Party for an independent public enquiry and look forward to your acknowledgement and agreement: If not agreement then the reasons for that decision please.

READ THE LETTER

RCB REVIEW GROUP LETTER TO ALL FEDERAL POLITICIANS FINAL

The Review Group will be recording all responses and will table the results to all on our web and facebook sites.