Opinion: ABC races to a conclusion

Exuding the moral and legal authority of the High Court, the ABC Investigations Unit has relentlessly pursued Australian special forces it has accused of war crimes in Afghanistan. It appears to have adopted a methodology known in the military as “situating the appreciation” – determining a desired outcome, then working backwards to justify that outcome.

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The Australian Editorial – When scrutiny becomes enemy of the state

Media’s Right to Know Campaign. When the Government hides the truth from you what are they covering up?

The front pages of every major newspaper were censored this morning as part of Australia’s Right to Know campaign which is calling for greater protections for journalists and access to information.

The coalition of more than a dozen of the nation’s media companies and organisations is campaigning for change to six critical areas of law that has allowed a ‘veil of secrecy’. 

The media coalition has asked the government for the right to contest warrants, exemptions from poorly crafted laws that make journalistic practice an offense, protection for public sector whistle-blowers, fewer secret documents and reform in the Freedom of Information regime. The two fundamental rights are the : RIGHT to KNOW and RIGHT to CONTEST

Here are extracts from the Australian Newspaper Editorial of 22nd October 2019

If you think journalists are the people who control information, you’re in for a big surprise. Never before has the state collected more data on citizens, employed more message merchants to shape the news agenda or constructed a mighty firewall to stop information about its activities reaching the public.

In a democracy, our job is not to be a mere vehicle for the executive or bureaucracy, to use our platforms to carry official statements to a micromanaged populace. That’s what life is like in China and, as controversial as it may sound to some, that’s not the liberal, open, free country Australians want to live in.

We are in the disclosure business. Not because we are gossips, dobbers or scolds but because the task of scrutiny is necessary to make sure the state itself is not above the law.

That line — the law — is changing, often due to difficult and dangerous circumstances. But also because in a territorial game the scrutinised, as a class, always want to do their work on their own terms. Their lives are much easier if they never have to explain why taxpayer money gets wasted, they want to spy on citizens or people are locked up without cause. Ignorance has never been a solid basis for citizenship or a method to get the best out of elected governments. And their bureaucracies  Politicians and officials, whether by accident or design, have constructed a “trust us” apparatus.

But the enemy is not journalism per se. The enemy they’ve constructed is any scrutiny at all — not only do they want to keep our eyes off their actions and inactions, they ultimately don’t want you to know what they are doing.

As a news organisation we do not think we can do as we please: there are constraints of defamation, sub judice and privacy. Yet secrecy is increasingly being declared in matters that do not pose security risks but, rather, the acute embarrassment of the stuff-up or bad idea.

We want to change laws that give the custodians of state power — ministers, the heads of defence forces, security agencies and departments — the ability to do as they please and evade scrutiny. The public wants to know what’s being done in its name and expects us to step up.

Trust in institutions, including media, is falling; part of that is due to poor performance, press infighting and competition, and “gaslighting” by those who want us to stop asking questions. Our work is out in the open, around-the-clock, subject to 360-degree review by critics and competitors. Readers expect us to get to the truth

But what about the state? You can’t sack it. But you can make power better and accountable. That is the essence of our democracy. The news media plays its role when it single-mindedly pursues the truth. We want laws that promote transparency and limit the state’s tools of secrecy and control.

We trust an informed people, not governments, as the ultimate guardians of our freedoms.

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Aerial threat: why drone hacking could be bad news for the military

Unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly called drones, are now a fundamental part of defence force capability, from intelligence gathering to unmanned engagement in military operations. But what happens if our own technology is turned against us?

Drones are now being used in a host of applications, including agriculturemediaparcel delivery, and defence.

However, as with all IT technology, manufacturers and users may leave the digital doors unlocked. This potentially leaves opportunities for cyber-criminals and perhaps even cyber-warfare.

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Opinion – Soldiers, justice suffer as war probes drag on

THE investigation into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan has taken an interminable time with no conclusion in sight.

SONY DSC

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Opinion – First and Furtherest

Heroes flew under radar Catalina crews were the unsung heroes of the Pacific War.

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Opinion Ross Eastgate – Tim Fischer on course for his biggest victory

FORMER national serviceman and deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has been reported as being “gravely ill” in Albury hospital.

Mr Fischer, who as a 1RAR platoon commander fought in the Battle of Coral in Vietnam in May 1968, has made no secret of his decade-long battle with various cancers. His latest, possibly terminal battle is with acute myeloid leukaemia. He has previously battled bladder and prostate cancers and melanoma.

Tim Fischer claimed he was exposed in Vietnam to the defoliant Agent Orange, as were many of his mates.

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RCB Update 4/2019 – Action Changes Things

Facts from the Aust and Malaysian Governments’ records prove that RCB’s operational deployment (1970-1989) to protect the RAAF assets at Air Base Butterworth against the communist terrorists threat during Malaysia’s Counter Insurgency War (1968-1989) was warlike.

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Vietnam Veterans’ Day Address – Kel Ryan

Given at Goodna Brisbane 18 August 2019.

Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen, All

A special thank you and welcome to that dwindling band of warriors and spear carriers who fought in the Vietnam War.

It is a truism that the Gallipoli Campaign of the WW1 was central to defining Australia as a nation which stood ready to stand with allies on the battlefields across the globe. As this is so, the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan on the 18th August 1966 defined those men and women who fought in South Vietnam during the period of 1962 to 1974.

Please forgive me a moment to tell a personal ‘war story’ as a lead into my understanding of the Battle of Long Tan and of the men who fought there.   

I was called up in July 1965, in what was referred to as the First Intake of National Servicemen.  I arrived in South Vietnam in early May 1966 as, Regimental Number 3786861 Private K. D. Ryan Sir! I was a Rifleman in Nine (9) Section, 12 Platoon D Company 5 RAR. On 24th May 1966 D Company along with the rest of the Battalion was inserted by helicopter into the area known as Nui Dat, it was to become our base and a familiar geographic location all too quickly. 

This insertion was code named Operation Hardihood and was to last two weeks as we, and then 6 RAR, cleared the area of enemy in ever increasing circles. It was monsoonal as few of us had ever experienced, humidity, clay soil, rubber plantations, jungle, constant picquets, four hours sleep a night, constant movement, enemy sightings, enemy contacts, mosquitoes, strange noises at night, rotting clothing and swift running creeks and rivers. Very different from the training areas we had experienced just a short time ago. Those first two to three weeks were a test for us and sign of what the future was be.

Fast forward to 18 August. D Coy 5 RAR returned to Nui Dat base from a two-week operation. This involved securing and a cordon and search of Binh Ba, a Catholic village of 5,000 people to the north of Nui Dat.  This village was to be the scene of a major battle three years later.

As we were cleaning up and getting ready to attend a concert where Little Patti, all of 17 years of age, and Col Joy and the Joy Boys were performing, a battery of gun opened. Nothing strange! Then another battery began firing, then another and finally the American 155mm gun battery opened fire. A different sound and with this we knew that something serious was happening.

You would have to read the chronology of times and events to fully understand the chaotic nature of what transpired between 3.15pm when D Coy 6 RAR, comprising 108 men, entered the Long Tan Rubber and 7.10pm when relief in the form of A Coy 6 RAR and APCs arrived. In that time:

  1. D Coy fought an estimated 2,000 enemy. 
  2. Fought in torrential rain against constant human wave assaults from different directions of 100 to 200 NVA troops at a time.
  3. Many of the men ran out of ammunition.
  4. Platoons became separated from each other and from Company headquarters.
  5. Radio communications was lost at times as some radios were hit by gun fire.
  6. Individual soldiers became separated in the melee as leaders tried to keep their men together as they sought to move back toward company headquarters while under constant attack.
  7. Some wounded had to crawl back to where they thought the main body had moved to in the dark and torrential rain. Some had to play dead at times due to the proximity of the enemy.
  8. The RAAF helicopter pilots, and crew flew in ammunition in conditions unlike any they had ever experienced. Flying low they dropped the ammunition after identifying smoke was sighted.
  9. When the helicopters were in the air the guns had to stop firing for fear of knocking them out of the game.
  10.  Men on the Gun Line back at Nui Dat collapsed from exhaustion and from the toxic fumes which could not be dissipated because of the lack of wind.
  11. In all a total of 24 artillery guns were to fire over 3,000 rounds into the Long Tan rubber to save D Company 6 RAR. 

At 7.10pm the enemy began to disperse. D Coy 6 RAR regrouped slowly and along with those arriving from Nui Dat moved to a clearing just outside the rubber. Evacuation of the dead and wounded began with both Australian and American helicopters operating through the night.

But many men could not be accounted for – they were still in the rubber plantation!

At that point the Battle of Long Tan was thought to have been a disaster – a defeat.

105 Australians and three (3) New Zealanders entered the Long Tan Rubber at 3.15pm that day. 17 were KIA and 24 WIA. One member of 3 Troop I APC Squadron died of wounds some days later.

No one knew the extent of the enemy casualties.

While all of this was going on D Coy 5 RAR had been warned to move at first light on 19 August to fly to that same clearing.

To clear the battlefield D Coy 5 RAR and D Coy 6 RAR and elements of A Coy 6 RAR did a sweep through the Long Tan rubber plantation, on foot and in APCs. The primary task was to locate the missing Australians. This sweep began at 8.45am.

It slowly became evident that a major defeat had been inflicted on the enemy. The official enemy dead was put at 245 KIA. It is known that there were many more who died but the enemy carried them away to be buried elsewhere.

At 10.45am, as one writer commented, elements of D Coy 6 RAR “come across the final 11 Platoon position and discovered the remaining 13 missing, all dead, still in the firing positions with their fingers still on the triggers of their weapons, facing outwards towards the enemy. The rain has washed them clean and they all still seemed to be alive”.

D Coy 5 RAR moved through the rubber and slowly followed up the enemy for some days after that.

Having been a bit player in such an event I am often at a loss to describe it, to put into words the actions of the men of D Coy 6 RAR.

Truly, legends are made by brave and decent men.

To find these words I turn to that other defining event in Australian history – the Kokoda Campaign of WW2.

Between 26 – 31 August 1942 the Battle of Isurava took place along the Kokoda Track. It was a decisive battle as we fought to halt the Japanese advance toward Port Moresby. 99 Australians were killed and 111 wounded.

If you stand at the ISURAVA Memorial and look to the north, up the valley, with the ridge lines to the West and the East, with the EORA Creek, down below and to the East you can visualise where the Japanese came from.

The lessons I speak of are there to your front on four pillars that read:

COURAGE

ENDURANCE

MATESHIP

SACRIFICE

They are qualities that I see in the men of D Coy 6 RAR as they fought a decisive battle against an enemy determined to cause a humiliating defeat on the Australians.

Yes, war is terrible, and it invariably solves nothing. Out of it though we as a nation has gained, yet again, an example and qualities to live by:  

COURAGE – to venture beyond the norm

ENDURANCE – to remain focused on the end game.

MATESHIP – to tolerate and to respect those around us.

SACRIFICE – to accept disadvantage and discomfort.

To these qualities I would add – RESILENCE – these men stayed the course.

The Battle of Long Tan remains a defining event in our national story.

Vietnam Veterans’ Day Legacy Remembered

TOMORROW Australians across the country are encouraged to commemorate the service of all those who served in the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Australians should pause and reflect on the bravery, teamwork and endurance that was displayed throughout the battle and wider war.
“Almost 60,000 Australians served during the Vietnam War, and tragically 521 of them died with a further 3,000 wounded,” Mr Chester said.
“Tomorrow, 18 August, we commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day and the 53rd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, where we remember the sacrifices of those who died and say thank you to all those who served.”
The Battle of Long Tan took place in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan and is widely known as one of the fiercest battles fought by Australian soldiers, who faced wet and muddy conditions due to torrential rain and the loss of their radios.
We also remember the actions of more than 100 Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were vastly outnumbered, facing a force of 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops,” Mr Chester said.
“Tragically, some 18 Australians died and more than 20 were wounded. This was the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian task force had arrived a few months earlier.
“This Battle formed a significant part of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War – a decade long campaign.”
Later today Minister Chester will attend the Vietnam Remembrance Service held at the Sale RSL Sub Branch, laying a wreath to pay tribute to all those who served in the Vietnam War.
The legacy of Australia’s Vietnam veterans is still felt by those in the ex-service community today. Vietnam veterans were vital in the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service, now known as Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Long Tan Bursary scheme which provides education funding support.
Open Arms has been operational for more than 35 years and is a life-saving service that provides free and confidential counselling, group treatment programs, suicide prevention training and a community and peer network to support mental health and wellbeing in the ex-service community.
Tomorrow, applications for the Long Tan Bursary Scheme 2020 academic year will open. The scheme provides funding to help eligible children, and now grandchildren of Australian Vietnam veterans, meet the cost of post secondary education.
Thirty-seven bursaries, each worth up to $12,000 over three years of continuous full-time study, are awarded annually to successful applicants across Australia. Applications close on 31 October 2019.
To find out if you are eligible for the Long Tan Bursary scheme, please visit the DVA website HERE.
To find out more about Vietnam Veterans Day, please visit the Anzac Portal website.
If this anniversary causes distressing memories or feelings for you, or someone you know, please call Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au HERE

Photo Essay: Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment

With the news of Project GREYFIN’s first stage approval, Defence Connect has decided to showcase the talents and capabilities of one of Australia’s Special Forces units, the Special Air Service Regiment.

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