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.


 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

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

Poem – Train to Win not Fall

Train to Win not Fall

Always is the pain and horror of war

No different from all generations before 

Nor changed is the bible of self-preservation for all

Still the battle cry screamed at recruits “train to win; not fall’ 


Our military is now under fire from politically correct fools

For them, war’s a game where they ignore proven rules 

Such amateurs cannot read past lessons, even in bright light

Besides, far better with heads in the sand to appease, not fight


A curse on Canberra’s recruit quotas to please a few

No matter who, selecting on merit is what you must do

Common sense demands soldiers who are the best

The smartest soldier from any quota may not pass the final test


Special badges and pandering to some is now a space age trend 

However, if you seek unity, it’s a dangerous message to send

In war it’s all about the team facing danger together

Obeying Gods with chevrons despite fear, hunger, thirst, or weather


Unity and mateship are the keys. 

Mid gore, blood, and mud, there’s no time for diversity

On the Field of Mars, soldiers will be required to risk all

Always going forward if “all for one and one for all” is the call


Combat is the ultimate test for discipline and caring for each other

Where the best of the best become true sisters and brothers

Forget quotas and rules for “them and us” at the starting gate

War is “horses for courses” where all must carry the same weight

George Mansford ©October 2017


SBS INSIGHT – Are our soldiers equipped for the transition to everyday life?

SBS Insight
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 – 20:30

Are our soldiers equipped for the transition to everyday life?

insight coming home plasma 1280x720

This week, Insight speaks with veterans to see how prepared they were for civilian life and what can be done to make it easier.


Opinion – Strategy has to move forward

A KEY factor in New Zealand’s defensive posture is its geographic isolation.

While Australia’s air-sea gap from potential aggressors has also been cited as a key defensive asset, that gap has become less reassuring.

Pundits are speculating whether rogue Marxist state North Korea’s latest rocket technology could deliver nuclear weapons to Australia.

How far that rocket could reach into the Australian mainland and whether North Korea’s erratic technology could actually successfully detonate a nuclear device are simply speculation.

In all that speculation, New Zealand as a potential target is never mentioned.

Acres of trees have been sacrificed by defence planners and staff college students who have written endless treatises on defence of the Australian mainland.

These will now have to address whether Australia possesses or should acquire the appropriate defensive missile technology to counter a North Korean missile threat.

Australian defence strategists once subscribed to the Domino Theory, that as Asian states were allowed to fall to communism, they would tip neighbouring states as well.

The Domino Theory was topical in the immediate World War II aftermath when it took six weeks by sea to travel to England, but only seven days by flying boat.

In 1945 RAAF transports regularly plied the route from Australia to PNG through Indonesia to Borneo and The Philippines and return, a journey over several days.

It was reasonable to assume then Australia had sufficient time to react to a southward thrust, though it was thought better to deal with any perceived threat in its country of origin.

The argued response was forward defence, which involved wars in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam.

Various US, UK, Australian and NZ alliances saw troops stationed in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand but as the Domino Theory lost credibility, standing foreign forces were gradually withdrawn from South-East Asia.

Some token remnants remain, such as the Australian Rifle Company at the Malaysian Air Force base at Butterworth, a force whose intent over many years was the defence of RAAF assets based there, particularly as a ready reaction force during what is now acknowledged as the second Malaysian Emergency.

Long a security problem, radical Islam has since replaced communism as the dominant regional threat, particularly in southern Thailand and in the southern Philippines. Modern transport and communications make travel between distant lands let alone our nearest neighbours quick and simple.

Despite strict security controls over international travellers including those moving illegally, borders are porous.

Additionally in poorly supervised international waters it is nigh impossible to prevent illegal movement between jurisdictions.

While NZ can afford to be complacent in its splendid isolation, the southern Philippines and North Borneo are contiguous states. The ability of Islamic State aligned individuals to move freely between them is of serious concern.

Australia’s decision to commit RAAF surveillance aircraft to the region and the possibility ADF advisers might assist Philippine forces are sensible precautions.

Forward defence still has its considerable merits, particularly when offence is often the best form of defence.


IT was a travesty narrowly avoided — an ex-soldier estranged from his family who had taken his own life almost ending up in a pauper’s grave because no one would pay for his funeral.

That was until Perth-based charity Bravery Trust stepped in to ensure this man — who had served his country, but like many others had returned home broken, damaged and fighting his own internal war — received a proper farewell.

They even bought replica medals for his teenage sons, which they proudly wore to his funeral and promised to wear on Anzac Day.

Even though it was not strictly in Bravery Trust’s charter, when chairman Peter Fitzpatrick heard about how the Government and 12 other military charities had declined to help, his first thought at the prospect of this veteran being buried in a cardboard box was: “Not on our watch.”

“How can you say someone is not in need if they’re going to be put in a pauper’s grave when they’ve served their country?” he said.


Peter Fitzpatrick, chairman of Bravery Trust, a charity that gives urgent financial aid to veterans in crisis. Picture: Daniel Wilkins

Sadly, this man’s demise is not isolated and he’s one of dozens of veterans who have taken their own lives so far this year.

There have been 325 confirmed suicides of people with at least one day of service with the Australian Defence Force between 2001 and 2015.

Mr Fitzpatrick estimated that figure would be more than 400 by now — 10 times the number of soldiers killed in battle over the same period — and more than 40 suicides alone so far this year.

Bravery Trust was one of more than 400 organisations and people to make a submission to a Senate inquiry into suicide by veterans, which was prompted by an investigation by The Sunday Times one year ago. A report on its findings is due next month.

Bravery Trust, which started in Perth in 2012 and is lesser-known than other military charities such as the RSL and Legacy, is an urgent financial safety net for veterans and their families, helping them pay their mortgage or rent, utility bills, children’s school fees, health expenses and providing them with Coles food vouchers.

The charity spends about $100,000 a month — or more than $1.1 million last year — to help struggling families. On top of that, it provides education and training scholarships for veterans and their partners.

Mr Fitzpatrick said it was a sad truth that we seemed to be more focused on honouring the dead than supporting the living.


Opinion – Self-interest the enemy of action

ONLY someone who has attempted to take a large bone from a small terrier understands the fury it can generate.
Multiply that by several terriers and bones and the fury increases exponentially.
Larger dogs usually, but not always, tend to be less possessive, particularly if they have taken control of all the bones.
Australia’s state and federal bureaucracies mirror that fanaticism with departments jealously protecting their independence while resisting what they regard as gratuitous intervention in their affairs.
When it comes to countering Australia’s real and present terrorism threat such bureaucratic independence can be counter-productive.
Australia’s co-ordinated response to terrorism grew from the 1977 Hilton bombing when Malcolm Fraser understood the need to develop a co-ordinated response between those agencies likely to be given that responsibility, state police forces and the ADF.
Fraser established a standing committee to advise on appropriate responses to acts of terrorism, with the additional responsibility of co-ordinating those responses.
The problem then and since has been the multiple agencies involved with their competing agendas but more stiflingly their competing bureaucracies. Bureaucrats are like those small terriers, fiercely protecting their departmental bones when a collective need to act is paramount.
Only those who have not been involved in exercising those processes could argue against a centralised super security ministry with responsibility for the disparate, competing parts.
This includes many of the Australian media commentariat who mostly have no idea but express their ignorance exquisitely and vacuously.
Although other national departmental amalgamations have had their difficulties – think the Defence Department – most critics of a super security ministry are simply defending parochial self interest.
The intolerably arrogant Canberra bureaucrat Sir Arthur Tang oversaw the amalgamation of separate service departments. The small terriers protecting their bones snapped at his heels but the universally despised Tang simply ignored their plaintive protests.
Likewise the establishment of a joint defence force academy which, for all its many faults, has now trained generations of senior ADF leaders who understand each other and their individual strengths and weaknesses.
While single service agendas can and still do arise, it’s hard to argue Australia’s defence interests haven’t been better served by a single department.
The main weapon for defeating terrorism however is detailed and timely intelligence.
While each of the agencies proposed for the amalgamation has its own independent intelligence gathering and interpreting capabilities, their product is not automatically available to other agencies.
As important as this proposed departmental amalgamation could be, the proposed Office of National Intelligence within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as recommended by former diplomat Michael L’Estrange is even more crucial.
Getting that intelligence to those who need to use it in a timely manner is also critical.
If a single home affairs ministry improves inter-agency co-operation it will prove its critics wrong.
If it reduces bureaucratic hesitation and obfuscation, decision making and responses will be enhanced.
If it allows government to shave off layers of duplicated public servants, even better.
Ross Eastgate
21 July 2017

Memories – The Vung Tau Ferry

A trip down memory lane for those who sailed on the HMAS SYDNEY. In this case 8 RAR forward and 9 RAR return.


Any death by suicide is tragic. Defence is committed to increasing our understanding of this issue so that we can continue to improve the support services available to our people.

Most importantly, we need to help those who are suffering to understand that support is available to them – they do not need to suffer alone.

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in Australia, and ADF personnel are not immune from this. The rate of suicide of those serving in the ADF is lower than the national average when matched for age and gender. Of course we must do more.

For this reason Defence is investing significantly in suicide prevention and mental health more broadly, with more than $180 million in funding allocated to a range of education and support programs for all Defence members since 2009.

As a result of this investment, and by working with DVA, significant enhancements have been made to the provision of mental health care for current and ex-serving personnel over the last few years. The extension of non-liability health care arrangements which cover current and ex-serving members for a range of mental health conditions without the need to establish a link to their service is one example of this progress.

Current programs which address various mental health issues and provide support to ADF members throughout their military careers, including when they have returned to civilian life, include:

ADF mental health and psychology services

establishment of regional mental health teams
implementation of the mental health integration project to ensure consistency and best practice
creation of the ADF Centre for Mental Health to provide clinical advice and specialist training
establishment of the Second Opinion Clinic to help treat members with complex mental health issues

Prevention initiatives

publication of the ADF Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy
establishment of the ADF Suicide Prevention Program to ensure a comprehensive approach across the organisation
establishment of the Keep Your Mates Safe peer support program
introduction of BattleSMART (a self management and resilience training program)
introduction of ADF operational-specific mental health screening
implementation of the Mental Health Screening Continuum Project to expand current screening framework

Awareness and education programs

dissemination of ADF mental health fact sheets
creation of the annual ADF Mental Health Day
establishment of ADF mental health awareness presentations and mandatory training for all members
creation of mental health first aid courses for members
establishment of the Army Industry Partnership Initiative
introduction of workshops to assist commanders to provide support to members
creation of the ADF alcohol, tobacco and other drugs awareness program
creation of web-based ADF Health and Wellbeing Portal which is available publicly
establishment of the Chief of Army Wounded Injured and Ill Digger Forum
development of mental health mobile applications
publication of the ADF Rehabilitation Member and Family Guide
publication of the ADF Health and Recovery Commanders’ Guide

Crisis support and recovery programs

establishment and promotion of mental health and crisis support help lines
establishment of the intervention Critical Incident Mental Health Support (CIMHS) process
establishment of RESET (a coach facilitated, skills based early intervention program)
creation of the Support to Wounded Injured or Ill Program
establishment of the Soldier Recovery Centres
creation of the Army Rehabilitation through Employment Initiative
establishment of the ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills Program
establishment of the ADF Rehabilitation Program.

We need to recognise that mental health problems affect our entire society, and yet for each individual the circumstances of their situation are unique and deeply personal. What might help one person may not be successful for another; that is why there are a range of support services available.

The factors that lead a person to die by suicide are complex, which is why we need a mature discussion encompassing the entire community. Together we can continue to break down the stigma that, even today, our society attaches to mental health issues so that everybody feels they are able to access the support that is available.

More information on the services available, including how to access support, is available here

The Defence All-hours Support Line (ASL) is a confidential telephone service for ADF members and their families that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1800 628 036.

Crisis support and confidential counselling is also available by calling the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) on 1800 011 046.

Media Contact
Defence Media (02 6127 1999

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Most ADF soldiers ‘believe Islam promotes violence and terrorism’

The vast majority of Australian Defence Force personnel believes the Muslim religion promotes ­violence and terrorism, despite “cultural sensitivity training” by the ADF to have its soldiers take the view that Islam is a religion of peace.

The bombshell new study sponsored by the army finds that such “anti-Muslim sentiments” are “probably quite widespread” among Australian frontline troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the military’s efforts to reverse this trend are counter-productive.

The study by academic Charles Miller, published yesterday in the Australian Army Journal, was clearly perceived by top military brass as likely to be highly controversial, prompting Chief of Army General Angus Campbell to write a preamble saying his staff “have a number of opposing views on this article’s content”.

The study was financially supported by the ADF’s Army Research Scheme.

Dr Miller, who is a lecturer in Strategic and Defence Studies at the Australian National Univer­sity, writes that “in this study, I use a technique designed to ­elicit frank responses to sensitive questions — the ‘list experiment’ — to examine ADF views on Islam.”

“I find little evidence that the official ‘Islam as a religion of peace’ narrative is widely ­accepted, nor is there evidence that cultural sensitivity training has any effect,” he says.

“The best estimate … for the proportion of soldiers who have received cultural sensitivity training and who believe that the Muslim religion promotes violence and terrorism is 91 per cent.

“The corresponding figure for those who have not had cultural sensitivity training is 17 per cent.”

Dr Miller, who surveyed a sample of 182 soldiers, writes that “there are a number of issues which could arise if anti-Muslim sentiment is widespread within the defence force.

“If Australia’s Muslim community perceives the security services as inherently hostile, this may reduce the flow of intel­ligence on the activities of ­Islamic extremist organisations in Australia,” he says.

“Probably most important at present, hostility to Muslims in general could hamper the effectiveness of the ADF on deployment in the greater Middle East in a number of ways.”

To counter Islamophobic tendencies, the ADF employs cultural sensitivity training that “attempts to familiarise ADF personnel with the main ­attributes of the culture of the ­nations to which they are to be ­deployed”, Dr Miller writes.

He said the “list experiment” aims to “persuade individuals to freely express views which may be deemed socially undesirable or for which they could otherwise be punished.”

Dr Miller said more work should be done by the ADF to get a better understanding of the issue, but the problem was that “the open expression of anti-Muslim sentiment in the ADF can and has led to disciplinary charges and dismissal.”

Most ADF soldiers ‘believe Islam promotes violence and terrorism’

Australian Army Journal Autumn Edition 2016