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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Opinion – RSL NSW Head calls for Royal Commission into military suicides

The NSW RSL’s President, James Brown, has backed calls for a royal commission into military suicides in this article published in the Daily Telegraph 26th June 2019.

“Darren Chester, the Minister for Veterans Affairs (DVA), has announced there will be a photo opportunity on veterans’ mental health convened in Canberra for 10am this morning.

But there is no clear plan for how the wellbeing of veterans and their families will be improved in this parliament.

That’s a problem for the thousands in Australia’s veterans’ community who need help.

What we do know is that the minister does not support a royal commission into the issue of veterans’ suicides, or the structural weaknesses of our veteran support systems.

Too expensive he says — leaving aside the fact that DVA found a lazy $58m last year to top the coffers of a single consulting firm on variously undefined “strategic” projects.

There is no clear plan for the wellbeing of veterans and their families. Picture Gary Ramage

Several veterans’ groups are concerned about the potential cost of a royal commission too. I understand their worry: No one wants to see yet another lawyers picnic or yet another lengthy inquiry.

The department points to its ongoing veteran centric reform program as the solution, but as well-intentioned and progressed as this is, it is largely a revamp of IT systems, staff culture, and bureaucratic processes.

And it still has a long way to run.

Last year I applied for a DVA white card, the first step towards accessing free mental health care.

It took nearly six months and multiple follow ups to complete that transaction because DVA’s computers don’t talk effectively to the Defence department.

Imagine how hard it must be for veterans who, unlike me, don’t have time to wait and are struggling with the basics of everyday life.

A senate inquiry into veteran suicide two years ago recommended four strands of reforms.

Improving DVA was just one of them. Progress against the others has been variable.

Veterans tell me for all the reviewing and reforming progress has not come fast enough and no one is joining the dots across all of the systems meant to support veterans, including among the nearly 5000 veteran support organisations outside of government.

Nor does anyone have an eye to the fact that the veteran volunteer network of thousands of advocates and welfare officers is fast retiring and overwhelmed by the complexity of the bureaucratic system.

So what can be done?

First, the government needs to appoint a veterans tsar.

A respected leader, reporting directly to the Prime Minister, who can cut to the heart of the issues in our veterans’ support systems and forge a plan to address them.

An ambassador who can range across the breadth of federal and state government to ensure that all departments and agencies are enlisted in the fight to respect and support veterans.

Aussie Diggers in Iraq on Anzac Day. Picture Gary Ramage

Someone who can take a hard look at what the whole of government isn’t currently doing to help veterans, and the clout to map what more could be done.

The problems are bigger than just what happens in DVA; the solutions will need to be whole of government too.

Second, the government should immediately commit the $10m required to ensure a question is included on the next Australian Census identifying prior service in the Australian Defence Force.

Our veterans should be counted in the census — the fact that they are not is a national disgrace.

That will tell us how many veterans Australia actually has, where they live, and help identify what support services they need now and into the future.

We must count veterans in our state government health and justice systems too.

Not doing so has had tragic consequences in recent years.

A simple box on an admission form querying prior service in the military can save lives by ensuring veteran-specific problems are understood and veteran support services immediately accessed.

We still don’t know, for example, how many veterans are homeless each night — though it seems anecdotally that the scale of veteran homelessness could be larger than any of us expect.

Third, the government needs to fully fund, prioritise, and implement the forthcoming recommendations of the Productivity Commission review into veterans, the inquiry into why incapacitated veterans are asked to live on 63 per cent of the minimum wage, as well as the recent Cornall review into veteran’s advocacy and legal support.

The required reforms could be extensive, and costly.

The bill to bring incapacitated veteran payments in line with the minimum wage alone could cost government more than $200m per year.

But what greater imperative could there be than keeping our promise to those who have risked their lives for this country?

All we are asking for is a frank conversation of what more can be done to help veterans and their families, and a plan to get it fixed in the next three years.

The last thing we need is another photo opportunity.”

BERT’S BLOG – Support for Our Veterans and their Families

OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, MINISTER VETERANS’ AFFAIRS  AND OPPOSITION SHADOW FOR VETERANS AFFAIRS

Recently, the Government put out a Joint Media Release about Support for Our Veterans and their Families.

Its final paragraphs, describing ‘an extensive record support for veterans’, are decidedly underwhelming. For example, delivering support for 280,000 veterans is nothing more than what is required under existing legislation; and improved processes and claim procedures in DVA are self evidently needed. Any Government that did not do these things would be derelict in its duty.

The statement it made that the Coalition is “delivering [its] $1.4 billion in fairer indexation for military superannuants”, if not deliberately misleading, certainly avoids telling the entire truth about what is happening with military superannuation. Assertions like these conceal the real situation, and it is disingenuous to make it appear to be otherwise.

The Release made no mention of any intention to deliver:

• a plan to restore a proper level of TPI/SR economic loss compensation payments. [It is reprehensible that this particular issue was not dealt with long ago.];

• fair indexation for MSBS superannuants also, [the now infamous ‘Ronaldson second step’ never taken!!];

• fair indexation for under 55 year old DFRDB superannuants, let alone anyone on MSBS;

• proper indexation for preserved funds in Commonwealth hands; or

• restitution for any substandard super indexation, dating at least back to 1990 for MSBS and 1990 – 2014 for DFRDB.

All of these long standing issues have a direct, incontrovertible and deleterious effect on veterans’ cost of living. They all deserve a very high priority, well before any consideration of expenditure on memorials is placed on the agenda.

And yet, neither the Coalition, nor Labor, make any undertaking in their election promises to settle these matter once and for all.

Is this really the ‘Fair Go’ that our veterans, like all Australians, deserve?

Does it really reflect how we ‘honour the service and sacrifice of our service personnel’?

BertHoebee 1

Bert Hoebee
Military Veteran (9 RAR Vietnam)

Warrior Poet – Faith in Tomorrow

In recent times, my talks with youngsters of varying ages in North Queensland continue to reinforce my views of their immense potential for future leadership.  However, such assets may be lost, if we, as today’s torch bearers do not provide leadership including moral courage, social discipline, sense of purpose and more drive to protect our treasured values of life.

We can huff, puff and beat our chests and rightly claim with much pride, past achievements of our nation, yet such pride is diluted when we continue to have politicians wearing blinkers, labouring with heavy egos, and racing in sticky mud behind the pack. Our youth need to emulate leaders who lead.

Our tough and determined pioneers reached their goal of unity and independence by achieving Federation.  Our beloved ANZACs, their sons and daughters and subsequent generation have defended such unity and freedom with their blood, sweat and tears. In my view, the bible they passed on to us of “duty, honour and love of country” is gathering dust, and thanks to politicians of all types, has been replaced by a novel, titled “what’s in it for me?”

Today, not only is there procrastination and apathy but a willingness by our political leaders to appease and tug forelocks.  Our traditional cries of “A fair go for all” and “We are as one” have been replaced by a new Anthem; “Them and us” while political correctness is demanding we say and do what we are told to say and do. There must be sound example by all of us for our youngest generation to follow and emulate. If we fail to set the right standards, then we have betrayed those who lit the torch, and subsequent generations who carried it.  Have no doubt, even our fiery torch without the right fuel will die.

Our leaders at all levels need to roll up their sleeves, use the right compass and once more find and use the track which made our nation a lucky country. The youngsters who will carry the torch into their tomorrow are waiting.

George Mansford April 2019

            

  ANZAC Spirits visit Saint Mary’s College

With pride and joy, all students in the hall shout “We are as one’’
Such a strong call reaches for the High Heavens where life begun 
Via green fields, dusty paddocks and surf where heroes once played  Past shearing shed, factory, office or mansions where they stayed  Then become faint echoes bouncing to and fro as shadows grow tall Suddenly a whispering breeze reaches out with ANZAC coo- eeee calls

It brings a message where the fallen speak with pride of you
No better compliment, for they use the term, Young True Blues

“Stand tall, stay together and help mates who are falling behind
To share with each other and knowing the truth, speak your mind

The best way to protect your values of life is never to ignore its rules
Truth, respect, duty, honour, love of country are essential tools

Set the examples for the next generation which will follow you Freedom of speech and action are precious gifts to use; not abuse
Be alert for evil which can slowly surface to erode a free way of life Your strength is to be united, all as one, be it in peace or strife
Learn as we did, of those before us who also gave blood, sweat and tears 
They changed Colonies to Nation, slowly but surely, year after year.”
  

The gentle wind pauses and a brief silence again
Then in the distance the faint sound of tramping boots reigns

Column of ghosts gathering at Memorials we hold so dear
Ready to mingle with the living at the coming of dawn does near
For a short-time, the fallen are home again; waiting for a new sun
So proud of youngsters who yesterday had shouted “We are as one”
C

George Mansford © April 2019  

AND THEN AT DAWN – 25 April 2019

                      Rain Drops or Tears on ANZAC Day

Columns of Spirits wearing battered slouch hats join us as we mourn Soldiers from some generations, long before were born
They watch as many wreaths for them are carefully laid
Listening via crackling, shrieking microphone as tributes are paid That is not the wind rustling as the bugle sounds
It’s our confused, unhappy, restless ghosts flitting round and round

The Brown Shirts of Berlin with different names are back again Scheming, heckling, bullying, and threatening is part of their game Masters of political correctness vilifying those with other views Politicians still planning for yesterday know naught of what to do False green Prophets guide two legged sheep towards a Utopia never to be
The Spirits whisper “what worth duty and our sacrifice to keep Australia free”

Disabled war veterans searching empty pockets listen too
While buckets of gold are paid to retiring Suits for what they didn’t do
Our sovereignty stolen, be it farms, ports and so much more, day by day
Free speech is the cry, but toe the politically correct line with what you say
Now it seems.
diversity not unity, is the strength of our land
What odds of foreign compass and our heads soon buried in the sand?

Ghosts of Pioneers mingle with our fallen and groan with disbelief Freedom with their pain, sweat and tears slowly stolen by a thief More sad news on hearing that many nursery rhymes are taboo
Like Hitler’s bonfire of truth, some of our books are off limits too Drugs, home invasions, carjacks and fear of walking streets at night Rhetoric and band aids with flawed scales of justice never get it right

The parade is over and the Spirits from yesterday’s nation fade away Australia bleats, as politically correct shepherds gather more strays Teams of coloured shirts gather at polling booths on Election Day
Free to harass, pester and lie to ensure the vote goes their way
Dark clouds rumble and wetness falls from a darkening sky
Is it rain? or angry tears of the fallen as they ask “why?” 

George Mansford ©April 2019

DVA 2019 Client Satisfaction Survey

“The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is currently preparing for 2019 Client Satisfaction Survey, which will be held in June/July this year.

The survey seeks to understand how clients feel about their interactions with DVA, and how we can improve the way we provide services and support to veterans and their families. Understanding the experiences of our clients and capturing feedback is critical during this period of change, which is why DVA has committed to conducting the Client Satisfaction Survey on an annual basis.

ORIMA Research, an independent market research company, will conduct the survey on DVA’s behalf, and will ensure the collection of statistically robust and objective data.

Clients selected as part of the sample group, will receive a letter in the first instance, explaining the survey process and how to opt out of the survey if they do not wish to participate. As per 2018, approximately 3,000 clients will be contacted by ORIMA Research to respond to the telephone survey. The survey calls generally take approximately 20 minutes to complete.

All information will be collected and stored in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles and the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). Answers given by participants are completely confidential and any personal details which may identify participants in any way, will not be passed to DVA. Answers will not in any way affect benefits or services which participants are entitled to from DVA.

Information about the survey can be found on DVA’s website. If you have any questions please email us at [email protected], or call the general enquires line on 1800 555 254.

I encourage you and your members to participate in this survey as DVA values your views and feedback as we work to transform to put veterans and their families at the centre of our business.

Yours sincerely,”

download 2019 05 01T085359.455

Liz Cosson AM CSC

Secretary
Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Opinion – Pause for Thought. Time to consider the values that underline our Country

It has been a long time since Anzac Day punctuated a federal election campaign, and there could hardly be a greater contrast than that between the point-scoring, box-ticking, and vote-buying that characterises an election campaign and the patriotic unity that Anzac Day evokes.

Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader sufficiently forgot party politics to make fine speeches at different commemorations; and, for a day, all our first world preoccupations, such as climate change and gender fluidity, faded against the contemplation of our forbears’ response to the struggle for life or death in a good cause.

So what moves us in our many hundreds of thousands, here and at services overseas, to get up early and brave the chill to honour the dead?

In a society that mostly shuns ritual and hardly ever goes to church, attending an Anzac Day service is about as close as we come these days to a religious observance. But what exactly are we remembering? Is it the grandparents and the great grandparents that fought in distant wars? Is it the friends of friends, currently serving in our military? Or is it the ideal of duty and service that they epitomise; and the values that made our country what it is — that we often fear might be slipping away from modern Australia?

When I was a child, when my grandfather’s World War II generation was still only middle-aged and when the Gallipoli generation was still alive to share its memories, Anzac Day was a day for old soldiers and mateship.

Now that the world wars have largely slipped into history, Anzac Day has become a day for us all; a day to honour those who’ve worn our country’s uniform; and a day, inwardly at least, to pledge ourselves to be worthy of the people who’ve taken great risks to keep our country safe.

This is why they deserve the special recognition they get; and why they are, in some way, a reproach to the rest of us. They call us to be more devoted to those around us, and to be more committed to our country, than perhaps we already are.

But then, so many are already committed. It is just that they are not often the voices we hear on our national broadcaster or agitating for the left’s latest cultural cause.

Instead they go to work each day, raise their family and pay their taxes, uncomfortable with the relentless push by some to change who we are, to apologise for Australia’s history and our success.

They’re often referred to as the silent majority and on Anzac Day they are out in force, because it was their sons who were the backbone of Australia’s military ranks and suffered the heavy losses.

Much more so than Australia Day — which has a lightness about it; smack bang in the middle of our idyllic summer, with flag waving, and big community barbecues — the sombreness of Anzac Day lies in its association with the sterner virtues of courage, self-sacrifice, duty and honour.

We remember the best and bravest of us, and in so doing, remind ourselves of their qualities and resolve to be more like them in our own, often very different struggles. Even if we wonder how today’s Australians would cope with horror — on the scale, say, of the Battle of Fromelles, with 1500 dead and nearly 4000 wounded in a single night — it is still a day to feel quiet pride in our country.

Thanks to our military men and women, and those of our allies, our country is free, fair and prosperous. There’s no doubt that our victories in war, plus our vigilance in peace, have made the world a better place.

But it’s the duty of all us, not just those who wear, or have worn a uniform, to preserve these hard-won gains, and to build on them wherever we can.

The values we commemorate in Anzac Day must be defended every other day of the year.

Let us hope the campaign interregnum of Anzac Day inspired our political leaders, and all the candidates, to think less of themselves and their political creeds and more for our country and our values.

For us voters, let us hope it has reminded us to treasure our vote, not to take our freedoms for granted and when we mark our ballot paper, to do so wisely.

Peta Credlin The Courier Mail April 27, 2019.  
Originally published as The Anzac message to remember on election day

Opinion – When Australia Punched Above its Weight


ONE hundred years ago in Paris, the victorious allies were negotiating a treaty to formalise the armistice declared on November 11, 1918. The Little Digger, PM Billy Hughes defended our diggers’ sacrifice.


PM Billy Hughes with Aussie Diggers

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Opinion – A pox on ADF’s PC stance

It’s now considered too dangerous for bodies of uniformed personnel to march at dawn service.
Australians gather each Anzac Day dawn to commemorate those who fell, not to express concern about those who might now merely stumble.

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Sabotage at its Best

Enough is enough. Today, we are seeing new rules of engagement being developed to appease a few and which are highly questionable. The very base of our proud military is being exposed to a new rule of “them and us” with some receiving special treatment. Do the experts really believe this will enhance team cohesion and spirit? And what of sense of purpose, individual and collective pride and battle discipline?

Thus my scribbles scrawled in haste and anger this very morning. I make no apologies for any of my comments.

George Mansford 

                 Sabotage at its Best

The military brass of the space age is at it again
Besotted by political correctness and seeking more fame
Bowing to Canberra Masters who know naught of bloody war
Changing the rules and not knowing what for

Who cares about extra risk to pilots and crew?
The bridge must be destroyed even if we lose a few
However, if women are gathering firewood in the area as well
To attack or abort is the decision for pilots to make and later tell

Orders are orders and the air crews think they know what to do
Ground fire is heavy and casualties more than few 
Is that a woman with firewood as the attack is about to begin?
A split second decision determines if they lose or win

No doubt, ruses from past wars will always be the go
Add to the list, lots of firewood carriers running to and fro
Our sky warriors, obeying such orders will suffer loss and pain
Then the fools who made the rules will each receive more medals again

When will this the madness stop which erodes purpose and spirit
Why blunt a very sharp sword with stupidity that seem to have no limit
Team spirit will dim and sense of purpose with pride will surely wither
Unless we rid ourselves of political correctness and Blimps who grovel and dither

George Mansford  2019

Opinion – A Defence Force slowly dying

The Australian Defence Force is shooting itself in the foot over political correctness. But venturing opinions on PC is reminiscent of complaining in the old Soviet Union. It’s a glance over each shoulder before saying a word – to see if the Thought Police are listening; a ‘career-limiting move’.

The recent announcements by both Air Force and Navy that they will consider ‘gender’ in offensive operations is merely the latest bit of virtue-signalling foolishness. Announcements such as ‘The Royal Australian Navy Deputy Fleet Commander has ordered that “all operations and exercises” be conducted with consideration of a “gender perspective”’ are ridiculous. For it’s obvious to anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge of military operations that there is always consideration of the target before offensive operations commence.

I spent a while some years ago in Baghdad being shot at by various groups who hated us. We had large pieces of artillery linked up to radar which saw the rockets the second they launched. Did we indiscriminately fire back? We did not. We conducted an assessment – in a moment – of the target area where the enemy had launched from. If it was, as it often was, a primary school playground, or a hospital roof, we did not fire back. It was ever thus. Did the British use their nuclear weapons in the Falklands War? These recent announcements are merely a way to show how much in tune with the screaming minority ADF ‘leaders’ can be. But it’s not helping the armed forces – it’s damaging them.

Anyone who’s served for years in the forces knows what it used to be like. Opinions were forthright, sometimes with salty language. But one of the best aspects was that it was a big family – and family fights are common. But it was shoulder to shoulder against the enemy. Serving in a combat zone with the ADF then made you realise how good they were: united with the best in Aussie ingenuity and mateship. That cohesion is disappearing.

Political correctness is setting one member against another. A small coterie have determined to use PC agendas to advance their careers, a habit becoming all too common. One male general decided to wear women’s high heels so he could experience walking a woman’s mile.

Their argument has often been that to meet recruiting targets the forces has to be ‘fully inclusive’ of the community. This is rubbish. Armed forces always have attracted a small part of the communities they represent: people who can cope with the physical and mental demands of deployment to harsh environments, where they will be subject to fierce mental and physical needs. You simply take anyone who can do the job.

One irony of the present PC situation is that traditionally the armed forces have been the place where everyone was treated equally. It didn’t make any difference whether you were Aboriginal, Greek or short. You were expected to soldier. When society allowed females to be recruited, then they were gone after with enthusiasm. Why not expand your recruiting base by 50 per cent? But Western society then went too far: it insists that there is no difference between females and males in demanding trades such as the infantry – when there clearly is.

Years ago, the Australian Defence Force Academy used to be one of the jewels in the Defence crown. It was everything you expected a university-level entrance to being a young officer to be. Squads of students marched everywhere, heads held high. No officer-instructor was safe from an ‘eyes right’ from the class and a salute from the squad leader. Even though the ranks held all sorts of multinational types: they’d all made the decision to serve their country.

Now, insiders report this university campus is more interested in recruiting students from China and the Middle East; from countries that do not share Australian values – ironically against the ‘inclusion’ mentality of PC. Uniformed staff report habits such as spitting on the formerly sacrosanct grounds, or in the military-manned pools, is now normal. Civilian students talk in overseas languages, walking on the grass in whatever shoddy clothes they like, whilst young officers wear uniform and march on the pavement.

The university has lost its way, coming to be disinterested in Defence and fascinated by the $32 billion international education market. The university is distancing itself from Defence in word and in deed. Where once the slogan was ‘The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy’, now it is ‘UNSW Canberra’.

Outside, the PC madness continues. Recent obsessions include making all toilets on defence bases ‘gender-free’. This actually costs money, with buildings altered and new signage installed. The money of course, comes at the expense of military hardware, operations, and training. As do gender reassignment operations, and breast enlarging and reducing. Muslim advisors are needed; when for a hundred years we never had such people. Then again, nor did we have the ridiculous situation where the 40-year veteran at general rank does the same compulsory ‘awareness’ training in relation to suicide, or that you really shouldn’t use a Defence credit card for a holiday to Vanuatu – as one soldier did – as the newest recruit.

We hear of bans on the wrong words, or badges, which might suggest that the business of Defence is to kill the enemy. I assume the RAAFs new C-27J ‘Spartan’ aircraft will have to change its name therefore, and the winged dagger of the SAS will be re-designed.

The expense of all of this foolishness is the destruction of unit cohesion, with the force splintering into groups, with many resentful of what some get at the expense of others. Time was when essential words in the ADF were ‘teamwork’ and ‘leadership’. Now, to get promotion, or cushy jobs, such concepts matter much less. And so the all-important morale, what Napoleon said was the equivalent in power as three is to one, is cast aside.

Most of the public are no fools. They see such attitudes are traitorous. Many see our country as being unable to fight if war comes: we will be too under-equipped, and too lacking in fierce warrior types. So when you want an aggressive focused leader like the American General Patton, or our own WWll Navy’s Harry Howden, or the Air Force’s Clive Caldwell, they will have been hounded out – and it will be too late to get them back.

Tom Lewis, Columnist Spectator Australia Magazine –
13 April 2019

Is the warrior class on the slippery slope to being politically incorrect term?