Chaplain Gary Stone Speaks out on Recognition of RCB Service 1970-1989

As a veteran of almost 48 yrs military service, the last 24 of which I served as a Chaplain , I must raise my grave concerns about the morality of the treatment of our veterans by ADF and Government officials in their continuing rejection of the substantive evidence being presented by the RCB Review Group in their case for recognition of warlike service.

In my 4 years of training at RMC Duntroon, I was grounded in the need in public service, for uncompromising integrity, and the reality that sometimes oversights and mistakes are made because of inadequate or insufficient information, and the need for these to be corrected. There are plenty of precedents of recognition being granted belatedly, and the previously Secret evidence now available in relation to RCB, should provide scope for this case to be considered anew.

But it is not.
As this case goes on, what seems clear is that advisors and public servants are deliberately ignoring evidence and giving bad advice and recommendations to senior ADF officers and Ministers.
Some might construe this as a cover up of earlier mistakes. Nevertheless, we are now at a point where litigation may be required to correct the injustices felt by the members who served at RCB.
At the very least, a group of more than 10,000 veterans is experiencing unnecessary stress and dismay at the unjust way in which they are being treated.
Australians rightly expect to be given a fair go and fair hearing, and these veterans will not stop in their pleading until justice is granted them.
They have now seen The Defence Committee Minutes of 11 Jan 1973, and other official documents confirming irrefutably that this was an operational deployment to protect RAAF personnel and assets at Air Base Butterworth when a war was being fought from this base against communist insurgents.

We did no training with the Malaysians. We were totally focussed on defence of the airbase, and reacting to any communist incursions.
But of course the veterans already knew this, from briefings on the Air Base and from being “Warned for Active Service” before they deployed. Many were Vietnam or Borneo Veterans who have given testimony that their service in Butterworth met the requirements that saw them given Active Service recognition in earlier conflicts.

Others like me, an Infantry Platoon Commander at Butterworth in 1974-75 went on to serve in other conflicts ( in my case 6 other operational theatres) and subsequently got recognition for warlike service for similar service as at Butterworth.

But this case should stand or fall on evidence, rather than subjective opinions and the full evidence now needs to be considered, and the mistakes of the past need to be corrected.

What was a simple nature of service claim has now become also a case for ethical conduct or misconduct, which will have wider ramifications for Government and officials than recognising the faithful service of some patriotic veterans.
I would hope that those desiring an ethical consideration of this case will now act appropriately .
Yours Sincerely

Gary Stone
President Veterans Care Association

Battle rages for Diggers – RCB veterans have not surrendered nor will they…

ON the night of December 7-8 1941, Japanese forces began invading Malaya, hours before the attack on US territory Pearl Harbour,
Australia’s first casualties on December 8 were the crews of two 1Sqn RAAF Hudson bombers from six aircraft dispatched to bomb Japan’s invasion fleet.
When Japanese aircraft attacked Butterworth, some RAAF Buffaloes were in the air and tried to intercept, but they were an inadequate match for the speedy Japanese fighters.
The ADF has maintained a long relationship with Butterworth, through the first Malayan Emergency 1950-1960, Confrontation, Vietnam and the second Malaysian Emergency (Counter Insurgency War 1969-1989) to the present day.
From 1958 to 1988 the airfield was an Australian military asset, known formally as RAAF Butterworth.
From 1970 an Australian Army infantry company has been deployed to Butterworth, though successive Australian governments have employed various subterfuges to camouflage their real role.
Although the deployment was officially described as training with Malaysian forces, its actual, formally denied role was to be a ready reaction force to defend, if required, the RAAF assets including Mirage fighters based there.
There is no doubt until 1989 there was a real threat to Australian personnel and assets based at Butterworth, nor that RCB was established and armed to react to that threat should it eventuate.
Yet successive Australian governments have consistently refused to recognise RCB service as warlike, and concede appropriate veteran benefits to those who served in that period.
The RCB veterans lobby group, have gathered a massive database of previously classified material which indubitably supports their claims for recognition.
They will not rest until they clear the fog of bureaucratic and political obfuscation which continues to deny their evidence.

READ  ROSS EASTGATE’S FULL ARTICLE

Note a correction to the article: Robert Cross is the RCB’s veterans lobby group (RCB Review Group) leader of which Ted Chitham (past CO 8/9 RAR 1974-1976) is a member.

“RCB veterans have not surrendered nor will they…” Ross Eastgate

RCB Recognition – Response to Minister Chester and VCDF’s Rejection

Yesterday, Friday 13th July the RCBRG sent the following to those named and all politicians in the belief that they as evidence based decision makers will read the facts of the matters themselves and act to have the Government’s decision reversed or to recommend the appointment of an independent of government public inquiry.

RCB RG REBUTTAL OF THE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION

Dear Minister for Defence Personnel D. Chester and VCADF VADM D. Johnston,

This correspondence to you with copies to all parliamentarians, addresses the recent form letters signed by you Minister and VADM Griggs and in some cases, by individual local politicians who have added some variation.

In all those letters is the continued assertion that Rifle Company Butterworth (RCB) service in Malaysia during the Communist Insurgency War/Second Malaysian Emergency 1968-1989 was peacetime in nature and rejection of our continued requests to have that service properly recognised as warlike. RCB (Army) first deployed to Air Base Butterworth 1 Nov 70. RAAF personnel were already there.

Common to all is a fundamental question – Why won’t the Government consider the facts uncovered by the RCB Review Group and made available to them instead of engaging in a sustained deception regarding RCB’s service?

  • Even though numerous submissions using irrefutable evidence have been made.
  • Even though it has been repeatedly demonstrated where Defence bureaucrats have got it wrong and/or deliberately misrepresented the facts using selective information to uphold a predetermined view.
  • Even though any fair-minded reader can readily see the facts for what they are.
  • Even though the RCB Review Group has not been given the opportunity to personally present and contest the facts with the Government and/or its advisors.
  • Even though nearly every other similar deployment has had initial recognition re-graded (correctly) from peacetime to warlike service.

From all the evidence it is clear that a pre-determined position of denial and deception continues to this day. A deliberate rear-guard action is being carried out by pressured elected officials who are influenced by their professional public service employees whose task is to provide fearless and honest evidence-based advice and support in accordance with their code of ethics. Instead, what began as a strategic deception plan has now become an acute embarrassment for a different generation of politicians and supporting officials. 

Attached are the RCB Review Group’s response and rebuttal of these form letters and a copy of our current complaint submission to the Defence Ombudsman of administrative deficiency and misfeasance within the bureaucracy.

We beseech you and all addressees to consider these documents and, as evidenced based decision makers, to make their own mind up and then act collectively to right this dreadful wrong before we are forced to take the steps necessary to bring this matter before the Australian courts of both legal and public opinion.

As a follow up to this correspondence we will be seeking to meet with all parliamentarians in their electorate office to discuss the matter.

Yours Sincerely,

Robert Cross
Leader RCB Review Group
(07) 3352 4612
0402 986 454
[email protected]
4/15 Gardiner Street
Alderley, Qld 4051
12 July 2018

Attachments:

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Distribution – c.c

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister
Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Defence
The Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Leader of the Opposition
The Hon. Richard Marles MP, Shadow Minister for Defence
The Hon. Amanda Rishworth MP, Shadow Minister for Defence Personnel
Senator the Hon. Richard di Natoli
Senator the Hon. Pauline Hanson
All Federal Parliamentarians
Secretary Department of Defence
Chief of the Australian Defence Force
Chief of Navy
Chief of Army
Chief of Air Force
Australian Army History Unit
RAAF History Unit

 

The Government’s Rebuttal of RCB’s Claim

Our letter to all Parliamentarians dated 2 February 2018 has finally resulted in this formal decision reply from Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO CSC  Vice Chief of the Defence Force  (VCDF), on behalf of the Government.

“…These successive reviews have determined that ADF service at Butterworth during the period 1970 to 1989, including that of the RCB, does not meet the criteria for classification as warlike service. Therefore, consistent with the findings of these independent reviews, and with the position of successive Coalition and Labor Governments, I consider that all ADF service at Butterworth, including RCB service, is appropriately classified as peacetime service. Further, as RCB service has already been examined by several independent reviews, I am satisfied that further consideration of the classification of ADF service in Malaysia is not warranted…”

LETTER – 180417 – VCDF – Response letter to Mr Robert Cross regarding Rifle Company Butterworth – UNCLASSIFIED

The RCB Review Group does not accept the decision and intends to rebut it and its reasons publicly with evidence that will  expose both the truth of the deployment as warlike service and the deception perpetrated by Australian governments on the troops and their families and the Australian public.

 

Senate Questions on Notice 8 – 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 8 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

As the minister responsible for both Service Personnel  AND Veterans’ Affairs, to what extent is he (as opposed to script writing staff) aware of the adverse effect the continued denial of justice is having on RCB veterans when they learn they are represented in Parliament  by an entity that cannot seem to accept overwhelming evidence?

Answer 8. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

The Government appreciates the unique nature of military service and is committed to ensuring that all current and ex-serving ADF members have access to appropriate services.

 

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 8.

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This weak, stock-standard platitude does not answer the question, indicating that RCB veterans just go away and access ‘appropriate support services’, when in fact the Minister should insist on examining the accuracy and honesty of his briefing staff to get to the bottom of the issue. This is a complete deflection by the man in the best position to address the issue at stake.

 

Senate Questions on Notice 7 – 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 7 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

Why does the minister now seek to bring the RAAF  into the discussion when the RCB submission is specifically based on the deception method of deploying the Army unit (RCB) under warlike – specific tasks to protect the airbase, tasks and supporting Rules of Engagement repeatedly documented in both Army and RAAF operational and other directives, unless to accidentally reveal the Government’s REAL motive – the perceived cost of recognition?

Answer 7. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

The inclusion of the RAAF  is consistent with previous reviews of ADF service at RAAF Base Butterworth. Both Rifle Company Butterworth and RAAF personnel posted to Butterworth were both exposed to the same risk of harm, had the same rules of engagement (ROE) and had responsibilities associated with base security and in the event of a ground emergency. It is only appropriate that any consideration of the classification of ADF service at RAAF Base Butterworth consider all the ADF service over the prescribed period at that location.

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 7.

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While one can argue a common threat applied to both RAAF and RCB, this response again fails to address the real issue. RCB was tasked to defend the RAAF who only had to exist there in case of any need for response to external aggression. The majority of RAAF personnel were only on base when rostered during daylight, with skeleton staffing at night, when the enemy was most likely to attack. RCB were specifically required on base to mount the QRF 7/24 if required, and always at night irrespective of the intelligence-assessed level of threat at any time. RCB was a potent combat force with full weapon capability. Except for a very small ADG group with dogs and a few Police with pistols, Most RAAF personnel had no small arms at all and were unable to resist a ground attack. Had an attack come in, RCB would have taken the main casualties as they were there for one reason- to fight.

By grouping RAAF and RCB in this reply, the Minister’s scriptwriters seek to adopt the ‘least risk’ approach used in the original decision to award the ASM. That decision showed the Government was forced to accept that there was trouble in paradise (hence the ASM), but only a slight level of trouble (the perceived risk to RAAF). Without denigrating the level of threat to RAAF colleagues, RCB faced a far higher level of the definition of warlike service, AND under a deliberate deception. Notwithstanding the fact that RCB endured this higher level of threat to persons, it would still support the RAAF being recognised as also rendering warlike service.

Senate Questions on Notice 6 – 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 6 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

How does the minister and his advisors propose to defend the official position they adopt on the RCB claim when the public and mass media are alerted to the scale and duration of the deliberate deception regarding the true nature of  the RCB deployment during the Communist Insurgency?

Answer 6. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

The Department of Defence has been diligent in undertaking an extensive and comprehensive examination of available evidence to ensure  an accurate and balanced perspective on ADF service at Butterworth during the period 1968 to 1989, The view that ADF service at Butterworth during this period does not satisfy the criteria for classification as warlike service is supported by the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Finance and Deregulation. It is also consistent with independent Australian and New Zealand reviews and inquiries. 

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 6.

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This response is an indirect generalisation that seeks to create the impression that the big ’Government must be right’, so therefore the little RCB Review Group must be wrong. This is done by listing supposed ‘supporting departments’, and a NZ entity.

If these other agencies actually do agree with Defence, then they can do so only on the basis of the selective briefs Defence will have supplied to them, or due to their very limited involvement, not because they will have independently studied the entire RCB data.

Reference to the NZ study is an ‘own-goal’. The Butterworth element of that study is widely discredited by the NZ veterans’ community due to its near-total reliance on a single (and highly biased) person’s input to reach – unsurprisingly – almost the same conclusion as the Australian Government. There is NO Australian data in the NZ study. So how can the NZ study possibly be inferred to apply to the RCB?  Further, the NZ story only covered 1970-73 when the NZs went home, whereas the AS experience, being subject to continuing Australian Government deception actions and enemy activity post-1973, is very different.

Classic drawing at straws.

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 Recognition of Service – 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 1 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

Given the overwhelming primary and secondary evidence provided to all key stakeholders in the August 2017 submission to the Minister, much of which has been located through empirical research since the 2011 DHAAT enquiry, will the Minister explain the consultative process between his Office, Defence and the ADF recipients that led to his satisfaction that there is no new evidence?

Answer 1. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

Since the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (DHAAT) review Defence has responded to a number of claims for reclassification of Rifle Company Butterworth service bu undertaking extensive research of  available records in Defence Archives, the Australian War Memorial, the National Archives of Australia, published works, information provided with submissions, and more recently information provided by Senator Burston. As advised by the then Minister for Defence Personnel, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP in his November 2017 letter to Senator Burston, this comprehensive process did not identify any new evidence which would warrant another enquiry.

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer

RCB Logo SMLThe Minster’s response is astounding for its untruthfulness. A steady stream of submissions, petition and direct appeals to the Prime Minister have each used hard evidence to rebut this often-repeated form answer. Each time, new reinforcing evidence has been added. It is impossible for the Defence advisors to the Minister to state that there is no new evidence; the entire database with some new evidence was supplied in August.

The reply also fails to answer the core question: clearly the Minister will not challenge his script writers, relying instead on their dishonest assertion. An independent inquiry is now necessary to force the exposure of this procedural farce.

Minister, can you explain why in all our submissions our request to meet with the appropriate Minister and their staff to discuss them and our evidence have been ignored? Not denied but ignored.

Will you let us discover the evidence upon which Defence based its original decision to deny RCB warlike service?