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?

 

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

Operation “Exposure” – The Government’s statements and RCB Rebuttals

The statements provided by the Assistant Minister for Defence, the Hon. Stuart Robert MP and his Team to the House of Representatives Petitions Committee’s Canberra Hearing on 29th October 2014 are commented on and rebutted by the RCB Review Group in this document.

RCB Group Comments Rebuttal of 0ct 29 Ministers Statement to Petitions Hearing RCF

This is an extensive rebuttal of the Minister’s statements with 60 comments based on the evidence discovered by the RCB’s Research Team.

The response by the Petitions Committee Secretariat to our rebuttal (and that of Ken Marsh a RAAF claimant) was to advise that “it is not the Committee’s role, however, to systematically test each of these claims or counter-claims. Accordingly, the Committee does not plan to take any further action on this matter”.

Here is one example

Minister Robert: “In conclusion, the service of Rifle Company Butterworth has been reviewed comprehensively by Defence and by several independent reviews, including a review by New Zealand.  
Reviews of service have found consistently that this service does not meet the essential criteria for reclassification as special overseas service or as warlike service.  
The role and responsibilities of the RCB, and all evidence of the exposure to the risk of harm, support the extant peacetime classification.  
At no time throughout the period 1970 to 1989 did any Australian government consider it necessary or appropriate to reconsider or change the classification of RCB or any other ADF service at RMAF Base Butterworth.” 

RCB Logo SMLRCB Comment 48.  “We believe we have effectively rebutted the above claims and that the time has come to rectify this injustice and to finally be honest with the Australian people about the true nature of the RCB’s role in Malaysia during the Second Malaysian Emergency (SME).  
Should somehow the Government be unable to reach the fair decision alone then perhaps it will need an independent arbiter with the historical analysis skills to conduct a hearing that
is binding.”

More to be revealed in  following postings

RCB Review Group Letter to all Federal MPs and Senators

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

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

READ THE LETTER

RCB REVIEW GROUP LETTER TO ALL FEDERAL POLITICIANS FINAL

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