30 June 2010

Defence to increase payment for employers supporting Reservists

Tomorrow the weekly rate for Australian Employer Support Payments, or ESP, will rise on 1 July 2010 from $1183.10 to $1,243.10. ESPs are made for every week full-time employee Reservists are away from their civilian jobs, once the qualifying period of two weeks and other criteria are satisfied.

“The Scheme was introduced to provide financial assistance to employers and self-employed Reservists,” said Dr Mike Kelly AM, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.

For Reservists in part-time employment, a pro-rata amount of the applicable Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings, or AWOTE, is calculated based on their weekly working hours. ESP support is also available to self-employed Reservists whose business provides their main source of income.

To qualify for ESP payments an employer’s Reservist employees must perform Defence service for five or more consecutive days after completing the qualifying period.

Employers can download claim forms at www.defence.gov.au/reserves

28 June 2010

This week in Congress (28 June 2010) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, to receive testimony on Beyond the Defence Language Tranformation Roadmap: Bearing the Burden for Today's Educational Shortcomings, 1330 hours, 2212 Rayburn House Office Building.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Evaluating the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of General Council, 1000 hours, room 334, Cannon House Office Building. To view the live webcast go here.

House Armed Services Committee, to receive testmony from Army Secretary John McHugh into investigation of Arlington National Cemetary, 1030 hours, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building.


Thursday, 1 July 2010

House Armed Services Committee, Legislative Hearing on HR 3407, HR 3787, HR 4541, HR 5064, HR 5549 and Draft Legislation, 1000 hours, room 334 Cannon House Office Building. To view the live webcast go here.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

27 June 2010

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (28 June 2010)

[SLOW WEEK] The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Parliament is in its Winter recess until 24 August 2010.

High Court of Australia

The High Court is in recess and next sits 27 July 2010 in Canberra.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

No cases involving subject matters of this blog will be heard by the Full Court this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal currently has no scheduled sittings for 2010.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

21 June 2010

Defence Minister's statement on 3 Diggers killed in helicopter crash

Three more Australian soldiers have been killed today in Afghanistan due to a helicopter crash. Tonight Australian Minister of Defence, Senator John Faulkner, issued a statement here. This brings the total to five Diggers killed in a fortnight's time.

SMH: HMAS Success CO blind drunk during deployment

I was unable to attend today's Commission of Inquiry but The Sydney Morning Herald and Ten News are reporting on today's HMAS Success Commission of Inquiry here. The hearing continues tomorrow and will most likely go over the next few days.

This week in Congress (21 June 2010) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Senate Armed Services Committee, to receive testimony on the progress in preventing military sucides and challenges in detection and care of the invisible wounds of war,
0930 hours, room SD-G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Those testifying include Army General Peter Chiarelli, Navy Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Marine Corps General James Amos, Air Force General Carrol Chandler and Dr. Robert Jesse of DoD.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, hearing on Emergency Preparedeness: Evaluation the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Fourth Mission, 1000 hours, room 334 Cannon House Office Building. To view the live webcast go here.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health, hearing on Overcoming Rural Health Care Barriers: Use of Innovative Wireless Health Technology Solutions, 1000 hours, room 334 Cannon House Office Building. To view the live webcast go here.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Markup of Pending Legislation (it is unclear as to what pending legislation will be marked up), 1300 hours, room 334 Cannon House Office Building. To view the live webcast go here.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

20 June 2010

HMAS Success hearing continues today

The Commission of Inquiry into alleged incidents of unacceptable behavior on board the HMAS Success continues today (21 June 2010) at Level 11, Defence Plaza, 270 Pitt Street, Sydney at 0930 hours AEST. I have previously discussed the inquiry here.

The hearings are expected to last for several days and I will be blog posting on it.

An interim Senate report issued earlier this year can be found here. The final report is now expected to be issued by 30 June 2010.

A webpage has been setup by a Senate committee titled "Inquiry into an equity and diversity health check in the Royal Australian Navy - HMAS Success" which can be found here. The terms of reference for the Senate inquiry can be found here. According to the Senate Committee's webpage, it expects to be in a position to report to the full Senate on or about 2 September 2010.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (21 June 2010)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

House Petition Committee, Inquiry into the work of the Petitions Committee, 1015 hours. The terms of reference can be found here and the submissions here. A report will be issued after the matters has been tabled and hearings concluded. The report can be found here when it is published.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Full House of Representatives is expected to take up and debate Veterans' Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures).

* Senate order of business for this week is not yet available (it should be available between 1100 hours and noon time on Monday, 21 June 2010). When it is you can find it here.

High Court of Australia

Monday, 21 June 2010

The High Court is hearing one case in Brisbane today but it does not involve any of the subject matters pertaining to this blog.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The High Court is hearing several cases in Brisbane today but none involve subject matters pertaining to this blog.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Kowalski v. Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission [2010] FCA 408, SAD56/2010. Case involves an appeal from a decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where it had affirmed the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission's decision rejecting a claim for compensation. Case issues: Whether Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 applies? Application of Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and consideration of "material degree" test. Errors in fact finding not errors on a matter of law as required by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1973.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal currently has no scheduled sittings for 2010.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

19 June 2010

Search for missing Australian sailor off Tonga coast concludes

Today the search and rescue, or SAR, mission for missing Leading Seaman Andrew Wakley, Royal Australian Navy, has been ceased. Tongan authorities formally concluded the SAR this evening after an intensive search by HMAS Warramunga, her Seahawk helicopter and local authorities failed to locate the missing sailor.

On Wednesday Wakley, who was on shore leave from HMAS Warramunga, went missing whilst swimming at Keleti Beach Resorts, which is on the western side of Tonga. He is presumed drowned.

HMAS Warramunga will now resume her passage to Hawaii, however, the Australian Maritime Surveillance Authority based in Tonga will continue to assist local authorities in a recovery effort. Commander Bruce Legge, the commanding officer of HMAS Warramunga, said in a press release that "the decision to leave Tonga is a most difficult one, as a member of our Navy family remains unaccounted for."

Wakley's family, via the Defence Department, issued this statement a few days ago.

16 June 2010

Defence Appeal Tribunal orders Army conviction quashed

In an opinion released today, and dated 11 June 2010, the Australian Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal quashed a court-martial conviction and ordered the verdict of not guilty entered into the record in the case of Private Michael Paul Flynn.

Private Flynn, who served in the Australian Army, was charged and convicted of an offence against s 32(3) of the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982, or DFDA, of being intoxicated whilst on watch at Forwarding Operating Base Union III, in Baghdad on Christmas Eve in 2008 engaged on service in connection with operations against the enemy.

A three member appeals panel consisting of Judges Tracey (President), White and Mildren issued a lengthy opinion in Flynn v. Chief of Army [2010] ADFDAT 1 (11 June 2010) holding that the evidence in the case raises the question of whether or not the Appellant’s intoxication came about as a result of a reasonable mistake as to the contents of the Gatorade bottle, and the likely effect of taking a sip or a swig from the bottle. On the whole of the evidence, the most likely inference is that the Appellant became severely intoxicated as a result of imbibing from the Gatorade bottle.

The Tribunal held that the evidence established no more than that the Appellant took a small quantity of liquid from the bottle. It that it is true that the Appellant was unable to say, when interviewed, what he thought he was drinking at the time, but on the basis of the record of interview he did not become aware that the contents contained something which he thought was alcohol until he had swallowed the first mouthful. It was submitted during trial that it is a reasonable inference that he quite possibly thought he was imbibing Gatorade, but in any event there is no evidence that he thought he was imbibing alcohol.

Turning to the Director of Public Prosecutions and Parliament's attempts to clarify the Director's powers, the Tribunal discussed the statute:
"Despite a number of attempts by Parliament to clarify the Director’s powers, under s 87, to charge a service member and to cause the charge to be placed before an appropriate service tribunal, the section remains difficult to construe. We are satisfied by reference to the language of the section and the extrinsic materials to which we have referred that it was the legislature’s intention that the Director should have the power to prefer charges, the power to make the ultimate decision as to whether charges (whether initiated by the Director or referred to the Director) should be prosecuted and if so in what tribunal and the power to conduct the prosecutions. The Director would not have all of these powers if, in order to initiate a charge herself, she must comply with s 87(1)(a) or (b) in their entirety before she can exercise any of the powers conferred on her by s 87(1)(c). Section 87(1A) in its present form was, according to paragraph 133 of the Explanatory Memorandum, designed to ensure that the Director “has the full range of options that are required by the position.” This objective could be achieved if the Director could choose to exercise the powers conferred on her by s 87(1)(a)(i) and (ii) or by s 87(1)(b) to the extent of causing to be prepared a summons which advised the service member of the offence that the person is alleged to have committed and then exercise one or more of the powers conferred on her by s 87(1)(c). Such an ability to “cherry pick” the powers conferred by s 87(1)(a) and (b) is suggested by s 87(1A)(a) which speaks of “any or all of the powers” conferred by those two paragraphs. Section 87(1A)(b), however, complicates matters by using the phrase “the power referred to in paragraph (1)(c)” when paragraph (c) plainly confers multiple powers on the Director and by saying that these powers may be exercised “in addition to, or instead of, the powers referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) and (b).” The powers conferred by s 87(1)(c) are all powers that fall to be exercised after a charge has been laid by the Director or some other authorised member of the Defence Force. It is, therefore, difficult to comprehend how the Director’s powers under s 87(1)(c) could be exercised “instead of” any of the powers conferred by s 87(1)(a) or (b)."
The Tribunal then took the view that the Director is able to charge a service member with an offence under either s 87(1)(a) or (b) and then exercise one or more of the powers conferred on her by s 87(1)(c).
"In the present case the Director exercised her power under s 87(1)(b) to cause a summons to be prepared which specified the service offence that Private Flynn was alleged to have committed and then arranged for the summons to be served on him. Once that occurred she exercised the power conferred by s 87(1)(c)(iii) to request the Registrar of Military Justice to convene a General Court Martial to try the charge. In this way we consider that Private Flynn was charged conformably with the DFDA at the time on which he was called on to plead to the charge at his trial. We note that no objection to the efficacy of the charge was taken when Private Flynn was arraigned."
In the Tribunal's opinion, it held that Private Flynn made out the principal argument that the conviction was “unsafe and unsatisfactory.” It is these circumstances, that it granted leave to appeal, allow the appeal, quashed the conviction and sentence, and entered a verdict of not guilty, despite the fact that counsel for Private Flynn, Mr T. Berkley, only sought an order for a re-trial. The Tribunal was of the opinion that there is a reasonable doubt about Private Flynn's guilt, that the remedial relief is appropriate citing M v The Queen, (1994) 181 CLR 487, 538.

15 June 2010

New VA forms to make claims process easier for U.S. veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs announced today that it has made filing clams easier.

VA has shortened application forms to reduce paperwork for veterans. The new forms, which are available on the VA's website here, include:
  • A shortened VA Form 21-526 for veterans applying for the first-time to VA for disability compensation or pension benefits. This form has been cut in half – from 23 to 10 pages. It is immediately available to veterans via web download, and will be available through VA’s online claim-filing process later this summer here.
  • VA Form 21-526b for veterans seeking increased benefits for conditions already determined by VA to be service-connected. This new form more clearly describes the information needed to support claims for increased benefits.
“These reductions in paperwork, along with other improvements to simplify and speed the claims process, symbolize changes underway to make VA more responsive to Veterans and their families,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

ADF launches $12 million health study

Today the Australian Department of Defence launched the Military Health Outcomes Program, or MilHOP, which is said to be the most extensive health study ever undertaken by DoD in its Deployment Health Surveillance Program.

Costing $12 million over five years, the four MilHOP studies include the Prospective Study, Census Study, the Health and Wellbeing Study and a Mortality and Cancer Incidence Study.

"For the first time, the government and Defence will have the information needed to support the development of evidence-based policy and targeted health programs designed to support Australian Defence Force members and their families cope with the impact of operational deployments," said Minister for Defence Personnel Alan Griffin (who is also Minister for Veterans' Affairs).

In addition to personnel who will be deploying as part of current operations in the Middle East in 2010 and 2011, more than 25,000 veterans will be invited to participate in the study. Participation in the studies will in no way affect entitlements or benefits now or at any point in the future.

MilHOP is a partnership between Defence and the Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health (CMVH), a consortium of the University of Queensland, the University of Adelaide and Charles Darwin University, and is funded by the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.

The study is scheduled to be completed by 30 June 2012. For further information on the study go here.

14 June 2010

This week in Congress (14 June 2010) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, The State of the Veterans Benefits Administration, 1400 hours, room 340 Cannon House Office Building To view the live webcast go here.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, hearing on VA Health Care in Rural Areas, 0930 hours, room 418 Russell Senate Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

Australia Queen's birthday honour list (military division) now available.

Today in celebrating the birthday of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, Governor General Quentin Bryce, AC, has released the names of those on the honours award's list. The new officers of the the Military Division of the Order of Australia can be found here; new members in the Military Division here; those awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Military Division can be found here; and those awarded the Commendation for Gallantry can be found here.

The entire list of this year's honourees, which includes civilians honoured in specific areas, can be found here. Information about the Order of Australia can be found here.

13 June 2010

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (14 June 2010)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Monday, 14 June 2010 - QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY HOLIDAY

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

HOUSE MAIN COMMITTEE: Debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) — consideration in detail (continued) — Foreign Affairs and Trade; Defence and Veterans' Affairs.


Note: At the time of this post the Senate's Dynamic Red was not available. It should be available 15 minutes before prior to the commencement of sitting on Tuesday 15 June 2010 at 1230 hours. Go here to view it.

High Court of Australia

The High Court sits this week in Canberra but none of the cases involve subject matter issues of this blog. To view the cases being argued this week go here.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

No cases involving the subject matter of this blog are being heard by the Full Court this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal currently has no scheduled sittings for 2010.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

09 June 2010

Official transcript of hearing on Equal Justice for Our Military of 2009 now available

Today the GPO released the "official" transcript of last year's hearing on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569. Here is a link to the transcript and its appendix items.

I'm told by my contacts on the Hill that an official Congressional Report on H.R. 569 should be issued very shortly (before the end of June) and after that a House floor debate and vote will be scheduled.

08 June 2010

NSW Parliament passes amendments to ANZAC Memorial (Building) Act 1923 which provide greater accountability

Today the New South Wales Parliament passed amendments to the ANZAC Memorial (Building Act 1923. The amendments appear to provide for greater accountability and a robust ANZAC Memorial Building Trust. Additionally, the changes boost the role of the Returned & Services League of Australia (New South Wales Branch), or RSL. [Disclaimer: I am a member of the RSL.] You can read the amendments in Legislative Review Digest here (Section A).

According to a press release of this afternoon highlights of the changes include:
  • Establish an Office for Veterans’ Affairs within the Department of Premier and Cabinet to facilitate greater accountability and a strategically focussed Trust with effective connections to the centre of Government, cultural and educational institutions;
  • Transfer management responsibility and secretariat function to the Department of Premier and Cabinet;
  • Appoint the RSL President as Deputy Chair of the Trust;
  • Broaden Trustee membership to include the State Librarian, Director General of the Department of Education and Training, and NSW Government Architect;
  • Give the Trust the responsibility to educate the community about Australia’smilitary history and heritage; and
  • Appoint the RSL as Guardians of the Memorial under law (similar to the Cenotaph model), which will give special honour to the RSL and its members, and draws on its capacity to preserve the memorial’s commemorative integrity.
Parliamentary Secretary John Aquilina made a statement on 21 May 2010 regarding the then-proposed amendments which can be found here. Explanatory notes on the bill can be found here.

I'm glad the legislation was introduced and is now passed. It is certainly a step in the right direction.

The RSL has not yet made any formal statement or issued any press release on today's passage of the bill. If the RSL does issue any statement or press release I'll update this post with a link.

More on Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan

This afternoon the Australian Defence Force issued this press release. Chief of the ADF, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, AC, AFC, issued a Statement of Condolence which can be found here. Also Houston and Minister of Defence, Senator John Faulkner (ALP - NSW), attended a ramp ceremony in Al Minhad Air Base for the two Aussie soldiers killed.

ADF is respecting the wishes of the families of the fallen diggers and have not disclosed their identities.

07 June 2010

Early media reports indicate 2 Aussie and 7 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan

(Tuesday, 8 June 2010 at 0927 AEST)

The Canberra Times is reporting here, and ABC News here, that two Australian and seven American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan overnight.

Australian Defence Force will have a press conference this morning in Canberra at 1030 hours. Minister for Defence Materiel and Science Greg Combet and the Acting Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General David Hurley, will provide details of the incident during the press conference. The next of kin of the Aussie soldiers have been notified.

This week in Congress (7 June 2010) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health, hearing on Recreation Therapy and Healing our Wounded Warrior, 0830 hours, New Port Richey City Hall, 5919 Main Street, New Port Richey, Florida. To view the live webcast go here.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, hearing on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General's Open Recommendations: Are We Fixing the Problems?, 1000 hours, room 334 Cannon House Office Building. To view the live webcast go here.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Econmic Opportunity hearing on H.R. 114, H.R., 3685, H.R. 4319, H.R. 4635, H.R. 4664, H.R. 4765, H.R. 5360 and Draft Legislation (it is unclear as to what draft legislation will be considered), 1300 hours, room 334 Cannon House Office Building. To view the live webcast go here.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

06 June 2010

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (7 June 2010)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

There are no Parliamentary Committee hearings going on this week related to the subject matter of this blog.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Full House of Representatives is expected to take up the ComSuper Bill 2010; the Superannuation Legislation; and Governance of Australian Government Superannuation Scheme Bill 2010.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Full House of Representatives is expected to take up Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2010 Budget Measures) Bill 2010.

High Court of Australia

The High Court next sits in Canberra on 15 June 2010.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

No cases involving the subject matter of this blog are being heard by the Full Court this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal currently has no scheduled sittings for 2010.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

03 June 2010

Does NSW Government take the position of Minister Assisting the Premier on Veterans' Affairs seriously?

Okay, I've held off for far too long in not discussing this issue (I am a Labor man and hail from a distinguished Labor family) but enough is enough on the issue of the New South Wales Government changing Ministers Assisting the Premier on Veterans' Affairs like you're changing a baby's nappy. In the time span of just about a year and a half - since the new portfolio of Veterans' Affairs was created on 23 January 2009 - the Government of the day (Labor) has changed Ministers three separate times.

First Minister:

Graham West MP - 10 months and 12 days in the position

Second Minister:

Peter Primrose MLC - 5 months and 14 days in the position

Third & Currently Serving Minister:


Frank Terenzini MP
- incumbent in office since 21 May 2010

According to the Department's website, which can be found here, the new position created in January 2009, "ensures that ex-service men and women have a single point of contact for bringing their needs and interests to the attention of the NSW Government."

Furthermore that "the State Government provides many services to veterans and their families across a range of areas including health, disability and transport among others. The creation of a portfolio will facilitate access and equity for veterans in the delivery of these services."

In NSW, this function encompasses three broad areas of responsibility: (1) Commemoration; (2) Heritage; and (3) Education.

Why has the NSW Government changed Ministers three separate times in less that one year and a half?

I argue that the lack of continuity in this fairly new position causes problems and concerns. Changing ministers quickly and regularly in a newly created portfolio sends a negative message. The three broad areas of responsibility outlined above (Commemoration, Heritage and Education) do not have any true level of consistency from the start because the Ministers have been changed rapidly and without notice to the veteran community. The public and more importantly veterans -- who have fought for our country -- have the perception that the constant change is a lack of respect for them and the issues they face.

By the time a new Minister starts to get a grasp for the new portfolio, the issues involved and meets veterans and ex-service organisations he is then moved to a different portfolio. I have met Messrs Graham and Primrose during the time they held the veterans' affairs portfolio. I must confess that I thought Mr Primrose (despite his lack of military experience) was an excellent fit for the position and was very disappointed that Premier Kristina Keneally moved him out of the position after only five months and 14 days.

I only briefly met Minister Terenzini last week and am impressed by his background. But how long will the Premier permit Mr Terenzini to stay in the position of Minister Assisting the Premier on Veterans' Affairs?

ADF Chief establishes Commission of Inquiry into unconscious Australian soldier

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, or ADF, announced today that he is appointing a Chief of the Defence Force Commission of Inquiry to look into the facts and circumstances which resulted in an Australian Army soldier being found unconscious in his room in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan last Friday.

“As the investigation is ongoing, no findings are yet available, however, a bottle of pills and, separately, white powder - thought to be an opiate - were found in the soldier’s room. Analysis and medical testing to confirm the nature of the substance that may have caused or contributed to his condition is ongoing,” said Houston.

The soldier involved (whose name has not been released) is an experienced commando currently deployed with the Special Operations Task Group ("SOTG"). The Comanding Officer of SOTG has now ordered prohibited substance testing of all members of the soldier’s sub-unit. The results of the tests will not be available until full analysis is completed. Testing of the remaining elements of the SOTG is currently underway.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said the Commission of Inquiry will also identify any deficiencies in the current Prohibited Substance Testing regime.

Today Minister of Defence, Senator John Faulkner (ALP - NSW) sent this letter to Houston on the matter.

02 June 2010

U.S. Air Force pilot from Vietnam War identified: Col. Elton L. Perrine

Today the U.S. Department of Defense issued this press release announcing that the remains of U.S. Air Force pilot, Colonel Elton L. Perrine of Pittsford, New York, have been identified.

Col. Perrine was burried last week at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

On 22 May 1967, Perrine and Capt. Kenneth F. Backus completed a nighttime strike against the Cao Nung Railroad Yard near the town of Kep in North Vietnam. Seconds after the bomb run, a nearby aircrew reported seeing an isolated explosion approximately three miles east of the target, thought to be Perrine’s F-4C Phantom aircraft crashing. Search and rescue attempts were not initiated due to heavy anti-aircraft fire in the area. No remains connected to Backus have been recovered.

Rest in peace Col. Perrine you are finally home. Lest we forget.

01 June 2010

Deadline for applicants on Defence HomeOwener Scheme is fast approaching

1 July 2010 marks the closing date to any new applicants of the Defence HomeOwner Scheme. Introduced in 1990, the Defence HomeOwner Scheme provides eligible Australian Defence Force members with a subsidised loan of up to $80,000 to help them purchase a home.

"I want to remind Australian Defence Force reservists and ex-service members to look into their entitlements under the Defence HomeOwner Scheme. It is important to note that the closure of access to the Defence HomeOwner Scheme will not impact on the ongoing payment of subsidies to existing recipients under the scheme," said Minister for Defence Personnel Alan Griffin (who is also the Minister for Veterans' Affairs) in a press release today.

“By the closing date the eligibility of most members will have expired under the rules of the scheme. Provision has also been made for the limited number of people who have no time limit on their eligibility for the Defence HomeOwner Scheme, to access a similar benefit under the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme from 1 July 2010,” Mr Griffin said.

Further information, including eligibility requirements, is available here or or by calling 1 300 434 627 or emailing dhoas@dva.gov.au.

Petty Officer in HMAS Success inquiry: Sailors exhibited "constant disregard for standards of Royal Australian Navy"

Today's continuation in Sydney of the Commission of Inquiry into the HMAS Success allegations of serious misbehaviour subjected Petty Officer Jason Patrick Smith - a 21 year Navy veteran - to a grueling day of questions. (I have previously discussed the accusations of sexual misbehaviour here, here, here, and here.)

Petty Officer Smith who wasn't in uniform but wore a suit and tie, at some point or another, spent a total of 14 years serving on board the HMAS Success and knew the ship's culture well. He testified before retired Federal Court Judge Roger Gyles, AO QC - the President of the Commission of Inquiry - that there was a "constant disregard for standard of the Royal Australian Navy," or RAN. Smith said there was a culture as far back as he could remember of bullying.

SNOW WHITE COSTUMES; STRIPPING IN HONG KONG; ILLICIT DRUG USE; SEX WITH JUNIOR SAILORS; AND THREATS OF VIOLENCE

The type of disregard for RAN standards included male sailors constantly making insulting comments to female sailors, fraternization of middle management sailors having sex with junior sailors and photographs being taken, illicit drug and steroid abuse, male sailors dressing up in female costumes -- such as Snow White and school girls -- whilst out on shore leave at a bar in Hong Kong. Some male sailors stripping off their clothes to just their underwear in public. Smith approached one junior sailor at a Hong Kong bar in May 2009 to tell him to put his clothes back on and was told "F--k off, don't talk to me anymore about this s--t or I will kill you."

In March the inquiry had heard HMAS Success sailors had sex in a Chinese bar and smashed another bar in Manila on a goodwill tour last year in Asia. At one point the Success' then-Captain, Commander Simon Brown, told his superiors at Fleet Headquarters in Sydney that the "ship has a rotten core and it has to be removed."

Smith tried to resolve the misbehavior he observed by contacting the President of the Petty Officer's Mess and Chief Petty Officer Thomas and requesting that action be taken but to no avail. The President of the PO Mess and CPO Thomas have been alleged to not have addressed the incidents and the misbehaviour continued. Smith testified that he "grew tired of coping it" from senior leadership for the actions of a few sailors. He later took his complaints to an "equity and diversity team" which boarded the ship in Hong Kong in May 2009. Smith feared CPO Thomas would have told another sailor "it would be a shame if this bastard had an accident." The 21 year veteran petty officer feared for his safety and was growing more stressed as each day passed.

SENATE COMMITTEE HAD EARLY CONCERNS

Last December the Defence Department issued an instruction, known as a "DefGram," which can be found here. This DefGram concerned instructions regarding submissions of ADF members to Parliament which had started to investigate the allegations of inappropriate behaviour by sailors of the HMAS Success. The Clerk of the Senate wrote about the DefGram:
"At best, the directive is a misrepresentation of the Goverment Guidelines for official witnesses before Parliamentary Committees and related matters (November 1989). At worst, it represents a potential improper interference with the free exercise by a committee of its authority and, therefore, a possible contempt under resolution 6(1) of the Senate's Privilege Resolutions, dated 25 February 1988."
A copy of letter from the Clerk of the Senate can be found here.

On 18 December 2009, Senator Russell Trood, Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee sent this letter to Minister of Defence Senator John Faulkner addressing serious concerns.

The Senate Committee then issued a Report on Parliamentary Privilege which can be found here.

SENATE INTERIM REPORT: SUBMISSIONS WITHHELD


On 18 March 2010, the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee issued this interim report. There were six public submissions made to the committee, including one from the Returned & Services League of Australia (Disclaimer: I am a member of the RSL and I spoke with the National Secretary of the RSL, Derek Robson AM, last evening who had understood that the RSL's submission was going to be made public.) However, the Committee is not making those submissions available to the media and general public and are keeping them "confidential."

I have attempted to obtain copies of the submissions and received an email this morning along with a telephone call from a senior policy advisor and the Secretary of the Senate Committee stating that the submissions will not be released at this stage. Further, that the submitters - - including the RSL - - cannot release the submissions to media or the public citing a standing committee order preventing them from doing such.

COMMISSION OF INQUIRY CONTINUES

Following the testimony of Smith, the Commission of Inquiry is intending on a public directions hearing scheduled on 9 June 2010 and public witness hearings recommencing on 21 June 2010.

The President of the Inquiry, Mr Roger Gyles AO QC, is expected to issue his report to the Senate Committee by 30 June 2010.

(I was on active duty in the U.S. Navy during the early 1990s Tailhook scandal -- which I remember well as we had global stand down training on harassment ordered by the Chief of Naval Operations . . . these Aussie RAN allegations make the U.S. Navy's Tailhook scandal look reticent.)

ADF Commission of Inquiry into death of Private Stephen Wilson

Today the Australian Defence Force announced public hearings to commence on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 1000 hours for the Commission Inquiry into the death of Australian Army Private Stephen Wilson. To view the ADF media alert go here.

Aussie review of Force Protection completed

In July 2009, Minister for Defence Senator John Faulkner (ALP - NSW) asked the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, to carry out a review of the force protection measures available for Australian Defence Force, or ADF, deployed troops.

Conducted by the Chief of Joint Operations (CJOPS), Lieutenant General Mark Evans, the review which was released today, included direct discussions with ADF troops in theatre about their force protection needs. And an assessment of the effectiveness of previous and on-going force protection initiatives.

CJOPS’s report was reviewed by the Chief of the Defence Force who tasked the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General David Hurley, to design a decision-making framework for Government consideration.

The outcome of this work put forward 48 recommendations for enhancements to our force protection measures, particularly reflecting the escalating improvised explosive device (IED) and rocket attacks in Oruzgan Province. It ensured a coherent, comprehensive and complete approach to force protection.

The force protection improvements recommended from the review cover a variety of active and passive measures, which range from personal protective equipment for our soldiers, to unmanned surveillance systems.

Some measures have already been implemented, including improving counter measures against IEDs and improving IED detection equipment. Other recommendations are underway, including enhanced medical support, the upgrading and hardening of living and working accommodation in Tarin Kowt, as well as other capability enhancements.

A key initiative in the package is the acquisition of a C-RAM system for use in Afghanistan, which provides advance warning of rocket attacks. This is a timely and important protective measure which will increase the security for troops in Tarin Kowt and elsewhere.

The approved force protection Budget measures, costing a total of $1.1 billion, are to minimise the vulnerability of personnel, facilities and equipment so that our deployed forces enjoy more freedom of action in support of Afghan National Security Forces.

In addition to the $1.1 billion in the specific Force Protection Budget measure, Defence has also received $485 million for force protection through Operation Slipper supplementation. Further ongoing operating costs for force protection initiatives of $48 million will be sought in the context of future budgets.

To review the report and a press release go here.