09 October 2011

Female Australian soldier is alleged to have been sexually assaulted on operations

A female Australian soldier serving in the Middle East area of operations was allegedly sexually assaulted at a military base in Tarin Kot, Uruzgan Province, last month while on deployment in Afghanistan.

The soldier reported the alleged assault to superiors on Wednesday (5 October, 2011) and the matter is now the subject of an investigation according to a press release by the Australian Defence Force ("ADF") last night.

Further details regarding the alleged assault will not be released by the ADF whilst the investigation is underway.

Meet the Press transcript available from MINDEF's interview

MINDEF Stephen Smith's interview this morning with Meet the Press' Hugh Riminton is available here.

New Aussie environment simulation centre to enhance soldier protection

A new facility to test combat clothing will help to provide enhanced protection for Australian soldiers, the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon announced last Friday.

Mr Snowdon opened a new $4 million environment test facility at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in Melbourne.

“Our servicemen and women deserve the best possible protection and this facility will enable scientists to develop protective clothing suitable for a range of hazardous and toxic environments,” Mr Snowdon said.

“This state-of-the-art facility can simulate any natural environmental condition that ADF personnel are likely to encounter between -20° to +50° Celsius.”

DSTO researchers will use the multi-purpose environment simulation facility to assess the performance and function of ADF clothing including existing uniforms, developmental materials, and new design options.

They will also be able to assess the limits of human physiological performance in climatic extremes.

A key feature of the facility is a full-size, articulated mannequin that mimics human movement, enabling scientists to make objective, full system assessments rather than relying on the claims of manufacturers.

“This is a major improvement on the existing system of testing which used small swatch samples cut from uniforms or rolls of cloth,” Mr Snowdon said. “The fully kitted-out, moving mannequin will substitute as a virtual soldier and allow the entire ensemble to be evaluated in a holistic way.”

“This new facility significantly enhances DSTO’s support to the ADF’s integrated force protection capability and will help to refine the design of combat clothing, so it offers more comfort, protection and integrates better with other combat equipment,” he said.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (10 October 2011)

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:

Both Houses of Parliament are sitting this week.

The following Committee hearings are occurring which concern the subject matter of this blog:

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, hearing on Effectiveness of the Australian Government's response to Australian citizens who are kidnapped and held for ransom overseas, 1750 - 1950 hours, Committee Room 2S1 Parliament House. Terms of referen can be found here and submission here. ASIO's unclassfiled submission can be found here.

House and Senate Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, hearing on Inquiry into Australia's Human Rights Dialogues with China and Vietnam, 1300 - 1400 hours, Committee Room 1R4. Terms of reference can be found here and submissions here.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

House and Senate Joint Committee on National Capital and External Territories, hearing on Inquiry into administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928, 0800 - 0900 hours, Committee Room 2S3 Parliament House. Terms of reference can be found here. The Returned & Services League of Australia's submission can be found here and other submissions can be found here. [Disclaimer: I am a member and office holder within the RSL.] (The hearing will continue on Friday, 14 October 2011.)

Friday, 14 October 2011

House and Senate Joint Committee on National Capital and External Territories, hearing on Inquiry into administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928, 0800 - 0900 hours, Committee Room 2S3 Parliament House. Terms of reference can be found here. The Returned & Services League of Australia's submission can be found here and other submissions can be found here. [Disclaimer: I am a member and office holder within the RSL.]

High Court of Australia

No happenings this week in the High Court with respect to the subject matter of this blog.

Federal Court of Australia

Daily Listings can be found here. No cases are being heard by the Full Federal Court this week which involve the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 27 and 28 October 2011.

Veterans' Review Board


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

06 October 2011

U.S. Senate and House introduce legislation to give Supreme Court access to troops


[UPDATED]

For those of us born in the late 1960s or early 1970s you might recall the television commercial of the wise Mr Owl with the boy asking asking him "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" I pose this question: How many Congresses will it take before lawmakers grant servicemembers equal access to the United States Supreme Court?

Today legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to fix a longstanding inequity in American law, 28 U.S. Code section 1259, that would permit court-martialied servicemembers to petition the U.S. Supreme Court if the nations highest military court denies review of their case or denied relief in extraordinary writ cases.

The two bills were introduced this afternoon in both houses by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.).

Under existing law, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ("CAAF") acts as the gatekeeper in all military appeals to the Supreme Court. Unless CAAF grants review of a petition for review or grants relief in an extraordinary writ case the Supreme Court is barred from reviewing the case of a court-martialed servicemember.

Mr Owl: How many Congresses will it take to grant members of the U.S. Armed Forces access to the U.S. Supreme Court?

The Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2011, HR 3133 and S1664 is the fourth attempt since 2005 by lawmakers to correct the inequity in 28 USC 1259 by introducing legislation. Rep. Davis' introductory remarks on the House floor can be found here and Senator Feinstein's introductory remarks in the Senate can be found here.

In April 2004, during the 108th Congress, Rep Davis and then-Congressman John McHugh (R-NY) (now Secretary of the U.S. Army) sent this bipartisan letter to Department of Defense General Counsel William Haynes II inquiring about an inequity in 28 USC 1259 which I raised. Mr Haynes responded to the lawmakers by opposing any change arguing that there would be an increased burden on the Supreme Court should the law be changed.

In 2005, a similar bill, like the ones introduced today, was introduced in the 109th Congress, HR 1364, but was held up in Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith's subcommittee in the House Judiciary Committee in 2005-06. Rep. Smith refused to permit any hearings on the matter when he chaired a subcommittee having jurisdiction of the issue.

September 2008 saw the 110th Congress, the full House of Representative pass similar legislation in, HR 3174, despite these objections raised by Rep. Smith on the House floor during debate. In the waning days of the 110th Congress the Senate did not have sufficient time to act.. During that same Congress the Senate Judiciary Committee had favorably reported, S2052, which was a similar measure introduced in the Senate by Senator Feinstein and then-Senators Hilary Clinton, Russ Feingold and Arlen Specter.

The last Congress, the 111th, the House Judiciary Committee - then under Democrat control favorably reported, HR 569, an identically worded bill to the full House. This was done, again with objections from Rep. Smith.


Strong GOP opposition to American GI's accessing nation's highest court

Much of the opposition from the GOP stemmed from the George W. Bush administration when William J. Haynes II (pictured to the left) was the General Counsel for the Department of Defense. Unfortunately today's GOP lawmakers continue to regurgitate Haynes' positions without looking at the facts, statistics and military law expert testimony.

I was very disappointed last year when a former Army judge advocate general now turned GOP Congressman, Tom Rooney from Florida, completely failed to see the issue, ignored facts, statistics and instead chose to verbally bash me at a Congressional subcommittee hearing in where he accused me of renouncing my American citizenship - which I have never done. Rooney should have checked the facts before he started touting off. The GOP spin amazes me.

This issue of equal access should be bi-partisan. Servicemembers who serve our great nation deserve procedural due process - just like every civilian, illegal alien and even terrorists who are tried by military commissions. To deny Supreme Court access to those who serve to protect and defend us is illogical when applying democtratic principles. All of our allies permit their servicemembers equal access to their highest courts in military justice cases. My other home country of Australia has permitted its court-martial servicemembers access to the High Court - which is the equivelant of the Supreme Court.

It is doubtful with the Republican controlled House that HR 3133 or S.1664 will be passed in this 112th Congress. Republicans in general have strongly opposed equal access to the Supreme Court for our troops. The GOP is of the opinion that troops have a sufficient appeals process and that nothing should be changed.

Fleeing the Republican Party

When I was in my youth I was a Republican and was registered as such in San Diego County, California. During the George W. Bush years I left the party and re-registered as a Democrat. In 2007 I moved to Sydney, Australia where I have continued to vote in elections in the United States via absentee ballot.

Former GOP Senator Arlen Specter of Pensylvania left the Republican Party and he was an original cosponsor of S2052 in the 110th Congress when he chaired the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. Former NY Congressman John McHugh, also seems to have exited the GOP when he quit Congress and accepted the position of Secretary of U.S. Army in the Obama administration. McHugh unofficially supported the change in the law. Moderate Republicans very much seemed to support the change. But in recent times the far convervative right has hijacked the Grand Old Party and ran most of the moderates out.

What I cannot understand is the caustic environment by the new GOP on this issue of equal access to the Supreme Court - former presidents Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln must be spinning in their graves at the likes of Rep Lamar Smith of Texas and Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida. I have called on Reps. Rooney and Smith to have a re-think about the issue but that is doubtful given their chosen ignorance of facts, statistics, ignoring expert testimony as well as the latest Cox Commission Report and to automatically oppose anything the other side - Democrats - introduce.

To read Rep. Davis' press release go here.

02 October 2011

Aussie DVA pensions increased

The Australian Government announced that Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs pensions have increased effective 20 September 2011. To view the rate increase go here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (3 October 2011)

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:

Both Houses of Parliament next sit on 11 October 2011. There are still Committee hearings occurring:

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, hearing on Procurement procedures for Defence capital projects, 0830 - 1700 hours, Committee Room 2S3 Parliament House. (Hearing will continue on Friday, 7 October 2011.) Terms of reference can be found here and submissions here.

House and Senate Joint Select Committee on Australia's Immigration Detention Network, hearing on Australia's Immigration Detention Network, 0830 - 1750 hours, Wesley Conference Centre, 220 Pitt Street in the Lyceum Room, Sydney, New South Wales. Terms of reference can be found here and submissions here.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, hearing on Effectiveness of the Australian Government's response to Australian citizens who are kidnapped and held for ransom overseas, 0900 - 1700 hours, Committee Room 2S3 Parliament House. Terms of referen can be found here and submission here. ASIO's unclassfiled submission can be found here.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, hearing on Procurement procedures for Defence capital projects, 0830 - 1700 hours, Committee Room 2S3 Parliament House. Terms of reference can be found here and submissions here.


High Court of Australia

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

There are three appeals being heard but none invole the subject matter of this blog. To view the listing go here.

Friday, 7 October 2011

There are 11 Special Leave applications being heard in Sydney but none involve the subject matter of this blog. To view the listing of special leave applications go here.


Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

No cases are being heard this week which involve the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 27 and 28 October 2011.

Veterans' Review Board


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

This week in Congress (3 October 2011)

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:

** Bills related to 28 U.S.C. 1259 are expected to be introduced in both the House and Senate this week in an attempt to correct the longstanding inequity in the law related to Supreme Court access for court-martialed servicemembers. Earlier this year the Congressional Research Service, R. Chuck Mason, Legislative Attorney, issued these two reports: Military Justice: Courts-Martial, An Overview and Supreme Court Appellate Jurisdiction Over Military Court Cases.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, hearing on Reviewing the Progress of the Partnership Between the United States Paralympics and the Department of Veterans Affairs to Promote Adaptive Sports, 1000 hours, Room 334 Cannon House Office Building.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health, hearing on The Federal Recovery Coordination Program: Assessing Progress Toward Improvement, 0830 hours, Room 340 Cannon House Office Building.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, hearing on Arlington National Cemetery: An Update on Reform and Progress, 1030 hours, Room 334 Cannon House Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.