21 August 2012

Review released into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force

Today the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force was tabled in the Australian House of Representatives.

Led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, and included panel members Marian Baird, Sam Mostyn, Mark Ney and Damian Powell, the review was the second phase of a review into the treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy, or ADFA.

21 recommendations covering five key principles are included in the Review that that aim to:
  1. Actively promote a broad organisational understanding of diversity as both a core Defence value and an operational imperative linked to capability and operational effectiveness;
  2. Address the significant under-representation of women at decision making level;
  3. Increase the number of women recruited to the ADF as a whole, but also to specific occupational areas and units;
  4. Improve the level to which the ADF assists serving women and men to balance their work and family commitments; and
  5. Establish a new and more robust approach to responding to unacceptable sexual behaviours and attitudes.
Phase One of the Review – into the Treatment of Women at ADFA – was tabled in Parliament on 3 November 2011.

The panel noted widespread, low-level sexual harassment, inadequate levels of supervision, a cumbersome complaints process and an equity and diversity environment marked by sanction rather than positive engagement.

Also identified in the Review was that ADFA’s culture could be improved and the panel recommended improvements to issues including providing quality staffing at ADFA, management of complaints, accommodation for students and mechanisms to better manage the risk of injury to female cadets. 

President Obama and GOP Presidential Candidate Romney: Should military servicemembers have equal access to the United States Supreme Court?

Former Master Sergeant John Hatley
The recent media attention of former U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Hatley who is seeking review of his court-martial conviction in the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, warrants the mainstream media to ask President Obama and Republican Presidential Candidate Romney the following question:

Should military servicemembers have equal access to the Supreme Court of the United States that civilians, illegal immigrants and even enemy combatants enjoy?

If not, why not?

Under existing federal law, Title 28 United States Code section 1259, Hatley has absolutely no right to access the high court because the nation's top military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, or CAAF, (also known as an Article I court) did not grant review of his case or relief in his petition.  In those circumstances where the CAAF does not grant review or relief to a servicemember SCOTUS simply does not exist.  CAAF functions as the gatekeeper to SCOTUS unlike other appellate courts in the nation. 

Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation in the House and Senate, Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2011.  In previous Congresses Republicans led by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), have opposed the idea of servicemembers being afforded equal access to SCOTUS.  The GOP argument is that SCOTUS would be too burdened by petitions.

The Congressional Research Service has also written a paper on the issue which can be found here.  Following this CRS paper, in March 2011, bills to correct the inequity were introduced in both houses of the 112 Congress.  But Republicans, as with previous Congresses (109th, 110th, 111th Congresses), have blocked any attempts to getting it passed.

I am most keen to know what the position of the Democrat and Republican nominees for President of the United States are on this issue. 

19 August 2012

Post 9/11 GI-Bill turns four years old

August marks the third anniversary of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and since it was implemented Aug. 1, 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has provided educational benefits to 773,000 Veterans and their family members.

“This is one of the most important programs helping our Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans reach their educational goals,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We’re proud this important benefit is making such a big difference in the lives of so many Veterans.”

The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays tuition and fees on behalf of Veterans or eligible dependents directly to the school in which they are enrolled. Eligible participants also receive a monthly housing allowance and up to $1000 annually for books and supplies. The program also allows eligible Servicemembers to transfer their benefits to their spouses and/or children.

The program provides a wide range of educational options, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational/technical training, on-the-job training, flight training, correspondence training, licensing and national testing programs, entrepreneurship training, and tutorial assistance. All training programs must be approved for GI Bill benefits.

July U.S. Army suicide statistics released

Last week the U.S. Army released suicide data for the month of July. During July, among active-duty soldiers, there were 26 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide and 25 remain under investigation. For June, the Army reported 11 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers; since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 12 cases: two have been confirmed as suicides and 10 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 116 potential active-duty suicides: 66 have been confirmed as suicides and 50 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

This week in Congress (20 August 2012)

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 and in Commissions:

Congress is is in its summer recess and will resume on 10 September 2012. 

__________________

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts & Tribunals (20 August 2012)

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:

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 [Provisons]
Committee Room 2S3, Parliament House, 1630 - 1800 hours


High Court of Australia

The High Court next sits on 4 September 2012. 

Federal Court of Australia

Queensland Registry

QUD364/2012Peter Besson v Repatriation Commission,
Judicial ReviewDirections0930 hours

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 30 and 31 August 2012.


Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Monday, 20 August 2012

 Australian Capital Territory Registry

2011/5244 RE Van Ash and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission

2012/1586 RE Rudd and Repatriation Commission

New South Wales Registry

2011/3252 RE Reed and Repatriation Commission
2011/3833 RE Roche and Repatriation Commission

Queensland Registry

2012/0496 RE Bretherton and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2012/0498 RE Bretherton and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission 
2012/1043 RE Scott and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2011/4198 RE Robertson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2012/1981 RE Robertson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2012/2061 RE Hansen and Repatriation Commission
2012/2203 RE Robertson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2012/2204 RE Robertson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2011/2215 RE Capper and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission

09 August 2012

American military funerals to receive protection from protesters

Earlier this week President Obama signed a veterans benefits bill, Honoring American Veterans Act of 2011, HR 1627, which included a provision to protect military funerals from protesters. 

The driving force behind the provision of military funerals was New Hampshire Republican Congressman Charles Bass.  In a press release on his website today, Congressman Bass states the "measure will preserve the dignity of these somber events while still protecting the First Amendment rights that our nation's heroes have fought and died for. I am very encouraged that Congress can come together to enact a bipartisan measure for the men and women who have served our country and especially for their families, and I thank the President for signing it into law this week."

Rep. Bass' measure will strengthen federal regulations currently in place by:
  • Increasing the quiet time before and after military funeral services during which disruptive protests are prohibited from 60 minutes to 120 minutes;
  • Increasing the buffer around a military funeral service from 300 feet to 500 feet and increasing the buffer around access routes to a funeral service area from 150 feet to 300 feet;
  • And by increasing civil penalties on violators.
The Westboro Baptist Church ("WBC") held a protest in 2007 at the funeral of Army Captain Jonathan Grassbaugh from Hampstead, NH who was killed by an Improvised Explosion Devise, or IED, while serving in the U.S. Army on patrol in Iraq. Although Grassbaugh was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, his funeral services were held in Hampstead and were protested by members of the WBC.

07 August 2012

First Gulf War veterans receive support from U.S. Dept of Veterans' Affairs

It has been 22 years since the start of the 1990-1991 Gulf War which comprises the deployment and combat operations known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Almost 700,000 Servicemembers were deployed during this period. Those veterans who have enrolled in the VA health care system have made over 2 million outpatient visits for health care and had over 20,000 inpatient admissions in the VA health care system according to a VA press release.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs has not forgotten the service and dedication of Gulf War veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We continue to provide high-quality health care and benefits to them while we invest in research that helps us understand and treat Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses.”

In support of care and services to the veterans of the first Gulf War, VA has led efforts to better understand and characterize Gulf War veterans’ illnesses and to improve treatment. Research initiatives have included:
  • Funding an independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) review of scientific and medical research related to treatment of chronic multi-symptom illness among Gulf War Veterans. The report is expected in 2013.
  • Funding and encouraging a wide spectrum of research focused on identifying new treatments to help Gulf War Veterans, including studies on pain, muscle and bone disorders, autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative disease, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, and other chronic diseases. Research is ongoing in other conditions, as well, that may affect Gulf War Veterans, such as brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS), and multiple sclerosis.
  • Launching in May 2012, the third follow-up study of a national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans (earlier studies were conducted in 1995 and 2005; the health surveys are done to understand possible health effects of service and guide health care delivery).
  • Continuing the clinical, research, and education activities of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center program which focuses on post-deployment health.
For more information on Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses, see: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/

06 August 2012

This week in Congress (6 August 2012)

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 and in Commissions:

Congress is is in its summer recess and will resume on 10 September 2012. 

__________________

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

05 August 2012

This week in Parliament, Courts & Tribunals (6 August 2012)

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 in recess for the winter break. The House and Senate next sit on 14 August 2012.  However, there are Committee hearings occurring during the recess:

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

House and Senate Joint Public Works Committee
Proposed development and construction of housing for Defence members and their families at Kellyville, Sydney, NSW
Springfield House Function Centre, Dural, 1030 - 1130 hours

Thursday, 9 August 2012

House and Senate Joint Public Works Committee
Moorebank units relocation, Holsworthy, NSW
Comfort Inn, Casula, NSW, 1430 - 1630 hours

Friday, 10 August 2012

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 [Provisions]
CANBERRA: Committee Room 2R1, Parliament House, Time TBA

House and Senate Joint Public Works Committee
Base Infrastructure Works Project under the Base Security Improvement Program
Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney, 1300 - 1500 hours
The Department of Defence's submission can be found here.

High Court of Australia

The High Court sits this week but none of the cases involve the subject matter of this blog. 

Federal Court of Australia

There are no cases being heard this week in the Federal Court involving the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT sits on 30 and 31 August 2012.

Veterans' Review Board

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

03 August 2012

Submission on New South Wales' Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012

Today I made an amended submission on the New South Wales' Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012.   Below is that amended submission:

Louise Blazejowska
Senior Legal Officer
Boarding House Reform Team
Ageing, Disability and Homecare
NSW Department of Family and Community Services
Level 4
83 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Re:       Amended Submission of Partial Opposition to Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012; Suggested Remedial Language

Dear Ms Blazejowska:

My original submission was made on 1 August 2012.  I respectfully request that this amended submission be accepted following discussions on Thursday, 2 August 2012, with a senior staffer in Minister Andrew Constance’s office.  This amended submission better clarifies issues between tier 1 and 2 boarding houses.  Furthermore it fully addresses the three elements in the definition of “vulnerable person” which I believe, as presently written in the draft legislation, is overly broad and will cast a wide and far reaching net in that anyone on a disability pension will be defined as a “vulnerable person” to include me.  

First, I am physically disabled in that I sustained a spinal cord injury in the mid-1990s which left me, inter alia, with partial paralysis in my lower extremities.

Second, I am a fifth generation Australian citizen and a United States Navy veteran who served during the First Gulf War.  Following my last spinal surgery in 2009, and subsequently being classified as “permanently medically unfit” (Class 4) by the Australian Defence Force[1] when I was a candidate for the Royal Australian Air Force, I began receiving a disability pension pursuant to an international agreement between the U.S. and Australia.

Third, I would like to emphasize, that because I sit on various veterans’, service and ex-service organisation boards and committees within Australia, I make this submission strictly in my personal capacity as a registered voter in the State of New South Wales (“NSW”) and nothing I state herein should be imputed to anyone but me.

In NSW there is an estimated 455 boarding houses, accommodating over 5,000 residents. Of these, 31 are Licenced Residential Centres (“LRC”) also known as tier 2 boarding houses, with a capacity to accommodate 687 people.[2] The remainder 424 boarding houses are tier 1.[3]

02 August 2012

Magazine editor and former Member of Parliament named to ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board

Today the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of ANZAC, Warren Snowdon, MP, announced the appointment of Ms Deborah Thomas and the Honourable Arch Bevis to the Australian ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board.

Ms Thomas is currently the Director of Media, Public Affairs and Brand Development at ACP Magazines. "Ms Thomas is one of Australia's best known and successful magazine editors and her skills will be of great value to the Board," Mr Snowdon said.

Mr Bevis is a former federal Member of Parliament. Over his 20-year parliamentary career, he held various responsibilities engaged in Defence and related roles including serving as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, chair of the Parliamentary Joint Defence Committee and also chair of the Joint Security and Intelligence Committee.

 "Given Mr Bevis' background, I know he will have much to contribute to the Board and the many issues it has under consideration," said Mr Snowdon.

The two new appointments come on the heals of two resignations of Ms Liz Ellis AM and the Hon Con Sciacca AO from the Board.

"Ms Ellis has been on maternity leave and has indicated that her current commitments preclude her from fully participating in the Board," Mr Snowdon said.

01 August 2012

ADF search warrants clarification

The Australian Department of Defence has examined an allegation published in articles by Mr Ian McPhedran of News Ltd dated 28 July 2012 titled, Defence Force investigators use illegal warrant, and 31 July 2012 titled, Black eye triggered an illegal inquiry.

Both articles claim that a search warrant used by Defence investigators was unlawful because the warrant and the affidavit supporting it were signed by two different senior officers.  Defence claims this assertion is wrong at law – the affidavit and the warrant do not have to be signed by the same person and in most instances can and will be signed by different people. The purpose of the affidavit supporting a ‘proposed search warrant’ is to provide the person approving the search warrant the basis upon which the search warrant is sought.

In a prepared statement, Defence states that "as the search warrants for which the author refers are part of Briefs of Evidence which are the subject of ongoing investigations and trials, it is inappropriate to comment any further."