Random Analytica

Random thoughts, charts, infographics & analysis. Not in that order

41. Mefloquine Dispatches: FOI – The Last Signalman (9th Sep 2022)

9th September 2022

By email: foi@defence.gov.au

Dear FOI Coordinator,

Before I make the declarations, I’d like for you to consider the following.

I won’t be able to point to a single document or set of events that would assist in this search. I’ll try but I’m likely to fail the direct request you are seeking. That said. I put forward this FOI request because it is important.

So, a quick story before the declarations.

It is the 6th June 2019. I have recently been released from the Cooinda Mental Health Service, my first MH hospitalisation (unfortunately, not my last). I am trying to work out the MyService website. It is almost as awful as the Centrelink services I have become accustomed to as my health deteriorates.

I fckn hate medals. Hate the glorification of the military. Hate ANZAC Day. Anyways, I finally got a gong and Wayne Swan pins it on me, so I think it is all good. Except, it isn’t good. I wear it once and I’m so shitty wearing it I give it away to my second son (who thinks it has some value). Back to 2019…

I’m doing the whole MyService thing on the MyGov site and they ask me do you want to sign up for the Covenant and I’m like, OK… Should be cool right?

I’m going through the process to get a nice letter from the DVA Minister, the Secretary (oh, Liz) and a pin I could wear instead of the gongs. Even though I hate it all I can find a way through. Until…

Some fuckwit at DVA doesn’t understand rank. There is no drop-down for Signalman. Signaller sure. Bombardiers aplenty… Language matters.

I go berko of course. Even put in an official complaint (completely ignored).

Back to official declarations.

This is a request for the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 for access to the following documents:

Any Australian Army documents that detail the last document that included Signalman

Should you have any questions in relation to this request, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

For your review and consideration

Shane Granger

9th September 2022

If you need help…

Thank you for your interest. More Mefloquine Dispatches can be found here.

UPDATES

13th Sep 2022: Permission for administrative release of documents

12th Sep 2022: Defence FOI Acknowledgement

Random Analytica: Ukraine. Russian Troop Losses (to 8th September 2022)

The Russians didn’t just have a bad day. They are having a series of bad days. Today was just the worst.

According to the Ukrainians the Russians lost 640-troops today. If correct it would be the worst day of losses for the Russians since early April and the most significant since the Battle for Kyiv.

It should also be noted that the 7-day average of losses has shot up past 400-per day for the first time and today sits at 414.3.

Slave Ukraini.

40. Mefloquine Dispatches: Accessing Superannuation, 17th April – 3rd May 2019

I’m very sick. Before being admitted to hospital I use the last of my dollars in the bank to pay a month of rent in advance. I ring my NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme) provider who immediately cancels my payments. When I leave hospital, I must reapply for Newstart. At approximately $700 per fortnight, it only just covers rent and food.

I am in a bad way mentally, physically, and financially.

I understand I can access up to $10,000 via my super due to financial hardship. I’ve assisted a few people in this regard in the past. I put in the application with the following cover letter:

I get the answer back via a phone call and follow-up email two weeks later. The answer is No.

I’ve been sober for more than 550-days to this point but this tips me over. I’m also reacting badly to the anti-psychotics I’ve been prescribed. I’ve just been released from hospital and now staring down the barrel of homelessness (again). I don’t care anymore. I buy a flagon and get to work.

Ironically, I’ve been doing a financial planning internship for two years. I’m doing the reading on compassionate grounds, but the bar is set very high. Too high for me in fact. The suggestion of going to the Department of Human Services and asking for mercy is laughable. I re-read the email from MLC as the wine kicks in and I have a thought. Don’t I get some money from the DVA?

I send the DVA a request for more information. They respond the very next day.

It is $6.20 per fortnight but meets the criteria for a pension payment. I’ve been on it for eight months. I forward the pension verification to MLC.

My application for accessing my superannuation is approved the next day.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

If you need help…

Thank you for your interest. More Mefloquine Dispatches can be found here.

39. Mefloquine Dispatches: Anti-Malarial Medications Health Assessment Program, 15th March 2019

I wasn’t involved in the 2018 Senate Enquiry into the “Use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force”. Why would I? I never deployed.

Turned out I copped the Mefloquine Loading Dose in 1997. Plus, the cocktail they serve up afterwards. It was never noted in my medical or personal records. I didn’t remember it until I had flashbacks to another incident. It all got lost to history until the flashbacks hospitalised me.

I got very ill in late 2018 and continued to worsen until I was hospitalised in March 2019. I left the mental health unit in early April with a will to get better. I tried to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs for months after that and my advocates and I were initially optimistic about the DVA’s response to the Senate Enquiry. As my advocate and I filled out the claims for mefloquine which I had done almost two-decades previously we were heartened by Darren Chester’s announcement of the Anti-Malarial Initiative.

You can read the Ministers statement here. He announced this on the 15th March 2019.

When my advocate and I rang up a few months later in mid-2019 we were told that the entire Mefloquine programme was being shut down!

Here is the official response for the anti-malarial health check dated 2nd October 2019.

We fought very hard to get mefloquine back on the agenda. The various Ministers and the DVA have fought against us at every step.

The Anti-Malarial Medications Health Assessment Program finally got up in late 2021 run by BUPA. Outsourced to an insurance company.

Why is that important today?

Because the DVA is promoting a program that outsources complex health situations for veterans in extremely hazardous situations to an insurance group. This has led to deaths amongst veterans.

It needs to stop.

If you need help…

Thank you for your interest. More Mefloquine Dispatches can be found here.

38. Mefloquine Dispatches: Protected Information & Confidentiality @DVSRC, 27th June 2022

It isn’t my bag, Commissioner… Yet here we are.

I didn’t participate in the early hearing blocks of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. I understood that listening to the stories of other witnesses would be traumatic. I understand I can get triggered. I was being very careful.

Over the past fortnight, I have been following the proceedings with much interest. It’s my old outfit. 3 Brigade (I didn’t connect with the 3rd Combat Brigade rename). After 25-years absence I thought that with time and distance it would be enough to insulate me from further triggers.

I was very wrong.

This would be a wonderful segue into my specific topic of interest. Mefloquine. Just a note. Tafenoquine is a relevant subject too and I thought it would have been discussed in Townsville.

Wrong, on both accounts.

Yet, something else came up watching the Royal Commission. If you were watching it as a veteran or currently serving member it should send chills down your spine. According to the witness testimony this week they apparently interviewed more than a 100 people in Townsville during the fortnight of hearings. Via Transcript Day 5 − Townsville, 24 June 2022. Excerpt:

CHAIR:  Good morning, Mr Gray, Mr Free.  We want to place a number of matters on the record today before we hear from you hopefully.  By way of background, and happy to place this on the record. Counsel and Solicitors Assisting us have requested this brief procedural hearing this morning.

The background is as follows: before our hearing program began, we were concerned to do everything we could to encourage serving and former members of the Defence Force to come forward with any information they considered relevant to our Terms of Reference, and to ensure that there would be appropriate arrangements in place for sensitive information so that they would face no risk of legal liability for sharing information with us.  This is a very important issue for the Royal Commission, as you can appreciate, and we want to ensure every protection is given to those who come forward with information.  In October last year we asked Solicitors Assisting to send the Commonwealth a proposed written arrangement to achieve this.  We were not proposing to elicit any protected information or even sensitive operational information; we simply wanted an unambiguous green light given to serving and former serving members to provide appropriate and textual information for us relating to their accounts about the circumstances of service that led to their experiences of suicidality or witnessing suicidality or witnessing risk factors in service without fear that by doing so, they could in any way get into trouble for revealing Defence‑related information.

As the Townsville leg came to an end Commissioner Kaldas, to his credit tried to reassure Veterans that any evidence you give to the Royal Commission won’t be prosecuted. He brought up the powers of the Royal Commission legislation to protect witnesses and the fact that General Angus Campbell made a public commitment to not prosecute anyone for giving evidence.

The Commonwealth have yet to offer such comfort to Veterans. In fact, their reticence comes in the same week as it was confirmed the Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus would allow the Commonwealth to pursue ATO whistle-blower Richard Boyle.

220624_Letter_MDreyfus_RBoyle

Just to be clear.

If you have no protected legal rights, you effectively have no rights. Other Veterans have tried to disclose sensitive information including war-crimes and have been subjected to severe legal ramifications. This includes David McBride. I can’t believe I’m backing an Officer, but we live in strange times.

As much as I appreciated the strong words by Commissioner Kaldas, the decision to pursue witnesses legally won’t be a decision for the Royal Commission or of the Australian Defence Force. It will be a Commonwealth matter.

As for the ADF, officers and the assurances of the General Campbell. I don’t believe him. So far, the fallout from the Brereton report into extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan elicited the following actions from the ADF in regards to Operation Slipper.

  • They forgave the officers and gave then legal immunity.
  • They dismissed or charged the Diggers. Some of these guys have since taken their own life.
  • They discussed disbanding units. Still pending.
  • They were about to remove the combat medals of Veterans. Still pending.

Good article here and a reminder that General Campbell actually commanded JTF633. Officers escape legal responsibility, but what about their moral accountability? I’m trying not to sound snarky, but I’ll just assume he forgave himself while also giving himself legal immunity. Also, he just had his CDF role extended by 2-years.

That was last Friday. On the second week the matter of confidentiality and protected information was raised in the morning then quietly dropped. It was an important session.

Here is the 27th of June 2022 AM Hearing List (note the 3.15pm session):

220627_Screenshot_DVSRC_Day6_TSV

This was the official version…

I immediately queried the change and received this response.

 

To sum up. I welcome the words of Commissioner Kaldas but they are just words. Without the same assurances from the Commonwealth, they are at best misleading, at worst plain wrong.

I’m all in but if you have given evidence or are considering giving evidence which might include sensitive information, I would seek some legal advice prior to submission. Just to be on the safe side.

On that note, be safe.

 

 

My daily reminder that as of 1st July 2022 it is the 360th day of the Royal Commission and we still haven’t discussed Mefloquine or Tafenoquine..

 

37. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lieutenant General John Caligari, 22nd June 2022

Lieutenant General John Caligari.

I watched his evidence to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide today. Credit where credit is due. The work he has done putting together The Oasis is very impressive.

Not one question about Mefloquine or Tafenoquine though. A drug known to cause suicide.

Bit odd when you consider Submission 65 into use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force Senate Enquire of 2018. Excerpt via screenshot:

Two hours of testimony and not one question about this? An oversight maybe?

Anyway, you can read the entire report here: 180716_Submission_1RAR_Sub65

Just a reminder. Today is the 350th day of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and we still haven’t started talking about mefloquine or tafenoquine.

 

 

Random Analytica: Centrelink. Average Speed of Answer

I’ve been following the discussion about raising the rate of social security payments above the Henderson Poverty line. At the same time, I’m seeing a lot of chatter about people trying to access the Centrelink call centre and not being able to get through. I ranted about the Average Speed of Answer back in 2018. If you have never heard of the ASA, it is basically the time it takes for the Call-Centre to pick up your call. Yes, if you hang up your data doesn’t count.

Anyway, I thought I’d crunch the numbers again to see if last year’s data was any guide.

To my shock it had more than halved!

I’m still processing the big drop and won’t analyse today. You can read the Department’s thoughts about the significant time savings in their 2020/21 Annual Report (or I’ve attached the relevant two pages via 2021_AnnualReport_DHS_Pg102~03).

34. Mefloquine Dispatches: Other Suicides, April-1997 (Part One)

Upon reflection I took this post down. I was very triggered at the time.

To the Lost.

 

Just a reminder. As I update this post (on the 14th June 2022) it is now the 342nd day of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

We still haven’t started talking about mefloquine or tafenoquine.

 

33. Mefloquine Dispatches: Jim Molan, 11th March 2002

It all started with Erin Molan.

Every time I saw her presenting on the Footy Show it would trigger me. I would blow up. “Turn that shit off, I cannot stand her”, I would scream. I don’t watch Rugby League at home so I would only be triggered at my friend’s place. In the end it became a running joke.

“Turn the TV off, Erin is on”. The boys would laugh.

For the record I have never met Erin. Wish her all the best.

Amnesia is funny.

I came across this letter during my research into my history as crippling bad flashbacks kicked off. Again, not Erin’s fault for my history. Turns out her Dad kicked off those memories. Jim sent this to me as I was coming apart, not for the first time as other records would confirm. I first reported my mental health problems a month after exposure to mefloquine, went psychotic, got misdiagnosed and got released. After many flips, I finally flipped out for real in October 1998. The Australian Army dumped me and wiped their hands.

This was the official response from Jim on my DFM (the modern and poorer version of a court-martial for Diggers. Officers still get a court-martial). For the record. I was still sick.

Luckily, I kept the letters from his angry Legal Officer at the time. Defence Archives did not.

 

Hey Diggers. Stay safe…

Random Analytica: Ukraine. Russian Losses (June 2022)

Updated with data to the 21st June 2022.

The War in Ukraine enters its 100th day in June 2022. The Battle for the Donbas grinds on extracting a heavy toll on both countries. Ukraine still holds out against the Russian invaders. The world grows weary. Random Analytics does not.

At the end of May, the Ministry of Defence, Ukraine estimated the Russians had lost 30,500 troops. The Ukrainians are estimating the Russians lost 300 troops today (to 21/06). This would take the total troop losses to 34,100. The 7-day average has ticked up in recent days to approx. 228 per-day.

Quick data point(s): Steady attrition and a pickup, especially in the last 10-days.

Side note: Ukrainians started reported in units of 10 on the 7th June (with 110-dead). Prior to that it was in units of 50.

At the end of May, the Ministry of Defence, Ukraine estimated the Russians had lost 1,358 tanks. The Ukrainians are estimating the Russians lost 19 tanks today (to 21/06). This would take the total tank losses to 1,496. The 7-day average has ticked up to 8.9 per-day.

Quick data point(s): Steady attrition. Off big highs.

At the end of May, the Ministry of Defence, Ukraine estimated the Russians had lost 3,302 Armoured Personnel Carriers (or APC/APVs). The Ukrainians are estimating the Russians lost 18 APCs today (to 21/06). This would take the total APC losses to 3,606. The 7-day average has been reasonably steady, sitting at 14.7 per-day.

Quick data point(s): Steady attrition. Steadied against drops in troop & tank losses.

Side note: Big day on 1st June with 41 reported losses?

At the end of May, the Ministry of Defence, Ukraine estimated the Russians had lost 649 artillery systems. The Ukrainians are estimating the Russians lost three artillery systems today (to 21/06). This would take the total artillery losses to 752. The 7-day average was 4.4 per-day.

Quick data point(s): I expect the Battle of the Donbas will be a battle of artillery systems as well as men. Such is the pickup at the start of June.

At the end of May, the Ministry of Defence, Ukraine estimated the Russians had lost 207 MLRS systems. The Ukrainians are estimating the Russians lost one MLRS systems today (to 21/06). The 7-day average is 1.4 per day.

Quick data point(s): The Battle of the Donbas is all about artillery. Nine MLRS systems lost on the 10th June. Would equate to the second worst day for Russia.

At the end of May, the Ministry of Defence, Ukraine estimated the Russians had lost 2,275 vehicles which we can describe as undesignated (such as fuel trucks or logistical vehicles). The Ukrainians are estimating the Russians lost ten vehicles today (to 21/06). This would take the total vehicle losses to 2,537. The 7-day average is 9.1 per-day.

Quick data point(s): Steady attrition. Picked up as fighting increased in the Donbas but has steadied a bit in recent days.

At the end of May, the Ministry of Defence, Ukraine estimated the Russians had lost 48 special equipment vehicles. I’ll be honest, not sure how the Ukrainians designate these vehicles, but I do remember seeing a captured Electronic Warfare vehicle after the Battle of Kyiv. The Ukrainians are estimating the Russians lost four special equipment vehicles today (to 21/06). This would take the total vehicle losses to 59. The 7-day average is 0.7 per-day.

Quick data point(s): Need more info before I could even comment. Still, the Ukrainians are still reporting it so the Russian losses must be significant.

Slava Ukraini.

I know Veterans do it tough, but I still had capacity to make small donation!

Please consider supporting LtCol Rip Rawlings. I do, via a recommendation via James Vasquez. Many thanks to The Kyiv Independent, who got me involved and keep us informed.