Random Analytica

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

Category: Mefloquine

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

It ain’t actually my bag, Guvnor…

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 have a range of service-related conditions including amnesia which make me very susceptible to triggers so I was very careful.

Over the part week and a half, 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 the time and distance would be enough to insulate me from the trauma.

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 should have been discussed in Townsville.

Yet, something else came across my desk this week watching the Royal Commission which I cannot let go. If you were watching it as a veteran or currently serving member it should sent chills down your spine. According to the witness testimony this week they apparently interviewed a 100 people in Townsville the week before the hearing. 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.

Just to be clear. If you have no protected legal rights, you effectively have no rights. Others have tried to disclose sensitive information and have been subjected to severe legal ramifications, including David McBride. I can’t believe I’m backing an Officer, but we live in strange times.

Long story short. I blew up at this. Not that I give a shit but I am personally impacted by this oversight. My bullshit Operation, which was called off on the airfield at Garbutt is still considered classified. What about the poor Digger who was at the Afghanistan evacuation or the other Digger who saw some operational shit go down in Afghanistan.

Not protected.

Yet the officers who oversaw the Afghanistan killings got a warning and the door-kickers got arseholed.

So that got me agitated. Then the Monday ‘sliperinski’. It was magic. The Royal Commission effectively rid itself of evidence that might hurt the narrative. When Counsel Assisting suggested, they extend the preceding panel because the afternoon session was cancelled I was shocked. Because it was a really important session.

What session was cancelled though…

27th June 2022 AM Hearing List

This was the official version…

So, if you are a Defence Member or a Veteran you have no legal protection on your evidence as I write this piece (circa 28th June 2022). Sorry if you have given evidence, consider legal advice before you give any. It wouldn’t have changed my submission, given how old the story still is, which was my reason for writing this piece. I’m still subject to legislation written more than 100-years ago. It was a surprise. Also, the Royal Commission don’t give a shit into your concerns:

 

Boys n’ Girls… If you think I’m bullshitting, consider this last point.

Angus Campbell got the DSC in 2011 for distinguished command and leadership in action as Commander Joint Task Force 633 on Operation SLIPPER. He then effectively forgave officers and threw soldiers under a bus at the same time. Brerton exposed him but it’s all been downplayed. As I write this he got a two year extension to his role.

 

My daily reminder that it is the 356th day of the Royal Commission and we 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.

 

 

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…

32. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Letter to Matt Keogh, 4th June 2022

Matt,

Congratulations on your appointment as the Minister of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). What ever your flavour of politics it has always been a tough portfolio. I wish you luck.

Have you heard about mefloquine? If the answer is no, we should chat.

Regards.

Shane Granger

31. Mefloquine Dispatches: Vanuatu, October 1996

A few months before Operation Baritone, another operation led by the online parachute company from 3 RAR started to pre-deploy for Vanuatu (October 1996). The U.S Department of State noted in its Human Rights report on the 30th January 1997 that:

“The civilian authorities normally control the small police and paramilitary Vanuatu Mobile Force, however, a brief mutiny in October by elements of the VMF over pay issues shook the principle of civilian control. The mutiny was resolved without bloodshed.”

Although the mission got scrubbed, here is a text from a Digger who was exposed to a Mefloquine Loading dose while pre-deploying (shared with permission). It should be noted they have no confidence in the DVA and the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicides. Excerpt:

Hi Shane. It’s * here. Love to catch up cause (sic) I got no idea what’s happening and am generally confused. I was contacted out of the blue by someone at dva (sic). This was 3 years ago. They said it was some mefloquine program and wanted to speak to me about my exposure to mefloquine. Told him I had no idea what he was talking about. But yes had taken malaria medication in 3 RAR and * in late 90’s. He told me he would email me. Following day a secure encrypted email show up. I ring him, he laughs, says oops and that he will resend it and just to delete it. Of course I don’t. But nothing shows up. I ring dva (sic). They keep fobbing me off saying someone from the mefloquine team will call me back. Never happened. I got shits and stopped calling. 6 months later I ring up to be told it’s an inquiry at the senate and I will need to lodge a claim. Advocates can’t tell me nothing till a month ago when advocate tells me to put in claim for mefloquine acquired anxiety disorder. I mention it to *, they say they saw some 60 mins show about it and was going to ring and ask me if I’d been on it cause of some of the shit I through in * then after discharge in *. So that’s me. I don’t really know more than that

This is just one example. The Australian Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs have legitimate questions to answer. There are more missions along with evidence of mefloquine exposure (often undocumented) throughout the 1990s. From Operation Solace (1992-93) onwards.

When will the Defence and Veteran Suicide Royal Commission start talking about mefloquine & tafenoquine?

 

30. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Sandline Affair, 21st March 1997

On the 25th Anniversary of the Sandline Affair I thought it might be worthwhile to publish a couple of items I came across during my mefloquine research. The first is an article originally published on the 21st March 1997 by the Sydney Morning Herald. From the Archives: Gunpoint in PNG; mercenaries evacuated. Excerpt:

The Federal Government placed a crack Army battalion on heightened alert in a contingency plan to evacuate 12,000 Australian citizens from Papua New Guinea as rebel troops bundled the remaining mercenaries out of the country.

Late last night, 55 mercenaries were put on a chartered Air Niugini jet to Hong Kong.

The confrontation between PNG’s rebellious defence force and the Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, over his aborted plan to use the mercenaries in the Bougainville conflict moved towards a showdown yesterday.

The sacked military commander, Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok, who still holds the loyalty of most of PNG’s 4,700 troops, rejected the compromise plan by Sir Julius to hold an inquiry into the mercenaries plan, claiming it would be rigged.

Also:

Australian troops have been on alert for the past two days and are ready to move if the crisis worsens. Troops at the First Royal Australian Regiment in Townsville have packed stores, and Hercules transport aircraft at the RAAF base at Richmond have been readied.

It is understood the main purpose of the alert is to have troops ready to assist Australians in PNG if law and order collapses. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned Australians to stay away from PNG’s capital if possible.

The second link is a 20-minute documentary via the ABC and journeyman.tv shot in March 1997 from the ground in PNG with some extraordinary footage. To view: The 10 Days That Shook Papua New Guinea.

970321_Still_ABC_PNGRiots

Synopsis:

This report offers a dramatic overview of the events which triggered Papua New Guinea’s 1997 constitutional crisis. Jerry Singirok, the commander of Papua New Guinea’s Defence Force, was sacked for calling the government out for corruption and for spending over $40m on mercerises for the war in Bougainville. Troops loyal to Singirok revolted and seized control of the main military barracks in the country, creating a huge rift between the government and the army. Meanwhile, protests erupted in the country’s capital Port Moresby, with civilians demanding Prime Minister Julius Chan’s resignation. After MPs voted to keep Chan as Prime Minister, the army joined the protesters in storming the parliament building. Eventually Chan back down and resigned. Filming the chaos first hand, and following a pilot in the military, ABC Australia captures the turmoil that changed the fate of Papua New Guinea, and asks whether Singirok and the army’s actions defended or damaged democracy in the country.

Hotlines

29. Mefloquine Dispatches: Patricia Fernandez de Viana, 10th December 2021

On the final day of Hearing Block 1 for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide (DVSRC) held in Brisbane in December 2021, mother of James, Patricia Fernandez de Viana gave testimony which included a linkage to the use of anti-malarials. Via the AAP and The Guardian. Mother tells veteran suicide inquiry ADF failed to support family after son’s death. Excerpt:

Fernandez de Viana, a wound care specialist nurse, said she discovered the welter of medications her son was on when he died, including experimental treatments for malaria: “I was horrified, absolutely horrified.”

More to follow…

28. Mefloquine Dispatches: 3573 – Lambie, Senator Jacqui, 23rd April 2021

I was quite unwell when this came out and completely missed it. That said the questions are good but they don’t go far enough. They focus on the initial East Timor deployments (where mefloquine was used but Tafenoquine was the preferred option). Also, no mention of previous deployments where mefloquine was used for deployments from Rwanda to PNG. Certainly no mention of the 100-odd men who received mefloquine as part of the Sandline Affair deployment as the anti-malarial was not detailed on our medical records.

Via the Parlwork website. 3573 – Lambie, Senator Jacqui to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Her questions:

SENATOR LAMBIE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 23 April 2021:

1. How many Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who were prescribed mefloquine during Timor-Leste deployments were later deployed to do war service in the Middle East?

2. How many ADF personnel who were prescribed mefloquine during Timor-Leste deployments went on to serve in the Middle East:

in the Special Air Service;

as commandos; and

in Royal Australian Regiments.

3. What work has been done, and is being done, to track the effects of the mefloquine trials on soldiers’ response to trauma, is data on this being monitored.

4. How many soldiers who were prescribed mefloquine during deployment to Timor-Leste were later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

5. How many soldiers who were prescribed mefloquine during deployment to Timor-Leste later attempted suicide or committed suicide.

In response dated the 21st May 2021 via the Parlwork website. As above. The response:

1. The number of ADF personnel previously reported as using mefloquine was determined based on trial nominal roles and pharmacy dispensing records. Determining those personnel who were prescribed mefloquine during Timor-Leste deployments, and who subsequently deployed to the Middle East, would require an intensive process of matching health datasets with data in personnel service record systems, including physical records going back a number of decades. Significant resources and time would be required to consolidate and interpret this data. Defence health resources are fully engaged supporting the Defence response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are unable to be reallocated to producing the requested data.

2. The answer provided to Question 1 also applies to this question.

3. No work has been undertaken, or is being undertaken, to track the effects of the mefloquine trials on ADF personnel response to trauma. The Senate Inquiry in 2018 into ADF use of mefloquine and tafenoquine, recommended against such activities.

4. As at 1 May 2021, Defence is aware of 99 ADF members who were prescribed mefloquine in Timor-Leste, being later diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst those prescribed mefloquine is similar to those who did not take mefloquine.

5. Of the ADF members who were prescribed mefloquine during their deployment to Timor-Leste, Defence is aware of seven members who have died by suicide.

27. Mefloquine Dispatches: McKinsey & Company, 19th October 2021

I completely missed this when it was very quietly released a month ago, so many thanks to Andrew Greene from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for tweeting this out today.

Via the Defence and Veteran Suicide Royal Commission. Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide to open in Brisbane. Excerpt:

Last week the Federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel announced the appointment of consultants McKinsey & Company to take action to improve the claims system for supporting veterans, administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Minister is reported to have said that McKinsey & Co would be consulting with bereaved families of veterans who have died by suicide.

What?

The Royal Commission hasn’t even started and the current government is giving money to questionable consultants. The fact that staff from a consulting company would be discussing the deaths of loved ones with bereaved families is beyond my understanding. Then you have the complexities including mefloquine or tafenoquine.

In my view the McKinsey appointment doesn’t pass the pub test.