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.
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.