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March 2015

Reports - 30 doctors leave Defence - Rear Admiral Walker to be called before Senate Inquiry

These reports are about two separate issues, but both involve the Defence Force and its medical services.   Rear Admiral Walker is central in each.

Here's today's story from The Australian reporting 30 doctors abruptly leaving the Defence Force:

Doctor exodus over new e-health system rocks Defence

The Department of Defence has been rocked by the abrupt resignation of about 30 doctors who hold grave fears for the new e-health system that they believe compromises patient safety.

The Joint eHealth Data and Information, or JeHDI, project started in early 2011 but was beset with a multitude of problems that led to a $110 million cost blowout.

Funding was approved in June 2009, with the project delivered three years past its original deadline.

The Australian has been told that many problems remain despite the system going live late last year.

The doctors, contracted to ­Defence through Aspen Health, have ceased working on the Defence account due to the department’s recently launched e-health platform. Sources said the departures were from Victoria, Queensland, NSW and South Australia.

Their main concern was that a Defence personnel’s e-health record could be altered by another party — a nurse, for example. A nurse could access the record and change the patient details originally entered by a doctor.

A Defence spokeswoman said it was “aware of a small number” of departure but that was a matter for the individuals and Aspen.

And this from last week:

Australian defence officials called to Senate Inquiry into military suicides

A SENATE Inquiry will demand an explanation from the head of defence health Rear Admiral Robyn Walker about the growing number of suicides in the military.

Rear Admiral Walker is the subject of an online petition that has attracted 6635 signatures and 350 pages of comments demanding her removal over comments she has made distancing military service from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Veterans Affairs spokesman for the Greens, Tasmanian Senator and Australian Defence Force Academy graduate Peter Whish-Wilson will today introduce a motion calling for a Senate Inquiry into veterans mental health issues.

The minister also announced that mental health screening for ADF personnel would be rapidly expanded to apply to all personnel and not just those who had been deployed on operations.

He also pledged to “normalise” mental health so it had the same status as physical health and to destigmatise the issue so people put up their hands if they had a problem.

Mr Robert supported claims by Rear Admiral Walker that rates of PTSD and suicide were very low in the ADF.

The minister’s statement came as the ground swell of support for an online petition calling for the removal of Rear Admiral Walker continued to soar.

The petition on has attracted 6635 signatures and 350 pages of comments including 2000 signatures in just one night last Saturday.

Rear Admiral Walker has been slammed for her “insensitive” comments about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which she blamed on factors other than military service.

Senate hears "Just a few days till Trade Union Royal Commission kick-off, we need everyone to make this a priority"

This was Senator McGrath in the Senate last Wednesday:

"We are just days away from the Royal Commission kicking off and there is a LOT going on, we need everyone to make this a priority please." 


Senator McGRATH (Queensland) (13:15): Today I rise to speak on matters that concern the links between the New South Wales CFMEU and controversial businessman George Alex, and between Mr Alex and two Islamic State terrorists. George Alex is a controversial Sydney businessman and an undischarged bankrupt. Known for his connections with the criminal underworld, he recently pleaded guilty to making threats to kill a woman and her family over a business debt. He is being investigated by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

Khaled Sharrouf is a convicted terrorist who is now fighting with Islamic State in the Middle East. He was jailed for his involvement in plots to blow up the MCG on AFL grand final day in 2005, Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, and Crown Casino during grand prix weekend. He was arrested in what was then Australia's largest counter-terrorism operation, and pleaded guilty to possessing goods in preparation for a terrorist act. After serving only four years in jail, in exchange for agreeing to mental health treatment, news reports state that he was picked up and hired as a debt collector for George Alex. The royal commission also heard evidence from Sharrouf's mother-in-law, Karen Nettleton—a bookkeeper for George Alex—that Sharrouf spent a lot of time at Alex's place and that she guessed he was his debt collector.

On 3 November 2014, the ABC's Four Corners program screened its investigative story on the links between Sharrouf and figures in the building industry. It reported that Sharrouf came to the attention of authorities after an alleged extortion threat. It involved a dispute between Tony Di Carlo and Australia's biggest residential builder, Meriton. Di Carlo alleged that Meriton owes him millions of dollars. Four Corners reported a confrontation in which Meriton's employees were approached and threatened. Meriton took the alleged extortion threat to the police. The Four Corners report explains how the dispute escalated and how Sharrouf was involved and became violent and brandished a gun. Soon after, Sharrouf's associate was gunned down at his door. A New South Wales police investigation into these incidents is still underway.

In a highly concerning incident, Sharrouf was again linked with George Alex in 2014, when the ABC reported, on 3 November, that he was taken on a shooting trip along with another terrorist convicted in the 2005 anti-terror raids, Mohamed Elomar. Alex's lawyers claimed the trip was a pick-me-up for Alex's depression and that the parties 'did very little shooting but had a big barbecue'. But police were reportedly called out after they received a complaint of excessive gunfire, and found Sharrouf with a rifle to his shoulder, pointing straight ahead, and large amounts of ammunition on the ground. He had no gun licence and refused to be interviewed.

The ABC reports that Sharrouf was summoned to the court the following month. But the court never got to hear his case. Within weeks, he and Elomar had eluded authorities and joined Islamic State forces in the Middle East. This man was the infamous father who posed with his seven-year-old son holding the head of a decapitated victim. These matters raise grave concerns about the types of individuals who have been involved in parts of the construction industry. 

I also want to raise concerns about the connection between George Alex, whose purported debt collector was this convicted terrorist who is now fighting for Islamic State, and the New South Wales branch of the CFMEU. The royal commission heard evidence that the New South Wales CFMEU has been receiving kickbacks in return for favouring construction firms controlled by, or associated with, Alex. The commission's investigation is ongoing and I would not want to pre-empt its conclusions. However, there is some very important evidence already on the record that is important to identify and consider.

Evidence to the commission shows that companies controlled by, or associated with, George Alex were formed and entered enterprise bargaining agreements with the CFMEU. Some of these went into liquidation with large sums of money owed to their workers. The evidence also shows that at least one senior CFMEU member was violently threatened after raising concerns about links between the union and Alex companies. The submissions from counsel assisting the royal commission, Jeremy Stoljar QC, state that 19-year CFMEU delegate Jose (Mario) Barrios had been subjected to 'utterly inappropriate and disparaging comments' by Brian Parker, New South Wales state secretary of the CFMEU. Although Parker denied it in his evidence, transcripts and recordings showed that he called Barrios a dog, wanted to bash him, and otherwise referred to him abusively. The evidence also showed that Barrios was contacted by Mr Alex, who said he was running out of patience with him, asked where he worked, and closed by saying, 'See you tomorrow.' Mr Barrios reported these matters to the police and they continue to be investigated by the royal commission.

Rather than taking every step to assist with this investigation and indeed pursuing these matters internally as well, the CFMEU destroyed documents and has, whether intentionally or not, obscured the commission's investigation. On 6 September 2014, the Daily Telegraph reported how the royal commission issued a notice for the union to supply it with emails about its relationship with Mr Alex's companies. Weeks later, the union found it had a problem with 'disk space' on union computers, which was preventing emails arriving, and that that would require the union to delete years of emails. In an email to staff, the report states that the branch's general manager Kylie Wray said: 

We are just days away from the Royal Commission kicking off and there is a LOT going on, we need everyone to make this a priority please. 

She and a team of nine people spent three days deleting emails. Ms Wray said that she had deleted Mr Parker's emails and was positive there was nothing there that would have interested the commission.

The royal commission also found that another senior CFMEU member who raised concerns about links between the union and Mr Alex companies, Brian Fitzpatrick, received death threats in response, from New South Wales branch organiser Darren Greenfield, and was frozen out of the union.

Another witness to the royal commission was too afraid to give evidence about the alleged kickbacks or his associates in the unions. He was forced to explain to Commissioner Heydon that he was being as honest as he could be, given that he had a wife and three children waiting outside for him. These matters are deeply concerning.

The crossovers between two Islamic State terrorists and an underworld figure, and between this figure and the CFMEU, are a reminder of the importance of maintaining a strong cop on the beat in the building and construction industry.

A battlefield veteran writes about Rear Admiral Walker and her appalling attitude to PTSD

This note comes from one of our readers - he's a leader of men and veteran of deployments with the Australian Army in Iraq and Afghanistan.   It's hard to believe that the scuba-diver Dr Robyn Walker belongs to the same organisation.



Thanks for your interest in the appalling ignorance of RADM Walker when it comes to PTSD. Clearly she has never been to war. She has obviously never seen the anguish of so many people involved in dealing with a fatal battle casualty. It’s not just the soldiers on the ground who are part of the team, although of course they are the most immediately and heavily impacted.

There are the stores personnel cleaning bits of body of the controlled items that have to be accounted for – weapons, body armour, night vision etc. The clerks who send out the fatalcas message. Those watching the scene from the UAV footage – totally unable to help. The military police who secure the body, the padre and the Commanding Officer and Regimental Sergeant Major who positively ID the body. Then there are the troops on the ground who have to keep on going and their leaders who have to keep them disciplined and focused on the task at hand.

I would have thought that the Surgeon General of the ADF would be well aware of the incredible work done by the RAND Corporation on ‘invisible wounds’. 

Their landmark study – “Invisible Wounds of War” won two major awards for research excellence in the USA: 


2008 PROSE Award — Clinical Medicine The American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence

WINNER — 2011 HSR Impact Awardee The Academy Health Board of Directors Health Services Research (HSR) Impact Award


This is on the RAND corps website (my boldings):


Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments — many involving prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations — may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat. In the face of mounting public concern over post-deployment health care issues confronting OEF/OIF veterans, several task forces, independent review groups, and a Presidential Commission have been convened to examine the care of the war wounded and make recommendations. Concerns have been most recently centered on two combat-related injuries in particular: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. With the increasing incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among returning veterans, concern about depression is also on the rise.

The study discussed in this monograph focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and traumatic brain injury, not only because of current high-level policy interest but also because, unlike the physical wounds of war, these conditions are often invisible to the eye, remaining invisible to other servicemembers, family members, and society in general. All three conditions affect mood, thoughts, and behavior; yet these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged. The effect of traumatic brain injury is still poorly understood, leaving a large gap in knowledge related to how extensive the problem is or how to address it. 

This monograph presents the results of our study, which should be of interest to mental health treatment providers; health policymakers, particularly those charged with caring for our nation’s veterans; and U.S. service men and women, their families, and the concerned public. All the research products from this study are available at

Data collection for this study began in April 2007 and concluded in January 2008. Specific activities included a critical review of the extant literature on the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and traumatic brain injury and their short- and long-term consequences; a population-based survey of service members and veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq to assess health status and symptoms, as well as utilization of and barriers to care; a review of existing programs to treat service members and veterans with the three conditions; focus groups with military service members and their spouses; and the development of a microsimulation model to forecast the economic costs of these conditions over time.

Among our recommendations is that effective treatments documented in the scientific literature — evidence-based care — are available for PTSD and major depression. Delivery of such care to all veterans with PTSD or major depression would pay for itself within two years, or even save money, by improving productivity and reducing medical and mortality costs. Such care may also be a cost-effective way to retain a ready and healthy military force for the future. However, to ensure that this care is delivered requires system-level changes across the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. health care system.

In a press release the Invisible Wounds research team had this to say about PTSD:


Service members reported exposure to a wide range of traumatic events while deployed, with half saying they had a friend who was seriously wounded or killed, 45 percent reporting they saw dead or seriously injured non-combatants, and over 10 percent saying they were injured themselves and required hospitalization.

Rates of PTSD and major depression were highest among Army soldiers and Marines, and among service members who were no longer on active duty (people in the reserves and those who had been discharged or retired from the military). Women, Hispanics and enlisted personnel all were more likely to report symptoms of PTSD and major depressions, but the single best predictor of PTSD and depression was exposure to combat trauma while deployed.


I read invisible wounds whilst deployed in Afghanistan as a part of some work I was doing. I was disgusted that the Defence Psychology unit Commanding Officer and many in theatre psychs were unfamiliar with this study.

Please have a read through the executive summary or scan the early chapters which clearly lay out the relationship between exposure to combat operations and PTSD. Also note that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is also little known about yet, although suicide and major depressive disorder appear to be common side effects.

TBI occurs when you are ‘blown up’ but appear to suffer no damage apart from seeing stars or ringing ears etc. I recall reading in the report that penetrative brain injuries had something like a 50% incidence of suicide. 

I did a quick survey of the unit I was with in theatre and found that most soldiers who routinely deployed beyond the wire had most likely suffered TBI many having been blown up on multiple occasions in Iraq and or Afghanistan.

Please don’t mention my name – I have had a number of run ins with the people at Joint Health Command some of whom are truly terrible people. Of course there are also many fantastic dedicated and committed people working in or for Joint Health Command.

Craig Thomson would be taken more seriously if he admitted guilt and apologised

He stole money from workers he was paid to look after.  He lied to me and my 2UE audience.   He lied to the Parliament.   He falsely accused Marco Bolano of setting him up with hookers.  He cost the community a fortune in unnecessary investigations.   He had the Labor Party pay his legal fees.  

He has never admitted his guilt.   And he has not apologised.

Lay off Craig Thomson?   Maybe when Craig Thomson lays off us.

Here's The Age.

Craig Thomson's bid to have trial dismissed based on mental health issues rejected by court

Former federal MP Craig Thomson has walked out of a civil case after telling a court that his mental health problems were too severe for him to continue.

In an emotional address, Mr Thomson provided evidence from his psychologist that he was suffering a major depressive disorder and other conditions.

But Federal Court justice Christopher Jessup rejected the application from Mr Thomson, saying the ex-politician had only raised the issue late in the hearings.

Mr Thomson later told the court he could not continue in the trial because he had to look after his health to ensure "I'm alive" and "not dead".

"I have no choice but not to participate," he said. "I am not able to proceed in this matter without there being very dire consequences."

Mr Thomson is being sued by the Fair Work Commission for the alleged misspending of $243,000 in Health Services Union funds – the bulk of which is to do with expenditure on his successful 2007 bid to enter federal parliament.

He told the court he contemplated taking his own life every day, and his wife feared leaving him home alone.

He said he had suffered prolonged harassment from the media and been at the centre of a political and media storm for several years, in particular during the minority Gillard government years.

Mr Thomson said having his vote described as "tainted" by his political opponents had a "substantial and obvious effect" on his mental health.

But Justice Jessup rejected much of Mr Thomson's submissions and described some elements of his evidence as "scandalous" and "objectionable", including unsupported allegations against police and the Fair Work Commission.

Mr Thomson said he was "not capable in a mental health sense" of coping with the case proceeding.

He said there was no public good in the case going ahead as he was in no position to pay fines and had already been through two criminal trials. 

Mr Thomson, who was representing himself, did not return to the court after lunch and the trial proceeded without him. Evidence was presented of Mr Thomson having used a union credit card for sexual services on seven separate occasions.

Martin Ferguson - "The CFMEU needs to be brought to heel".

Bill Shorten should listen carefully - here's Martin Ferguson in The Australian today.

FORMER ACTU president Martin Ferguson has backed the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, likening the ­actions of elements of the CFMEU to the outlawed Builders Labourers Federation and declaring the union must be “brought to heel’’.

Mr Ferguson, the resources minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments, said that for the sake of the building industry, there had to be a “policeman on the beat’’.

He saidthe labour movement should never forget it was the Hawke Labor government, strongly supported by the Cain Labor government in Victoria, that had backed the deregistration of the BLF.

“And, unfortunately, the manner in which the BLF conducted themselves is now rife within branches of the CFMEU,’’ he said. “And in my opinion the CFMEU should be brought to heel and required to conduct themselves in a fair and reasonable way.’’

Mr Ferguson said the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, “especially the Victorian, Queensland and WA branches of the construction union, have brought this on themselves”.

“It is the manner in which they conduct themselves. And I think for the sake of the industry and the need to attract investment in Australia, especially in this very challenging economic time, we need a policeman on the beat to bring a sense of stability and decency to the building ­industry,’’ he said.

He believed the construction commission offered another way of trying to clean up rogue elements of the CFMEU as an alternative approach to deregi­-stration.

“My position is one of consistency as a cabinet minister and, prior to that, as a shadow minister. I supported the Australian Building and Construction Commission.’’

Mr Ferguson’s comments come after Fair Work Building and Construction director Nigel Hadgkiss warned last week about increasing lawlessness in the industry, saying 75 CFMEU officials were before the courts, facing 403 alleged breaches of workplace laws.

With parliament weighing up a crucial vote on the reinstatement of the ABCC to replace the Fair Work Building and Construction agency, Mr Hadgkiss said the contentious compulsory powers of the watchdog, due to expire at the end of May, were critical to ensuring order on building sites.


There's more at The Australian.

Aayan Hirsi Ali's new book "Heretic, Why Islam needs a reformation now"

Regular readers will have heard me make this call many times - Islam needs a reformation.

The Wall Street Journal carries this extract from Aayan Hirsi Ali's new book - details below:

“Islam’s borders are bloody,” wrote the late political scientist Samuel Huntington in 1996, “and so are its innards.” Nearly 20 years later, Huntington looks more right than ever before. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims. In 2013, there were nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks world-wide. The lion’s share were in Muslim-majority countries, and many of the others were carried out by Muslims. By far the most numerous victims of Muslim violence—including executions and lynchings not captured in these statistics—are Muslims themselves. 

Not all of this violence is explicitly motivated by religion, but a great deal of it is. I believe that it is foolish to insist, as Western leaders habitually do, that the violent acts committed in the name of Islam can somehow be divorced from the religion itself. For more than a decade, my message has been simple: Islam is not a religion of peace.

Continue reading "Aayan Hirsi Ali's new book "Heretic, Why Islam needs a reformation now"" »

Neither the Premier of NSW nor the Opposition Leader could find time to attend the Afghanistan welcome home parade

While Sydney welcomed home its Afghanistan veterans yesterday, Premier Mike Baird was attending to the dogs at the Camden Show.  Opposition Leader Luke Foley couldn't find the time to say thank you to the troops either.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 9.59.40 am

The Welcome Home parade had been scheduled since last November.   Baird sent a Parliamentary Secretary, not even a Minister and Foley sent an upper house MP noted for his anti-war sentiments.

Here are a few more videos from the Sydney parade including the AFP contingent.




A personal tribute to the late Malcolm Fraser

From reader Ian


After his political days were over Malcolm was c.e.o. Of Care Australia. During the Balkans conflict in the late nineties my brother was running Care Australia ops in Serbia, when things were getting too hot he evacuated the majority of his staff from Serbia and, with 2 of his remaining staff, was arrested at the border and as far as we back here in Oz knew he disappeared off the face of the earth. 2 weeks later my brother appears on TV confessing to being a NATO spy, all bulltish of course, he was then tried, found guilty and sentenced to 20 yrs in the slammer. Malcolm personally moved heaven and earth in his efforts to have them released, and after 260 days behind bars freedom was finally granted. I had lots of meetings with dfat staff during this time and saw first hand the results of Malcolm's efforts. I will always be grateful to Malcolm for the role he played in securing the release of my brother.......... Rest in Peace.