Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Islam, Department of Veterans' Affairs

9:33 pm

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise firstly to express my sincere condolences to the people of France and to the innocent victims of the latest Islamic terrorist attacks. France has a special place in the story of the fight for democracy, liberty and freedom, and Australia has a special relationship with France and the French values of democracy, liberty and freedom. Forty-five of Australia's 100 Victoria Cross winners were awarded our nation's ultimate symbol of bravery while fighting in France during World War I against a totalitarian regime.

Many media have asked me if I stand by my comments about the Grand Mufti of Australia—and I stand by them 100 per cent. He has failed to unconditionally condemn the ISIS terrorists, their actions and their law—sharia law—and until he does that, he is not to be trusted. I am sick of Australia's Islamic leaders making excuses, playing the victim and having two bob each way between the terrorists and the home side every time there is another terrorist atrocity.

In the wake of the Paris slaughter, now is the time for all Islamic leaders to state their unequivocal opposition to sharia—or to the terrorists' law—and to pledge allegiance to Australia's democratic Constitution and laws. Support for sharia law is a clear sign of Islamic radicalisation. I am very angry and disappointed with the Grand Mufti's behaviour. I have written to him in the past about sharia law, and he has refused to reply. He has run from my questions. He is a coward.

I would also like to deal with the statement that many have made: that Islam is the religion of peace. This is a factually incorrect statement. To prove my argument, I will not use a religious book, but a book by respected British academic John Keegan. Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan OBE FRSL was a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He wrote 25 military history books including A History of Warfare, which was described by the UK Sunday Telegraph as 'magnificent'. The book also won the Duff Cooper prize. In other words, it is an impeccable historical source. On page 33, where John Keegan writes about the differences between Christianity and Islam, he says:

Muhammad, unlike Christ, was a man of violence; he bore arms, was wounded in battle and preached holy war, jihad, against those who defied the will of God, as revealed to him.

In this factual statement he can clearly find the challenge that modern Islam faces. The founder of their religion was a great warrior who was wounded in battle and, if other historical texts are to be believed, killed many people in the course of converting people to his religion. He was not like the founders of our world's two other great religions, Christ and Buddha, who lived their lives always as pacifists, not as warriors. All Islamic leaders must do a better job of explaining to their young men and women why they must become pacifists and not kill in the cause of converting people and other cultures to their religion.

I am not trying to make the case that atrocities, war and great slaughter have not been committed in the name of Christianity; I am saying that Christ himself would never have ordered the crusades, the slaughter or the killing of any human, because he lived his life as a pacifist and turned to the other cheek in response to any insult or attack, and he forgave. People who said they acted in Christ's name and then ordered and committed slaughter, wars and killings quite clearly ignored the life example set by Christ and perverted his teachings.

The founder of Christianity, just like the founder of Buddhism, set an impossible standard for all to follow. Their life examples sometimes keep the inner psychopath of their followers in check. The life examples of Christ and Buddha certainly mean on judgement day that the bar has been set high and entry to heaven is not automatic even if you have killed in the name of God.

The great challenge for Islamic preachers and politicians who insist on saying the Islamic religion is a religion of peace is to reconcile their statements with undisputed historical fact.

I would like to correct the record. A Murdoch reporter again misrepresented my position on troop deployments in Iraq. I do not support sending troops to Iraq. In fact, I believe that our Australian troops should return from Iraq. With only 3,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, we have no hope of winning any war against ISIS. America and the rest of the world would have to put at least 100,000-plus troops on the ground to stop the advancement of Islamic State and have air and sea support.

If, as Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings suggests, the role of Australian troops is upgraded from advise and assist to advise, assist and accompany, it is a recipe for bloody disaster. Therefore, the Jacqui Lambie network supports the return to Australia of ADF personnel currently deployed in Iraq. This will save Australia approximately $4-plus billion over the forward estimates.

Another reason we should not be sending our Australian Defence Force members overseas is because successive Australian governments have betrayed our veterans and have not been prepared to properly look after them when they return home injured. The Department of Veterans' Affairs is a brutal, ignorant, arrogant and dysfunctional government department whose behaviour and decision making needs to be scrutinised by a royal commission. We have no choice. Our veterans deserve a chance to put their hands on the bible, tell the truth and tell how public servants, doctors and lawyers working for the DVA have ruined their lives and, in some cases, contributed to their suicides.

The Australian public will be shocked when they learn of the scale of the deliberate cover-up of mistakes, misconduct and abuse of office by employees, managers and other professionals associated with the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The Australian public will be sickened when they hear about the Vietnam veteran who was compelled to set himself on fire after a DVA stuff-up. They will demand justice for the digger who shot himself in a Department of Veterans' Affairs office.

I am fed up with this government's persistent refusals to establish a royal commission into the dysfunction of the Department of Veterans' Affairs and Defence abuse, so I am now going to use parliamentary privilege and I am going to name names of those associated with the Department of Veterans' Affairs who are accused of failing to do their jobs and properly look after our sick veterans. I will do continue to name and shame those who are abusing their office and failing our injured veterans from now on and well into the future.

As part of my name-and-shame campaign, I bring to the Senate the story of veteran Jordan Woodruff, who served nine months in Afghanistan and has been denied a SRDP classification, which is the equivalent of a total and permanent injury classification, or TPI, by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. He was denied the best medical care Australia can offer by being denied a gold card by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. He was denied by the Army recognition of an in-field promotion. He was denied a four-year service medal because he was discharged at three years and eight months because of his injuries. He was most likely denied by the Army a bravery award.

Jordan is most likely the victim of an abuse of office by the Department of Veterans' Affairs employee David Williams, and wrongfully denied his rightful entitlements because Mr Williams, according to notes from a recorded telephone conversation by Jordan's advocate, will contest any assessment from Jordan's psychiatrist, Dr Michael Likely, a leading medical practitioner in Townsville. It seems that the Department of Veterans' Affairs employee Mr Williams, for no good, apparent reason, makes a habit of contesting assessments by Dr Michael Likely. The Department of Veterans' Affairs worker David Williams is also adversely mentioned in correspondence from the Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association, where he is described as:

Probably the most disliked and complained about delegate in the state, his attitude and manner are aggressive and dismissive. He has stated that he will reject any claim by veterans who have Dr Mike Likely as a treating psychiatrist.

This is unacceptable as Dr Likely is a well-respected veterans' psychiatrist in Townsville and it is not the delegate's place to suggest that a claim's outcome is influenced by who the treating specialist is.

Here is what Dr Likely says about Jordan and what the DVA employee David Williams does not like and uses his authority to contest:

12 March 2015

Mr Woodruff is my patient. I am treating him for PTSD.

He contracted this condition as a result of his service in Afghanistan in 2009.

Mr Woodruff continues to exhibit a full-blown syndromal declaration of PTSD despite intensive treatment.

It is my unequivocal opinion that by virtue of his PTSD alone, that Mr Woodruff should be considered to be totally and permanently incapacitated from undertaking any form of remunerative employment.

I am deeply concerned if the decision not to grant him an SRDP is not expedited, there will be a profound and severe and potentially life-threatening decompensation in his condition.

Yours faithfully

Michael Likely

Consultant Psychiatrist

North Ward Clinic

I am sure you agree that Jordan has been to hell and back after hearing his story. These are the words he has written to me:

Dear Senator.

My name is Jordan Woodruff. I am a 26 year old Ex-Serviceman and Returned Veteran. I have by my side, Kimberly who is my wife and defacto partner.

I enlisted into the Army March 2007. After Approx one year of training in the RAR

Royal Australian Regiment

I was deployed with Bravo Company (7RAR) … on Operation Slipper in Afghanistan. In September 2008, for 9 months ending in July 2009. We operated in platoon strength groups, which consisted of 3 Sections and a platoon command group.

My section—12 Charlie was made up of ten soldiers. One driver, one crew commander, one corporal and one section 2IC and ten privates, including myself as the section medic. In the nine months my section had endured 5 firefights, 3 suicide bombers and also had been involved in direct and indirect IED's on numerous occasions. I was also forced to shoot dead a suspected suicide bomber which was later confirmed.

During one particular firefight with the enemy, which involved close quarter fighting, several members of our section including our section 2IC became unfit for duties, which were stress related. During this firefight I was field promoted by my CO

commanding officer—

and RSM

regimental sergeant major—

who informed me that this was the first field promotion since Vietnam. I was only 19 years of age at the time. Because of my age, this has haunted me to this day, but very proud as to what I was able to achieve in helping and assisting my mates in the field under very trying conditions whilst under fire and returning fire, with great accuracy.

In our whole deployment, our company had seen 36 firefights, 20 Australians injured with a total of 6 Australian Soldiers KIA

killed in action.

On returning to Australia, I completed my Subject Two for Corporal, and was ready to take over as our section 2IC, and from my reporting history I was reported on very well. However; from the time I finished this course, my adjustment problems and my psychological health quickly deteriorated, and so I spiraled out of control.

In the months prior to my discharge, with my adjustment problems, I experienced flash backs, sleep deprivation and major anxiety. This lead me to almost decapitating my Defacto partner having very physically moving dreams in which I also attempted to strangle my partner—

because of his PTSD.

I also began to use alcohol and binge drink with also self-medicating with substance abuse. (marijuana)

I openly approached my CSM about my problems, which began a process to be treated for a range of psychological issues.

After not being able to resolve these issues I was advised by my CSM and OC

officer in command—

that I was now a liability and had no choice but to be discharged from the Army and Being separated from my family (Mates).

Even though I was treated for PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder and Adjustment Disorder, I was discharged from the Army (Admin) and not medically as not being psychologically suited to remain in the ADF.

I firmly believe that I should have been medically discharged for my psychological conditions. I feel really let down by my parent unit (7RAR) by not looking after me properly!

I eventually moved to Townsville, my home town to where I thought I could get help from family and friends. As I have always had good work ethics, I started my own business as a roller door technician.

This was a reasonably successful venture, but due to my anger management issues, my business was suffering from stress related reasons.

On the 30th August 2014 I experienced a psychotic event after having a heated argument with Kimberly, I was locked out of the house. To get my car keys out of the house, I punched a plate glass window, almost severing my right arm.

If not for my neighbors, I certainly came close to dying from loss of blood. I was rushed to Hospital, were a micro surgeon was flown from Melbourne to Townsville to try and save my arm.

I suffered severe nerve and tendon damage to my right arm and now have lost the use of this arm.

As of the 1st Jan 2015, I closed my business due to my psychiatric conditions and the loss of use of my right arm (writing hand)

My treating psychiatrist believes that this injury is a direct result of my now accepted conditions for PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, Injury's received from munitions detonations (RPG & Grenade) and Alcohol Misuse Disorder, which are War related conditions.

I have recently been advised by my Advocate that although my accepted conditions, DVA have accepted liability, but under my recent permanent impairment assessment has been rejected by my DVA—

Department of Veterans' Affairs—

Case Manager and Delegate, Mr David Williams.

The Delegate has rejected my treating psychiatrist, Dr Mike Likely recent PI Assessment as me as not being stable?

Dr Likely had resubmitted another Medical Report which was subsequently not used, even though Dr Likely states, "that because of PTSD alone, renders me totally and permanently incapacitated and will not be able to undertake any form of remunerative employment for up to 10 hours per week"

My Advocate (Chris Dawson) also goes on to say that from a record of conversation with Mr Williams, "we will contend any diagnosis or medical report from Dr Likely" by us (DVA).

Does this person think he is medical trained GP or Psychiatrist? By from what Dr Likely stated that with intensive psycho treatment, we should see some improvement for a better life. Thus Mr. William's thinks that I am not stable for any of my mental conditions.

Dr Likely is a well-respected veterans' psychiatrist in Townsville and it is not the delegates place to suggest that a claims outcome is influenced, despite by who the treating specialist is.

My incapacity payments cease in 3 weeks' time, which means I have very little to live on with no prospects of ever being able to work again.

I am very proud to have served my country and what I was able to achieve. All I wanted in the beginning was to have my field promotion recognized, as this haunts me to this day.

What do you see as a solution to this issue?

As I feel very let down by Defence and my parent unit (7RAR) as I was field promoted in a very hostile and close quarter battle as a 19year old soldier, I feel very strongly that this type of promotion being the first since Vietnam, surely there are provisions by Defence to have my service and promotion recognized.

My Advocate who has intimate knowledge of my defence history and from incident reports, he believes that we should go one step further and approach defence for not only to have my field promotion recognized, but to also have a medallic bravery award be investigated and awarded.

Although my Advocate has commenced a DVA investigation and an Official Complaint into the actions of Mr. Williams—

the DVA delegate—

in dealing with my claim, Senator We feel that with your assistance along with Rod Thompson, we can finally get a decision from DVA that is fair and reasonable.

Yours Sincerely.

Jordan Woodruff

So I will tell you: I am calling on this government to treat fairly and with respect veterans like Jordan. I am going to be honest this evening: I have another over 4½ years up here, and I have 400 of these so far sitting on my desk in Tasmania.

I have warned you about this for the last 18 months. This is the first delegate's name, and I have a great many of them sitting on my desk. I am going to start naming and shaming. I have spoken to the PM about this. He is ignoring my pleas. I have asked and I have begged for an automatic gold card to be given to our diggers—still no response. These men and women have served their country. They deserve respect, and we have to give something back in return. So I am letting you know on behalf of them that they have had enough. I have had enough. It is going downhill from here on with you people over there unless you are prepared to change. I am coming, and I am coming at full bore, I can assure you right now, and I will not stop. I will not stop until these veteran suicides stop. You are going to assist me with that because you owe these men and women. Enough is enough.