Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 December 2017


Defence Personnel

7:40 pm

Photo of Brian BurstonBrian Burston (NSW, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Army's 22 Engineer Regiment started life as 22nd Construction Regiment in 1950. As the name implies, it built things. 22 Construction Regiment was a unit of the Australian Army Reserve. It had some part-time soldiers and some full-time soldiers mixed in to share their skills and experience. There was nothing unusual about that.

According to Defence, in 1999 and 2000, there were 588 fraud investigations in the ADF, of which 503 were completed. You might ask, 'What has that got to do with the 22 Construction Regiment? Well, 22 Construction Regiment had developed into an interesting unit within our Army Reserve, and it required investigating. A lot of the soldiers who were enlisted into 22 Construction Regiment were union members getting their construction skills at the taxpayers' expense. That's okay if they are undertaking tasks for the benefit of the Army. That wouldn't be a problem, if that's where it ended, but it didn't.

Enter Captain Bill McAuley. Bill was posted to 22 Construction Regiment after a brief career in the Navy. In 22 Construction Regiment, Bill was the quartermaster or QM. The QM is the person who is responsible for all the hardware. In a construction unit that includes tools, construction supplies and the like. Bill was a decent man and an efficient man. For those who had nefarious plans in mind, he was an inconvenient man. Bill was sent away from the unit for extended periods so that stores could be stolen without oversight from the QM, but that wasn't all. Not satisfied just to have him out of the way, his career was trashed to ensure he stayed quiet. The people who shut him down are still in the ADF today, occupying positions of power. They keep the lid on the truth and they work within a group of mates who look after each other.

Bill was featured on a hate website called ANZMI, which is run anonymously by a group of vigilantes who trash the reputations of people they decide they don't like. Bill has received an apology from the ADF for the suffering he experienced, but his profile is still on the ANZMI website. You see, they rarely update their website when they are wrong. They hound people to the bitter end—by that I mean suicide.

The publisher of the ANZMI website was recently identified by a former Queensland police officer who has spent over $150,000 of his own money trying to shut them down before anyone else is driven to suicide by their vile campaigns. Another is obtaining a personal protection order on advice of Queensland police. Three other victims serving in the Western Australian Police Force have lodged complaints with the WA police. You might think that is enough for one Army Reserve unit, but wait, there's more.

In November 1996, the Army sent a major to 22 Construction Regiment to investigate the so-called phantom soldiers of the unit. The term 'phantom soldiers' refers to fake data being created to fool the Army into paying wages and allowances for soldiers who don't exist. Records are submitted for payment, but the money goes to the perpetrators of the scam. In those days, Reserve units kept their own records. They were not centralised like the rest of the Army. The major did a great job and reported to her superiors—180 phantom soldiers had been identified.

The major had become an inconvenient woman. So she too was shut down by the very same people who trashed Bill McAuley's career. Those same people continue to serve on to senior officer status, including in the same legal office that wrote the deed of settlement for both Bill McAuley and the major that sought to prevent them from speaking out about their treatment. The major spoke out. In doing so, she attracted the interest of a celebrity media journalist who arranged to meet her. In the following two years he wrote embarrassingly positive articles on her persistent commitment to the role of exposing the phantom soldiers at 22 Construction Regiment.

All seemed to be going well for the woman who was being vindicated for her honesty in dealing with the damage done to her career and her life. That is, until a celebrity journalist decided there was more to it than a professional relationship. She owed him. He had groomed her for two years before he decided to close in for what he really wanted from her. In her police statement about the sexual assault she endured when she rejected his advances, she characterized his behaviour as 'Jekyll and Hyde'. He was all wine and roses until she said no, and then he became aggressive and nasty. She fought back via the legal process, but he used his considerable media skills to defeat her in the only way he could—trial by media in the court of public opinion.

She had two choices: fight on and potentially lose everything or make a tactical withdrawal. The confession that was aired in the national media was made under duress to save her home and her sanity. In their time together, he promised to help her with charity work to help our veterans, but all the proceeds of the venture were deposited into his accountant's trust account for his personal gain. Not a cent went to the aid of our veterans. Yes, he's a thief and a fraud.

Enter the trolls who followed the media personality and decided it wasn't enough that the major 'got away' with only saying sorry when all she was doing was attempting to recover original documents from him. They started creating waves of fake social media accounts in the major's name and trolling innocent people to discredit her to all and sundry. It almost destroyed her life, making it impossible to get a job or establish relationships with people, especially once they heard the background and saw the link to the celebrity and her 'sorry' message. Don't forget that it was he who sexually assaulted her.

It was easy to believe the journalist's side of the story. He had a huge media profile and was taken at face value by lots of people who knew no better; she had nothing. But she wasn't entirely alone. On a visit to Uluru to do a story on Halley's Comet, the celebrity journalist attacked another woman who said no. She reported the attack to Victoria Police, who declined to take any further action because she lived in another state, despite the journalist living in Melbourne. They probably didn't want to rock the boat because of his celebrity. I've seen her police statement. She described the journalist's behaviour as being like Jekyll and Hyde, to characterize the difference between when he was chatting her up and what happened when she said no—and she's never met the major or spoken to her. Just like we've seen in the recent matter of Don Burke and others, as soon as one brave woman speaks out, others are more likely to come forward.

But it's not just the trolls, like Lisa Hay, Geoffrey Robinson, Debra Duncan and Josephine Bloor, who attack mostly innocent people to pander to a celebrity. The media are just as gullible. Fairfax Media have demonstrated this year that they will blindly, and perhaps maliciously, publish false information about people if they think it will not only sell copy but perhaps gain favour from a celebrity who is one of them, a journalist. They print lies in spite of being given facts. They push a barrow that has been constructed by those with an agenda that the media are too gullible to see past. They allow themselves to be used, because they don't have the skill or intellect to discern that they are being played by an expert.

All you have to do is read some of the material written by Adam Gartrell, Lisa Visentin or James Robertson. It is mostly rubbish that has not been fact-checked—lies published when the truth has been available. That is both unethical and dishonest, yet their industry lauds them as being good journalists. I bet they won't like it when the shoe's on the other foot and they are being pilloried in a national forum for their conduct. The only difference is that what I am saying is true.

Over the past year, I have worked with the major. I've seen her perform tasks with total dedication and efficiency. She's incredibly resourceful. I've seen evidence that her detractors would hate to admit—that she's been the victim of all of their misguided efforts. I've seen the evidence that she and Bill McAuley were falsely victimized because of what they were doing at the 22nd Construction Regiment. I've seen how a media celebrity attempted to destroy the major when she didn't fall under his spell—just as the woman at Uluru experienced. The trolls and the media piled on. This media celebrity is a sexual predator who proudly publishes, in books about himself, that he has had underage girls for the night, yet claims to live to expose paedophiles. He is not someone to be proud of and he's not someone to aspire to be like. He deserves your disgust, not your respect.