I am pleased to report a small win against the Chief of Defence Force, General David Hurley.
In late February, General Hurley decided that he was going give effect to his decision to terminate my commission before a full review of this decision could take place. He was upset by the fact that I had continued to highlight the double standards within the military and that he was seeking to terminate my commission because I had publicly expressed my Catholic faith.
For example, he told me that this press release posed an unacceptable risk to discipline, morale and the reputation of the Army. I’m inclined to agree with him. Terminating the commission of Christian officers is not good PR for the military and it doesn’t sit well with the soldiers.
But I did notice that General Hurley’s letter did not dispute the facts as I outlined them. He just got all huffy because I was letting the public know what was happening under his command. And, of course, General Hurley can’t really get upset at officers expressing views about the ADF hierarchy since he stated last year that Lieutenant Colonel Paul Morgan would not be disciplined for going on national television, in full uniform, to complain that the entire hierachy of the military does not care about its soldiers. I’m still trying to work out if General Hurley let Morgan off the hook because he was right, or because he was openly homosexual. At this point in time, I’m inclined to think that it’s a bit of both.
Anway, these are the concluding words that General Hurley sent to me on 24 February, which I received on 28 February:
“I propose to direct that the termination of your service is to become effective 14 days from the date of this Minute. You have seven days from the date of receipt of this Minute, or from the time that you are advised of the content of this Minute, in which to provide any material you wish me to take into consideration before I make a final decision concerning your termination date.”
So I did just that.
And on 7 March, I wrote to the Chief of Defence Force and informed him that there was a penalty of up to three months jail for any officer who sought to prevent a Defence member from having a decision reviewed. I also let General Hurley know that his inclination to terminate my commission before his decision was reviewed was pretty much just that: a jailable offence against Defence Force Regulations (1952).
You can find that law right here.
Not surprisingly, General Hurley has now backed down.
And on Friday, the military informed me that General Hurley’s letter was no longer under investigation because it was ‘only a proposal’.
I’m not used to receiving proposals from the highest-ranked military officer in the land. And normally, when people do propose something to me, it involves a bit of give on their part and a bit of take on mine. Considering General Hurley’s ‘proposal’ involved him telling me that he was planning to terminate my commission on 10 March, 2014, unless I provided some reason why he should not, it felt like it was all give on my part and all take on his. That means his letter doesn’t fall into the idea of proposals, as they are normally understood.
But now it appears that General Hurley’s decision to terminate my commission will be fully reviewed by the internal machinations of the Australian Defence Force.
That’s good news. It’s small win, but a win nonetheless.
The not-so-good news is that this means the Chief of Army is now looking into his boss’s decision. There’s a small problem with bias there. In the normal course of events, subordinates are not put into the uncomfortable position of being asked to review the decisions of their superiors.
Of even more concern is the fact that it was the Chief of Army who originally wrote to the Chief of Defence Force to suggest that my commission be removed.
Again, it’s hard to see how there can be an unbiased review process when the bloke who kickstarted administrative action to terminate my commission is now the judge over whether that termination notice is lawful or not. And considering that Lieutenant General David Morrison’s suggestion that my commission be terminated was based on his incorrect assumption that I had broken service law, I have no confidence whatsoever that he has the ability to make an objective or correct decision when reviewing my situation.
As a reminder to the Chief of Army, his May 2013 Notice to Show Cause against me made mention on at least 10 occasions that I could reasonably be held to have breached military law. The Director of Military Prosecutions, who is the judge of what can reasonably be held to have breached service law, begged to differ. That’s a little embarrassing. And not for me. The Chief of Army is the one who rushed to judge me as guilty before the military’s disciplinary process found that I had no case to answer.
And that’s not the end of it. The Defence Force Investigative Service found way back in March 2013 that charges against me would fail. That was before they were even laid. Charges fail because the person in question is innocent, or because evidence cannot be found to prove a case. Considering that I have been upfront and honest in all my dealings with the chain of command, in my case the whole story is pretty much that I am innocent. And that’s also the end of the story.
That is why I have requested that this entire saga be placed in the hands of the only person who can make an objective decision: the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd).
By law, the power to remove commissions rests with him. And he is the only person who is not subordinate to the Chief of Defence Force. If the hierarchy is interested in justice, rather than pursuing political objectives, it will refer the matter of my commission to Sir Peter Cosgrove.