Well done world. Basically, you’ve stuffed it up royally.
In the good old days the ‘bonk ban’ was self-imposed outside marriage and no self-respecting PM would generate headlines about such things.
Now we have jettisoned self-control and replaced it with ‘professional’ ‘workplace culture’ that allows a free for all. So long as the required forms are filled out.
We’ve substituted the shackles of personal morality for the creepy oversight of Big Brother. I’m not sure it’s an improvement. If there’s one thing that will kill the moment for everyone it’s bringing the bureaucracy into the bedroom.
That, I think it is safe to say, will always ruin a happy ending.
But first we need a quick recap of how we got here.
According to popular history, the ‘Divine Right of Head Honchos’ to sleep with your wife led to revolution, the overthrow of said Head Honchos and a world of freedom and sunlit open plains of plenty.
But according to real history, we have ‘progressed’ to the point where the Head Honcho can sleep with your wife and you have to suck it up because a form was lodged with the HR Department. And also, it seems, because in the interest of transparency a secret investigation conducted by those of a lower rank who questioned others of a lower rank came back with a finding of nothing to see here (including the actual investigation report, what it investigated and who was called as a witness).
Unsurprisingly, this leaves everyone unsatisfied and unsure of whether they want more. Or less.
There is no better example than that which gracefully spread itself across the front page of The Australian today.
For those who don’t know (and it seems that the vast majority of people working inside the Australian Defence Force do), the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, the impressive sounding Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, AO, CSC, RAN, is now married to Commander Chloe Griggs (nee Wootten).
The word on the grapevine is that this is Ray’s fourth attempt at ‘until death do us part’. I haven’t seen the certificates to prove it but, if true, I think Ray will either get there or die trying. One wag recently quipped that, despite Ray’s joyful approval of uniformed participation in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, it is proof of the good admiral’s commitment to heterosexual marriage.
Eyebrow-raising as this aspect of the story may be, it is not the reason it has been rumbling around for some time. The cause of concern are allegations that Ray had a conflict of interest, in that his wife-to-be, Chloe, was promoted rapidly and then moved into a full-time Navy role that Ray just happened to create in his last moments as Chief of Navy. And that all of this occurred about the same time as the new love was blossoming and Chloe was doing PR projects for the Navy’s boss.
As was stated in Senate Estimates, two investigations have cleared Ray. But it is not known what they investigated or cleared him of because the Chief of Defence Force has also refused to release them.
The other issue is the fact that the Admiral’s new wife was previously married to a sailor and was still legally tied to him when their engagement was announced. That’s always a bit of a morale killer.
No matter how many investigations give this behaviour the green light, sailors are unlikely to be happy that they now have a new occupational hazard: admirals disappearing into the night with the mother of their children.
Basically, the floodgates at R1 (the building where Head Honchos work in Canberra) have held back this yarn for a while, although the seething, bubbling waters behind them were always audible. But in recent weeks those gates have simply crumbled and details have issued forth.
I lodged an FOI request a few weeks ago. Then last week The Australian ran the first article, the issue hit Senate Estimates and I published the seemingly rapid promotion timeline of Chloe Griggs, which was available for all to see because her name and rank is plastered all over the Navy newspaper and website.
Throughout it all, the phone has been running hot.
It is important to note where the bureaucracy fits into all of this.
Defence lawful general orders and policies prohibit sexual relationships within the chain of command. You can find that ‘well duh’ requirement spelled out in paragraph 32 of Annex B to DI(G) PERS 35–3 Management and reporting of unacceptable behaviour.
I can’t help but notice that this document also fingers Defence leaders with the responsibility of maintaining acceptable behaviour and effective relationships within Defence workplace. On a wild assumption, it can be guessed that the Vice Chief of Defence Force falls into the category of ‘leader’. Strangely, I think a reasonable person would conclude that him starting a sexual relationship with a sailor’s wife is not the preferred way of maintaining ‘effective relationships’ within the Navy, even if there is no other conflict of interest.
Defence lawful general orders and policies also require the transparent management of workplace conflicts of interest (including sexual conflicts) in DI(G) PERS 25–6 Conflicts of interest and declarations of interests.
This document requires Defence members to disclose even perceived conflicts of interest, act transparently and to take reasonable steps to restrict the extent that private interests could compromise, or be seen to compromise, impartiality.
It also prohibits Defence members from improperly using their authority, status or access to information for their own personal gain, or for the gain of relatives and friends (with benefits). It specifically states that it is also prohibited to behave in a manner that could be construed as favouritism, bias or coercion.
Importantly, at the very beginning of this document words like ‘integrity’, ‘transparency’, ‘honestly’ and ‘ethically’ are bandied about with gay abandon. It even starts with the phrase ‘public confidence’.
Yet somehow we’ve arrived at the situation where this relationship, declared to the bureaucracy and seemingly given the seal of approval by two Defence investigations, has become front page news precisely because of a lack of public confidence in the transparency of Defence and the integrity of those involved.
There are only three possible reasons for this.
The failure either results from the brain-thumping stupidity of the decision to prevent the policy intent of transparency by withholding the investigations from the public and even other Defence members who are abuzz because of what they perceive as a clear conflict of interest. If that is the case, the Griggs’ are left to suffer because the bureaucracy has attempted to do the impossible: provide transparency with secrecy. And the Defence rumour-mill has been left to run up to warp speed as a result. That cannot be deemed a good outcome.
Or the failure results from the fact that shoving off the morality of the Church and replacing it with the morality of the state was always going to result in the bedroom becoming a public space. If that’s the case, the Griggs’ are suffering from a combination of their own actions and the inability of Big Brother to impose morality by paperwork. Welcome to the age of the newspaper confessional – it’s one that was never even fitted with a seal.
Or the failure results from hopelessly compromised investigations. Rather than douse the fire completely, it’s possible that they’ve simply smothered it partially and sent smoke signals high into the sky.
If we take the word of Ray Griggs’ ex-wife, Kerrie, this situation is probably a result of failure three. She claims Ray hatched a three step-plan to make his new relationship with a very recent former subordinate work. Ex-wives are probably not impartial when it comes to their former husbands.
Yet, according to The Australian, Defence investigators strangely accepted the existence of this plan (which she says was outlined to her in October 2014 and required her to ‘keep up appearances’ until Chloe was able to get rid of her husband). However, somehow this evidence resulted in the bizarre conclusion that the man who liked to plan was not planning anything three months earlier when he was actually working with Chloe.
If we take Ray Griggs’ word, it’s probably a bit of failure one and two. According to The Australian, he claims that his relationship with Chloe began in October 2014, coincidentally three months after his tenure as Chief of Navy ended and therefore when Chloe was outside his direct command chain.
According to this story, it was just one of those things where Chloe happened to be in the right place at the right time: doing Navy PR for Griggs while he was Chief of Navy got her noticed for her excellent work and it is a sheer matter of coincidence that she happened to fall for him around the same time she also managed to land the job that he paved the way for – it’s just a matter of fortunate irony that all this occurred a mere 90 days after they worked together and when Ray was definitely not interested in her.
Coincidences do happen and it is possible that two separate Defence investigations just happened to stumble upon one.
But I do know a little about Defence investigations, having been subject to them myself. They are very particular about what they investigate which Defence then uses to arrive at all sorts of weird and wonderful conclusions about other things. For instance, Defence decided that because two investigations into me did not find any wrong doing on the part of my commanding officer, there was no reason to investigate a complaint I had lodged about him.
This was even though the investigations into me were, how do I put this, well, nothing more than investigations into me. They did not examine the actions of my boss. So it is not surprising that they made no findings against him. And even though these investigations also cleared me, I was still sacked. At the very least, I guess that’s proof that having two investigations clear you does not mean you should keep your job. And if that goes for a Major Nobody, it should also go for the Head Honchos.
I’m yet to understand the logic of the investigatory process into me which does make it entirely possible that it will also be impossible to understand the logic of the investigations into the Vice Chief of Defence Force. However, if they were made public and there really was nothing to see, it is hard to form a conclusion other than that they would blow the smoke of this affair away.
But keeping them secret will not have the same effect.
And there is one more thing.
We know from The Australian today that Ray Griggs was a witness to the investigation. We also know that his ex-wife, Kerrie Griggs, provided evidence that his relationship with Chloe started while he was Chief of Navy – evidence that Ray has denied and which the investigators apparently decided not to accept.
We can assume that Chloe was also questioned about this relationship timeline. Given that Defence policy requires Defence members not to accept any benefit (such as a job) where a reasonable person may view such acceptance as a conflict of interest, it would also seem reasonable to conclude that an investigation into a seeming conflict of interest between Ray and Chloe would ask her for a statement.
But we do not know whether Chloe’s husband, a sailor in the Navy, was allowed to provide any evidence to this inquiry.
Maybe he was. Maybe he provided the evidence that allowed the investigators to determine that the relationship did coincidentally happen after Griggs moved into the VCDF role and when all the wheels that led to Chloe’s new job and promotion had been innocently put in motion.
But we just don’t know.
Chloe’s ex-husband has not spoken and Defence will not tell anyone if he was a witness to the investigations into this embarrassing scandal.
One can only wonder why…