Navy insiders have revealed to this webpage that members of the Chief of Navy’s office believed the former Chief of Navy and current Vice Chief of Defence Force, Ray Griggs, was involved in an affair as early as October 2013, 12 months before this relationship was declared.
These sources have also informed this website that Vice Admiral Griggs was in personal contact with Chloe Wootten (then a Lieutenant Commander) in early 2014 to ‘sort out’ her relocation from HMAS Cresswell at Jervis Bay to Canberra. At the time Chloe Wootten was a reservist on a full time contract and was married to a Navy Petty Officer.
It is highly unusual for a service chief to become personally involved in the posting arrangements for an officer of this rank.
Griggs advised the Chief of Defence Force in October 2014 that he was in a relationship with Wootten and she has since become his fourth wife. As Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Griggs is responsible for Joint Public Affairs while his new wife holds the position of Director of Communications and Media for the Navy. Defence denies that there is, or ever has been, a conflict of interest.
Ray Griggs’ former aide-de-camp has declined to comment on these allegations.
However, in response to a series of questions regarding these allegations, a Defence spokesperson has stated that they are ‘baseless assertions’ and that:
As Defence has stated, in media statements and during the 29 February Senate Estimates hearing, this matter was the subject of two independent reviews, both of which found no breaches of Defence policy.
Navy has also reviewed the decision-making process for the promotion of Commander Chloe Griggs and found that it was merit-based and complied with Navy promotion policies. To suggest otherwise is wrong.
Chloe Wootten received two promotions in three years and nine months years. A Navy spokesperson has previously informed this webpage that the minimum time required for promotion from Lieutenant Commander to Commander is four years. A search of the public biographies on the Navy website shows that the usual time for such a promotion is six to ten years.
Defence’s response suggests that the reviews into Ray Griggs’ conduct did not examine the promotion process for Chloe Wootten but that this was assessed in a separate Navy review. As such, questions remain over the integrity of these reviews because it is entirely possible that the Navy review into Chloe Wootten’s promotion timeline did not consider any conflict of interest on the part of Ray Griggs.
Defence refuses to release the terms of reference for any reviews or inquiry into this matter.
Defence’s response also indicates that it has not reopened any of the reviews or investigations into this matter, even though it has recently become a matter of public knowledge that they did not take evidence from key persons involved.
Chloe Wootten’s former husband, Petty Officer Brodie Wootten, was not provided an opportunity to provide any evidence. This webpage also understands that Ray Grigg’s former aide-de-camp was not interviewed and was deployed overseas for at least part of the review process.
Further, no attempt was made to examine phone, text or social media records of either Ray Griggs or Chloe Wootten, unlike the investigations into former Border Force Commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg.
However, a Defence spokesperson has encouraged Defence members with concerns to report them to the chain of command or make use of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, stating:
…established and proven mechanisms exist through which Defence personnel may report suspected wrongdoing. This can be done through the chain of command, who may establish inquiries where it is necessary to support decision-making, or to Defence investigative authorities. A member who wishes to make a confidential report of wrongdoing may also use the processes authorised, and protected, by the Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Act 2013. It is a criminal offence under the PID Scheme for threats or reprisals to be made against those who make disclosures.
All current and former public officials seeking to raise concerns about suspected wrongdoing are encouraged to do so via the PID Scheme Hotline on 1800 673 502. If you have evidence of any breach of policy, we encourage you to provide that evidence to Defence.
Notwithstanding Defence’s encouragement for Defence members to provide any information they may have about this matter, the numerous Defence personnel that this webpage has spoken with have all expressed grave concerns for their future employment prospects if they do raise concerns.
This webpage is of the view that this demonstrates a serious cultural problem within Defence and a lack of confidence in the integrity of the chain of command and senior leadership.
Defence declined to comment on specific questions regarding the possibility that members of the Australian Defence Force have lost confidence in the integrity and leadership of Vice Admiral Ray Griggs.
Defence also declined to answer a question about why the Chief of Defence Force informed Senate Estimates in February 2018 that Defence policy prohibited sexual relationships within the chain of command when Ray Griggs had revoked this ban three months earlier.
However, Defence has taken aim at this website for its coverage of Vice Admiral Griggs’ decision to lift this ban. Defence continues to assert that its decision to now allow sexual relationships within the chain of command is not a change to policy at all:
Your statements regarding changes to Defence’s policy surrounding conflicts of interest and inappropriate behaviours are incorrect. Defence’s fundamental policy position on conflicts of interest and inappropriate behaviour has not changed. The review and update of the policy commenced in 2013 following a number of well publicised incidents and involved extensive consultation with a number of working groups across Defence over several years. Defence policy on conflicts of interest and inappropriate behaviour is now found in Interim Defence Instruction (General) 35-3 Required Behaviours in Defence and in the Complaints and Alternate Dispute Resolution Manual. The current policy states that Defence personnel have a responsibility to report potential conflicts of interest, including those that might arise from workplace relationships.
Let’s not mince words: that statement is a lie and it casts doubt over Defence’s entire response to this scandal.
Australians are well aware of the ruckus caused by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to impose a ‘bonk ban’ on ministers and their staff. The response to this clearly demonstrates that Turnbull’s new policy is a fundamental shift from previous arrangements.
As such, Defence’s claims in regards to the new orders allowing sexual relations within the chain of command are laughable and only serve to highlight the deceptive approach Defence has taken to this matter.
Further, although Defence has not specified the ‘incidents’ that it claims led to this not-so-fundamental but fundamental shift, it is highly likely that they refer to the ADFA ‘Skype scandal’ and the so-called ‘Jedi Council’ affair.
It really should be inconceivable that Defence appears to believe that the best way of addressing these failures of standards is to reduce Defence standards. However, it is sadly predictable. Readers of this website will remember that in November 2017, the same month Griggs revoked Defence’s ‘bonk ban’, the Army website ran an article canvassing the idea that prostitutes should be sent to service soldiers on the front line, along with taxpayer-funded sex toys.
I’m guessing Defence also believes that this idea would not represent a ‘fundamental’ shift to policy either.
Ray Griggs is responsible for signing off on this new policy. It highlights how poor his judgement is. Any person who seriously believes that allowing sexual relations within the chain of command will help to reduce perceptions of conflict of interest within the Defence Force has rocks in their head.
This entire saga is proof of that, especially if Griggs is innocent as Defence claims.
Yet Griggs is in line to be the next Chief of Defence Force, with the announcement due shortly.
This webpage maintains that his behaviour demonstrates he is entirely unfit for this position. Defence’s decision to hide behind reviews that have cleared him (without releasing any terms of reference to the public) do nothing more than obscure the central and well-known fact of this matter.
Griggs broke up the family of a serving sailor for his own personal desires and so he is guilty of failing the most fundamental requirement of military leadership: protecting the welfare of those who serve this nation.
This article originally stated that Navy records showed Chloe Griggs had been promoted to Commander in early 2014. Defence has subsequently informed this website that although the Navy website gave the impression that Chloe Griggs was a Commander in 2014 this is incorrect. The Navy webpage has now been amended and I am happy to correct the record here as a result. More details here.