The evidentiary facts that the RCB Review Group obtained from the Australian Government and the Malaysian Governments’ own records and presented to our Government proves that RCB’s operational deployment (1970-1989) to protect the RAAF assets at Air Base Butterworth against the communist terrorists threat during Malaysia’s Counter Insurgency War (1968-1989) was warlike.
Despite those recorded facts being checkable and immutable the Government maintains the RCB service as peacetime similar to garrison duty in Australia and presents a defence that we challenge. In maintaining this subterfuge they have denied over 9,000 Australian military troops and their families’ access to repatriation benefits under the Veterans Entitlements Act (VEA) and other medalic entitlements. This is unjust.
Since 2006 the RCBRG has sought from successive Governments:
- a ministerial review of the decision and
- discussion meetings with the Minister and his Defence and DVA advisors as part of a due dispute resolution process.
The latter had been ignored. Instead, the Minister and his Department chose to conduct correspondence by mail. In 2018 after a personal representation to Minister Chester, he invited the RCB Review Group, in writing, to meet with his defence advisors at Parliament House, Canberra on 26th November. At that ‘clayton’s’ meeting we discovered the Defence advisors were to be observers only and not participate in any discussions with us. On whose order was this decided and why weren’t we advised? This was a denial of proper process. There are other examples that lead us to believe there is a passive or active ‘cover up’ to deny the RCB troops natural justice (sometimes referred to as procedural fairness).
Since 2007 our communications, with new supporting evidence, to the various Departments (DVA and Defence) and their responses signed by the various Ministers: Billson (Coalition), Snowdon (Labor), Feeney (Labor), Robert (Coalition), Tehan (Coalition), McCormack (Coalition) and Chester (Coalition) and VCDFs (Griggs and Johnston) their script has been the same. Reading them is like reading over and over the same text produced by a single author. And that is because it is – the Ministers and the VCDFs appear to be, as the PM recently opined “to put his own ministers on notice, calling for them to ensure they do not become “captive of their department”: more specifically in our case, captured by the Nature of Service Branch in Defence who write all the scripts. We believe Ministers fail to independently verify recommendations coming from NOSB even where there is clear contrary evidence pointed out to them in personal letters and even where the NOSB text defies logic. Certainly they have ignored erudite advice such as Ronald Reagan’s to “Trust but Verify”. Further examination of the Ministers application of their standards to the RCB’s claim process is warranted.
We have lost trust in the Minister and his advisors to fairly consider our challenge and we call on the Prime Minister to appoint an “independent of government” public inquiry.
The Current Situation
The Government through Minister Chester and the VCDF are now ignoring our:
- challenges to their decision;
- requests for an independent of government inquiry; and
- contention that proper processes as required by the Ministerial standards and the APS codes of ethics and conduct have been breached.
This is their known tactic of denying oxygen to claimants.
By doing that, it provides us the moral authority for direct action in other influential areas, centered on the Australian people, to expose the truth of our claim, our belief of a deception and call for an independent public inquiry.
We understand the frustration of RCB veterans and their families with the Groups perceived lack of progress. But they realise that our efforts to change the Minister’s decision have fallen on deaf ears because of his dogged trust in his advisors and his unwillingness both to countenance any suggestion they may be wrong and to verify their full consideration of all the relevant facts we have submitted.
While leaving open further engagement with the Minister at his request (we still regard his meetings invitation to Canberra in November 2018 as dishonourable and unfinished business) we now move to direct actions.
Our recent activities have included personal letters from Ted Chitham and Russell Linwood to the VCDF, from Russell to the Secretary DVA, from Russell to professional researchers, our Team’s conversations and appointments with certain MPs and Senators who are willing to make direct representations on our behalf to Minister and the Commonwealth Ombudsman, contacts for appointments with influential Senators. Ted’s contact with both Ken Stone who was able to have the DFRDB commutation issue featured on the ABC TV 7.30 Report and picked up by other TV Channels 7 and 10 and Ted’s engagement with an ethicist has been very positive.
The RCBRG has direct action plans in place in relation to support from:
- The Parliament, particularly to the Senate cross benchers where we have obtained committed support, and other known supporters in the House of Representatives,
- The Australian people directly through:
- social media platforms, (our own shared with other networks);
- the national media, (Alan Jones and Sky/ABC and other print and radio personalities). The media plays a vital role to inform the public; and
- Community funding campaigns.
- The veterans’ community
- The Law. Our initial advice gave us encouragement and a direction for further pursuit failing success in the above activities.
Vital to these plans are our planned engagements with MPs and Senators at their Electorate offices. Where necessary RCBRG team members will join with our RCB veterans, their families and supporters in those electorate visits.
In complementary action to the above, the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (DHAAT) has agreed to hear an appeal from Ray Fulcher (RCBRG Chairman) for award of the AASM. The DHAAT doesn’t have the power to award him the AASM. However, the Tribunal does have the power to make a recommendation to the government for a new declaration of warlike service covering the RCB period. Ray will push the DHAAT to do so based on the evidence and argument he is providing to the DHAAT, including the RCBRG database of primary and secondary evidence. Defence have 30 business days to respond to the appeal, Ray may reply and then hearings will be held. We expect the whole process to take 2-3 months until a decision is handed down. In the meantime all other RCBRG actions will proceed regardless of this outcome.
The Royal Australian Regiment Corporation (RARC), The Air Force Association (AFA) and the Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) will resubmit their previous endorsement letters for an independent inquiry to the new Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Military veteran Phil Thompson MP (Lib) the newly elected Member for Herbert (Townsville) is encouraged to promote the RCB claim directly to the PM.
RCBRG Team Changes
Within the Team our Chairman Robert Cross has voluntarily stood down from that position because of his frequent absences overseas. We thank him for his resilience and leadership since 1993. Robert remains as a vital team member.
Ray Fulcher is our elected new Chairman. Ray is legally trained and has prepared our major submissions to the Defence Ombudsman and DHAAT Review. He was one of our Team at the infamous ‘clayton’s’ meeting with Minister Chester and his Defence Advisors in Canberra in November 2018. His contribution to our campaign is greatly appreciated. Ray lives in Seymour Victoria.
Stan Hannaford one of the Team’s pioneers has decided to retire. Stan’s contribution has been monumental and an inspiration to us all. We wish him well in his “retirement”.
We thank you all for your support, suggestions, comments and donations: they are greatly appreciated. Your commitment to correcting this injustice reinforces our dedication and resolve to pursue our righteous claim.
Chairman RCB Review Group