Senator Brian Burston (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018
There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer with our response to the answer.
Question 7 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)
Why does the minister now seek to bring the RAAF into the discussion when the RCB submission is specifically based on the deception method of deploying the Army unit (RCB) under warlike – specific tasks to protect the airbase, tasks and supporting Rules of Engagement repeatedly documented in both Army and RAAF operational and other directives, unless to accidentally reveal the Government’s REAL motive – the perceived cost of recognition?
Answer 7. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne
The inclusion of the RAAF is consistent with previous reviews of ADF service at RAAF Base Butterworth. Both Rifle Company Butterworth and RAAF personnel posted to Butterworth were both exposed to the same risk of harm, had the same rules of engagement (ROE) and had responsibilities associated with base security and in the event of a ground emergency. It is only appropriate that any consideration of the classification of ADF service at RAAF Base Butterworth consider all the ADF service over the prescribed period at that location.
RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 7.
While one can argue a common threat applied to both RAAF and RCB, this response again fails to address the real issue. RCB was tasked to defend the RAAF who only had to exist there in case of any need for response to external aggression. The majority of RAAF personnel were only on base when rostered during daylight, with skeleton staffing at night, when the enemy was most likely to attack. RCB were specifically required on base to mount the QRF 7/24 if required, and always at night irrespective of the intelligence-assessed level of threat at any time. RCB was a potent combat force with full weapon capability. Except for a very small ADG group with dogs and a few Police with pistols, Most RAAF personnel had no small arms at all and were unable to resist a ground attack. Had an attack come in, RCB would have taken the main casualties as they were there for one reason- to fight.
By grouping RAAF and RCB in this reply, the Minister’s scriptwriters seek to adopt the ‘least risk’ approach used in the original decision to award the ASM. That decision showed the Government was forced to accept that there was trouble in paradise (hence the ASM), but only a slight level of trouble (the perceived risk to RAAF). Without denigrating the level of threat to RAAF colleagues, RCB faced a far higher level of the definition of warlike service, AND under a deliberate deception. Notwithstanding the fact that RCB endured this higher level of threat to persons, it would still support the RAAF being recognised as also rendering warlike service.