February 25, 2009
OPPOSITION Leader Malcolm Turnbull continued to target beleaguered Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon in question time this afternoon over the SAS pay bungle as the Liberals sniff blood. Members of the elite special services squad have been hit with debt recovery notices of up to $50,000 for overpayments of allowances.
The soldiers have also been threatened with disciplinary action and warned of expulsion from their unit if they complain about the bungle. Mr Fitzgibbon stumbled on the issue in parliament yesterday. And, desperate to land blows against the Government after a week where his own party was wracked by infighting and a series of poor performances in Newspoll, Mr Turnbull has moved to increase the pressure on Mr Fitzgibbon. "Mr Fitzgibbon is blaming everybody but himself for this appalling SAS pay scandal," Mr Turnbull said this morning.
"Joel Fitzgibbon's incompetence has undermined the morale of the SAS. It has undermined the morale of the entire ADF. "He has by his incompetence allowed a situation to continue where soldiers, troopers in the SAS, are having their pay docked, some are getting no pay, so while they are taking the fight up to the Taliban they are having to worry whether they can meet their mortgage payments."
Mr Turnbull described the matter as an "extraordinary example" of ministerial incompetence, saying any bookkeeper could clear the matter up in a couple of hours. "He is the minister. He could have fixed this up long ago. He said he would. He hasn't," Mr Turnbull said. He stopped short of calling for Mr Fitzgibbon to be sacked, but instead put the pressure on the Prime Minister saying it was a matter from him.
Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston sought an undertaking in senate estimates this morning that no soldier who had approached politicians would be penalised. Head of the Defence Forces Air Chief Marshal Houston told the committee nothing was more important than the welfare of personnel.
"You have my undertaking that there will be no retribution," he said, referring to an email from a regimental sergeant-major warning soldiers against taking the issue outside the chain of command. "You have my word that we will not pursue these people in any way."
This typical of the Australian Labor Party,(ALP) during the Vietnam war they and their financiers the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) actively supported, morally and financially, the North Vietnamese. Organizing some of the most disgraceful and violent demonstrations and physical attacks upon Australia's returned servicemen as they attempted to regain their civilian lives after service in Vietnam.
The ACTU's and their political party the Australian Labor Party (ALP) knew no depths in their attempts to "punish" Australia's finest who had the courage and patriotism to serve their country in Vietnam, from preventing supplies from been loaded onto ships and aircraft to physical assaults upon defence service personnel on the streets of Sydney to the Australian Deputy PM and Communist,the late Dr Jim Cairns hosting in Sydney Town Hall a North Vietnamese delegation all seated beneath the Communist Flag of North Vietnam.
Former Deputy Labor PM and Communist Dr Jim Cairns (c)
at Sydney Town Hall with Labors best friends, two days after Australia's most sacred day
ANZAC day. April 26 1975
These Socialist Labor scum, and their financiers, the Marxist based ACTU, have Australian soldiers blood on their hands, stealing their pay packets whilst they risk life and limb in Iraq and Afghanistan is simply just another attack on Australia's finest, in a time they and their families need support the most.
I remember when the first ship sailed to Iraq, Labor put out a press release alleging that the crew were crying and that the moral was so low on board because none of the crew believed in the cause, How would the Labor party know? I hear you ask,they claimed they had a crew member on board who was the son of a Labor supporting family and he was keeping them informed via email, updating them on the ships progress and the moral of the crew.
So we had a situation where Saddam's cheer squad here in Australia, the ALP , ACTU and the Greens (Former Communist Party) had one of their "men" on board an Australian Naval ship on its way to Iraq keeping Saddam's pals and sympathisers updated on the daily activities aboard ship. In the first Gulf War the then Labor Government led by PM Bob Hawke, ordered Australian service personnel not to wear their uniforms off base, because they had received representations,demands, from Sydney's (occupied territories) Muslim controlled south west Sydney suburbs, that they found it offensive seeing Australian military personnel on the streets of Sydney and suburbs given they were about to attack their hero, and fellow Islamic leader Saddam Hussein.
Soldier's pay was $0.0, says SAS wife
Matthew Franklin and Mark Dodd
February 27, 2009
THE wife of a Special Air Service Regiment soldier has accused Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon of misleading parliament, backing claims that army bungling over an overpayment led to another soldier being given a paypacket marked $0.0 last month.
Directly rejecting Mr Fitzgibbon's version of a pay dispute that has dominated parliament this week, the woman, who asked not to be named, said she had personal knowledge that despite denials by the army and the minister, the soldier's pay packet on January 22 had been entirely docked over disputed claims that he had been overpaid.
The claims came as the Opposition warned that army officials had launched a witch-hunt against soldiers who publicly complained
about threats of disciplinary action if they leaked details of the pay dispute, which also triggered demands that Kevin Rudd sack Mr Fitzgibbon for incompetence.
But the army denied claims that it had required soldiers to sign declarations they had not flouted the chain of command by leaking information about the affair.
The furore centres on a 2007 Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal decision granting upgraded special forces pay and allowances.
Defence officials incorrectly assumed its special forces soldiers all qualified for the new allowances, but later discovered many did not have the qualifications to match their pay.
They launched a retrospective debt-recovery program aimed at about 380 SAS soldiers. On Wednesday, Deputy Opposition Leader
Julie Bishop produced but would not table a pay packet showing a soldier had been docked his entire pay.
Mr Fitzgibbon hit back yesterday, telling parliament he believed he had found a copy of the man's pay packet, indicating he had been paid $2749, which went into two different bank accounts.
"Either the Opposition are very dumb and cannot read the pay slip properly or they are misrepresenting the facts," said Mr Fitzgibbon, who declared all pay recovery efforts had been frozen.
Later, Defence officials conducted a briefing in which they also insisted the man had been paid. They were unwilling to have their names attributed as sources of the information.
However, last night Ms Bishop showed The Australian a copy of the pay packet at issue, proving it read that the man's "entitlement (includes adjustments this fortnight) for pay day 22 January 09" was $0.0.
The woman who contacted The Australian last night said: "I heard from his mouth. I heard him state that he received $0." She also disputed Mr Fitzgibbon's claim in parliament on Wednesday that no one had contacted his office to complain about the pay issue except for one woman who had refused to leave her contact details. "I was that woman," she said. "And I did leave my name and phone number."
Last night, a spokesman for Mr Fitzgibbon said the woman had given her name and contact details to a staffer in the office of Defence Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon.
Earlier, in question time, Opposition frontbencher Bob Baldwin asked Kevin Rudd whether he was aware that SAS soldiers had been grilled by their superiors and required to sign statements saying they had not leaked a recent email threatening disciplinary action if soldiers went outside the chain of command over the pay scandal.
The Prime Minister did not answer the question directly, instead noting that Defence Force chief Angus Houston had guaranteed no one would face such action.
Defence officials repeated this pledge in their subsequent media briefing. But they said soldiers had been requested to report whether they thought their pay had been incorrectly assessed.
They also said they would conduct an audit to tally the number of soldiers affected by a computerised pay bungle. It would be finalised by April 27.
No doubt Australia's Dear Leader, Kevin 07, aka Kevin "I have never been a socialist" Rudd., would have Australian soldiers believe that they were well off, in as much as Dear Leader did not send them a demand for outstanding Union Fees for the privilege of risking life and limb.