Well, well, well.
The story is unravelling.
And that’s because it should.
Last month, the Senate committee charged with oversight of Defence was informed that there was nothing to see with regards to Defence’s second-in-command, Ray Griggs. The committee was told that two separate inquiries had cleared Ray Griggs of any wrong doing amid allegations that his new (and fourth) wife benefited from their relationship with a new job and a couple of promotions in quick succession.
This is what the Chief of Defence Force, Mark Binskin, said at that hearing:
So the fact is I approach each decision the same way. I establish the facts, I seek expert advice, I assess each case on its merits and, if required, I take appropriate action. That’s exactly how I’ve approached this particular issue…
…Both of those [reviews] independently reviewed the information available at the time, and the advice I received from both was that there had been no breach—no breach—of Defence policy.
That all sounds great.
The only problem was that these ‘inquiries’ were anything but.
Today the truth has come out. Brodie Wootten, the senior Navy sailor who lost his wife to Griggs, was never once asked to provide any evidence to the reviews about when the now infamous Griggs’ affair began.
This is how it was reported by Rory Callinan in The Australian today:
Secret reviews and an inquiry by the Defence Inspector-General into issues associated with an affair between the military’s second in command, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, and a lower-ranked officer failed to interview the officer’s husband…
…The Australian has found that during both these reviews and the Inspector-General’s inquiry, Commander Wootten’s husband, Brodie, was not interviewed.
Mr Wootten has declined to comment but navy insiders have confirmed he was not interviewed to see whether he had evidence that would confirm or deny the timing of the relationship or whether he was aware of others who may have had relevant information. Also, no investigation was undertaken into the couple’s personal electronic devices.
Mark Binskin might talk about ‘facts’ and ‘expert advice’ and assessing each case ‘on its merits’. But in this case he has done no such thing.
One can only wonder why the Chief of Defence Force is so afraid to hold a proper inquiry into the conduct of his second in command.
And this point also needs to be made.
Ray Griggs was having an affair behind his wife’s back. Chloe Wootten was doing the same to her husband. Both of these individuals were engaged in deceptive conduct and living lies with those closest to them.
Yet it appears that Defence has chosen to accept at face value the word of the only two people in this entire matter who cannot be trusted at all. And it has cleared them without even bothering to take statements from the very people who would be best placed to provide any information in relation to potential abuses of power or misconduct.
No wonder the comments I have received in recent days have not been directed at Ray Griggs, but at his boss instead.
Griggs might have done the dirty in this matter but Binksin is the one left with egg on his face.
And it’s not going to come off easily.
That’s because Binskin knew about this affair for at least a month before Brodie Wootten was officially informed that the Vice Chief of Defence Force was shacking up with his wife. More from The Australian:
Defence chiefs are believed to have known about the alleged affair for at least a month before reservist sailor Brodie Wootten was told by his wife, navy commander Chloe Wootten, she was involved in a relationship with then-married Vice Admiral Griggs.
Vice Admiral Griggs officially told his superiors in October 2014 that he was leaving his wife of 22 years, Kerrie, to start a relationship with Commander Wootten, who was married at the time.
Yet even today, the Minister for Defence Marise Payne has come out swinging to defend Ray Griggs and his behaviour.
Defence commanders like to claim that they put the welfare of junior members first and foremost.
What this whole affair shows, even if there was no ‘policy’ breach, is that nothing is further from the truth. When it comes to subordinates, they, and their families, are expendable for the pleasure of the Head Honchos.