In early December, I won an important case in the Federal Court against the Chief of Defence Force. In a nutshell, the most senior military officer in Australia tried to sack me for my personal political views. And the Federal Court ruled that this was unconstitutional.
In the last few days, the Chief of Defence Force has launched an appeal against this decision. That is his right. And now I will defend freedom of speech in Australia. Again.
And I hope to win. Again.
However, it is most disappointing that so many Australian men and women have given their lives in the service of the Australian Defence Force to protect freedom in this nation and now this organisation is going back to court to try and limit it, even after it has already been found to have unlawfully restricted freedom of political communication.
Let’s be clear what this case is about.
It is about whether the Australian Defence Force (and, by extension, any other large government department or business) can engage in official political activity one hand, while trying to limit the right of individuals to express private political opinions on the other.
For the sake of Australia and all Australians, I hope that the large guys with all the money don’t win. I’ll certainly do my best to ensure that they don’t.
Let’s recap the political activity already underway in the Australian Defence Force.
- A naval officer has been allowed to use her position as a Defence member to lobby for government funded mosques and imams.
- An official navy Twitter account, @navyislamic, has attacked the Australian Liberty Alliance, as well as former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and it has also criticised government policy on refugees and even questioned military operations against the Islamic State.
- An LGBTI lobby group has been given command of Australian Defence Force personnel and even today is providing direction to Defence members, including telling them what uniforms they should wear.
- Uniformed Defence members have taken to the streets to participate in an offensive and lewd protest against extant Commonwealth law on marriage and family.
It should come as no surprise that a military prepared to engage in political activity will also exercise its muscles to shut down those who hold different political opinions.
And that is exactly what has happened, and it is what this case is all about.
In one sense, my private political views are irrelevant. The media and the political establishment should be up in arms about unacceptable military interference in domestic politics. But they aren’t. The only party in Australia prepared to stand up to the hierarchy of the Australian Defence Force is the Australian Liberty Alliance.
The good news is that the Australian Liberty Alliance has already forced the military back into its box. I write about that here.
However, while my political views should be irrelevant, this case should also be of immediate concern especially to Australians who hold conservative political views. That is because it is precisely these views that the Australian Defence Force has in the firing line. In fact, this appeal is not really the Chief of Defence Force v Bernard Gaynor. It should more appropriately be titled Chief of Defence Force v Conservative Australia.
If we cannot successfully defend our previous win in the Federal Court, it will set a dangerous precedent. Australians who support extant laws on marriage, or who are concerned about the encroachment of Islam in this country will find that they can only serve in the military if they keep their mouths shut, or, even worse, they may well find themselves required to support political activity supporting LGBTI groups or the Grand Mufti.
And let’s finally recap what kind of measures the military is prepared to take to silence opposition to its official political activity. This is what I endured before my appointment as an officer was unlawfully terminated:
- I was told that my lawful, private views were unacceptable, offensive and not to be repeated, even though they were not expressed in the workplace and had nothing to do with the military.
- I was told that the former Chief of Army, David Morrison, had taken an ‘interest’ in the manner in which I raise and educate my children.
- The Australian Defence Force publicly criticised my statements about who I would allow to educate my children.
- I was forbidden from participating in the workplace.
- I was told that Defence policy now allowed vilification of Christianity but not Islam.
- I was told that Defence policy now supported homosexual political activities and agendas.
- I was told that Defence policy required absolute tolerance, but that it absolutely did not tolerate me.
- The current Chief of Army wrote to me to endorse the idea that homosexuals should have more say about who educates my children than my wife and I.
- My commanding officer informed my chain of command that I was ‘unavailable’ for service, even though I was willing to work.
- My complaints about breaches of Defence policies were dismissed without formal investigation.
- The former speech-writer to the former Chief of Army and transgender officer, Group Captain Cate McGregor, was given the opportunity, in uniform, to criticise me publicly. The Australian Defence Force and the ABC never provided me with an opportunity to respond.
- Group Captain Cate McGregor publicly abused Catholics, Catholic beliefs, my family and me on social media statements that were sent to the former Chief of Defence Force. This officer was later promoted, even though it was also found that these statements constituted unacceptable behaviour. Group Captain McGregor was then praised by the ABC as a ‘victim’ of bullying.
- The Australian Defence Force liaised with the chairman of a homosexual lobby group in relation to media statements about me.
- This person also lobbied the Australian Defence Force to take administrative or disciplinary action against me.
- I was refused permission to receive my Defence Long Service Medal at my unit and it was posted to me in the mail.
- My commanding officer refused to provide me with any annual performance report, as required by policy.
- My commanding officer refused to pay me for time I spent responding to administrative action taken against me.
- I was subjected to 12 military charges and issued a notice to show cause on the basis that I would be found guilty. All charges failed and were dismissed.
- I was subjected to unacceptable behaviour complaints by high-profile homosexual and transgender officers that were also used as the basis to launch administrative action to terminate my appointment. It was later found that I had no case to answer.
- Almost every officer between my commanding officer and the former Chief of Army are on the record as stating that I would be found guilty of breaching policy in disciplinary and administrative investigations. They were all wrong.
- When the former Chief of Defence Force realised that I had not been found guilty of breaching any policies or orders he decided that he would no longer place any weight on whether or not I had ‘technically’ breached them, but stated that he would instead make a decision to terminate my appointment on his own opinion that I had breached policies and orders.
- And even though every administrative and disciplinary investigation thrown at me by the chain of command was found to be unsubstantiated and without basis, my appointment as an officer was still terminated by the former Chief of Defence Force and now Governor of New South Wales, David Hurley. He did this on his last day in office. A few days later he gave a speech on ‘moral courage’.
- In the lead up to his decision, the former Chief of Defence Force also wrote to me that the expression of my religious and political beliefs, even as a civilian, undermined confidence in my ability to serve this nation.
All of this occurred, even though the former Chief of Defence Force also acknowledged that I had provided a high standard of service to the Australian Army, including on operations. All of this occurred because the former Chief of Defence Force and the hierarchy began supporting certain political agendas and did not like the criticism that followed. And it continues now because the current Chief of Defence Force wants to ensure that it can occur legally again in the future. Against someone else.
I would like to thank all of you have supported, encouraged and assisted me during the last three years and the previous court case. I could not have continued without you support.
We now have to go back into battle again. I can promise you that I am once again ready for the fight.