Did you know that if you take the phrase, ‘apolitical organisation’ and play nip and tuck with it, you can completely change its meaning?
This is exactly what Defence has done. It has brought out a new policy on political activity. And it’s typical of modern government ‘policies’, in that it deceptively appears to say one thing but actually does the complete opposite.
Like this bit in paragraph 1.1 of chapter 1 of part 7 of the MILPERSMAN. That’s military speak for the Military Personnel Policy Manual. It states:
In order to ensure the political neutrality of Defence, it is necessary to impose some restrictions on Defence members concerning their participation in political activities.
It’s good that MILPERSMAN states that the Australian Defence Force is to be politically neutral in this paragraph.
The problem is that the bureaucrat who wrote it had absolutely no intention whatsoever of ensuring the political neutrality of the Australian Defence Force. His name is David Hurley and he is now the Governor of New South Wales.
We know this because merely a few paragraphs later (paragraph 1.12 to be exact), this new policy states something that is not politically neutral at all.
In fact, it states that Defence members can wear their uniform at political events. They can take leading roles in political organisations that would identify Defence with political activity. They can hold activities of a political nature on Defence premises. They can even wear party ribbons or other political badges on their uniform.
All they have to do is get permission from the approving authority. That would be the Chief of Army, Chief of Navy or the Chief of Air Force. Given David Morrison made it to Chief of Army, it will only be a matter of time before one of the bosses signs off on Defence participation in protests to save refugees from whales. Or a protest to legalise dope (actually that already happens every time Defence marches in the Mardi Gras). Or just plain old Defence-backed political campaigning, complete with rifles for self-defence against ‘aggressive’ ‘right-wing’ ‘extremists’ hoping to vote at a plebiscite.
So, under this new policy, the service chiefs decide who can play politics in uniform. That doesn’t sound apolitical at all. It sounds completely political.
And it is.
It is political because it states clearly that the service chiefs can approve uniformed political activity at their whim and fancy.
It is political because the service chiefs have already approved a political symbol that can be worn on the uniform: the Rising Sun wrapped in a rainbow.
It is political because the service chiefs have already approved uniformed political activity: it’s called marching in the Mardi Gras.
It is political because the service chiefs have also banned other uniformed political activity: no marching at the March for Babies in uniform for Defence members.
It is political because the service chiefs have also signed off on sponsorship of a homosexual political lobby group: DEFGLIS.
And it is political because this whole new policy was rewritten to cover up the big, fat breach of the law permitted by David Hurley when he was Chief of Defence Force in late 2012.
Way back in 2012 when the last vestiges of legality and common sense were being eradicated from the hierarchy of the Australian Defence Force, there was a different policy on political activity. It was called Defence Instruction (General) Personnel 21-1 Political activities of Defence personnel. It stated very clearly in paragraph 28 that Defence members must not, in any activity of a political nature, wear their uniform.
Full stop. No ifs. No buts. Not at all.
And there was no ‘discretion’ for the service chiefs to provide any exemptions for this. Back then, people with brains knew this: if the service chiefs were given discretion to allow uniformed political activity, then inherently it would mean that they would shunt Defence in a political direction every time they made a decision on uniformed political activity – regardless of whether they approved it or not.
So what happened?
Well, the rainbow happened. It infected Defence.
And as it invariably does, the rainbow meant that the courage of the organisation’s leadership collapsed, respect for the law was broken and it was replaced with political activism and contempt. Contempt not only for Defence’s own policies, but for hundreds of years of Western democratic conventions carefully ensuring the apolitical status of the military and, in all probability, Australia’s own constitution.
When I lodged a formal complaint that David Hurley had breached Defence policy by allowing uniformed Defence personnel to march in the Mardi Gras, the initial response accepted that it was political. It stated this:
Then nothing happened. Publicly that is. Except David Hurley broke the law to sack me, as found by the Federal Court (true, that decision is under appeal).
But behind the scenes, the wheels were spinning. David Hurley and the hierarchy knew that they had blatantly breached the policies that they were supposed to follow. So, like any good politically correct organisation caught out breaking the law, they simply changed it.
That doesn’t make it right though. And it certainly doesn’t solve the problem for Defence’s head honchos.
This new policy now gives them discretion to allow uniformed political activity. And they have exercised it in a completely unsurprising fashion: approving radical left-wing activities and banning the conservative ones. It’s all Left, Left, Left now when they march into Defence HQ.
And that opens Defence up to potential legal action. It is clearly a discriminatory policy being exercised in a discriminatory way. If the Human Rights Commission wasn’t also completely staffed by left-wing hacks, I’d consider lobbing in a complaint there.
More importantly, the High Court has found that the Constitution carries an implied protection of political communication. It would appear, then, that David Hurley signed off an a policy that limits political communication of certain Defence members based on their conservative political views. Now that would be an interesting matter for the High Court to consider.
This policy could well be challenged. It should be. And it just might be too.
One final thing on Defence’s new totally political policy. David Hurley signed off on it on 14 October 2013. And then it was promptly hidden. It did not appear anywhere in Defence until very late in 2015. It certainly didn’t appear in any of my legal proceedings against Defence until about the same time.
So just why did Defence go to all this trouble to promulgate a new policy and then keep it secret for so long? FOI requests are inbound…
Defence’s new policy on political activity:
1.12 In any political, activity unless permitted by the approving authority, Defence members are not to:
a. take a leading or publicly prominent part in the affairs of a political organisation or party where that role would identify any part of Defence with a political activity and/or impair their ability to adequately fulfil their obligations to Defence
b. take part in activities of a political nature on Defence premises unless the following applies:
(1) the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has issued relevant Caretaker Conventions
(2) Defence has issued specific guidance
(3) the area has been set aside as a polling place on polling days in accordance with section 80 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
c. use, without the consent of their approving authority, any information gained by or conveyed to them through their connection with Defence
d. allow such activity to interfere with the functioning of Defence in the performance of its roles, or prejudice performance of their duties as Defence members
e. engage in conduct in such a manner as to identify Defence with a political activity
f. use their rank when identifying, describing, or referring to themselves
g. wear their uniform h. publish pictures of Defence members in uniform on political websites and on social media sites when referring to political activities
i. wear party ribbons or emblems or other political badges while on duty or in uniform.