Five Australian Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan

Three Australian soldiers have been killed by a rogue Afghan soldier in Afghanistan and two members of the SAS have died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash.

Details of the incidents have been announced by the Acting Chief of the ADF, Air Marshal Mark Binskin. The Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has described this as “the darkest of days for Australia”.

Mark Binskin

The “green-on-blue” incident occurred at a base in southern Oruzgan province yesterday. Two other soldiers were injured in the attack.

The helicopter crash occurred during an “insertion” in Helmand province. The aircraft rolled over on landing.

  • Listen to Air Marshal Binskin (16m)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

About 1500 Australian Defence Force troops are in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. The casualties announced today bring Australia’s death toll to 38. Seven soldiers have now been killed in green-on-blue incidents.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that she has “made the judgement call” to come home early from the Pacific Islands forum in the Cook Islands. She said this is the nation’s worst day in Afghanistan and the worst loss of life since Vietnam.

Julia Gillard

Gillard insisted that the commitment in Afghanistan has a purpose and that “progress is being made”. She said: “We cannot allow even the most grievous of circumstances to alter our strategy… We went there for a purpose and we will see that purpose through.”

  • Listen to Prime Minister Gillard (11m)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Watch Gillard:

Statement released by Department of Defence.

Three Australian soldiers killed, two wounded in insider attack

Three Australian soldiers have been killed and two wounded following an insider attack at Patrol Base Wahab in the Baluchi Valley region of Uruzgan.

The attack occurred during the evening of 29 August, 2012 (Afghan time) inside the confines of the Patrol Base. [Read more…]

Governor-General Quentin Bryce’s ANZAC Day Address

Sir Zelman Cowen Eulogised By Josh Frydenberg

The former Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, was remembered today at a funeral service in Melbourne.

The service was attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who appointed Cowen in December 1977. Former PMs Bob Hawke and John Howard also attended, as did Cowen’s successor as Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen.

A moving eulogy to Cowen was delivered by the Josh Frydenberg, the Liberal member for Kooyong.

Josh Frydenberg

  • Listen to Josh Frydenberg’s eulogy:

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Sir Zelman Cowen, Governor-General After Kerr, Dies, 92

Sir Zelman Cowen, 1919-2011Sir Zelman Cowen, Australia’s 19th Governor-General, appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in 1977, has died, aged 92.

Sir Zelman died last night, on the 34th anniversary of his swearing-in as Governor-General.

He held the position from 1977 until July, 1982.

Appointed to succeed Sir John Kerr, the man who dismissed the Whitlam government in 1975, Sir Zelman is credited with restoring confidence in the position of Governor-General. “Confidence in the office needed to be restored,” said Malcolm Fraser.

Fraser was the only prime minister during Sir Zelman’s time as Governor-General.


Zelman Cowen contributed to Australia as a lawyer, an academic, administrator and governor-general.

He accepted the role of governor-general at a difficult time. Confidence in the office needed to be restored. [Read more…]

Americain: Governor-General Presents 2010 Melbourne Cup

The Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has described the Melbourne Cup as a “day of national unanimity”.

She made the comment during her presentation to the connections of the winning horse at Flemington Race Course in Melbourne.

The 150th Melbourne Cup was won by Americain. Maluckyday was second, whilst the sentimental favourite, So You Think, came in third.

Bryce said it was also a day of “individual financial adventure” and, “if you are female, exuberant showing-off”.

By tradition, the Governor-General makes the presentation to the winner of the Melbourne Cup.

Click the PLAY button to listen to the Governor-General’s presentation:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click the PLAY button to listen to the call of the race by Channel 7’s Greg Miles.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Watch the Melbourne Cup:

Dissolutions, Prorogations and a Mea Culpa

I learned a timely lesson earlier today.

Sitting in my car after leaving an appointment, I looked at Twitter to see if any there was any news of interest.

A number of media outlets and journalists were tweeting that a 19-gun salute was about to take place, at 4.59pm to be precise, outside Parliament House in Canberra.

Then I managed to forget things I used to know and proceeded to make a fool of myself. Well, I could argue only half a fool, but that’s a bit like being half mad or half pregnant.

I took issue with statements by others that the prorogation of Federal Parliament was about to take place. I was wrong. The Parliament was prorogued at 4.59pm. Here’s the explanation from the Parliamentary Education Office. Thanks to @2ricz.

Before dissolving the House of Representatives, the Governor-General issues a proclamation proroguing the Parliament. Prorogation is an ancient power of the British Crown adopted in the Australian Parliament as the means of bringing a session of Parliament to a close. A prorogation may take place separately from an election, but this rarely happens now except for ceremonial purposes. For example, in 1974 and 1977 the Parliament was prorogued when the Queen visited Australia which enabled Her Majesty to attend and open Parliament. When an election is called, the Prime Minister usually announces a dissolution and prorogation of Parliament at the same time before they are formalised by the Secretary to the Governor-General in a public ceremony in front of Parliament House. After the Parliament is prorogued and the House of Representatives dissolved, bills and other business before the House of Representatives and the Senate lapse and will need to be reintroduced. The government becomes a caretaker government and, by convention, does not make major decisions. The sittings of the Senate are terminated, but Senate Committees may still operate.

I took issue with statements by others that the Parliament was dissolved at 5.00pm. I was right. The House of Representatives was dissolved at 5.00pm but the Senate wasn’t. The Senate is only dissolved when there is a double dissolution and that hasn’t happened since 1987.

I took issue with the assertion that Parliament was “deferred”. I was right. As @ljLoch tweeted, whilst that might be a nice concept, Parliament is never deferred.

The lesson? As that old saying goes, sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Governor-General Attacked And Defended

The Governor-General, Michael Jeffery, has been attacked by a newspaper columnist, prompting a rare public defence from Government House.

The Governor-General’s Official Secretary, Malcolm Hazell, has written to the Brisbane Courier-Mail defending his boss against the charge of having “risen without trace”. Hazell has outlined the range of activities the Governor-General has been involved in, including 850 speeches and 750 official functions since his appointment in 2003.

This is the text of the article by Mike O’Connor in the Brisbane Courier-Mail on February 3, 2008.

Governor-General stirs into action over cricket issue

There is nothing quite like the prospect of joining the ranks of the unemployed to galvanise a body into action.

This is particularly so when your present job happens to be one of the best in the country with a salary of $365,000 a year and some attractive perks such as free accommodation in a fully furnished and maintained mansion, staff including butler and chef, free limousine and driver and first-class overseas travel.

Such is the position in which Governor-General Michael Jeffery now finds himself. Appointed by John Howard to the Big Job five years ago, Jeffery’s term expires in August and the prospect of trudging down to the Centrelink office in the depths of winter now beckons.

As a G-G, he has risen without trace and would easily head any list of least-known Australian public figures, having blended in with the red carpet with such success as to become invisible.< Occasionally his image appears on the evening television news, usually shaking hands with someone much better known than himself. He is a distant figure, shrouded in ceremony and as far removed from the Australian populace as the monarch he represents. According to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia's website, "possibly the most important role of the Governor-General, as the office has evolved over the years, is to encourage, articulate and represent those things that unite Australians as a nation". If there has been much in the way of encouragement and articulation over the past five years I would suggest that it has gone unnoticed – until last week when suddenly, the G-G stirred. The end of his tenure now looms and while it seems likely that Prime Minister Rudd will re-appoint him, the G-G decided it was finally time he stuck his head over the parapet and articulated "those things that unite Australia as a nation". Perhaps he felt it would mark him as a man of the people in the new Prime Minister's eyes and secure for him another term in the well-padded lifestyle to which he has become accustomed. Incredibly, to do this, he decided it would be a good thing if he gave the nation's cricket team a belt over the ear with the vice-regal sword in a "play up, play up and play the game, there's a good chap" address that virtually accused the country's most successful team of athletes of practising poor sportsmanship. In it, he lectured the Australian team to be mindful of the difference between "robust competition" and "poor sportsmanship". He also decided that what Ricky Ponting and company needed was a lesson in cricket history. "We shouldn't forget that there were reports that the poor sportsmanship displayed in the infamous Bodyline tour (by England) of 1932 and 1933 actually had an adverse effect on trade between our two cricket-loving nations," he said. It would be reasonable to presume that Ponting, who has played 116 more Test matches than the G-G, was familiar with the Bodyline series. What he probably did not know was that his side should take into account Australia's balance of trade with India before padding up. Upset the Indians and it might affect trade between the two countries? Surely he can't be serious? The G-G then harked back to 1956 when runner John Landy stopped to help a competitor and still won his race, before fast-forwarding to this year's Australian Open and lauding the good sportsmanship displayed there. Tennis players and runners who competed 60 years ago are good sports, was the message. Australian cricketers are not. Obviously, the G-G has never been propped in front of his taxpayer-supplied telly when a line call has gone against Lleyton Hewitt. Given that since settling into Government House five years ago, Major General Michael Jeffery has excelled at saying very little of consequence about anything, his decision to break this deafening silence by criticising the Australian team is extraordinary. It was a cynical ploy to take advantage of the friction that exists between the Australian and Indian teams and grab a headline. If the G-G had wanted to articulate what his fellow Australians were thinking, he could have used his address to castigate Cricket Australia for its gutless kowtowing to the Indian cricket board. He might have mentioned the farcical "oversight" which saw the International Cricket Council fail to tell the judge sitting on Harbhajan Singh's hearing of his four previous transgressions. Instead, he chose to offer a patronising view of how the game should be played. I'm sure that Ponting and his team have taken careful note of the criticism aimed at them by Her Majesty's representative and will be better men for it. Last year it cost us $15.7 million to keep the Governor-General in a job. Are we getting our money's worth? I think not.

This is the text of Letter to the Editor of the Courier-Mail by Malcolm Hazell, Official Secretary to the Governor-General, on February 4, 2008.

I wonder whether Mike O’Connor, in researching his Monday View column about the Governor-General, spoke to any of the 180 or so voluntary and service organisations for which the Governor-General and Mrs Jeffery are patron? Or the farmers, miners, teachers, emergency service workers, indigenous leaders and nurses across Australia who have been visited by the Governor-General and Mrs Jeffery and thanked for their efforts on behalf of the community.

Or perhaps any of the 40,000 people who have received awards under our honours system – each delighted in the fact that Governor-General has taken the time to memorise their biographies and to make a personal comment about their achievements.

Did he talk to any of our military personnel who have received the Governor-General at bases across Australia and overseas? To any of the veterans at ANZAC Day and other commemorative services who served with General Jeffery in Vietnam, Borneo, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia?

Did he speak to anyone in Western Australia where General Jeffery served with distinction for 7 years as State Governor?

Did he speak to any of the 4,000 special needs children and their carers who have been to Government House as a Christmas treat?

Or any of the thousands of children who visit Government House during the year?

Mr O’Connor’s purported knowledge about the Governor-General’s future intentions are wrong. Instead of “aiming to secure another term”, General Jeffery is on the public record indicating his intention to relinquish office at the end of the year. Certainly Mr O’Connor did not read the Governor-General’s 2008 Australia Day Address. Nor any of the other 800 or so speeches on our website at

Mr O’Connor asks whether the community gets their money’s worth?

You be the judge.

Since his appointment, General Jeffery has:

– Delivered over 850 speeches;

– Attended some 1100 separate events throughout Australia;

– Hosted over 750 official functions;

– Received the credentials of over 130 Ambassadors and High Commissioners;

– Presided over 121 meetings of the Federal Executive Council, which has considered some 2,540 agenda items;

– Assented to over 760 pieces of legislation;

– Received over 500 callers, many of whom were representatives of the approximately 180 organisations for which the Governor-General and Mrs Jeffery are Patrons; and

– Represented the Government and people of Australia in Belgium, China, Denmark, East Timor, Egypt, Germany, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Rome, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, the Solomon Islands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Samoa and Singapore.

The portrait offered by Mr O’Connor, of a man who has served his country for over 50 years as a decorated soldier, Governor and Governor-General, is disingenuous in the extreme.

Malcolm Hazell
Official Secretary to the Governor-General

Rudd Rules Out Beazley As Governor-General

Kim Beazley will not be appointed Governor-General, according to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. [Read more…]

Kevin Rudd Sworn In As Australia’s 26th Prime Minister

Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia

10.00am – Kevin Rudd has been sworn in as Prime Minister by the Governor-General, Michael Jeffery, in a ceremony at Government House, in Canberra. [Read more…]

Governor-General Michael Jeffery’s ANZAC Day Address

There is a need for people to “get back to the fundamental philosophy of what a worthwhile life is all about”, according to the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery.

Delivering the ANZAC Day Address at the War Memorial in Canberra, Jeffery said “a spirit of service before self” epitomises what “our ex-servicement and women intrinsically believed in and fought for”.

Jeffery also said the security of the nation is the “primary responsibility” and warned against running down the defence forces.

  • Listen to Governor-General Michael Jeffery’s ANZAC Day Address.

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This is the text of the Address by His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffrey, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, at the ANZAC Day Commemorative Ceremony, held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

At 4:30 precisely, the first line of the 8th Light Horse leapt from their trenches. As their helmets appeared above the parapet, an awful fire broke upon them. Many were shot, but a line started forward. It crumpled and vanished within five metres. One or two men on the flanks dashed to the enemy’s parapet before being killed. The rest lay still in the open. The second line saw the fate of their friends…they waited two minutes, as ordered…They could hardly have doubted their fate. They knew they would die, and they determined to die bravely….

“Boys, you have ten minutes to live,” their Commanding Officer told them. “And I’m going to lead you.” Men shook hands with their mates, took position and, when the order came, charged into the open. The bullets of their expectant foe caught them as before, and tumbled them into the dust beside their comrades….. It was now a little after 5:15 am.

Major General Clunies-Ross, Prime Minister, Excellencies, Mr Rudd, Air Chief Marshal Houston, Admiral Yener Karahanoglu, Commander Turkish Naval Force, Distinguished guests, Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and girls:

It is an honour to be present with thousands of fellow Australians gathered here at our beautiful national War Memorial, and at war memorials around the country, to remember our fallen on this special day, as Bill Gammage recounted so vividly in his description of the Battle of the Nek, fought on the 7th of August, 1915 at Gallipoli.

British Commander-in-Chief General Sir Ian Hamilton summed it up later when he said: “Before the war, who had ever heard of ANZAC? Hereafter who will ever forget it?”

And from that cauldron of hard, often hand to hand fighting and awful disease, was born an enduring mutual respect and admiration between two former foes who are now firm friends and allies.

It was a special honour to take the salute from those marching today representing as you do, the nation’s later ANZACs who have fought, supported or are still serving our country.

For as you swung by I saw the stomachs pulled in, the chests swelling, the heads lifting, the pain of old wounds forgotten, the eyes gleaming, and the sound of your marching feet told its own story; of men and women who are so rightfully proud of what they have done in the ultimate service to their nation; the defence of its basic freedoms.

And what a group you are. The fighting crews of Her Majesty’s Australian ships and submarines, fighter, bomber and transport squadrons of the RAAF, infantry battalions, the intelligence corps and engineers, the Reserves, Special Forces, Armoured and Cavalry Regiments and Signallers; the whole vast organisation of a cohesive fighting machine are represented by you who are marching today.

Then there are the support groups, the logistic units, the nursing sisters, the women’s services, including the Women’s Land Army and wonderful to see, the smartness and discipline of our expanding cadet corps.

And present also are our Allies; our Kiwi brothers at ANZAC, along with our British, Polish, US, Greek and Vietnamese friends to name but some. Your combined presence brings to me and I am sure to all watching, a feeling of intense pride in every one of you and in all those who continue to serve in the Armed Forces today.

As we stand quietly and reverently overlooking our beautiful city and the National Parliament, perhaps thinking of men such as those of the 8th Light Horse and the hundreds of thousands who left these shores to go to war, of whom over 100,000 never returned, we are again reminded that the freedom to be here in the first place, with our families and friends, and our comrades in arms is such a precious thing.

For example, if 62 years ago we had lost the Second World War, that freedom, that fundamental right to go where we like; to speak without restriction our magnificent language; to live under the rule of law and to be governed in accordance with the wishes of the people, would have been taken from us.

That this did not happen, is due in large part to the indomitable spirit of our Australian fighting men and women and those who supported them from the home base. In WWII alone we lost 39,000 fine young men and women killed, some 23,000 wounded, and over 30,000 became prisoners of war, often being held in hell holes of POW camps under cruel captors.

And from that war we remember with pride the exploits of our middle east divisions; the 6th, 7th and 9th; in Syria, Tobruk and at El Alamein, and the magnificent fighter pilots of 1, 2 and 3 Sqns who supported them and our bomber crews in Europe; and the ships of our navy, the “scrap iron flotilla” sailing boldly to support the Tobruk garrison, through bitter and constant air and sea attack.

We remember the trauma of Japanese raids on our homeland; Darwin bombed 63 times, and also Townsville, Broome and Derby. Of the sudden thrust of Japanese forces across the Kokoda Track, stopped almost in sight of Port Moresby by a gallant 39th Bn of militia soldiers and Arnold Pott’s 21st brigade; of the hard slogging follow up by the 16th and 25th brigades; of Gona, Buna and Shaggy Ridge and the brilliant operations of the 7th and 18th Bdes under MAJGEN Cyril Clowes who inflicted the first crushing defeat of the war on the Japanese army at Milne Bay.

And of the Kittyhawk, Beaufort and other RAAF Sqns in close support; of the Dakotas dropping supplies to troops in jungle clad mountains in flying conditions of great severity and high danger.

And of our navy at the battle of the Coral Sea, where in support of the American fleet, the Japanese carrier force was reduced to such an extent that they lost the pivotal maritime Battle of the Pacific – the Battle of Midway – one month later.

We remember our service men and women and support organisations at home; the armoured and infantry divisions; the munition and factory workers and the women’s land army.

We remember our doctors and our nursing sisters; wonderfully courageous and capable women, some of whom were brutally killed in cold blood at Banka Island.

We remember the wives and young families who struggled in remote areas, on the stations, and farms, and in cities, without husbands and fathers; and for the families who never saw their loved ones again.

And we remember our veterans of the little remembered Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, Borneo confrontation and Vietnam; our peacekeepers and peacemakers with the United Nations forces; our soldiers, sailors and airmen presently serving with distinction in the Middle East – including our recent casualties in Iraq, and our servicemen and women carrying out wonderful peacekeeping work in East Timor and the Solomons.

And we think of the trauma of war; perhaps foot rot, beriberi, hunger and thirst; of no sleep; of mud and heat and being permanently wet; of the crump and thump of mortar and artillery; of the crack of the rifle and the chattering burst of machine guns; of being hit, and the 8-30 day carry over the Kokoda track by Fuzzy Wuzzy angels before being properly treated. And of the stench of death, because war is not fun, nor is it pretty.

But then we think of mateship; that indescribable lifelong affinity between fighting men, gained from being totally dependent on one another for survival. Of humour; of rations, water and sentry duty shared; of being there together through thick and thin. Of the padre standing on a used ammunition box in the quiet of a jungle or desert morning and of young faces expectant, intent and in close communication with their God because there are few atheists in a fox hole!

We remember the other great qualities of our Australian servicemen; loyalty, personal and group discipline, initiative, physical and moral courage.

And if we are sensible we remember too that we were lucky at the outbreak of war in 1939, in that we were unprepared for it, and that for two years Great Britain fought virtually alone; yet somehow we were able to win through after a long cruel struggle.

There are crucial and enduring lessons from the sacrifices of our ANZACs and they are these:

First, the security of the nation is its primary responsibility. Capable defence forces can be run down in a year or so but take many years to rebuild, yet in the history of modern war, we have never received more than 6-12 months notice to fight.

The second is a need to get back to the fundamental philosophy of what a worthwhile life is all about, and what I suggest our ex-servicemen and women intrinsically believed in and fought for.

That is, a spirit of service before self; of being close communities again; in retaining an abiding sense of honesty and fair play in our dealings with others; a firm and practising belief in the essential spirituality of man; a sense of individual and group responsibility; a commitment to cohesive and loving families as the core of a just and caring society; and an absolute conviction that the basis of true democratic freedom has to be clearly understood, nurtured and protected, and when threatened, is worth fighting for, and if necessary, dying.

And I am confident given the fundamental characteristics of our people and the diversity and great wealth of our nation, that these hopes of those who paid the supreme sacrifice, have every prospect of coming to a full fruition and in so doing – if demonstrated collectively – will continue to show Australia as a generous, integrated and caring people and as a nation of excellence; a beacon of all that is good, strong and enduring within the global community.

So on this 2007 ANZAC Day – the anniversary of the mighty battles of Ypres, Menin Road and Polygon Wood – as we look to our future in a rapidly changing, exciting, yet challenging world, let us arm ourselves with the virtues displayed by our ANZAC forbears, and use them skilfully and unselfishly, to go forward as one nation in pride and confidence, to continue to build the kind of country they would want us to have, and for which over 100,000 of our servicemen and women paid the supreme sacrifice.

A thoughtful, inspiring and happy ANZAC day to you all.

Lest we forget.