NZ military most gay friendly in the world

May 18th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

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The Economist reports:

THE armed forces and homosexuality do not make natural bedfellows. Though tales from ancient Greece vaunt the heroism of gay soldiers, modern armies are mostly squeamish on the subject. So when New Zealand’s brass let its soldiers participate in a gay-pride parade, it helped put the country first on a new index that ranks 103 of the world’s armed forces by how open they are to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Countries at the bottom of the list—compiled by The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, based on 21 indicators across five categories—are mostly those where homosexuality is a crime or considered an illness. Yet surprises abound. America’s relatively low ranking at 40th is largely because it bans transgender personnel, though it has gay-friendly policies. In Israel, where military issues are ever-present, the army seems more progressive than society. Only 40% of the population accept homosexuality, whereas the armed forces completely opened up to LGBT people in 1993, almost a decade before Britain (which is tied for second).

Anyone who thinks gays or lesbians shouldn’t be soldiers should go try saying that to an Israeli combat unit!

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Goff says halving the harassment rate is going backwards

February 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Military Women in the New Zealand Defence Force report said one in 10 women (10.4 per cent) reported they had been harassed, down from 19 per cent four years ago.

“However, women in all services also report higher rates of bullying than men (13.4 per cent v 6.6 per cent), and there has been no improvement over the past six years.”

It’s good the harassment rate has halved, but still of course too high.

Labour defence spokesman Phil Goff said the report confirmed women were “going backwards” in the NZDF

Sigh! A halving of the harrassment rate from what it was when Labour was Government is described by Labour as going backwards.

Of course the opposition should criticise and scrutinise, but there is such a pattern of factual inaccuracy that they just continue to lose credibility.

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Does Labour think RNZAF should stick with analog planes?

January 29th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour has hit out at a Defence Force decision to ditch its New Zealand training aircraft manufacturer and risk jobs by handing a $154 million contract to a United States competitor.

The Government on Monday announced it had selected Beechcraft to provide a new fleet of 11 high-performance training aircraft and simulators.

The T-6C single-engine turboprop aircraft would replace the New Zealand-built Pacific Aerospace CT-4E Airtrainers and the twin-engined turboprop Beechcraft King Air B200s.

The CT-4Es were due to reach the end of their service life in 2018 and the King Air B200s’ lease also expired that year.

But Labour’s defence spokesman Phil Goff said the Government should save taxpayer money and Kiwi jobs by sticking with Hamilton-based Pacific Aerospace, which supplies and maintains the current single engine CT-4E.

As it happens I was talking to a former RNZAF person about this yesterday and the answer is very simple.

The RNZAF wants the new planes to be digital rather than analog. All their other new planes are digital, and I don’t think anyone would argue that in 2014 one should be buying analog planes.

Sadly for Pacific Aerospace, they have to date only built analog planes. They have no experience or track record with digital planes.

So even putting aside what the respective costs may have been with Pacific Aerospace, the reality was the planes they have experience in making are not what are needed anymore.

And even if you get past any issues of price and experience, you then have the problems of parts if you go with the NZ company. Even if they could produce digital planes for RNZAF, it would be the only digital planes they have. This means they would not have the same capacity for spare parts and maintenance as another company that has produced hundreds of digital planes for other customers. So RNZAF decided the risks are too great to go Pacific Aerospace.

Note that this info doesn’t come from anyone political, but a former RNZAF officer.

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Reading tweets is not spying

August 5th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Gregory Hussey is wondering if “spooks” are monitoring him on social media after the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) demanded he remove a tweet just 20 minutes after he wrote it.

The Timaru man was working for a private company in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province at the time and had only eight Twitter followers – two of them journalists.

Hussey said a friend, also in Bamiyan, contacted him on August 19, 2012, to tell him there was a gunfight happening 2km away and “not to go up there to the valley on your motorbike”.

Hussey tweeted : “Poor Kiwis under fire in Bamiyan :-(“.

Just 20 minutes later he was contacted by a member of the NZDF, told to remove the tweet and instructed to attend a meeting immediately at the NZDF base in Bamiyan where he was told he was a “security risk”.

A defence force officer had contacted one of Hussey’s friends in New Zealand, asked for his number and phoned him with instructions to remove the tweet.

“I was told that there would be widespread panic from the families of soldiers back in New Zealand if it got out,” Hussey said.

“I thought that was entirely reasonable, I don’t want the families of service people needlessly distressed, and I took the tweet down and apologised.”

So this happened a year ago. So why is it news now?

Yesterday, a NZDF spokesman denied Hussey’s communications had been monitored.

Jesus Christ, it was a tweet! They are public. Are we not getting a bit precious now when we do news stories about NZDF responding to a tweet, as if that is a bad thing?

The NZDF spokesman said over the Hussey incident: “Twitter is a public forum and any member of the public is able to see information posted there.

“This is how NZDF was made aware of Hussey’s tweet – not through any monitoring of him or his communications, as he suggests.

As to how they discovered the tweet, well has anyone heard of “search”. You can set up searches that update you with tweets mentioning particular words. I imagine Bamiyan was a search term they use.

Hussey said he had forgotten about the incident until recently with the GCSB in the news.

“Now I’m wondering if what they did to me was legal,” Hussey said.

OMG, it was a fucking tweet. Of course it was legal. This story is beyond a beat-up.

I’ve sometimes had Government Departments contact me after I blog something about them. This is an outrage – the Government is monitoring me. Is it legal for government departments to read my blog?

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The Defence allegations

July 29th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says there is no evidence the Defence Force had copies of journalist Jon Stephenson’s phone metadata.

Dr Coleman said in a statement today he would be very concerned if this had occurred.

“The Defence Force has assured me that this is not something that they would regard as a legitimate practice.

“I have seen no evidence to support these claims at this point.”

He said the NZDF were carrying out record checks to see if there was any evidence it occurred.

The Sunday Star Times article by Nicky Hager made two main allegations against the NZDF – that they had copies of Stephenson’s phone metadata in Afghanistan and that investigative journalists were classified in a security order manual as posing the same level of security risk as criminals and hackers.

It will be fascinating if there is proof, as I’d expect an inquiry into who authorised it – if it happened.

“I became aware of the details of this order over the weekend. It is one of hundreds of orders that exist in NZDF manuals.

“The order was issued back in 2003 by the Chief of Defence Force at the time, Sir Bruce Ferguson, and then reissued in 2005.”

Surely not the same Sir Bruce who just came out decrying it, and saying it is a bad thing?

And who was Minister of Defence in 2003 and 2005? Mark Burton, I think.

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Not convinced

March 6th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The decision of a coroner not to hold an inquest into the suicide of a New Zealand soldier in Afghanistan is beginning to look unfortunate.

While it is not unusual for coroners to decide not to conduct inquests into deaths that have already been subject to a well-run and thorough investigation, this decision appears not to satisfy members of the dead man’s family that the circumstances of their relative’s death have been adequately dealt with. A coroner, having decided not to hold an inquest, is entitled to change his or her mind.

The solicitor-general, as the chief executive of the department in charge of coroners, may also overrule the coroner’s decision. One or other of them should do so and a proper independent coroner’s inquiry should be held.

I’m not convinced that the coroner has made the wrong call. As the editorial says, it is unusual to have a coronial inquest when some other body has done an investigation. The fact some family members are upset is not a reason in itself. An inquest shouldn’t be seen as some sort of appeal board.

The causes of suicide are complex and it is seldom that any one factor drives a person to it. A long and detailed investigation into the soldier’s death has been conducted by a military court of inquiry. It has reported on the immediate circumstances of the death, which involved an emotional relationship contrary to military discipline.

The soldier’s family is dissatisfied, however, claiming that questions about the wider circumstances, including allegations of continual bullying and harassment of the soldier because of his homosexuality, have not been properly answered.

It is incredibly sad that the solider killed himself, and that somehow this outcome wasn’t avoided.

However from what I have seen the major issue wasn’t the fact that he was homosexual. It was that he had an unrequited attraction to another solider and told him about it – which obviously made things difficult. The original story said:

Later in the evening, Sergeant H, who family say Hughes did not get along with, confronted Hughes about the incident where he had embarrassed Trooper A.

According to the report, Hughes broke down, admitted he was gay, and had feelings for Trooper A.

Sergeant H organised a meeting between himself, Hughes, and Trooper A, where Hughes admitted to Trooper A he had concocted the incident with the female chef and reiterated his feelings for the trooper.

This is an issue which isn’t intrinsically tied to sexuality. If the attraction was to a female solider, it would also be problematic.

Few of us can control whom we are attracted to. I certainly can’t. But you can control whether or not you act on it, or tell people about it. In a number of former jobs I’ve had colleagues I was attracted to but would never have told them that as it would have caused problems in the workplace.

This is not to say the fact Hughes was gay and the attraction was to another male didn’t make the situation more stressful. I’m sure it did, and it is of huge regret that he ended up taking his life.

The report into Hughes’ death, prepared by an inquiry team that travelled to Afghanistan and interviewed 47 witnesses, does not record any instances of Hughes being bullied, mocked or humiliated, but his family suspect that was the case.

I think you need something more than suspicion, to claim the Army inquiry was inadequate. There is no proof at all that it was.

Now the issue is slightly muddied by the fact the coroner who declined to do an inquest wrote a submission to Parliament against the same sex marriage bill. There is a seperate debate you can have about the wisdom of a quasi-judicial officer doing that. But I don’t think that means he has necessarily made the wrong decision in not holding an inquest. Unless there is some proof that the Army inquiry was inadequate or missed vital evidence, I think the decision is the right one.

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A rap tribute to the NZ Army

September 12th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This is a great emotional tribute to the NZ Army soldiers serving abroad who have been killed, by rapper Konflikt. A must watch and listen.

Konflikt is a Wellington rapper, 22-year-old Lower Hutt computer student Jarad Westrupp.

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Farewelling their colleagues

August 28th, 2012 at 2:19 pm by David Farrar

I only found this video because Piers Morgan from CNN tweeted it. Very moving. The Defence Force explain at You Tube:

Haka is used throughout New Zealand by many, not only Māori, to demonstrate their collective thoughts. There is a haka for each of the Services, as well as the Defence Force. Units with the NZ Army have their own haka. This video shows the soldiers of 2/1 RNZIR Battalion performing their Unit haka, powerfully acknowledging the lives and feats of their fallen comrades as they come onto the Unit’s parade ground. It is also an emotive farewell for they will leave via the waharoa (the carved entrance way) for the very last time.

Haka –sometimes termed a posture dance could also be described as a chant with actions. There are various forms of haka; some with weapons some without, some have set actions others may be ‘free style.’ Haka is used by Māori (indigenous people of New Zealand) for a myriad of reasons; to challenge or express defiance or contempt, to demonstrate approval or appreciation, to encourage or to discourage, to acknowledge feats and achievements, to welcome, to farewell, as an expression of pride, happiness or sorrow. There is almost no inappropriate occasion for haka; it is an outward display of inner thoughts and emotions. Within the context of an occasion it is abundantly clear which emotion is being expressed.

They will not be forgotten.

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Two killed in Afghanistan

August 5th, 2012 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

The NZ Defence Force has announced:

The New Zealand Defence Force can confirm that two personnel serving with the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan have been killed during an incident in the North East of Bamyan Province.

At approximately 1900hrs (NZ time) yesterday, NZ Defence Force personnel came to the assistance of local security forces who encountered suspected insurgents near a village south of Do Abe, in the North East.

A further six NZ Defence Force personnel were wounded during the incident, and they were evacuated to a military hospital.

Two local security personnel were also killed, and a further 11 personnel, including one civilian, were wounded.

The Defence Force is in the process of informing and supporting next of kin. The Defence Force will not release the name of the personnel for 24 hours to give the families time and space to grieve.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said, “We are deeply saddened by this loss and, on behalf of the entire New Zealand Defence Force, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family, colleagues and friends of the personnel involved.”

It sounds like a very nasty attack, with a total of 4 dead, and 17 wounded. Six kiwis wounded and two dead is, off memory, the largest number of causalities since maybe Vietnam? Anyone know?

As always thoughts are with the family, colleagues and friends of those killed and wounded.

Some have tried to suggest that the PRT presence in Afghanistan is just about building things, and that they are not there as soldiers. This is a sad reminder of how untrue that is.

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Momentum v Defence

October 29th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A firm working for Momentum has sent me their PR in relation to the Wilce inquiry. I’ve not seen any media carry their view, so here are key extracts:

“Momentum Consulting does not accept the assertion of the New Zealand Defence Force Court of Inquiry that the company carried out reference checks on the preferred candidate for the post of the Director of the Defence Technology Agency.

“We supplied the NZDF with information from referees used by the preferred candidate when he applied for a job in another organization. This information was partial because Mr Wilce did not become the preferred candidate in that process and it was not intended to take the place of the reference checks suggested in our original proposal to the NZDF. That proposal recognized that the post of Director of the DTA required high-level reference checks. At no stage in the recruitment process did the NZDF ask us to complete these checks on Mr Wilce.

“If Momentum had been asked to carry out the full reference checks, as the Inquiry agrees was set out in our initial proposal to the NZDF, his claims about his performance in previous jobs would have been tested more rigorously. Although the checks were included in our proposal the client decided to take responsibility for these themselves.

I have no first hand knowledge of course on this issue, but as someone who has recruited CEOs and the like through a recruitment agency, I can say that it is not uncommon for the client to ask to do the referee checks? Why? Because by doing so you get a better feel of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses which can help in managing them and/or setting performance targets.

Audrey Young also reports in the Herald:

He and the recruiting firm Momentum Consulting are in dispute about who actually conducted the checks on the referees for Mr Wilce. Momentum said it did not conduct full reference checks because the Defence Force took responsibility for doing so.

The inquiry concluded that Momentum had conducted referee checks that met a basic standard but did not satisfy a higher standard of thoroughness required by its contract.

It would be nice to be able to read what the inquiry says about whether it was agreed that Momentum not do these, but I still can’t locate a copy online. Not on the Beehive site, the NZDF site or even Scoop.

The inquiry reveals that the most expert member of the panel set up to interview the shortlisted applicants recommended that no appointment be made, but was overruled.

As I said, I’ve been a several appointment panels for senior roles (in my role as a non executive Director). If a member of my panel strongly felt that no appointment be made, I’d be very reluctant to proceed.

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