April 16, 2011

Andrew Wilkie accused of ordering teen cadets to salute Hitler

Andrew Wilkie


INDEPENDENT MP Andrew Wilkie says he cannot remember ordering military cadets to commemorate Adolf Hitler's rise to power so he won't be apologising for that specific incident.

But he says he is regretful of other inappropriate behaviour when he was at Duntroon Military College.

The Herald Sun today said Mr Wilkie had forced his juniors to salute the 50th anniversary of Hitler's rise to power while he was a senior cadet in 1983.

"I honestly cannot remember anything about that specific allegation," Mr Wilkie said in Hobart.

"But I have never made a secret of the fact that I was one of many cadets involved in the bastardisation scandal at the Royal Military College Duntroon. In fact I was disciplined for misconduct at the time."

It comes as the clubs industry says it had no prior knowledge of the allegations and demanded he apologise after insisting he had accused the industry of orchestrating a smear campaign against him.

Mr Wilkie has questioned why the story, that alleges he bastardised junior cadets in the early 1980s when he attended the Royal Military College, Duntroon, has suddenly appeared during his fight against poker machines.

However, he has not directly accused the clubs of being behind the mysterious appearance of the story overnight.

Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball said: "I think it's disgraceful that someone could lob that hand grenade in and really smear an entire industry who are just going about their business.
He also claimed Clubs Australia is only engaged in an ethical debate over poker machine policy reform.

"But there's nothing underhanded about our campaign," Mr Ball said.

Meanwhile Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, came to Mr Wilkie's defence this morning, saying he was a passionate politician.

"I didn't know the Andrew Wilkie of 30 years ago," she said. "What I know of Mr Wilkie is of course the work I do with him today. He is passionately motivated to make a difference on poker machines."

"Campaign being waged against me"

Mr Wilkie had earlier today questioned why the story had come to light as his pokie reform push was gathering pace.

The independent federal MP is certain that stories of his early life in the Army have emerged because of his determination to protect problem gamblers by limiting the amounts they can bet on poker machines.

"It certainly is the case that this has happened today against a backdrop of the poker machine industry launching its campaign this week, not only against the Government, but also against me personally," Mr Wilkie said.

"This week I've also had a death threat, which Federal Police are investigating. I've also had correspondence threatening the release of what was described as compromising photographs.

"There is clearly a campaign being waged against me on account of the fact I am the only person standing between the poker machine industry and the $5 billion that are lost by problem gamblers in this country by problem gamblers each year."

Mr Wilkie said he was not asserting any link between the reporter who wrote the Nazi salute story and the poker machine industry.

Sexual abuse

The allegations come as the Defence Force comes under siege after revelations that a teenage female cadet was covertly filmed having sex with a male cadet while other males spied on the couple on a screen in another room.
An anonymous barrister has also publicly described the mental, physical and sexual abuse he and others suffered at Duntroon in the early 1990s.
Former cadet Brendan Etches said he was disappointed to be rebuffed by Mr Wilkie after making an appointment to see the member for Denison at his Hobart electorate office on Tuesday.
He was at first assured that Mr Wilkie would speak to him but was later told by advisers that the politician declined to discuss his time at Duntroon.
Mr Etches said he has wondered for some time if and when the independent MP would speak out against the harsh treatment that the-then Senior Cadet Wilkie and others condoned - and sometimes inflicted - on teenage cadets in 1983 and earlier.
Roughing up
In his book Axis of Deceit, Mr Wilkie says he was a "larrikin" at Duntroon and set "some sort of record" for incurring punishments for offences such as "roughing up" anti-uranium protesters and "giving junior cadets a hard time".

Mr Etches, whose grandfather fought against Hitler's troops at Tobruk, said he was shocked at orders to salute the regime that murdered millions in the Holocaust.
"He was drilling us before breakfast," Mr Etches said yesterday.
"I have a memory of him in a dressing gown, watching as the other senior guys were running around giving us a hard time.
"I refused to come to attention when they ordered the general salute."
Mr Etches, then 17, and several other cadets left Duntroon after several weeks of bastardisation that would have long-term effects for some of them.
Sick secret cult
Two decades before Mr Wilkie became famous as the whistleblower who denounced Australia's involvement in the invasion of Iraq, Mr Etches was one of three cadets who blew the whistle on what he calls the college's "sick secret cult" of sadistic punishment for trifling or imagined offences.
The scandal led to the resignation of senior officers and the expulsion and disciplining of several cadets, including Wilkie, but he and most of his peers graduated to become career army officers.
"Now he comes across as 'Andrew Gandhi' but back then he was scary and we were all wary of him," Mr Etches told the Herald Sun.
Mr Etches said he wanted to give Mr Wilkie a chance to say that what happened was wrong and was sorry for it.

"Given his position in Australian politics, I thought he would want the Defence Force to be completely above board," Mr Etches said.
No recollection
"Is he now saying it (bastardisation) was all good, character-building stuff - or will he face the truth? It would be impossible for him not to know about the bastardisation that happened."
In a statement yesterday Mr Wilkie said he had "no recollection" of the Hitler incident but admitted he was one of "many cadets caught up in the 1983 bastardisation scandal at Duntroon and like many cadets was disciplined for it at the time".
A Defence Department spokesperson last night said the department could not comment on specific details of individuals "for privacy reasons".