Friday, January 30, 2009



Tim Holding - Brumby’s man turned PM Rudd’s international man of mystery?

By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2009

Mr Tim Holding, a Victorian State government minister who is a former Australian Army Reserve Special Forces soldier, will not confirm nor deny speculation about him undertaking a short fact finding mission to Afghanistan on behalf of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

A prominent strategic analyst, who has the close ear of governments, and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he wanted to “float the idea of Mr Holding undertaking a fact finding mission to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt province [in Southern Afghanistan].”

“Mr Holding is an intelligent young politician with links to Special Forces. The Australian media underestimate his ability, which is why he would be ideal for the mission: he would slip under the media radar,” the strategic analyst said. “Mr Holding has not been informed of the proposed trip.”

The analyst said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was not happy with the flow of information about Afghanistan coming from the army chain of command and needed his own “eyes and ears” on the ground for a couple of weeks to assess the situation.

Mr Holding’s office was contacted a week ago to confirm or deny if Mr Holding knew the speculation about the Afghanistan trip. But no comment has been forthcoming.

Mr Holding served as a Signaller or communications expert with the elite Army Reserve Special Forces unit, 126 Commando Signals Squadron, then attached to 1 Commando Regiment, 2nd Company, at Fort Gellibrand, Williamstown, Melbourne, Victoria from 1991 to 1993.

Greg Sher the eighth and most recent Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan was also a member of 1 Commando Regiment (1 CDO Regt).

Mr Holding is the Minister for Finance, WorkCover and Transport Accident Commission, and Minister for Water, Minister for Tourism and Major Events in the John Brumby ALP state government.

A former Australian intelligence agent, with extensive Middle East experience, and also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he believed that Prime Minister Rudd would change Australia’s current military policy and commit a regular army infantry battalion (about 500 soldiers) to Afghanistan very soon.

Current military policy is for Australia’s Special Forces units, SASR and 4RAR (Commando) to do the frontline fighting in Afghanistan, which according to standard doctrine should be carried out by regular infantry.

SASR and 4RAR (Cdo)’s traditional roles include surveillance of the enemy, information gathering or carrying out raids against targets or securing entry and exits points for other army units.

SASR, 4RAR (Cdo) and 1 CDO Regt fall under the Australian Army's Special Operations Command (SOCOMD).

In contrast the Canadian army, after decades of peacekeeping, has regular infantry fighting the Taliban in the dangerous southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar. But over 100 Canadian soldiers have been killed.


- UPDATED - 3 February 2009


Paul Daley in the excellent article below tells of the Australian Defence Minister's frustration at not being able to go outside the wire in Afghanistan and have a look for himself

Are our troops really helping in Afghanistan?

The Sunday Age

Date: February 1 2009

By Paul Daley
Older Links:,21985,23995986-5000117,00.html

Herald Sun newspaper

New options to blunt Taliban
by Sasha Uzunov
July 10, 2008 12:00am


The Herald Sun newspaper
A grand political warrior

by Sasha Uzunov21 January 2005

...Some have criticised General (Peter) Cosgrove on his over reliance on the SAS to do the fighting in East Timor that would normally have been taken up by the regular infantry.But I think this criticism is unjustified.

Criticism should be aimed at the government of the day (Howard 1996-2007) and those at home squeamish about seeing a 19 year old lad away from home for the first time fighting a war. Better to send the SAS, whose identity cannot be revealed...


Friday, January 23, 2009


photo: Defence Dept

Friday, 23 January 2009


By Sasha Uzunov

The award of the highly prestigious Victoria Cross to SASR Trooper Mark Donaldson for outstanding bravery under fire in Afghanistan is not only significant because it is the first time in forty years since the Vietnam War but it heralds the end of one era and the beginning of another in Australian society.

“Trooper Donaldson's bravery will forever be engraved in Australian history,” the Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd said.

“Generations of schoolchildren will now know of the story of Trooper Mark Donaldson.”

Society now has heroes to look up to who are not media creations. As more and more heroes emerge from Australia’s war in Afghanistan the need for the media tough guy surrogate hero is probably finished.

Those who are highly paid observers or futurologists such as the well respected Bernard Salt should be taking note of this trend and passing it on to those powerful people who shape our media agenda such as news bosses John Westacott of the Nine Network and his Seven Network counterpart Peter Meakin.

The 1960s were a turbulent time in Australia’s history with Vietnam seen as a controversial war and a conservative society undergoing dramatic change. The notion of strong young men undergoing military service as a rite of passage was seen as anachronistic and this view probably lasted until the 1980s. Moreover, some within Australian society felt strongly that Australia and America were simply wrong to get involved in Vietnam.

Author Michael Caulfield, in his excellent book “The Vietnam Years” from the jungle to the Australian suburbs,” wrote of the 1960s:

“What was ‘now’, what was ‘happening’, was the photograph of a long-haired dissenter, courageously resisting a phalanx of overweight cops as they dragged him away to jail. He looked vaguely like one of Christ‘s apostles, definitely ‘cool’, a modern icon.”

A clever newsman Gerald Stone, a former US Army artillery officer and famous war reporter in his own right, probably sensed an Australian society needing strong masculine heroes to fill the void. Stone recruited three journalists, Ray Martin, Ian Leslie and George Negus.

As canny Mark Day, a newspaperman of the old school, observed:

“I guess we can blame Gerald Stone and George Negus for the emergence of the celebrity journalist--at least in Australia. “Stone was executive producer of the Nine (TV network) clone of CBS’s 60 Minutes when it launched here in 1979 with the premise that the reporter was the story.

“George, along with Ray Martin and Ian Leslie were sent into war zones, deep jungles, and dark places in search of ripper yarns, and the cameras tracked them tracking down the story.

“George, coat slung over his shoulder, embraced this role with a particular gusto, adding his idiosyncratic commentary into which he wove his personal beliefs.

“It wasn’t long before George was a bigger celeb than any of the news makers he pursued, even after being savaged by the likes of Margaret Thatcher.”

George Negus was dubbed the Balmain Cowboy after a tough working class inner Sydney suburb because of his macho image, even though he never served in Vietnam but was a school teacher who dabbled in journalism and later became a press secretary to a politician.

But with the resurgence of the Anzac Legend and in particular a new respect for those who serve in uniform, where does that leave the war reporter in society’s eyes after having fulfilled the role of surrogate “warrior” stereotype during the 1970s and 80s?

Rival Australian television networks, in a game of one up-manship, have inadvertently brought the notion of the warrior as reporter to the surface. A famous case involved veteran Nine Network reporter Jim Waley, who coincidently did not serve in the military in Vietnam, wearing a flak jacket in Iraq in 2004 as opposed to his competitor Adrian Brown of the Seven Network who did not. Both were metres away from each other in Baghdad.

Trooper Donaldson’s award of the VC has now well and truly put an end to the era of the media tough guy as society’s hero.