Monday, September 14, 2009



Mr Paul Copeland, National President of the Australian Peacekeeper & Peacemaker Veterans’ Association (APPVA) has called upon the Rudd Federal Government to officially recognise 14 Setepmber as National (Australian) Peacekeeper & Peacemaker (Enforcement) Day.

"The first step for this recognition would be through the proclamation of National (Australian) Peacekeeper Day for the 14th of September each year," Mr Copeland said.
"Secondly, is to adequately recognise those who have served on these operations with appropriate and fitting medallic recognition by the striking of an Australian Peacekeeping (Non-warlike) Service Medal and other Operational medals for Peace Enforcement (Warlike) Operations such as Somalia; Rwanda; Cambodia; East Timor (post INTERFET); Namibia and the 1991 Gulf War. "

More information:

Australian Peacekeeper & Peacemaker Veterans' Association,

Friday, September 11, 2009


FEMALES AT THE FRONT--women at war?
By Sasha Uzunov

The Rudd federal government is pushing for women to be allowed to serve on the frontlines of war in infantry, armoured or combat engineers within the Australian Army.

The Minister for Defence Personnel Greg Combet, who has never served in uniform, is an enthusiastic backer of the scheme. There are those who strongly oppose it. Both sides present strong arguments. Women in combat will probably become a reality more by default than by a political commitment to equal opportunity or grandstanding.

The fact that recruitment numbers are down, that is not enough men volunteer to fight, will cause any future government to open the gates to women in combat. Minister Combet himself has admitted in an article by Christian Kerr of the Australian newspaper, September 09, 2009 that it will not happen overnight and probably not during his watch.

As a clever politician, Combet has commissioned the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DSTO), the military boffins, to test whether women are strong enough for direct combat roles. And who knows how long that will take?

Australian society has been able in a reasoned manner to discuss and debate sensitive issues such as drug abuse, homosexuality, immigration, and so on but for reasons unknown asking why some people volunteer or do not volunteer for military service remains the last taboo.

As a freelance photo journalist and former Australian soldier who in 2003 began to examine why some of those who play an influential role in shaping defence policy or sending others into combat but do not volunteer to fight in uniform, I met fierce resistance.

In August 2008, the Sunday Age’s self-appointed defence expert Tom Hyland called this a “curious crusade.” Why this is a curious crusade beats me? The media is now talking about the possibility of women in direct combat roles.

Questioning the credentials of “defence experts” is a very tough business. The irony of it all is the reason why we are now debating the issue of women in combat roles is the shortage of manpower, pardon the pun. The chickens have come home to roost.

When young Australian men see defence experts who do not serve in uniform it turns them off joining the Australian Defence Force (ADF). But the media will not go there because it is a “curious crusade” and the issue gets silenced.

Dr Anthony Bergin, member of the think-tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute, joined a call in 2007 with Hugh White, former Fairfax journalist turned defence expert, for Pacific Islander immigrants to be given Australian citizenship in return for military service. see link:,20867,21209445-31477,00.html

In theory all of this sounds good but in reality one of the major reasons why young Australians do not volunteer for military service is quite obvious, when they see experts such as White, who have never served in uniform, lecturing from their pulpit, they simply turn off. Then having to drag poor migrants in to do the fighting just adds insult to injury. It is the age old lesson of practice what you preach.

Australia is a democracy where we encourage everyone, including defence theorists to have a voice. But it seems that certain sections of the Australian media have been reluctant to scrutinise these defence theorists.

For reasons unknown the so-called hard-hitting ABC TV Lateline program has been afraid to examine this “touchy subject.”

Lateline has only ever had one journalist with an actual military background on the program. It was the legendary Gerald Stone, founding producer of the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes and a former US Army officer (1954-56) who has appeared a few times. You would think with Stone’s credentials he would be aregular?

Moreover, ABC TV reporter Mark Corcoran served in the Royal Australian Navy and with the super secret Defence Signals Directorate (DSD). Corcoran is the ABC’s only badge-qualified defence expert but for reasons unknown has never been called to provide expert comments.I asked why Lateline was so afraid of opening up the defence debate.

The then Executive Producer Peter Charley, whose wages were paid by the taxpayer to safeguard our freedom of speech, issued this statement to me on Friday 13 January 2006:

“It is neither wise nor clever to suggest that "little ol' Lateline” is "afraid" to have anyone on the program…”Why is it neither wise nor clever? Charley is now the Executive Producer of SBS TV’s Dateline program

In 2004 Lateline host Tony Jones played hardball with Liberal political head kicker Tony Abbott over his alleged secret meeting with Catholic Cardinal George Pell to discuss government policy. There were overtones of a dark conspiracy between the Abbott and the Catholic Priest! It was actually more high farce on Jones’ part. Perhaps he is a fan of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code?

But when it comes to defence experts, Jones’ blowtorch is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Jones is saving himself for a sequel to his Da Vinci Code episode, Angels and Demons, where he questions Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for allegedly getting political advice from the martyred German theologian Dietrich Bornhoffer through visions and dreams!

Perhaps a voice, either an angel or a demon, depending where you stand on women in combat roles, is telling the Prime Minister to send women into combat!


Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Real heroes and media heroes
By Sasha Uzunov - Wednesday, 9 September 2009

All the fuss surrounding Victorian State Minister Tim Holding surviving a two-day ordeal in the state’s snow country after being lost would suggest a society yearning for real life heroes and role models.

read on...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009



by Sasha Uzunov

Victorian State Minister for Water and Tourism, Tim Holding, has survived a two day ordeal high up in the state's snow fields after fears that he would not be found alive but the Minister is a former Australian Army Reservist with the elite 126 Signals Squardon, 1 Commando Regiment, in Melbourne.

The Herald Sun newspaper today revealed he had received Commando survival training... Read the story.

In January 2009, I first revealed on my blog, TEAM UZUNOV, about the worsening relationship between the then Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon and his own Department when an outsider, Mr Tim Holding, a Victorian State Minister, was being floated as go-between or trouble shooter in Afghanistan to gather information not being passed onto the Rudd Government by the Australian Army Chain of Command. Suzanne Carbone, of The Age newspaper, quoted me in her “The Diary” column take down of Holding on February 3.

It was because of these qualities that Mr Holding possess that he was touted as a political trouble-shooter in Afghanistan, even though some in the mainstream media did not take it seriously at first and only began to pay attention when the then Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon had a falling out with his own department.

Once again it comes back to "only big name journalists" have special permission or a media sheriff's badge to break stories not independent freelance journalists and/or bloggers.

Archival stories....

Monday, March 02, 2009


Tim Holding the peace-maker/ circuit breaker in Defence Dispute?

By Sasha UzunovCopyright 2009

It what would have only taken a few minutes to confirm or deny if Victorian State Government Minister Mr Tim Holding was being considered to head a trouble shooting mission to Afghanistan on behalf of the Prime Minister, has turned into a month long saga with the PM’s media office refusing to comment either way.

With tensions mounting between the Defence Department‘s civilian top brass and the Federal government over the SASR pay dispute, perhaps it has been wise not to add fuel to the fire.
The Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has launched a well crafted media campaign where he has vented his “anger” at his department over being kept in the dark on a number of issues. In an unusual move, his predecessor, Dr Brendan Nelson, from the opposition, backed him up in Federal Parliament.

Subsequent events, such as the SASR pay dispute, have confirmed what Team Uzunov blog revealed more than a month ago about the break down in communication.

Nearly three weeks ago a media query about Mr Holding was put to PM’s Chief of Staff and highly paid Wiz kid advisor Alister Jordan but there was no response. Ms Jamilla Rizvan of the PM’s Media unit was contacted but again no response.

Team Uzunov blog, in an exclusive story on 30 January 2009, revealed that a leading Australian strategic analyst, who has the ear of the government, floated the idea of Mr Holding to act as a kind of circiut breaker in the break down on communication between the army brass and the government over the flow of information about Afghanistan.

Pundits say Mr Holding is a well respected politician and a former Australian Army Reserve Special Forces soldier who would be able to “talk the talk” whilst Mr Fitzgibbon, a former automotive electrician without military experience, has been waging a losing battle to bring to heel the civilian top brass.

Below is the story published on 30 January 2009, which was also quoted in The Age newspaper:----------------

Friday, January 30, 2009 - TEAM UZUNOV

ExclusiveTim 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.

The Age, Diary Column, Tuesday, 3 February 2009.

Timmy, don't forget to pack the water canteen


TIM Holding was dubbed "Twinkle Twinkle" because he was considered a little star, and he's really made an impact in the water portfolio with those faulty four-minute shower timers that last for 40 minutes or four hours. But Dim's moment to shine may have arrived.

Former Australian soldier Sasha Uzunov, now a photo-journalist, writes in his blog that Holding (below) could be destined for Afghanistan as Kevin Rudd's "eyes and ears" on the ground. You see, Holding is well credentialed as a former member of the Army Reserve in the 1st Commando Regiment - and he's Tourism Minister.

A "prominent Canberra strategic analyst" told Uzunov: "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 analyst claimed the PM was not happy with the flow of information from Afghanistan so the analyst would suggest Holding embark on a "fact-finding mission" to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt. Diary asked Commando Holding about swapping a fluoro vest for a flak jacket, and he said:
"While I will sit by my phone awaiting the Prime Minister's call, I will make it clear to him that I will only travel to Afghanistan in the company of my friends at The Age Diary."

Who knew Twinkle had a sense of humour? We'll only go if he acts as our human shield. And brings a shower timer that works


At war with his own Defence Department
By Sasha Uzunov - posted Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Australian media have finally laid down their pom-poms and ended the cheerleading routine in reporting how tough the Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was in his war with his own Defence Department.

In January, I first revealed on my blog, TEAM UZUNOV, about the worsening relationship between the Minister and his own Department when an outsider, Mr Tim Holding, a Victorian State Minister, was being floated as go-between or trouble shooter in Afghanistan to gather information not being passed onto the Rudd Government by the Australian Army Chain of Command. Suzanne Carbone, of The Age newspaper, quoted me in her “The Diary” column take down of Holding on February 3.

Paul Daley, in The Sunday Age, on February 1, got the ball rolling in Fitzgibbon’s war against his own department:

But there appear to be some serious Government doubts whether the facilities the young Australians are risking their lives to build are actually being used by the Afghan people.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that through its proven methods of intimidation and murder, the Taliban punishes Afghans who dare to use such facilities. There are also stories that, for fear of Taliban reprisals, Afghans are reluctant to work in them.

During both visits to Afghanistan, the feisty Fitzgibbon had wanted more than just briefings. But despite his best efforts, sources are adamant Fitzgibbon has not been "outside the wire" - a euphemism for leaving the comparative safety of the Australian base - during either visit, much to his frustration.

Later, we had the SASR pay scandal with the Minister now officially at war with his own department over being kept in the dark.

Recently, we had Mr Fitzgibbon apologise for not declaring trips he undertook to China after the story was leaked allegedly by his enemies within the Defence Department.

I am not suggesting anything untoward in Mr Fitzgibbon's behaviour and respect his privacy. However, the sideshow has taken the focus off the real shooting war raging between the Taliban and Australian soldiers in Afghanistan ...

He can vent his “anger” as much as he likes through the media but it will not change the situation. With Australian soldiers fighting and dying in Afghanistan, the Defence Department cannot afford to be distracted by political squabbles over who controls turf.

The Defence Department is a universe of its own. Outsiders who do not know how to operate in this environment get chewed up pretty quick. Mr Fitzgibbon, through no fault of his own, lacks two things: he has never served in uniform and second, he does not hold the aces when it comes to playing political poker with his own Defence Department.

Only one man is capable of doing so: Colonel Iron Mike Kelly, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support. “Iron Mike” Kelly is a former Army Colonel and lawyer who has served in Somalia, East Timor and Iraq.

He has the runs on the board: as an Army lawyer with the rank of Major he once wrestled and fought, in true Crocodile Hunter fashion, a warlord during the 1993 mission to African nation Somalia.

To demonstrate his political cunning, he turned the tables on his opponent, the sitting member for the New South Wales Federal seat of Eden-Monaro during the 2007 election.

Iron Mike, who was critical of the then Howard government’s decision to go to Iraq, was holding an election meeting and was heckled by Mr Peter Phelps, the chief of staff of the sitting Liberal member of parliament, Mr Gary Nairn.

Mr Phelps, criticising Iron Mike’s opposition to the Iraq War and the fact that he still served on the mission, said “… And you took part in it willingly because you weren't sent over there, you volunteered, didn't you?”

Mike Kelly: "No, I was a soldier, and I did what I was ordered to do."

Peter Phelps: "Oh, like the guards at Belsen, perhaps? Are you using the Nuremberg Defence? No, no, come on."

The Nazi Germany comparison would have lost a lot of public sympathy for Mr Nairn’s election campaign, which saw Iron Mike take the seat.

Moreover, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is no stranger to using military glory, such as the awarding of the first Victoria Cross medal for bravery in 40 years, to score political brownie points. So why not appoint Iron Mike Kelly as Defence Minister?

If this present government is serious about the Defence portfolio and in breaking with bad habits from the past, then it needs to practice what it preaches.

However, the underlying problem and largely ignored by some in the media with their own agenda is that when you place politicians who have never served in the Defence Forces as Defence Minister, they are too busy trying to make up for it by “acting tough”. We do not need those with emotional baggage to prove their manhood by risking soldiers’ lives.

The delicious irony in all of this is that a new war has emerged, that between the “Desk Warriors”: journalists, strategic analysts and defence experts who have never served in uniform but who hold a vice-like grip on the debate.

Daley, in The Sunday Age article “Unfriendly fire”, on March 29, wrote:

Fitzgibbon has polarised Defence in pursuit of his reform objectives, where a string of ministers before him have effectively surrendered. He has also upset those his allies call the "visiting fellows" - the many strategic studies and defence academics, journalists and think-tank commentators who are close to the generals but whose views Fitzgibbon has largely dismissed.
Up until recently, Daley was a charter member of the Desk Warriors, so why has he turned against his brethren? Maybe there is trouble in paradise?

As a freelance journalist I have, over the years, scrutinised why people without hands-on military experience dominate the defence debate. Daley, together with his Sunday Age colleague Tom Hyland, has dismissed such questioning as irrelevant. Hyland calls it a “curious crusade”.
Oh the delicious irony!