Thursday, December 10, 2020

Defence crisis as SIXTY outraged SAS soldiers 'will quit' in protest over squadron being scrapped due to 'war crimes' report

More than 60 outraged SAS soldiers may quit in protest against their squadron being disbanded over war crimes by some of its members in Afghanistan.

Chief of Army Rick Burr removed the 2 Squadron of the Special Air Service Regiment from the army's order of battle in the wake of the release of the Brereton Report.

The four-year inquiry uncovered a 'shameful record' of unlawful killings, including cases where new patrol members were told to shoot a prisoner to achieve their first kill in an 'appalling practice' known as 'blooding'.

Former officer in the Sydney-based special forces 2nd Commando Regiment Heston Russell said SAS members are now in 'absolute uproar' and already have or intend to resign over the 'group punishment'.

'The 2nd squadron has been there since 1964 and has generations of veterans who fought in Borneo, Vietnam and many other deployments in between, many of whom never even deployed to Afghanistan,' he told The Daily Telegraph.

'Disbanding punishes nearly 60 years, multiple generations, of those who served.'

Because the soldiers are unable to mount a public defence, they have written more than 350 letters to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to 'get their voice out in public'.

The mass exodus comes as veterans blast a morning tea and a parade at the SAS barracks in Perth on Tuesday to wrap up 2 Squadron as an 'insulting' slap in the face.

The event, which was slated to recognise the soldiers' service to Australia, has now been 'postponed' after families of soldiers said they wouldn't attend to take a stand against the disbandment of the squadron.

The ADF will instead wait until there is an implementation plan for what happens after the report to properly commemorate the disbanded unit.

Mr Russell, a former Major in the 2nd Commando Regiment and Voice of a Veteran founder, said members and their families were 'disgusted'.

'The biggest thing that veterans suffer from when they leave the military is a loss of purpose or a loss of identity,' he told The West Australian. 'Those that have fought under a unit that was 2 Squadron, and people have died under it. On Anzac Day when they get together that's part of their identity.

'We're just tearing down these symbols. Families of these old guys are calling me saying "hey it's actually really hurting my grandad".'

The ADF said it would work with the 2 Squadron veteran's community and ex-service organisations to 'appropriately acknowledge their service'.

The 465-page Brereton report, which blames the killings in part on a 'warrior hero' culture among special forces, recommended that 19 people face criminal investigation and called for sweeping reforms to Australia's military.

One particular incident, wholly redacted in the report, was described as 'possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia's military history'.

There was also evidence that troops took part in 'body count competitions' and covered up illegal killings by staging skirmishes, planting weapons and retrospectively adding names to target lists.

Australia's Chief of Army said he was left 'sickened' by the landmark investigation. 'I was shocked by the extent of the alleged unlawful acts that were described in the report,' Lieutenant General Rick Burr told the Nine Network. 'That is absolutely not what I expect of anyone in our army, anywhere in our army at any time, and why I'm so determined to lead our army through this into a better place.'

The inquiry has also raised questions about how Australia's elite soldiers should be represented at the war memorial in Canberra.

The damning findings were outlined in a major report into alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan made public last month.

Paul Brereton, who led the four-year inquiry, found young soldiers were forced to kill Afghan soldiers in a practice known as 'blooding' to achieve their first kill.

'I was shocked by the extent of the alleged unlawful acts that were described in the report,' Lieutenant General Rick Burr told Nine Network.

All special forces soldiers who served in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013 could also lose their meritorious unit citations.

Darren Chester, the minister for veterans' affairs and defence personnel, agrees with the recommendation. 'I think it's a tough call but I think in the circumstances it is a fair call,' he told ABC radio. 'I think it's a difficult decision, a difficult recommendation, but I think it's one we probably have to follow through with.'

However, Mr Chester is concerned for the vast majority of veterans who served with great distinction in Afghanistan. 'They have no reason to have their work in uniform either defined or diminished in any way because of these allegations that have come forward,' he said. 'The last thing they need right now is our judgement, they need our support.'

Gold miners boosting Australian economy

A surge in prices of the yellow metal is changing the face of the sharemarket and boosting Australia's export fortunes

Under the famous goldfields that transformed colonial Australia, a new gold rush is calling. From Bendigo and Ballarat to Bathurst and Kalgoorlie, sky-high gold prices of more than $US1800 an ounce are encouraging companies to spend more, expand mines and dig deeper towards ore bodies previously impossible to extract at a profit. With gold fetching some of its best prices in history – and new technology available to find it – there’s rock in the ground that suddenly looks a lot more promising.

The coronavirus pandemic. Money-printing by central banks. Donald Trump’s trade wars. As dark clouds gather over world economies, gold is shining brighter than ever. The seductive yellow metal – prized by civilizations for thousands of years for its rarity and use in jewellery – tends to be most sought after these days by investors as a safe place to store wealth in periods of uncertainty. Today’s most turbulent times are no exception. This year alone, the gold price has been riding a 30 per cent rally, one of the most aggressive runs the market has seen, and surpassed $US2000 for the first time ever.

“You’ve got generations of investors that may not understand gold’s history, but they are learning about it very quickly,” explains Sandeep Biswas, chief executive of top Australian gold miner Newcrest. “It’s a fantastic investment in terms of hedging, particularly in bad times.”

Like other commodities, gold prices are based on “futures” contracts - agreements to buy and sell a quantity of the metal at a future date at an agreed-upon price. Gold futures have soared to record new highs this year, above $US2000 an ounce.

After the United States took the US dollar off the gold standard in the 1970s, the gold price fluctuated up but always reverted to an average of around $US400 per ounce.

The only major exception was between 1979 and 1980, when it reached a high of $US850 an ounce, as investors rushed to gold as a safe haven following the outbreak of the Soviet-Afghan war and the Iranian Revolution.

From 2018, gold embarks on a most extraordinary rise, sealing its spot as one of the world’s best-performing traditional assets. This is attributed to investor alarm at the potentially long-term severity of the COVID-19 crisis and the trillions of dollars being unleashed by central banks and world governments to revive their battered economies, which raises the risk of inflation.

Few countries stand to reap the benefits of this rally as much as Australia, where investment in gold exploration boomed to a record-high $1.2 billion over the 2019-20 financial year, gold production climbed to 328 tonnes and the value of gold exports reached $24 billion. If the chief economist’s latest forecasts come to pass, national gold exports will exceed $30 billion this year and Australia is on track to overtake China to become the world’s No. 1 gold producer.

While rarely making headlines like Australia’s larger commodity exports of iron ore, coal and gas, gold has a hallowed place in Australia’s resources sector. More than 165 years since the first gold rushes, gold remains part of the nation’s fabric, an important economic driver, and, as the Minerals Council of Australia’s Tania Constable explains, has an impact in every corner of the country. Even the ACT benefits, with workers from Canberra employed at the Dargues Reef gold mine just across the border in NSW. “When we started mining here, it was all about gold,” Constable says. “It’s been a key economic contributor since those early settlement days, and it’s the only commodity that touches every state and territory.”

Australia is estimated to have slightly less than 19 per cent of the world's gold resources, the most of any country, ahead of South Africa with 11 per cent, Russia with 10 per cent and the United States with about 6 per cent.

However, Australia's gold mine output of 315 tonnes accounts for 10 per cent of global production, second to China with 400 tonnes, but ahead of Russia (295 tonnes) and the US (210 tonnes).

At 2020’s annual Diggers and Dealers conference in WA’s Kalgoorlie, an overwhelming air of optimism surrounded the gold sector as the rising prices sent companies’ share prices soaring. South African-listed Gold Fields' stock has surged 116 per cent since January. The world No. 1 gold miner, New York Stock-listed Newmont, is up 43 per cent.

A long list of Australian miners are thriving right now, banking more profit for the same amount of work while previously unviable deposits are looking more attractive.

“With the Aussie dollar going down and the gold price going up their costs will generally stay the same, but their margins are getting bigger and bigger,” says Andrew Muir, an ex-geologist who now runs junior gold explorer NTM. “That’s why all of the share prices have been going up without doing anything different.”

After surging to more than $US2000 on inflation fears, gold prices began trending slightly lower after Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all reported vaccines with promising results in preventing COVID-19.

As Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivekh Dhar explains, the precious metal is caught between stimulus and vaccine.

“For a decline in gold to be sustained it would require positive news on the vaccine front to offset the prospect of more US stimulus,” says Dhar. “We think it’s a little too early to make that call, particularly with increasing COVID‑19 restrictions and a Biden presidency on the horizon.”




1 comment:

Paul said...

For a number of the older, and ill Aboriginal women my work keeps me in contact with the cashless card is a circuit-breaker because the old Aboriginal culture of sharing translates today as strong-arming any vulnerable family member who has access to money into handing it over for wasting on booze, drugs, gambling etc. The card actually makes them less vulnerable to being robbed and threatened by their own kin, which happens a lot.