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Naval officer breaks silence on harassment

Broadcast: 15/05/2006

Naval officer breaks silence on harassment

Reporter: Mark Bannerman

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program. As anyone in the Australian Defence Force - or for that
matter, the media - knows, it's rare to find a serving officer who will blow the whistle on
perceived wrongs within their organisation. One reason is a sense of loyalty. The other: the strict
regulations that warn whistleblowers they could find themselves in jail. Tonight, a naval officer,
Lieutenant Commander Robyn Fahy, has chosen to break that code of silence, believing the treatment
handed out to her and to other female sailors is simply intolerable. Last year, we told you how
Robyn Fahy had been dismissed from her position of executive officer at the Stirling Naval Base in
Western Australia, but without actually hearing from her - she was still hoping the saga could be
resolved from within. Now, she is prepared to tell her own story; a story that includes harrowing
details of her treatment while training for what promised to be a stellar career, and while running
a major naval base. It's not a pleasant tale, and all the more concerning is the explicit message
that even a highly regarded female officer could not escape a culture of bullying and harassment.
Mark Bannerman reports.

MARK BANNERMAN: A still day in Canberra and Lieutenant Commander Robyn Fahy is keeping fit, ready
to fight for her country. But for nearly six years, this dedicated navy officer has been sidelined,
engaged in a battle not with some sinister foreign power, but the Australian Defence Force.

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: At one time they threatened to crucify me and I couldn't, I
suppose, conceptualise an organisation that talked about loyalty and integrity and then matched
that up with the manner within which they were behaving - not just towards myself, but towards my

MARK BANNERMAN: Tonight, Robyn Fahy in defiance of military regulations, has chosen to speak out
about her treatment by the Navy and what she claims is an entrenched culture of bullying and

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: Well, I felt I had to speak up and try and do something, otherwise
this will keep happening again and again and again.

MARK BANNERMAN: I mean, is that the only reason?

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: I think also that I don't believe that the Australian Defence
Force is above the law.

MARK BANNERMAN: In telling her story she will detail how she was bashed at officer training school,
bullied at the Stirling Naval Base and how the Navy took advice from a now discredited doctor that
could have seen her hospitalised and sedated.

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: Initially, I understand that they intended to have me committed to
a psychiatric facility against my will.

MARK BANNERMAN: Robyn Fahy's story may have come to a climax at Stirling Naval Base near Perth, but
it began here at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. In 1986, she was selected to
become the first female to attend the academy. It should have been an enriching experience, but
nothing could prepare her for what she found at this place.

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: On a daily basis, I was beaten up.


LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: Beaten up. In fact, recently I was sort of thinking about it, and
I can't remember a day where I wasn't punched, or hit, or slapped, or spat upon.

MARK BANNERMAN: Despite this brutal regime, Robyn Fahy not only completed her training, she topped
her year. In December 1987, her family flew to Canberra for her graduation, unaware how well she
had done.

MADGE FAHY, MOTHER: We didn't know until we arrived at the academy and we opened up the program and
we saw her name in it, and I think my instant reaction was, "Oh, hell! She didn't warn us about

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: Apparently they all started to cry, because I think they had seen
the bruises over my body in the last two years and I think they knew that I would probably get
beaten up and, in fact, that's what happened as we marched off the graduation parade: I got
punched. And, in fact, actually when I walked towards the Governor-General to receive my award I
got spat on, so, by the time I reached him I actually had saliva on my uniform.

MARK BANNERMAN: Mark Drummond was there that day and although he did not specifically see Robyn
Fahy spat upon, he clearly recalls the reaction to her win.

MARK DRUMMOND, FORMER CADET OFFICER: Robyn Fahy was standing all on her own and at about the same
time that I sort of realised that Robyn was on her own, I can also remember hearing a lot of guys
sort of talking under their breath, but it was quite a buzz of kind of hostility and verbal sort of
abuse and people, just a whole chorus of people sort of saying very nasty things to Robyn.

MARK BANNERMAN: If the brutal treatment handed out to Robyn Fahy at the Defence Academy was
intended to make her a better officer, in a strange sort of way it may have worked. Over the next
decade she won a record as a thoughtful person, the kind of person who might inspire young women to
sign up.

KIRSHY READ, FORMER NAVAL OFFICER: She was everything that we wanted to be, and she had done that -
those things as the first female and to us, that was unbelievable, because she had done it without
any female peer support.

MARK BANNERMAN: In fact, Lieutenant Commander Fahy performed so well that by 2000, she was promoted
to the position of executive officer of HMAS Stirling, Australia's largest operational Navy base.
At Stirling, Robyn Fahy would meet two people who would have a major impact on her life. One was
the base's acting doctor Douglas McKenzie. The other, the base's Commanding Officer, Vincenzo di
Pietro. Were you bullied or abused by your Commanding Officer?


MARK BANNERMAN: No question about that?


MARK BANNERMAN: What form did that take?

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: Um, probably mostly, um, verbal abuse and threats.

MARK BANNERMAN: Those allegations are backed up by Kirshy Read, Robyn Fahy's assistant officer at
the time.

KIRSHY READ: It was very obvious that they didn't get on, and it was not uncommon to see the CO
sort of putting her down or having a go at her or...

MARK BANNERMAN: To her face?

KIRSHY READ: Yes, to her face.

MARK BANNERMAN: Yelling at her?

KIRSHY READ: Yes, I saw him yell at her.

MARK BANNERMAN: But Robyn Fahy wasn't the only woman making allegations of bullying at Stirling
that year. In July 2000, a young lieutenant Kellie Wiggins claims she met with the base commander,
Vincenzo di Pietro, and told him she had been physically and sexually harassed by two men working
at the base. When the matter was not investigated, Robyn Fahy claims she raised the subject with
her boss. Giving testimony to the Medical Board of Western Australia, she alleges he said this to
her: "If you try to pursue a harassment claim against me you will regret it. I know some powerful
people through my wife's family, so don't even think of putting in a complaint about me." Just for
the record, we should point out that the Commanding Officer, Vincenzo di Pietro, denies ever having
made that threat. Who's right and who's wrong we may never know. What we can say, though, is that
at HMAS Stirling something extraordinary was about to happen. On 10 October, 2000, Robyn Fahy went
to see the stand-in doctor on the base, Douglas McKenzie. She was suffering from a blinding
headache. In all, the consultation lasted just 10 minutes. Immediately after the consultation
though, and without telling his patient, the doctor wrote a remarkable letter to a consulting
psychiatrist Dr Sid Srna. Filled with innuendo and what would later be found to be lies, the letter
damned Robyn Fahy, falsely claiming she had attempted suicide. It went on to say: "She is an
intelligent, manipulative borderline depressed woman, with a personality disorder whose
unpredictable behaviour and frequent absences is rapidly destroying the morale at Stirling."

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: I couldn't even begin to speculate as to why someone would think
it appropriate to write such malicious falsehoods about another officer.

MARK BANNERMAN: Unaware of the letter's contents, Robyn Fahy accepted Dr McKenzie's advice and went
to see the psychiatrist, Dr Srna. Relying on McKenzie's letter, Dr Srna wrote this letter
misdiagnosing Robyn Fahy's as bipolar and suggesting, in effect, she should be hospitalised and

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: And I found this to be the most frightening, I suppose, concept to
deal with, and it's taken me quite a lot of time to actually get over that.

MARK BANNERMAN: They weren't the only ones unable to believe this chain of events. Two independent
doctors immediately examined Robyn Fahy.

TOM FAHY, FATHER: That afternoon, that afternoon, she saw the first civilian psychiatrist, which we
had organised, and he saw absolutely no sign of any psychological illness whatsoever.

MARK BANNERMAN: But if Robyn Fahy was able to avoid hospital, she could not save her job. Two days
later, she was summoned to her Commanding Officer's room and told she was suffering from a serious
mental disorder and was being stood down. The young officer was stunned.

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: I suppose, there's a sort of sickened feeling that, for whatever
reason, they thought it appropriate to destroy not only the professional reputation, but personal
reputation of an officer.

MARK BANNERMAN: If there is one word that might describe Robyn Fahy's treatment over the past five
and a half years by the Navy, it would be surreal. In that time, she has worked tirelessly to clear
her name. She has gone, in turn, to the Western Australian Medical Board, to the Human Rights and
Equal Opportunities Commission and to the Defence Ombudsman. In each case after investigation, they
have expressed real concern with her treatment by the Navy. The Navy's refusal to listen is best
seen in its response to the inquiry by the Medical Board of Western Australia into the conduct of
Dr Douglas McKenzie - the base doctor who first saw Robyn Fahy. Always meticulous and objective,
the board found Dr McKenzie guilty of medical misbehaviour on 22 counts related to his dealings
with her. Far from disciplining Dr McKenzie, the Navy has spent over $500,000 paying his legal
bills and he has been promoted. How would you characterise their approach to you in that
five-and-a-half years, in terms of their defence and their attacks on you?

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: I think really from the beginning it was, "We don't care how much
evidence you have to support your claim. We don't care how wrongful these actions were." And,
certainly, as it progressed, "We don't care what the independent judicial findings have been. We
are going to keep fighting until we have destroyed you."

MARK BANNERMAN: There is, of course, a clear question here. What does the Chief of Defence Forces,
Angus Houston, think of this, given his vow to stop bullying and to reform the military justice
system? Well, we can reveal that last year the chief of defence told his Chief of Navy, Russ
Shoulders, to settle the Robyn Fahy matter. So far, he has failed to do so. Instead, two months
ago, the Navy sent Robyn Fahy this letter, telling her she could now return to duty. Two weeks ago,
she went to defence headquarters to receive her orders. Initially, the job they offered her was
'Officer in Charge of Establishments'. In the Navy, this is commonly known as 'Officer in Charge of

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: I've been told by former colleagues that there would not be a
single workplace within Navy where I would not be victimised, "Because I've gone outside" is the
expression that they used.

TOM FAHY: When I was told about that by Robyn and then, she showed the letters to me, I thought
"This has to be a joke."

MARK BANNERMAN: Naturally, we wanted to speak to the Chief of Defence about this case and the
questions it raises. Angus Houston was unavailable we were told. Instead, today we received a
statement that says, in part: "The Navy is committed to a mutually acceptable resolution of her
case and, to this end, the Navy has proposed an independent authority be appointed to mediate." In
spite of this, Robyn Fahy did not want her comments withdrawn in any fashion. She believes her
story must be known.

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ROBYN FAHY: If I don't speak up, when will this ever stop? How many more
Senate inquiries? It just seems every few years there's another investigation and another
investigation, and then you read about another family's tragedies, with respect to their dealings
with the Australian Defence Force.

MARK BANNERMAN: And her family agrees, and they have this advice for any young woman thinking of a
career in the Navy:

MADGE FAHY: Tie them up and don't let them go. Do not let them go. Choose any other career, but do
not join the Defence Force.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And, at the same, we read about the Defence Force's problems in maintaining its
recruiting levels. That disturbing report from Mark Bannerman.

(c) 2006 ABC

Costello leadership aspirations on the cards again

Broadcast: 15/05/2006

Costello leadership aspirations on the cards again

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: In the past few months, speculation about the leadership of the Liberal
Party has been put on hold. After months of provocative comments from some of his closest
supporters, Peter Costello suddenly shelved his threat to challenge for the job and appeared to
accept that the matter was entirely up to John Howard. But it's on again, and with the next
election now possibly little more than a year away, it doesn't take much. This time, though, the
leadership talk seems to be driven by some in the PM's camp, rather than a Treasurer's frustration.
With a popular Budget behind them, and another likely next year before the 2007 election, there's
talk is of "an elegant departure" by the PM at the end of the year. Political Editor Michael
Brissenden reports.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, REPORTER: Barely a week after tabling his big hand-out Budget, Peter Costello
is out selling it, and where is he? Well given the only thing that even threatened to push tax cuts
off the page last week was a major mine drama, where better to start the national tour than down a
mine shaft? Broken Hill rarely gets this sort of attention. But Peter Costello's status generally
guarantees national coverage, particularly at Budget time. As it happens, this one's not such a
hard one to pitch anyway and with John Howard out of the country, it's almost his alone to sell. By
all accounts he's enjoying every minute of it. Who knows if the latest round of speculation is
right, it could even be his last. Well, last as Treasurer, anyway.

PIERS AKERMAN, COLUMNIST, NEWS LTD: People who hadn't raised the succession issue with me before
have done so and when I perhaps talk to others and reflected what I was hearing to them, they were
quite keen to get engaged in that debate. And normally it's something that's dismissed.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And that debate is once again the timing of any leadership succession. It's
taken off again, thanks to this article from columnist Piers Akerman. The Murdoch scribe considered
closer than any to the Howard office. On Sunday, he wrote that for the first time those close to
the Howard camp were now admitting that the times may suit an elegant departure.

PIERS AKERMAN: When you see a ripple take on the size of a small wave, then I think that it's time
the columnist is duty-bound to reflect or report what's occurring in this bizarre circus that's our
political arena.

PETER COSTELLO, FEDERAL TREASURER: Well, these matters are written about by third parties in
newspapers and these questions are, therefore, best addressed to them, Jim, because they seem to
write about these things. It doesn't come from me.

REPORTER: This is a fairly close third party to the PM, though?

PETER COSTELLO: Well, it would make your interview of him all the more interesting.

REPORTER: Treasurer, would a departure by December, if it were to happen, would it give you enough
time for a smooth transition?

PETER COSTELLO: Oh look, I'm not going to go into all of this at this time, or in this place. The
only departure I'm thinking of now is my departure for the airport to make a good announcement for
the Royal Flying Doctor Service and no doubt I'll meet you all again a kilometre down the road. We
can return to this a kilometre down the road. Any other mining questions?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: In fact, the speculation really began in the week before the Budget as Peter
Costello opened up like never before. It was as if he wanted this Budget and his role in the
process documented. Perhaps this was his last chance. Newspapers ran stories detailing the hard
slog and the long lonely nights spent crunching numbers with Treasury officials and for the first
time cameras were invited in to record the final moments. The Treasurer was buoyant and relaxed.
Last year's threat to challenge for the leadership and destabilise the Government had drifted off
and so, too, has the tension between the leader and the heir apparent. John Howard was so relaxed
he left the country. He's now planting trees with George Bush in Washington before jetting off to
Canada and a gruelling four days in Dublin. Maybe Piers Akerman is on the money. Peter van Onselen
for one, thinks he might be. For the last few years, he's been chronicling the Howard era for a
biography he says he won't be publishing until that departure arrives, elegant or not.

PETER VAN ONSELEN, EDITH COWAN UNIVERSITY: I think Howard is ready to go now. I think he's always
wanted to hold back to see how the industrial relations laws would go firstly and really, whether
Costello was up to embedding those legislative changes. And the quality of the Budget response by
him coupled with Beazley's failures after the Budget have left Costello in a position where I think
Howard is comfortable that he will continue his legacy and win the next election.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: A more relaxed attitude to change is also now apparent within the Government
itself. This Budget the prospect of another big spend to come in 2007 and the last Newspoll showing
Peter Costello could win against Kim Beazley, has eased many concerns backbenchers have had in the
past. But the change - if it comes around Christmas this year as predicted - would have a far
greater impact on the Government's front-line.

REPORTER: Would you like to run for deputy if Mr Costello took over?

DR BRENDAN NELSON, DEFENCE MINISTER: I won't comment on any of that.

REPORTER: Would you like to see the PM go into the next election?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Like most of my colleagues and most Australians, I would be delighted if the PM
chose to contest the next election, but that's entirely a matter for him.

REPORTER: Would you and Mr Costello make a good team, do you think?

TONY ABBOTT, HEALTH MINISTER: I have always said that there is a clear pecking order inside the
Coalition. It's Howard first, it's Costello second and then there is a whole range of other people.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Of course, any change to Costello would alter the political landscape
dramatically for all the big players. Kim Beazley says he wants to fight John Howard in 2007. He is
after all, the one most closely associated with the Government's IR changes. But some think a
contest against Peter Costello could produce considerable pressure on Kim Beazley and present some
new political opportunities for the Government, too.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: The Labor Party would be at a disadvantage taking on an experienced yet
generational change-orientated leader in Peter Costello, with someone from the past with Kim
Beazley. The Liberal Party would still be able to run its attack ads about previous government
failures of the Labor Party despite that being well over 10 years ago now because Beazley was
obviously a member of that. But they could also plug the positive message of generational change
inside their own party with Peter Costello as the new leader.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And that, in turn, might add to the pressure inside the Labor Party for
generational change as well. Overall, there is now a real sense that momentum for a transition is
gathering steam. Realistically if it was on, John Howard would have to stand aside by the end of
this year or early next year at the latest.

(c) 2006 ABC

FTA flags offshore processing of Aust blood supplies

Broadcast: 15/05/2006

FTA flags offshore processing of Aust blood supplies

Reporter: Mary Gearin

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: In a world where everything seems to have been reduced to a commercial
transaction, it's remarkable to think that Australia's blood supplies still come from voluntary
donations. But that tradition could be about to change thanks to the free trade agreement signed
with the United States. At the instigation of international pharmaceutical companies, an inquiry is
examining whether Australian plasma should be processed overseas, breaking the monopoly currently
enjoyed by CSL. Despite assurances about safety procedures, the prospect of Australians being given
blood products processed in other countries has caused alarm, particularly at the Red Cross. The
fear there is that this could be the first step towards paying for blood. Mary Gearin reports.

MARY GEARIN, REPORTER: Like hundreds of thousands of others around the country, Marion Mitchell has
taken time out of her working day to give blood as a matter of community service. That's undermined
by her trust in Australia's system of collection and processing. But what if the plasma given at
this busy collection centre was sent offshore to be processed?

DONOR #1 I think the main concern would be the safety aspects of the plasma or the product that
comes back.

DONOR #2: There's all the transporting costs and fuel and everything like. That...

DONOR #3: If it's just about money, better off to have a process on board that's really working
well for us.

MARY GEARIN: Whether such concerns are sensibly cautious or parochial and alarmist depends on where
you stand in the tug of war for control of Australian plasma that's about to start. A letter
attached to the Australia United States free trade agreement promises a review that would threaten
the effective monopoly currently held by the multi-national Australian-based company CSL.

KIM BJOERNSTRUP, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, OCTAPHARMA: I believe that if you see all over the world it's
never good with a monopoly in any situation.

would like to be able to say to our donors that their plasma is constantly under the supervision of
an Australian regulatory authority.

MARY GEARIN: The fuss is all about this - fractionation, the process where plasma is separated into
proteins and made into a range of essential products, vital for trauma patients, haemophiliacs and
an increasing range of conditions. Australia has always brought in a few foreign-made products CSL
can't make locally, but increasingly over the past four years the Government's imported more of the
most widely used plasma product intravenous immunoglobulin known as IVIG, because supply can't
totally meet demand.

PROFESSOR JAMES ISBITER: I think we've got to match up supply and demand in Australia as much as we
can using our own voluntary donated system.

MARY GEARIN: Professor James Isbister is chair of the Red Cross Blood Service Advisory Committee.
He says the main problem is that the Australian regulatory body, the Therapeutic Goods
Administration, can't control a process performed overseas.

PROFESSOR JAMES ISBISTER: If it goes offshore, we are much more dependent on other government's
regulatory agencies that may or may not be as strict as ours.

MARY GEARIN: No-one from CSL or the TGA would be interviewed for this story but the Federal Health
Department asserted in a statement that under the agreement Australia retains the right to
standards for ensuring the safety, quality and efficacy of its own plasma products. And one of the
frontrunners to challenge CSL's monopoly says it would expect nothing less than stringent
Australian supervision.

KIM BJOERNSTRUP: You have some very competent authorities in Australia like the TGA, and they would
not allow any blood product into your country unless it's been scrutinised, I can assure you of
that. We have been through that process with several products and they are at least as tough in
their judgment as renowned agencies like the FDA from the United States.

MARY GEARIN: Swiss-based Octapharma already supplies Australia with a brand of intravenous
immunoglobulin, but it's keen to process Australian plasma offshore. It has plants in Austria,
France, Sweden and Mexico. Speaking in London, the company's deputy chairman insists Octapharma
guards against cross-contamination just like CSL is required to do.

KIM BJOERNSTRUP: We can assure you 100 per cent that there will never be any mix of Australian
plasma with any other foreign sources of plasma and the reason we can say that with, I think we can
say that, we can prove that to you is that we have been running these projects with Norway for the
country of Norway for more than, I think we calculated something like 17 years now.

MARY GEARIN: The group representing leading international plasma processors has called on the Red
Cross to stop making "unfounded claims about the safety of their products" . Even if the Australian
plasma remains unsullied from other sources it may not come back in forms we recognise.

manufacturer who uses a different process, then the side effect profile for that product may
change. And patients who have previously used that product without any problems may have problems
in the future.

MARY GEARIN: Haematologist Dr Helen Savoia is on the Council of the Australian New Zealand Society
of Blood Transfusion. She says the society can see problems and advantages with overseas

DR HELEN SAVOIA: Competition might introduce new products to the Australian market.

MARY GEARIN: But Dr Helen Savoia is concerned about doctors needing to dole out new and unknown
products to patients.

DR HELEN SAVOIA: It's possible that some of the information might be treated by companies as
commercial in confidence and I think that would be concerning.

MARY GEARIN: Recently, the Red Cross launched what it says is its biggest blood drive yet,
emphasising the restrictions it places on Australian donors. You're one of the few Australians who
can give blood.

MARY GEARIN: Curiously there was no official comment from the Red Cross for this story, even though
it campaigned vigorously in the media before making a submission to the Government review. The Red
Cross submission hints at dark possibilities ahead that the Government could be heading towards a
totally commercial system, where foreign-sourced products flood the Australian market and
ultimately, to paying for blood donations. But that shouldn't alarm Australians according to
Octapharma it currently processes blood from paid donors.

KIM BJEORNSTRUP: According to what we see and the way the market is growing in Australia, I don't
think - I think it would be quite difficult with just non-remunerated donors to provide those
supplies to the patients.

PROFESSOR JAMES ISBITER: I'd be extremely surprised if the Australian community would ever accept
paid donation.

MARY GEARIN: The Health Department says in any case that topic is well outside the scope of the
review which is only about plasma fractionation. The heart of this issue may be health but the
review itself is linked to the free trade agenda. It'll be hard to separate the emotion from the
economics when the Government review concludes early next year.

(c) 2006 ABC