Senator Stephen Conroy and Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin
by Malcolm R Hughes
A few of us at Gumshoe are going down various paths to get an answer to the sixty-four thousand dollar question: Was the alleged mock-up of the Lindt Café on the premises of Holsworthy Army Base done on-the-day, or was it pre-arranged?
In her article on “Serious Shortcomings of the Inquest,” dated August 9, 2016, Mary W Maxwell quoted an Inquest document written by Jeremy Gormly, SC, Counsel Assisting the Inquest. The Inquest item quoted by Mary said:
“The ADF had built a mock-up of the Lindt Cafe at Holsworthy Army Base to trial and rehearse forced entry. It offered the facility to the NSW Police for training, although as we have heard in evidence that offer could not be taken up on the night.”
That’s in Paragraph 9 of a Statement by Jeremy Gormly, regarding “Commonwealth Australian Defence Force issues, ” downloadable here.
On May 13, 2016, Gormly said the sources for this information include “evidence from Air Chief Marshal Binskin to a Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee Estimates hearing on 25 February 2015” (“and others”).
I have tried to locate it in Hansard – after all it must be there if it is a Senate matter. Today I found an item that is very worrying. It is a question put to Air Chief Marshal Binskin – actually a series of questions – by Senator Stephen Conroy of Victoria.
Please read every word of it, below.
It is from a Department of Defence “additional estimates hearing” dated February 25, 2015. That is, less than six weeks after the Lindt Café siege. The document I found says the ADF is going to answer “on notice” — that is, hidden from you and me.
Note: Senator Conroy does not ask the specific question about a mock-up. He is more interested in finding out what role the ADF played in responding to the siege.
Not only was the answer not publicized, the Senate report says that the Coroner and the NSW Police ask that the matter not be made public in order to “maintain the integrity of the ongoing investigations.” So now I ask: are those investigations still “ongoing”?
Department of Defence
Additional Estimates Hearing – 25 February 2015
Question on Notice No. 8 – Martin Place siege
Senator Conroy asked on 25 February 2015, Hansard page 30:
Senator CONROY: Liaison can be formal or informal. Were the ADF providing advice to the New South Wales police? I appreciate the point you have just made, thatthey all just work together. They were very integrated and they knew each other, but were they providing formal advice?
Air Chief Marshal Binskin: They may have in a particular specialist area, which I do not want to discuss openly. We have certain capabilities.
CONROY: I am trying to understand. Were any of those specialist capabilities deployed?
Binskin: I would have to take that on notice. Again, I think you are heading down a path that is different to what I am thinking. They are specialist technical areas, if I were to be precise. You can see where that might be.
CONROY: Media reports suggest that New South Wales police had a prepared direct action DA plan many hours before their emergency action plan had to be implemented. Did the ADF provide advice to the New South Wales police in relation to tactics or weaponry in relation to the direct action plan?
Binskin: I would have to take that on notice. I do not believe so. The New South Wales police is one of the more capable forces in Australia to handle this situation. (. . .)
Senator CONROY: Did ADF personnel, liaison specialists or others provide any input into that direct action plan?
Air Chief Marshal Binskin: I would have to take that on notice. I would think that that would be more an area that the coroner would want to look at, so I would have to be careful on how I answered that. I am not trying to be evasive. [!!!] (. . .)
CONROY: Did the ADF have any personnel deployed in Martin Place?
Binskin: That is what I will take on notice, from a specialist point of View. And that I do not have exactly to hand. But I will get that for you.
CONROY: Did the ADF provide advice to the New South Wales police in relation to the weapons and ammunition that should be used in the storming of the cafe?
Binskin: I will have to take that on notice.
Response: “To maintain the integrity of the ongoing investigations, the NSW police and the NSW Coroner have requested that details on Defence’s involvement with the Martin Place siege not be made public until the investigations are complete.”
Department of Defence
Additional Estimates Hearing —- 25 February 2015
Question on Notice No. 34 – Martin Place Siege
Senator Conroy provided in writing:
Chief Air Marshal Binskin conﬁrmed in Senate Estimates that ‘specialist individuals’ had been deployed by the ADF to assist with the Martin Place siege:
(1) How many specialist individuals were deployed by the ADF?
(2) What were the respective specialisations of each of these individuals?
(3) Under what command structure were these individuals operating?
(4) Did any of these individuals have the capacity to resolve the situation at any time prior to the implementation of the NSW Police’s emergency action plan?
Response: “This question has been answered under Question on Notice No. 8 from Additional Estimates of 25 February 2015.”
Gumshoe readers will say this is not the question I had in mind when I published my article about “The Role of the Army Engineers.” There I was countering the rumor that the mock-up could have been done instantly.
Mary Maxwell reports that Deputy Police Commissioner Cath Burn did mention in her testimony that there was a mock-up at Holsworthy but that it would take at least 40 minutes to get there from Sydney. In short she did not enlighten us about the date of production of the mock-up.
We have to thank Senator Conroy of the Labor Party for posing questions about the siege. It appears to me that the budget committee may only front the Senate annually, so we may not get an official answer to our question in the near future, if ever.
By the way, Binskin, Companion of the Order of Australia, has been Chief of Defence Force in Australia since 2014.
— Mal Hughes is also known as Aussiemal. He is a Vietnam vet