Australian MP ordered 'Nazi salute'

2011-04-15 11:23

Sydney - A key MP who holds the balance of power in parliament was on Friday accused of ordering military cadets to commemorate Adolf Hitler's rise to power, but said he could not remember the incident.

Andrew Wilkie allegedly told teenage army recruits to salute the 50th anniversary of Hitler's 1933 rise when he was a senior cadet at the elite Duntroon Military College in 1983, News Limited newspapers reported.

When one recruit refused to stand to attention in honour of the Nazis, the independent politician allegedly allowed other senior cadets to abuse and punish him.

Wilkie, a key member of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's fragile coalition government, said he had no recollection of the incident and would not be apologising.

But he admitted involvement in "bastardisation", or initiation, sessions at the officer training academy.

"I honestly cannot remember anything about that specific allegation," Wilkie told a press conference, referring to the Hitler claims.

Smear campaign

"But I have never made a secret of the fact that I was one of many cadets involved in the bastardisation scandal at the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1983. In fact I was disciplined for misconduct at the time."

Wilkie said he was "obviously regretful" of that.

"I never physically assaulted anyone, I never sexually assaulted anyone and anyone who makes an accusation like that needs to watch out," he added.

The former Iraq war whistle-blower is currently leading a push against problem slot machine gambling and revealed on Wednesday that he was getting death threats as debate intensified about imposing betting limits.

He claimed the Nazi allegations were part of a deliberate smear campaign over his push to crack down on poker machines.

"This is happening ... against the backdrop of the poker machine industry launching its campaign ... against the government and me personally," he said.

Sex scandal

"I will not be intimidated by that campaign against me. I will not be cowed in any way."

News Limited newspapers quoted former cadet Brendan Etches, whose grandfather fought against Hitler's troops at Tobruk, as saying he was shocked at being ordered to salute the regime.

"I refused to come to attention when they ordered the general salute," said Etches, who was 17-years-old at the time.

Etches left Duntroon soon after and was one of three cadets who blew the whistle on the college's "sick secret cult" of sadistic punishment for trifling or imagined offences.

The scandal led to the resignation of senior officers and the expulsion and disciplining of several cadets, including Wilkie, although he went on to attain the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the army.

The allegations come just days after Defence Minister Stephen Smith ordered a series of reviews into conduct in the military sparked by a sex scandal involving a young female cadet at the Defence Force

Decades of misconduct

The woman went to the media after a male recruit allegedly filmed himself having sex with her and broadcast it via Skype to his friends.

The publicity triggered other complaints about sexual misconduct stretching back decades.

Wilkie urged the government to conduct a specific review of Duntroon as part of its campaign to weed out unsavoury behaviour.

"If we are going to have a fresh look at what's going on... it would be healthy to not just look at the Defence Force Academy but to look at Duntroon as well," he said.

Read more on:    julia gillard  |  australia

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