Ross Eastgate Opinion – Hierarchy must give answers on drugs push

4 Apr 2017

THE late military martinet and Chief of the Defence Force Staff, General Sir Arthur Leslie MacDonald KBE, CB, was never one to mince words.
In the Oxford Companion to Australian Military History MacDonald was remarked as one who “possessed a fierce temper and an often irascible nature which, combined with considerable intelligence and a capacity for hard work, made him a sometimes difficult superior”.
It was not so much sage advice but a clear directive when he declared, “Never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer”.
It was a bold staff officer who attempted to baffle Mac-Donald with a dubious briefing based on dodgy if not simply unsupportable evidence.
MacDonald’s leadership style is long since lost to the contemporary ADF, which has abandoned the organisation’s core values and objectives.
MacDonald served in North Africa and PNG in World War II, commanded 3RAR in Korea and was Australian Force commander in Vietnam.
He would never have countenanced proposals for the ADF to take a lead role in minority-gender politics nor have tolerated those who attempted to wrap their individual agendas in ADF uniform.

MacDonald’s Vietnam command coincided with the now-discredited Australian Malaria Institute (AMI) trial of dapsone, a drug otherwise used to treat leprosy.

There’s no doubt AMI snowed MacDonald and his senior medical adviser about its antimalarial efficacy but not its known adverse side effects.

Properly advised, neither would ever have allowed that mistake.

AMI continues to provide dubious advice. It has conducted questionable trials into both mefloquine and tafenoquine with recorded adverse consequences to many who have taken them.

Despite many military and medical jurisdictions distancing themselves from both drugs, AMI seems determined to have tafenoquine registered internationally as a suitable antimalarial prophylactic.

Observing MacDonald’s advice, let’s ask some questions.

1. Has the current ADF hierarchy formally sought independent medical advice about the suitability of either drug or their potential adverse effects, or has it simply accepted AMI’s assurances as to their suitability?

2. Is there a concerted effort by those involved with manufacturing and promoting either drug to have AMI give its professional imprimatur to propose them as safe and effective antimalarial prophylaxes or treatments?

3. Has any AMI member been offered any financial or personal inducements above their military salary and entitlements to promote either drug for long-term use?

4. Are any AMI staff actively collaborating with the manufacturers to achieve this outcome?

5. Has the current ADF hierarchy been aware of such efforts?
6. Has the ADF hierarchy given any encouragement that the ADF, through AMI’s advice, will eventually recommend either drug as appropriate for long-term antimalarial usage as either prophylaxis or treatment?
This column will appear today in ADF media summaries. The questions have been asked.

No currently serving senior officer will be able to deny in the future that he or she was unaware of them.

If they have not already asked those questions then they should without delay.

They can only hide behind the Defence PR Dysfuncionettes until the truth is out.