by Sasha Uzunov

It was a case of the Australian media finally laying down their pom-poms and ending the cheerleading routine in reporting how tough the Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was in his war with his own Defence Department.

What civilians cannot understand is the Defence Department is a universe of its own. Outsiders who do not know how to operate in this environment get chewed up pretty quick. Mr Fitzgibbon, through no fault of his own, lacks two things: he has never served in uniform and secondly, he does not hold the aces when it comes to playing political poker with his own Defence Department.

Only one man, TEAM UZUNOV points out, is capable of doing so: Colonel Iron Mike Kelly, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.

It was a TEAM UZUNOV blog that first revealed the worsening relationship between the Minister and his own Department when an outsider, Mr Tim Holding, was being floated as go-between or trouble shooter in Afghanistan.

Later, TEAM UZUNOV revealed that because of the war between Mr Fitzgibbon and his Department that the only honourable thing was for him to fall on his sword.

The media have now revealed that Mr Fitzgibbon has apologised for not declaring trips he undertook to China,25197,25249324-601,00.html
Joel Fitzgibbon admits woman friend Helen Liu paid for China trips
Brad Norington and Patrick Walters March 27, 2009

Article from: The Australian
THE future of Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was in doubt last night after he was forced to apologise for failing to declare two trips he made to China that were paid for by Chinese businesswoman Helen Liu.

The admission drew an immediate call by Malcolm Turnbull for Kevin Rudd to sack Mr Fitzgibbon.

Revelation of the trips came after it was reported yesterday a covert investigation by officials from Mr Fitzgibbon’s own Defence Department allegedly unearthed security concerns about his links with Ms Liu. The Defence Department’s internal security agency has begun its own urgent investigation into the allegations that Defence officials spied on the minister…

TEAM UZUNOV is not suggesting anything untoward in Mr Fitzgibbon’s behavior and respects his privacy. However, with a real shooting war raging between the Taliban and Australian soldiers in Afghanistan the sideshow has taken the focus off that…

Mr Fitzgibbon was lightly rebuked by the Australian media when it was also revealed he had taken a mate on a joyride into a warzone on board a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) flight.
Fitzgibbon defends friend’s Afghan trip
Maria HawthorneJuly 30, 2008

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says he has no regrets about his decision to take a friend on an official trip to war-torn Afghanistan.

University academic Scott Holmes paid his own way to accompany Mr Fitzgibbon to the Anzac Day service in Gallipoli, with the trip also taking in Ankara and the Middle East.

But they made an unscheduled diversion to Tarin Kowt after Australian soldier Jason Marks was killed in Afghanistan on their last night in Ankara.

The opposition has labelled the trip “Joel’s joy flight” and questioned the additional cost and security risk of taking Professor Holmes, an economics specialist and part-time adviser in Mr Fitzgibbon’s electorate office, into Afghanistan.

It is a pity that the Australian media play follow the pack mentality when reporting defence issues. The recent change in that behaviour could be explained that Mr Fitzgibbon’s position has become untenable so the media now feel safe to move against him, without losing the privileges of free embedded trips to the Australian Army base in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan.

Such cynical behaviour by the media does not serve the Australian taxpayer and his or her right to know about the goings on with the Defence Department


Thursday, March 12, 2009
By Sasha UzunovCopyright 2009

Regardless of the SASR pay dispute, you know it is time for Australia’s Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon to fall on his sword when he publicly has to wage a media war to bring his department under control.So much has been made by some journalists, acting more like cheerleaders and unofficial spin doctors, about how tough, feisty and angry Mr Fitzgibbon is with the Defence Department.

He has launched a well crafted media campaign where he has vented his “anger” at his department over being kept in the dark on a number of issues and the break down in communication of events in Afghanistan. In an unusual move, his predecessor, Dr Brendan Nelson, from the opposition, backed him up in Federal Parliament. Subsequent events, such as the SASR pay dispute, have confirmed what many have been saying for a long time, and that is Mr Fitzgibbon is out of his depth.

read more…


Friday, January 30, 2009 – TEAM UZUNOV
ExclusiveTim Holding – Brumby’s man turned PM Rudd’s international man of mystery?

By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2009

Mr Tim Holding, a Victorian State government minister who is a former Australian Army Reserve Special Forces soldier, will not confirm nor deny speculation about him undertaking a short fact finding mission to Afghanistan on behalf of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
A prominent strategic analyst, who has the close ear of governments, and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he wanted to “float the idea of Mr Holding undertaking a fact finding mission to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt province [in Southern Afghanistan].”

read more:

The Age, Diary Column, Tuesday, 3 February 2009.
Timmy, don’t forget to pack the water canteen

TIM Holding was dubbed “Twinkle Twinkle” because he was considered a little star, and he’s really made an impact in the water portfolio with those faulty four-minute shower timers that last for 40 minutes or four hours. But Dim’s moment to shine may have arrived.

Former Australian soldier Sasha Uzunov, now a photo-journalist, writes in his blog that Holding (below) could be destined for Afghanistan as Kevin Rudd’s “eyes and ears” on the ground. You see, Holding is well credentialed as a former member of the Army Reserve in the 1st Commando Regiment – and he’s Tourism Minister.

A “prominent Canberra strategic analyst” told Uzunov: “Mr Holding is an intelligent young politician with links to special forces. The Australian media underestimate his ability, which is why he would be ideal for the mission: he would slip under the media radar.”

The analyst claimed the PM was not happy with the flow of information from Afghanistan so the analyst would suggest Holding embark on a “fact-finding mission” to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt. Diary asked Commando Holding about swapping a fluoro vest for a flak jacket, and he said:

….read more