Do-gooder was a goon

His current political campaign is to "protect" people from spending too much of their money on gambling

INDEPENDENT MP Andrew Wilkie says he cannot remember ordering military cadets to honour Adolf Hitler. But he says he is regretful of other inappropriate behaviour when he was at Duntroon Military College almost 30 years ago.

As a senior cadet in 1983 Mr Wilkie allegedly forced his juniors to salute the 50th anniversary of Hitler's rise to power, News Ltd has reported.

"I honestly cannot remember anything about that specific allegation," Mr Wilkie told reporters in Hobart today. "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." Mr Wilkie said he was "obviously regretful" of that.

He acknowledged the behaviour was wrong and inappropriate but insisted it wasn't physical or sexual. "I've obviously grown up a lot in the last 30 years."

Mr Wilkie said he was a cadet in his early 20s at the time. "That sort of behaviour at the time was wrong, and I regret I was in any way involved in that sort of behaviour," Mr Wilkie said.

"I am absolutely appalled at the stories that are coming out of the defence force academy these days, I applaud the Defence Minister Stephen Smith for intervening and taking the strongest possibly action to stamp out misconduct at the academy."

Mr Wilkie refused to apologise over the Nazi allegations because he couldn't remember "that particular incident".

"If there's anyone in this country who, to this day, feels aggrieved in any way by anything I've ever said or done to them, then I apologise unreservedly," he said. "But I will not apologise for the allegation in the paper because I honestly have no recollection."

The Tasmanian MP noted he gained security clearance to undertake intelligence work later in life and passed "repeated" character tests during his military career. "So I would hope that no one would have any doubts over my character these days, particularly as a member of parliament.

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

Mr Wilkie said it was as much a cultural problem as an issue with specific events. "What happened to me as a cadet when I was bastardised and then what I did to other cadets was endemic at Duntroon at the time to many cadets involved," he said. "It would probably clean out the senior ranks of the defence force if we were to search out and remove every person who in anyway brushed up against bastardisation."

Mr Wilkie urged the government to conduct a specific review of Duntroon in the wake of the Skype sex scandal. "I have no reason to think that there's a problem at Duntroon these days," he said. "(But) if we are going to have a fresh look at what's going on ... it would be healthy to not just look at the (Australian) Defence Force Academy but to look at Duntroon as well."

ADFA provides university education for officer trainees from all services while Duntroon trains army officers.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard noted the alleged events took place when Mr Wilkie was a "very, very young man".

But she wouldn't comment on the detail of the report. ``I didn't know the Andrew Wilkie of 30 years ago, I'm sure he can speak for himself," Ms Gillard told Austereo. ``Andrew Wilkie is the only person who can tell his life story."

An anonymous barrister has also publicly described the mental, physical and sexual abuse he and others suffered at Duntroon in the early 1990s.

Former cadet Brendan Etches said he was disappointed to be rebuffed by Mr Wilkie after making an appointment to see the Member for Denison on Tuesday. He was at first assured that Mr Wilkie would speak to him but later told the politician refused to discuss his time at Duntroon.

Mr Etches said he has wondered if and when the independent MP would speak out against the harsh treatment that the then Senior Cadet Wilkie and others condoned - and sometimes inflicted - on teenage cadets.

In his book Axis of Deceit, Mr Wilkie admits he was a "larrikin" while at Duntroon and that he set "some sort of record" for incurring punishments for offences such as "giving junior cadets a hard time".

Mr Etches, whose grandfather had fought against Hitler's troops at Tobruk, said he had been shocked at orders to salute the Nazi regime. "He was drilling us before breakfast," Mr Etches said. "I have a memory of him in a dressing gown, watching as the other senior guys were running around giving us a hard time."


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