Cate McGregor

Tonight’s Australian Story about Malcolm McGregor becoming Cate McGregor is interesting for me in one respect.

She is the speech writer to the Chief of the Army.

Which presumably means there is a speech writer to the Chief of the Navy, the Chief of the Air Force, the Chief of the Defence Force and the Vice Chief of the Defence Force.

McGregor is a Lt Colonel in the Army. Surely there is a better use of such an officer than being a speech writer?

The Governor of the Reserve Bank doesn’t have a speech writer. Secretaries of departments don’t have speech writers. The heads of APRA, ASIC, the PC etc don’t have speech writers. When these officials need to deliver a speech they generally write it themselves and get advice from their staff.

Surely Defence officers don’t need to have speech writers?

About Samuel J

Samuel J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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111 Responses to Cate McGregor

  1. Walter Plinge

    Possibly it’s a make-work position, similar to ‘special projects’. It’s probable a transgender person isn’t regarded as suitable for command.

  2. Leigh Lowe

    Surely Defence officers don’t need to have speech writers?

    The pen is mightier than the sword, idiot!

  3. Notvelty

    Surely propaganda is vital durig war. Speech writing seems a reasonable peach-time operation for someone who would lead such a division.

  4. Dave Jackson

    You guys have taken this long to catch on? Really? The reality is that Houston was the pioneer of politicians in uniform. I can say that, as a retired senior officer, that media training was compulsory. Until this has been rescinded, and Defence returned to a non-partisan role, it remains beholden to the political elite.

  5. lem

    Mmmmm Samuel J….seems the Army Chief needs not only a speech writer, but someone to deal with his body language!

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QaqpoeVgr8U

  6. Samuel J

    The pen is mightier than the sword, idiot!

    Then promote writers to General.

  7. nic

    Samuel, my experience of bigwigs such as the Chairman of a bank, is that they all have a writer of some sort who drafts and writes correspondance and speeches etc.

  8. Gab

    Surely Defence officers don’t need to have speech writers?

    Surely the various Chiefs have better things to do than write speeches?

  9. lem

    I’m not saying anything against the Army Chief. I’ve seen the video. I’m on his side. Over and out.

  10. Harry Buttle

    The Australian armed forces are heavily over officered, but it is hard to get officers to agree that we need to cut the number of officers.

  11. stackja

    General Blamey made a speech about criticism of his leadership which led to more criticism. Generals may not always know how to write speeches.

  12. Motelier

    Why is Kate getting a gig on Australian Story? Surely there are more outstanding Australians that deserve a gig on this.

    Oh…..Wait……A…….Minute…..

    Sorry my mistake. This is on the ALPBC

  13. dan

    McGregor is a Lt Colonel in the Army. Surely there is a better use of such an officer than being a speech writer?

    Uh, David Morrison is a Lt General in the Army. Surely there is a better use of such an officer than being a speech writer?

    As nic suggested, in my limited exposure to VVIP CEOs, chairmen etc I have seen that they have assistance with their speeches, which is sometimes sorely needed.

  14. Boambee John

    “The Australian armed forces are heavily over officered”:

    The cuts in numbers since the early 1990s have largely fallen on the troops, not the officers.

  15. Samuel J

    Gab:

    Surely the various Chiefs have better things to do than write speeches?

    So you think senior public servants should also have speech writers?

  16. Sinclair Davidson

    Surely the various Chiefs have better things to do than write speeches?

    What are they doing giving speeches?

  17. Des Deskperson

    There may be a case for a dedicated speechwriter if the Chief gave a major speech every week or so, in the interests, say of morale. There is no evidence whatever on his website that he does so.

    Talking of over-support, when I worked in Defence – admittedly a couple of decades ago – the Secretary had an EL1 Exec officer, an APS 5 admin officer and a p.a. The CDF had two LTCOL equivalent staff officers, a CAPT flag officer, an administrative officer (APS 5) a p.a. and a driver!!

  18. dan

    Samuel J, look at his speech from 2013: here
    …addressing some 60,000 active and reserve personnel
    This is quite clearly not your average public servant role.

  19. Gab

    So you think senior public servants should also have speech writers?

    What other than in the defence forces? Not really but it does depend on the job. Take Morrison or Abbott, for example, I’d rather they be focused on the job than spending a lot time writing speeches. Shorten? Nope.

    Defence Chiefs have surely got more important matters at hand than writing speeches and they are required to make many speeches as part of their job.

  20. Gab

    There is no evidence whatever on his website that he does so.

    His site shows a major speech per month, on average. He probably does more than that, minor speeches, and these are probably not posted. I’d rather he do his job and have a speechwriter.

  21. dan

    I have to say, Cate McGregor really seems to be a very good speechwriter.

  22. dan

    if the Chief gave a major speech every week or so, in the interests, say of morale.

    So watching a speech by the Chief every single week would increase morale?

  23. Samuel J

    amuel J, look at his speech from 2013: here
    …addressing some 60,000 active and reserve personnel
    This is quite clearly not your average public servant role.

    I’ve given a speech to 5000 people and didn’t use a speech writer.

  24. candy

    Ms McGregor is long term friend of Tony Abbott and you’d think they would be very different people, so
    friendships can override different philosophies and so on and the great change that he to she underwent, and they are still mates.

    So I think there’s something special in that story, about friendship.

    Why not call her up and ask about her duties and get the record straight in regard to speeches anyway?

  25. Des Deskperson

    ‘Addressing some 60,000 active and reserve personnel’

    Dunno about now, but the heads of Tax and Centrelink used to regularly address their employees – 20,000 odd each – through electronic media. So far as I am aware, they didn’t have dedicated speechwriters, but then nor did they have public servants specifically employed to to chauffuer them about.

  26. Michel Lasouris

    I’m really relieved to see that no-one is being catty about a person who seems very genuine and comfortable with her lot now. And it’s good to see the Army isn’t all upset about it. Good luck to her; it still can’t always have been easy……

  27. Sounds perfect for a spot of transgender propaganda.

  28. samuel j

    I’m really relieved to see that no-one is being catty about a person who seems very genuine and comfortable with her lot now. And it’s good to see the Army isn’t all upset about it. Good luck to her; it still can’t always have been easy……

    You’re right about that Michel. Good luck to her. No, this post is merely about Defence chiefs having speech writers (and drivers …). I’ve always thought we could get more defence for less money. Or at least the same defence for less money.

  29. dan

    I’ve given a speech to 5000 people and didn’t use a speech writer

    I am not convinced that it logically follows that the Chief of Army, who makes speeches to his 60,000 personnel as well as the other services, intelligence services, allied forces and so on, should go it alone. No offense Samuel J – I don’t know who you are or what you do – but the size of the audience isn’t really material. I have convened extremely large meetings without a speechwriter but I’m not very important.

  30. dan

    Centrelink

    Not quite the same thing. But anyway do you have any particular reason to believe that the CEO of Centrelink doesn’t have someone helping prepare speeches? Does he sit there googling statistics on his own?

  31. “The Australian armed forces are heavily over officered”:
    The cuts in numbers since the early 1990s have largely fallen on the troops, not the officers.

    It should be:
    One Lt = 30 other ranks
    4 x Lt. = 1 x Major
    4 x Major = 1 x Lt. Col.
    repeat & rinse.

  32. squawkbox

    OK, I can understand that generals may make speeches from time to time and may have better things to do than actually write them themselves. But having a lieutenant-colonel write them? LTCs are I understand usually in their late 30s/early 40s with 15+ years of military experience behind them and should be used for more important stuff. In contrast, aren’t most politicians’ speechwriters spotty twentysomethings trying to scale the lower bits of the greasy pole of politics?

    Come to think of it, why should the speechwriter be a serviceman at all? Civilians are probably cheaper and unless the job includes shooting audiences who don’t applaud sufficiently loudly….

  33. Alfonso

    Bwaaa….how thick the BS is spread.
    She’s a he, sorry.
    No chromosomal aberrations…. I hear.
    He can’t choose to be an Eskimo either.
    Oh the humanity.

  34. samuel j

    It never ceases to amaze me that people on this blog who rail against waste in the public sector immediately come to the defence of Defence. That’s taxpayers’ money going there and squawkbox is right – a Lt Col is an expensive asset which could be replaced by a civilian. Most people who give speeches don’t have speechwriters. They use their staff to assist. One can understand ministers having speechwriters, but it is hard to see why a public servant, military officer or other public official needs a full-time speech writer.

    BTW, I’m not advocating cutting back our defence forces overseas. But there has been a lot of rank creep – Wing Commanders lead squadrons or below, not Wings. We have many more generals and admirals than we did in WW1, WW2, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Sure the complexity of fighting wars might have increased, but it does seem that our military is top heavy.

    We won’t win a war or battle from Russell Hill in Canberra.

  35. Menai Pete

    I used to have a lot of respect for Cate till the ABC revealed that she used to work for the ALP and that Barrie Cassidy is her friend. Seems like she’s just a chokko officer with a pretend job

  36. squawkbox

    Thanks, Samuel. I was just thinking of one lieutenant colonel in the UK army I knew from school – recently returned from commanding a battalion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, with all the responsibility, excitement and heartbreak that involved. Imagining what he would have said and done if told his next posting was writing speeches.

  37. Leigh Lowe

    I was trying to think of something that had be written by the speaker (ahem) “in a military setting” without having to pay royalties, when someone on another thread mentioned this …..

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

  38. Leigh Lowe

    Speech writing.
    A trade forever sullied by Bobby Ellis.

  39. Cold-Hands

    She worked for both John Hewson & Bob Carr. However, even when a Hewson staffer it seems his sympathies were with the left. He (as he was then) was implicated as the culprit behind leaked Liberal polling data that John Hewson was confronted with on ABC television in 1994, an act that contributed to Mr Hewson’s demise as leader.

  40. Viva

    We won’t win a war or battle from Russell Hill in Canberra.

    Popularly known as Fort Fumble.

  41. Gab

    a Lt Col is an expensive asset which could be replaced by a civilian

    Do we actually know what the Lt Col does, as in her position description? Or are we just assuming all her job entails is writing speeches for one Chief?

  42. Squirrel

    I was a bit surprised at the thought of someone of that rank being a speechwriter, but perhaps the position has other responsibilities in the Army Chief’s office(?). Whatever the case, an extraordinary personal story, with somewhat more to come, I feel.

  43. Jack Lacton


    The Governor of the Reserve Bank doesn’t have a speech writer. Secretaries of departments don’t have speech writers. The heads of APRA, ASIC, the PC etc don’t have speech writers. When these officials need to deliver a speech they generally write it themselves and get advice from their staff.

    Completely untrue. They ALL have speechwriters!

  44. Procrustes

    Of course there are too many officers in the ADF – and too many civilian senior officers as well

    See p 20 of the ASPI report “StrategyAgenda for change” (November 2013)

    Between 2000 and 2013, civilian SES grew by 63%, executive officers 104% – compared to total civilian workforce 30%

    For the military: star rank officers grew by 58%, majors and colonels 44% – compared to total military 16%

  45. Des Deskperson

    Secretaries of Departments have dedicated speechwriters? Not in my experience they don’t. Standard practice is to get the relevant subject expert in the agency to prepare the speech as part of their ongoing work. in my experience, a speech for, say, an international or national conference can be knocked out in about three days by a person who’s across their stuff.

  46. Samuel J

    Des is right. No secretaries or other top-level Commonwealth officials have a dedicated speechwriter. McGregor said she is the Chief’s speechwriter, and the Chief said she was his speechwriter. That seems pretty clear to me. She is not an admin assistant, or executive officer or whatnot. She is the speechwriter. And as I noted earlier, if the Chief of the Army has a dedicated speechwriter, do you think the other chiefs wouldn’t?

  47. Leigh Lowe

    We won’t win a war or battle from Russell Hill in Canberra.

    Popularly known as Fort Fumble.

    Is that the one with the large tubular obelisk out the front?
    From memory it was dubbed “Phallus in Blunderland” by the troops.

  48. rebel with cause

    Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think it is appropriate to describe a married man who leaves their loyal wife and family for a lifestyle change (be that gender change, to live with a different woman, enter the monastery or what have you) as ‘brave’ or ‘courageous’. It cheapens true acts of bravery and courage. Happy to accept they are being true to themselves etc etc, but there is no selflessness here.

  49. Mique

    I’m absolutely staggered to see the sort of profound ignorance of the military and Defence in general as evidenced by Samuel J’s commentary in this thread. It simply beggars belief that any educated person could write such utter drivel. Indeed, it demonstrates such abysmal ignorance that I fear it’s utterly futile to try to explain why he is so wrong.

    But consider these inconvenient truths.

    1. The ADF is a huge organisation with three very different, and very complex, highly technical component specialised forces.
    2. No other organisation has the means to train military leaders in the skills they require to command, control , develop, train, deploy, resupply, maintain and operate those forces in their military function, to defend the nation.
    3. It takes well over a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars to train an Army soldier to the point where he is employable in his first unit. That’s just for a rifleman in an infantry platoon. Up the cost and the time for soldiers in more technical and highly skilled corps. It costs orders of magnitude more to train officers, and many orders of magnitude more to train a fighter pilot or the captain of a combat ship.
    4. Some bright spark said that the Army is “over-officered”. Compared to what? The organisation must be maintained and essential tasks must be done whether or not there is a war to fight at any given time. It takes professional, trained military officers to undertake those tasks for which few if any civilians are suitable, and whether there are a full established complement of troops at any given time.
    5. Generals, indeed commanders at all levels in a modern military force, have to come from within the ADF and, except at the very most senior ADF levels, from within the individual single Service concerned. With relatively rare exceptions, eg doctors, nurses, lawyers and other such specialists who are broadly interchangeable, it’s simply not possible to laterally recruit as occurs within and between civilian organisations. Senior commanders must be given the widest possible experience in what are extremely time-limited tours. A sufficient number of officers must be available within each corps, Branch or category to provide a reasonable degree of selectivity for promotion.

    I can assure those who believe that a LTCOL is an expensive asset who could be replaced by a civilian that with the exception of a retired former LTCOL or their equivalents, there are no civilians capable of performing the full range of a LTCOL’s duties, or more than a tiny part of them. Conversely, there are no civilians in Defence who could not be completely replaced by a military officer of equivalent or even approximately equivalent rank.

    I could go on and on, but people with any sense will realise why generals make speeches and why they need speech writers, all of whom will have myriad other tasks to perform in their daily routines. For the others, I can only paraphrase the old song, Come down, come down from your ivory towers and stop corrupting the youth. You need to get a life.

  50. rebel with cause

    Australia would benefit from less speech making, particularly by politicians and public officials. Most of them use speeches as an opportunity to promote their private ideals as a public and compulsory manner of living.

  51. rebel with cause

    why generals make speeches and why they need speech writers

    I don’t really see how great speeches would be useful in a war effort, or in defence of our borders. I suspect the importance of speeches to boost troop morale is very much overrated.

  52. squawkbox

    Bluster and crap, Mique. Please explain why someone at least theoretically capable of commanding 1000 men in combat should be wasted on writing speeches. And tell us what LtCol Mcgregor’s other duties besides writing speeches are. No one has mentioned them.

  53. Michael Burke

    squawkbox, how much does a 4-star general earn? Mid-six figures? A LtCol earns much, much less than that – low six-figures at most (a figure starting with a 1) and, as I said in my other post, writing speeches is only a tiny part of any senior staff officers job, but an important part if it saves the general time.

    There are only a limited number of command jobs for LtCols or their equivalents. There are only so many battalions, air force flying squadrons, or combat ships for LtCols and their equivalents to command, but there are a myriad of staff appointments throughout the ADF that require the expertise and experience of a LtCol or equivalent. The personal staff officer appointment of a chief of staff is one such job that couldn’t be done by a lower ranked officer or a civilian. Dozens of reports, papers and other bumf cross a chief’s desk every day of the week, and someone who understands the material, and the part of the organisation that is responsible for it, needs to manage that crap, and on top of that needs to manage the Chiefs personal staff. These are not sinecures.

    Before you pontificate about the military, you should first find out what is involved in the organisation and in the wide and various roles and responsibilities of the officer corps in particular. Don’t ask a civilian, and least of all a Defence public servant. Unless they have significant experience as a senior officer in the ADF itself, they simply wouldn’t have the first faintest foggiest clue.

  54. Yobbo

    This article would not exist if the speechwriter in person wasn’t transgender.

    Get over it guys.

  55. Gab

    Well that’s true, Yobbo, becuase until today I never gave any thought as to whether an Army Chief had a speechwriter or not.

  56. Nanuestalker

    Get over it guys.

    “guys” isn’t all-encompassing, surely you can do better!

  57. squawkbox

    Points taken, Michael B, and I am well aware that most staff officers in peacetime have to deal with huge amounts of bureaucracy, but if writing speeches is such a minor part of any staff officer’s job, how come every media description of Lieutenant-Colonel McGregor simply describes her as a speechwriter rather than as a chief of staff or similar?

    Before you pontificate about the military, you should first find out what is involved in the organisation and in the wide and various roles and responsibilities of the officer corps in particular. Don’t ask a civilian, and least of all a Defence public servant. Unless they have significant experience as a senior officer in the ADF itself, they simply wouldn’t have the first faintest foggiest clue.

    Hate to tell you this, but we poor civilians are the ones who pay for the military. Telling us that we poor contemptible civilians wouldn’t possibly have a clue how our taxes are spent doesn’t go down well. And if you read Catallaxy much, you might have noticed that the argument from authority doesn’t really go down well either . If you know that LtCol McGregor’s abilities are being used wisely and that her responsibilities couldn’t possibly be carried out by lower ranks or civilians, then tell us why. Don’t take refuge in cliches.

  58. Nanuestalker

    Oh is this a serious thread? I’ll leave the “lead in one’s pencil”, “dipping one’s pen in company ink” and suchlike out of it then!

  59. I’ve given a speech to 5000 people and didn’t use a speech writer.

    So, we’ve established you are awesome.

  60. I can assure those who believe that a LTCOL is an expensive asset who could be replaced by a civilian that with the exception of a retired former LTCOL or their equivalents, there are no civilians capable of performing the full range of a LTCOL’s duties, or more than a tiny part of them. Conversely, there are no civilians in Defence who could not be completely replaced by a military officer of equivalent or even approximately equivalent rank.

    LTCOL’s are irreplaceable but can do anyone else’s job even if they have no specialized knowledge. Gotcha. Thanks for that.

    I suspect you are or were an officer?

  61. Mique

    Squawkbox asks, how come every media description of Lieutenant-Colonel McGregor simply describes her as a speechwriter rather than as a chief of staff or similar?

    The short and most likely answer is that on defence issues the Australian “media” are brain dead. There are very few journalists who write about the Services who ever take the trouble to learn about their topic in any detail. The best I can recall was Frank Cranston who was the Canberra Times Defence correspondent many years ago. Ian McPhedran tries and has improved immensely after a somewhat rocky start, again at the Canberra Times, and more latterly with The Australian. Chris Masters is his usual thoroughly prepared self when he writes on the subject. There are others, but most of these stories about LtCol McGregor are simply gossip column stuff which wouldn’t be touched by any serious Defence correspondent.

    I agree that arguments from authority don’t go down well, but nor do ill-informed opinions. But it is simply a fact that unless one has “walked the walk”, it’s unlikely that one can understand the incredibly convoluted organisation and its issues sufficiently well to convincingly “talk the talk”. It used to be different. After World War II, there were few organisations that didn’t have a large proportion of their staff who were ex-Service personnel. Virtually every family in the country had at least one close relative with considerable military experience, and everyone understood the realities of military life.

    As for McGregor’s duties, surely the public’s “right to know” does not extend to minor management details like any individual middle-ranking officers’ duties. Who other than their immediate supervisor is qualified to judge whether any individual’s time is being spent wisely? If that immediate supervisor is a 3- or 4-star general, good luck if you expect an answer when you put that question to him. :-)

  62. C.L.

    She?

    You mean he. He’s a bloke in a dress.

  63. Abu Chowdah

    By the way, I don’t believe a LTCOL can be replaced by a civilian where military expertise is required. But the same is also true in reverse when military officers take on some civilian specialist roles, including managing teams of specialists. To think otherwise is pure conceit.

    I don’t subscribe to the view, on the basis of long experience, that good managers can manage any work stream. For example, you could not put a military officer – even an INTCORP or SF officer – in to run a major AFP investigation and expect it to be a glowing success. The poor bastard would have no experience, corporate knowledge or credibility/respect to lead.

    On the other hand, I think a LTCOL would be like a dose of salts in a lot of the lumpen public service work areas. But he’d probably want to commit suicide due to the passive aggressive, oestrogen-heavy, explain the mission every 15 minutes, work ethic.

  64. Mique

    Abu Chowdah says : “LTCOL’s are irreplaceable but can do anyone else’s job even if they have no specialized knowledge. Gotcha. Thanks for that.
    I suspect you are or were an officer?”

    As for the first, I didn’t say LtCol’s are irreplaceable, or that they can do anyone else’s job for which they have no specialised knowledge. Read the quote again. I said there are no civilians (other than former LtCols) capable of performing the full range of a LtCol’s duties. That remains a fact, whether you like it or not. They do some staff duties as well as or better than anyone, although without relevant military experience they will struggle in jobs that require such training or experience, but they won’t be able to command a battalion, or a flying squadron or a naval combat vessel, or other specialised military tasks. And every day of every week of every year, dozens if not hundreds of military officers are doing jobs in the Defence organisation alongside similarly qualified civilians. I cannot think of a single equivalent civilian job that could not be competently filled by any number of professionally qualified LtCols or equivalent. I’d be surprised if there are any jobs requiring specialist qualifications within the Defence Department (excluding perhaps the more esoteric parts of the Defence Science area) that cannot be filled on any given day from within one or other of the Services.

    And yes, I was, but so what?

  65. Abu Chowdah

    Apologies. I meant roles outside of defence.

    AS you were.

  66. None

    So the general has a speech writer. And they had to find something for an army man who left his wife and kids to undergo a gender reassignment surgery to do, after he had cut, and hormoned and psyched himself out of frontline duties or whatever he was doing as a male. And hec, we can’t sack this guy as no longer fit for service. That would not suit the new pussified ADF who couldn’t stand up to the howls of the PC brigade. So he became a speech writer. He may even be doing a job that other speech writers have done before him. He may well be a great speech writer. He may probably love being a speech writer. He is probably an overpaid speech writer too. But as Yobbo said, the article wouldn’t exist if he wasn’t trans-gendered. I am so over the deification of anyone who doesn’t roughly come within the general definition of average or normal. Top medicos in the US were sensible in the old days – up until a few years ago actually – when they banned gender reassignment surgery and treated the condition as a psychiatric illness. Until the nanny state PC nazis entered stage left.

  67. Mique

    Abu Chowdah says: On the other hand, I think a LTCOL would be like a dose of salts in a lot of the lumpen public service work areas. But he’d probably want to commit suicide due to the passive aggressive, oestrogen-heavy, explain the mission every 15 minutes, work ethic.

    You got that right. :-) But to be fair, there are plenty of excellent, conscientious public servants, and plenty of incompetent military drones. Fortunately, however, the latter tended not to thrive, and few would make it to LtCol.

    I agree with you that good managers cannot necessarily manage _any_ work, but the fact remains that the way Defence is structured, or at least was during my day, there were many areas where appropriately qualified military officers were placed in jobs where they were managing civilian specialists, and many jobs where military officers were working directly for civilians. It worked, if only because the civilians having arrived at the senior supervisory level were equally well qualified and beyond the petty bureaucratic bullshit that you describe.

  68. Mique

    None

    But that is a whole other argument, isn’t it?

  69. johanna

    We don’t have enough information to be certain here – but it seems hard to believe that this person does nothing but write speeches.

    When I worked for a very busy Commonwealth Minister who gave a lot of speeches, his speechwriter was a part-timer – she worked three days a week. If a speech was coming up, she would email the relevant areas in the Dept to provide input on the subject matter, and then she would cobble it all together and throw in some some suitable verbiage.

    Pro rata, she would have been paid about the same as a Lt Colonel.

    If the Secretary had to give a speech, his Executive Assistant and the Media Relations unit would draft something up and he would then fiddle with it if he was so inclined. He was way too busy to sit around writing them himself.

  70. Mantaray

    Here are a few excerpts of a speech, written by the “senior officer”, who delivered it himself on the eve of battle, which shows that they can find the time occasionally.

    , “Each man must not think only of himself, but also of his buddy fighting beside him. We don’t want yellow cowards in this Army. They should be killed off like rats. If not, they will go home after this war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the Goddamned cowards and we will have a nation of brave men……”We want to get the hell over there”(across The Channel) he continued, “The quicker we clean up this Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the Goddamned Marines get all of the credit.” ……”We’ll win this war, but we’ll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have; or ever will have. We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun cocksuckers by the bushel-fucking-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it’s the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you’ll know what to do!” ….”I don’t want to get any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We are not holding a Goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like shit through a tin horn!”

    Then he paused….”There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, “Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.” No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, “Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-Goddamned-Bitch named Georgie Patton!”

    “That is all.”

    I’m not sure a PC transgender modern Lt Colonel could get quite the same “nuance”…but maybe I’m wrong.

  71. Blogstrop

    Friends, various ethnic personalities, countrymen, lend me your ears …

  72. Blogstrop

    It’s a shame George Patton died as a result of a minor car accident. A most unsatisfactory ending, but his legend lives on.

  73. samuel j

    I don’t think Patton had a speechwriter.

  74. samuel j

    Mique, you do believe in civilian control of the military? I think there is clear evidence of an excessively over-officered military in Australia that needs a severe pruning. There are obviously jobs that only a military officer or enlisted man can undertake – fighting in war for example. Planning for war and defence strategies are examples of work that both military and civilians are needed.

    But getting back to the point of this post. I said that the Chief of Army doesn’t need a dedicated speech writer. And I stand by that. I also said that even so, the speech writer doesn’t need to be a military officer. That seems pretty clear too. I one thinks of the memorable military speeches in history, I don’t think many have been written by speechwriters. Did Caesar use a speechwriter when urging his legions into battle? Did Henry V use a speech writer? Did Napoleon use a speechwriter? Did John Monash use a speechwriter? Did George Patton use a speechwriter?

  75. JohnA

    Steve at the Pub #1201767, posted on February 24, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    “The Australian armed forces are heavily over officered”:
    The cuts in numbers since the early 1990s have largely fallen on the troops, not the officers.

    It should be:
    One Lt = 30 other ranks
    4 x Lt. = 1 x Major
    4 x Major = 1 x Lt. Col.
    repeat & rinse.

    Steve, Samuel J and others, it seems as Mique has averred, that you don’t understand the peace-time structure of the ADF, which is Australia’s consummate training organisation.

    It takes a long time to train officers, and build up a command structure, but less to fill out the ORs. However, a wartime army will cost much more in OR salaries than in the officer ranks.

    So in peacetime, the ORs are trained but allowed to drop out to callable reserves (not only the uniformed Reserves), whereas the officers are retained.

    The penalties involved in such (competent officers whistling dixie at their desks in Russell, paper warfare between the services etc) are endured for the cost savings and flexibility involved.

    And no, I have never served in the military, only been on the fringe, and known some senior officers (like say a full colonel).

  76. A Lurker

    So the general has a speech writer. And they had to find something for an army man who left his wife and kids to undergo a gender reassignment surgery to do, after he had cut, and hormoned and psyched himself out of frontline duties or whatever he was doing as a male. And hec, we can’t sack this guy as no longer fit for service. That would not suit the new pussified ADF who couldn’t stand up to the howls of the PC brigade. So he became a speech writer.

    The question that ought be asked, is how many other speechwriters exist within the various sections of the Australian military? If there are many speechwriters, then he/she became one of a team of wordsmiths, if there isn’t many or any, then what ‘None’ wrote above seems accurate – a position had to be created that justified a LtCol’s pay and his/her new inability to be able to be a front line officer.

  77. .

    I agree that arguments from authority don’t go down well, but nor do ill-informed opinions. But it is simply a fact that unless one has “walked the walk”

    You don’t get it champ. This is what your employers want.

    We don’t want speechwriters.

    We want F-22s, soldiers who can shoot longer and straighter than the enemy and long range cruise missiles for our subs – and adequate fuel and ammunition for these platforms and roles.

  78. jupes

    LOL good one Mantaray.

    Can you imagine what would happen to anyone delivering that speech in today’s army? But of course the priority of the ADF is not to win wars, diversity is far more important.

    Can you also imagine what Patton would do to an officer who voluntarily cut his own balls off?

  79. johanna

    Dot, the reality is that maintaining support for the military in the modern world includes the need for communication with the public, including by employing speechwriters.

    I am not defending this particular example, because I don’t know much about it. But I don’t think that the ability (or the time) to write one’s own speeches is a selection criterion for heads of the Defence forces that would give me much confidence.

  80. Infidel Tiger

    Can you also imagine what Patton would do to an officer who voluntarily cut his own balls off?

    Patton was a little crazy, so I expect he would have respected the commitment then had the whacko sent to a sanitarium.

  81. .

    I have even less confidence in employing a full time speechwriter at field officer rank…

  82. .

    Patton was a little crazy, so I expect he would have respected the commitment then had the whacko sent to a sanitarium.

    It’s not your fault Colonel, after all, you are the reincarnation of Cleopatra, now shoot those damned krauts, Princess..I was at your funeral and I’ve always had an immense respect for you, your highness.

  83. Alf

    I don’t really see how great speeches would be useful in a war effort, or in defence of our borders. I suspect the importance of speeches to boost troop morale is very much overrated.

    Never heard of Churchill then?

  84. .

    Alf – so you think the Army should run the Lodge then? No?

    Back to the drawing board for your predictable and warm lettuce flogging style of trolling.

  85. Mique

    Samuel J asks whether I believe in civilian control of the military. Yes, I do, but not as frequently “interpreted” by people who don’t understand the concept. It does NOT mean that civilian public servants control every detail of Defence Department or ADF activity as some civilians in the Department believed in my day. It does not mean that every civilian in Australia gets to dictate how the show will be managed. It means that the Department and the ADF are responsible and accountable to the Minister and the Parliament through the duumvirate, the CDF and the Secretary. That’s all, and that’s enough.

    He also asks rhetorically whether famous historical figures needed a speechwriter. Who knows? Lincoln himself wrote the Gettysburg Address virtually on the back of an envelope. But they were very different times, and Henry V at least had Shakespeare, the master of all speechwriters, to compose the speech he probably never made himself. These days, generals could give three different lengthy speeches in three separate capital cities in the one day.

    The fact remains that in our modern military, generals give speeches to all sorts of audiences, sometimes several in any week. They have to rally the troops, beg for support from political and industrial organisations, grovel to angry feminists when one of their little pets gets herself into trouble at ADFA and runs to the media who immediately believe her every word despite the facts, attend funerals for each and every fatal war casualty, and so on ad infinitum and, I’m sure, for them ad nauseam.

    Once again I would argue that the fact that McGregor is reported by the media as being the General’s speechwriter is not of itself any sort of credible evidence of anything much. Nobody with any experience of Australian media reportage of military activities would give it more than a passing ho hum glance. Shocking as it may seem, Australian journalists have been known to exaggerate and even to lie. Anyone who has ever worked in Defence knows that it is extremely unlikely that speech-writing is any officer’s sole or, except perhaps for occasional short periods, their main duty.

  86. Mique

    John A sets out the theoretical (traditional?) structure of the Army’s officer corps. The Air Force is different and the Navy is different again. In flying squadrons (yes, Virginia, there are many non-flying squadrons/wings, etc) all pilots and what used to be called navigators are officers as are some other specialised aircrew members such as in, say, the new E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft. In the Air Force, the sharp end is manned more by officers than other ranks, the reverse of the Army and Navy. Given that people need to be rotated through operational posts, if only to ensure they get essential experience elsewhere and that others get the opportunity to gain operational experience to prepare them for higher ranks. This necessarily means in a small defence establishment as ours, there will always be officers pushing paper rather than their “real” jobs in the field or in the operational units.

    Given the cost of attracting, training and retaining these very expensive individuals, there needs to be a balance to ensure that everyone gets opportunities for a fair share of the sweet and the sour.

  87. Mique

    “Patton was a little crazy, so I expect he would have respected the commitment then had the whacko sent to a sanitarium.”

    Patton was more than a little crazy, and it was very fortunate that he died before he had to make the transition back to the peacetime military (that may well have driven him crazy in the first place). If Truman had problems controlling Macarthur in Korea, how much harder would Patton have been to control in a similar situation. 38th Parallel? What 38th Parallel? :-)

  88. Fibro

    How pleasant it woudl be if there were no speech writers. Period. Never. Nada.

    We might actually get an opinion of the person running the show, and low and behold, we might actually get an answer to a direct question god forbid.

  89. Pyrmonter

    The Governor of the Reserve Bank doesn’t have a speech writer. Secretaries of departments don’t have speech writers. The heads of APRA, ASIC, the PC etc don’t have speech writers. When these officials need to deliver a speech they generally write it themselves and get advice from their staff.

    Maybe no speech-writers per se, but certainly media minders and other minions capable of the same thing.

  90. boy on a bike

    The short and most likely answer is that on defence issues the Australian “media” are brain dead.

    Yep. Read an article the other day that said we bought our Centurion tanks from the US. Don’t they even have access to Google for basic fact checking?

  91. boy on a bike

    Was reading about the battles in North Africa last night. One reason Rommel ripped the poms apart early on was that after the rapid expansion of the British Army, there weren’t enough professional mid level officers to go around. He chopped up a rather confused and muddled army.

  92. jupes

    They have to … grovel to angry feminists when one of their little pets gets herself into trouble at ADFA …

    Where have you been Mique? The Chief of the Army does not grovel to feminists, he empowers them. He is their hero, their shining light.

    Recall the timeline of his much lauded ‘Jedi Knights’ press conference: TLS had given her appalling and ridiculous ‘blue ties’ speech early in the week for which she was copping a fair bit of flack, when along comes Gen Morrison later that same week to keep misogyny alive as an issue and thus give succour to TLS. The ‘Jedi Knights’ were still under investigation at that time. He could have made that speech a month or two earlier or a month or two later.

    Gen Morrison also does tag-team speeches with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. Grovel my arse.

  93. jupes

    Anyone who has ever worked in Defence knows that it is extremely unlikely that speech-writing is any officer’s sole or, except perhaps for occasional short periods, their main duty.

    Yet McGregor never corrected the record when introduced as such on One Plus One.

  94. jupes

    If Truman had problems controlling Macarthur in Korea, how much harder would Patton have been to control in a similar situation. 38th Parallel? What 38th Parallel?

    Exactly. And we might have even won the war.

  95. Mique

    BOAB

    And they were handicapped by the usual “fight the last war” syndrome. An excellent book that ought to be read by everyone is Norman Dixon’s “On The Psychology of Military Incompetence”. Dixon was a fighting soldier (Royal Artillery) if I remember correctly.

    Stalin did immense damage to his Army’s fighting capability when he liquidated pretty much the entire high command before the war.

  96. Mique

    Jupes, I didn’t see Australian Story, and it may well be true that McGregor sees her current job as the General’s speechwriter, but I’ll bet she has other duties along with those, and that her military experience (or some other Army LtCol’s equivalent experience) is an essential criterion for her job.

    As for Patton winning the Korean War, I seriously doubt it. He would been just as likely to have started the first nuclear war and nobody would have won that, least of all the United Nations in whose name the US and others including Australia were fighting.

  97. Mique

    Jupes, re your “Gen Morrison also does tag-team speeches with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. Grovel my arse.”

    You are such a cynic, and I like that in a person. :-)

    However, see my reply above to Samuel J about “civilian control” of the military. Like it or not, and I like some of it not very much at all, it is Government policy to remove all vestiges of sexual and other discrimination within the ADF. Gen Morrison and all the other generals are obliged to play tag with the idiot Broderick until it becomes obvious even to her from experience that while there are many military jobs that women can do as well or better than men, there are many more that they can’t and that with eternally scarce resources it is foolhardy to waste those resources trying to reinvent the wheel.

  98. .

    Exactly. And we might have even won the war.

    MacArthur nearly did.

    Truman was wrong. The Chinese got involved anyway and no one was dumb enough to nuke each other.

    Anyway, it just goes to show von Clausewitz was right.

  99. jupes

    As for Patton winning the Korean War, I seriously doubt it.

    Of course you do. You are a very correct modern military officer. Why win a war when you can devise an exit strategy? Why fight when you can talk?

    Gen Morrison and all the other generals are obliged to play tag with the idiot Broderick until it becomes obvious even to her from experience that while there are many military jobs that women can do as well or better than men, there are many more that they can’t and that with eternally scarce resources it is foolhardy to waste those resources trying to reinvent the wheel.

    You Mique, are a gullible fool. And while you have been playing the politically correct game to get ahead, you have obviously missed the fact that all 21 of the Sex Discrimination Commissioners recommendations have been accepted by the ADF. Every. Single. One.

    Unlike you Mique, Elizabeth Broderick is not an idiot. She knows exactly what she wants and she is absolutely determined to get it. It’s a shame for this country that the heirachy of the ADF have allowed her to do so.

  100. Mique

    Jupes
    I accept your comment that Broderick is no fool, but her recommendations are foolish.
    I retired many years ago, so I have no axe to grind. If you believe that the hierarchy of the ADF have any control over the Government’s policy and Broderick’s depredations, it’s you who are the gullible fool.

    As for the Korean War, I can only conclude that you have never been in the military or, if you have, not at any significant rank. Otherwise, you would not be so blasé about throwing away so many lives on what was always inevitably going to be a lost war, rather than an acceptable armistice. There was never going to be any realistic prospect of defeating the combined Chinese and Soviet forces short of a nuclear conflagration.

  101. .

    Is there any evidence the USSR was prepared to fight a nuclear war if MacArthur was not ordered to withdraw and he captured nearly all N Korean territory and destroyed the North Korean armed forces?

    I thought the beef was over incursions past the Yalu River.

  102. pseudonym

    I bet Cate is the only female in the Australian Army who is able to do 2o push-ups!

    Now that we no longer have a feminist running the country, could we please do something about the ridiculously low entry tests for the soldiers?

    I’m all for inclusion and diversity, etc, etc. However, the Army’s key function is to close with and destroy the enemy. That means that all soldiers need to have a decent level of strength, speed and endurance. Yet, in the name of political correctness, the entry standards for females have been reduced to such and extent that they are complete joke.

    If females want to have careers in the Army, they are free to do so. But if they want to take a man’s job, they should be able to perform the fitness basics as well as any man.

  103. Alfonso

    PC bullshit on Catalaxy….who’da thought.
    “I bet Cate is the only female in the Australian Army who is able to do 2o push-ups!”
    Not a female under any circumstances, Champion.
    Why would you muddy?
    He’s attempting to make his fantasy Army doctrine.

  104. If transgender (m-to-f) ladies had to have menstrual periods, they’d think twice about making the change.

  105. jupes

    If you believe that the hierarchy of the ADF have any control over the Government’s policy and Broderick’s depredations, it’s you who are the gullible fool.

    Don’t see the Chief of the Navy or Airforce doing joint speeches with Liz. That was a voluntary decision of Morrison. The leaders of the ADF should have fighting capability as their main priority. If decisions are being made against their advice that emasculate the ADF, then they should resign. I believe the CDF (at the time) made it known to the then minister that he would resign if the Commandant of ADFA was sacked over the skype scandal. The minister changed his mind.

    There haven’t been any resignations over Brodericks recommendations. On the contrary, the Chiefs have been falling over each other to accept them.

    Otherwise, you would not be so blasé about throwing away so many lives on what was always inevitably going to be a lost war, rather than an acceptable armistice.

    If the war was ‘inevitably going to be lost’, what was the point of fighting the fucking thing? Patton may have been a little crazy but he knew that his job was to defeat the enemy. He knew what was required to do that and he drove his men hard to achieve it. There was no ‘acceptable armistice’ or exit strategy for him.

    There was never going to be any realistic prospect of defeating the combined Chinese and Soviet forces short of a nuclear conflagration.

    Really? The combined Nazi and Imperial Japanese forces had just been comprehensively defeated. They weren’t slouches. Lucky for us losers like you weren’t running the show back in the ’4os.

    If it had come down to nukes it would have been a comprehensive victory for the UN. The Chicoms didn’t have nukes until the ’60s and it’s highly unlikely that the Soviets would have got involved.

  106. .

    If the war was ‘inevitably going to be lost’, what was the point of fighting the fucking thing?

    I know this was particularly insulting. We would be reckless with lives – erm we wouldn’t fight a war we knowingly couldn’t win.

    Mique’s history is lacking in parts. The UN would have won a no-contest nuclear war by the time of the Chinese intervention. The Chinese programme was non existent and the Soviet programme was embryonic and would have left the Eastern Bloc undefended.

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