THE Wagga sub-branch of the Returned and Services League (RSL) remains stoic in the face of a finances scandal that threatens to tear the organisation apart at the state level.
RSL national president Robert Dick on Tuesday demanded NSW president John Haines and the remaining members of the state council vacate office immediately or face new charges of bringing the league into disrepute.
“The issues surrounding one state office are tarnishing the hard work and integrity in all the other states,” Mr Dick said in a statement.
“This reputational damage needs to stop.”
The national president’s demands came a day after NSW veterans affairs minister David Elliott announced the state government would hold its own inquiry into the state council’s financial activities.
The government is alarmed at what it sees as the state council’s lack of action in investigating allegations of questionable use of a corporate credit card by former RSL state president Don Rowe and tens of thousands of dollars in “consulting fees” to state councillors by the RSL’s aged care provider, RSL LifeCare.
“It is heartbreaking to see the NSW RSL tarnished in such a way and this is an opportunity to restore public confidence in this iconic organisation,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported Mr Elliott as saying.
Mr Elliott said based on the emails, letters and conversations he has had with veterans around NSW, as well as their sub-branches, there was overwhelming support for the government to intervene.
Wagga RSL sub-branch president Harry Edmonds said there was talk among members about the state council crisis, but he stopped short of saying there was concern about it.
“it’s not affecting the sub-branch,” Mr Edmonds said.
Speaking more generally, Mr Edmonds said some people were condemning the behaviour of the state council without hearing all the evidence. The Wagga stance is at odds with a growing number of metropolitan sub-branches.
The Wagga RSL sub-branch’s Facebook page has posted items about the state dramas as they have unfolded over recent months.
Former NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin SC will head the state government inquiry, to be conducted under the Charitable Fundraising Act.