I attach a media release put out jointly yesterday by the national leadership of the SAS Association and the Commando Association, with the full support of the RSL. The release speaks for itself.
For over two years now we have watched the Chief of the Defence Force mishandle this matter. Enough is enough. More than 40,000 ADF personnel served in or directly supported our operations in Afghanistan from 2001. 41 were killed, and officially over 260 wounded. The true number wounded was far higher and many more bear scars. Brereton reported allegations involving 25 soldiers in 36 incidents and recommended 19 soldiers be investigated, a minute proportion of those who served. A legal process is currently underway.
It is reassuring that the accusers have shown the courage to report what they claim to have seen and their version of events; they are to be commended for doing so. But the defendants equally deserve to be heard in court to test the allegations, and to establish the truth. Anyone found guilty of an offence should be punished, and only they. No charges have yet been laid. It is possible there may not be a single successful prosecution. We will not know until the judicial process has been completed.
Punishing people before that due process is complete and before the full facts have been established, is not fair to the men. Yet the way the CDF handled Brereton’s findings in November 2020 and subsequently has suggested an assumption of guilt, not innocence. People have been sacked, publicly humiliated, dishonoured and made to feel ashamed of their service, based on yet to be tested accusations alone. The good name of fine regiments including the SASR, I CDO and 2 CDO and all units in SOCOMD have become collateral damage and all of the ADF has suffered. A second attempt now by CDF to call into question or remove awards for distinguished and conspicuous service on warlike operations from soldiers accused of nothing but outstanding service to their country, is a further blow.
This is not the example of Australian leadership that our veterans expect or deserve and it is not the example of Sir John Monash or Weary Dunlop. Senior generals attacking and laying blame upon troopers, corporals and sergeants, young captain troop commanders and majors at squadron level, is not a good look. The finger of blame can be equally pointed at those at the very top.
The support of all in the campaign ahead seeking fairer treatment for our people would be greatly appreciated.
Hon Martin Hamilton-Smith
The Australian Special Air Service Association
Email: [email protected]