Formal Comment by the Australia Defence Association: 2010
It is nothing short of appalling that inaccurate and often sensationalist media coverage of the February 2009 incident in Afghanistan is causing so much public confusion and even ill-informed political comment. Even many war veterans, who were assumed to have a better understanding of the laws and accountabilities involved, seem confused. Much media reporting and especially commentary is grossly misleading about the legal and operational contexts, and nature of the charges, and indeed concerning the most basic facts about the incident they stem from.
A recent prolonged firefight over three hours by Australian troops on 24 August 2010 once again indicates considerable confusion about ADF operations in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province. This confusion has several causes and effects, and at several levels, among the public, the media, our politicians and the profession of arms.
Again, recent media and public commentary concerning charges being preferred against some ADF personnel for their alleged actions in Afghanistan in February 2009 has tended to miss the point — and to misunderstand the complex legal background involved.
The Government's 24 May 2010 announcement of new higher judicial structures governing the Australian Defence Force (under Chapter III of the Constitution) requires careful analysis. The proposed model risks creating new problems in practice through its attempts to avoid further constitutional (and comity) complications.
The new ministerial supervision arrangements in the Defence portfolio are profoundly disappointing for the cause of long-term reform in the Department of Defence through improved and sustained ministerial supervision. They also appear to have paid grossly insufficient attention to the fact that the ADF is currently fighting a war on the nation's behalf, and that this means national governance and national interest responsibilities must have priority over considerations of party-political or party-factional advantage, or indeed mere prime-ministerial convenience when reshuffling her ministers.
In mid February 2009 a night raid in Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of six Afghan civilians, four of them small children and one a youth, at the hands of the ADF. Two more children and two adults from this family group were wounded.
The Prime Minister’s announcement that Greg Combet is to take over many of Peter Garrett’s ministerial responsibilities in the environment portfolio has more than a party-political or issue-of-the-day dimension. Once again, the necessary ministerial supervision of the ADF, and government capacity for appropriate attention to its responsibilities to the men and women the defence force comprises (and which it often sends into combat), have been sacrificed in the interests of party-political expediency and the short-term electoral and media cycles.
In early July 2009 a sourced tender was released for the further supply of combat uniforms for our defence force. Tenders closed in early August and the contract was let on 22 December 2009. Being a sourced rather than open tender, only two Australian manufacturers were involved on the basis that both had previously supplied the defence force.